December 14, 2012 War on Workers News

United Natural Foods strike in Auburn resumes after firings

The Stand
United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) announced today that it would permanently replace 72 warehouse workers who were prepared to return to work after a three-day strike.  UNFI had accepted the workers’ good-faith unconditional offer to return to work, but subsequently rescinded that commitment.

As a result of UNFI’s unlawful actions, workers returned to the picket line at 9 p.m. Thursday evening after a meeting at the Teamsters building in Tukwila.

“UNFI misrepresented its position regarding its workers’ good-faith offer to return to work.  The company’s action to replace its employees is retaliatory, unlawful and frankly despicable,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.

On Monday, 163 drivers and warehouse workers, employed at UNFI, went on an unfair labor practice strike.  Under federal labor law, workers on an unfair labor practice strike cannot be permanently replaced by their employer.

When UNFI employees arrived at the company’s facility in Auburn to report to work today, however, they were told by security officers that “they were not on the list.”  The Union later learned through UNFI’s attorney of the company’s intent to permanently replace 72 of its employees.

“UNFI is refusing to uphold its side of the agreement.  We committed to take down the picket lines and UNFI pledged to accept our offer to return to work. Now they are telling us that 72 workers are out of a job right before the holidays. It’s a disgrace,” said Robert Jurey, a 13-year warehouse worker with UNFI.

Read the source story here.

Fox peddles phony video of fight, ‘violence’ at RTW4Less protest in Lansing

Teamster Nation

New slow-motion videos shows how Michigan workers were sucker punched and baited by lackeys for the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers at Tuesday’s RTW4Less protest in Lansing. These lackeys — members of the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity front group — came to the Capitol to provoke union supporters.

The billionaires’ fondest desire is to strip workers of their rights, their wages and their dignity. One of their tools is as old as the Pinkertons: using provocateurs to make union members look violent. They’ve modernized this nasty technique by producing videos showing union members misbehaving but editing out the taunts, the sucker punches and the pushing by the provocateurs.

Video of a scuffle in Lansing on Tuesday is in heavy rotation at Fox News. Anti-worker extremists are re-tweeting them along with pious denunciations of “brutality” and “violence.” Billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post piles on with a dishonest editorial.

Read the source story here.

Petitions seek ‘right to work’ in Ohio

Toledo Blade
As Michigan lawmakers prepare today to make the Wolverine State the latest right-to-work state, petitions are circulating on Ohio streets to put a similar issue directly before Buckeye voters.

“People are ready to double-down. … Michigan has revitalized a lot of our effort,” said Chris Littleton, former president of the Ohio Liberty Council, the closest thing Ohio has to a statewide Tea Party group.

He said the petition effort was sidetracked by the 2012 elections, but a meeting of regional volunteers last week was energized by what’s happening in Michigan. The goal is to gather roughly 380,000 signatures needed by early July to qualify for the November, 2013, election.

“Indiana has done this,” he said. “Michigan will. What choice will Ohio have? This is economic jet fuel for job creation, wage growth, and a vibrant Ohio economy. If two border states do this, how can Ohio afford not to do this?”

Opponents promise that if the issue does reach the ballot, the resulting fight would eclipse the one over Senate Bill 5 in 2011.

Read the source story here.

Wal-Mart protests go global today

Teamster Nation
Wal-Mart workers and their supporters today are demanding fair wages, full-time employment, safe working conditions and respect in Miami, Washington, D.C., and nine other countries.

Hundreds of Brazilian union members are marching in solidarity through the streets of Sao Paolo. Their brothers and sisters in the United Kingdom are delivering a giant letter demanding change at the head office of ASDA, which is owned by Wal-Mart.

In Washington, D.C., a crowd of people supporting Wal-Mart workers gathered outside the retailer’s federal lobbying offices. They demanded an end to factory death traps. More than 100 people died in Bangladesh on Nov. 24 when a fire broke out in a factory that made apparel for Wal-Mart. The protesters delivered 200,000 signatures on a petition asking Wal-Mart ensure safe working conditions in its supply chain.

In Miami, Wal-Mart strikers are performing street theater illustrating workers overcoming poor treatment and the staggering wealth of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s heirs, according to Making Change at Wal-Mart.

Read the source story here.

