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6/30/2005

Workers’ Message to Company: Take Care of Family


Source: Teamsters

Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago shut down the DHL–ORD station in Franklin Park, Illinois on Thursday, June 23 after the company failed to pay more than $15,000 to Local 705’s Health & Welfare and Pension Trust Funds.

The picketing was successful, forcing the company to make an immediate payment to the funds.

The job action resulted in other victories as well.

This was not the first time that DHL was warned about payment to the funds.

“This is about the DHL not taking care of their family,” said Steve Pocztowski, Local 705 Secretary–Treasurer. “They have a deadbeat dad who doesn’t want to cover them after he agreed that he would.”

When the pickets went up at 1:30 p.m., the clerical workers were the first to come out to support the job action. This was in between shift changes, so the drivers coming in off their routes and the ones just getting ready to start their afternoon shift for the crucial customer pickups were met by the clerical department members armed with picket signs.

“They never hesitated in showing their support,” said Neil Messino, Local 705 business agent.

“They jumped at this chance to send a message to DHL that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get their message across.”

Local 705 and DHL are also in contract talks involving the clerical workers. DHL wants to close down the clerical workers’ Chicago office. DHL was already planning on eliminating the clerical positions—but Local 705 agents put a halt to that.

While striking DHL over the late funds payment, Local 705 also presented DHL management with an unfair labor practice over the firing of one of the local’s stewards. A week before the strike, DHL terminated the steward on a non-cardinal infraction. DHL unilaterally decided to change the disciplinary rules on its own.

Within two hours, DHL agreed to waive all claims against Teamsters Local 705, waived any disciplinary action against the persons that it employs who engaged in picketing or refused to work. DHL also agreed to make an immediate wire transfer to the funds and return the terminated steward with all back pay and benefits.

Teamster Member Wins 11 Months of Back Pay, Benefits

Source: Teamsters

On June 16, Local 710 member Tony Leonard won reinstatement and 11 months of back pay after an arbitrator ruled his employer, Sysco Corporation, had unjustly fired him.

“This is a huge morale booster because we’re constantly fighting these guys for a fair workplace,” said Mike Lloyd, a steward for the Chicaco-based Local 710.

Leonard is one of 155 Teamster delivery drivers at the Sysco food distribution center in Chicago. Sysco suspended him in July 2004 for driving with an invalid license.

Leonard had recently moved from Wisconsin to Illinois and had not received a notice from the Wisconsin DMV that as a post-9/11 policy, he must register as a HAZMAT driver. He took care of the problem within 24 hours, but Sysco refused to hire him back, even though other drivers had been promptly recalled after resolving similar issues.

Local 710 President Jim Dawes worked through a deadlocked grievance hearing and slow-moving arbitration to make sure Leonard’s rights were protected.

“The union did a great job, and a lot of the guys at Sysco supported me by calling up and asking what was going on with my case,” Leonard said. “It is all very much appreciated.”

Uncovered: The Report Republicans Don't Want You To Read

Source: Working Life

So, there’s been a document floating around Capitol Hill that just dropped into my little paws. It was described as a “draft” by the person who passed it on…and it makes for interesting reading on a topic that is really what this whole debate in labor is about: organizing. (MORE >>>)

6/29/2005

U.S. Blocked Release of CAFTA Reports

Source: Associated Press

By Larry Margasak

WASHINGTON -- The Labor Department kept secret for more than a year government studies that supported Democratic opponents of the Bush administration's new Central American trade deal, internal documents show.

The studies, paid for by the department, concluded that several countries the administration wants to be granted free-trade status have poor working conditions and fail to protect workers' rights. The agency dismissed the conclusions as inaccurate and biased, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

"In practice, labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent," the contractor, the International Labor Rights Fund, wrote in one of the reports.

The studies' conclusions contrast with the administration's arguments that Central American countries have made enough progress on such issues to warrant a free-trade deal with the United States.

The administration and its congressional supporters argue that the elimination of trade barriers for U.S. products would open new Central American markets for U.S. farmers and manufacturers. Critics argue the trade agreement would allow serious labor violations to continue in Central America.

Hoping to lure enough Democratic votes to win passages, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman earlier this month promised to spend money and arrange an international conference to ensure "the best agreement ever negotiated by the United States on labor rights."
But behind the scenes, the administration began as early as spring 2004 to block the reports' public release.

The Labor Department instructed its contractor to remove the reports from its Web site, ordered it to retrieve paper copies before they became public, banned release of new information from the reports, and even told the contractor it couldn't discuss the studies with outsiders.

The Labor Department has now worked out a deal with the contractor that will allow the labor rights group to release the country-by-country final reports - provided there's no mention of the agency or federal funding. At the same time, the administration began a pre-emptive campaign to undercut the study's conclusions.

Used as talking points by trade-pact supporters, a Labor Department document accuses the contractor of writing a report filled with "unsubstantiated" statements and "biased attacks, not the facts."

The contractor's deputy director, Bama Athreya, blamed U.S. Trade Representative officials for circulating the document and citing passages that won't be included in the final versions of the reports.

One lawmaker said he was shocked that a federal agency charged with protecting the rights of Americans workers would go to such lengths to block the public from seeing its own contractor's concerns before Congress votes on the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

"You would think if any agency in our government would care about this, it would be the Labor Department," Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., said.

Dorgan said he would use the contractor findings in an attempt to defeat the agreement, known as CAFTA.

Dirk Fillpot, spokesman for the Labor Department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs, said the agency and an independent evaluator concluded the contractor "failed to meet the academic rigor expected to fulfill its contract" and the relationship was terminated June 10.

The competitively bid contract totaled $937,000, but Fillpot said $250,000 will be refunded to the Treasury.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who supports the trade agreement, said he is familiar with drafts of the reports and believes they will be "widely dismissed as a fraud." He accused the contractor of producing "a propaganda piece" and concealing "its rabid anti-CAFTA bias."

Athreya, the contractor official, has testified in Congress against the agreement.

The documents show the studies came within a whisker of widespread release in March 2004, when the labor-rights group posted them briefly on its Internet site.

The Labor Department quickly and successfully demanded the reports be removed on grounds they weren't approved by the agency. Officials also demanded the group retrieve a limited number of paper copies that were distributed at a hearing of a Latin American human rights body.

Shortly after that incident, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., began a yearlong effort to pry the studies from the department through a Freedom of Information Act request. The department rejected his request until two months ago, when Levin received - and released - early drafts of the reports.

The Trade Representative's spokesman, Richard Mills, said trade officials referred to the Labor Department's critical document after receiving inquiries about the studies.

"From our perspective, nothing has changed. It's a great agreement that will improve labor conditions in Central America," Mills said.

On the net:Read related documents at http://wid.ap.org/documents/cafta/index.htmlInternational Labor Rights Fund: http://www.laborrights.org/

6/28/2005

Union Label and Service Trades Education Conference Focuses On Future

Source: Teamsters

Recently, more than 200 delegates gathered for the annual Union Label and Service Trades Department Education Conference in Portland, Oregon. The meeting took place in conjunction with the 2005 AFL-CIO Union-Industries Show held April 29-May 2.At the conference, the delegates reviewed and discussed ideas for keeping good union jobs in the U.S., environmental initiatives, new technology and consumer conscience issues.

