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Labor, Business Gird for Battle Over Unions Bill

12.29.08

Labor, Business Gird for Battle Over Unions Bill
Saturday 27 December 2008

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by: Evelyn Larrubia, The Los Angeles Times

http://www.truthout.org/122908LA

Union workers in Indiana speak with Obama about labor issues. Unions are preparing for a legislative battle to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. (Photo: Reuters)
The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier to unionize. Obama says he’d sign the legislation, but the Senate may again reject it.

It is labor’s biggest priority for the new administration: changing federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize - and win contracts with their employers.

Unions, which spent an estimated $450 million to help elect Barack Obama to the presidency and put more Democrats in Congress, want the Employee Free Choice Act passed quickly to begin to reverse decades of declining membership.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has vowed to spend $10 million to defeat the bill.

Obama’s selection of union-friendly Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-El Monte) as Labor secretary is seen as good news for the bill’s advocates. She has called it “vital legislation.”

Everyone agrees that the fight will be in the Senate, where the measure died last year after passing easily in the House.

Both sides plan to run grass-roots campaigns in key states and have begun airing TV ads, to “educate” the public.

The most controversial provision would require employers to recognize a union once a majority of workers signed membership cards, in what is known as a card-check system.

Companies can, but rarely do, recognize unions under those circumstances. Instead, they typically exercise their right to require an employee election organized by the National Labor Relations Board.

Trauma nurse Sherwood Cox, who worked to defeat two California Nurses Assn. drives at Western Medical Center Santa Ana, said that under the proposed law, he would be unable to keep the union out.

“When it’s actually gone to vote, we’ve gone into the ballot booth and we’ve voted no,” Cox said. “Both times, the union was totally shocked that they lost.”

Under the card-check system, an employer could be surprised to learn that the workplace has gone union overnight.

Business leaders have couched the fight in terms of workers’ privacy rights.

“The American public supports the secret ballot,” said Randy Johnson, a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Card checks are subject to abuse.”

An ad produced by the bill’s opponents features an actor from the HBO series “The Sopranos” portraying a mobster-like labor organizer threatening a worker to sign a union card.

“They’re manipulating that,” complained Josh Goldstein, spokesman for American Rights at Work, a nonprofit group that backs the bill. “Our battle right now, before we even get to the horse race on Capitol Hill, is how do we get people talking about this bill the way they should be?”

Card-check proponents have countered with their own television ad. It features a man dreaming of a benevolent boss, only to be awakened by his dog to go off to his presumably lousy job. Goldstein hopes that will get across labor’s message: that unions give employees power at work, helping them obtain better pay and benefits.

Labor leaders say elections hurt unionization efforts because employers use the time leading up to the vote to harass, fire and threaten workers.

Melinda Burns said she was fired from her job after 21 years as a reporter at the Santa Barbara News-Press because she was a newsroom leader who brought in the Teamsters. An administrative judge with the National Labor Relations Board agreed, finding that she was among eight employees fired in violation of labor laws.

The newspaper’s owner, Wendy McCaw, has appealed the decision. Management said the employees were fired for disloyalty or biased reporting.

“What we’ve learned is that you can break the labor law in America and get away with it for a long time,” Burns said.

In fiscal 2007, the NLRB found that 1,771 employees were fired “in violation of their organizational rights” and it got employers to offer to rehire them. More than $124 million in back pay was awarded to the employees.

The proposed bill seeks to increase penalties against employers who violate the law - its least controversial measure, though opponents point out that the penalties against unions would be unchanged.

Of more than 22,000 unfair-labor-practice charges filed with the NLRB in fiscal 2007, about 6,000 were against labor unions. Most alleged illegal restraint and coercion.

“In my campaign to convince people not to organize with the union, they put out a caricature of me as a puppet of management, with wooden legs and wooden arms and squashed nurses dripping off my shoes,” said Cox, the Santa Ana nurse.

He said he fought the union because, as a sought-after trauma nurse, he doesn’t need help from collective bargaining and doesn’t want to pay union dues.

Union officials and nurses involved in the campaign denied sending out the flier with the caricature.

Even when a union is approved through an election, officials say, a hostile employer can drag out contract negotiations for years and ultimately petition to have the union decertified before one’s ever signed.

Complaints of employers illegally refusing to bargain account for 60% of filings with the NLRB. The penalty for failing to negotiate in good faith is to be sent back into negotiations.

The bill’s other chief provision seeks to change that by imposing a first contract through binding federal arbitration if early negotiations and mediation efforts fail.

“We’re never going to turn the authority to run our workplace to a government arbitrator,” said Johnson, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Carlos Rubio, a Rite Aid warehouse worker in Palmdale, said negotiations with his employer over a first contracthave dragged on since he and his co-workers voted to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in March.

“There are 35 articles on the table. We’ve agreed to four of them,” Rubio said. Rite Aid has agreed to minor provisions, such as what happens if an employee is called into military service, he said, but has not even begun to talk about pay scales and other more meaningful issues.

Labor advocates are pushing hard for the bill because union membership has plummeted, from a high of 35% of the U.S. workforce down to 12% today.

Labor wants the bill introduced in the first 100 days of the Obama administration. But legislators are loath to make such a promise.

“Everybody can’t go through the front door of the White House on the first day,” said Aaron Albright, press secretary for the House Education and Labor Committee, whose chairman introduced the bill. “The economic recovery package is the first thing we’re going to be working on.”

Union officials for weeks have been pushing the Employee Free Choice Act as a needed part of fiscal reform, saying it will create the middle-class jobs necessary to improve the lives of Americans.

Obama has promised to sign the legislation if it’s passed.

But Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara, said acrimony over the proposal makes it a tough issue for Obama to take on right away.

“It’s a rallying point for Republicans,” he said, “and a wedge issue for some Democrats.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This a good article. However, the article fails to note that the thousands of employer charges of “alleged illegal restraint and coercion” against unions are almost always found to be pure BS! They are usually filed to discredit the union during the election process and have zero basis in fact. These “alleged illegal restraint and coercion” charges are solely designed to distort the election process. They are very similar to the Republican voter suppression activities used in general political elections done under the false flag of fighting mythical voter fraud.

Under Bush, OSHA Mired in Inaction

12.29.08

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2008; Page A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122802124.html?hpid=topnews

In early 2001, an epidemiologist at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought to publish a special bulletin warning dental technicians that they could be exposed to dangerous beryllium alloys while grinding fillings. Health studies showed that even a single day’s exposure at the agency’s permitted level could lead to incurable lung disease.