1B (yes, B!) Post-Sandy Pension Investment by AFT Bolsters AFL-CIO’s Budding Legacy of Community-Building Construction Efforts

We Party Patriots
Yesterday, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) announced an incredible $1 billion contribution by the American Federation of Teachers’ NYC Teachers Retirement System to help victims of Hurricane sandy. The infrastructure-centric investment, announced via a press release which appears in its entirety below, is the latest in a string of targeted union pension investments — which we’ve published about extensively and which are also often associated with CGI — that aim to bolster communities and provide good jobs.

Read the source story here.

JBLM vehicle mechanics vote to join Machinists Union

IAM 751
Mechanics who maintain military vehicles and related equipment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have voted by a nearly 4-to-1 margin to join the Machinists Union.

he group includes heavy-duty vehicle mechanics, leads and supply technicians who work for defense contractor URS Federal Services at the base. Nearly 80 percent of those voting on Dec. 7 were in favor of joining Machinists Union District Lodge 751.

District 751 also represents hourly employees of JBLM contractors DOSS Aviation, L-3 Vertex, Eagle Systems, AAI Textron and L-3 Link Simulation, as well as another group of URS employees who work on helicopters and do site maintenance.

“I’m proud to welcome our new brothers and sisters to our union,” said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski. “Our district represents hundreds of civilian employees who work at JBLM, at Whidbey Island Naval Air Stationand at Fairchild Air Force Base. The work they do is essential to preserve America’s might, and they deserve the kind of pay and benefits that a Machinists Union contract can bring.”

Read the source story here.

Michigan Legislature goes until 4:30 a.m, passes abortion, emergency manager, gun, personal property tax bills

Lansing State Journal
Michigan’s lame duck Legislature got dartsjump and laurels this morning after a final-day session that lasted more than 18 hours in which they hastily passed laws related to taxes, abortion, elections, Detroit lighting, a regional transportation authority for southeast Michigan, and emergency managers for distressed cities and school districts, among other measures.

The House and Senate, which convened for the final day of lame duck at about 10 a.m. Thursday, did not adjourn until about 4:30 a.m. today.

[…] Democrats and others were highly critical of a process in which substitute legislation was introduced late for numerous bills and quickly passed without ever going through the legislative committee process and without opportunity for the public and news media to even read them.

“Do you know what your legislators are voting on right now?” House Minority Floor Leader Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek, tweeted late in the session.

“House Republicans hope not! Amendments and substitutes are flying!”

A flurry of late legislation is typical in lame duck, but some long-time Lansing observers said the Thursday-Friday session was extraordinary.

Read the source story here.

How “Right to Work Shirk” Laws Kill Jobs—and Hurt All of Us

Nation of Change
Michigan’s recent battle makes this a good time to explain the union movement’s important role in our economy’s overall health. We’re about to explain why today’s war on unions is bad for all of us, no matter what we do for a living, and we’ll do it in four steps.

But first a word about language: “Right to work” is a misnomer for laws which let employees enjoy the benefits of union membership – at least for a little while, until they’re stripped away – without joining or contributing.

So we’ll call them “right to shirk” laws instead. And we’ll call the people who back these laws Shirkers.

And while we’re at it, let’s stop calling the states that have adopted this legislation “right to work.” They don’t give people any new rights. They take rights away, by making it illegal for employees to organize and negotiate together. They even take away employers‘ rights – to sign a certain kind of contract.

So let’s give the other states a name instead: In a nod to the Jim Crow origin of these laws, let’s call the ones which don’t have these laws “free states.”

Free Ride
Right to Shirk laws allow freeloaders to profit from the efforts of others – without contributing to the effort, and in a way that harms the common good. The billionaires and corporations behind these laws wouldn’t deliberately do anything like that, would they? Why, that would be like letting people make billions from the works of government – things like roads, the Internet and publicly-educated customers – without paying their fair share of taxes.

Oh, wait.

Read the source story here.

China Railway Co. to build houses in San Francisco

Teamster Nation
Oh, this is charming.

The manufacture this blog tells us:

The Wall Street Journal reports that Lennar Corp., one of America’s largest home builders, has secured a $1.7 billion loan from China Development Bank (CDB) to build two housing development projects on the San Francisco Bay.