Brandon Weber, CEO and creator of Union Built PCs, outlined a program that creates an electronic hiring hall to connect union computer professionals to unions in search of expert advice and skills. The goal is to develop a nationwide network of technicians who will work with unions and members to install and repair computers as well as educate computer users.

The participants also got a first look at the new Union Label and Service Trades Department (ULSTD) web site, which builds on the department’s database of union companies and seeks to provide a convenient way for buyers to find union companies. More than 1,500 companies are listed in the site’s database, selling everything from automotive parts to vacation packages. Many of the companies have an online sales capability. The web site also features an online reporting system, allowing companies and buyers to add new information to the database. The delegates were urged to promote the site and encourage union members to patronize the companies listed.

The conference also featured an update on the Apollo Project, a 10-point industry initiatives program, developed by a coalition of labor, environmental business, urban and faith organizations. The program calls for more efficient factories with advanced technologies, high performance buildings and energy efficient appliances. It also calls for a modernization of America’s infrastructure, expanding the development of renewable energy sources and improved transportation options.

To round out the discussions, Professor Ian Robinson from the University of Michigan shared the results of recent studies on consumer motivation. According to his research, consumers will opt for goods made under decent conditions, as opposed to sweatshop products, even if at a higher price. According to a poll taken in 2004, 61 percent of Americans say they would pay up to 20 percent more for products that they knew were produced under sweatshop-free conditions.

However, an increasing number of companies—particularly in the garment and textile industries—are delving more and more into sweatshop operations. In New York and Los Angeles, a study shows that much of the work has gone back into the homes and piecework. As the trend continues, more workers and a wider range of industries will be affected.

“The challenge for labor and activists is to educate consumers to understand the impact of sweatshops on their own well-being,” Robinson said.

6/27/2005

Carpenters Union Joins Change To Win Coalition

Source: Change To Win

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America announced today that it is joining the Change to Win Coalition, the labor reform movement created on June 15, 2005 by the Teamsters, UFCW, SEIU, UNITE HERE, and Laborers.

In uniting with the Change to Win Coalition, Carpenters President Doug McCarron said today: "The Carpenters Union is proud to join with the most dynamic unions in the country in the Change to Win Coalition. Our union is about building power and strength for working men and women and that is what the Change to Win Coalition is all about. In uniting our respective strengths, we can create a new hope for the millions of American workers for whom the American Dream is still a dream."

Laborers President Terence O'Sullivan said: "We are glad the 550,000 members of the Carpenters Union have joined the Change to Win Coalition, united by our common vision of a labor movement built on the principles of organizing and collective action."

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said: "We are proud to be joining forces with the Carpenters Union because the status quo can no longer stand. Workers demand more, and our unions will work hard to empower them with a real voice and real strength in the workplace."


"The Carpenters have proved that they can build their union as their members build our country," says John Wilhelm of UNITE HERE. "The Change to Win coalition is proving it can re-unite unions that are dissatisfied with the status quo."

The Coalition is a new alliance devoted to creating a large-scale, coordinated campaign to expand the American labor movement. Its goal is to empower the tens of millions of American workers who struggle to make ends meet and whose voice has been silenced by the overwhelming power of global corporations and their representatives in Washington.

The 550,000 members of the Carpenters Union brings the number of workers represented by the Coalition to nearly six million.

Workers describe roadblocks to getting union

Source: People's Weekly World

A congressional forum here on reforming the labor laws that govern union organizing drives spotlighted the obstacles employers put in the way of workers seeking to join a union.

The June 13 forum on the “Employee Free Choice Act” was hosted by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). Nearly 200 people packed the hearing room at City Hall. DeLauro opened the hearing by saying, “Today the system is broken,” and said it was time to “put some teeth into the labor law.”

Labor law reform is needed now more than ever. Even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to form and join a trade union,” this right is routinely ignored by employers in the United States. Every 23 minutes a U.S. worker is discriminated against or fired for union activity. (MORE >>>)

More information on Employee Free Choice Act:

Video:
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney join Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) to announce the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Employee Free Choice Act Would:


Allow employees to freely choose whether to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.


Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.


Establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.

UAW holds firm on health care

Source: Detroit News

Despite urgent calls for help from GM and Delphi, union chief takes hard line on concessions

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said the union won't be bullied into making health care concessions to General Motors Corp. or Delphi Corp. despite the deep financial problems threatening the automaker and its largest supplier. The union, which represents factory workers at GM and Delphi, will continue talking to both companies but will not take any hurried action. (MORE >>>)

6/24/2005

Business Groups Press Bush to Soften Law Requiring Family Leave

Source: Bloomburg

U.S. business groups including the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers are pressing President George W. Bush to scale back the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law guaranteeing workers time off to deal with illness or care for a newborn or sick family member. (MORE >>>)

Massey CEO Tells Teachers To Stop Ads

Source: The State Journal

A "cease and desist" letter threatens legal action against the West Virginia Education Association and accuses the group of defaming the Massey CEO

As the airwaves become increasingly clogged with advertisements for and against Saturday's pension bond amendment special election, Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship is finding himself in familiar territory -- the target of negative campaigns.

Blankenship already is suing the United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia Consumers for Justice and the leaders of both groups along with The Charleston Gazette for making allegedly defamatory statements about him in 2004. (MORE >>>)

Teamsters Address PepsiCo Board of Directors

Source: Teamsters

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Union Raises Concerns About Company's Failure To Keep Promises to Workers

A delegation of Teamsters from around the country recently attended PepsiCo's annual meeting of shareholders to raise concerns about pension benefits for Frito-Lay members. "Frito-Lay promised workers that if they switched into company pension and health and welfare plans and out of the Teamster plans, the workers would not suffer," said Jeff Padellaro, Local 633 business agent, in his address to the PepsiCo board of directors. "The company promised that the benefits would keep pace with those guaranteed by Teamster plans. This didn't happen, and in our mind it's a broken promise, Mr. Chairman."

"The meeting provided an opportunity to remind the company that we expect them to live up to the promises they made to our members when they went into the company's fund some 25 years ago," said Rich Volpe, International Vice President and Director of the Teamsters Bakery and Laundry Conference. "Our members deserve to retire in dignity."

"I delivered chips for 29 years and 51 weeks," said Donald Kinney, a Frito-Lay retiree. "And the company is taking $3 a month out of my pension for the rest of my life because I was one week short of 30 years. It's a shame."

How Can Unions Organize Millions of Workers If They Don't – and Won't – Even Talk to Them?

Source:
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By Harry Kelber

If you will examine Andy Stern's "Unite to Win" and John Sweeney's "Winning for Working Families." you will not find a single word about communications, because in the minds of these two great labor thinkers, there is no need to spend time on this subject. In fact, one of Sweeney's first acts in cutting the AFL-CIO budget to please Stern was to shut down the federation's monthly magazine, America@Work, which, despite its many faults, provided union members with at least some information of what was going on in the labor movement.

The "strategists" in the Sweeney and Stern camps have never explained how they plan to organize millions of workers into unions without reaching them through a sustained radio, television and newspaper campaign with labor's message. What they've told us is that, by spending multiple millions of dollars and restructuring the unions, non-union workers will be stumbling over themselves to join.