OSHA Memorandum

After the bulletin was drafted, political appointees at the agency gave a copy to a lobbying firm hired by the country’s principal beryllium manufacturer, according to internal OSHA documents. The epidemiologist, Peter Infante, incorporated what he considered reasonable changes requested by the company and won approval from key directorates, but he bristled when the private firm complained again.

“In my 24 years at the Agency, I have never experienced such indecision and delay,” Infante wrote in an e-mail to the agency’s director of standards in March 2002. Eventually, top OSHA officials decided, over what Infante described in an e-mail to his boss as opposition from “the entire OSHA staff working on beryllium issues,” to publish the bulletin with a footnote challenging a key recommendation the firm opposed.

Current and former career officials at OSHA say that such sagas were a recurrent feature during the Bush administration, as political appointees ordered the withdrawal of dozens of workplace health regulations, slow-rolled others, and altered the reach of its warnings and rules in response to industry pressure.

The result is a legacy of unregulation common to several health-protection agencies under Bush: From 2001 to the end of 2007, OSHA officials issued 86 percent fewer rules or regulations termed economically significant by the Office of Management and Budget than their counterparts did during a similar period in President Bill Clinton’s tenure, according to White House lists.

White House officials have dismissed such tallies, emphasizing in recent regulatory overviews that their “objective is quality, not quantity,” and that heavy restrictions on corporations harm economic performance. During Bush’s presidency, they said in a September report, average annual regulatory costs were kept 24 percent lower than during the previous two decades. OSHA says it has issued many rules of lesser consequence that nonetheless clarified industry responsibilities.

But this record has been controversial among occupational health experts and career OSHA staff.

“The legacy of the Bush administration has been one of dismal inaction,” said Robert Harrison, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and chairman of the occupational health section of the American Public Health Association. It has been “like turning a ketchup bottle upside down, banging the bottom of the container, and nothing comes out. You shake and shake and nothing comes out,” Harrison said.

More than two dozen current and former senior career officials further said in interviews that the agency’s strategic choices were frequently made without input from its experienced hands. Political appointees “shut us out,” a longtime senior career official said.

Among the regulations proposed by OSHA’s staff but scuttled by political appointees was one meant to protect health workers from tuberculosis. Although OSHA concluded in 1997 that the regulation could avert as many as 32,700 infections and 190 deaths annually and save $115 million, it was blocked by opposition from large hospitals.

In the summer, the agency decided against moving further toward the regulation of crystalline silica, the tiny fibrous material in cement and stone dust that causes lung disease or cancer. OSHA promised a scientific peer review of the health risks by early 2005 and then by early 2007, but it never acted. Regulating silica exposures would have prevented an estimated 41 silicosis deaths and 20 to 40 lung cancers annually, according to OSHA.

In the spring, political appointees quietly scrapped work on another long-pending regulation of hazardous exposure to ionizing radiation in mailrooms, food warehouses, and hospitals and airports. It cited “resource constraints and other priorities” ## the same reason officials gave for withdrawing more than a dozen regulatory proposals in 2001….

(Click on link to read the rest of this story.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122802124.html?hpid=topnews

TOYS MADE in America

12.28.08

http://www.toysmadeinamerica.com/

In response to my column, Buying American-made Toys, I was sent this link. Labor leaders need to add this link to all our websites and newsletters.

DEB KOZIKOWSKI provided the link. Here is some information from the Rural Votes.com website about her:

“A former elementary educator, Deb serves as CAP Chair for the National Writers Union, United Auto Workers, Local 1981. She has broad background as a business and technical writer and small business consultant as well as a long career in real estate. In 2004 she served as liaison between the Kerry Campaign and Rural Leaders for Kerry and was a co-founder of the DNC’s Rural Working Group. A lifelong resident of western Massachusetts, Deb currently serves as Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and is a member of the Executive Board of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Another link.

American Made Toys

http://www.usmadechildrenstoys.com/

Buying American-made Toys

12.28.08

Buying American-made Toys

I did not buy any toys for the many children in my life this year. Admittedly, money was very tight after the economy collapsed from eight years of Republican mismanagement. However, the main reason I did the scrooge thing this Christmas is that I simply refused to buy Chinese made toys for the American children I love so dearly.

The American children I love so dearly need to inherit, from all of us, a nation with a strong manufacturing base. These children need to grow up in an economy that will pay good wages to all our citizens and that actually makes things. Buying cheap junk made in third world nations for Christmas presents is not doing these children any favors.

I cannot understand why no American toy companies are making toys in America. Obviously, the greed of the corporations and American governmental trade policy has combined to destroy toy manufacturing in this nation. If both our corporate leaders and government officials cannot change their behaviors and start making toys in America, we should boycott completely imported toys and change our elected leaders at the first opportunity.

Making toys in low wage nations does fatten the bottom line of corporations at the expense of the future of the American economy. It helps pay the outrageously bloated salaries of corporate CEO’s but actually does little to reduce the cost to consumers. It often means shoddy and unsafe toys are being given to our children. The corporate CEO’s need to curb their greed and start thinking about the future of the American economy!

One of the first things we can do, starting right after the beginning of the New Year, is to visit as many retail stores as possible and file written complaints about the non-availability of American-made toys this past Christmas. Every Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target and toy store in America should be getting hundreds or thousands of complaints from patriotic Americans. We owe it to our children to demand that the toys that we buy for them actually contribute to a better future for them when they become working adults.

Imported toys do not contribute to a better future for today’s children. They do not contribute tax revenues to provide healthcare and better schools in the way American-made toys do. They do not provide decent paying jobs for their parents in the way American-made toys do. They are certainly not as safe as American-made toys.

American-made toys help pay the national debt and reduce the trade imbalance with foreign nations by reducing imports. American-made products help build the American economy. They help pay for our police forces, emergency services and military.

Retailers who do not sell American-made toys should be boycotted. Toy companies who do not manufacture toys in America should be boycotted. Toy imports should be taxed heavily. Imported, cheaply-made, often unsafe toys are not in the national interest. Our governmental policies should reflect clearly that reality.

Toy companies need to hear from consumers that Americans want to buy toys made in America. I urge consumer groups, labor unions, church groups, political activists and patriotic individuals to organize efforts to get this message to the toy companies. Our political leaders need to hear the same message.

