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8/31/2005

NWA mechanics move picket line where scabs are staying



Northwest mechanics move a strike line to hotel where "scabs" are staying
(CLICK TO LISTEN)


About 100 striking Northwest Airlines mechanics and supporters picketed Tuesday at a hotel that is housing replacement mechanics.

Chanting "Scabs go home!" — the picketers protested the fact that the Radisson Metrodome Hotel in Minneapolis is housing replacement mechanics for Northwest.

It is the eleventh day of the mechanics' strike. About 4,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians refused to take pay cuts of 25 percent and accept layoffs that would have reduced their ranks by nearly 50 percent. The offer they did make to NWA officals would have cut their pay by 20 percent.

No new talks are scheduled between the union and the airline.

Mechanics and their supporters planned to picket at the homes of several Northwest executives on Thursday.

8/30/2005

Judge dismisses UMWA from Massey defamation lawsuit

A Virginia judge has dismissed the United Mine Workers of America from a lawsuit that accused the union and two other defendants of defaming Massey Energy and its president, Don Blankenship.Fairfax County Circuit Judge Dennis Smith on Friday granted a motion by the union and its president, Cecil Roberts, to dismiss the claims against them. However, Smith's order was without prejudice, which means the company and Blankenship can amend and refile their claims. Smith gave the plaintiffs 21 days to file an amended lawsuit.

Ben Chew, an attorney representing Richmond, Virginia-based Massey and Blankenship, says the company will file an amended complaint.

West Virginia Consumers for Justice, a political advocacy group, and The Charleston Gazette remain as defendants. They also have asked Smith to dismiss the claims against them.


Blankenship and Massey sued the UMWA and West Virginia Consumers for Justice in June, alleging defamation. Also as part of the lawsuit, Blankenship -- but not his company -- is suing the newspaper. The lawsuit seeks more than $300 million dollars in damages.


***

Source: UMWA Press Release

Virginia court dismisses Massey-Blankenship suit against the United Mine Workers of America and International President Cecil Roberts

On August 26, 2005, a Fairfax County, Va. judge dismissed a defamation suit filed by Massey Energy Co. and its CEO, Don Blankenship, against the United Mine Workers of America and its International President, Cecil E. Roberts.

"This is the latest indication that Don Blankenship and Massey Energy won't be successful in their attempt to bully the UMWA and the citizens of West Virginia into silence," said Roberts. "It would appear from the judge's ruling that ‘The Donald' and his multi-million dollar law firm are confused about just how he was defamed. We will continue to vigorously contest this suit if it is re-filed, and we're confident we will continue to prevail."

The lawsuit, which sought damages for statements allegedly harmful to Massey's business and to the company's and Blankenship's reputation, was dismissed without prejudice after the Fairfax County judge found that Massey had not presented a sufficient basis for the defamation case in its complaint. The plaintiffs have 21 days to file an amended complaint, which in Virginia is called a motion for judgement.

8/29/2005

United Federation of Teachers launches blog

Source: Workers Independent News

The United Federation of Teachers have taken a step into territory rarely tred by organized labor - the so-called blogosphere. The UFT has launched
EdWize.org a site that describes itself as a place union members, educators and others can express opinions "in an effort to establish an agora of informed commentary on public education and labor issues." Its a big step for a labor union as organized labor has been slow to take advantage of burdgeoning internet technologies. The site has already created quite a buzz in the city with a write-up in the Daily News and two editorials attacking the blog in the New York Post less then two weeks after the sites launch.

8/22/2005

Disney’s Children’s Books Made with Blood, Sweat and Tears of Young Workers in China

Source: National Labor Committee

Click Here For Video
Summary Report (PDF)

In China, young women and men are forced to work 10 to 13 hours a day producing Disney’s children’s books six and seven days a week, working a grueling 60 to 90 hours a week. The workers are paid just 33 to 41 cents an hour, trapping them in misery. It is common for the workers to be cheated of their overtime pay. In some factories, women are denied their legal maternity rights. Eight to 12 workers are housed in primitive dorm rooms sleeping on double level bunk beds and fed horrible food at the factory canteen. Workers often faint from exhaustion and the unbearably stifling heat in the factories. Workers have no health insurance, no pension, no rights. They have no right to freedom of association or to organize.

But the workers are fighting back in search of basic justice. And—in what is a hugely important development—students and scholars in Hong Kong (formed as SACOM—Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior) are joining their sisters and brothers in China in this struggle.
The National Labor Committee, together with SACOM and our NGO partners in Hong Kong, intend to launch an international campaign to shame Disney into doing the right thing.


The demands of the Chinese workers are simple and doable. Disney must release the names and addresses of the factories they use across China to make their goods. Disney must allow SACOM and other human, women’s and worker rights NGOs access to these plants to train the workers so they can play the key role in monitoring these factories. This will bring an end to the violations. (MORE >>>)

Navajo Committee Approves Tentative Agreement with UMWA for Head Start Workers

Source: UMWA

The Human Resources Committee of the Navajo Nation Council voted unanimously to approve a tentative agreement that would be a first contract for more than 800 Head Start workers, represented by the United Mine Workers of America, who work in schools throughout the Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

"This is a tremendous step forward for these hard-working members, who only recently gained a voice at work through UMWA representation" said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. "I salute the Human Resources Committee members for their historic decision."

