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01-22-2005, 01:28 PM
Facts and Frequently Asked Questions about Unionbusting

What is Unionbusting? The term unionbusting describes the planned course of action to stop workers from organizing a union or to destroy a union already in the workplace.

Who are Unionbusters? Unionbusters are professional consultants or lawyers, who may represent a legal consortium or consulting firm. These individuals or firms advertise their ability to manipulate the labor law system and specialize in advising employers on how to thwart union organizing drives or how to decertify unions. Unionbusters usually self-identify as ‘union avoidance firms,’ ‘management consultants,’ or ‘labor consultants.’

What do Unionbusters Do? Unionbusters offer legal services, advice and consultation, training seminars, workshops and materials for management and supervisors, and a variety of targeted anti-union propaganda for distribution to employees, including videos, posters, leaflets, flyers and giveaways. Unionbusters’ sophisticated advice, training and materials help an employer create a sense of dissension and division among employees during an organizing campaign and spread misinformation about the union before workers vote in a union representation election. Additionally, “consultants advise management on how to stall or prolong the bargaining process, almost indefinitely—bargaining to the point of boredom…”1

Why Haven’t I Heard of These Firms? Unionbusters operate under the radar intentionally. Unionbusters often provide material and instructions behind the scenes while the employer’s management and middle-management/supervisory staff carry out the actual communications with workers. In this way, the unionbuster does not deal directly with employees and, as a result, may avoid having to disclose financial reports about such activity to the U.S. Department of Labor. The unionbuster’s name or firm is not used or referenced in the anti-union materials distributed to employees, further masking the unionbuster’s involvement in orchestrating the anti-organizing campaign. More importantly, the anti-union company is rarely called on to divulge that it hired a unionbuster or reveal the specifics of such expenditures. Therefore, without a paper trail, unionbusters are hard to detect, underreported, and not in the public eye.

Who Uses Unionbusting Firms? 75 percent of employers facing a union organizing drive hire anti-union consultants.2

How Successful are Unionbusters? It is no coincidence that as the unionbusting industry has grown, the rate of union membership has declined. A unionbuster recently profiled in FORTUNE magazine had ‘won’ 32 of 35 organizing drives in 2003 for his clients.3 Unionbusters even go so far as advertising their rates of success. One firm, Labor Relations Institute, now boasts a money-back guarantee on its website: “If your organization purchases an LRI Guaranteed Winner Package and the union becomes certified, the Labor Relations Institute will refund the full cost of the package.”4

Seven Sophisticated Unionbuster Techniques: Read below for descriptions of common tactics and materials designed by anti-union consultants to get rid of unions.

• Supervisors as Frontline Soldiers: Supervisors, who themselves have no legally protected right to be represented by a union, are manipulated into delivering anti-union letters, speeches, and informal chats prepared by unionbusters, essentially doing the dirty work of the unionbusters and management.

• One-on-One Meetings: During organizing drives, 78 percent of workers are forced to attend closed-door or isolated meetings with supervisors.5 These aren’t friendly impromptu chats, but well-planned meetings to decipher employees’ feelings about the union and persuade them against the union.

• Captive Audience Meetings: So-called ‘captive audience’ meetings are held for employees during work hours to disseminate propaganda against union representation and to attempt to discredit the union. Employees are almost always required to attend, but union organizers may be intentionally disinvited. Often, the meetings are rigged so that workers who are already against the union are assigned to ask questions to sow misinformation.

• Delay: Unionbusters often attempt to delay union representation elections by legal maneuvers so they have more time to implement other tactics needed to increase tension, dissension and the employer’s chance of winning the election.

• Divide & Conquer: The unionbuster creates opportunities and crafts persuasive messages to make employees feel that there is a tense division among staff concerning the union election. They may go so far as to pit one group of employees against each other, based on race or ethnicity.

• Letters, letters, letters: A unionbuster’s specialty is hammering out materials—be it cartoons, leaflets or management correspondence—to make the case against the union. 92 percent of companies involved in organizing drives mail anti-union materials to employees’ homes.6

• Love offerings: In order to convince employees that they don't need a union, unionbusters may advise clients to provide indirect bribes, like unexpected increases in wages or benefits or ‘feel good’ measures like free food and lottery tickets.

Additional Resources on Unionbusting:

Read news articles
View reports and studies

Lizzy Borden
01-24-2005, 10:08 PM
First Energy actually issued books to our managers in short on how to bust unions.

What cracks me up is they replace the management people with the Ohio bosses and try to bust us down. They are meeting resistance big time.

They violate the union contract intentionally because they know it will cost the union lots of money to fight the issues they know they are dead wrong on. We have so many arbitration cases pending now which are all contract violations. The company has lawyers working for them. They know we pay dearly for ours. They have already held out on Met-Ed on the overtime case and filed an appeal the last day even though they knew they would have to pay in the end.

The only reason they do this is to cost the union more money. We raised our union dues. $5.00 a week just for arbitration cases. I will pay more if I have too because it all comes out in the wash at the end.

01-24-2005, 10:25 PM
Well The First Thing That I Have Done Is To Become More Familiar With Union Busting Tactics, Then I Have Tried To Influence Others To Wake Up By Explaining The Anti Union Tactics, But I Also Believe Our Leadership Needs Some Education.
Maybe Not All The Way Up Top But Starting At The Local Level And Getting Our Stewards Trained On How To Be Better At Fighting Our Greivences And Standing Up For Our Contract.holding Our Ba's Accountable.
We Need To Clean Up Alot Of Vague Portions Of Our Contract So They Are Not Open To Personal Enterpretation.
And Fight Every Contract Violation As If The Corporate Nazi's Were Trying To Steal Your Kids.
Cut These People No Slack Every Safety Rule Needs To Be Followed And I Mean Every One, From No Peeing In The Side Box To Asking For Written Procedures On Doing Jobs We've Been Doing Without Thinking For Our Whole Careers.
Whie In Meetings With Management Dont Give Them A Clue As To How To Better Manage The Job. Your The Boss How Do You Want Me To Do It?
I See Our Fight As Nothing Less Than An All Out War.
Will We Wake Up In Time Or Will We Vote In More Two Tier Work Groups And Give More Work Away To Non Union Contractors?
Will We Continue To Say Boy I Sure Am Glad That They Are On Strike And Not Me, Or Will We Realize That There Fight Is Our Fight?

01-25-2005, 09:21 PM


$14.5 Million FLSA Verdict: Could It Happen To You?
A case involving basic Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") violations, such as not paying for meal breaks worked and inadequate recordkeeping, typically doesn’t generate too much attention. However, when the case involves a $14.5 million dollar verdict and requires back pay to some 1500 employees, employers need to pay attention. The decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Reich v. Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation, Nos. 95-6207(L), 95-6239(CON), 7/31/97, clearly demonstrates the severe consequences that can result from an employer’s misapplication of the basic principles of the FLSA. The following discussion of the case presents the problems employers can have in applying the FLSA and gives practical suggestions for protecting your organization from a similar verdict.

The Facts

Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation ("SNET") had a policy of not paying for meal periods taken by its approximately 1500 "outside craft workers" who were required to remain at open work sites during their lunch breaks. These employees work primarily on-site, out-of-doors performing such duties as installing and replacing telephone poles and cables and cable splicing and repair. SNET required these employees to spend their lunch break at their work sites to secure the area and its equipment and to prevent possible harm to the public. These unpaid lunch periods generally lasted 30 minutes. Employees who left the work site during the shift without specific permission could be disciplined. The Department of Labor ("DOL") filed a suit against SNET on behalf of the 1500 employees, alleging FLSA violations of overtime and recordkeeping requirements.

Remaining On-Site Does Not Trigger Pay; Work Does

The key question in the case against SNET was whether the meal periods should have been paid time because the employees were required to remain on-site and had to perform certain duties during these breaks. To evaluate the claims, the Second Circuit relied on the DOL’s regulations interpreting what time must be paid as working time under the FLSA. In particular, 29 C.F.R. §785.19 does not require employers to pay for "bona fide meal periods," defined as meal periods when the employee is completely relieved from all work duties while eating. The meal period still may be unpaid if the employee is required to remain on the work site, as long as the employee does not have to work during the period. Accordingly, the fact that the SNET employees were required to remain on-site during their lunch breaks by itself did not impose an obligation on SNET to pay for the breaks. Rather, the determining factor for the court was whether the employees were required to "work" as defined under the FLSA.

The court applied the "predominant benefit standard" in its determination that the SNET employees were required to work during their meal breaks. According to this standard, if the employee performs activities that are predominantly for the benefit of the employer during a meal break, the break must be paid. The court rejected SNET’s argument that the employees’ safety and security roles were "wholly passive" so that the breaks were predominantly for the benefit of the employees. The court noted that SNET would have to pay others to perform the same services and, therefore, was "effectively receiving free labor." As a result, the time spent during these meal breaks should have been paid.

Recordkeeping Violations Muddy Payout Calculations

The determination of back pay and overtime for the 1500 workers was complicated by the fact that SNET could not present evidence of either the precise amount of work performed by the employees or evidence to refute the DOL’s calculations of what was owed to the employees. The Second Circuit pointed out that under the FLSA, "when an employer fails to keep adequate records of its employees’ compensable work periods ... employees seeking recovery for overdue wages will not be penalized due to their employer’s recordkeeping default." The burden is on the employer to present evidence of the time worked. Since SNET could not meet its burden, the court affirmed the lower court’s reliance on the DOL’s calculations, which included $88,893.33 in overdue wages, $4,823,884.60 in back pay, and $9,647,769.20 in liquidated damages.

Good Faith Defense Not Established

SNET challenged the almost $10 million awarded in liquidated damages claiming that it had acted in "good faith" and, therefore, should have the damages reduced. The "good faith" defense may apply when an employer acts, or fails to act, in good faith and if it had reasonable grounds for believing that the act or omission was not a violation of the FLSA. The Second Circuit pointed out that to establish good faith, the employer must produce "plain and substantial evidence of at least an honest intention to ascertain what the Act requires and to comply with it." The court emphasized that good faith "requires more than ignorance of the prevailing law or uncertainty about its development." Based on this definition, the court determined that it was not sufficient for SNET to claim good faith because it did not purposefully violate the FLSA, employees did not complain about the practice, or SNET complied with industry-wide practice.

Lessons for the Rest of Us

This case provides several basic lessons about FLSA compliance that all employers can follow to limit exposure to wage and hour claims:

If you require employees to work during lunch, you must pay for the break. However, you can require employees to remain on-site during lunch periods without having to pay them.

To determine whether a meal break should be paid, consider who receives the "predominant benefit" of the break period. If employees can use the time for their benefit and do not perform work, then employees generally do not have to be paid. It may be prudent to pay for any meal break that requires even the appearance of performing work for the employer.

Sloppiness in recordkeeping will only hurt the employer. This case makes it very clear that courts will err in favor of employees and rely on the workers’ recollections or the DOL’s calculations regarding what should be paid time if the employer does not keep adequate records. It also underscores the importance of appropriately categorizing what time should be considered paid working time to prevent these types of violations.

Misunderstanding the FLSA or doing what "everyone else does" is not a defense against violations. Employers have an affirmative duty to attempt to understand the FLSA’s requirements and to comply with them, even if no employee has ever complained. As SNET found out, the complaint can be initiated from outside the organization.

For further information on the FLSA and pay, meal break, and recordkeeping requirements, see Chapter 207, Hours of Work.

01-27-2005, 08:39 PM
Court halts threat of rail strike
Restraining order prevents engineers from job action in dispute with LIRR over non-union workers

January 27, 2005

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Long Island Rail Road engineers yesterday, preventing them from going out on a threatened strike.

Railroad officials sought the court order yesterday to avert a strike by engineers who threatened to walk if the railroad used non-union labor to move trains in a maintenance yard.

"We will respect the judge's order," said Vincent O'Hara, the engineers' attorney. "But this is not over until they decide the merits of the case."

Another hearing is set for Feb. 18, but the railroad can start using non-union labor to move the trains in the meantime. The judge's action halted the strike before it happened.

Robert Evers, general chairman of the engineers union, said, "We respect the law, we continue to respect the law, and we'll be guided by the judge's decision."