But if that doesn't work, Stern has another solution: Break away from the AFL CIO and start his own "stronger" labor federation. He won't give any clues about how he would do it or how it would work. And he brushes off critics who say the split in organized labor would weaken its economic and political power, and trigger a war between the two rival labor groups.

Neither Sweeney nor Stern have applied, or even recognized, a simple truth about union organizing: that worker-to-worker dialogues bring the best results. There are hundreds of thousands of union members who could be very useful in massive organizing campaigns, but our leaders do not want to--or perhaps don't know how to--involve them.

Is it so strange that millions of members feel alienated, cynical and hostile, because their leaders pay so little attention to their needs or let them offer their own views?

And unorganized workers tend to believe the terrible things they hear about unions, when there are no responses from labor leaders. Conservative writers and politicians keep hammering away at "Big Unions" and "labor bosses" with all sorts of allegations, some of them well-founded, and you won't find one national union leader who will go on radio and television or seek a press interview, to provide convincing refutations to the accusations. Try to remember when was the last time you saw a national labor leader on television, and what did he or she say that was memorable?

The International Labor Communications Association (ILCA), which represents hundreds of labor publications throughout the country, has offered some proposals that would solidify and enrich AFL-CIO's massive organizing campaigns. In a letter to Sweeney, ILCA president Martin Fishgold said the federation should "invest in the creation of a national labor media in the form of at least one cable television station, at least one radio network, and at least one national weekly publication."

In regard to financing the labor media operation, Fishgold said: "Such ventures can be highly profitable, and the use of pension funds to invest in them, rather than in our corporate opponents, should be considered. But there are sufficient funds in the current AFL-CIO budget and the budgets of internationals to take this step without using pension money."

It's time national labor leaders learned that, in the field of organizing, the name of the game is "communications.

6/23/2005

Steelworkers Laud Judge’s Ruling Confirming Right Of Investment Firms To Enter Into Neutrality Agreements With Unions

Source: Steelworkers (USWA)

Agreement allowing card check neutrality elections for union representation does not violate the law

The United Steelworkers of America (USW) today declared victory in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case which began with the filing of an unfair labor practice charge by individuals represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Following the filing of a complaint by the NLRB's General Counsel against the Heartland Industrial Partners and the USW, Administrative Law Judge Raymond P. Green issued a decision recommending that the full NLRB dismiss the complaint in its entirety.

The complaint had charged that Heartland's agreement with the USW and its requirements of its subsidiary Trimas to enter into a similar one violated Section 8 (e) of the National Labor Relations Act that prohibits companies from agreeing not to do business with another person or employer.

"This decision is a monumental victory for both workers desiring the benefits of collective bargaining representation and for employers willing to partner cooperatively to meet the challenges of the of the international marketplace," said USW president Leo W. Gerard.

"There is nothing in the law that requires an employer to mount an anti-union campaign," Judge Green wrote.

In June 2002, Heartland acquired a Bloomfield Hill, Michigan engineered products manufacturer named Trimas. A year later, Heartland required Trimas to enter into an agreement with the union similar to the one Heartland had made with the USW in 2000. The agreement allows the union to make a request to distribute information and meet with employees to discuss the benefits of union representation. The company agrees to furnish the union the names and addresses of the employees and grant the union recognition as the bargaining representative if a majority choose the union in a card check election.

The judge ruled that the agreement relates to Heartland's acquisition of other business entities and these type of single event transactions do not constitute "doing business" with the meaning
of Section 8 (e) of the Act. Judge Green also ruled that nothing in the agreement restricts Heartland from making any transaction it chooses to make. The evidence presented shows that the terms of the agreement did not play any role in Heartland's decision to acquire a business enterprise or that its contents even entered into the negotiations for a sale.

In this case, the Charging Parties' counsel made the contention often made by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation that a neutrality agreement is an example of top down organizing, which occurs when an employer supports a union during the selection of union representation by its employees. The decision here again refutes the foundation's claim that companies seek recognition of unwanted unions. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose membership and funding remain a closely guarded secret, has filed a number of objections to the election processes nationwide.

The Heartland Industrial Partners is a limited partnership located in Greenwich, Connecticut that aggregates capital and seeks to purchase controlling interests primarily in older industrial enterprises located in the Midwest. David Stockman, a former Budget Director in the Reagan Administration, established Heartland in 1999.

Study: More Companies Terminate Pensions

Source: AP

Big employers sharply accelerated freezes and terminations of pension plans last year, steering away from the increasing expense and uncertainty of paying for workers' retirement, a new study says.

About 11 percent of the big companies offering traditional pensions terminated their plans or froze accrual of new benefits to workers, according to a study by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, released Wednesday. That is up from 2003, when 7 percent of the nation's 1,000 largest companies capped pension plans.

That trend, long in the making, has continued into this year, most notably with UAL Corp.'s United Airlines defaulting on its severely underfunded pension plans. Whether it continues could hinge on how lawmakers resolve a number of difficult questions swirling around pensions, experts say. (MORE >>>)

Shaming companies into action?

Source: USA Today

A growing number of states are trying to pressure employers into improving health benefits by publicizing the names of companies that have the most employees in public health programs.

But the hall-of-shame approach is rankling some state chambers of commerce and large employers such as Wal-Mart, which has been lobbying against the bills. (MORE >>>)

Kennedy, Union Execs Blast Wal-Mart on Health Benefits

Source: Townhall

Union representatives, backed by congressional Democrats, Wednesday escalated their attack on the world's largest retailer. They accused Wal-Mart of being "morally bankrupt" and "un-American" for the way it handles employee health care benefits. A Wal-Mart executive at the event disputed those charges. (MORE >>>)

6/22/2005

Democracy for America and Wake-Up Wal-Mart Begin Campaign to "Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care"

Source: Wake Up Wal-Mart

Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Jon Corzine and Representative Anthony Weiner announced the introduction of the Health Care Accountability Act (HCAA) to expose the growing problem of profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, forcing workers onto public health care designed for the needy. The legislation is an important first step in the growing national campaign to "Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care" launched by WakeUpWalMart.com.

The HCAA bill will expose the "Wal-Mart Health Care Tax" - the price we all pay because Wal-Mart fails to provide its workers with affordable health care. Not only do more than 600,000 Wal-Mart workers go without company provided health insurance, but tens of thousands of their employees are forced to rely on taxpayer funded public health care.

"Wal-Mart's poverty wages, high deductibles and strict eligibility requirements force tens of thousands of their employees to rely on taxpayer funded public health care," said President Joe Hansen. "The Wal-Mart health care crisis costs taxpayers over $210 million and counting. It is simply un-American and unfair for a company with over $10 billion in profits to shift their costs onto us."

The HCAA requires all states to gather and release the number of employees that companies have on taxpayer funded public health care. The gathering and disclosure of this data is critical to estimating the considerable cost taxpayers already bear because of the failure of large, profitable employers who force workers and their families onto public health care assistance.

"Programs like Medicaid provide a critical safety net for low-income women and children, the disabled and the elderly and shouldn't be a profit center for large companies like Wal-Mart," said Senator Ted Kennedy.


