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11/22/2005

Wal-Marts Faulted on Errors in Pricing

Source: Wake Up Wal-Mart Blog & LA Times

Wal-Mart stores in California and three other states have problems charging customers the right amount for their purchases, according to two studies to be released today.

Researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois-Chicago, funded by a union that is a leading critic of the retailer, found that nearly 9 in 10 stores studied in California fell short of federal standards for accurate pricing.

WakeUpWalmart.com, an advocacy group funded by the food workers union, said it would call on the attorneys general of all 50 states to investigate the retailer's pricing and scanning.


A spokesman for California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said pricing accuracy was an important consumer protection issue.


"The working men and women of California have enough to worry about without wondering whether they are going to be on the wrong end of a pricing lottery when they get up to the Wal-Mart checkout stand," said Tom Dresslar, who said he knew of the study's conclusions but had not seen the full report. "It is a serious concern, and if it turns out action is warranted, we will go after Wal-Mart to make sure its consumers are protected."

WakeUpWalMart.com also said it would distribute more than 1 million fliers the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season, urging Wal-Mart customers to verify that they are charged the posted prices.

Wal-Mart has an obligation to meet federal standards, said Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com's campaign director, "and in these four states, the studies show they have failed to meet those standards."

Labor Researchers: Bush Policies Perpetuate Black Poverty

Source: AFL-CIO

Bush administration policies that cut education and basic anti-poverty programs in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy have exacerbated sharp differences in job opportunities for white and black workers, according to a new report by the Labor Research Association (LRA), a New York-based research and advocacy group.

The report,
The Perpetuation of Poverty and Race Discrimination, released Nov. 15, calls for a greater investment in such programs as education and fair housing that help low-income workers find better jobs.

The federal
Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate last month for white men was 3.8 percent, compared with 8.5 percent for black men. White women were unemployed at a rate of 4.1 percent, while 7.6 percent of black women were jobless. The hardest hit workers are black youths, with an unemployment rate of 32.9 percent, compared with a rate of 14.2 percent for white youths.

The key to better job opportunities for people of color and the poor is a college education, LRA reports, with only 2.3 percent of college graduates unemployed. But rather than increasing funding to educate the nation’s poor, the Bush administration and Republican congressional leaders plan to slash some $14 billion from student aid programs, a move that likely would raise the cost of education for students and their families with increased student loan interest rates and fees. Federal assistance is what makes it possible for many students of color and low-income students to attend college.

The Bush administration also is proposing deep cuts in federal housing assistance that helps poor families find better housing and relocate to areas with better job and education opportunities, LRA says.

“The administration can help black youths enter college and end a long-standing cycle of poverty or leave them to fall into the ranks of the chronically unemployed and underemployed,” the report says. “Republican support for the budget cuts indicates that the Bush administration and its allies prefer to leave young black people stuck in a desperate situation while tax cuts for the rich continue.”

Republican leaders in the U.S. House on Nov. 10
postponed action on a budget bill that would cut more than $50 billion from vital working family programs because they failed to find the votes to win. But House leaders and the Bush administration are expected to continue pressuring lawmakers to pass the budget cuts before the Thanksgiving recess.

The House bill includes $10 billion in cuts for Medicaid health services for poor children and long-term care patients and would raise the costs of prescription drugs for beneficiaries. It also would take some $5 billion from child support enforcement, $1.3 billion from foster care and Social Security disability payments and $844 million from food stamps.

Earlier that day, the Senate Finance Committee refused to move a
$70 billion package of tax cuts for the wealthy promoted by congressional leaders and the Bush administration. Republican leaders, unable to secure enough votes on the 11-Republican, nine-Democrat panel to move the bill to the full Senate, postponed the vote on the tax cuts.