LIRR spokesman Brian Dolan said the railroad also will pursue its position in court. "We're pleased our customers are not subject to any strike threats and that normal operations on the Long Island Rail Road" will continue, he said. Dolan wouldn't say exactly when Bombardier employees would start moving the equipment, except that it would be "very soon."

Attorneys for the railroad and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen argued in chambers for hours in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn before Judge Allyne R. Ross.

The union contends the railroad violated its contract by agreeing to allow employees of Bombardier, the Canadian M-7 train manufacturer, to move trains for warranty work at a maintenance yard in Long Island City. However, the railroad argued that it has the right to use Bombardier employees to move trains in the Arch Street Yard under a warranty. The railroad leased the yard to Bombardier for the warranty work.

Yesterday the union also sought court action to stop the railroad from using the outside labor. Evers said it qualified as a major dispute under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, which permits strikes only after extensive mediation. Union attorneys said yesterday the judge did not make a determination yet about whether the dispute was major or minor and that the issue would be heard on Feb. 18.

The railroad has requested that the issue go to arbitration, but Evers said the railroad also refused to meet with the union.

"Look at all the time that's wasted when they could have met with us and worked this out," Evers said at the courthouse yesterday as the union's attorneys continued to talk with the judge behind closed doors for more than four hours.

An illegal, one-day wildcat strike by engineers in May 1995 stranded thousands of commuters before engineers were ordered back to work by a judge.

Commuters and politicians at the time blasted the union's tactics, accusing the engineers of using commuters as pawns.

01-30-2005, 10:50 PM
PBGC to Protect Pensions at Murray Inc.

WASHINGTON—The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation today announced it will assume responsibility for the pensions of about 4,500 workers and retirees of Murray Inc., a maker of outdoor power equipment based in Brentwood, Tenn.

“The PBGC is stepping in because Murray’s two pension plans face abandonment after the company liquidates,” said PBGC Executive Director Bradley Belt. “The PBGC will pay retirees’ monthly benefit checks without interruption, up to legal limits, and will ensure other employees receive benefits when they are eligible to retire.”

Murray Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on November 8, 2004. The bankruptcy court will hear a motion to approve the sale of Murray’s assets on Jan. 20. In the event that an asset purchaser assumes the company’s pension plans and makes up the missed contributions, PBGC would withdraw its notice of intent to terminate the plans.

The Murray Inc. Pension Plan for Hourly Paid Employees and The Murray Inc. Employees’ Retirement Fund Plan are 53 percent funded, with $131 million in assets to cover $246 million in promised benefits. The PBGC estimates it will be liable for about $103 million of the $115 million shortfall. The pension plans ended as of January 19, 2005.

Under federal pension law, the maximum guaranteed pension at age 65 for participants in plans that terminate in 2005 is $45,613.86 per year. The maximum guaranteed amount is lower for those who retire earlier or elect survivor benefits. In addition, certain early retirement subsidies and benefit increases made within the past five years may not be fully guaranteed.

After the PBGC becomes trustee of the Murray Inc. pension plans, expected within several weeks, the agency will send trusteeship notification letters to all plan participants. Until then, participants with questions about benefits or who wish to retire should contact the company’s pension plan administrator. Those with questions about the pension insurance program may consult the PBGC Web site, www.pbgc.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-400-7242. For TTY/TDD users, call the federal relay service toll-free at 1-800-877-8339 and ask for 800-400-7242.

The PBGC is a federal corporation created under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. It currently guarantees payment of basic pension benefits earned by 44 million American workers and retirees participating in over 31,000 private-sector defined benefit pension plans. The agency receives no funds from general tax revenues. Operations are financed largely by insurance premiums paid by companies that sponsor pension plans and by investment returns.

02-02-2005, 06:44 AM
Declaring War On Wal-Mart

Critics have had a field day with Wal-Mart stores Inc. (WMT ) in recent years, coining the term Wal-Martization to slam it for everything from alleged sex discrimination to poverty-level wages. The world's largest retailer finally got so fed up that it launched a 100-newspaper ad blitz in January to get out the message that "Wal-Mart is working for everyone." Advertisement

Far from calming the critics, however, Wal-Mart's move has been more like blood in the water -- particularly to organized labor, which is gearing up to launch what's likely to be its most ambitious effort ever against any company. The centerpiece: a massive national campaign to spotlight Wal-Mart's employment practices.

The aim isn't to unionize the retailer's 1.6 million workers, although that's still a long-term goal. Instead, the AFL-CIO intends to exploit Wal-Mart's image problems to drive away some business -- enough, it hopes, to get the Bentonville (Ark.) company to alter its policies. "This will be an effort by the entire labor movement," vows AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard L. Trumka. Wal-Mart spokesperson Sarah Clark denies that the company's low prices depend on low wages. "Evidently [labor leaders] feel they gain an advantage by making us look bad with a new publicity campaign," she says.

Labor's plans come as Wal-Mart is vulnerable on several fronts. The company's stock price has remained virtually flat for five years, due in part to Wall Street's disappointment at the retailer's single-digit same-store sales growth. And all the negative publicity has hurt Wal-Mart employees' morale. As a result, some shoppers now find them less friendly and courteous than they were in the late '90s, says Chris Ohlinger, CEO of Service Industry Research Systems Inc., a market research firm that conducted a study on Wal-Mart customer attitudes. Says Wal-Mart Director of Investor Relations Pauline Tureman: "There are probably people who've made the decision not to shop at Wal-Mart because of the public criticism, but we can't quantify it."

Given this backdrop, unions could inflict real pain. The AFL-CIO is planning an effort modeled on its powerful get-out-the-vote political machine. Headed by a veteran labor and Democratic politico, Ellen Moran, it aims to engage hundreds or even thousands of union members to do mailings, phone banks, and work-site visits to convince labor households and, later, the public, that Wal-Mart undercuts living standards. The campaign won't call for a boycott, but labor leaders say focus group studies they've done show that some people may shop elsewhere if told of Wal-Mart's actions.

The campaign will be bolstered by a nonprofit umbrella group, the Center for Community & Corporate Ethics, founded late last year by the Service Employees International Union with $1 million in seed money. Its goal: to coordinate Wal-Mart's disparate critics, from women's groups to environmentalists. "Wal-Mart hurts small merchants, destroys habitats, and increases profits at the expense of local communities," says Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope,a center board member.

Wal-Mart's low prices remain irresistible, especially to the working poor who labor aims to help. Even so, if all its critics gang up, the company could have its hands full protecting its image.

02-03-2005, 06:36 PM
Fact Sheet #22: Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

This fact sheet provides general information concerning what constitutes compensable time under the FLSA. The Act requires that employees must receive at least the minimum wage and may not be employed for more than 40 hours in a week without receiving at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for the overtime hours. The amount employees should receive cannot be determined without knowing the number of hours worked.

Definition of "Employ"
By statutory definition the term "employ" includes "to suffer or permit to work." The workweek ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer's premises, on duty or at a prescribed work place. "Workday", in general, means the period between the time on any particular day when such employee commences his/her "principal activity" and the time on that day at which he/she ceases such principal activity or activities. The workday may therefore be longer than the employee's scheduled shift, hours, tour of duty, or production line time.

Application of Principles
Employees "Suffered or Permitted" to work: Work not requested but suffered or permitted to be performed is work time that must be paid for by the employer. For example, an employee may voluntarily continue to work at the end of the shift to finish an assigned task or to correct errors. The reason is immaterial. The hours are work time and are compensable.

Waiting Time: Whether waiting time is time worked under the Act depends upon the particular circumstances. Generally, the facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait (which is work time) or the facts may show that the employee was waiting to be engaged (which is not work time). For example, a secretary who reads a book while waiting for dictation or a fireman who plays checkers while waiting for an alarm is working during such periods of inactivity. These employee have been "engaged to wait."

On-Call Time: An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer's premises is working while "on call." An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee's freedom could require this time to be compensated.

Rest and Meal Periods: Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry (and promote the efficiency of the employee) and are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked. Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer's rules, and any extension of the break will be punished. Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.

Sleeping Time and Certain Other Activities: An employee who is required to be on duty for less than 24 hours is working even though he/she is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy. An employee required to be on duty for 24 hours or more may agree with the employer to exclude from hours worked bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping periods of not more than 8 hours, provided adequate sleeping facilities are furnished by the employer and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep. No reduction is permitted unless at least 5 hours of sleep is taken.

Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs: Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.

Travel Time: The principles which apply in determining whether time spent in travel is compensable time depends upon the kind of travel involved.

Home To Work Travel: An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his/her home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home to work travel, which is not work time.

Home to Work on a Special One Day Assignment in Another City: An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.

Travel That is All in the Day's Work: Time spent by an employee in travel as part of his/her principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.

Travel Away from Home Community: Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee's workday. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days. As an enforcement policy the Division will not consider as work time that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.

Typical Problems
Problems arise when employers fail to recognize and count certain hours worked as compensable hours. For example, an employee who remains at his/her desk while eating lunch and regularly answers the telephone and refers callers is working. This time must be counted and paid as compensable hours worked because the employee has not been completely relieved from duty.

Where To Obtain Additional Information
This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.

For additional information, visit our Wage-Hour website: http://www.wagehour.dol.gov and/or call our Wage-Hour toll-free information and helpline, available 8am to 5pm in your time zone, 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.

U.S. Department of Labor
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210 1-866-4-USWAGE, TTY: 1-877-889-5627
Contact Us

02-05-2005, 05:09 PM
The Union Miners' Cemetery: Mount Olive, Illinois

As Moslems go to Mecca, there is a Shrine in Illinois that deserves a pilgrimmage by all labor-minded persons. It is the Union Miners' Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois.

It offers no miraculous visions or cures; but each one who visits will be touched, for this is the resting place of that "grandmother of agitators," Mary "Mother" Jones; and this is a place filled with the spirit of good union men. They are the coal miners she called "her boys," among whom she asked to be buried at the time of her death in 1930, at the age of 100.*

Beyond the wrought iron gate to the little burial ground rises a granite obelisk on which is a great medallion bearing the likeness of Mother Jones. She is guarded on either side by a larger-than-life bronze statue of a coal miner with his sledge. At the base is a simple stone nestled in the grass, Mother Mary Jones.

Among the tombstones in the Union Miners Cemetery is that of "General" Alexander Bradley, surely the most flamboyant figure in all of labor history. Bradley got his military nickname as a reference to his service in Coxey's Army, that fabulous cross-country march of the unemployed which culminated in a march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 1894.

Home again in Mt. Olive, Bradley became a self-appointed organizer for the United Mine Workers of America, which had scarcely 400 members in Illinois at that time. Yet, Bradley and a handful of area miners resolved at a secret meeting in the woods to join in a nation wide strike called by the UMWA for July 4, 1897.

With Bradley at their head, the miners marched to coal camps in Belleville, Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Collinsville exhorting the men to "pour the oil from their lamps" and join the strike, which they did.

Wearing his favorite outfit, a top hat and Prince Albert coat, an umbrella in hand, "General" Bradley took the train, alone, to DuQuoin, 75 miles away. Again, his eloquence (and perhaps his appearance) was rewarded. DuQuoin's miners agreed to join the strike.

The Union Miners' Cemetery is linked to an episode in the strike known as "The Virden Riot," in which four Mt. Olive men (and still others from nearby towns) were killed in a shoot out with mine guards on October 10, 1898, as a train carrying 180 black strike-breakers recruited from the south, attempted to pass through a band of armed strikers, and reach safety within a fortified stockade at Virden.

The mine guards, imported from St. Louis, were better armed and had the advantage of the stockade. The firing was intense, lasting about ten minutes. The train's engineer was wounded and he returned to Springfield, with his cargo still aboard. Dead were seven miners and five guards. Forty other miners and four guards were wounded.

The National Guard arrived several hours later. Interestingly, the next day they turned back a second train carrying strike-breakers, a sensible action for which Governor Tanner was denounced in newspapers all over the state.

The men from Mt. Olive were buried originally in the town cemetery, but the owner of the land objected to the ceremonies and other activities which the miners held there. The Lutheran cemetery was barred to them because that minister denounced the miners as "murderers."

