February 15, 2013 War on Workers News

SECRET AUDIO: Missouri Lawmakers, In Meeting AT THE MISSOURI CAPITOL, Threatened With Loss of Donors if They Don’t Push “Right-to-Work”

We Party Patriots

Progress Missouri has released audio tapes taken from a Conservative strategy session held in the Missouri Capitol in which leaders of corporate front groups push for Republican lawmakers to institute a national “Right-to-Work” law. The speakers, which include Lew Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee and Jared Rodriquez of the Western Michigan Policy Forum, threaten stripping politicians of donors if they do not fall in line with the anti-worker agenda.

Big money coming in from “national sources” is promised as well as a pledge to help the lawmakers during reelection.

Among the highlights of the 1 hour and 20 minute tape:

  • Fundraising threats to Republican lawmakers who did not support the organizers’ extreme agenda
  • “Big money” coming into Missouri from unspecified national sources to finance anti-worker campaigns and candidates
  • Strategies for conducting public opinion research to help hoodwink Missouri voters into supporting policies designed explicitly to shrink the middle class and increase corporate power.

Lew Uhler of the California-based National Tax Limitation Committee was quoted on the tape as saying,

“What you’re doing here, what you’re part of here, is a national movement, and you’re well positioned to keep this battle alive,”

The words act as further proof that the recent wave of “Right-to-Work” legislation is not the result of an organic movement of Americans but instead a direct demand by organizations like ALEC.
Read the source story here.

Are Theo’s “Fair Trade” Chocolates Unfair to Seattle Workers?

The Stranger
Theo makes some damn fine chocolate, but at $4 for a 3-ounce bar it’s an extravagance not everyone can afford, especially when a perfectly adequate “Pound Plus” bar can be bought at Trader Joe’s for only a dollar more. Still, the premium price buys more than just a better tasting chocolate. Seattle-based Theo proudly promotes its products as both organic and “fair trade.” I mean, that “Fair for Life” logo must account for something, right?

Apparently, not all that much.

“Fair trade should mean fair trade for all workers,” says Brenda Wiest, a union organizer for Teamsters Local 117. “If I’m going to pay $4 for a friggin’ chocolate bar,” Wiest admonishes, “then some of my four bucks should go back to the workers here in Seattle.”

On Valentines Day, Wiest joined an ex-Theo employee and other protesters outside the Westlake Whole Foods Market, accusing the high-end chocolatier of union busting, while passing out samples of “genuine” free trade chocolate from a heart-shaped pinata. The dispute stems from a 2010 effort by Theo workers to unionize, an effort Theo management allegedly countered with a campaign of hostility, intimidation, and retaliation. The Teamsters are asking that Theo “walk the talk” when it comes to recognizing the rights of their own workers to organize, a core principle of the fair trade movement. But mostly they’re just demanding integrity in the fair trade certification process itself.

“This is about Theo claiming to be fair trade,” says Wiest, when they’re really just “selling consumers a bill of goods.”
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Remembering Jimmy Hoffa

Teamster Nation
Yesterday the International Brotherhood of Teamsters honored the legacy of James R. “Jimmy” Hoffa, who was born 100 years ago in Brazil, Ind.

He dropped out of the 9th grade to help support his family. He was only 18 when he organized Kroger warehouse workers into the Teamsters union. Later he became an organizer for Local 299 in Detroit.

Hoffa rose through the ranks, and in 1937 he was elected Teamsters president. During his leadership, the Teamsters added 400,000 members. Hundreds of thousands of American families were lifted out of poverty because of his innovations such as multiemployer pension funds and national contracts. Hoffa also created the DRIVE (Democrat, Republican Independent Voter Education) Fund so members could decide how to support political candidates. His motto was, “If it moves, sign it up.”

Watch a video tribute to the Teamsters’ great leader here.

Many Teamsters today still remember him. We are sharing some of their comments and memories from the Teamsters Facebook page.
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Update for members formerly employed by Hostess Brands

IBT
The Bankruptcy Court has set a bar date of Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.

Eastern for the filing of “Requests for Payment of Administrative Expense Claims” – claims that arose or are deemed to have arisen on or after the January 11, 2012 bankruptcy filing through January 31, 2013. These Requests for Payment of Administrative Expense Claims (with the attachment explained below) must be received at the addresses provided in the claim form notice.