Roberts noted that the workers will now have the opportunity to review the details of the tentative agreement as part of the ratification process. "The final decision on this contract is now up to them, through the UMWA's democratic ratification process," Roberts said. "We look forward to that process being completed within the next several weeks."

Unions Worldwide Mobilize Support for Gate Gourmet Workers in Britain

Source: AFL-CIO

Unions in the United States and worldwide are mobilizing an e-mail campaign in support of the 800 members of Great Britain’s Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) fired by airline caterer Gate Gourmet Aug. 10.

Last week, after a solidarity strike by British Airways baggage staff and loaders in support of the fired Gate Gourmet workers, major media focused on passengers stranded at London’s Heathrow Airport––ignoring the corporation’s efforts to replace its employees with lower-wage workers.

According to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mirror, in a secret, internal briefing, Gate Gourmet wrote: “Recruit, train and security check drivers. Announce intention to trade union, provoking unofficial industrial action from staff. Dismiss current workforce. Replace with new staff.”

The Mirror reports Gate Gourmet created a 15-week timetable to provoke workers into striking so they could be replaced with lower-paid Eastern European workers trained at secret bases. Last year, 10 Eastern European nations joined the European Union, and some Western European corporations immediately began seeking to replace their unionized workers with Eastern Europe’s lower-paid workforce.

Send a Message Demanding Gate Gourmet Reinstate its Workers
Union members and leaders can
send a messageto Gate Gourmet urging the company to reinstate the workers.

Owned by the Fort Worth-based Texas Pacific Group, Gate Gourmet also provides airline and other catering services in the United States, where many of its workers are represented by UNITE HERE.

Following the two-day solidarity strike, negotiations resumed between Gate Gourmet but and catering employees, but talks broke off Aug. 16 because Gate Gourmet wanted “to selectively re-employ those who had been sacked even though there is enough for everyone,” says TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley.

Hours of Service Regulation A Major Setback

Source: Teamsters

The proposed Hours of Service (HOS) rule for truck drivers issued today by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a major setback for highway safety, increasing the potential for deadly accidents by forcing drivers to log even more hours on the road.

The new regulation is a repackaged version of the old rule that was struck down last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit because the government failed to consider the health of drivers in crafting the rule. Today’s proposal has once again ignored the health of drivers and the safety of the driving public, increasing the number of hours that drivers can stay behind the wheel without a rest break.

“This proposed rule is yet another outrageous power grab by ruthless companies,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Some greedy employers are trying to squeeze drivers to enrich their bottom line at the expense of public safety on America’s highways.”

Two years ago, the Bush administration overhauled the HOS rule, raising drivers’ time on the road for the first time in six decades. The appeals court said the changes were “arbitrary and capricious” and struck down the rule that raised driving time without rest from 10 hours to 11 hours. Today’s proposed rule would still force drivers to stay behind the wheel for 11 hours.
Under the rules, truck drivers not required to have a commercial license who travel within a radius of 150 miles, now would be allowed to work two, 16-hour days a week. Wal-Mart and other retailers pushed unsuccessfully for the change in Congress earlier this year.


“Since Congress couldn’t do Wal-Mart’s bidding, it appears the Transportation Department will,” Hoffa said. “What reasonable person who has traveled our nation’s roads and highways thinks that forcing tired truck drivers to stay behind the wheel even longer is good public policy?”

Truckers who use sleeper berths will be required to rest for eight hours and take another two hours off duty before resetting their daily driving schedule.

“It’s ludicrous,” said Tyson Johnson, Teamsters’ National Freight Director. “This requires a driver to drive 10 hours every 20 to 22 hours, which will significantly increase fatigue.”

8/18/2005

Four Iowa Democrats compete to pledge tougher labor laws

Source: Sioux City Journal

Four potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates competed in promising to work for tougher labor laws, including giving unions a chance to collect dues from nonunion workers for whom they bargain.

One would go even further, pledging to seek repeal of a state law prohibiting agreements that require workers to join a union as a condition of employment.Making their case the Iowa Federation of Labor's convention, all four stuck to bread-and-butter issues important to labor.

"My background is one where I have spent nearly 20 years creating the kind of jobs that have a future in this state," said Michael Blouin, former head of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

"We have begun a process of putting us on the right track."

"You won't find anyone in the Legislature more committed to labor," said Rep. Ed Fallon, of Des Moines, who said he would push for laws to create "a firewall between corporate greed and human need." (MORE >>>)

Economic Report: Millions of Americans face housing crisis

Source: Workers Independent News

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates 5 million U.S. families are facing "crisis level" housing needs. HUD says never before has there been such a large gap between the number of low-income families needing affordable housing and the supply of affordable housing units. A minimum wage worker would have to work 86 hours a week to afford a two bedroom rental unit in the U.S. Housing costs are rising and incomes aren't keeping up.