In at least 12 states, Wal-Mart has more employees, spouses and dependents on state public assistance than any other employer in the state. In the state of Georgia, for example, more than 10,000 children on PeachCare (the state's health care program for low income children) had parents working for Wal-Mart at an estimated cost of $10 million per year. The next largest employer only had 734 children in the program.

"Americans pay a high price for Wal-Mart's race to the bottom. We deserve to know the truth about the high cost of Wal-Mart's greed," said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

At the press conference, WakeUpWalMart.com revealed the "Wal-Mart Health Care Tax" bill, a 3-foot-by-6-foot replica of an actual "Wal-Mart bill." The bill displays the estimated dollar cost U.S. taxpayers pay for Wal-Mart's failure to provide health insurance to their workers. A large map of the United States was also displayed to symbolize "America's Hidden Health Care Cost" - the 4-foot map of the United States that will display how little state data is available and how hidden the cost to taxpayers and our health care system remains.

6/20/2005

Unions make workplaces healthier says CWA

Source: CWA

Unions can have a dramatic impact on every aspect of workplace health and safety, a top US union has said. The message accompanied by grassroots case histories came at this month’s occupational health and safety conference of the CWA, the US communications union.

More than 200 safety and health activists shared success stories and planned strategies for the improvement of safety and health in their workplaces.

CWA executive vice president Larry Cohen commented: 'Our health and safety work clearly distinguishes what it means to work union, whether pushing for safety and health improvements in a lead acid battery plant, a hospital, on the police force, or as an outside technician or service rep.'

Delegates heard a series of success stories from union reps. Local 9111 of the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs lobbied successfully to get cancer, blood-borne diseases and heart disease presumed job-related and covered by workers' compensation for police officers in California.

Flight attendants were instrumental in negotiating the elimination of smoking on flights and means to ensure 'increased survivability' in airplane accidents. Local 7800 described its annual 'safety rodeo' where all installer trucks and buckets are inspected.

Unsafe trucks are 'red tagged' for dangerous equipment such as failing brakes, bald tyres, and cracks in lifting devices. In the 1970s, print union Amicus-GPM pioneered red tagging of dangerous machinery in the UK, preventing its use until safety problems were remedied.

Evidence worldwide has proven the 'union safety effect'.

Truck drivers union plans to test S.C. aversion

Source: AP

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is preparing to find out just how anti-union South Carolina is as it plans to open a hiring hall for independent truckers this summer.

Drivers say increasing job demands, including high gas prices, coupled with declining wages and a lack of benefits make a union attractive. (MORE >>>)

Wal-Mart workers in Colorado want to have a union

Source: UNI

Fifteen shop workers in Colorado will now try to form the first union in a U.S. Wal-Mart store. The workers in Greeley have started to organise and hope that eventually a majority of the store's 300 employees will vote for union representation.

The newest organising attempts have already sparked a union busting operation by the Wal-Mart management. An anti-union propaganda campaign is up and running, and management is busy giving statements about why they do not want to have a union in the company.

There is much unhappiness about the low wages that Wal-Mart pays, but also about management attitudes more generally.


"The company needs to realize that we're not doing this because we want to retaliate or to upset them," Erica Arellano, a 23 years old Wal-Mart worker said to the Greeley Tribune. "We're doing this because there are issues in this store that we believe haven't been heard. It's not just about better pay and benefits or not being treated fairly. It goes a little deeper."
Arellano was operated for kidney stones twice last year. Now she is paying off a 57,000 USD debt to the hospital as Wal-Mart's health insurance policy was found insufficient to cover all costs.


"If we don't succeed with the union, maybe they'll say, 'We should listen,' and maybe some good will come out of it", she said.

More proof the economy is going under

Leading economic indicators fell in May.

US trade deficit hits new high.

6/15/2005

Wal-Mart institutes availability requirement

Source: West Virginia Gazette

New rule requires workers to work any shift or be fired

Wal-Mart officials in Cross Lanes told employees on Tuesday they have to start working practically any shift, any day they’re asked, even if they’ve built up years of seniority and can’t arrange child care.

Store management said the policy change is needed to keep enough staff at the busiest hours, but some employees said it appears to be an attempt to force out longer-term, higher-paid workers. (MORE >>>)

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on Formation of Union Coalition Outside the AFL-CIO

Source: AFL-CIO

Workers are under the biggest assault in 80 years—now more than ever we need a united labor movement. The clearest path to growing the union movement and helping more workers form unions is by exercising our greatest strength—solidarity. Now is the time to use our unity to build real worker power, not create a real divide that serves the corporations and the anti-worker politicians.

After broad input from the union movement, we have proposed a plan which we believe produces the greatest investment in organizing—it could result in $500 million a year for organizing, or $2.5 billion over five years, and that's from the national union level alone. Organizing capacity and political power are intertwined—workers need a union movement that succeeds on both fronts.

I sincerely hope that the unions forming this coalition outside the AFL-CIO will continue to join—and help lead—the rest of the union movement from within the AFL-CIO. United together, we can best continue to pursue change and help working people meet these urgent challenges. Democracy is always challenging, but it is essential to hear all voices to realize real, far-reaching change. Disunity only plays into the hands of workers’ worst enemies at a time when working families are already under attack.

FIVE LEADING UNIONS FORM NEW COALITION TO REBUILD AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT

Source: Change To Win

The leaders of five of the largest unions in the AFL-CIO - Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, Laborers, and SEIU – today announced the formation of the Change to Win Coalition, a new alliance devoted to creating a large-scale, coordinated campaign to rebuild the American labor movement.

At a meeting this morning with 50 top officials from the unions, the Coalition approved a Constitution and Bylaws that would promote the coordination, cooperation and collective action of their affiliated organizations to boost union strength and improve workers’ lives.

“Our goal is to empower the tens of millions of American workers who face the daily challenge of making ends meet and whose voice has been silenced by the overwhelming power of large global corporations and their representatives in Washington,” the five Presidents said in a joint statement.

“The basic principle that brings us here today is that American workers cannot win a better life unless more workers belong to unions, and unless those unions have the focus, strategy, and resources to unite workers in their industry and raise standards for pay, health care, pensions, and working conditions,” they continued.

While the founding unions hope their proposals are passed by the delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention, it will put them into practice immediately through the structure and activities of the Change to Win Coalition. Regardless of the agenda adopted in Chicago by the AFL-CIO, the Coalition will move forward with its reform program after the Convention.

The union leaders said today that they welcome other labor organizations into the Coalition.

They said, “In the Constitution and Bylaws we adopted today, we pledged mutual support and solidarity, no raiding, and no retaliation for those who may choose to leave the AFL-CIO. We seek to change the face not only of what organized labor does, but how it does it.”

The Coalition unions have pioneered new organizing techniques. Each member union is contributing funds to the Coalition to take those techniques to a new level by cooperatively organizing non-union workers in key areas of the private sector.

The Coalition launched its website today, www.changetowin.org

“The world is nearly unrecognizable from what it was a generation ago. The stakes could not be higher. If the labor movement doesn’t adopt dramatic changes today to cope with the new economy it will find itself marginalized into oblivion. We come together today to prevent that,” the union Presidents said.