THIS DEADLINE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT SO FILL OUT, EXECUTE AND MAIL IN TIME – WE URGE YOU TO USE OVERNIGHT DELIVERY, WITH PROOF OF RECEIPT, TO THE FOLLOWING:

Hostess Brands Claim Processing Center
c/o Kurtzman Carson Consultants LLC
2335 Alaska Avenue
El Segundo CA 90245

Service by electronic mail or fax IS NOT VALID. You must mail, overnight mail, or hand deliver your claim form so it is received at the California address for receipt by 5:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday, March 28, 2013
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Maine Lawmaker Proposes to Ban Union Campaign Contributions

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Democrats were able to regain control of the Republican-led Maine Legislature last fall by strategically picking their political battlefields and spending heavily in targeted districts. A sizeable chunk of the money spent to influence those campaigns was raised by public employee unions, such as the Maine Education Association and the Maine State Employees Association. But a Republican lawmaker says it’s a conflict of interest for public workers unions to contribute to candidates for state office, and has submitted legislation to prohibit the practice.

Some Democrats are saying privately that Republican state Rep. Peter Johnson’s bill is just a case of sour grapes. Money raised by public employees’ unions, including the Maine Education Association and the Maine State Employees Association, played a role in the defeat of many Republicans candidates.

But the Greenville lawmaker says there’s a lot more to his bill than losing the majority at the State House. “What I’m proposing is correcting a clear case of conflict of interest,” Johnson said, as he made a case for his bill at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs.

Johnson says he has felt for many years that there’s something wrong with a system that permits public workers to spend money on the campaigns of politicians who are making decisions affecting the employees’ livelihoods.
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SPEEA files new ULPs alleging Boeing intimidation

The Stand
The Boeing Company was charged Wednesday, Feb. 13 with new Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) after company security, acting on management orders, banned engineers and technical workers from leafleting at the Everett factory. The actions are in addition to reports of managers holding mandatory meetings with employees to interrogate and intimidate them regarding the current contract votes by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001.

“We are extremely disappointed in the company’s misconduct,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “Boeing’s contract proposals should pass or fail on their merits. This illegal intimidation must cease immediately.”

Ballots were mailed Feb. 5 and will be counted Tuesday, Feb. 19 to determine if 15,550 engineers and 7,400 technical workers accept Boeing’s latest contract offers.  Union leaders are recommending members reject the offers and grant their negotiation teams authority to call a strike if subsequent negotiations fail.
Read the source story here.

Arizona tea party leader compares Hitler to unions

Teamster Nation
Freedom Works' Hitler valentineA tea party stooge planned to deliver a Hitler Valentine to Arizona Republicans who support workers. At the last minute he backed off.

The Arizona Capitol Times reported yesterday,

This morning, Stephen Viramontes, the state director of FreedomWorks in Arizona in 2012, wrote on his Twitter page that he would “be down at the Capitol shortly to give a few legislators some (Valentine’s Day) cards.” The post included a photo of a card that featured a drawing of Hitler along with the words “Be Mein.”

He later posted that Hitler was one of six different dictators featured on a set of cards he planned to distribute to “all those (lawmakers) needing some help in supporting and passing #PaycheckProtection.”

(Paycheck deception laws are aimed at weakening workers’ rights by making it hard for unions to collect dues.)

Umm, let’s get this straight. Stephen Viramontes belongs to a front group that gets secret funding from billionaires. It’s an offshoot of a Benedict Arnold Koch brothers front group. The group is part of a vast, shadowy billionaire-and-CEO conspiracy that bullies state lawmakers. Their goal is to pass bills that empower corporations, destroy workers’ rights, privatize government services, subvert democracy and raise taxes on everyone but the wealthy.

And Viramontes has greeting cards designed that compare democratically elected unions to a dictator? A dictator who abolished trade unions in May 1933?
Read the source story here.

New Outdoor Industry Data Show The Power Of The Recreation Economy In Every State

Think Progress
The outdoor recreation economy is big business in America. Data released today by the Outdoor Industry Association show the fiscal impacts of recreation in all 50 states, from consumer spending to direct jobs to wages and salaries. The top five states for consumer spending on outdoor recreation are: California ($85.4 billion), Florida ($38.3 billion), New York ($33.8 billion), Texas ($28.7 billion), and Georgia ($23.3 billion).

Additionally, every state in the union benefits from between 28,000 direct jobs (North Dakota) to 732,000 direct jobs (California) in the industry.

In total, outdoor recreation provides $646 billion in economic impacts and 6.1 million direct jobs every year (three times that of the oil and gas industry). These data incorporate the various sectors the outdoor recreation industry relies on, including manufacturing, retail and sales, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and services near outdoor recreation sites.

A number of western state legislatures are attempting to “reclaim” federal public lands in order to exploit their resources more easily. But Frank Hugelmeyer, CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, noted that for the industry’s economic influence to increase, political leaders must balance the use of public lands for energy while implementing policies that protect them.
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I Want My Fair Share and That’s ALL OF IT’

Nation of Change
According to the transcript of the secretly recorded tape, Charles Koch was chuckling like a six-year old. Koch was having a hell of a laugh over pilfering a few hundred dollars’ worth of oil from a couple of dirt-poor Indians on the Osage Reservation.