8/17/2005

Workers Lose Wages While Big Business Gains

Even while on a five-week vacation in Crawford, Texas, President George W. Bush continues his efforts to convince the American public the nation’s recent economic recovery—after years of job losses and dismal performance—is good news for all Americans. But two recent studies show the economy is doing a lot better for Big Business than for working families.

While the Bush administration hailed the news that wages of blue collar, nonmanagerial workers rose 0.4 percent in July, a new study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that those wages actually declined in July, as inflation sliced into the wage increase––and more.

“The real hourly wages [adjusted for inflation] of those workers remain at almost the exact same level as when the current recovery began.…In fact, real hourly earnings fell in all but two of the last 15 months,” EPI reports.

Meanwhile, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report looks at seven standard economic indicators—including income from wages and salaries, employment and corporate profits—and compares their performance in this economic recovery to other post-World War II recoveries.

The study finds the performances of six of the seven indicators in this recovery are below the average for comparable post-war economic upturns.

“The current period,” the report finds, “has outperformed the average in only one respect: corporate profits, which have grown far more rapidly than average.”


See the Economic Policy Institute report, “Inflation Trumps Wage Gains Again.”

Read “How Does This Recovery Measure Up?” from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Learn more about Jobs, Wages and the Global Economy and get more info, including downloadable fact sheets, at the AFL-CIO Facts and Stats site.

8/16/2005

Poll: Public Backs Social Security Now More Than Ever

Source: AFL-CIO

The Bush administration’s attempts to sell Social Security privatization not only have failed to win public support, they have broadened and strengthened positive attitudes toward Social Security, a recent poll by the AARP found. As Social Security marks its 70th anniversary in August, AARP found public confidence in Social Security has increased in recent years and Social Security has surpassed pensions and savings as the top source of income Americans expect to rely on in retirement.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law on Aug. 14, 1935, and it since has become the nation’s most successful safety net, keeping millions of elderly and disabled workers out of poverty.

See the details of the survey, Social Security 70th Anniversary Survey Report: Trends Over Time, by AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people ages 50 and older, and get information, fact sheets and more on Social Security and other sources of retirement income at the AFL-CIO Retirement Security website.

IL Governor to Sign the Humane Treatment of Hotel Room Attendants Act; Hotel housekeepers will get two, paid 15-minute rest breaks

Thousands of women who clean hotel rooms will benefit from a new law passed by the Illinois General Assembly this spring. The law requires hotels to give two, paid 15-minute rest breaks per day. Room attendants - overwhelmingly female - have been struggling with increased workloads as hotels upgrade their bedding and amenities.

The signing ceremony will feature room attendants representing their co-workers, who come from Chicago and all over the globe - Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa - to provide for their families.

The law was sponsored by State Rep. John Fritchey and State Sen. Ira Silverstein, and supported by Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones.

8/15/2005

LABOR DAY ACTIVISM

Source: AFL-CIO

Labor Day 2005 is just a few weeks away and union activists are readying for a week of online action and other mobilizations to fight assaults on working families and demand that the nation’s employers and decision makers “Reward Work and Respect Workers.”

During the Aug. 23–31 Labor Day 2005 Online Action Week, online activists will urge lawmakers, corporate executives and others to protect workers and taxpayers from getting stuck with the bill when employers shirk their health care responsibilities, oppose Social Security privatization and stop the Wal-Marting of good jobs.

Activists also will tell members of Congress to co-support the Employee Free Choice Act and will invite workers who don’t belong to AFL-CIO unions to join WORKING AMERICA, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate.

In addition, union activists will team up with people of faith to talk about working family issues in congregations around the country during Labor in the Pulpit services over Labor Day weekend.

A downloadable Labor Day Toolkit—with fact sheets, action ideas, sample letters to the editor, a news release, clip art and more—is available at www.aflcio.org/laborday. Visit The Union Shop Online™ to order placards, banners and lapel stickers for your Labor Day events: www.aflcio.org/shop.

Wal-Mart’s New Workforce Plans Cut Pay, Benefits

Source: Teamsters

The world’s largest retailer has instituted a new computerized plan for matching customer traffic with employee schedules, forcing many workers to lose pay and benefits as their hours fall below the full time level. The move appears to be spurring workers to leave the company, the South Florida Herald Tribune reported yesterday.

Reportedly, Wal-Mart is using a centralized computer program to devise schedule templates to guide store managers in scheduling employees. Company officials declined to tell the Herald Tribune when the program was put into effect.

The paper reported that several Wal-Mart employees in South Florida could no longer afford to pay for benefits the company offered after the company instituted the workforce management software. Several quit or are considering doing so, the Herald Tribune reported.

As Wal-Mart and other large retailers seek to keep costs down, workplace management software is becoming more popular. Several industry publications tout new technologies to match worker schedules to workloads as a money-saving venture.