The union presidents are:
Terence O’Sullivan, President, Laborers’ International Union of North America
James P. Hoffa, President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
John W. Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industry, UNITE-HERE
Joseph Hansen, President, United Food and Commercial Workers Union
Bruce Raynor, President UNITE-HERE

Andrew Stern, President, Service Employees International Union

6/14/2005

Presidents of Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, Laborers' & SEIU To Hold Press Conference

Source: Teamsters

Leaders of five of the largest unions in the AFL-CIO -- Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, Laborers', and SEIU --will hold a press conference Wednesday, June 15, at 12:30 PM at the Laborers'International Union of North America headquarters to announce the creation ofa new multi-union organization to address the urgent need for a large-scale,coordinated effort to rebuild the American labor movement in the face ofglobalization.

The press conference will follow a meeting of 50 of the top leaders of the five unions who will adopt a Constitution and Bylaws for the new organizationand develop coordinated organizing and growth plans.

The five unions represent 5 million workers. They have recently partnered on a platform that would reform the AFL-CIO and bring the labor movement intothe 21st Century. The platform calls for dramatic new emphasis on organizingnon-union workers and for restructuring federation and affiliate activities torespond to the profound changes in the American economy.

Wal-Mart workers want class action

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

Attorneys representing hourly employees at Wal-Mart stores in Kentucky have asked a judge to grant class-action status to their lawsuit alleging the retail giant didn't allow them break periods and didn't pay them for work they performed while off the clock. (MORE >>>)

6/13/2005

AFL-CIO Executive Committee Approves Sweeping New Policies

Source: AFL-CIO

Sweeney-Backed Resolution and Budget Approved by a 2-to-1 Margin, Advances Next to Executive Council and Convention

The AFL-CIO Executive Committee—a 24-member advisory group made up of top union leaders—overwhelmingly approved a plan put forward by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney today to dramatically shift the work of the labor federation and unite unions for the twin goals of increased organizing and more member mobilization for politics and legislation. The group also approved a new two-year budget that funds the program.


“Working people are under attack as never before by corporate and political forces, and today’s plans will help the union movement fight back with all our united strength,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “Union movement growth and workers’ political power are fundamentally linked and we must strengthen both simultaneously.”

The leaders, by a 17 to 7 vote, voted to send to the Executive Council the updated plan, a version of which was first introduced at an Executive Committee meeting in early March, where it passed by a 16 to 8 vote. The resolution will be voted on by the Executive Council, a 54-member constitutional leadership body, at its meeting at the end of June. If approved, the resolution will be presented to the AFL-CIO convention at the end of July. The Executive Committee vote on the budget today was also 17 to 7. (MORE >>>)

Amidst Tension, New Labor Alliances Form

Source: News Standard

The executive council of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) announced it is endorsing the current AFL-CIO president for another term in a statement calling for unity among the 57-member labor coalition. Tensions within the organized labor movement have heightened as of late, as rumors abound that several unions will leave the federation this summer if the leadership does not dramatically alter its plans. (MORE >>>)

UMWA reaches agreement with BCOA to provide additional funding for 1993 Benefit Fund

Source: UMWA

Health care benefits for 1993 Plan retirees, spouses to remain at current levels through end of 2005

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts announced today that an agreement has been reached between the UMWA and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA) that would provide enough funding for the UMWA 1993 Benefit Fund to provide benefits at current levels through the end of this year.

"This is good news for our retirees who are covered by the UMWA 1993 Benefit Fund," said President Roberts. "Their health care benefits were on the brink of being drastically reduced in the very near future. With this agreement, we've been able to extend the time they have full benefits through the end of the year, which will give us more time to work through legislative solutions that would solve the funding problem for this fund on a more permanent basis."

Under the agreement, UMWA 1993 Benefit Fund (1993 Fund) beneficiaries will receive a one-time hardship payment of $3,350 from the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund. The beneficiaries would then be assessed a $3,000 premium by the 1993 Fund. The UMWA estimates that a total of $10 million in premiums will be paid to the 1993 Fund under this agreement.

Unlike the UMWA Combined Benefit Fund (CBF)-which is funded through premiums paid by coal operators and by transfers of interest money from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund (AML Fund)-the 1993 Fund is financed solely by a contribution from the coal operators of 50 cents per hour worked by a UMWA miner. Due to the skyrocketing costs of health care and an unanticipated rise in the number of beneficiaries covered by the 1993 Fund, the Fund's net assets have been dropping quickly, which would have likely led to cuts in benefits for 1993 Fund beneficiaries this summer.

"This hardship payment is just a short-term fix to a problem that needs a long-term solution," Roberts said. "The best and most permanent solution is to be found in Congress. The 1993 Fund beneficiaries are no different from the beneficiaries of the CBF and the 1992 Fund. They've given their lives and their health to energizing America, and they have every right to expect that the promise Harry Truman made to America's coal miners of health care after they retire should extend to them.

"The only reason that promise-reaffirmed by the administration of President George H.W. Bush-doesn't extend to the miners who are in the 1993 Fund is because Congress picked an arbitrary date for Coal Act eligibility when it passed the Coal Act back in 1992," Roberts said. "Congress must act-and act quickly-to fulfill America's promise to its coal miners."

UMWA Endorses John Sweeney for AFL-CIO President

Source: UMWA

The International Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) voted unanimously today to endorse John Sweeney for President of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka for Secretary-Treasurer and Linda Chavez-Thompson for Executive Vice President.

In a resolution, the UMWA Executive Board said, "Under their leadership, the AFL-CIO is effecting change that gives workers a stronger voice in the workplace and improves the quality of life for working people."


UMWA President Cecil Roberts added, "John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Linda Chavez-Thompson are extraordinary leaders who have worked incredibly hard the last 10 years to strengthen the labor movement in the face of massive attacks from the right-wing political and business interests that oppose a free voice for working families.

"The UMWA is squarely behind the Sweeney/Trumka/Chavez-Thompson team," Roberts continued, "because we believe they continue to offer the right vision for America's working families, and they are taking the steps needed to rebuild our movement into the strong, vibrant voice for working families that is sorely needed in the country.

"Every day, a new attack on working families and their unions is launched by the far right-wing and its allies in government and corporate boardrooms. America's workers need leadership at the AFL-CIO that will fight back, instead of duck for cover or try to appease those who would destroy us. John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Linda Chavez-Thompson are the kind of fighters we need, and that's why the UMWA's International Executive Board did not hesitate to endorse them."

IBEW ENDORSES JOHN SWEENEY for AFL-CIO President

Source: IBEW

In the face of challenges to American workers like globalization, outsourcing and a concerted effort to undo the gains organized labor has made over the past century, the labor movement needs solidarity and stability more than ever. The right man to lead the movement is the AFL-CIO’s current president, John Sweeney.

John Sweeney has capably led the AFL-CIO since his election in 1995, especially in strengthening labor’s political action program. The unions of the AFL-CIO, despite some membership loss, still constitute the largest and most effective voice for workers in the United States. As a unified movement, we speak with the authority and confidence of 13 million working men and women strong. Divisions among us can only diminish our voice and inhibit our growth.