We can all circulate petitions at work and in our communities. We can all write members of Congress and President Obama. We can write our local newspapers, blog on the Internet and call radio stations. A little picketing of toy stores, Wal-Marts, corporate headquarters of toy companies and Congressional field offices might help us deliver the message that American-made toys are one of the many changes we need to make in the American economy.

I will certainly be talking about this subject on my Democratic Talk Radio program in 2009. I hope other patriotic talk radio hosts regardless of ideology will join in these efforts along with writers and grassroots political activists. We owe it to the children of America.

Greedy, unpatriotic corporations should not be forcing me or you to choose between disappointing the children we love or being unpatriotic consumers mortgaging the economic future of those same children. We are willing to buy American.

The challenge to Wall Street and corporate America is simply stated, “Are you willing to manufacture and sell us the American-made products we want to buy?” Those companies smart enough to accept the challenge will certainly have a ready and willing market of patriotic Americans who love our children.

Written by Stephen Crockett (Host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com) . Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish or reproduce without prior approval.

UAW files another complaint against bus company

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

UAW files another complaint against bus company

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

NORTHAMPTON, December 15th- The United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers (UAW) Union filed a second complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging First Student Transportation Inc. violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was exclusively reported the UAW Amalgamated Union Local 677 in Allentown filed a complaint on October 28th, 2008 with the NLRB alleging the company violated the NLRAct for not bargaining in good faith.

Local 677 won the right to bargain for 111 employees of First Student Transportation Inc., Beersville Road in Northampton, after the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board conducted a election in June 2008 and the employees voted 76 for to 27 against being represented by the union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

First Student Transporation Inc. provides bus service for the Northampton Area School District. The units of employees that voted to be represented by the UAW are bus drivers and mechanics.
Local 677 represents four units of workers employed at Mack Trucks Inc. in Allentown and Macungie Township and employees of AmeriCold Logistics and workers of Lower Saucon Township.

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed by the UAW Region 9 office in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania on October 28th, 2008, First Student Transportation Inc. is alleged to have violated Section 8 (a)(5) of the NLRAct when the company refused to provide information to the Union relevant and necessary for bargaining despite two requests.

The charge states the company failed to provide information to the union requested on July 17th, 2008 and September 9th, 2008, which was necessary for bargaining to obtained a first time contract agreement between the parties. The complaint was obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the second complaint, also obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, it is alleged by the union the employer engaged in committing additional violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

The United Auto Workers alleges the company refuses to bargain with the Union by directly dealing and negotiating with the employees that are represented by the UAW.

Also, it is alleged the company violated the National Labor Relations Act by unilaterally implementing a new employee handbook.

The second charge was filed on December 3rd, 2008 by Joseph Robinson, indentified on the complaint as a International Representative at the UAW Region 9 office in Fort Washington.

The employer representative named on the complaints to be contacted is Wayne Prutzman, indentified as the company Manager.

Under NLRB rules, complaint(s) will be investigated by the agency and if merit is found a hearing will be scheduled.

Service Employees Union awaiting NLRB decision regarding when election will be conducted at nursing home

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Service Employees Union awaiting NLRB decision regarding when election will be conducted at nursing home

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

BETHLEHEM, December 17th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania Union, is awaiting the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia decision on when a election will be conducted to determine if employees of the Good Shepherd in Bethlehem want the union to represent them.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was exclusively reported the SEIU petitioned the NLRB on October 15th, 2008, requesting the agency conduct an Representation Election, to determine if 55 employees of Good Shepherd want the SEIU/Healthcare Pennsylvania, North 2nd Street in Harrisburg, formerly called SEIU/1199P, to be their representative for the purpose of collectively bargaining.

According to the petition, obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the union requested all full-time and regularly part-time certified nursing assistants, unit secretaries, housekeepers, laundry aids, and van drivers employed by the employer at their Schoenersville Road facility to be eligible to vote.

On October 28th, the NLRB conducted a hearing in Easton on which employees will be eligible to participate in the election.

However, the newspaper has learned the NLRB Region Four in Philadelphia decision is under review by the NLRB in Washington, DC.

The SEIU appealed the Region Four Director decision of December 9th, to allow workers at another facility operated by the same employer to participate in the election. The union did not petition the agency to include the employees at the second facility.

The union requested on their petition all other employees, including Registered Nurses (RN’s), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s), business office clerical employees, guards, supervisors, and managerial staff not participate in the election.

Under NLRB rules, because of the appeal, the election could be delayed by weeks or even months while the five member NLRB reviews the Philadelphia’s decision.

The American Postal Workers Union Local 268 files complaint with NLRB alleging USPS violated labor law

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

The American Postal Workers Union Local 268 files complaint with NLRB alleging USPS violated labor law

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 17th- The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 268 has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging the United States Postal Service (USPS) Lehigh Valley office, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).
The union filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge on November 26th, 2008 however, it was amended by Local 268 on December 1st, 2008.

According to the complaint, obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the union represents arpproximately 500 workers employed at the USPS mail processing facility located in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

“The Employer refuses to honor Step 2 grievance settlements that were reached by the parties regarding a clerk craft bargaining unit timekeeper position. The Employer refuses to allow the timekeeper to perform the duties of his position,” states the complaint.

The union official that filed the complaint is indentified as Fran Friel, which is recognized as the Clerk Craft Director.

According to the ULP, Neil Heller is the employer representative to be contacted.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA unemployment rate increases to 6.0 percent

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

MSA unemployment rate increases to 6.0 percent

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, December 5th- According to labor data provided by the Department of Labor and Industry, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.0 percent. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 4.5 percent.

Of the fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area is tied with the Reading MSA for the fourth highest unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.8. There are 372,000, increasing by 32,000 during the past two months, Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,446,000 with 6,075,000 employed. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 6.5 percent. There are 10,080,000 residents nationally unemployed.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 6.8 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest at 6.6 percent, and the Williamsport MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the state at 6.4 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 4.5 percent, the Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.6 percent, with the Lancaster MSA having the third lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.2 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, in Pennsylvania at 420,000, increasing by 8,100 from a year ago. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,004,000 with 176,200 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force in the state at 1,226,600, with 67,400 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 287,300, with 14,600 residents unemployed.