The local union, thereupon, purchased a one-acre site, and the bodies were moved to the new Union Miners Cemetery in 1899. Additional land was acquired in 1902, and again in 1918 and 1931, in order to accommodate the monument which was dedicated on October 11, 1936.

After several years of fund raising and legalistic maneuverings as a result of schisms in the UMWA, the title to the cemetery was lodged in the Progressive Mine Workers The cash raised for the monument was $16,393.25. All of the labor involved was donated. It stands 22 ft. high on a 20 x 18 ft. base. It is built of 80 tons of pink Minnesota granite. The name of the sculptor is lost from the record.

The dedication was, itself, a monumental event. Five special trains and 25 Greyhound busses brought celebrants to Mt. Olive. Others came in private cars or hitch-hiked to the town. The crowd was estimated at 50,000. There were 32,000 in the line of march.

Senator Rush D. Holt of West Virginia, the state in which Mother Jones had been court-martialed and imprisoned during the 1912 Cabin Creek Strike, was a speaker. North Dakota Congressman William Lemke spoke. The socialist leader from Springfield, Duncan McDonald was a speaker, too. The dedication was recorded for the newsreels by Pathe' News. There was a broadcast by radio station KMOX, St Louis.

For many years, Miners Day, October 12 (Columbus Day), was the occasion for a big gathering in Mt. Olive and a visit to the Monument. With the years, however, interest began to flag. A renewed concern for the Cemetery and the traditions connected to it has been revived in recent times. A Springfield-based organization, the Friends of Mother Jones, holds an annual Saturday night event, with a Sunday motorcade to Mt. Olive. For information write to Jack Dyer, Mother Jones Foundation, Box 20412, Springfield, IL 62708.

In Mt. Olive, itself, there is an on-going effort by the Mother Jones Jubilee Committee to raise funds for monument maintenence and a museum. They hold an annual craft and food fair, and sell collector's items, a cup for $5.00, and a tee-shirt for $13.00. Also available is a cancellation commemorative stamped envelope for $3.00. Write to the Jubilee Committee at PO Box 185. Mt. Olive, IL 62069. These folks have the dedication, but they need help.

The present owner of the Cemetery is the Union Miners Cemetery Association, the Progressive Miners of America having turned over the deed to the Association, said to be composed largely of elderly ladies.

The Union Miners Cemetery appears in the National Register of Historic Places, a list maintained by the United States Department of Interior.

*Chicago, November 12, 1923

A Special Request to the Miners of Mt. Olive, Illinois:

"When the last call comes for me to take my final rest, will the miners see that I get a resting place in the same clay that shelters the miners who gave up their lives of the hills of Virden, Illinois on the morning of October 12, 1897 [sic], for their heroic sacrifice of [sic] their fellow men. They are responsible for Illinois being the best organized labor state in America. I hope it will be my consolation when I pass away to feel I sleep under the clay with those brave boys." - Mother Jones

{The above document was filed for the record in the Macoupin County seat in Carlinville, Ill. on January 9, 1924 at 2:56 P.M.]

[Much of this article is based on information found in a piece by Dr. John Keiser, which appeared under the title: The Union Miners Cemetery: A Spirit-Thread of Labor History in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Autumn, 1969. The complete text of the Keiser article was published as a pamphlet by the Illinois Labor History Society in 1980 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Mother Jones, November 30, 1930. That pamphlet is out of print.]

02-07-2005, 07:10 PM
Democrats should look for the union label

Click here
By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist
Published February 6, 2005


Sen. John Kerry may think that having an Osama bin Laden videotape air on the weekend before the election lost him the presidency, but it was something else entirely. The Democratic Party's anemic showing can be summed up in two words: union members. Or, to be more precise, the lack of them.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of working Americans who belong to a labor union declined again last year. It stands at 12.5 percent, and if you remove public sector employees the percentage falls to 7.9. These numbers represent the lowest level of unionization in 60 years - far below the highs in the 1950s when 35 percent of the workforce was unionized.

Had just a small additional percentage of Americans been union members, Kerry would have been the one throwing the $40-million inaugural party.

Of course, not every member of a union is also supportive of Democratic candidates. The Teamsters broke ranks with the rest of labor in 1980 and endorsed Ronald Reagan for president. But union members are generally more educated on worker-related issues, and that strongly favors Democrats. If, in the last election, bread-and-butter issues such as jobs, the minimum wage, overtime pay, tax fairness, Social Security protection and health care were eclipsed by the war on terrorism, Iraq and "values" concerns such as gay marriage, then it was union members who uniquely kept their eye on the prize.

A postelection survey conducted for the AFL-CIO by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that 65 percent of union members voted for Kerry, while only 33 percent supported Bush. But the analysis gets more intriguing as it is broken down. For example, gun owners nationally voted for Bush over Kerry by 20 percentage points. But if those gun owners were also union members, they voted for Kerry by a 12-point margin. White men were for Bush over Kerry by 18 percentage points, but white, male union members preferred Kerry by 21 points. And Americans who go to church weekly voted for Bush over Kerry by 21 percentage points. Add in the union factor and they were for Kerry by 12 points.

So there it is. Create a union member, and there's a good chance you've grown a Democrat as well.

This has not been lost on Republicans. According to Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, the Bush administration has been "extremely hostile to the rights of workers and their unions."

One of Bush's priorities has been to strip federal employees of workplace and organizing rights. Employees in U.S. attorneys' offices, federal airport screeners and employees at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency have had their rights to unionize unilaterally terminated in the name of national security. And at the Department of Homeland Security, newly completed rules will sharply curtail the rights of the 180,000 employees to bargain collectively.

In the meantime, the manufacturing sector, labor's lifeblood, has been decimated over the last 4 1/2 years with the loss of 3-million factory jobs.

A corollary to the decline in labor's fortunes has been the rise in obscene corporate executive compensation. In 2003, the pay gap between CEOs of large companies and average workers topped 300-to-1. In 1982, it was just 42-to-1.

Unions used to be the countervailing force, demanding that management share the wealth of a company with its workers. Today, with the threat of unionization remote and with employers such as Wal-Mart union-busting without apparent consequence, employers are free to compensate workers poorly while spreading the company's profits among its executives and Wall Street.

Even workers in corporate jobs are watching helplessly as their once-generous health insurance and defined-benefit pension plans are slashed or eliminated without their input. In 1980, 35 percent of American workers were enrolled in a pension. That number stands at 20 percent today.

It is time for the labor movement to reassert itself in a big way and with Democratic help. That includes promoting the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give employees trying to organize significant new legal protections from retaliation. It would also allow for the certification of a union based on the collection of employee authorization cards without the need for an election that may be delayed by an employer for months or years.

Workers who are unionized are far better educated on issues affecting their lives and how politics affects those issues. That's why they vote Democratic in great majorities. Kerry lost, primarily, because union membership keeps declining. This should be the organizing principle for Democrats going forward.

[Last modified February 6, 2005, 00:22:15]

02-07-2005, 07:48 PM
Well, I wonder how the Teamsters felt after Reagan fired all of the striking air traffic control (federal) workers. Also, be careful where you shop...I don't shop at Walmart, but I used to belong to Sam's Club not knowing it was Walmart at first (I know, pretty dumb). Anyway, now I do my bulk shopping at Costco because they treat their employees well and pay them well, and shop at a unionized grocery chain. I drive a Ford, and patronize smaller stores rather than chains whenever possible. Think how your actions affect your future!

02-08-2005, 02:46 PM
These guys would do anything to please Wall Street. Knee pads anyone? And oh - they're on drugs too. Good thing they kept down those office expenses!
Witness in WorldCom Trial Cites Earnings Pressure

Published: February 8, 2005

Filed at 1:33 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- The former finance chief of WorldCom testified Tuesday that CEO Bernard Ebbers regularly pressured him to meet revenue and earnings targets to please Wall Street.

Scott Sullivan, the government's star witness at Ebbers' fraud trial, said the former chief frequently talked to him about Wall Street expectations and how WorldCom stock was performing.

"The source of the pressure was Bernie, and the source of the pressure was also the marketplace,'' said Sullivan, testifying for a second day under questioning from a federal prosecutor.

Sullivan said WorldCom adjusted some of its revenue figures, such as credits for overbilling, with the goal of meeting Wall Street analysts' growth expectations.

On Monday, Sullivan described Ebbers as directly involved in the $11 billion accounting fraud that sank the telecommunications giant into the nation's largest ever bankruptcy.

Sullivan also said his boss was so fanatical about cost control he once complained employees were stealing coffee from the office.

Sullivan testified Monday that he had personally cooked the books at WorldCom to bring expenses, revenues and earnings per share in line with Wall Street estimates.

Asked who else was involved with the crime, Sullivan listed "Bernie'' first, along with four other former WorldCom executives who have pleaded guilty. WorldCom changed its name to MCI Inc. after emerging from bankruptcy protection in April.

"We did not disclose these adjustments,'' Sullivan said. "We did not talk about these adjustments, and the information was false.''

Sullivan is the linchpin of the federal case against Ebbers, who is accused in a federal indictment of fraud, conspiracy and false regulatory filings -- charges that carry up to 85 years in prison upon conviction.

Sullivan described a boss who was obsessed with holding down expenses, sometimes insisting that executives drive the seven-hour trip from Atlanta to Jackson, Miss., rather than fly.

And Sullivan said Ebbers once told him, "There's more coffee filters than coffee bags, and that means employees are taking coffee home.'' Sullivan said Ebbers had the company coffee service canceled.

Another witness who testified Monday, Brady Connor, who was an internal revenue analyst for WorldCom, went even further in his description of Ebbers' attention to minor expenses.

He said Ebbers once complained at a meeting about coffee filters, too-long smoking breaks and suspiciously long walks that employees were taking around a large pond, walks that Ebbers called a drain on productivity.

At the same meeting, Connor said, Ebbers claimed he was having a security guard at a WorldCom office near Washington, D.C., "mainly fill up the bottled-water machines with tap water, and the employees didn't know the difference.''

The story prompted quiet laughter in the courtroom and what appeared to be small smiles from the judge, the lead federal prosecutor and even Ebbers.

Sullivan called Ebbers a hands-on manager with a "good grasp of accounting concepts'' and an eye for finances that far exceeded CEOs and CFOs of other companies that Sullivan encountered in his years at WorldCom.

Ebbers' office at company headquarters in Mississippi was littered with thick stacks of revenue papers, printed specially for Ebbers on green-bar paper, on which the CEO would scribble and highlight, Sullivan said.

In the first 10 minutes of his testimony in Manhattan federal court, Sullivan admitted having used marijuana and cocaine repeatedly during the years he worked at WorldCom, although never during work hours.

He also admitted a 1984 drunken-driving citation and said he did not disclose it or the drug use during a Department of Defense clearing process he underwent in 2000 or 2001.

The questions from the prosecution appeared to be designed to head off similar questions expected from the defense, which the judge has said will also be allowed to question Sullivan about marital infidelity.

The description of Ebbers as a manager is key because the prosecution and defense differ sharply on how involved Ebbers was in company finances. The defense has portrayed him as a visionary who left the numbers to Sullivan.

Sullivan pleaded guilty last year and agreed to testify against Ebbers, hoping his cooperation might win him a lighter prison sentence.

In addition, Sullivan must also eventually forfeit the proceeds from the sale of a house he is building in Boca Raton, Fla., where he lives -- an estate expected to fetch $10 million.

02-09-2005, 06:56 AM

Jonathan Tasini is president of the Economic Future Group.

This is the third of a series of bi-weekly columns by Jonathan Tasini called "Working In America."

Far from the headlines and with little fanfare, corporations spend huge sums of money and resources to attack workers and frustrate their desire to exercise basic democratic rights at work. Corporate America has created a multi-billion dollar industry of anti-union lawyers and consultants who abuse Americans every day by twisting or breaking the law, which, in theory, gives people the right to democratically vote for a union. This union-busting industry, operating outside the public eye, has become the tool that has successfully made a shambles of a national policy that declared collective bargaining a social good and, as the Wagner Act declared in 1935, recognized the right of workers to "self-organization, to form, to join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through the representatives of their choosing."