Why did Koch, worth about $3 billion at the time (now $20 billion) need to boost a few bucks from some Indian in a trailer home? Koch answered:

“I want my fair share – and that’s all of it.”

Now “all of it” includes a pipeline, the Keystone XL, which would run the world’s filthiest oil, crude made from tar sands, down from Canada to his family’s refinery on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Problem: the Keystone XL tar-oil tube would endanger the largest US water sources, vastly increase pollution in the USA and measurably heat the planet.

Solution: Congressman Tim Griffin.

Congressman Griffin is sponsoring the bill to force the Obama Administration to approve the XL Pipeline without the environmental review now required by law.

What’s odd is that Griffin represents Arkansas, a state with no stake in the Pipeline.

But the Kochs have a stake in Griffin. In his maiden run for Congress, Griffin was elected with an eye-popping $167,000 donation from the Kochs. For $167,000, any congressman will wash your car – with their tongue.
Read the source story here.

Why Employers Won’t Fire People If We Raise The Minimum Wage To $9

Think Progress
Republicans are responding to President Obama’s proposal raise the federal minimum wage by arguing that requiring businesses to pay their workers at least $9 an hour would lead employers to shed jobs or increase prices and pass the costs onto consumers.

“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said at a House Republican press conference on Wednesday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) agreed, explaining that “the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people.” It’s a fairly logical and simple argument: increasing the cost of labor causes competitive employers to cut employment or hours to make up for the additional cost, hurting the very low-skilled workers that the policy was designed to benefit in the first place.

The problem? What sounds perfectly reasonable in theory doesn’t actually hold up in the real world and the overwhelming empirical consensus shows little if any effect of the minimum wage on employment.
Read the source story here.

Bloomberg: NYC school bus strike is ‘lost cause;’ union urges him to negotiate

Staten Island Live
Mayor Michael Bloomberg struck a raw nerve with his statement Thursday that the ongoing school bus strike is a “lost cause.”

The president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, representing the striking workers, blasted Bloomberg over the remark.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s callous description of Local 1181′s strike as a ‘lost cause’ is only further evidence of the mayor’s refusal to face reality, and accept his role in ending this dispute,” said ATU president Michael Cordiello. “We do not believe that fighting for experienced and safe drivers and matrons for our city’s schoolchildren is a ‘lost cause.’ Nor do we believe that fighting for those working professionals who are already living at or below the poverty level is a ‘lost cause.’”

The union again asked the mayor to postpone the bidding process that’s at the heart of the labor dispute, and come to the bargaining table. Bloomberg has repeatedly rejected the union’s overtures to negotiate.
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How Labor Made US Airways, AMR Merger Happen

Forbes
Labor played a key role in enabling the historic merger between US Airways and American, which will create the largest airline in the world.

In fact, the turning point in the merger effort may have come on April 20, 2012 when US Airways said it had gathered support from American’s three major unions for its effort to merge with American. The deal was first reported by TheStreet. Union backing became the key underpinning for the US Airways merger effort, initially opposed by AMR management.

In putting together a 2005 merger between US Airways and America West and in pursuing mergers with Delta and United, “We learned it is important to have labor on board upfront, as much as possible,” said US Airways President Scott Kirby, in an interview Thursday. “(With) the historic partnership we have developed with labor, we will have 100,000 employees on day one all pulling in the same direction.” Virasb Vahidi, American’s chief commercial officer, added: “This is unprecedented, having all of the (American) unions n on board supporting the deal.”
Read the source story here.

Minimum Wage Would Be $21.72 If It Kept Pace With Increases In Productivity: Study

Huffington Post
President Obama’s call to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour was one of the more significant proposals he laid out in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. But $9 an hour is still a far cry from what workers really deserve, a 2012 study finds.

The minimum wage should have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012 if it kept up with increases in worker productivity, according to a March study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. While advancements in technology have increased the amount of goods and services that can be produced in a set amount of time, wages have remained relatively flat, the study points out.

Even if the minimum wage kept up with inflation since it peaked in real value in the late 1960s, low-wage workers should be earning a minimum of $10.52 an hour, according to the study.
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Fat-Cat Pay Makes Swiss So Mad Wages Face National Vote

Bloomberg
Swiss company chief executive officers, including Roche Holding AG’s Severin Schwan and Nestle SA’s Paul Bulcke, earn some of the world’s highest salaries. That may soon change.