Within the MSA, Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and seven-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has 2,300 civilians not working, increasing by 200 from the month before and increasing by 600 from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a labor force of 31,100 the smallest civilian labor force in the MSA.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 5.9 percent, unchanged from the previous month, and increasing by one and five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has 9,000 civilians without jobs, increasing by 200 from the month before and increasing by 2,400 from a year ago. Northampton County has a labor force of 152,100.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 6.0 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Lehigh County has 10,600 civilians not working, the most within the MSA, increasing by 300 from the previous month and increasing by 2,800 during the past twelve months. Lehigh County has a labor force of 176,300, the largest in the MSA.

Nonfarm jobs have decreased by 800 during the past twelve months for a total of 345,700. There are 290,700 service-providing jobs in the MSA, increasing by 1,000 from a year ago. Education and Health services jobs increased the most in the MSA during the past twelve months, gaining 2,200 jobs. Trade, Transportation and Utilities jobs decreased the most the past year within the MSA, dropping 1,800.

Lehigh Valley Labor Council President involved with health care coalition

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley Labor Council President involved with health care coalition

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 18th- The Lehigh Valley Labor Council President Gregg Potter was re-elected to a second three-year term of the labor federation.

Mr. Potter resides in Allentown and recently has taken a leave from his job at Verizon and now serves as a Health Care for America Now (HCAN) of Pennsylvania, Associate Director. Mr. Potter has worked for the communications company since 1993 and is a member of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Union Local 13500.

His job with HCAN is to build coalitions to join in the grass root effort to bring affordable, quality health care for working people to the top of the political discussion.

“I truly believe that if we solve the health care issue that it will go a long way in fixing our economy,” said Mr. Potter.

Part of the agenda of HCAN is to have as many federal legislators sign on to their health care principles. So far 166 House of Representatives and 18 United States Senators have committed to support HCAN principals. Mr. Potter said Republican Congressman 15th Legislative District Charlie Dent has not yet signed on.

“Many city, county and state governments are in dire financial straits and if we take the health care issue off of the table, that will loosen up a ton of money for other efforts,” added Mr. Potter.

United Steelworkers request help under Trade Assistance

12.26.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

United Steelworkers request help under Trade Assistance

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 17th- The economic slowdown has affected workers represented by the United Steel Workers (USW) of America Union Local 2599 in Bethlehem.

Local 2599 is located on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem and earlier this year had approximately 1,600 active members throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The union has two contracts with the Victaulic Company. On September 8th, 2008 the approximately 123 USW members employed at the Victaulic Company Alburtis Township facility ratified a new five-year contract agreement with the employer. The previous agreement expired on September 8th, 2008.

The union largest unit of members are employed at the Victaulic Company facility in Forks Township, which manufactures pipefitting systems.

Local 2599 represented approximately 520 workers at the Victaulic Forks Township facility going into 2008 but currently have 219 on lay-off, with it unknown when or if the workers will be recalled.
According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, four of the employers the union has labor contracts with have employees laid-off including the Victaulic Company.

Mr. Green told the newspaper the union has applied with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) in Washington seeking for the agency to assist the Victaulic Company laid-off workers under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act.

Under the Trade Act of 1974, the Department of Labor conducts an investigation into why workers lose their jobs and if found they were eligible for the job assistance, the DOL will provide grants to help them find a new career path.

Under the program, workers may receive job search allowances, relocation allowances, case management, and other helpful re-employment services including receiving funds for training and school education.

Mr. Green stated Househead manufacturing in Palmerton has notified the union 140 USW members of the 152 they employ will be laid-off beginning on December 23rd, 2008. Also, Prior Coated in Allentown have 12 of the 38 USW members currently laid-off. And Berenfield Containers in Easton have 4 of 23 Local 2599 members on lay-off.

Mr. Green also told the newspaper contract negotiations are underway between the union and Northampton County’s Gracedale Nursing Home and Hygrade Metals Manufacturing in Bethlehem.

Union from Massachusetts wants to represent area workers

12.24.08

January 2009 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Union from Massachusetts wants to represent area workers

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

ALLENTOWN, December 12th- The International Association of EMT’s & Paramedics Union Local 5000 in Quincy, Massachusetts filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadlephia requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if workers at Centronia Ambulance, William Avenue in Allentown, want to be represented by the union.

According to the petition filed by Local 5000 with the NLRB on November 26th, and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the union wants to represent all full-time and regular part-time, per diem and PRN-paramedics, EMT’s, wheelchair/para-transit drivers, dispatchers and registered nurses employed by the employer.

The union is requesting all other employees including managers, clerical, billing, supervisors and guards be excluded from participating in the election.

Under NLRB rules, the petition requesting for the agency to conduct a election must have the support of at least 30 percent of the unit of employees. According to the petition, the union stated at least 30 percent of the employees want the NLRB to conduct an election.

The petition was signed by Bryan Hamrick, recognized as Local 5000 Lead Organizer of Winter Haven, Florida.

According to information provided by the petition, there are presently 100 employees within the unit that have requested the agency conduct a Representation Election to determine of they want the union to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Under agency rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible employees to vote for union representation to become their bargaining representative.

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

ALLENTOWN, December 12th- The International Association of EMT’s & Paramedics Union Local 5000 in Quincy, Massachusetts filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadlephia requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if workers at Centronia Ambulance, William Avenue in Allentown, want to be represented by the union.

According to the petition filed by Local 5000 with the NLRB on November 26th, and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, the union wants to represent all full-time and regular part-time, per diem and PRN-paramedics, EMT’s, wheelchair/para-transit drivers, dispatchers and registered nurses employed by the employer.

The union is requesting all other employees including managers, clerical, billing, supervisors and guards be excluded from participating in the election.

Under NLRB rules, the petition requesting for the agency to conduct a election must have the support of at least 30 percent of the unit of employees. According to the petition, the union stated at least 30 percent of the employees want the NLRB to conduct an election.

The petition was signed by Bryan Hamrick, recognized as Local 5000 Lead Organizer of Winter Haven, Florida.

According to information provided by the petition, there are presently 100 employees within the unit that have requested the agency conduct a Representation Election to determine of they want the union to represent them for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Under agency rules, a labor organization must receive 50 percent plus one of the eligible employees to vote for union representation to become their bargaining representative.

Lehigh Valley Congressman opposes loans to American automakers

12.24.08

January 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley Congressman opposes loans to American automakers

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

LEHIGH VALLEY, December 15th- Charlie Dent, the Republican United States House of Representative for the 15th Legislative District, voted against HR 7321, the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act on December 10th, that would have provided a “bridge loan” of 14 billion to the American automakers even though a study shows the loss of the big three automakers would cost Pennsylvania 120,000 jobs.