Some resort to the stereotypical head-bashing you might conjure up from movie images of the past"Rueben Cepeda, a worker fired for union organizing at a company called Chef Solutions (owned by the German airline, Lufthansa), was scheduled to testify against the company before the National Labor Relations Board when a man appeared at his home, showed him a pistol and threatened him and his family. "He said that if I wanted to keep living and if I loved my daughter and my wife, I better control myself. Because if you don't you're gonna die," he recalls.

But, mostly these modern-day Pinkertons inflict pain not with brass knuckles, but with psychological warfare aimed at creating a war-like atmosphere and dragging out conflict in the workplace as long as possible. The first thing a company does, when workers start organizing, is hire an anti-union consultant, who often is simply a lawyer inside a large legal firm. This isn't like looking surreptitiously for a professional killer"these guys hide in plain view. Try it yourself"type in "union avoidance" in Google and see how many options you get, all presenting their wares on sophisticated Web sites. There are more than 7,000 attorneys and consultants across the nation, who make their living attacking workers and their unions, billing at rates of up to $1,500 per day.

Inside the workplace, the consultant glides around generally behind the scenes. They offer packages"a company may just want a video on how to scare workers with a threatened plant closing. Kentucky-based Adams, Nash, Haskell and Sheridan, for example, charges $12,500 for a set of slide presentations to show employees, who are forced to attend "captive audience" meetings. Or maybe the company wants to train supervisors how to play good cop with workers ("we really care about what you think" or offer Powerball tickets to workers who participate in company-sponsored meetings ) or bad cop ("if you vote for the union, you'll be starting from the beginning in terms of pay," a false assertion). Or maybe it's as simple as working the ignorant press to demonize the union. The basic goal is to create fear and doubt"every hour of the day, every week, every month until the workers give up.

When Fred's Inc, which runs 500 low-cost department stories across the southeastern United States, wanted to defeat workers at its distribution center in Memphis, it went out and hired The Kullman Firm. In short order, the womens' bathrooms were not stocked; distribution center workers were barred from using the company dining area; workers were prohibited from drinking water at their workstations; and they were forced to watch an anti-union video featuring an African-American man gambling on the street. Despite those tactics, in May 2002, the workers, essentially all non-Anglo, voted 276-117 to join UNITE.

But, the story had just begun. The company filed objections to the election with the National Labor Relations Board, the government agency charged with enforcing labor laws. Everyone of the objections was thrown out, mainly because the company's witnesses were not credible. The company appealed"and the case is still pending (a typical problem in the grinding NLRB bureaucracy). And the workers, who exercised their democratic rights on the job, still wait for a chance to bargain for their livelihood"more than one year after their vote. Fred's best friend? Delay, delay, delay"the key weapon in the arsenal of the union-buster.

Out in Petosky, Michigan, Northern Michigan Hospital brought in The Fishman Group to declare war against more than 400 nurses who had voted to join The Teamsters. By dragging out the negotiations on a first contract, the hospital forced a strike, which has now dragged on for more than a year, becoming the longest nurses' strike in the nation's history. An independent panel's report, just issued in the past few days, is highly critical of the hospital's intransigence, which, the report says, endangers patient care. "They had no intention of negotiating a contract and they hired him to do make sure that never happened," said Sharon Norton, a Teamsters business agent.

And, then, there is the ugly fight at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina, where 6,000 workers slaughter 34,000 hogs a day to produce retail pork items at the largest such plant in the world. The company's union busters have lead a campaign over several years that includes threats to close the plant, interrogations, surveillance and firings. The company has its own private police force, with a holding cell. During one recent campaign, they used riot-clad police during the election. The workers are still trying to gain a union.

Universities have gotten into the anti-union consultant game, too. Brown University, Tufts, and the University of Massachusetts (using public funds, by the way) have all hired Seyforth Shaw, a real nasty actor. New York University hired Proskauer Rose, a huge corporate law firm. Since universities try to project a good image, it's a little harder to fire workers so the university-type campaign usually is focused on one goal: delay, delay, delay.

Why do these companies"all in different industries"do this? Because they can violate the law, either in its letter or spirit, and get away with it. They can walk right up to the line of what the law permits, and either stop or cross the line. Either way, they face no serious penalty or remedy that can return a poisoned atmosphere to normal. I've grown tired of headline-seeking officials who will, belatedly, rough up a few people for insider trading yet do virtually nothing to corporate leaders and managers, and those who do their bidding, who violate the nation's labor laws and arguably damage the economic well-being of the country far more than Martha Stewart. And, for those who don't cross the legal line, there is no public outcry about the workplace terror they wage against workers.

The toll of the war against workers waged by these anti-union consultants and lawyers, though unnoticed because it cannot be counted in a one-day tragedy, is high"deaths of workers because of dangerous working conditions, inadequate pay and benefits that leads to inadequate health care and a shortened life-span and, finally, relentless trauma in the place"the workplace"that should afford not fear, but dignity and respect.

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Published: Oct 10 2003

02-10-2005, 07:07 AM
Washington, D.C.

Aceco, LLC, is one of the Washington D.C. area’s largest demolition and asbestos remediation contractors. Unfortunately, it also also specializes in demolishing its own workers’ rights.

“I took this job because I needed the work,” says Gerardo Serrano, 43, who was at the company for four years. “I worked eight to ten hours a day for $6.50 an hour. General demolition is very dangerous, and at Aceco it was more dangerous because the company didn’t provide protection. In the time I worked there, I saw 10 accidents – people hurt their arms, legs, hands. Twice, people died. Once, my hand got stuck between the jackhammer and the wall. It wasn’t broken, but I had to work with it swollen for two weeks, because if I didn’t, I didn’t get paid. I went on my own to a clinic because the company had no medical benefits. None. Meanwhile they were getting bigger and bigger jobs. But we weren’t getting any raises. When older workers asked the owner of the company, he told them they would take the money they were getting or hit the road.”

Anyone who signs a union card is out of here

In July, 2002, 25 of Aceco’s 180 workers – virtually all young immigrants – met with organizers from the Laborers’ International Union and signed authorization cards. The next day, at a company safety meeting, workers were told that “anyone who signs a union card is out of here.”

“Well, I support the union, and I signed,” one worker replied. Within a day he was fired; another another union supporter was canned a few hours later. When attempts to get the company to negotiate failed, workers voted to go on an Unfair Labor Practices Strike. (Through a National Labor Relations Board settlement, the first worker fired eventually won over $12,000 in back pay.)

Organizers went to work. Soon, two-thirds of Aceco’s workers had signed union authorization cards, and an election was scheduled for October 25, 2002. In came the $450 an hour union-busting firm. Fliers came with every paycheck: Here’s what the union can promise you: nothing… At mandatory once-a-week meetings workers were told that if the union won the election, the plant would close; that if they joined they union, they would be fired. “You’re new to the country, you don’t speak English,” supervisors said. “Who else will want you?” At the same time, at some work sites, wages shot up by as much as $2.00 an hour.

The election that wasn’t

The election was ugly. While workers stood in line at the main Aceco office, supervisors watched. “A government official will be there checking your I.D.,” the immigrant workers had been told. At least 20 were so intimidated they left without voting at all.

The union lost. The $2.00 an hour raises disappeared. Responding to union charges, the NLRB ordered a new election. But by the time it was held, nearly a year later, the union’s key supporters were gone. “I was laid off a week after the first election,” says Gerardo Serrano. And once again, the effort to unionize went down.

Serrano recently started a new, union, job. “It feels better,” he says. “The relationship between supervisor and worker is different. Both are people. And I’ve got better wages, plus dental, medical, medicine, vision, retirement benefits. I’m working in peace.” At Aceco, nothing’s changed. But eventually it will, organizers say. Whatever happens, they aren’t going to give up.

02-13-2005, 05:38 PM
Union Busters work
through Managers and S upervisors.
What is a union buster? A union buster is a firm or individual hired by an
employer to thwart a union organizing drive by employees.
Why do Companies hire union busters? One simple word . . . control. With a
Union, employers lose the ability to totally control the workforce, since employees
collectively gain rights with a union.
Why don't we hear about the union buster? This is one of the ways a union
buster operates - behind the scenes. If you get letters signed by management that
imply bad things happening with a union, you can bet that letter was written by a
union buster. Also, if a union buster is engaged in direct dealing with employees, the
union buster has to file financial reports with the U.S. Department of Labor.
Employers do not want public knowledge of their expenditures to the Union busters.
How does the union buster operate? A union buster seeks to achieve two things:
One, to create a sense of dissention and division among employees during an
organizing campaign; and, two, to spread the greatest amount of misinformation
about the union possible before an NLRB election.
What are some of the tactics used by the union buster?
♦ Use of Supervisors -
Supervisors are the employer's de-organizing committee in the workplace.
Supervisors are made to feel personally responsible if the employees in their
department vote for the union. Since in most unorganized companies, employees
have no knowledge about unions, the union buster puts fear into the supervisor by
implying that his job will be impossible with a union, and if he doesn't do everything
possible to keep the union out, his job may be in jeopardy.
♦ Delay -
A union buster will delay the NLRB election by legal maneuvers as long as possible.
Such tactics as contesting the voting unit sought by the employees, unwillingness to
schedule a quick hearing, delay in giving the union the required list of employees
until forced to, and opposing any settlement offered by the employees and their
union. The union buster knows that the longer he can delay the election, the greater
chance that he can place fear in employees, and can win the election for the
♦ One on One meeting -
The union buster will have supervisors meet with employees one on one to seek out their
union sentiments. The supervisors have the job of convincing employees that the union
will be bad for the company.
♦ Captive audience meetings -
A union buster will have the employer meet with large groups of employees to
discredit the union. Usually, there will be plants in the meetings asking questions
prepared in advance by the union buster to sow misinformation about the union.
♦ Division -
The union buster will make employees feel that there is a tense division among
employees concerning the employee election for a union. Employees will be led to
believe that this tension will continue forever if a union is chosen by the employees.
♦ Shadowing -
A union buster will target employees who he knows that he can sway against the
union. The union buster will then have supervisors "shadowing" or constantly
overseeing that employee to cause fear in that employee about his or her job.
What can I do about the union buster's tactics?
Remember, the union buster plays off of an employee's lack of knowledge about a
union. Employees can do several things to counter the union buster:
• Ask the Company if they have hired a union buster -
Ask the employer's representative whether they have hired a "consultant" to work
for them to "educate" employees about the union. Ask the employer how much they
are paying the consultant. Employers don't want you to know that they have hired
someone to interfere with your rights to organize a union, and you will make them
nervous if they have to answer this question. Most union busters charge anywhere
from $750 to $2,000 per day plus expenses for their services.
• Document -
Have as many employees as possible document everything that a supervisor or
manager says to employees, whether to a group of employees or an individual
employee. A union buster will often times violate the law in what he says about the
• Ask Questions -
If a supervisor makes an implied threat, ask the supervisor or manager point blank
what he or she is trying to say. The employer cannot legally make direct threats to
employees about union organization.
• Ask for the information the union buster presents in writing -
Remember, the general, vague information that supervisors and managers are giving
you comes directly from the union buster. Ask management for the information that
they are presenting to you in writing.
• Protect and support each other -
If a supervisor is shadowing an employee, band together for support. A union buster
can only be effective in creating fear if the employees let him. If employees stand up
to the union buster, he cannot be effective.
• Ask the Union -
If you have questions about what the union buster is having management say,
contact the union for answers.
You can beat a union buster at his own game by
sticking together!
Source: Confessions of a Union Buster, Martin Jay Levitt- Copyright 1993 Crown
Publishers, Inc.

02-14-2005, 06:02 PM
12-foot rat balloon ruled a legitimate labor protest

By Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writer

A 12-foot-tall inflatable rat scratched out another court victory Friday in Cincinnati.

The rat is a giant balloon at the center of a legal battle between the city of Fairfield and union members who inflate it during labor protests.

City officials say the oversized rodent is a safety hazard and a violation of zoning rules. The union says the rat is a symbol of labor protest and is protected by the First Amendment.

In a 2-1 vote Friday, a panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati sided with the union and upheld a lower court decision that allowed the union protests to continue.

Majority judges said the rat balloon is constitutionally protected expression.

"The First Amendment right of expression is not unlimited," said the city's lawyer, John Clemmons.

