December 12, 2012 War on Workers News

Class war breaks out in Mich. as Snyder signs RTW4Less bill

Teamster Nation
The Michigan Information and Research Service brings us the bad news just now: Michigan now has a law on the books that lets CEOs rip off their workers.

Less than five hours after the House approved the second of two bills making Michigan a Right to Work (RTW) state, Gov. Rick SNYDER made the action official by signing the bills, SB 0116 and HB 4003.

The signing comes exactly a week since Snyder said RTW was “on his agenda” and five days since the Legislature began work.

Since the bills do not have immediate effect, they will not go into effect until 90 days after sine die.

Angry workers set up a picket outside the Romney office building, chanting, “The people united will never be defeated,” we learn from the AFL-CIO.

We have just begun to fight. Here is the statement from We Are Michigan…

Read the source story here.

What next for Michigan?

Teamster Nation

Yesterday in Lansing

There are a couple of options for overturning the anti-worker laws signed last night by the state’s cowardly, dissembling governor. They include the courts and the ballot box.

The Detroit News reports two lawsuits were already filed — and more are expected.

Two lawsuits have been filed claiming the Open Meetings Act was violated when the Michigan State Police temporarily put the Capitol on lockdown during Thursday’s legislative debate. One of the lawsuits was filed by the Michigan Education Association, which also won an emergency injunction to order the Capitol reopened.

A hearing has not been scheduled in the case, attorney Art Przybylowicz said.

“We’re waiting for the court to strike down all the actions that took place while the building was shut down.” Przybylowicz said, noting both chambers took actions on the bills during the lockdown.

The other Open Meetings Act lawsuit was filed by Detroit activist Robert Davis. A hearing has been scheduled for Thursday in Ingham County Circuit Court. Davis said the court could decide to consolidate the two Open Meetings Act cases.

The bills included $1 million in appropriations, which means they cannot be repealed by referendum. But they can be overturned by a citizens initiative. Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post explains:

Read the source story here.

Gov. Snyder: ‘Right to Work’ Will ‘Make Unions More Effective’

Crooks and Liars

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is insisting that a so-called “right to work” law which restricts unions’ ability to collect dues is not “anti-union” at all.

Speaking to MSNBC on Wednesday, Snyder said his move to sign the legislation into law and join the 23 other “right to work” states where workers make $1,500 less on average was actually “pro-worker.”

But MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe wondered how the governor could defend calling unions bad for business when the auto industry in Michigan had been very successful in recent years.

“I’ve never said unions are bad for business and I don’t believe this is actually anti-union,” Snyder asserted. “I believe this is pro-worker.”

“Are you serious?” a stunned Wolffe replied. “Are you serious this is not anti-union? This, at its core, actually undermines the ability for unions to organize.”

Read the source story here.

Food company to replace striking Auburn workers

The Seattle Times
A company that distributes organic food to grocery stores says it is hiring replacement workers for striking union members at its Auburn distribution center.

The United Natural Foods company denies accusations that it has engaged in unfair labor practices and says it is disappointed Teamsters Local 117 decided to strike. The company’s most recent offer included a pay raise of nearly 11 percent over three years.

Drivers and warehouse workers put up a picket line Tuesday at the distribution center.

Union spokeswoman Brenda Weist says the strikers hope to bring the company back to the bargaining table to negotiate pay and benefits.

Read the source story here.

Koch brothers, Tea Party cash drives Michigan right-to-work bill

Michigan Nurses Association members in Lansing

Should we be surprised that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who testified under oath that “right-to-work” wasn’t part of his agenda, is poised to sign just such a bill later today?

Snyder’s announcement last week that he’d support right-to-work has taken the sheen off his carefully cultivated image as a pragmatic alternative to hard-charging GOP counterparts in Ohio and Wisconsin. But it secures a dream of the anti-union Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, whose associates are well-represented among Snyder’s donors, and whose economic agenda has been ascendant within the modern GOP.

[…] It didn’t come out of nowhere. In a video shot by a Michigan Democratic tracker, former Michigan GOP chairman Ron Weiser is seen describing right-to-work plans that date back to 2007. A Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson told Salon that the video was recorded at a gathering of several Tea Party groups on Aug. 9, 2012 (the Michigan GOP and the governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment). In the video, Weiser describes hiring a political consultant and “working on that full-time” from October 2007 through the following March. Weiser, a former real-estate developer and U.S. ambassador who’s now the national RNC finance chair, describes a plan to gather signatures to put right-to-work on the ballot in 2008.

Read the source story here.

