January 9, 2013 War on Workers News

Now the election is over, War on Worker battles begin in the states

Teamster Nation
Extreme, anti-worker Republicans will be especially dangerous this year in the 24 states where the GOP controls the governor’s office and both legislative chambers. Working families fought hard against the attacks on them last year and will continue to fight in 2013. They’ll have to. Brother Kenneth Quinnel at the AFL-CIO posted a blog that outlines the upcoming battlefields:

Budget Cuts (likely to be proposed in as many as 29 states): …the top targets for cuts are likely to be government programs, services and the state employees who deliver the services. Example: Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) proposed a budget for this year that cut total spending by $800 million

Paycheck Deception/Restrictions on Public Sector Payroll Deduction (20 states): These misleading proposals would prohibit any use of payroll-deducted dues for purposes deemed to be “political” by conservatives. Workers are already protected in every state from being forced to have their money support political activities, so these laws are little more than an attempt to weaken the voice of working families… Example: While California voters defeated paycheck deception for the third time in 14 years by voting down Prop. 32 in November, few believe that the proposals backers are done trying to get it passed.

Project Labor Agreements (19 states): Despite the evidence … conservatives are trying to weaken or ban them as a way to increase profits for their allies in the construction business. Example: Conservatives in North Dakota are pushing to ban PLAs.

Prevailing Wage (22 states): As a way to placate the contractors who give to their campaigns, conservatives are looking to curtail prevailing wage laws, which would mean contractors could pay workers substandard wages. Example: In Michigan, the same Mackinac Center that championed the recently passed “right to work” for less law is pushing for repeal of all local prevailing wage laws.

Privatization (31 states): Evidence is clear that privatization of government services frequently increases costs and lowers the quality of services while it also shifts government funding to private interests and weakens accountability for the provision of those services. Example: While the November elections might stop the push to create privatized prisons in New Hampshire, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) of Pennsylvania is looking to privatize the state’s lottery.
Read the source story here.

UNFI Back in Mediation With Teamsters

Supermarket News
United Natural Foods Inc. was in discussions Tuesday with Teamsters Local 117 in an effort to end the strike at its warehouse here, the company said.

As previously reported, the union local launched a strike against the Providence, R.I.-based wholesaler in early December, citing unfair labor practices during negotiations on a new contract. The Teamsters local had previously called off the strike, but resumed it after it said some striking workers had been terminated.

The union said in an online post Tuesday that is was back in federally mediated talks with UNFI, scheduled to take place Tuesday and Wednesday.

“UNFI has shown absolutely no willingness to end the strike,” the union said in the post, citing the company’s refusal to reinstate the terminated workers and other grievances. “It is incredibly important that UNFI understands that it cannot continue to violate workers’ rights, violate the law, and subvert the bargaining process.”

The union said some co-ops supplied by UNFI have been supportive of the workers by refusing some deliveries from UNFI during the strike.
Read the source story here.

Hundreds form “Walk of Shame” to protest Mich. RTW in Lansing

Teamster Nation

Hundreds of working people lined the sidewalks of Lansing today to greet returning lawmakers with a “Walk of Shame.” Signs and shouts condemned the elected officials who voted for anti-worker “No Rights At Work” laws in the lame duck session late last year.
Read the source story here.

Crimes at Hostess HQ

Jim Hightower
After saddling Hostess Brands with nearly a billion dollars in debt, engaging in years of gross mismanagement, plunging the sugary snack-maker into bankruptcy, and eliminating the middle-class jobs of some 18,000 Americans, shouldn’t the owners and top executives at least have to say, “We’re sorry”–and do some sort of penance?

Of course they should!

But don’t hold your breath waiting for ethics to flower in Hostess headquarters. After all, this is corporateworld– a laissez-fairyland where failure at the top is rewarded. The maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, and Devil Dogs gave 19 of the executives who made a mess of Hostess $1.8 million in bonuses–on top of sweet pay raises they’d already grabbed. The bonuses were described as “incentive pay” to keep these geniuses on the job as they oversaw the firing of all those workers.