A report completed by Aberdeen Group, a human resources industry research outfit, predicted that companies that increase their focus on scheduling and other workplace management details will prove to be more successful than competitors.

8/12/2005

US teachers ask parents not to shop at Wal-Mart

Source: UNI

Parents should not buy back-to-school-supplies at Wal-Mart. This is the message of America's teachers when the new school year is approaching. The call to parents was launched at thirty press conferences yesterday, held in twenty US States. It is
WakeUpWalMart.com that is behind this campaign, together with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and of course UNI Commerce affiliate UFCW.

The two US teachers' unions represent 4 million educators.

Also political and community leaders join in the call to send Wal-Mart back to school, to learn decent habits and social responsibility. US Senator Jon Corzine as well as several US Representatives back up the action, which also includes a call to parents to sign up in a pledge campaign at the WakeUpWalMart.com website.

''We're not asking for much," said US Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Somerville Democrat at a press conference in Boston, Massachusetts. ''We're simply asking that human beings be treated as human beings and that Americans be treated as Americans," he said, according to the
Boston Globe.

The same newspaper reports that HollyAnna DePina, a senior at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, who spoke at the press conference, said she plans to tell friends not to shop at Wal-Mart.

''A company known as a family corporation should not be abusing these families by violating child labor laws and hurting these children," DePina said.

"We all shop for bargains," said Jim Dougherty, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and an AFT Executive Council member at a press conference in Chicago, Illinois. But he said it should not be "at the expense of working families," according to the
Chicago Sun-Times.

He encouraged consumers to shop at employers like unionized Jewel-Osco, where he said workers receive decent pay and benefits.

Every day Wal-Mart's so-called 'low prices' comes with too high a cost for our families and our children. Starting today, Americans will have the opportunity to teach Wal-Mart a lesson that corporations have a responsibility to do the right thing," said Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com Campaign Director.

As part of the press conferences, local teachers released the "Wal-Mart Report Card" - a 3-foot-by-5-foot replica of an actual report card that displays Wal-Mart's failing grades and shows how Wal-Mart has repeatedly failed American families and children by offering poverty level wages and poor benefits, by abusing taxpayers, by having discriminated against 2 million women, and by breaking child labor laws.

"Wal-Mart has failed America for too long. This Back-to-School season, all Americans can help send Wal-Mart this message - our children are not a commodity to be exploited. Clearly, our children deserve better than Wal-Mart," added Paul Blank.

At the press conference, speakers also released a letter sent to Lee Scott, CEO, of Wal-Mart. In the letter, Scott was asked to adopt a nation-wide "zero tolerance policy" and promise the American people, and his shareholders, that he would resign if Wal-Mart were found guilty - again - of breaking child labor laws. The letter will be posted on WakeUpWalMart.com.

Northwest prepares 3,000 scabs to take strikers' jobs

Source: Detroit News

Northwest Airlines Corp. has more than 3,000 replacement workers trained and ready to fill in if mechanics strike against the carrier Aug. 20, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland told the Detroit News.

The replacement workers will be ready to step in for mechanics, aircraft cleaners and other workers represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, as well as for flight attendants, who may walk off their jobs in sympathy.

"We have a plan in place to have these (replacements) properly deployed between now and Aug. 19," Steenland. (MORE >>>)

AFL-CIO Proposes to Leadership to Unite Local Labor Movements Through New Solidarity Charters

Source: AFL-CIO

Proposal Creates Innovative Charters to Allow Locals of Disaffiliated Unions to Rejoin Movement

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney announced a new proposal to help unite the grassroots power of the union movement through innovative Solidarity Charters for locals of recently disaffiliated unions. He is asking members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council to approve this plan.

“It’s not these locals’ fault that their national unions left the AFL-CIO, and it’s not working people’s fault. They shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of a decision by their leadership,” said Sweeney. “Solidarity Charters will allow unions to work together and let working people still benefit from a united grassroots movement that works for good jobs, health care, and a voice in issues that matter to them.”

The AFL-CIO came up with the Solidarity Charters after locals of disaffiliated unions contacted the national AFL-CIO over the weeks since its convention and expressed a desire to remain in the AFL-CIO at the local level. The AFL-CIO Constitution is clear that if a union leaves the national AFL-CIO, they also leave the AFL-CIO at the local level. Two weeks ago, delegates to the AFL-CIO convention discussed the need to find a creative solution to support the grassroots labor movement.

“These Solidarity Charters will allow unions in New York to continue to work together and maintain a united front to fight for working people’s issues,” said Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “I’m pleased that our locals have this unique option.”

Under the new Solidarity Charters, if a local union of a disaffiliated union wants to be part of a united local movement in their city and state, they can apply to be part of the central labor council (clc) or state federation. They will sign up with the same level of membership they had before their union left the AFL-CIO, or sign up at the average membership level for that city or state, whichever is higher. They will also pay a 10 percent solidarity fee to the labor council or state federation to help offset the cost of services and mobilization systems provided by the national AFL-CIO and supported by its affiliated unions. The solidarity fee will go into the Solidarity Fund established at the convention that help support local bodies affected by the unions’ decision to leave the Federation.