With access to Beijing’s massive foreign currency holdings, China’s state-owned banks fund infrastructure projects around the world. But dealings with these banks often come with a noteworthy requirement: A Chinese state-owned contractor must get a piece of the pie.

That’s the case with Lennar’s dealings with the CDB. As a condition of access to financing, Lennar must employ a Chinese construction contractor for some – if not all – of the work on both projects. In this case, the frontrunner for the bid is the state-subsidized China Railway Construction Company.

A Chinese firm is already building the bridge between Oakland and San Francisco.

Read the source story here.

The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis

Paul Krugman
We are not having a debt crisis.

It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.

No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.

Read the source story here.

Teamsters Prepared for Start of ABF Negotiations on December 18
The Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee
(TNFINC) is prepared to exchange contract proposals with ABF on December 18, and the union stands ready to bargain a solid contract for the 7,500 drivers, dockworkers, mechanics and clerical staff. On November 29, leaders from local ABF unions unanimously approved the Teamster’s contract proposals.

“We are well-prepared for the negotiations thanks to an onsite financial review that we completed and surveys of our members and local union leaders,” said Gordon Sweeton, Co-Chairman of the National ABF Negotiating Committee for TNFINC. “We appreciate our members’ ongoing support, which will be very important as we enter these difficult negotiations.”

The company is expected to bargain aggressively and will seek to save money on labor costs, but the union is prepared to counter the company’s arguments and will stress the bigger picture. For example, analysts and ABF management have focused almost entirely on Teamster labor costs, but not management labor costs. It is important to note that ABF generates the highest revenue per shipment in the industry precisely because it has some of the industry’s best drivers and dockworkers who go above and beyond traditional less-than-truckload (LTL) service each and every day.

“Our members are working long hours handling conventional and unconventional LTL freight to make this company as successful as possible,” Sweeton said.

Read the source story here.

ALEC thinking about Son of ALEC

Teamster Nation
Crossposted from Common Cause’s Common Blog:

The folks who call the shots at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) apparently are preparing a damage control defense on Common Cause’s complaint that ALEC is a lobby masquerading as a charity.

After insisting for more than a year now that ALEC does no lobbying and that the donations that finance its work are tax deductible, the organization’s corporate bosses are at least exploring the creation of a subsidiary, ALEC NOW, that would be able to operate legally as a lobby and would be funded by taxable contributions.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that ALEC’s executive director advised his board last August that the Internal Revenue Service might “look favorably” on the group if it voluntarily created ALEC NOW ahead of a possible tax audit.

And though he continued to insist that ALEC will not lobby or engage in political activities, Executive Director Ron Scheberle also acknowledged that the IRS might suggest that the group transfer some operations to the new subsidiary.

“It looks like ALEC is covering its tracks,” said Doug Clopp, who along with staff counsel Nick Surgey has spearheaded Common Cause’s work to expose ALEC. “These folks are not a charity, they’re not the soup kitchen, they’re not the YMCA. They are, and always have been aware that their activities are straight-up lobbying.”

Common Cause has backed up that claim with more than 4,000 pages of ALEC’s own records, including “issue alerts,” legislative scorecards, press releases, and talking points written for state legislators by ALEC staffers. The materials demonstrate that ALEC not only lobbies but that it does so aggressively.

Read the source story here.

Surprise! New Michigan Law May Not Affect Government Workers

Crooks and Liars

You mean after all that, they didn’t even bother to have their new law checked against existing legislation? Ha, ha! Boy, the Kochs really should be more careful about the quality of the handmaidens they buy:

Lansing – Less than 24 hours after Governor Snyder signed his damaging “Right to Work” legislation into law, analysis shows that the flawed legislation may not even have the result the Governor claimed it would, raising serious questions about whether the Republican leadership even read the language of the bills before voting it through and signing it into law.

“It’s become increasingly clear that the Governor presented the legislature with bills written by out-of-state extremists who had no understanding of Michigan’s constitution or how our laws apply to Michigan workers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer. “This is what happens when the Governor does an 11th hour about face in a lame duck session showing utter contempt for our people by cutting out all public input, scrutiny and debate. That isn’t leadership, it’s epic incompetence .”

Read the source story here.