More
Read
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s statement on the House budget bill.
Read why tax cuts for the wealthy are the
wrong priority.
See how Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy have
undermined the economy.
Read how the budget bill
hurts vital programs for low-income families

UAW statement on GM's plant closing announcement

Source: UAW

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Richard Shoemaker, who directs the UAW General Motors Department, issued this statement on today’s announcement by General Motors:

“Today’s action by General Motors is not only extremely disappointing, unfair and unfortunate, it is devastating to many thousands of workers, their families and their communities. While GM’s continuing decline in market share is not the fault of workers or our communities, it is these groups that will suffer because of the actions announced today. For the workers, their families and the thousands of other people who work in the small businesses that supply these facilities, hope is diminished, the future is unclear and communities are less stable.

“The UAW-represented workers impacted by today’s action are protected by our job security program as well as the other provisions and protections of the UAW-GM National Agreement. The UAW will do everything in its power to enforce those programs and protect the interests of the workers impacted by today’s action.

“We have said consistently that General Motors cannot shrink itself to prosperity. In fact, shrinking General Motors only exacerbates its problems.

“Workers and their unions have worked hard to improve product quality and productivity at GM facilities in the United States and Canada, and these efforts have produced strong gains in both these critical areas, as reported in recent studies by J.D. Power & Associates and the Harbour Report.

“The actions covered by today’s announcement will be the subject of ongoing discussions and the 2007 negotiations between the UAW and General Motors. Today’s announcement clearly makes those negotiations much more difficult.

“GM’s return to prosperity depends on it offering products that consumers find attractive, exciting and want to buy. Only then will GM’s market share stabilize and grow, only then will revenues increase and only then will General Motors return to prosperity. Being successful in this regard is the exclusive responsibility of management: Workers have no control over GM’s capital investment, product development, design, marketing and advertising decisions. But, unfortunately, it is workers, their families and our communities that are being forced to suffer because of the failures of others.”

11/18/2005

WAL-MART: Rolling Back Wages, Workers’ Rights,and the American Dream

Source: American Rights at Work

American Rights at Work’s report, “WAL-MART: Rolling Back Workers’ Wages, Rights, and the American Dream,” offers a comprehensive examination of the company’s abysmal labor standards, including an investigation into Wal-Mart’s unapologetic, systematic manner of aggressively interfering with its employees’ democratic right to form unions as a method to address their mistreatment. The study also demonstrates how Wal-Martization is eroding middle-class standards for workers in the grocery industry.


Download the Wal-Mart report in its entirety. (PDF: 674 KB, 40 pages)
Read the report
press release.
Download our
flyer, The 5 Things You Should Know about Wal-Mart & Unionbusting.
View
links to other organizations that care about Wal-Mart and workers' rights.
Sign the petition to urge Wal-Mart to stop its anti-union campaign.

11/17/2005

Labour Start TV website launches







Don't just read union news. See it and hear it.
Your guide to online video produced by and for trade union members around the world. Labour Start TV is part of the LabourStart network.

11/09/2005

Wal-Mart execs knew about illegal use of cleaning workers

Source: Workers Independent News

Senior Wal-Mart executives were aware cleaning contractors hired illegal immigrants. An affidavit filed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service was unsealed at the request of an attorney representing more than 200 former employees in a civil lawsuit. In taped conversations senior Wal-Mart executives discussed the use of illegal immigrants to clean stores across the country. In 2003 a raid on 60 Wal-Mart stores resulted in the arrest of more than 200 illegal workers - many from Eastern Europe. Many of the workers were living in small apartments and in some cases sleeping in the back of stores. Wal-Mart maintains that officials for the world's largest retailer did not know of the use of illegal immigrants in stores.

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA PRESIDENT CECIL ROBERTS "BITTERLY DISAPPOINTED" IN JIM WALTERS RESOURCES RULING

Source: UMWA

Federal Administrative Law Judge David F. Barbour today issued a ruling that vacates or modifies all eight citations and orders issued by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) against Jim Walters Resources (JWR) that were a result of MSHA's findings after the September 23, 2001 explosions at JWR's #5 mine in Brookwood, Ala.