Locals who receive Solidarity Charters will need to honor basic principles of solidarity. They will agree not to raid their brother and sister unions, participate fully in the local political mobilization efforts, and support other working people in their area who are on strike, organizing, or in other struggles. Unions will have the same voting rights as other locals—except that members of unions with a Solidarity Charter can’t hold top offices, except that individuals already in office can finish out their terms.

The Executive Council is expected to finish deciding whether to approve the Solidarity Charters within the next several days, and they could become effective in September.

Local unions who are part of the Teamsters, UFCW, SEIU and Carpenters are all eligible for Solidarity Charters.

8/11/2005

UMWA President Calls Attempts To Loosen MSHA Enforcement Of Mine Safety Laws in Anthracite Mines a "Recipe for Disaster"


Source: UMWA

UMWA says state, federal government and politicians must provide protection and support for MSHA management and ensure that mine operators comply with the law

United Mine Workers of America (UMW) International President
Cecil Roberts said today that rising tensions in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania surrounding the enforcement of mine safety and health laws by managers from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are "creating an explosive situation that can only be eased when mine operators understand that they must operate their mines safely, just like any other mine operator in the United States.

"Some small, non-union operators are calling for a different, relaxed set of safety rules for anthracite mines," Roberts said. "They have always alleged that the Mine Safety and Health Act passed by Congress in 1969 does not apply to anthracite mines. They are mistaken. It does, and to ignore that is a recipe for disaster.

"Coal mining is a dangerous business, no matter what kind of coal is being mined," Roberts said. "Worker safety must be the first consideration in any operating mine, and the UMWA will continue to do all we can to ensure that coal miners in every part of North America go to work and come home safely."

UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer
Dan Kane noted that there has been a recent change in the Coal Mine Safety and Health management in MSHA's District One, which includes the anthracite region. "MSHA put two very qualified individuals, John Kuzar and William Sparvieri, in charge of District One. They understand the law, and understand that it needs to be enforced in every coal mine," Kane said. "They should be getting the support of our elected officials and our government agencies. Unfortunately, that=s not always happening, and it=s creating a tense situation in the anthracite region that threatens to explode into violence."

In recent weeks and months, news reports have quoted several small, non-union mine operators and others in the anthracite region as saying Kuzar and Sparvieri wanted to "shut down" the anthracite mines through strict enforcement of mine safety laws. Some members of Congress have made several inquiries and written letters questioning Kuzar's enforcement of mine safety and MSHA=s support of Kuzar and Sparvieiri.

A program running this week on the CMT Network, "
Small Town Secrets," included footage of physical threats of violence being made against MSHA management. "These type of threats cannot be ignored by our elected representatives," Kane said. "They must be acted on, and quickly before someone gets hurt."

"The situation is getting tense, and people are jumping to all sorts of unfounded conclusions about the intentions of MSHA and its management in the anthracite region," Kane said. "Our elected officials should be working to ease tensions and provide strong support for the enforcement of mine safety and health lawsBlaws that they are sworn to uphold.

"The UMWA strongly supports the continued mining of anthracite coal," Roberts said. "UMWA members have mined coal in that region since the founding of our union in 1890. Thousands of our members have been killed or maimed in the anthracite mines since that time, and we don't want to see any more of them suffer such a fate. Anthracite coal can be mined profitably and safelyBit's not an either/or situation. It's time the mine operators recognize that, and work with MSHA to clean up their act."

Labor Unions Show Solidarity in Rally At Eighth Congressional District Office

Source: Teamsters

On August 10, Joint Council 25 and its local unions partnered with more than nine area labor unions to rallypeacefully in front of the Eighth Congressional District Office. The rally was in protest to U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean’s vote in favor of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Coordinated by United Steelworkers District 7, the rally sent a message to the public that Bean sold out workers by voting yes on this anti-worker piece of legislation.

“We want the public to know that when Representative Melissa Bean voted for CAFTA, she voted against working people’svalues,” said Brett Voorhies, United Steelworkers District 7 Rapid Response Coordinator.

CAFTA is a trade deal that involves the United States, the Dominican Republic, and five Central American countries:Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The highly controversial agreement passed in the Senate on June 30 in one of the narrowest votes ever in that chamber on a trade vote. On July 28, the U.S. House ofRepresentatives passed this agreement under heavy-handed pressure from the Bush administration and other pro-CAFTA forces by 217-215.

“As the sole Illinois Democrat to vote wrong on CAFTA, Melissa Bean has sold out workers,” said John T. Coli,Joint Council 25 President.

Other labor organizations participating in the rally included: Chicago Federation of Labor, GraphicCommunications Conference, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Jobs with Justice, Laborers Union,Painters Union, UNITE HERE and United Students Against Sweatshops.