Red Cross Teaming with the Teamsters for Emergency Relief

CNB News
Teamsters helping out the Red CrossWeekends on the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy relief effort call for an extra push – food and water to stock, comfort and clean-up kits to load, and trucks of all shapes and sizes to drive from the warehouses to the Red Cross staging sites.

Someone’s got to do it, even if it causes a little trouble at home.

“Some of our guys get only one day off, and their wives already had jobs lined up for them,” said Rich Caldwell, a Teamster from Milford, PA and one of the dozens of Teamsters helping out on the Red Cross Sandy mission. “My wife said go on, get out of here!”

Hurricane Sandy has fomented a unique partnership between the Tri-State Teamsters and the American Red Cross combing the union’s logistics expertise with the agency’s resources. Teamsters, a group of unionized drivers living and working across the region, prepositioned goods, operated the forklifts, and drove 16-foot box trucks loaded with urgently needed supplies from the New Jersey warehouse to the far-reaching areas devastated by the worst hurricane to hit New York in years.

Out in the field, they also helped identify stricken communities that hadn’t been served, such as an emergency shelter in Long Beach, Long Island and a distribution site on Brooklyn Cyclones’ parking lot in Coney Island. During a massive mid-November push, 160 trucks went from the Red Cross warehouse to dozens of staging sites, including these.

Read the source story here.

Teamsters Warn UNFI Investors Of Unsustainable Business Practices
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters held a conference call for United Natural Foods Inc. [NASDAQ: UNFI] investors and analysts to report on the unsustainable labor practices and other issues that are jeopardizing the company’s operations.

Yesterday’s conference call highlighted an escalating labor dispute in the greater Seattle area, which has erupted into an unfair labor practices strike.

“UNFI management is risking its business across the country by provoking its workers into an unfair labor practices strike,” said Steve Vairma, International Vice President and National Warehouse Division Director of the Teamsters Union, which represents more than 125,000 grocery distribution workers. “The Teamsters will be notifying customers nationwide regarding UNFI’s abuses.”

The call featured presentations from local and national Teamster leaders, UNFI workers, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Organic Consumers Association and retail representatives from Bellingham Public Market/Terra Organica and the Olympia Food Co-operative.

Read the source story here.

CEOs underfund their co. pensions AND want to gut Social Security

Teamster Nation
Fix the Debt working out for CEOs, but not for you

We know. You’re shocked, shocked to hear that CEOs can say one thing and do quite another. But James Kwak at The Baseline Scenario draws our attention to an especially egregious bit of hypocrisy.

You’ll recall that CEOs formed a group called “Fix the Debt,” which is a euphemism for “Steal More Money From the Middle Class.” They’re lobbying Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so they can still get their government contracts and tax breaks for the rich.

Many of these CEOs pushing for Social Security cuts work for companies that underfunded their own pension plans.

Read the source story here.

Tea Partiers Stage Fake ‘Union Thug’ Event At Michigan Rally

Crooks and Liars

Via Eclectablog, the less-than-surprising news that Tea Party activists knocked down their own tent and videotaped it — for Faux News:

There’s a video on heavy rotation at Fox News, being massively retweeted by conservatives and Americans for Prosperity, where they talk about the “brutality” and “violence” of union members at today’s rally in Lansing, Michigan to protest Right to Work legislation. The video shows an Americans for Prosperity tent coming down on the front lawn of the Capitol Building.

As it turns out, American for Prosperity (AFP) themselves were responsible for at least one of the tents coming down. Tom Duckworth watched one of the folks that had been in the AFP tent go around and loosen the straps on the tent. According to Duckworth, “the tent came down from the INSIDE.”

[Above is] video, shot in the office of Progress Michigan, of Duckworth being interviewed by former Progress Michigan Executive Director David Holtz.

Read the source story here.

STUDY: Workers’ Health Care Costs Are Surging While Their Wages Stagnate

Think Progress
Adding to the ongoing indictment of unfair cost-sharing in employer-sponsored health insurance, a new study from the Commonwealth Fund finds that employees’ contributions to health plans has skyrocketed — even though wages haven’t.

According to the report, workers in every single state have seen their health care contributions to family health plans increase by 74 percent since 2003, while the average premiums for such plans have risen by 62 percent in the same time period. At the same time, the number of workers forced to pay deductibles on their coverage has appreciated significantly, and the average workers’ deductible has doubled — all while wages saw a meager 10 percent increase over the last eight years:

Read the source story here.

CEOs break with GOP on rate hikes

The Hill
More than 160 corporate executives on Tuesday expressed support for including tax-rate increases in a deficit deal, publicly breaking with Republican leaders who have ruled them out.