However, CEO Gregory Rayburn will not get a bonus. But don’t shed tears for him, since he’s currently being paid $125,000–a month!– to dismantle the corporation. Also, while Lord Gregory has imposed a company-wide paycut on management employees, he generously exempted himself from the hit. Talk about a Devil Dog!

But, wait, there’s more. Not satisfied with killing the jobs of 18,000 workers, Hostess honchos also looted money that, by contract, was supposed to go into the workers’ pension funds! As the company was sinking toward bankruptcy, the Ding Dongs in the exec-utive suite were secretly diverting worker pension money into corporate oper-ations in a stop-gap ploy to keep Hostess afloat–and to disguise their incompetence.

Forget doing penance–these guys ought to be doing 10-to-20 in prison for grand larceny.
Read the source story here.

What Fans Should Know About Labor Battles In Sports: They Aren’t, And Shouldn’t Be, About You

Think Progress
The National Hockey League’s 113-day lockout of players is over, and for players, owners, and everyone involved in the game, that’s great news. It is also good news for sports fans, who have endured lockouts in three of the four major American sports in the last two years.

Even better news is that after such volatility in the world of sports, we could be entering an unprecedented era of labor peace. Since 1968, when the National Football League first locked out its players, there have been 19 work stoppages in the four major leagues, but we’re now guaranteed labor peace until at least 2016, when Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires. If MLB does what it did in 2011 and negotiates a new agreement without a stoppage, and if both the National Basketball Association and its players union refuse to opt out of their current agreement in 2017, we will make it until at least 2020 without a stoppage, meaning the next eight years could become the longest period of labor peace in professional sports since the players’ union movement began.

Whenever the next dispute rolls around, though, here is something for fans of the four biggest sports to keep in mind: labor disputes in sports aren’t, and shouldn’t be, about you.
Read the source story here.

An epidemic of lockouts in Minn. caused by union-busting law firm

Teamster Nation
It takes just one well-compensated law firm to spread plenty of misery in Minnesota. The Minneapolis law firm of Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon and Vogt appears to be responsible for three — count ’em three — lockouts in the Gopher State right now.

Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians were locked out in the fall. And in the Red River Valley, 1,300 skilled workers have been locked out for 17 months by American Crystal Sugar.

Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, righteously points out the lockouts hurt workers, employers and communities.

Writing in the Grand Forks Herald, she notes:

The only ones who seem to be benefitting are the employers’ lawyers.

Read the source story here.

Bill Gates, it’s time to start being ethical

Teamster Nation
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has 15 ‘Guiding Principles.’ Here’s No. 12:

We demand ethical behavior of ourselves.

We have a news flash for Bill, who’s the primary owner of Republic Services, the second largest waste company in North America: It isn’t ethical to take back the retirement benefits from employees who earned them over a lifetime of hard work.

Here’s another news flash: It isn’t ethical to throw your employees out of work because they fight to keep their retirement funds out of your hands.

Republic Services last year locked out 80 of its workers who are members of Teamsters Local 215 in Evansville, Ind., in an attempt to force the workers to give up their pensions.

That is all.
Read the source story here.

Indiana reaction belies pro-Right to Work claims

Bridge MI
In the weeks after “Right to Work” became law in Indiana, Michigan-based Android Industries was anointed a poster child for the job growth state officials predicted would flow from the measure.

Company officials insisted it was no accident they picked Indiana to open an automotive plant in suburban Fort Wayne in 2012. It supplies mounted tires for full-sized pickup trucks assembled at an adjacent General Motors plant.

“Recently, Indiana became a right-to-work state and offers us a competitive location and a skilled work force to complement our state of the art technology,” the firm said in a statement in March 2012. “All of these factors went into choosing Indiana as an optimal location.”