Labor Day Cartoon

Source: Workers Independent News

8/10/2005

Studies: CAFTA, Exporting Jobs, Hurt Economy

Source: AFL-CIO

Despite the claims of Big Business and the Bush administration, trade deals that send jobs abroad hurt U.S. workers and the economy, according to two reports by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

One such trade deal, the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which President George W. Bush signed into law Aug. 2, will worsen conditions for workers in the United States and throughout the Western Hemisphere, EPI reports. CAFTA will eliminate tariffs among the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.


CAFTA duplicates most elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has cost 1 million U.S. jobs since 1993 and has caused real wages in Mexico to decline, say Robert Scott and David Ratner, authors of the EPI report, NAFTA’s Cautionary Tale.

The report shows NAFTA cost jobs in every state and major industry in the country. Two-thirds of those lost jobs were in manufacturing industries. States that lost the most jobs include California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.


Although NAFTA stimulated foreign direct investment and the movement of factories within the hemisphere, especially from the United States to Canada and Mexico, it did not protect labor or environmental standards. As a result, NAFTA tilted the economic playing field in favor of investors and against workers and the environment, causing a hemispheric race to the bottom in wages and environmental quality, EPI reports.

Another EPI study refutes reports that on balance, sending jobs overseas benefits the nation. The study, Truth and Consequences of Offshoring, shows serious flaws in business-backed reports on offshoring that overstate the benefits and ignore the costs to American workers. Any potential benefits to the American economy from jobs exports are likely to be concentrated in the incomes of a very small percentage of American households, the EPI study says.

Although exporting jobs provides substantial cost savings and improved profits for numerous corporations, the benefits are not being spread across the economy, says Josh Bivens, the report’s author. If American workers lose at the expense of corporate profits, workers are justified in resisting offshoring, at least until they receive some compensation for their losses, Bivens says.

“Good economic policy should not rest on insisting that American workers sacrifice their own self-interest in terms of lower wages to the larger national interest of increased national income,” he says.


U.S. workers and their unions will remember the 15 Democrats and 202 Republicans who voted for CAFTA, which passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by two votes July 28, says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “Anyone of either party who gets labor’s support should be ashamed” for their vote against working families, Sweeney said. “The labor movement will remember this vote.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said the House floor resembled the set of the 1960s TV show “Let’s Make A Deal” as the White House twisted arms and offered inducements for members to support CAFTA in a post-midnight vote.

8/08/2005

Illegal Hazmat Drivers Caught In Federal Crackdown

Source: Teamsters

A federal crackdown on fraud at state motor vehicle departments across the country has identified dozens of illegal immigrants licensed to transport hazardous materials.

Federal officials admit that while none of those apprehended has any known links to terrorism, they strongly believe that the recent busts have revealed a significant threat to homeland security. In one case, a Pakistani man, ordered to leave the United States nine years ago, was instead driving a tanker truck filled with gasoline for Exxon.

The Justice Department has begun deportation proceedings against the six illegal immigrants in Chicago, who had obtained commercial drivers' licenses that allowed them to carry hazardous materials. The men are from Belize, Jordan, Mexico, Mongolia and the Philippines.

In Florida, 52 people were arrested in late April—including three Florida motor vehicle department employees—for distributing some 2,000 drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants as part of massive fraud ring. Thirty-six of them were hazardous material commercial drivers' licenses, officials said. Some of those arrested had been convicted on weapons or drug charges or for reckless driving.

Many states have strengthened their hazardous materials license screening since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, state laws remain inconsistent, and customs says it remains relatively easy to obtain fraudulent documents that can be used to get a driver's license.

Earlier this year, a new law was signed that requires all driver's license applicants to provide proof of citizenship or legal residency. States have three years to comply with the new law and shore up their licensing processes.

In the meantime, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau continues efforts to investigate driver’s license fraud, particularly as it relates to transportation of hazardous materials.

“We are pleased that these unsafe drivers are off the roads. They are a threat to national security, and they pose a threat to highway safety, which affects all our families,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Teamsters are proud of the fact that our drivers are well-trained, experienced and have made the safety of others a high priority. We believe all drivers should meet the same standards.”

8/05/2005

What's Left? Freedom to Dream?

Source: ILCA

By Dave Lindorff, ILCA Associate

A new ruling by the NLRB strips workers of the right to hang out and talk with fellow workers even during coffee breaks or off the job entirely. Welcome to the new feudalism.

The continued packing of federal courts at all levels with judges who have a pinched view of civil liberties--particularly First Amendment freedoms--is getting considerable public and media attention, but a perhaps even more serous attack on basic freedom is going largely unnoticed: the growing tyranny of the workplace.

Just this past June, the National Labor Relations Board, a federal body which oversees and regulates the relationship between employers and employees, and which after five years of Republican rule in Washington is now stacked with conservative pro-management Bush appointees, voted 2-1 to uphold a private company's policy barring its workers from "fraternizing" even off duty, whether during coffee breaks or after hours at home.