“As the son of a 30 year Bethlehem Steel employee affected by the demise of that once mighty company, I can indentify with the plight of the auto workers, their families, and the numerous small businesses involved in this difficult situation;” stated Mr. Dent, which represents the Lehigh Valley in Washington DC. The House of Representatives passed the legislation, however, the auto loan failed to pass in the Senate.

According to a study released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, DC, and the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, the financial woes of the United States auto industry is not just a Detriot problem but could impact the economies of states across the nation.

Pennsylvania ranks ninth among the 50 states in potential job loss as a result of one or all of the big three automakers shutting down, the study estimated. Also, up to 120,100 jobs would disappear in Pennsylvania within a year, if General Motors (GM), Ford and Chrysler were allowed to fall into bankruptcy. The loss of GM, the company most at risk of entering bankruptcy, would jeopardize up to 33,200 jobs in Pennsylvania.

The EPI estimated even if only motor vehicles and parts jobs are counted, Pennsylvania would lose up to 8,400 jobs from a total industry shutdown and up to 2,300 from a shutdown of General Motors alone.

Mark Price, Ph.D., a labor economist for the Keystone Research Center, noted that the EPI study should concern manufacturers and other industries in Pennsylvania. “Anyone who thinks an auto industry collapse has little impact on Pennsylvania should think again. As the EPI study shows, the 120,000 Pennsylvania jobs threatened by an auto industry failure account for 2.1 percent of total state employment,” said Mr. Price.

However, Mr. Dent opposed the legislation that would have provided the loans. “The United States House of Representatives passed the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act. This bill provided $14 billion in loans to the nation’s three automakers, commonly referred to as the Big Three. After careful deliberation, I opposed this legislation. In late November, exectives from each of the three domestic automakers testified before the House Committee on Financial Services on the perilous condition of the American auto industry and its need for significant financial support from Congress to remain solvent. Following their unsatisfactory testimony, these executives were directed by Congressional leaders to return to Washington in December with precise plans on how they will use federal loans to restructure their companies in a manner that ensures long-term viabilty. After reviewing the proposals presented to Congress, I believe the Big Three’s restructuring proposals lack accountability. A responsible plan must accomplish two goals, protect taxpayers and help auto workers by making their employers more competitive,” added Mr. Dent.

Mr. Dent added, another reason he opposed the legislation was because it failed to implement the reforms that domestic automakers must embrace to ensure limits on executive compensation, and additional substantial concessions by the United Auto Workers (UAW) Union members, concessions he states, “that are absolutely necessary for the revitalization of the industry.”

The EPI study estimates the loss of “re-spending” jobs as a result of the wages lost by workers in motor vehicle industries and other sectors supported by car production, would within three years top $150 billion in federal tax revenue and without cars to export, the United States trade deficit would rise by $109.3 billion.

Senator Mikulski supports auto workers

12.24.08

Dear Mr. Crockett:

Thank you for contacting me about the current state of the auto industry. It’s great to hear from you.

We need to do everything we can to save jobs during these difficult economic times. I am a champion of the jobs in the automobile industry. I don’t champion an industry. I champion the jobs in the industry. I will do all I can to save these jobs.

The American automobile industry is one of the biggest drivers of the U.S. economy. One out of every 10 jobs in America is auto-related. A collapse of GM, Ford or Chrysler, would cripple the American economy, given the huge network of suppliers, dealers, and other businesses and communities that would be affected. Already this year the U.S. auto industry has shed 110,000 jobs. In Maryland, approximately 500 jobs have been lost this year just due to the closing of automobile dealerships.

Next to the purchase of your home, the purchase of your automobile is your next big ticket. And if you buy a car, someone’s got to make them, someone’s got to sell them, and someone has to service them.

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would make interest payments on car loans and state sales tax on cars tax-deductible for new cars purchased between November 12, 2008 and December 31, 2009. For more details, visit my website:

http://mikulski.senate.gov/_pdfs/Press/autoownershiptaxamendment.pdf.

Knowing of your views was helpful to me, and I will keep them in mind as Congress continues to address the current state of the automobile industry.

Again, thanks for contacting me. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you in the future.

Sincerely,
Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

Toyota Republicans Should Cut Their Own Pay

12.24.08

Toyota Republicans Should Cut Their Own Pay

By Leo Gerard, President- USW

http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2008125222/toyota-republicans-should-cut-their-own-pay

President Bush took to the TV Friday to announce that he wouldn’t walk past the financial crash of America’s Big Three automakers and do nothing to save their lives.

Refusing resuscitation, Bush said, would be irresponsible during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

A week earlier, 31 GOP Senators, mostly from Southern states, voted to avert their eyes and allow American auto companies to die. They opposed $14 billion in federal loans for GM and Chrysler, revealing that their loyalty lies not with America, not even with their own states, but with South Korea and Germany and Japan.

They are Toyota Republicans.

Toyota has non-union manufacturing plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas — states whose senators led the GOP quest to slay the Big Three American auto manufacturers — Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and John Cornyn, R-Tx. Here’s the Republican from Mississippi, Sen. Thad Cochran, explaining why he’d vote against the loans, “Things have changed. It’s not just the Big Three anymore,” he said, pointing out that Nissan and Toyota employ more Mississippians than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. But, he said, the foreign companies would not share “in the benefits of that automobile bailout program.”

No. But Mississippi did give Nissan and Toyota more than $650 million to entice them to locate in the state. GM, Ford and Chrysler didn’t share in those benefits, Sen. Cochran.

The Toyota Republicans are all for helping the rich with tax breaks and shelters, and they’re all for aiding foreign auto manufacturers with billions worth of tax forgiveness and government-paid infrastructure improvements.

But their disdain for the working class couldn’t be clearer as they organized defeat of loans to the Big Three under this command: “Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor.”

They haven’t gotten the message sent out by the electorate in November. Voters rejected politicians prolonging the same old policy of protecting themselves and the rich. The nation’s voters want selfless leaders who will perform in the best interests of the entire country. They want change.

Clearly the allegiance of the 31 Republicans who opposed the loan to save GM and Chrysler is not with the United States of America, which would lose 900,000 jobs if just GM closed, and more than 2.1 million if the Big Three did. Those job losses would occur during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In November, the 11th consecutive month of job losses, another 533,000 people were thrown out of work, swelling the pool of unemployed to 10.3 million. The Toyota Republicans were willing to increase that.