In an about-face, the CEOs of the Business Roundtable said they now believe any agreement to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts of the “fiscal cliff” must include a combination of revenue increases, spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

“We understand that raising revenue has to be done with rates,” said David Cote, vice chairman of the Roundtable and chairman and CEO of Honeywell.

The executives said that, after weeks of talks on Capitol Hill and in the White House, they have come to believe that tax increases are the “only way to get to a reasonable compromise,” an outcome that is “more important than sticking to any ideological view,” Cote said.

Read the source story here.

IAM leader: Workers rights at heart of human rights

IAM 751
Workers’ rights are at the heart of basic human rights, one of the top officers of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers said.

“The right to collectively bargain is a human right,” declared Gary Allen, who is the general vice president for the Machinists Union’s Western Territories. “The right to stand together, to protect ourselves and our loved ones against an inadequate and degrading lifestyle.”

Allen was one of the keynote speakers at the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission’s observance of International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. More than 100 human rights activists from around Puget Sound attended, including some 40 members of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 and Machinists Union District Lodge 160.

The event marked the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly approved a global declaration of human rights. The declaration came in response to the genocide and humanitarian disasters of World War II – and the global recession that preceded the war — and was written in large part by Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. delegate to the UN in those years.

Read the source story here.

McDonald’s pay chasm: $8.25/hour to $8.75 million/year

Bloomberg has a article today highlighting the pay gap at McDonald’s. The whole piece is worth a read but the beginning is particularly striking. It highlights Chicago man Tyree Johnson who holds positions at two different McDonald’s. Between shifts he has to give himself a quick scrubbing in one of the restaurant’s bathrooms because he can’t even show up for work at a McDonald’s smelling like a McDonald’s.

“I hate when my boss tells me she won’t give me a raise because she can smell me,” he said.

Johnson, 44, needs the two paychecks to pay rent for his apartment at a single-room occupancy hotel on the city’s north side. While he’s worked at McDonald’s stores for two decades, he still doesn’t get 40 hours a week and makes $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois.

This is life in one of America’s premier growth industries. Fast-food restaurants have added positions more than twice as fast as the U.S. average during the recovery that began in June 2009.

Johnson’s circumstances look particularly grim when they’re compared, as Bloomberg does, to the compensation enjoyed by executives whose pay gives a whole new meaning to “McJob”

Read the source story here.

Ohio’s GOP Gov. John Kasich paying a PR firm (with your money) to sell you his turnpike plan

Governor Kasich has asked Ohioans to be patient and to “keep an open mind” while we wait for the results of his $3.4 Million KPMG turnpike study to be officially released.    Kasich wants us to think he is anxiously waiting to review the results so he can make the best decision possible for the Ohio Turnpike.  But make no mistake: his mind was made up long before consultants ever started billing the state for their time.

Yesterday we confirmed a top ODOT manager believed the consultants were hired specifically to help support Kasich’s plans to lease the turnpike.  Additional documents obtained by Plunderbund tell a similar story,  with Kasich not only hiring transportation and financing experts, but also a top PR and marketing company as part of the consulting team.  The firm, Fahlgren Mortine, developed a communication plan back in May designed to sell the turnpike study and its results  to Ohioans.  The plan not only focused on developing messaging for the Kasich administration around leasing/bonding the turnpike but also on helping to shut down opposition to the turnpike study and Kasich’s proposal.

According to the original contract with the state, Fahlgren was allocated 5% of the project’s funding.  At the revised cost of $3.4 Million dollars, the firm may have been paid up to $170,000 – of your money – to help manipulate you into liking Kasich’s turnpike proposal.

Read the source story here.

There’s Not A Single Spending Cut That Republican Voters Support

Business Insider
The “compromise” in the fiscal cliff deal from Democrats is supposed to come in the form of spending cuts. But a new Marist-McClatchy poll shows that voters — including Republicans — oppose any and every specific spending cut proposed to them.

It goes hand in hand with the disparity between voters’ wish for blanket “spending cuts” and their opposition to any cuts to an entitlement that benefits them.

A look at what Republicans oppose:

  • By 47-37, letting the Obama payroll tax cut expire.
  • By 68-26, cutting spending for Medicare.
  • By 61-33, cutting spending for Medicaid.
  • By 66-28, eliminating the tax deduction for home mortgage interest.
  • By 72-25, eliminating the charitable tax deduction.
  • By 56-44, raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Republicans don’t favor much in any potential deal — they also, of course, are opposed to allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on any income bracket. Pollster Lee M. Miringoff warns that they might be unhappy with whatever happens.

“There’s no clear statement of what Republican voters want to happen. There’s opposition to everything,” Miringoff said.

Read the source story here.