He said he will recommend that Fairfield City Council seek a full court hearing on the case and possibly an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case started two years ago when members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers inflated the rat on a sidewalk outside the Fairfield Ford auto dealership on Ohio 4. The union was protesting workplace practices at the dealership.

02-14-2005, 08:58 PM
N.Y. again tops in percent of unionized workers
One-quarter of workers throughout New York state belongs to a union, the highest percentage of any state according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The figures are based on 2004 and reveal that 25.3 percent -- just under 2 million employees in New York state -- hold membership in a union. The government said that is up from 24.6 percent in 2003.

New York is one of four states with a union membership rate over 20 percent, followed by Hawaii (23.7 percent), Michigan (21.6 percent), and Alaska (20.1 percent). All four states have had rates above 20 percent every year since data became regularly available in 1995. Four states reported union membership rates below 5 percent in 2004 topped by North Carolina and South Carolina at 2.7 and 3 percent, respectively. Those two states have had the lowest union membership rates each year, the labor department reported.

Across the nation in 2004, 12.5 percent of wage and salary workers were union members, down from 12.9 percent the previous year. Studies indicate union membership has steadily declined from a high of 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.

The median weekly rate of pay for full-time unionized workers last year was $781, compared with a median of $612 for non-union workers.

Also, the report said nationwide, workers in the public sector had a union membership rate more than four times that of private-sector employees.

Other findings in the labor department report:

In 2004, the union membership rate was higher for men (13.8 percent) than for women (11.1 percent), though the gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983, when the rate for men was 10 percentage points higher than the rate for women;
Blacks were more likely to be union members (15.1 percent) than were whites (12.2 percent), Asians (11.4 percent), or Hispanics or Latinos (10.1 percent);
Union membership rates were highest among workers 45 to 54 years old (17 percent) and were lowest among those ages 16 to 24 (4.7 percent).

02-18-2005, 07:19 PM
PSEG Represented Employees Ratify New Six-Year Contract
Friday February 18, 1:57 pm ET
Agreement provides stability for employees and customers

NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) announced today that three of its four New Jersey unions ratified a new six-year collective bargaining agreement.

The agreement was approved by a majority of members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 94, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 855 and the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153. The three unions represent about 5,100 of PSEG's 6,400 bargaining unit employees in the company's electric and gas utility, fossil and nuclear stations and corporate shared services. Members of a fourth union, the Utility Workers Union of America, will vote on a new contract agreement next week.

The agreement provides for wage rate increases of 3.25 percent in each of the next six years, effective immediately. The current six-year contract was set to expire on April 30, 2005.

"The agreements reflect the strong relationship and spirit of mutual respect between PSEG management, union leadership and represented employees," said E. James Ferland, chairman and CEO. "I want to commend both management and union leaders for reaching a fair agreement well before the contract was set to expire. This kind of stability is not only good for employees, but good for the company and its millions of customers who rely on us to provide safe, reliable energy services day in and day out."

02-22-2005, 10:50 PM
Union zaps Con
Ed for bonus cut


Con Edison workers are furious with the utility for scrapping an obscure work rule that allowed employees serving in the military to earn an extra pay hike.
Union leaders say the workers should still get a chance to make the extra 35-cent-an-hour increase - part of an incentive program - while fighting abroad. But the company says the union signed off on the contract, scratching the old work rule.

"We're just flabbergasted by this," said Manny Hellen, president of Local 1-2 Utility Workers Union of America, which represents 8,500 Con Ed workers in the New York area.

A Con Ed spokesman stressed that workers make their full salary while serving their country - and blamed the protest on union politics. "The company won't get involved in intraunion disputes," said Chris Olert, the Con Ed spokesman.

The new rule is included in a contract that the company and union ratified last year and went into effect Jan. 1, 2005. It disqualifies workers serving in the military - or on long-term jury duty - from a pay hike that's tied to what's called "productive work hours," an incentive for employees who work a set number of days per year.

"We're being penalized by our company that doesn't mind bragging about us but won't do anything about it," said Salvatore Franzese, a Con Ed splicer who spent a year in Iraq with his National Guard Unit between 2003 and 2004.

Franzese, a married father of two from Mahopac Falls, Putnam County, said he didn't qualify for this year's wage increase because of the time he spent in Iraq. "This is ridiculous," he said.

Starting tomorrow, workers are planning to hand out flyers at subway stations to protest the new policy. They're asking the public to show its support for workers by slipping two pennies into their bills along with checks as a way to give their "two cents" to the management at Con Ed.

Originally published on February 21, 2005

03-04-2005, 09:13 PM
Managers Discuss
Lineworker Shortage
Duncan Kincheloe

Electric utility managers from cities across the state met
August 3 to exchange ideas on recruiting and retaining skilled
lineworkers. The broad attendance at the special gathering in
Columbia reflected the concern in many systems about a
growing difficulty in staffing for line services. The issue is
not unique to municipal utilities. A national electric coop
publication recently characterized lack of skilled personnel as
a greater threat to utilities than deregulation. Demand for
these workers has led to substantial wage competition in some
Several participants in the MPUA meeting said that other city
workers and job applicants no longer apply for lineworker
positions as frequently as they once did. The consensus was
that utilities need to recognize the special skills, training, risks
and working conditions that differentiate a lineman.s job from
many other positions. Those factors produce a job market for
linemen that is difficult for some cities to accommodate within
their ordinary job classifications and pay structure.
Representatives of some smaller cities reported that wage
levels necessary to retain qualified lineworkers are probably
higher than most pay scales in their communities, and utilities
are concerned about public reaction to paying wages at that
level. Other managers pointed out this will often produce a
high turnover rate that can cost more in recruiting, training
and other expenses than the cost of higher wages.
Meeting participants were also concerned that high turnover
produces a less experienced staff to perform functions that are
essential to electric systems and can be highly dangerous to
inexperienced personnel. Many were surprised to hear of
some utilities that have no lineworker beyond the apprentice
level and suggested that managers and board members need to
be sensitive to potential liability in the event of accidents. At
least three injuries to linemen were reported in Missouri
during August.
In addition to evaluating wage levels, suggested actions
included adoption of more flexible hours and working
conditions and improved equipment and benefits. Some cities
also said that emphasizing municipal retirement benefits can
help with staff retention. Paul Hauser of Kirkwood described
his experience in managing a joint staff that served two
neighboring municipalities in North Carolina. There was
interest in examining areas where this might work in Missouri
to improve efficiency, pay and staffing. Use of contract help
was also discussed , as was the possibility of having the
Electric Commission employ lineworkers that could be
permanently assigned to a city or region in a contract
arrangement. The consensus was that other measures should
be attempted at the local level before pursuing the contract
Recruitment and training issues were also topics of the
dialogue. There was agreement that hiring from the local
community improves chances of retaining an employee, and
opportunities to capitalize on high school and vo-tech .career
days. were discussed. Other discussion focused on building a
stronger relationship with the lineworker program at Linn
State Technical College, continued expansion of the MAMU
Apprentice Program and other training programs that could be
developed by the Alliance.
The group decided that the first area to concentrate primary
attention should be in providing information to utility
managers and board members about the broad nature of the
challenge in retaining experienced lineworkers and recruiting
and training new ones.

03-06-2005, 08:30 AM
Tanya Frazier, the office manager of a 50-person payroll management company in Burbank, Calif., received a call last September from the elementary school her daughter attends, telling her to pick up her flu-stricken 9-year-old.

But when she stayed home from work the next day to care for her daughter, she was fired.

Just why is a matter of dispute. Ms. Frazier said she was shocked, because she had missed work only a handful of days that year. Her boss, Jerry Schwartz, said in an interview that he was tired of her taking so many days off.

Now Ms. Frazier's case and others like it are being used by a Seattle-based coalition known as Take Back Your Time and various advocacy groups to argue for more paid time off for American workers. Saying that too many workers feel overstressed by demands on their time, the groups are calling for a broad shift in attitudes that would allow Americans to devote more time to their families, to spirituality and to their communities.

Take Back Your Time and its allies are seeking legislation in 21 states to give workers paid sick days or paid family leave to take care of infants or seriously ill family members. In Washington State recently, the group earned a preliminary victory when committees in the House and Senate passed a bill calling for five weeks' paid family leave for workers, which would be financed by having workers pay a tax of two cents per hour worked, about $40 a year.

Take Back Your Time is optimistic about a victory in Washington State, but it is less confident about winning on paid family leave in many other states. If the group makes progress in several states, its leaders say they plan to begin pushing state legislatures to guarantee workers three weeks of paid vacation each year.

Women's groups are also promoting paid family leave and paid sick time. Spurred by the National Partnership for Women and Families and by 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women, several dozen Democratic members of Congress are planning to introduce a bill this month that would guarantee workers seven paid days off each year for when they or their children are ill.

"A lot of people are shocked when they hear that almost half the work force doesn't have paid sick days," said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. "There's something about paid sick leave that's almost as American as baseball and apple pie."

The groups argue that these are rare issues that can unite liberals and conservatives: those on the left interested in better working conditions and those on the right who want to promote family values.

"These are issues that cross party lines," said John de Graaf, national coordinator of Take Back Your Time, a left-leaning coalition of public health specialists, family and women's groups, environmentalists, union members and church groups. "There's a lot of potential Republican interest. This is completely about family values. People need time to have strong marriages, strong families and strong communities. When people don't have enough time, families can break down."

Liberals and conservatives are finding that they share common ground when it comes to changing attitudes on issues like having parents spend more time with their children. But for liberals, earning conservatives' support for legislation mandating vacations or paid sick days is not easy, making the battle in Congress and in many states an uphill struggle. Conservatives' corporate allies generally oppose such proposals. "Our members are decidedly against mandates from the federal government," said Patrick Lyden, a lobbyist with the National Federation of Independent Business.

Catherine H. Myers, executive director of the Family and Home Network, based in Virginia, said a preferable solution, instead of enacting mandates, would be for parents to quit or to reduce their paid employment to spend more time caring for their children. "When we consider what our children really need, how can we afford not to give them our time?" Ms. Myers said.

The Bush administration and many conservatives favor a different approach to helping overstretched workers: a bill on comp time that has failed in the past two sessions of Congress. Under current law, most employees who work more than 40 hours a week must be paid time and a half, but under the proposal, an employee who works more than 40 hours in one week could choose between overtime and comp time.

Many Democrats and labor unions oppose the bill, saying that it would cut workers' wages by pressuring them to give up paid overtime and that it would give managers too much control over when employees take comp time.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American workers put in 1,792 hours on average in 2003 - three full-time weeks more than British workers and nine weeks more than French and German workers.

United States Census data point to increased stress on women. The average middle-class married woman works 500 hours, or 12.5 weeks, more per year than in 1979.

"The No. 1 concern that women have today - even more than security - is a lack of time," said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster.

Take Back Your Time and the Massachusetts Council of Churches worked closely last fall with the Lord's Day Alliance, an Atlanta-based group, to urge congregants through fliers and sermons to take "four windows of time" over a month to relax and spend time with their families.

"We're very concerned about the 24/7 commercialization of our society and people feeling stressed from working so many hours," said the council's executive director, the Rev. Diane Kessler.

The Lord's Day Alliance, which has long promoted observing the Sabbath, helped finance the campaign and hopes to spread it to other states.

"The needs are the same whether you're poor or rich, Republican or Democrat. You need time to be set aside," said Tim Norton, executive director of the Lord's Day Alliance. "From a Christian perspective, from purely a religious perspective, we believe that the Bible clearly teaches, Old Testament and New, that God created this rhythm of life that must include down time, a time to set aside and basically stop."

W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who has written extensively about evangelicals, said bridging the divide over how to give Americans more time will not be easy.

"Many hard-working, rank-and-file evangelicals would support legislation guaranteeing paid sick days or paid vacations," Professor Wilcox said. "But evangelical leaders will not go along with these ideas because their close allies in the business community are so firmly against it."

Todd Rakoff, a professor at Harvard Law School who has written about Americans' time squeeze, said, "There is something here that could be bridged, but someone has to grab hold of this issue and figure out a way to make political capital out of it."