Reacting to the decision, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts said that, "this decision is a bitter disappointment for our union and the families of those who lost their lives on that tragic day four years ago. Judge Barbour found that MSHA simply did not do its job when it came to proving its case against JWR."

At approximately 5:20 pm on September 23, 2001, an explosion in the mine trapped a miner under debris. Twelve of his fellow workers were on their way to attempt to rescue him when a second explosion occurred that killed all thirteen of them.

"Thirteen miners lost their lives that day. Wives lost husbands, mothers lost sons and children lost fathers, " Roberts said. "Ever since then, Jim Walters Resources has spent great sums of money and hours upon hours of time trying to deflect their responsibility for this accident. If they had spent all that money and all that time improving conditions in the mine prior to September 23, 2001, then we would in all likelihood not be having this discussion today."

After its investigation into the accident was completed in 2002, MSHA issued citations and orders against JWR for violations ranging from roof control to mine dust levels to evacuation and fire drill procedures. MSHA levied $435,000 in fines relating to these violations. In his ruling today, ALJ Barbour found that MSHA did not prove most of the violations. Barbour vacated all but two of those citations, and modified or only partly affirmed those two. His decision reduced the amount of fines to $3,000. "This amount is just a pittance compared to the lives of 13 coal miners" Roberts said.

"MSHA must become better at defending its citations and orders when it brings them against companies which will fight those citations to the end even when they're guilty," Roberts said. "It's high time MSHA started devoting more funding, more scientific and forensic expertise and more institutional concern to its investigations.

"The UMWA has been saying for years that MSHA has been extremely casual and cavalier in its enforcement of the laws and regulations regarding mine safety and health," Roberts said. "The fact is that our members and our union at JWR #5 had made dozens upon dozens of formal complaints about conditions in the mine," Roberts said. "The company wasn't going to do anything about those conditions unless someone made them, and MSHA is the agency charged with doing just that. MSHA failed in that responsibility, and it continues to fail coal miners in Alabama and elsewhere in America."

"Despite this ruling, the UMWA has not and will never stop fighting for better and safer conditions in America's coal mines, including Jim Walters Resources mines in Alabama," Roberts said. "Our hearts and souls are with the families of those who lost their lives there. On their behalf, and in the memory of our fallen brothers and the over 100,000 miners who have been killed in this nation's mines in the last 100 years, we will continue our fight."

Statement of United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts On Election of Tim Kaine as Governor of Virginia

Source: UMWA

This election represents an enormous victory for working families in every corner of Virginia.

From the coal fields of Southwest Virginia to the beaches of Tidewater, from the great city of Richmond to the northern suburbs where our union is headquartered, the citizens of the Old Dominion have shown with their ballots that they refuse to see the clock turned back on restoration of the state's essential social programs and reclaimed fiscal sanity. They have also sent a strong message to Congress and the White House that unrelenting attacks on workers' rights, medical care and retirement security will no longer be tolerated.

The UMWA coal miners, retirees and their families in Southwest Virginia played a critical role in this victory, and we want to thank them for their strong support.

11/07/2005

‘Labor Laws No Longer Protect Workers’ Rights’

Source: AFL-CIO

American workers’ freedom to form unions, which has enabled millions of employees to make family-supportive wages and benefits, is under attack by employers—and the nation’s labor laws are not protecting against employer intimidation and harassment, according to both Reagan- and Clinton-appointed members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“The law’s remedies for labor law violations are weak and ineffective. Many underlying assumptions and doctrines of the law are out of synch with changing realities, especially the changing nature of the employment relationship, the workplace and communications,” said Wilma Liebman in her keynote address to the Robert Fuchs Labor Law Conference at Boston’s Suffolk University Law School Oct. 27.

Liebman is the only Democratic member of the five-member NLRB, which currently has two vacant seats. The NLRB is a federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector.