But a closer look belies that claim, since Android Industries, in fact, laid plans for the Indiana expansion well before it became law in February 2012.

An official at the plant confirmed as much to a reporter last month.

“Right to Work has nothing do with us being here,” said Jeremy Urshel, listed as human resources generalist for the firm. Another official said the firm signed the contract with GM in November 2011.
Read the source story here.

SPEEA prepares for strike as talks resume

The Stand
The union for engineers and technical workers resumes contract negotiations with The Boeing Company today, but the two sides remain far apart on major contract issues.

Members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, are marking the resumption of talks with a Day of Action that includes lunchtime solidarity events at Boeing facilities from Everett to Portland and Utah.

“Our goal is to get a contract that respects the contributions engineers and technical workers had to creating the record profits and 4,200 airplane backlog Boeing has today,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “After Boeing tried and failed to build the 787 on the cheap, SPEEA members stepped up and saved the program. Everything has now turned around and the company has developed amnesia about how that happened.”
Read the source story here.

It’s the CEOs, stupid!

Teamster Nation
Blogger Gaius Publius argues that money flows through a corporation to the CEO’s pockets the way beer flows through you on a night of drinking to — well, you know where it goes.

He believes the role of the corporation changed from making shareholders moderately wealthy to making CEOs obscenely wealthy. In a recent AmericaBlog post, he writes,

Modern corporations serve one function only — to make the CEO class obscenely rich, even at the expense (that’s a Bain link) of the corporation itself (yes you, Carly Fiorina). Thanks to the incentives in the post-Reagan tax code and the capture of Boards of Directors by the CEOs themselves, controlling the modern corporation — being the Jack Welsh of your world — is a straight path to big-league power and wealth. You’ve arrived.

As I’ve said many times in a number of ways:

  • Corporations loot the nation.
  • CEOs loot the corporation.
  • CEOs then buy everything on earth they want or need.

In the western world, the corporate controlling class lives higher than the kings and presidents who serve them.

Read the whole AmericaBlog thing here.
Read the source story here.

Local truckers provide Christmas gifts for children with Teamsters for Tots

Walker County Messenger
A group of local truck drivers recently brought smiles to the faces of numerous area children Christmas morning after they assisted needy families with more than $5,000 worth of presents for youngsters who otherwise might not have received gifts this year.

Teamsters for Tots, an organization made up of current and retired truck drivers, collected money throughout the year via donations, raffles, and their own pockets, in order to bring Christmas cheer to 29 families.”

“We’ve raised money from our car show, and from the teamsters in our group,” said Ron Hodges, a retired trucker who helped organize the group. “We were able to help out 29 families and about 60 kids this Christmas. We were able to make a lot of families very happy.”
Read the source story here.

Do corporate papers count as a person — in the HOV lane?

Teamster Nation
Sister Larissa Shimkaveg from Local 385 in Orlando shared this priceless item with us from NBC News:

When Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, Calif., was pulled over for driving alone in the carpool lane, he argued to the officer that, actually, he did have a passenger.

He waved his corporation papers at the officer, he told NBCBayArea.com, saying that corporations are people under California law.

Frieman doesn’t actually support this notion. For more than 10 years, Frieman says he had been trying to get pulled over to get ticketed and to take his argument to court — to challenge a judge to determine that corporations and people are not the same. Mission accomplished in October, when he was slapped with a fine — a minimum of $481.

Frieman has been frustrated with corporate personhood since before it became a hot button issue in 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporate and union spending may not be restricted by the government under the First Amendment.

Frieman will fight his traffic ticket in court, hoping a judge will strike down California’s definition of corporate personhood.
Read the source story here.

At least 52 million domestic workers globally, many are women excluded from labor laws

FOX News
At least 52.6 million people worldwide are employed as domestic workers, most of them women without adequate legal protection, the U.N.’s labor agency said Wednesday in its first global snapshot of the often invisible workforce that cares for other people’s families and households.