John Sweeney is a consensus-builder, exactly what the leader of 57 autonomous unions should be. He is a man of quiet conviction who listens to the diverse views within labor then acts decisively.

Over the last several months, organized labor has engaged in a closely watched internal debate over the future of the movement. All sides in this discussion have raised some valid arguments.

There is virtually no argument that we need to revise our tactics and implement fundamental changes to address the forces that are threatening the living standards and economic opportunity of millions of working families.

Organized labor needs to get back to the business of fighting to protect the working men and women of America. We need to counter the administration’s efforts to gut Social Security, address the health care crisis and stop the export of jobs overseas through bad trade deals. We need to stop the spread of Wal-Mart’s employment philosophy and fight for good jobs with a living wage and benefits. These are some of the darkest days for working families in 100 years. Our enemies are strong enough without giving them aid and comfort by dividing the labor movement.

We urge all labor leaders to keep the focus on the rank and file members of our unions who have elected us, and who count on our ability to make decisions in their best interests. Don’t make them the victims of this power struggle. A smaller, divided labor movement will only harm the cause of unionism.

Let us not celebrate the 50th anniversary of the merger of the AFL-CIO with actions that imperil our strongest asset – our solidarity. Keep the debate going, but keep the federation intact.

Founded in 1891, the IBEW is an international labor organization with approximately 750,000 members in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Republic of Panama. IBEW members work in construction, utilities, manufacturing, telecommunications, broadcasting, railroad

Five unions say they will create 'pro-growth' coalition

Source: New York Times

Five labor unions that are highly critical of John J. Sweeney, the president of the AFL-CIO, are planning to announce this week that they are forming a coalition aimed at unionizing large numbers of workers, several union officials said Sunday.

Labor leaders said they were planning the move because they want to form an aggressively pro-growth coalition and because they believe the AFL-CIO is doing too little to organize nonunion workers. (MORE >>>)

SEIU Executive Board Authorizes Disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO; Follows Resolutions By Local Unions

Source: Unite To Win

Faced with "a fundamental and apparently irreconcilable disagreement" within the labor movement about how to rebuild workers' strength, the SEIU International Executive Board has formally authorized the union's top leadership to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO if necessary. (Read the full statement by the SEIU Board.)

The Board acted after receiving resolutions from local unions authorizing disaffiliation. The elected rank-and-file executive boards of local unions representing 70 percent of the SEIU membership have already adopted such resolutions, and more have scheduled meetings to consider the issue.

The Board set the following policy of cooperation and partnerships if the union does disaffiliate:
1) "We will seek agreements with other unions to cooperate on strategies to help workers form unions in their core industries or occupations and negotiate better living standards - regardless of whether the cooperating unions are in or out of the AFL-CIO.


2) "We will offer to coordinate with the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions on political issues important to working families, as we do with the NEA, America Votes, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, Mi Familia Vota, and many other organizations, and we would be prepared to contribute financially to the AFL-CIO political program.

3) "We will work to build powerful and inclusive social movements in our communities through continued participation with Central Labor Councils (CLCs) and State Federations.

4) "We will seek agreements with other unions not to fight over the few workers who are already organized or make deals with employers to lower pay and benefit standards. Our focus will be on helping more workers in our core industries to join unions, and not on dividing workers' strength or wasting workers' precious resources by trying to persuade current union members to change unions."

The SEIU Board - which includes 50 local union leaders whose locals include more than 80 percent of the union's membership - said the union's decisions will continue to be based on three principles:

"The union movement must focus on uniting with us the 9 out of 10 workers who have no union. Without doing so, we not only cannot build a broad movement for social and economic justice but we can't even win consistently at the bargaining table or in the legislative arena for the small minority of workers who still have a union.

"Uniting more workers with us requires lead unions in each industry or occupation that have the focus, strategy, and resources to win. We cannot help workers make major advances in each industry as long as the AFL-CIO structure and rules condone and reward union strategies that divide workers' strength in each industry -- 15 separate organizations in the transportation industry, 15 in construction, 13 in public employment, 9 in manufacturing, and so on -- while allowing even more unions to start organizing in those sectors and make a bad situation even worse.

"We must empower those hit hardest in today's economy, including low-wage women and people of color. That requires two changes. First, we must make it our top priority to help millions in today's diverse workforce to join unions. Second, we must adopt standards and timetables to ensure that our organizations reflect that diversity at every level of leadership and member participation.

While unions that represent a total of 5 million workers have made a proposal for change based on those commitments (see ChangetoWin.org ), the AFL-CIO officers have made their own proposal which does not implement those principles.

"We respect those who disagree with us, and hope to continue to work with them on political and community issues we share," the SEIU Board said. "But there comes a point where if we can't reach agreement on basic principles, we should each move on and devote our time and resources to a strategy we believe will help working people win."

6/11/2005

New Report: Workers Seeking Unions Denied Fundamental Democratic Rights

Source: AFL-CIO

An independent report concludes the U.S. union election process administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) systematically violates the fundamental rights that govern U.S. elections, denying workers the freedom to form unions.

“No political challenger could get elected under these guidelines,” says Gordon Lafer, author of the report,
Free and Fair? How Labor Law Fails U.S. Democratic Election Standards. “The system is so corrupt that it doesn’t remotely resemble the democratic process we think of when we use the term election.”

Employers Deny Free Speech, Harass Workers Seeking a Voice at WorkLafer, a professor at the University of Oregon, points out how at every step of the union election process, NLRB procedures fail to live up to the standards of U.S. democracy and the standards the U.S. government uses to determine if foreign elections are free and fair. According to the report, employers enjoy a one-sided advantage in representation elections while employees seeking a union face significant barriers. For example:

Workers are restricted from openly distributing literature while employers have free reign to do so.

Employers deny essential employee information to thwart pro-union workers’ access to their co-workers.
Employers and supervisors practice various forms of economic coercion with the clear intent to grant or take away privileges based upon an employee’s position on the union.

Existing labor law allows employers to indefinitely delay recognition of a union through a drawn-out appeals process.

“Every high school civics student knows that elections aren’t fair without free speech, equal access to voters and the media, and freedom from voter coercion,” says David Bonior, chairman of
American Rights at Work, the advocacy group that released the report on June 7. “The system for union recognition is badly broken and profoundly undemocratic. Any reform of existing labor law must begin with this understanding.”

Union Movement Supports Employee Free Choice ActThe AFL-CIO and allies are strongly supporting the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 842 and H.R. 1696 ), sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and George Miller (D-Calif.). The Employee Free Choice Act would strengthen protections for workers’ freedom to choose by requiring employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation. It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and authorize stronger penalties for violation of the law when workers seek to form a union.

The hypocrisy of the standards that govern union election process is evident when compared with the standards the U.S. government uses to determine if foreign elections are free and fair, according to Free and Fair? The Bush administration, which opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, in 2002 faulted the government of the Ukraine for failing to “ensure a level playing field for all political parties” in its national elections.

The Bush State Department specifically criticized Ukraine officials for pressuring employees of state-owned enterprises to support the ruling party and for allowing university officials to instruct faculty and students to vote for particular candidates. The ruling party candidates also took advantage of public offices for meeting spaces while denying suitable meeting space to the opposition.