Marshall Babson, a management attorney and former NLRB member appointed to the board by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, spoke in favor of majority sign-up agreements in which an employer voluntarily agrees to recognize the union after a majority of workers signs cards supporting the union. Currently, most workers seeking to join unions are forced to go through the cumbersome NLRB election process, which employers often drag out as a way to intimidate and discourage workers from joining unions. The majority sign-up process enables workers to join unions without fear of employer threats.

But according to Babson, the NLRB has announced it intends to review majority sign-up.

“We should be long past questions about the right of employers and unions to enter into voluntary recognition agreements,” Babson told the conference. Many employers see it as in their interest to sign a voluntary recognition agreement, and they are “not rare or unusual,” said Babson.

MORE...
Working Families Set for Dec. 10 Mobilization to Restore Freedom to Form Unions
Working Families Back Employee Free Choice Act

TAKE ACTION
Tell Congress: Restore workers’ freedom to form unions. Send a message to your U.S. senators and representative urging them to co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act.

11/03/2005

Illinois Unions Help Win ‘All Kids’ Health Care

Source: AFL-CIO

Union activists and children’s advocates across Illinois are celebrating a huge win after the state legislature approved the nation’s first health insurance program covering every child in the state, including 253,000 children who currently have no health coverage. As a safeguard to guarantee that employers will not abuse the new insurance system by immediately dropping health coverage for families with children, children must be uninsured for a full year.

“Affordable health care for all working families has long been a top priority for labor and All Kids is a great step towards that goal. The sad fact is…the majority of children who don’t have health insurance come from working families. All Kids is a sound solution. It’s not free health care. It’s affordable health care for kids,” says Margaret Blackshere, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Providing quality and affordable health care is a top priority for state and local union movements nationwide, and union activists in Illinois were a key part of the coalition that led the fight to pass the “All Kids” bill. Grassroots union members packed town hall meetings around the state to show their support for the legislation, proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). On Oct. 8, more than 2,000 union members and their allies rallied in Chicago in support of the bill.

Two top legislative leaders, Senate President Emil Jones Jr. and House Speaker Michael Madigan, both Democrats, sponsored the legislation, which passed the state legislature Oct. 28.


The “All Kids” program will cover doctors’ visits, emergency care, dental and vision benefits, mental health services, prescription drugs and more for all children in Illinois regardless of income, health conditions or citizenship. Parents will pay affordable monthly premiums and co-payments, according to a statement by Blagojevich.

“Every child deserves the chance to be healthy,” Blagojevich says. “Thousands of kids from working-class and middle-class families have fallen through the cracks because their families earn too much to qualify for government programs, but still can’t afford private insurance.”

Nearly 46 million Americans do not have health insurance, and rapidly increasing costs soon will put quality health care out of reach of a majority of the American population, health care advocates warn.

Nearly every employer is confronted with double-digit increases in health insurance premiums and many are facing increases well above 20 percent annually. Most employers try to shift these costs to their workers—who either can’t afford to pay these additional costs or else experience a declining standard of living to maintain access to health care.


11/01/2005

More Info About Labor Dept Rebuking Over Wal-Mart Deal

Over at the Confined Spaces blog you can check out detailed information about the Department of Labor and Wal-Mart unscrupulous pact.

Source: Confined Spaces
Labor Dept Rebuked Over Wal-Mart Deal
The Bush administration's bad week continues.While this won't make the same headlines as the Miers withdrawal or Scooter's journey to the dark side, the underbelly of the Bush administration's coziness with its special corporate friends was revealed for all to see as the Bush Labor Department was
taken to the woodshed yesterday by its inspector general who criticized the Department for an agreement promising the stores 15 day notice before labor invstigators woud inspect its stores for child labor violations. (MORE >>>)

Wal-Mart Sweetheart Deal With Labor Department Involved “Serious Breakdowns” that Benefited the Company, Government Report Concludes

Representative Miller Says Report Underscores Special Relationship Between Bush Administration and Major GOP Donor Wal-Mart

WASHINGTON, DC -- A federal inspector general has found that a secret and controversial agreement between Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Labor, signed in January, was the result of “serious breakdowns” in the Labor Department’s normal procedures and resulted in an agreement that was “significantly different” than other agreements signed by the Department. The investigators also concluded that the agreement has brought significant benefits to Wal-Mart while weakening future federal oversight of labor practices at Wal-Mart.