With more than 100,000 Swiss citizens having signed a petition to limit “fat-cat” pay, voters will decide at a March 3 referendum whether top executives should have their compensation set by shareholders. While a poll shows a majority may vote yes, the industry’s lobby group warns that it will drive out tax-paying companies and is campaigning for a softer counter proposal.

“If you have this kind of limitation on executive pay, why should an American company put their European headquarters into Switzerland,” Philip Mosimann, CEO of Bucher Industries AG, a Swiss maker of street sweepers with a market valuation of 2.1 billion francs ($2.3 billion), said in an interview. “They would leave. I’m certain of that.”

The vote is the brainchild of Thomas Minder, a Swiss lawmaker and managing director of herbal toothpaste business Trybol AG, whose petition blames highly-paid “fat cats” — “Abzocker” in German — for the financial crisis. If successful, the proposal will give shareholders an annual ballot on executives’ pay and block big payouts for new hires and for managers when they leave companies.
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Could Dodd-Frank be unconstitutional?

The Washington Post
A growing number of states are making the case that President Obama’s Wall Street reform is unconstitutional. Eight states have just signed onto a lawsuit claiming that broad swaths of Dodd-Frank are illegal, joining three states and three private groups.

Legal experts say the case against Dodd-Frank is premature, and much of it is unlikely to hold up in court. But some believe that at least one part of the lawsuit points to legitimate constitutional problems that could be raised in court further down the road.

The lawsuit was originally filed in June by a small Texas bank, State National Bank of Big Spring, and two conservative advocacy groups, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the 60 Plus Association.
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Ohio unions rally against outsiders doing pipeline construction

Ohio.com
Four building trades associated with pipeline construction will be holding a job action in Ohio’s Carroll County early today where Will Bros Inc., a company from over 1,300 miles away in Houston, TX is performing work for UEO Buckeye and Access Midstream.

Their goal is to bring awareness to the fact that the pipeline project is ignoring the local workforce pool as well as area contractors to construct their pipeline network. They want to get the conversation started on unfulfilled local job creation promises the energy industry made when coming to Ohio.

Over fifty local construction workers with the pipeline trades – the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), United Association Pipeliners Local 798, Teamster Local 92, and the International Union of Operating Engineers – will be teaming up at a WillBros Group Inc. project site just outside of Mechanicstown. This job site is part of the 36 mile 24-inch pipeline network that will serve as a main line to gather gas and oil from area wells and transfer them to gas processing plants being constructed. WillBros has a questionable safety record with an extensive history of OSHA violations and five employee deaths in the past five years.
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BTW, Carnival Cruise exploits workers, pays nearly zero in taxes

Teamster Nation
By now you probably know that the Carnival cruise from hell has docked in Mobile, Ala. You probably don’t know Carnival Cruise paid a federal income tax rate of 1.1 percent on more than $11 billion in profit between 2004-09.

You may also not know the cruise line fired 150 workers from India last year for protesting their pay — $1.20 an hour. They were working 350 hours a month for $400. Cruise Law News tells us what happened:

… for about 90 minutes the waiters engaged in a “good-humoured” demonstration dockside about the low wages….

Not only did Carnival prohibit them from returning to work on the Arcadia but banished them from working on any Carnival cruise ship world-wide.

In addition, Carnival instructed the hiring agency, Fleet Maritime Service International, which is registered in Bermuda to avoid taxes and labor regulations, to prohibit the waiters from ever working for Fleet Marine as well. The Guardian explains that “the Fleet payroll office is in the tax haven of Guernsey. Yet the letter is signed by an Edward Jones, the chief financial officer of Carnival UK.”

Fleet Maritime is the largest employer of cruise ship personnel in India, and Carnival runs half of the world cruise market.  So Carnival essentially “black balled” 150 cruise waiters from one-half of the world’s cruise ships.

Read the source story here.

Rubio and the Zombies

Paul Krugman, The New York Times
The State of the Union address was not, I’m sorry to say, very interesting. True, the president offered many good ideas. But we already know that almost none of those ideas will make it past a hostile House of Representatives.

On the other hand, the G.O.P. reply, delivered by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, was both interesting and revelatory. And I mean that in the worst way. For Mr. Rubio is a rising star, to such an extent that Time magazine put him on its cover, calling him “The Republican Savior.” What we learned Tuesday, however, was that zombie economic ideas have eaten his brain.

In case you’re wondering, a zombie idea is a proposition that has been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead — but won’t stay dead because it serves a political purpose, appeals to prejudices, or both. The classic zombie idea in U.S. political discourse is the notion that tax cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves, but there are many more. And, as I said, when it comes to economics it appears that Mr. Rubio’s mind is zombie-infested.
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