They voted against the interests of their own states as well. Consider what would happen in a few of those Southern States whose senators led the charge against preserving the Big Three. If just GM collapsed, Kentucky would lose 20,000 jobs; Alabama, 21,000; Georgia, 23,000, and Tennessee, 29,400, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.

Sen. Cochran just didn’t think it was right for the U.S. government to aid its auto industry. But apparently he’s fine with foreign governments providing subsidies to the transplant automakers in his state. And, apparently, he’s okay with spending state and federal money to help foreign automakers locate manufacturing plants in the U.S.

Korean and Japanese automakers — including Nissan and Toyota with plants in Cochran’s Mississippi — benefit from manipulation of currencies by their governments, a factor that, according to EPI estimates, reduces their costs by between 10 and 20 percent. In addition, nationalized health care in countries such as Japan and Germany serves as a subsidy.

Also, the Toyota Republican opposed federal money for American companies but supported state and federal money for foreign auto makers estimated at $3.6 billion.

Shelby, for example, got $3 million in federal funds to improve roads near the Hyundai plant in Alabama after the state gave $250 million to the Korean automaker.

Shelby opposed loaning one federal cent to the U.S. automakers, though, telling “Face the Nation” that they should die: “Companies fail every day and others take their place… There’s not a bank in this country that would loan a dollar to these companies.”

But for foreign auto companies, his home state of Alabama couldn’t provide enough taxpayer cash — more than three quarters of a billion. In addition to the quarter billion it gave the Korean automaker, it handed another quarter billion to German Daimler for a Mercedes-Benz plant, nearly a quarter billion to Japanese Honda and $29 million to Japanese Toyota.

Similarly, Jim DeMint, another senator who led the Toyota Repubicans’ rebellion against the loans to GM and Chrysler, told the “National Review” recently, “Government should not be in the auto industry.” Yet, his state, South Carolina, got into the auto industry with nearly a quarter billion — $230 million — in gifts to a German auto company — BMW.

The same is true in Kentucky, home of Sen. Mitch McConnell, who said of loans for the Big Three, “Government help is not the only option. It’s not even the best option.” But government help was fine when Kentucky was providing grants for Toyota, which got $371 million from taxpayers since 1986.

It’s clear that the real problem was not a philosophical one. All of these lawmakers were willing to flick free market capitalism out the car window like a cigarette butt if their states could use taxpayer dollars to buy a foreign auto plant. No, what really gags them about the Big Three is that they pay good, middle class wages and benefits as a result of contracts with the United Autoworkers.

Repeatedly, the Toyota Republicans insisted that UAW members bear the brunt of the cost of the bailout. The senators insisted that UAW wages be lowered to match those of non-union auto workers at foreign-owned manufacturers. Toyota Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, wrote an amendment to the bailout bill that would have required UAW members to accept pay cuts by a specific date in 2009. When Republicans defeated the bailout, DeMint blamed that on the union, saying, “It sounds like the UAW blew up the deal.”

The Toyota Republicans then conferred the American auto industry to bankruptcy. They said they favored bankruptcy because it would enable the Big Three to break pledges made in labor contracts and promises for health care and pensions made to retirees. The Toyota Republicans want the wages of American workers pulled down. To them, UAW members making an average of $28 an hour, accounting for less than 10 percent of the cost of a car, are earning just too much money.

The Toyota Republicans did not, however, make that claim about the white collar workers on Wall Street who got this country into the financial fiasco that led to the dire circumstances for automakers. And not just for American ones. Domestic car sales declined by 40 percent last month, but Asian producers’ sales dropped too — by 35 percent.

The average salary of white collar, Wall Street employees — workers in “securities, commodity contracts and investments” — is four times that of those laboring in the rest of the economy. Remember, these are the guys who are so smart that they took down Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, AIG and Lehman Brothers – in less than a year — and ultimately required $700 billion from taxpayers to bail them out.

The top executives of Wall Street banks receive billions of dollars in year-end bonuses. The New York Times detailed those at Merrill Lynch in a story Dec. 17 entitled “On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits Were Real.” In 2006, the firm gave its top executives between $5 billion and $6 billion in bonuses, which means, for example, a trader earning $180,000 a year got a $5 million bonus.

Merrill’s $7.6 billion earnings that year turned out to be bogus. The company’s losses now have exceeded all of the profits it earned over the previous 20 years. To prevent collapse, it sold itself to Bank of America in September. But then, Bank of America took $15 billion of that $700 billion in bailout money. Despite the gift of taxpayer dollars, the CEO of Bank of American has not publicly announced that he will decline a bonus, and Bank of America plans to tell Merrill Lynch workers the amounts of their bonuses beginning Friday, the New York Times reported Thursday.

When those Toyota Republicans voted in favor of providing $700 billion for Wall Street — including both of Tennessee’s senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander; Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell; Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson; South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, and Texas’ Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn — none asked for high-paid white collar workers to take pay cuts or give up their million dollar bonuses. There was a feeble attempt to limit the pay of chief executives, but that applied only to firms that received federal money under one particular method, and the treasury decided not to hand out the $700 billion that way.

And no lawmaker asked white collar workers or executives who got billions in bonuses based on false profits to return them.

But those Toyota Republicans want middle class, blue collar workers who don’t get year end bonuses, who don’t celebrate with five-figure dinners, to take wage cuts. They want autoworker pensioners to lose the monthly benefits they earned with a lifetime of labor.

And at no time did those Toyota Republicans suggest that they should cut their own salary or top-notch, government-paid health benefits or pensions. Like the reckless speculators on Wall Street, Congress bears responsibility for the crisis condition of the American economy because it deregulated financial markets.

In 2002, during a downturn in Japan, the House of Councillors reduced the pay of Diet lawmakers by 10 percent, and ended the transportation allowance, portrait-painting and pension given senior lawmakers.

If the Toyota Republicans believe the Japanese way of pay is so great for autoworkers, they should first impose it on themselves.

Across the Country, Unions Are Good for Workers, the Economy

12.23.08

Across the Country, Unions Are Good for Workers, the Economy

by Seth Michaels, Dec 19, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/12/19/across-the-country-unions-are-good-for-workers-the-economy/

As economic uncertainty continues, the incoming administration and Congress will be tasked not only with restoring the economy in the short term, but also with making it sustainable in the long term. That means making sure working families around the nantion have the benefits, wages and lasting economic security that comes with the freedom to form unions and bargain.

New reports by the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) show that state economies benefit from giving working families the power in the workplace and the wages, benefits and job security that come with the freedom to form a union.