The breakdowns resulted in Wal-Mart being able to author “key provisions” of the agreement, reached after the Labor Department found the company had violated child labor laws at operations in three states, the IG reported.

Representative George Miller (D-CA), the lawmaker who requested that the DOL’s Inspector General investigate the sweetheart deal after it was revealed in news accounts in February, said today that the IG report bolsters his belief that the Bush Administration was doing a favor for a powerful friend by making the deal. Miller said that he would join legislation, offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), to prevent DOL from making these sweetheart deals with companies in the future.

“Instead of looking out for all Americans, the Bush Administration took care of one of its closest friends, Wal-Mart,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House labor committee. “The Bush Labor Department chose to do an unprecedented favor for Wal-Mart, despite the fact it is well known for violating labor laws, including child labor laws. The sweetheart deal put Wal-Mart employees at risk, undermined government effectiveness, and further undermined public confidence that the government is acting on its behalf.”

The controversial arrangement reached in January only became public when it was leaked in February. Under the arrangement, Wal-Mart is given 15 days advance notice before any wage and hour audit or investigation by the Department of Labor. Upon receiving a complaint about a potential violation of wage and hour laws, DOL’s field offices around the country are now instructed to notify the DOL office in Little Rock, Arkansas, which will then notify Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas of the complaint. The Department will not launch its own investigation during that time.

Miller said that such an arrangement could allow the giant employer to cover up evidence of a violation and would discourage aggrieved employees who might fear retribution from the company from ever filing a complaint. In addition to the 15 days advance notice, if a violation is ultimately found, Wal-Mart is given an additional 10 days to come into compliance with the law, in order to avoid any penalties for such violation. Finally, the deal included a provision that restricts how the DOL may disseminate information to the press or public about the agreement.
The Inspector General said today that the Labor Department had entered “into an agreement that gave significant concessions to Wal-Mart…in exchange for little commitment from the employer beyond what it was already doing or required to do by law.”


The Department entered into the deal – formally known as a “compliance agreement” – in settlement of dozens of child labor violations by Wal-Mart in three states involving the use of dangerous equipment by minors. The deal included the payment of $135,000 in fines, amounting to just 15 seconds of sales for the retailer. Compliance agreements are meant to prevent similar violations by the employer from recurring, not to give employers advance notification of future violations.

“This report proves what we have known all along – that Wal-Mart’s settlement with the Department of Labor put the interests of one of the nation’s worst labor law violators ahead of the protection of America’s workers,” said DeLauro. “Imposing a fine equivalent to what Wal-Mart generates every 15 seconds and granting the company advance notice before any federal labor investigation was not only unprecedented for labor settlements, but literally a slap on the wrist for the country’s largest employer.”

Wal-Mart is a major contributor to the Republican Party. In the 2004 election cycle, Wal-Mart donated $2.1 million to candidates and campaigns – more than any other retailer. Eighty percent of those donations went to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.org. Wal-Mart’s closeness to Republicans was further demonstrated in May 2004, when Vice President Dick Cheney said, “The story of Wal-Mart exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country – hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing, and integrity.”

In fact, Wal-Mart has a long history of labor violations, from failing to pay workers for overtime hours, violating child labor laws, and locking workers into stores at night. Last year, Miller’s staff prepared a report that detailed Wal-Mart’s egregious labor practices, and the costs to taxpayers who pick up medical, educational and other costs associated with the company’s well-known low wage policy.

For a copy of the IG report, visit: http://www.democraticleader.house.gov/GM/DOL_ESA.pdf (pdf file).
For more information, go to:
http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/laborabuseinfo.html.