03-11-2005, 06:37 AM
Wal-Mart Pushes for Longer Trucker Days

Associated Press Writer

March 8, 2005, 3:38 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- Wal-Mart and other retailers are lobbying Congress to extend the workday for truckers to 16 hours, something labor unions and safety advocates say would make roadways more dangerous for all drivers.

Rep. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican whose district includes Wal-Mart's headquarters in Fayetteville, is sponsoring a bill that would allow a 16-hour workday as long as the trucker took an unpaid two-hour break. The proposal is expected to be offered as an amendment during debate over the highway spending bill on Wednesday.

"Truckers are pushing harder than ever to make their runs within the mandated timeframe," Boozman said. "Optional rest breaks will reduce driver layovers and improve both safety and efficiency."

Current rules limit drivers' workdays to 14 hours, with only 11 consecutive hours of driving allowed, union leaders and safety advocates say. That gives truckers three hours to eat, rest or load and unload their trucks.

Critics of the proposal accuse Wal-Mart of trying to fatten its profits by forcing truckers to spend more time waiting at the loading dock without getting paid.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters "hasn't gotten one complaint from drivers saying they don't have time for a break or a meal," the union's vice president, John Murphy, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Joan Claybrook, president of the safety advocacy group Public Citizen, said drivers could end up starting their workday at 8 a.m. and quitting at midnight.

"This is a sweatshop-on-wheels amendment," Claybrook said. "The last thing we need is for tired truckers to become even more fatigued and threaten the safety of those around them on the roads."

The current rule had been struck down in federal court because it didn't take into account truck drivers' health. In October, Congress reinstated the rule for one year. If the Boozman proposal is adopted, it would retain the 16-hour workday regardless of any new rule.

Nearly 5,000 people were killed in large truck crashes in 2003, and those vehicles were three times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than passenger cars, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Wal-Mart spokesman Erik Winborn said the proposal has broad support among the trucking industry and other retailers.

"We support it because we feel it would actually enhance safety rather than hurt safety," said Winborn, whose company employs about 7,000 truck drivers.

Wal-Mart employees were Boozman's top contributors in 2003-04, giving him $48,152 for his re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Wal-Mart and its employees gave $44,500 to Boozman for his first successful bid for Congress in 2001-02, the last year corporations could give to congressional candidates.

* __

On the Net:

Public Citizen: http://www.citizen.org

03-11-2005, 04:48 PM

I want to know when the affiliated unions of the AFL-CIO are going to start conducting informational pickets outside of Walmart locations. It is WAY overdue. What the hell are we waiting for?????

03-18-2005, 04:50 PM
March 18, 2005
Wal-Mart Settles Illegal Immigrant Case

Wal-Mart Stores said today that it had agreed to pay $11 million to settle federal allegations that it had used illegal immigrants to clean its stores.

Wal-Mart acknowledged that it should have had better safeguards in place to prevent its janitorial contractors from hiring the workers. The company said it faced no criminal charges in the case

The $11 million, a company spokeswoman said at a news conference in Washington today, would go to "help enforcement of immigration laws."

In October 2003, federal officials rounded up 250 illegal immigrants at 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states. Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania later informed the company that it was the target of a grand jury investigation into the use of illegal immigrants.

Many of the immigrants, who were hired by janitorial contractors, worked seven days or nights a week without pay or injury compensation, said a New York lawyer, James L. Linsey.

In many states they were locked into the stores all night, he said.

"We believe it's time for Wal-Mart to pay recompense to the people who they exploited for many years, and in many cases locked into their stores in many states," Mr. Linsey said today.

"The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world were shamefully exploited by the richest and most powerful company on the planet."

Mr. Linsey is the lead attorney representing the workers in a civil class-action case that is pending in New Jersey. The governments of a number of countries, including the Czech Republic, Mexico, Poland and Slovakia, have filed briefs in support of the workers.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau has said the workers came from a total of 18 countries, including 90 from Mexico, 25 from the Czech Republic, 22 from Mongolia and 20 from Brazil.

The company said it had used more than 100 third-party contractors to clean more than 700 stores across the country.

Last August, when news of the settlement talks emerged, a spokesman for Wal-Mart said the company was cooperating with prosecutors.

"We reiterate, as we have from day one, that our senior management team knew nothing about the employment practices of the contractors until the government contacted us seeking out cooperation," said the spokesman, Gus Whitcomb.

Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, with 1.2 million domestic workers. It had sales last year of $288.19 billion. :)

03-23-2005, 06:32 AM
Union busting by proxy
DHL has Teamsters seeing red--and yellow

You’ve probably seen the commercials, the flying red-and-yellow vans, and the cheeky tag line “Competition: bad for them, good for you.”

The $100 million-plus ad campaign has helped the Germany-based courier corporation DHL make a run at its bigger competitors, FedEx and United Parcel Service (UPS), and put the company on the map in the United States.

But yellow is not the new brown, at least when it comes to the way it treats its workers.

For example, the DHL driver who comes to your office every week probably doesn’t work directly for DHL at all, but instead works for a subcontractor whose own balance sheet depends on keeping wages down and turnover high.

“We do the exact same work as UPS or FedEx,” explained DHL driver Dave Mix, who makes $9.50 an hour after wearing the DHL uniform for more than a year. But drivers at UPS make upwards of $20 an hour.

That’s one reason Mix and many of his co-workers are trying to unionize with the help of Teamsters Local 150. That means going up against their employers--and also against a vast nationwide contracting system DHL uses to insulate itself from labor trouble.

“This is a multibillion-dollar company, but they are paying their workers a poverty wage,” said Pilar Barton, an organizer with the Teamsters Local 150.

Aside from the poor wages, starting at $8 or $9 an hour, workers for one of DHL’s contractors say they routinely are denied payment for overtime hours worked and are seeking thousands of dollars in back pay.

They also have complained of unfair labor practices stemming from the same contractor’s attempts to keep the union out. One former driver even claims he was fired for wearing a union pin.

DHL and its contractors deny all of these charges. Meanwhile, DHL has gone to court seeking to limit the union’s presence at the Mather Field facility, accusing the Teamsters of trying to intimidate its workers.

DHL Worldwide Express is the largest courier company on Earth, pulling in $50 billion in revenue worldwide. But the company has only begun to make gains on UPS and FedEx in the United States.

Unlike drivers at other major delivery companies, DHL’s employees in Sacramento actually work for labor contractors, not directly for DHL. In fact, nationwide about 60 percent of DHL drivers are employed through independent contractors, according to company officials.

At the Sacramento location, there are three such contractors: GF Trucking, Clark Inc. and Northern Valley Express (NVE).

All of the 50 or so workers at the Mather facility (which is leased to DHL by Sacramento County) wear the same DHL uniforms and drive the same yellow-and-red DHL vans. To the public, they are ambassadors for DHL Worldwide Express.

But DHL appears to take little responsibility for the wage and hour policies of its contractors. Employees at Clark already have won a union election and are getting ready to start negotiating a contract. And the Teamsters say GF Trucking drivers will hold an election this week, on March 18.

But NVE, which employs 26 drivers locally, has been much tougher for the union to crack. And the Teamsters have filed charges of unfair labor practices against NVE owner Jeff Spencer, claiming the use of illegal tactics to keep the union out.

Many of the workers there say that they have been made to attend regular meetings where they watch anti-union videos and that they regularly find leaflets on the bumpers of their vans that are critical of unionization.

But workers were more upset by DHL’s attempts to ban the wearing of union pins and by the firing of one worker who challenged the policy.

In a signed affidavit filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office in San Francisco, former driver Michael Law said that Spencer told several employees to remove their union pins (small pins with the word “union” next to a red check mark) because they violated the company’s dress code. Federal labor laws do protect certain kinds of union activities, such as wearing pins, in many cases. And asking employees to remove a pin can cause sanctions to be brought against a company.

Before removing his pin, Law first asked Spencer if he was being given a direct order.

“He was the only one who challenged me about the pin,” Spencer recalled, adding that he had been told directly by DHL officials in the Sacramento office to make the workers remove their pins.

Later that day, Spencer told Law that he had been seen on security cameras trying to steal a laptop computer, and Spencer fired him.

Law said that he remembered the laptop and that he had indeed failed to scan the laptop into his hand-held tracking device before putting it on his truck. But he said that the item in question had been delivered, near Christmastime, nearly one month before he was fired. He said the timing is no mystery. “There is no doubt in my mind that it was about the pin,” said Law.

Spencer replied that there was more than one incident that aroused the suspicions of DHL managers about Law and that it was “pure coincidence” that Law was fired on the same day that he challenged the no-pin policy.

DHL officials in Sacramento refused to answer questions about the incident, referring SN&R to the company’s U.S. headquarters in Plantation, Fla. There, DHL spokesman Jonathan Baker denied that his company had any policy against wearing union pins. The Teamsters have filed a complaint with the NLRB on Law’s behalf, and since then workers have begun to wear the pins again.

Aside from the unfair-labor-practice charges filed with the NLRB, union officials say they are preparing a lawsuit against Spencer to recoup unpaid overtime.

Several drivers told SN&R that they start as early as 6 a.m. and routinely work 10 or 11 hours in a day but that Spencer will only pay them for nine hours under any circumstance.

“We should all be getting at least two more hours of overtime pay every week,” said driver Laurie House. Union officials said the lawsuit would seek back pay for current and former workers. But, again, Spencer denied the charge. “I pay everybody for at least nine hours a day, whether they work it or not,” he explained.

DHL, for its part, is distancing itself from the actions of its contractors.

“They will need to address it, since those employees aren’t our employees,” said Baker.

While Baker characterized the dispute as being strictly between the contractors and their employees, the company got very involved in the union fight last week, when it took the Teamsters Local 150 to court for “illegal demonstrations” at the Mather Field facility.

On March 3, a delegation of union supporters, mostly from other labor organizations like the longshoremen and hotel workers, went to the DHL station to demand to speak with Spencer about the alleged labor violations.

The group also included representatives from the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and activist Carl Pinkston, co-founder of the Freedom Bound Center. Also among the delegates was Alex Barrios, who attended on behalf of his boss, California Assemblyman Dave Jones.

Jones sent Barrios in support of Law, and the DHL workers generally, when he was told that Law was fired for wearing a union pin. “That’s clearly illegal,” Jones said.

“We are supporting the rights of these workers to organize. Unfortunately, it appears that DHL is not interested in negotiating with these workers and is using some pretty aggressive tactics,” Jones explained.

The NAACP representatives attended the event because of an apparent statement by one NVE supervisor that he didn’t want to hire any more African-Americans because, as Mix related the story, they were “too hard to control.”

03-23-2005, 06:32 AM
The supervisor, who himself is black, refused to confirm or deny the comment. Spencer said that he had indeed heard that statement but that it was being taken out of context. “It was just a lighthearted thing,” Spencer said, insisting that there was no policy against hiring black workers. He said the union was blowing the comment out of proportion “because they are having a tough time [organizing NVE], so they’re just throwing stuff out there.”

“I think it’s racist any way you look at it,” said Mix, who is also black.

The community coordinator for the local chapter of the NAACP, the Rev. Ashiya Odeye, said he didn’t see the humor in the comment and added that he would ask the national organization of the NAACP to stop doing business with DHL.

On the morning of March 3, as the group approached the large roll-up door where the DHL vans enter and exit the facility, a handful of workers inside emerged from behind their trucks to show the thumbs-up sign and shout, “Go union!”

But the door quickly was closed, and within a few minutes, six patrol cars from the Rancho Cordova Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department arrived, filling the DHL parking lot and forcing the pro-union group to a sidewalk far away from the building’s entrances.

Then, on March 8, DHL Worldwide Express sued the Teamsters, asking a Sacramento Superior Court judge for a restraining order against the union.

The complaint accused the Teamsters and their supporters of using “mass picketing” to block trucks from entering and exiting the facility, and said the union’s “unlawful acts constitute a real and substantial danger to public peace and order, and to the physical safety of numerous persons.”

Union supporters said the claim was laughable. “They are just trying to intimidate the union and the community and squelch their First Amendment rights,” said Jason Rabinowitz, a Sacramento attorney representing the local Teamsters.

And the restraining order was denied on March 10, when Judge Thomas Cecil found “a complete absence of evidence” that a restraining order was needed.