“If transposed onto the grounds of a U.S. workplace, everything that occurred in this flawed election in Ukraine would be legal,” the report says. “Employers are perfectly free to use workplace space for partisan meetings while denying use of that space to union supporters, to instruct employees on how to vote and to pressure employees (in every way short of an explicit threat) to vote against unionization.”

Health Care for Uninsured Costs $922 for Each Worker with Health Coverage

Source: AFL-CIO

Workers with health care insurance are paying extra costs to cover health care for the 48 million Americans without insurance, according to a new report. In 2005, premiums for employer-provided family health insurance are expected to cost, on average, an extra $922, $1 of every $12 spent for employer-provided health insurance, to cover the costs of providing health care to the uninsured.

Paying a Premium: The Added Cost of Care for the Uninsured, released June 9 by the health consumer group Families USA, also estimates these added premium costs will rise to $1,502 in 2010.

“The large and increasing number of uninsured Americans is no longer simply an altruistic concern on behalf of those without health coverage but a matter of self-interest for everyone,” says Ron Pollack, Families USA executive director. “The stakes are high, both for businesses and for workers who do have health insurance because they bear the brunt of costs for the uninsured.”

Nation’s Cost of Funding Uninsured: $43 Billion
According to the report, health insurance premiums for family coverage in six states will cost at least $1,500 more in 2005 because of the unpaid cost of health care for the uninsured. These states are New Mexico ($1,875); West Virginia ($1,796); Oklahoma ($1,781); Montana ($1,578); Texas ($1,551); and Arkansas ($1,514).

Nationally, the cost of providing health care to uninsured individuals who do not pay for the care they receive will be more than $43 billion this year and reach nearly $60 billion in 2010. In 11 states, the cost of covering this uncompensated care will exceed $1 billion this year: California ($5.8 billion); Texas ($4.6 billion); Florida ($2.9 billion); New York ($2.7 billion); Illinois ($1.8 billion); Ohio ($1.4 billion); Pennsylvania ($1.4 billion); North Carolina ($1.3 billion); Georgia ($1.3 billion); New Jersey ($1.2 billion); and Michigan ($1.1 billion).

The largest number of uninsured individuals, 7.8 million, lives in California, followed by Texas (4.8 million); New York (3.5 million); Florida (3.2 million); and Illinois (2.1 million). In 2010, the number of Americans who will be uninsured for the entire year will be nearly 53 million, the report says.

“This report underscores the importance of strengthening and protecting public programs such as Medicaid that are the health safety net for millions of Americans,” Pollack says. Yet President George W. Bush has proposed reducing net funding for Medicaid by nearly $1 billion in fiscal year 2005 and by nearly $16 billion between 2005 and 2014.

“Medicaid cuts would only force more and more families into the ranks of the uninsured, thereby increasing insurance premiums for everyone who has health coverage,” Pollack says.

Most of the uninsured are workers and their family members who do not participate in employer-provided insurance plans, forcing employees to seek public health care assistance. For example, a
congressional study estimated that each Wal-Mart store costs taxpayers an average $108,000 a year for its workers’ children who are enrolled in state children’s health insurance programs.

6/10/2005

Change A-Comin' To Wal-Mart, Analysts Say

Source: The Morning News

Change is "afoot" at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, said one analyst who came away from the company's recent shareholders meeting with renewed confidence in the world's largest retailer.

"It was very clear to us that ... this year's annual meeting had a new, more sober tone," Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank in New York said. "In the past, (Wal-Mart management) was willing to accept their shortcomings, though some might say it was closer to false modesty. This year, it was very clear that management realizes they have a lot of work to do and are deep into the transition."

Wal-Mart held its annual shareholders meeting June 3 in Fayetteville. The retailer has taken a beating from some analysts recently, who said they were disappointed in its first-quarter results, its sluggish stock performance and the company's general lack of good merchandising as compared to its nearest competitor, Target Corp. (MORE >>>)

Wal-Mart ordered to pay $188,000 in job dispute

Source: SF Chronicle

A state civil rights agency says Wal-Mart must pay at least $188,000 for refusing to reinstate a manager at its Antioch store after pregnancy leave.

In a ruling made public Thursday, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission said the retail giant "willfully and consciously disregarded its obligations as a California employer.'' The company's claim that a supervising manager simply misunderstood the state law was not credible, the commission said, because Wal-Mart had been found liable for violating the same law in a 1998 case. (MORE >>>)

6/08/2005

Federal Court Opens Door to Tens of Thousands of Workers and Families at Cintas in Landmark Class-Action Lawsuit

Source: Newswire

A federal court has certified a class-action lawsuit filed by Cintas against UNITE, a textile industry union, for
alleged violations to federal privacy laws, noting that the union could face millions of dollars in penalties, plus punitive damages and attorney fees. The court's decision also could impact many other union organizing campaigns, with significant additional liability to UNITE and other unions.

(MORE >>>)

Missouri DHL Workers Prevail Despite Anti-Union Tactics

Source: Teamsters

On May 20, workers at a DHL independent cartage contractor (ICC) in Saint Joseph, Missouri voted to join Local 41. The workers at Mid-Continent Transportation voted 15-9 in favor of representation by the Kansas City, Missouri-based local. There are 25 workers in the bargaining unit.

“These workers endured a very harsh anti-union campaign by the company,” said Mike Corns, an International Union organizer.

In fact, the company fired a worker who supported the organizing campaign. Local 41 fought to get her reinstated with back pay and benefits.

GM To Idle More Plants, Slash 25, 000 Jobs

Source: New York Times/Reuters

General Motors Corp.expects to close more U.S. assembly and component plants over the next few years, slashing at least 25,000 manufacturing jobs as it battles high costs and shrinking market share, the company's chief executive said on Tuesday. (MORE >>>)

6/06/2005

IAFF Endorses AFL-CIO President for Re-Election

Source: IAFF

The General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO/CLC, Harold Schaitberger, issued this statement today on the leadership of the AFL-CIO:

The AFL-CIO has suffered a reduction of influence and power. The reasons are varied, but two stand out: shifts in the types of employment and the globalization of not just our economy but of workplaces and workforces.

"In order to be relevant once again, the leaders of our Federation and its affiliates have been engaged in a debate over how to restructure, retool, and change the direction, strategies and operations of the AFL-CIO. That debate has been mostly very productive and constructive.

"Throughout this debate, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has remained focused on the changes that need to be made. He has consistently risen above the negative fray of personal attacks. His focus has remained on the need for labor to emerge energized, and with a unity of purpose.

"Above all else, President Sweeney has remained firmly on the side of solidarity. He knows that the combination of our resources and power are the engines that will drive our movement through these trying times. Throughout this debate, President Sweeney has once again proved that he is the person to lead the Federation, particularly during this crucial period of reform. He is the leader to position our united movement to regain our place in the national debate.

"The IAFF has been and will continue to carefully weigh the issues in this reform discussion. However, the person to lead that discussion remains clear. Following several meetings with President Sweeney and his embrace of key issues that the IAFF believes must be at the core of the reform, the IAFF's Executive Board unanimously voted to endorse John Sweeney for re-election as president of the AFL-CIO.