Michigan Lawmakers Abandon Numerous ‘License To Discriminate’ Bills

Think Progress
The Republican-controlled Michigan state legislature has abandoned several anti-gay “license to discriminate” bills, opting not to hold final votes on them during the lame-duck session. Senate Bill 975 would have allowed healthcare providers to refuse any treatment to any patient if it violates their ““religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles.” House Bills 5763 and 5764 would have allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples and would prevent the state from penalizing them for doing so. This is a reprieve from numerous other extreme bills that have passed, including the anti-union “right-to-work” law and an extreme ban on abortion.

Read the source story here.

Why is Washington Obsessing About the Deficit and Not Jobs and Wages?

Robert Reich, Nation of Change
People need jobs, not talk from politicians
It was the centerpiece of the President’s reelection campaign. Every time Republicans complained about trillion-dollar deficits, he and other Democrats would talk jobs.

That’s what Americans care about — jobs with good wages.

And that’s part of why Obama and the Democrats were victorious on Election Day.

It seems forever ago, but it’s worth recalling that President Obama won reelection by more than 4 million votes, a million more than George W. Bush when he was reelected — and an electoral college majority of 332 to Romney’s 206, again larger than Bush’s electoral majority over Kerry in 2004 (286 to 251).The Democratic caucus in the Senate now has 55 members (up from 53 before Election Day), and Republicans have 8 fewer seats in the House than before.

So why, exactly, is Washington back to obsessing about budget deficits? Why is almost all the news coming out of our nation’s capital about whether the Democrats or Republicans have the best plan to reduce the budget deficit? Why are we back to showdowns over the deficit?

Read the source story here.

Death Notice For A Steel Mill: Sparrows Point To Be Liquidated, Razed

In These Times
Today, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz declared the 125-year-old Sparrows Point steel mill officially dead.

“A century of steelmaking as we know it has come to an end,” Kamenetz said at a media briefing. “[The owners] have indicated they are going to liquidate every remaining asset and bring the structure to the ground.”

The hastily arranged press conference followed a Dec. 12 report in American Metal Market  that the most modern part of the Sparrows Point mill had been sold to Nucor Corp., one of the country’s largest remaining steelmakers.

[…] The search for a new owner who might resume steel production at Sparrows Point had been on the agenda for Kamenetz and the United Steelworkers of America (USW) since the current owner, RG Steel LLC, filed for bankruptcy in June. At that time, some 2,000 workers lost their jobs.

[…] But bad blood lingers at Sparrows Point, particularly over the way that the sale to Nucor was handled.

USW Local 9477 President Joe Rosel told Working In These Times that other buyers were willing to bid for the plant and restart steelmaking, but had been turned away.

“I am angry that a plant will be shut down that shouldn’t be shut down. We had people ready and willing to bid…but they were told they couldn’t,” Rosel said. “I’ve been working my ass off trying to find buyers who will keep steelmaking going, and we have been cut off at the knees,” he said.

Read the source story here.

Destructive anti-tax fanaticism

The Washington Post
The single greatest obstacle to a fiscal cliff compromise remains the House GOP’s refusal to agree to a single additional penny generated by higher tax rates on the rich. Even Senate Republicans are increasingly acknowledging this — and the damage it’s doing to the party. Indeed, the Senate GOP is now trying to throw the House GOP a lifeline. But the House GOP is pushing it away.

The Post reports that Senate Republicans are quietly floating a compromise: They would allow tax rates on the rich to go up, while nixing other revenue-raising ideas the White House wants, such as higher rates on investment income and putting limits on itemized deductions. This would lower the revenue price tag on the compromise, supposedly making it easier for Republicans to accept a hike in rates. It would produce $440 billion in new revenues — half of John Boehner’s original $800 billion offer — so it’s hard to see what this would accomplish. But at least Republicans would be giving ground on rates.

House Republicans, the Post reports, promptly shot this down. It’s not hard to see why: As Real Clear Politics put it: “many House conservatives who represent safe GOP districts remain philosophically and politically wary of voting for higher taxes or conceding to Democrats.”

To get a sense of how adamantly House conservatives are opposed to conceding any ground to Dems, check out what one House GOPer had to say about this:

Meanwhile, anti-tax sentiment is so strong in the House that one GOP freshman, Rep. Andy Harris, said he would vote against any tax increase that wasn’t paired with spending cuts at least 10 times as large. And if Obama rejects such a deal? “Then we go over the cliff,” Harris said.

Read the source story here.