The company, a security firm called Guardsmark, had established a rule barring its employees from fraternizing "on duty or off duty…or becoming overly friendly with the client's employees or with co-employees."

The union, a local of the Service Employees International Union (one of the four big unions to recently split off from the AFL-CIO), had filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the company with the NLRB, claiming the new rule threatened workers' right under the National Labor Relations Act to "self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations…and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection."

As the organization American Rights at Work notes in a report on this ruling, such a ban "inevitably chills collective action of any sort."

Since most employees can be fired from their jobs with no reason given, American Rights at Work says the new rule "gives employers the green light to invade our privacy and chip away at our most basic rights in the workplace."

It has long been the case that America's much-touted freedoms of speech, assembly, press, privacy and from warrantless search and seizure largely end at the factory gate or the office lobby, this new ruling extends corporate power over the individual to areas where it had largely been absent before: workers’ off-time.

Now the feudalism of the workplace has expanded to cast its dark pall over the behavior of workers who have already punched out for the day.

No more ranting about the boss at the bar after work. Maybe even no more blowing off steam to a spouse back home, if the spouse should happen to work for the same employer.

You have to wonder when American workers will finally just get fed up with this corporate Big Brotherism.

It used to be that the problem was Americans only had free speech for the eight hours a day they were asleep and the eight hours they were commuting or at home. Now it may be that freedom is reserved for just the eight hours that we're asleep.

For other stories by Lindorff, please go to
This Can't Be Happening! .

Economic Report: U.S. jobs cuts accelerating

Source: Workers Independent News

U.S. jobs are being slashed at a torrid pace - expected to top one million this year alone, according to a private survey by Challenger and Gray. In June and July planned U.S. jobs cuts exceeded one hundred thousand in each month. Job cuts are 18 percent higher this year than last. If this pace holds, this year will be the fifth consecutive year that more than a million jobs were cut. The auto industry so far leads the field in jobs cuts - with more than 72,000 announced this year.

Overnite Shareholders OK Aquisition by UPS

Source: Teamsters

On August 4, shareholders of Overnite Corp. overwhelmingly approved a proposed $1.25 billion acquisition by UPS Inc., the world's largest package delivery company. The cash transaction, which values Overnite shares at $43.25, is scheduled to close today. The buyout already has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

The combination will expand UPS’s ground transportation in North America. As a result, Atlanta-based UPS will become a top motor freight carrier and better compete against rivals such as FedEx Corp.

Both UPS and Overnite companies agreed to the deal on May 15.

The
Teamsters Union is putting together a comprehensive plan to both organize and win a good contract at Overnite, while making sure that the jobs of UPS and freight Teamsters are protected.

“We will organize Overnite, and give these workers the strong voice on the job that they deserve,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.

8/04/2005

Massey Energy Operation Ordered to Shut Down

More Coal Slurry Problems For Massey

The Associated Press is reporting a subsidiary of anti-union Massey Energy has experienced a second blackwater spill at its Logan County, WV operations in as many weeks.

Department of Environmental Protection officials told the AP a broken slurry line at Massey's Bandmill facility near McConnell sent an unknown amount of blackwater into the Right Fork of Rum Creek this morning. The spill is reported to have affected about a-mile-and-a-half of the stream.

The agency's Division of Mining and Reclamation issued an imminent harm cessation order against Bandmill. The operation must be shut down until the broken line is repaired and the creek clears.

Suggested Reading:
Massey's History of Coal Slurry Spills and Environmental Damage

8/03/2005

Record Number of Americans Join Wake-Up Wal-Mart Campaign

Source: Wake Up Wal-Mart (Campaign Blog)



WakeUpWalMart.com, the group leading the national fight to change Wal-Mart, announced today it has achieved a record milestone of support. Over 66,215 Americans have now joined the WakeUpWalMart.com movement, which was launched on April 5th of this year. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign now enjoys growing grassroots support in all 50 states.

“All across America, from towns to cities, from red states to blue states, Americans have made our campaign a true grassroots movement. We will not stop fighting. We will use every political, legislative, economic, and legal tool available to grow this movement into an army of change. In the days ahead, on behalf of the American people, we will change Wal-Mart into a corporation that reflects the best of American values,” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com

In just five months, WakeUpWalMart.com has become one of America’s fastest growing political and social movements. Supporters of the effort have signed on to the campaign at public events held by the group or via the campaign website, WakeUpWalMart.com. The group also officially announced that its next goal is to reach 150,000 supporters by December 31st, 2005.

“WakeUpWalMart.com is a powerful, broad-based, movement to change the largest corporation in the world. Our supporters will take the fight for a better America to Wal-Mart from one corner of this nation to the other. We will not rest until this company 'wakes up' and does what is right for its workers, our families, our communities, and the nation,” added Paul Blank.

With the support of over 66,215 Americans, the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign has successfully led the national fight to change Wal-Mart. Among the many accomplishments of the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign and its supporters include:

Launched the “Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart” Mother’s Day Campaign where 21,788 Americans signed the “Love Mom, not Wal-Mart” pledge and promised to not purchase their Mother’s Day gift at Wal-Mart until the company addressed its record of discriminating against 2 million women.