"President Sweeney's willingness to find the most effective strategies and structures to reinvigorate our Federation are shown in his commitment to embrace ideas and concepts that are completely different than the approach taken by the AFL-CIO to date. He has shown a willingness to effectively re- tool the Federation to create an efficient, effective and lean operation with an agenda focused on a core of critical, strategically targeted responsibilities.

"As part of the evolving reform process, President Sweeney has recently embraced the belief within the IAFF that winning new union members and legislative and political battles requires a mix of message and motivation.

"Specifically, President Sweeney has committed to shift the Federation's political and legislative direction. While the AFL-CIO will continue to support and maintain relationships with those Democrats who have historically and continuously supported the goals of our movement, it will also build bridges over party lines to Republicans who can be with us on selected issues. This strategy will enable us to become more non-partisan, focusing our efforts on building worker majorities, not party majorities, in our legislative bodies.

"President Sweeney has also renewed his commitment to refocus the AFL- CIO's communications resources and efforts. This shift will not change the fact that individual Federation union affiliates will continue to be responsible for tailoring the message to their current and prospective members in organizing and political campaigns.

"The new focus will mean that the AFL-CIO will change from primarily getting its message out through internal communications vehicles, to delivering clear, concise messages using contemporary media, the internet and other emerging technologies -- where most current and potential members and voters get the news and information that shapes their views -- helping us make the labor movement relevant to their everyday lives.

"President Sweeney has also committed to all affiliates that his reform planning and implementation will continue to evolve. He is a leader who will work to embrace and implement ideas throughout his term of leadership. These ideas will ensure the Federation reaches its potential to organize effectively, elect worker-friendly politicians, get pro-worker laws passed, and make our movement's message relevant to all workers now and in the future. And we continue to support his leadership."

The IAFF has successfully employed a non-partisan approach to politics by setting its political and legislative agenda and priorities based on the interests of its members, not the interest of any political party or specific candidate, and by reaching out to elected officials on an issue-by-issue basis. The IAFF's legislative "score card" recognizes that very few politicians can or will ever achieve a 100 percent voting record on our issues. Rather, it focuses on embracing a pragmatic approach to lobbying, attempting to build different coalitions of support on each legislative priority.

The IAFF's Political Action Committee, FIREPAC, is currently one of the Top 25 PACs among the more than 4,000 registered in the nation. In the last election cycle, FIREPAC contributed fully one-third of its funds to Republican candidates, significantly more than any other major national union.

Teamsters in Los Angeles and Hartford Win Strong Contracts With Coke

Source: Teamsters

Teamsters in Hartford, Connecticut and Los Angeles voted by an overwhelming majority to ratify new agreements with Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). The new contracts call for an across the board increase in wages, the maintenance of their current health care plan and an increase in their pension.

"It was a tough fight, but our members stayed committed to seeing this though to the end," said Jim Santangelo, President of Joint Council 42 and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 848. "There was too much at stake for us not to take a stand."

The workers stayed united against CCE, picketing until they had ratified contracts in both states. With the rising costs of health care becoming a larger problem every day in America, it was of utmost importance that the workers win this fight.

This is a big win for the Coca-Cola drivers, warehousemen and vending machine drivers in our union, said Chris Roos, president of Local 1035 in Hartford. We went back and forth with the company, but in the end it was our persistence that counted."

Our brothers and sisters did a terrific job negotiating and the picketing targets were very effective, said Jack Cipriani, Director of the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference. Coca-Cola is a large company and we really have to watch them at every bargaining session because they always want to cut costs. With these contracts we were able to win an increase in wages and strengthened benefits for our members, the most important things to us.
The Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference represents nearly 14,000 workers at Coca-Cola throughout the United States.

6/04/2005

Rising doctors' premiums not due to lawsuit awards

Source: Boston Globe

Study suggests insurers raise rates to make up for investment declines

Re-igniting the medical malpractice overhaul debate, a new study by Dartmouth College researchers suggests that huge jury awards and financial settlements for injured patients have not caused the explosive increase in doctors' insurance premiums.

The researchers said a more likely explanation for the escalation is that malpractice insurance companies have raised doctors' premiums to compensate for falling investment returns. (MORE >>>)

Coca-Cola bottlers and warehouse workers reject contract

Source: AP
Nearly 2,000 workers at Coca-Cola facilities around Southern California will resume a week-long strike after bottlers and warehouse workers rejected a five-year contract hammered out earlier this week, a union official said. (MORE >>>)

Statement of AFL-CIO President on May Employment Report

Source: AFL-CIO

By John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President

The economy added a disappointing 78,000 new jobs in May, less than half of the consensus forecast and a dramatic slowdown from April, when 274,000 new jobs were created. There was no change in the unemployment rate. Even though we are in the fourth year of recovery from the last recession, employment growth is still too weak and halting. There are over seven million workers in the Unites States unemployed and searching for a job, and the sluggish employment situation does not provide enough pressure in labor markets to allow employed Americans to increase their earnings. (MORE >>>)

6/02/2005

Airline Caterer Proposes Recipe for Disaster - Workers Reject Offer

Source: Teamsters and Unite Here

Union members working for airline caterer Gate Gourmet voted overwhelmingly 3,860 to 240 to reject deep cutsin wages and benefits sought in a final proposal by the company. GateGourmet threatened stakeholders that the rejection sets the stage forbankruptcy. While sympathetic to a distressed catering market sinceSeptember 11, 2001, workers viewed the company's demands as being toosevere given the low wages they already earn. Union members willdetermine whether to strike the company's U.S. kitchens in the event thatGate Gourmet seeks to reject the union's contract in bankruptcy court.

All this takes place while Gate Gourmet equity owner, Texas Pacific Group (TPG), continues to invest in high profile acquisitions. In May,TPG participated in the $5.1 billion acquisition of retailer NeimanMarcus. The recent buying spree by the $15 billion venture capital firmcontrasts sharply with cost cutting at Gate Gourmet and cements theunion's feeling that TPG has not done enough to support its investment inGate Gourmet.


The workers rejected over $40 million in annual concessions in the form of double digit wage cuts, frozen pensions and radical cost increasesfor health care. David Benitez, eleven year cook at Washington Dulles,retorted "this is outrageous; we work hard everyday for very littlealready. These cuts would have given us no reason to continue working inthis tough airport business environment." At San Francisco International,Blanca Tejada added, "I can't afford the proposed cuts. My landlord won'tlower my rent because Gate Gourmet or TPG need to cut my wage. Everyone'sworried about Gate Gourmet going bankrupt; I'm worried about myself, mycoworkers and our families going bankrupt!"

Ken Paulsen, Spokesperson for the Joint Labor Council, summed things up by saying, "It's time for Gate Gourmet to work with its employees andthe union as partners. We are willing to work with the company, but ourworking class members refuse to bear the entire burden so that TPG cansimply sell Gate Gourmet at a higher premium. Instead of using bankruptcylaws benefiting the richest among us, TPG and its limited partners mustprovide additional support for their investment in Gate Gourmet."


The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and UNITE HERE represent over 6,000 workers at Gate Gourmet kitchens located throughout U.S.airports and Amtrak stations. Gate Gourmet employees have been workingwithout an amended contract since June 2004.