But support for the union at NVE is hardly unanimous. Terry Ronzone was one of several NVE workers who contacted SN&R to complain about the union tactics. She called Spencer “the best boss I’ve ever had” and said that she believed the union was being too aggressive, showing up frequently at the DHL facility and approaching drivers at a nearby Shell gas station even when they weren’t welcome.
She also said that the union issue is extremely divisive and has chilled relations between co-workers.

“You can’t even get a 'good morning’ anymore. If you say hi, they just look at you like you’re stoned,” Ronzone explained.

Spencer said he wished the union would direct its ire at DHL and not him. He said the company has a reputation as “the K-Mart of the delivery business.”

“They aren’t attacking DHL; they’re attacking a local guy trying to run a small business. Any problems we have are because DHL is starving the contractors,” Spencer said.

Contractor Ken Clark agreed. Clark’s employees voted to form a union in January. Leading up to the vote, he said that somebody slashed tires on his trucks and even urinated inside a van. “But do I have any proof that it has anything to do with the union? No,” Clark said.

He said that he has long pushed for higher wages for his employees but that he is at the mercy of DHL. “I personally think that a fair wage would be between $12 and $13 an hour, with decent health benefits,” Clark explained.

In fact, he said, when he first bid for his contract with Airborne Express (before the company was bought by DHL) two-and-a-half years ago, he was told his bid was far too high and that he could come up with something more reasonable if he slashed his labor budget.

“They said, 'That’s our business model. It’s based on low wages and high turnover,’” Clark said, adding that the model has continued since DHL took over.

Now that his employees have voted for the union, he said, they are asking for $14 an hour--an impossible target unless DHL agrees to make up the difference in his contract.

He thinks DHL will simply look for another contractor, “and someone else will come in with a bid, based on $9 an hour. And I’ll be out of here.”

Indeed, Clark said he has already given DHL notice that he will walk away from the business unless he can negotiate a contract with the union--and get DHL to pony up more money--by the end of April.

If Clark does leave, which is what he predicts, it isn’t clear what will become of his newly unionized workers. A new contractor wouldn’t be obliged to negotiate with those workers or even keep them around, he said.

“And the strongest union supporters are pretty well-known,” Clark explained. “Don’t you think someone will be whispering in the new guy’s ear, saying, 'Don’t hire Clark’s people. They all voted for the union’?”

All of which leaves DHL, and its drivers--who aren’t really its drivers after all--back at square one.

“Why do you think they use contractors in the first place?” Clark added. “It protects them from liability. And it protects them from efforts to unionize

03-23-2005, 10:05 PM
For more information on Union Busting go to www.djburke.com. The outfit that Exelon paid millions to set up their current shifts and high performance teams and job site reporting. Isolate and Interrogate. Divide and Conquer.

03-25-2005, 06:43 AM
Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB — August 2004

A Legal "Union Avoidance" Strategy for Employers:
The Appeals Process

Workers at Pearson Educational, Inc. in Indianapolis have been in limbo since they voted for union representation six years ago. It all started in June of 1998, when a majority of warehouse and distribution workers chose union representation. Instead of accepting the results of the election and negotiating wages, benefits, and working conditions with its employees, the company chose to appeal, resulting in a delay of bargaining that put off bargaining for years. On July 6, 2004, the appeals process was exhausted, the result of the election was confirmed, and the company was finally ordered to bargain six years after the workers voted for union representation.1

The workers at Pearson (now Macmillan Publishing), a company that distributes educational books, first voted to decide on union representation with UNITE (now UNITE-HERE) in June of 1997. The workers fell just short of demonstrating a majority in favor of union support, but the election was subsequently overturned when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the company's coercive behavior affected the results of the election. A year after the first election, a second election was held, and the workers voted to form a union. But rather than meeting to negotiate with its employees and their union to hammer out a contract, Pearson turned to the appeals process in order to avoid bargaining.

32% of workers lack a collective bargaining agreement one year after voting for union representation.2
The appeal did not dispute the fact that the union won the election—there was no request to recount votes or challenge ballots. Rather, Pearson appealed the second election to the members of the Board, charging that the NLRB Regional Director should not have overturned the first election, and therefore, the second election should not have occurred. When this appeal failed, the company (still refusing to bargain) appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court's decision led the Board to hold a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who then ordered the company to bargain. Yet the workers' wait didn't end there. The company appealed the ALJ's decision, and the case went back to the D.C. Circuit Court for a second time. Finally last month, the Court denied Pearson's appeals and ruled that it had to bargain with the union.

Pearson workers were forced to wait for the election results to be finalized, as lawyers filed papers and clerks set hearing dates and judges heard testimony. Only a handful of those who originally voted for the union are still employed by Pearson. Of those who haven't left the company, many lost hope of improving their work conditions through collective bargaining. Yet the delay isn't over for those who endured the wait. While the Court has finally ordered the company to bargain, the workers won't have a contract until negotiations are complete, which the company could drag out for years.

An employer that wants to avoid bargaining can exercise its legal right to file appeal after appeal, delaying and undermining the employees' right to form unions and to the collective bargaining process. This case demonstrates that these legal forms of union avoidance can be just as effective as illegal tactics.

03-25-2005, 11:56 AM
The Burke Group proudly boasts Exelon as a client on their website along with Baltimore Gas & Electric which is still nonunion.

03-26-2005, 05:59 AM
The National Labor Relations Act

The NLRA was enacted by Congress in 1935. It was hailed at the time and for many years after as the Magna Carta of America labor. Previously, employers had been free to spy on, interrogate, discipline, discharge, and blacklist union members. But in the 1930's workers began to organize militantly. A great strike wave in 1933 and 1934 included citywide general strikes and factory takeovers. Violent confrontations occurred between workers trying to form unions and the police and private security forces defending the interests of anti-union employers. Some historians believe that Congress adopted the NLRA primarily in the hopes of averting greater, possible revolutionary, labor unrest.

The NLRA guaranteed workers the right to join unions without fear of management reprisal. It created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enforce this right and prohibited employers from committing unfair labor practices that might discourage organizing or prevent workers from negotiating a union contract.

The NLRA's passage galvanized union organizing. Successful campaigns soon followed in the automobile, steel, electrical, manufacturing, and rubber industries. By 1945, union membership reached 35% of the work-force. In reaction, industrialists, and other opponents of organized labor sought to weaken the NLRA. They succeeded in 1947 with the passage of the Taft-Hartly Act, which added provisions to the NLRA allowing unions to be prosecuted, enjoined, and sued for a variety of activities, including mass picketing and secondary boycotts.

The last major revision of the NLRA occurred in 1959, when Congress imposed further restrictions on unions in the Landrum-Griffin Act.

Key Provisions

The most important sections of the NLRA are Sections 7, 8, and 9.
Section 7, is the heart of the NLRA. It defines protected activity. Stripped to its essential, it reads:

Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.

Section 7 applies to a wide range of union an collective activities. In addition to organizing, it protects employees who take part in grievances, on-the-job protests, picketing, and strikes.

Section 8 defines employer unfair labor practices.

Five types of conduct are made illegal:

Employer interference, restraint, or coercion directed against union or collective activity (Section 8(a)(1))

Employer domination of unions (Section 8(a)(2))

Employer discrimination against employees who take part in union or collective activities (Section 8(a)(3))

Employer retaliation for filing unfair-labor-practice charges or cooperating with the NLRB (Section 8(a)(4))

Employer refusal to bargain in good faith with union representatives (Section 8(a)(5))

Threats, warnings, and orders to refrain from protected activities are forms of interference and coercion that violate Section 8(a)(1). Disciplinary actions, such as suspensions, discharges, transfers, and demotions, violate Section 8(a)(3). Failures to supply information, unilateral changes, refusals to hold grievance meetings, and direct dealings violate Section 8(a)(5).

Section 8 also prohibits union unfair labor practices, which include, according to legal construction, failure to provide fair representation to all members of the bargaining unit.

Section 9 provides that unions, if certified or recognized, are the exclusive representatives of bargaining unit members. It prohibits the adjustment of employee grievances unless a union representative is given and opportunity to be present, and establishes procedures to vote on union representation.

The NLRA sets out general rights and obligation. Enforcing the Act in particular situations is the job of the NLRB.

03-26-2005, 06:21 AM
The Homestead strike, 1892, in Homestead, Pennsylvania, pitted one of the most powerful new corporations, Carnegie Steel Company, against the nation's strongest trade union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. An 1889 strike had won the steelworkers a favorable three-year contract; now Andrew Carnegie was determined to break the union. His plant manager, Henry Clay Frick, stepped up production demands, and when the union refused to accept the new conditions, Frick began locking the workers out of the plant; on July 2 all were discharged. The union, limited to skilled tradesmen, represented less than one-fifth of the thirty-eight hundred workers at the plant, but the rest voted overwhelmingly to join the strike. An advisory committee was formed, which directed the strike and soon took over the company town as well. Frick sent for three hundred Pinkerton guards, but when they arrived by barge on July 6 they were met by ten thousand strikers, many of them armed. After an all-day battle, the Pinkertons surrendered and were forced to run a gauntlet through the crowd. In all, nine strikers and seven Pinkertons were killed; many strikers and most of the remaining Pinkertons were injured, some seriously.

The sheriff, unable to recruit local residents against the strikers, appealed to Governor William Stone for support; eight thousand militia arrived on July 12. Gradually, under militia protection, strikebreakers got the plant running again. Frick's intransigence had won sympathy for the strikers, but an attempt on his life by anarchist Alexander Berkman on July 23 caused most of it to evaporate. Meanwhile, the corporation had more than a hundred strikers arrested, some of them for murder; though most were finally released, each case consumed much of the union's time, money, and energy. The strike lost momentum and ended on November 20, 1892. With the Amalgamated Association virtually destroyed, Carnegie Steel moved quickly to institute longer hours and lower wages. The Homestead strike inspired many workers, but it also underscored how difficult it was for any union to prevail against the combined power of the corporation and the government.

Stanman, at ComEdy Il.
03-26-2005, 03:50 PM
Hey Hand,
In the NLRA, section 8, The company has quit bargaining in good faith.. At least it would seem a good case. I wonder if our great local leadership has even thought of this with the new lawyers..
I would imagine there is something to keep Co's from trying to break unions????

03-26-2005, 04:58 PM
Stan, dont count on the NLRB to find in your favor....more repoblicans than Dems on the Board in DC, and dubya is anti labor.....

A Section 8 (a) 5 charge aint easy to get...these corporations know how to walk the fine line....

Stanman, at ComEdy Il.
03-26-2005, 06:56 PM
I know 1289! We live everyday as anti-labor personel remind us, that the NLRB is behind them...Maybe the LORD will see a way to take these arrogant demonspawn down.. Cause I don't see anything short of a miracle helping us.
Although, I did read that a consumer watchdog commitee thinks the EXELON, PSE&G merger was a bad idea.. So I guess there's a little hope!!!!

03-27-2005, 09:53 AM
The miracle your looking for has to take place in 3 and a half years...getting the anti labor party out of office!

03-27-2005, 04:08 PM
Also anti-science, anti-logic, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-everything, except religion. And of course, they call the rest of us anti-religion, which is just not true, but it works as a scare or hate tactic...

04-18-2005, 06:50 AM


“If you want to learn ways to keep your facility union free, this course is a must!” -John Evans, Kellogg Company

“If you care about the future of your company, I would highly recommend this workshop.” -J. R. Smith, Senior Human Resources Manager, Dura Automotive Systems

“This seminar was the most informative and valuable one that I have ever attended. I wholeheartedly recommend it.” -Stephen F. Friend, VP & Director of Labor Relations, Henkels & McCoy

“I was afraid to discuss unions at our nonunion company. After this workshop, I’m going to make sure everyone at our company knows we’re going to stay union free!” -Mark Mullen, Chief Financial Officer, Queensgate Food Group, LLC.

“I would definitely recommend this workshop, and I am certainly interested in looking at additional preventative tools.” -Diane Fayard, H. R. Manager, UOP LLC (A joint venture between Honeywell Int’l & Dow Chem. Co.)