CAPAF says:

Unions paved the way to the middle class for millions of workers and pioneered benefits such as paid health care and pensions along the way. Even today, union workers earn significantly more on average than their non-union counterparts, and union employers are more likely to provide benefits. And non-union workers—particularly in highly unionized industries—receive financial benefits from employers who increase wages to match what unions would win in order to avoid unionization.

CAPAF has reports examining what the effect of broader access to unions and bargaining would be in California, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

As CAPAF notes, the decline in union membership has corresponded to a decline in the share of economic growth that goes to working families. That means families are less able to afford housing and consumer goods and less likely to have health care coverage and retirement security. The weaknesses in our economy can be attributed to the failure to broadly share prosperity. To make the economy work for everyone, we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and restore the freedom to form unions and bargain with employers.

Workers in states like California, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and Virginia will benefit from the Employee Free Choice Act. It needs to be at the top of the agenda for the next Congress.

Two local union members receive George Meany Award

12.22.08

December 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Two local union members receive George Meany Award

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, December 3rd- Two local union members received the George Meany Scouting Award.
It is estimated that one out of every four top Boy Scout unit leaders, varsity scout teams and venturing crews in the United States is a union member. Thousands of other union members serve the youth through the Boy Scouts of America in local districts, councils and on the regional and national levels.

In recognition of their contributions, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in 1974 established the George Meany Award, in honor of the first AFL-CIO leader. The organization was created in 1953. The George Meany Award is the highest award that is bestowed upon a union member involved with the Boy Scouts of America. The recipients of the award is also recognized for their service to other community volunteer service activities.

Each local central labor council, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, invites all local unions to submit their candidates for the award. The central labor council makes the final selection of its recipients for the candidates submitted. The central labor council forwards the recipients completed application containing all appropriate information to the Boy Scouts of America to receive their award. Each central labor council is allowed to present one Meany Award annually.

Mike Caffrey, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163 in Wilkes-Barre, and Dallas resident, received the award from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council in Luzerne County.

Jack Evanik, a member of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 645 in Scranton, and a resident of Dickson City, received the award from the Scranton Central Labor Union in Lackawanna County.

Labor’s fresh face

12.20.08

Labor’s fresh face
Cabinet nominee Solis has made a number of gutsy political moves.

By Harold Meyerson

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-meyerson19-2008dec19,0,5862785.story

When Barack Obama set out to choose his secretary of Labor, his top priority was probably not recruiting an emblematic Angeleno. But in tapping Hilda L. Solis, a Democrat who represents a portion of the San Gabriel Valley in Congress, that’s just what he’s done.

The Latina daughter of immigrants, a product and champion of the labor movement, a staunch environmentalist, an ardent feminist and one of the gutsiest elected officials in American politics, Solis personifies the best of the new Los Angeles.

In some ways, her appointment harks back to Franklin Roosevelt’s selection of Frances Perkins as his Labor secretary, not least because Los Angeles today ## like Perkins’ New York a century ago ## is a city defined in large part by its huge immigrant working class.

In 1911, Perkins, then a young social worker, watched in horror as the young Jewish and Italian immigrant women who worked as seamstresses for Triangle Shirtwaist Co. leaped to their deaths rather than burn in the fire consuming their factory.

A quarter of a century later, as FDR’s Labor secretary, Perkins helped write and steer to enactment the first federal minimum wage and worker protection laws, as well as the National Labor Relations Act, which gave legal protection to workers seeking to form unions.

The lives of the working poor have been a central concern for Solis as well. In 1996, as a first-term member of the California state Senate (and its first Latina member), Solis did something elected officials just don’t do: She took money out of her own campaign treasury to jump-start an initiative campaign to raise the California minimum wage.

At the time, Republicans had controlled the state’s Industrial Welfare Commission for 14 straight years, and the minimum wage it set was in no way a livable wage. Solis provided seed money for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75, and Californians passed it overwhelmingly.

In the state senate, Solis brought her distinctly working-class perspective to environmental issues. She focused on getting the carcinogens out of the air in neighborhoods where refineries made breathing risky; she worked to spruce up the L.A. and San Gabriel rivers where they ran through park-poor communities. She also crusaded against domestic violence in communities where it had been a taboo topic.

And in 2000, she did something else that career politicians just don’t do: She challenged an entrenched incumbent from her own party for his congressional seat. Marty Martinez, a nine-term incumbent who thought he was cruising to his 10th, was much more conservative than his constituents. He had voted for NAFTA, backed the extension of the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena and opposed abortion rights.

Against the wishes of the party’s national legislative leaders, who never like to see their members challenged, Solis ran against Martinez and, with the assistance of the L.A. labor movement, defeated him by a stunning 69% to 31%.

Solis’ victory made clear to anyone who doubted that L.A.’s labor movement now held real power in California politics. In the late ’90s, as the number of immigrants surged, labor had been waging successful election campaigns that turned L.A.’s suburbs from Republican to Democratic. With Solis’ victory, labor also put its stamp on the kind of Democrat who would represent Los Angeles.

It was no coincidence that shortly after Solis dispatched Martinez, virtually every Democratic elected official in Los Angeles marched alongside striking union janitors. As the janitors could (and did) attest, Solis’ victory had been theirs too.

In Congress, Solis has continued to combine labor and environmental perspectives. Last year, she coauthored the Green Jobs Act, providing federal funds for job training in retrofitting, solar panel installation and other environmentally friendly occupations. She also worked to recruit Democratic congressional candidates in the Southwest and in heavily Latino districts throughout the country, in the process forging a good relationship with Rahm Emanuel, who will serve as Obama’s chief of staff.

The primary challenge Solis would face as Labor secretary won’t be all that dissimilar from that which faced Perkins. Then, in a time of economic devastation, Perkins guided the legislation ## Social Security, the NLRA ## which created the broadly shared prosperity of post-World War II America. Today, Solis must not only help shepherd the bills to stimulate the economy, she must lead the effort to enact the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would enable U.S. workers to join unions more easily.

And as Perkins once delivered for Roosevelt, Solis will now need to deliver for Obama.

Harold Meyerson, editor at large of the American Prospect, is an Op-Ed columnist for the Washington Post and was executive editor of LA Weekly from 1989 through 2001.

UAW busting, Southern style

12.19.08

UAW busting, Southern style

Foreign carmakers are enlisting the help of GOP senators from states in the South to break the union.
By Bruce Raynor

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-raynor18-2008dec18,0,4066838.story

The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.

Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies’ behalf. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Bob Corker ( R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) ## representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan ## first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill.

They claimed that they couldn’t support the bill without specifics about how wages would be “restructured.” They didn’t, however, require such specificity when it came to bailing out the financial sector. Their grandstanding, and the government’s generally lackluster response to the auto crisis, highlight many of the problems that have caused our current economic mess: the lack of concern about manufacturing, the privileged way our government treats the financial sector, and political support given to companies that attempt to slash worker’s wages.

When one compares how the auto industry and the financial sector are being treated by Congress, the double standard is staggering. In the financial sector, employee compensation makes up a huge percentage of costs. According to the New York state comptroller, it accounted for more than 60% of 2007 revenues for the seven largest financial firms in New York.

At Goldman Sachs, for example, employee compensation made up 71% of total operating expenses in 2007. In the auto industry, by contrast, autoworker compensation makes up less than 10% of the cost of manufacturing a car. Hundreds of billions were given to the financial-services industry with barely a question about compensation; the auto bailout, however, was sunk on this issue alone.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans’ demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say “further” because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.

These concessions go some distance toward leveling the playing field (retiree costs are still a factor for the Big Three). But what the foreign car companies want is to level ## which is to say, wipe out ## the union. They currently discourage their workforce from organizing by paying wages comparable to the Big Three’s UAW contracts. In fact, Toyota’s per-hour wages are actually above UAW wages.

However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to “tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry.” Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota’s $30-an-hour wage.

If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.

But their plan will not work. The Bush administration is likely to keep the Big Three alive long enough for President-elect Barack Obama to construct a real solution. Democrats and even most Republicans understand that a nation that has already lost 2 million jobs this year cannot afford to put at risk 3 million more.

What the economy needs now is rising wages so the country can get on the path of wage-driven consumption growth. That means stronger unions. Indeed, I believe eventually it will mean the unionization of the entire U.S. auto industry.

Bruce Raynor is the general president of Unite Here, a union of 465,000 workers in the apparel, textile, laundry, food service, distribution, hotel and gaming industries.

Democratic Talk Radio 2008 Villain & Hero Awards

12.19.08

Democratic Talk Radio 2008 Villain & Hero Awards

Political villains were rampant in 2008. It was impossible to give a single award for the injustices committed for solely political reasons this past year. For the first time ever, Democratic Talk Radio was unable to even narrow the infamous winners to just two. We have selected three “Villains of 2008” to share the award.

Our first choice is obvious. Fox News wins the first 2008 villain slot for their disinformation campaign against ACORN. The efforts of Fox News to provide political cover for Republican efforts at voter suppression during the 2008 elections were, in the opinion of Democratic Talk Radio, the lowest thing ever done by Fox News.

The second winner for 2008 political villain is George McGovern. Fans of Democratic Talk Radio may be surprised by this choice. Frankly, we never expected to be giving a former Democratic Presidential candidate a villain of the year award. However, McGovern has lent his name to the Right-Wing, corporate effort to undermine workers’ right to unionize. George McGovern has allied himself with the anti-worker efforts to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act. His TV commercials are frankly an open act on working Americans. McGovern has disgraced himself by joining with the most anti-working class political forces in America and misleading the American public on the nature of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Senate Republicans out to destroy the American auto industry and the United Auto Workers union are our third villainous winners. Senator Corker of Tennessee, Senator Shelby of Alabama, Senator McConnell of Kentucky, Senator Vitter of Louisiana and their fellow Senate Republicans put the interests of foreign corporations over the interests of the American economy. Since all were opposed by the United Auto Workers in previous elections because of their militantly anti-worker voting records, their efforts are obviously motivated by personal political considerations that directly undermine the national interest. These Senate Republicans have sided with foreign companies to drive down the wages and healthcare benefits of American workers.

The hero of the year selected by Democratic Talk Radio is Al Franken. The American nation should be delighted at his political courage and determination. By insisting that all the votes be counted in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, Franken has set a good example for all candidates running for office and for American voters. American Democracy has been strengthened by his resolve.

Al Franken will be a great asset should he eventually prevail when all the votes are finally counted. Norm Coleman has been very aggressive in his attempts to undermine a free and fair counting of the ballots.

For more information, contact Stephen Crockett at 443-907-2367.

AFGE “INSIDE GOVERNMENT WITH WARD MORROW ” radio show expands to new stations

12.19.08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Dec. 19, 2008

AFGE LOCAL 1592 TO SPONSOR “INSIDE GOVERNMENT WITH WARD MORROW ” IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

Program to Air Sundays on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM

WASHINGTON—“Inside Government with Ward Morrow ,” the radio show produced by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the nation’s largest federal employee union, will begin airing on Sunday, Dec. 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM. The program, which will air Sundays at 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time, is sponsored by AFGE Local 1592. Local 1592 represents workers at Hill Air Force Base.

“’Inside Government with Ward Morrow” is a great way for Local 1592 to have its issues, such as the fight against the National Security Personnel System, heard in Salt Lake City. The hard-working men and women at Hill Air Force Base are proud to serve their country, and Local 1592 will continue to fight just as hard to protect worker rights as workers do to protect our country. We are thrilled to have an opportunity to sponsor “Inside Government” in Salt Lake City, and look forward to the launch of the program on KSL Newsradio,” said AFGE Local 1592 President Troy Tingey.

“Inside Government” is hosted by AFGE Assistant General Counsel J. Ward Morrow. Programs are archived on the Federal News Radio Web site and can be heard on demand (available anytime) at http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=300 or http://www.afge.org/insidegovernment or on Saturdays from 6AM to 7AM on WMAC News Talk 940 in Macon, Georgia . Please note there will be a short advertisement prior to the start of the program. The program is also available via iTunes podcast by clicking here. Users must install iTunes on their computers before accessing “Inside Government” via podcast.

For more information, please e-mail InsideGovernment@afge.org or go to http://www.federalnewsradio.com.

###

“Inside Government with Ward Morrow ” is a one-hour weekly nationwide radio/Internet program dedicated to issues that impact federal and D.C. government employees. The show airs each Friday at 10:00 a.m. on Federal News Radio 1500 AM in Washington, D.C. or on Saturdays at 6AM on WMAC News Talk 940 in Macon, Georgia and online at http://www.federalnewsradio.com. It is also available to 70 million iPod users through Apple’s iTunes podcast. “Inside Government” is produced by The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the nation’s largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.