The research by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization found that 83 percent of all the domestic workers were women, many of them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse because of their lack of knowledge of local languages and laws or because they are often paid a flat weekly or monthly fee that is not based on how many hours they work.

“From caring for children, to caring for elderly and persons with disabilities, to performing a wide range of household tasks, domestic workers are an indispensable part of the social fabric,” Sandra Polaski, ILO’s deputy director-general, told reporters in Geneva.

The agency also found that 90 percent of the domestic workers are not covered by general labor protections to the same extent as workers in the mainstream economy — with 30 percent completely excluded from all national labor laws.
Read the source story here.

US to Take Closer Look at Flood of Corporate Political Spending

Nation of Change
With the issue now on the SEC’s agenda, a formal announcement is slated for April, with a period of public input to follow. On Tuesday, a broad coalition of academics and activists urged the commission to move swiftly.

The move comes in the aftermath of a contentious U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the possibility for nearly unlimited anonymous corporate spending on political causes. Many warn that the decision led to the most expensive election cycle in history, concluding in November after political spending amounted to some six billion dollars nationwide, much of it untraceable.

“We’ve seen a 400 percent increase since 2008 in political spending by outside organizations,” Rob McCord, treasurer for the state of Pennsylvania, said Tuesday in a conference call to discuss the new SEC moves.

“The creepy thing is that more than 60 percent of this money was from super PACs” – political action committees allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money – “funded by just over 100 individuals.”
Read the source story here.

10 Reasons All Workers Benefit from Fixing the Immigration System

There are 11 million aspiring citizens who love this country and call it home. Like immigrants before them, they came to this country for freedom and the opportunity to provide a better life for their children.

These immigrant families work hard, pay their taxes and contribute to their communities. But because of a broken and punitive immigration process that tears families from each other, there really is no “line” these aspiring citizens can get into to adjust their status and start down the pathway to citizenship.

The AFL-CIO and America’s union movement, along with a broad coalition of other groups, is mounting a new campaign to build a common-sense immigration process that includes a road map to citizenship and one that guarantees immigrant workers the same workplace rights and protections all workers deserve.

We know that immigration reform can be a controversial issue among our union members and all workers. But immigration reform with a path to citizenship and workplace rights doesn’t just benefit aspiring citizens and their families, it’s good for all workers. Here are 10 reasons why.
Read the source story here.

GAO calls on Postal Service to prefund retiree benefits

The Washington Post
U.S. Postal Service officials and postal unions have long pushed Congress to relieve the agency of its obligation to prefund retiree health benefits. It’s a burden other agencies don’t share and one that officials say the Postal Service can’t afford. Defaults on prefunding payments total $11.1 billion.

But not everyone agrees that removing or substantially reducing the prefunding requirement is the best way out of the USPS hole.

In a response included in the GAO report, Joseph Corbett, the USPS chief financial officer and executive vice president, said the Postal Service “does not have the financial resources to make the prefunding payments required by current law.”

He criticized the GAO for releasing a report that did not include the controversial USPS proposal to sponsor its own health-care plan, outside of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan that now covers postal workers.
Read the source story here.

Angry with McCaskill, flight attendants press members to resolve union flap

The Hill
A group of flight attendants who joined American Airlines in a previous merger is asking Congress to resolve a turbulent union fight before the company combines again with US Airways.

The contentious issue has sparked so much tension between the flight attendants and Sen. Claire McCaskill that the Missouri Democrat’s office has said it will no longer communicate with them.
Read the source story here.

Washington’s jaw drops at possibility of AIG lawsuit

Remember when AIG took a $182 billion bailout only to turn around and hand out seven-figure bonuses to the same guys who tanked their company?

Grab the pitchforks — it gets better.

Now the insurance organization might join a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the terms of the bailout — saying the deal that saved the company cheated shareholders.
Read the source story here.