Coordinated a National “Mother’s Day of Action” on May 7th in 26 states and 70 cities and towns to raise awareness about Wal-Mart’s record of gender discrimination.

Hosted a press conference with several key Members of Congress, including Rep. Rosa De Lauro. Rep. De Lauro then released a “Dear Colleague Letter” from 51 Members of Congress asking Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, to release wage data to investigate claims of gender discrimination.

Mobilized thousands of supporters to successfully force Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, to end the “Wal-Mart Nazi Ad” and publicly apologize for using the ad against Arizona citizens who opposed Wal-Mart.

Launched the “Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care” campaign with a series of press conferences in 8 states and 325 Meet-Ups in over 270 cities involving over 10,000 supporters of Democracy for America (DFA) and WakeUpWalMart.com. Press conferences with civic, community, and labor leaders were held in Concord, NH; Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ; Madison, WI; Little Rock, AR; Austin, TX; Hartford, CT; and Atlanta, GA.

Hosted a press conference with Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Corzine, and Representative Anthony Weiner to introduce the Health Care Accountability Act - the first national legislation that would expose the true cost that American taxpayers bear because Wal-Mart forces tens of thousands of its workers onto public health care, like Medicaid.

Held house meetings in 134 cities and 38 states where nearly 2,000 citizens agreed to become citizen co-sponsors of “Fair Share Health Care" legislation. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign will be leading the effort to introduce “Fair Share Health Care" legislation in all 50 states in the coming months.

Officially launched on June 23rd our “Community Fight Campaign” that provides the most comprehensive strategies and tools to help supporters and activists fight the destructive effects of Wal-Mart in their community.

The efforts to change Wal-Mart will reach a new level in the coming days and months as WakeUpWalMart.com prepares to mobilize its supporters in a series of new campaigns that will reach out to Americans all over the nation.

8/02/2005

LABOR TO CONSIDER DUMPING DEMS WHO BACKED CAFTA


Source: PAI

CHICAGO (PAI)--The AFL CIO will consider running primary candidates against congressional Democrats who received labor campaign committee financial contributions, then voted on the evening of July 27 for the anti worker Central American Free Trade Agreement, federation President John J. Sweeney announced.Speaking the next morning to the federation’s convention at Chicago’s Navy Pier, Sweeney called 15 Democrats, along with 202 GOPers, “sellouts of working men and women.” (MORE >>>)

IL Gov. Signs Right To Picket Law


Source: AFL-CIO

Workers in Illinois now have a guaranteed right to picket and exercise their free speech rights under a new law Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) signed July 26 in front of nearly 2,000 delegates and guests at the AFL-CIO Convention in Chicago. Blagojevich said the new law was required because some municipalities have placed restrictions on picketing and free speech rights. “If hard-working men and women need to march on the street to let the public know about a labor dispute, they should be able to do so without interference,” he said.

8/01/2005

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts calls passage of CAFTA "a kick in the teeth for American working families"


Source: UMWA

President Roberts praises Sen. Byrd's leadership as West Virginia congressional delegation votes against job-destroying trade pact

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts said today that last week's late-night passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was a "tragedy for American working families that will ripple through our society for years" unless it is undone by a new pro-American worker majority in congress.

"Over 7,500 West Virginians lost their jobs as a direct result of the last flawed trade deal our government negotiated," Roberts said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1994. "In addition, our state has lost over 16,000 manufacturing jobs just since 1998, many of them a direct result of NAFTA and other trade deals making it easier to transfer jobs across our borders."

Roberts noted that the West Virginia delegation in Congress voted against CAFTA. "Senator Robert Byrd and Senator Jay Rockefeller understand the threat to our jobs posed by trade deals like CAFTA, and they voted to keep our jobs here at home. Representatives Nick Rahall and Alan Mollahan stuck to their guns and provided early opposition and leadership against it in the House, and Rep. Capito eventually voted against it.

"Senator Byrd has been particularly forceful in his opposition to unfair trade deals like CAFTA. I and the UMWA are eternally grateful for his principled stand," Roberts said.

"You would think that our government's trade negotiators had learned from the debacle that is NAFTA, but instead of including language to make it less desirable to move American jobs to other countries, CAFTA makes it easier," Roberts said. "It's a kick in the teeth for American working families. It will lead to fewer jobs and more pressure to cut wages for American workers as well as Central American workers. The only choice American workers have is to elect a new majority in Congress in 2006, one that will stand up for meaningful jobs here at home.

"Nobody wins with CAFTA except a handful of multinational companies and their executives, who will make billions from the labor of low-paid Central American workers," Roberts said. "The free- trade supporters tell us it will lead to lower prices. What they don't want us to think about are the social and economic costs to American workers and our communities of fewer American jobs, lower pay and nonexistent health care benefits for millions of American working families. Those costs far outweigh saving a buck on a t-shirt at Wal-Mart."