“The training is a must for all employers who would like to prevent unionization of its workers, as well as ongoing union communication.”
-Reggie L. Patterson, Applejam

“As a company with no unions, this seminar is the perfect introduction to union avoidance techniques.”
-Clint Hubbard, Chief Administrative Officer, Beaulieu Group LLC

“The interactive examples were terrific and very helpful. I learned tools that I can take back and use tomorrow. This was a terrific seminar!”
-Leigh Catapano, Human Resources Business Partner, Oki Data

“If you want to learn ways to keep your facility union free, this course is a must!” -John Evans, Kellogg Company

“If you care about the future of your company, I would highly recommend this workshop.” -J. R. Smith, Senior Human Resources Manager, Dura Automotive Systems

“This seminar was the most informative and valuable one that I have ever attended. I wholeheartedly recommend it.” -Stephen F. Friend, VP & Director of Labor Relations, Henkels & McCoy

“I was afraid to discuss unions at our nonunion company. After this workshop, I’m going to make sure everyone at our company knows we’re going to stay union free!” -Mark Mullen, Chief Financial Officer, Queensgate Food Group, LLC.

“I would definitely recommend this workshop, and I am certainly interested in looking at additional preventative tools.” -Diane Fayard, H. R. Manager, UOP LLC (A joint venture between Honeywell Int’l & Dow Chem. Co.)

“The training is a must for all employers who would like to prevent unionization of its workers, as well as ongoing union communication.”
-Reggie L. Patterson, Applejam

“As a company with no unions, this seminar is the perfect introduction to union avoidance techniques.”
-Clint Hubbard, Chief Administrative Officer, Beaulieu Group LLC

“The interactive examples were terrific and very helpful. I learned tools that I can take back and use tomorrow. This was a terrific seminar!”
-Leigh Catapano, Human Resources Business Partner, Oki Data

“If you want to learn ways to keep your facility union free, this course is a must!” -John Evans, Kellogg Company

“If you care about the future of your company, I would highly recommend this workshop.” -J. R. Smith, Senior Human Resources Manager, Dura Automotive Systems

“This seminar was the most informative and valuable one that I have ever attended. I wholeheartedly recommend it.” -Stephen F. Friend, VP & Director of Labor Relations, Henkels & McCoy

“I was afraid to discuss unions at our nonunion company. After this workshop, I’m going to make sure everyone at our company knows we’re going to stay union free!” -Mark Mullen, Chief Financial Officer, Queensgate Food Group, LLC.

“I would definitely recommend this workshop, and I am certainly interested in looking at additional preventative tools.” -Diane Fayard, H. R. Manager, UOP LLC (A joint venture between Honeywell Int’l & Dow Chem. Co.)

“The training is a must for all employers who would like to prevent unionization of its workers, as well as ongoing union communication.”
-Reggie L. Patterson, Applejam

Seattle, WA May 5 - 6 REGISTER “As a company with no unions, this seminar is the perfect introduction to union avoidance techniques.”
-Clint Hubbard, Chief Administrative Officer, Beaulieu Group LLC

“The interactive examples were terrific and very helpful. I learned tools that I can take back and use tomorrow. This was a terrific seminar!”
-Leigh Catapano, Human Resources Business Partner, Oki Data

“The information provided needs to be hammered home to people.” -Dick Yerington, Plant Operations Mgr,
The Hon Company

"The workshop was extremely comprehensive in its coverage of union organizing.” -Amy Turner, Sr. HR Business Partner, Cognis Corp.

“Very informative on things that we can do to prevent a union from starting.” -Steve Gentile, Manufacturing Manager, Master Automatic
“Very thorough approach on how to stay union-free. The workshop was filled with data and information businesses shouldn’t be without. Speakers were spectacular! Opened my eyes on many improvements I need to make to support our business. It was great!” -Lavonne Hren, HR Specialist, Dura Automotive Systems

“Going through the sentences legal/illegal, the opportunity to hear points of view, and role playing is very helpful.”
-Carmeda Keen, Human Resource Generalist, Engelhard

“Information was good-Mildred & Kristin were very knowledgeable and passionate.”
-M. Jean Smith, Director Employee Relations, Columbian Chemicals Company

“Very good overview and explanation of do’s, don’t and strategies on this very complex matter.”
-Bill O’Brien, Vice President-General Counsel, Winegardner & Hammons,Inc

04-18-2005, 08:54 PM
What ARE they so afraid of?

Stanman, at ComEdy Il.
04-18-2005, 09:45 PM
I could have my own seminar, and teach them just as much.. God forbid you treat your employees with respect. Pay a fair wage for a job well done! Of course the GREEDY BASTARDS don't want to share the money being generated by all the workers efforts! Never hear them complaining about healthcare benefits being cut? Never hear them complain about cost of living increases? Sick time? Workers comp? 1,000's of overtime hours worked? Hardships to family and yourselves?

If your union they can't use fear tactics as readily, and get away with it! They still use the same sh#tty tools against union shops but can't fire you on the spot! The best way for the GREEDY BASTARDS to make more money is to keep unions from forming! We have a serious fight at ComEdy, with EXELON PIGS trying to break local 15. If local 15 is broken the rest of the country should take notice. I think Exelon is using local 15 and ComEdy as a "guinea pig". to see what they can and can't get away with!!! Gone to the NLRB, if they rule in favor of the company, we're screwed! :eek:

In the end, I guess I'm saying they're afraid of you and me and the AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.. They wish they could bring back slavery! And if the NLRB doesn't help then slavery it is! Corporate america needs a wake up call from all the workers in America..Or soon there will only be 2 classes of people in America!! Corporate A##HOLES and everyone else!

04-18-2005, 10:26 PM
Goddamned A right Stanman. Evidently they took only business courses and not history. If they studied history they'd know what happens to the cult of corporate assholes when they wake a sleeping giant through their contempt of working people and their arrogance. The tsar and the french
(lower case f) aristocracy come to mind.

04-19-2005, 06:34 AM
UNITED AIRLINES: Plans to eliminate employee pension plans going ahead

Written by William Sluis from staff and wire reports
Published April 17, 2005

United Airlines is moving ahead with plans to eliminate employee pension plans because there is no other way to save the carrier the same amount of money despite months of looking for other solutions, Chief Executive Glenn Tilton said.

Tilton said the airline still hopes to exit bankruptcy this fall. The goal can be met even if fuel remains 50 percent more expensive than it was a year ago, he said.

"We are hard at work to make certain that the work that we do is adequate to satisfy the lenders that the restructuring we put in place will be able to accommodate whatever the fuel price happens to be," Tilton said.

Pensions remain the biggest stumbling block to reaching the $2 billion in annual savings that Elk Grove Township-based United says is crucial to its survival. It contends that eliminating all the defined-benefit pension plans would save $645 million per year.

The airline's insistence that terminating those benefits is necessary has been a stumbling block to reaching a dealwith several labor groups. United has proposed replacing existing plans with less costly retirement plans, such as a 401(k).

Watch for: Further fireworks in United's efforts to win labor peace. It will go into U.S. Bankruptcy Court in early May to ask that some of its major union contracts, with flight attendants and machinists, among others, be tossed out.

"The architects of this wickedness will find no safe harbor in this world. We will chase our enemies to the furthest corners of this Earth. It must be war without quarter, pursuit without rest, victory without qualification" -- Tom Delay

04-20-2005, 07:17 PM
No Hard Hats Worn Here
Labor organizers shine a light on nighttime office-demolition abuses

by Tom Robbins

The American labor movement appears headed for a bitter brawl this summer when the annual convention of the AFL-CIO convenes in Chicago in late July. The sharpest debate will be over a demand advanced by several of the nation's biggest unions that labor rededicate its resources to a massive organizing blitz aimed at big non-union shops like Wal-Mart. It's a demand that carries echoes of the feisty organizing drives of the old CIO in the 1930s, when a revitalized union movement fought to extend bargaining rights to unskilled industrial workers. These days, the workers left out in the cold are more likely to be low-wage clerks at big box stores like Wal-Mart, or undocumented immigrants who are increasingly being handed the nation's toughest chores.
But while fierce debate wages within organized labor over how to proceed, some of the unions espousing the grow-or-die strategy are putting their money and energies where their mouths are. One of them is the Laborers International Union of North America, the 800,000-member construction workers organization that is trying to fight its way back from years of corrupt domination by leaders who were cozier with the mob than with their own members.

Last week, the Laborers collected 50 organizers from around the country and turned them loose in the streets of New York to spotlight non-union jobs, while at the same time providing hands-on training for new recruits. Organizers came from Seattle, Cleveland, Miami, and Los Angeles. Part of the strategy, explained David Johnson, director of the union's Eastern Region Organizing Fund, is to utilize rank-and-file members who show on-the-job spunk and smarts, giving them technical training through Cornell University's labor studies program while at the same time providing a trial by fire, sending them into non-union workplaces.

In an exercise that illustrated what unions are up against, as well as the exploitation faced by some workers, the Laborers targeted one chronic headache, a major interior-demolition company called Advanced Contracting. The Manhattan-based firm has long resisted unionization, while handling work at many of the city's biggest and swankiest office buildings.

The union adopted a two-pronged strategy: It put picketers on the street outside the giant 2 Penn Plaza on West 34th Street, where Advanced is carrying out office demolition on several floors, and secretly dispatched two organizers to work for Advanced to check out conditions and employee sentiments.

The union "salts" were Otto Montenegro, 34, and Luis Guanoquiza, 33, members of Laborers Local 79 for the past five years. Virtually all of the workers for Advanced are Latino, the union said, and it was hoped that Montenegro and Guanoquiza, both from Ecuador, could easily blend in.

They had no problem and, within minutes, had decoded a key secret: Most workers aren't employed by the company itself, they reported, but are hired from temporary labor agencies and treated as independent contractors. A supervisor for the demolition firm told them that in order to be hired, the workers needed to first go to a small temp agency in Forest Hills where they could fill out the necessary paperwork. At the R. Friends Cleaners & Services Corporation on Austin Street, the undercover organizers were asked few questions. They were told they should buy themselves work boots and show up at 2 Penn Plaza at 6 p.m. The pay was $7.50 an hour. "Don't worry, easy job, very easy," a clerk at the agency told them.

It wasn't. The work involved pulling down ceilings and walls and ripping out bathrooms. It was hot, dusty, and dark. "There were no lights," said Montenegro. No hard hats were provided, and workers were given only flimsy paper masks and thin gloves. If you get cut, they were warned, bandage it up or go home. Some areas, the men said, were laced with toxic asbestos, which is supposed to be handled only by licensed workers. No water was provided, they said, or time allowed for breaks.

The pace was relentless. One foreman was "a watcher," who made sure no one slacked off, said Guanoquiza. The other was "a pusher" who drove the men to keep working.

The two organizers kept at it over the next three nights, working 11-hour shifts until 4:30 a.m., when they went home exhausted. No overtime pay was offered or provided.

Since the union's incursion into Advanced was as much for its educational benefits as for its organizing possibilities, an executive decision was made after the third day that the job was simply too dangerous to the organizers' health. Otto and Luis were told to approach their fellow workers, offering them union cards to sign. "We figured the other workers would be sympathetic, but too scared to sign up, and that once the foremen saw what was going on, they would just fire our guys," said Johnson.

But when the organizers passed out cards and explained the benefits of a union contract, 17 of the 18 other workers immediately began filling them out. The foremen, however, behaved as predicted. "You causing problems on my job?" said one supervisor, who immediately ordered them to go home. When they asked if he was firing them, the foreman hedged, presumably aware that to fire workers directly engaged in union organizing can be an expensive violation of labor laws if prosecuted. Instead, he called security guards to evict them.

But this too didn't work out as planned. The other workers announced that if Otto and Luis were being booted, they would go as well. About 15 workers took the elevator downstairs where they were met by Johnson and a backup contingent of Laborers members. After a sidewalk strategy session, Johnson and another veteran organizer, Jerry Ball, who heads the union's organizing efforts in Seattle, called one of the foremen to say that the men had walked out in an unfair-labor protest, and were making an unconditional offer to return to work. This too was a tactic, designed to protect the workers' rights if the complaint reached a labor board hearing. The flummoxed foreman wasn't sure what to do. "You'll have to speak to the top boss," he told them.

The day after the protest, the Laborers invited all of the workers who had walked off the job to meet at the nearby offices of Local 79 on Eighth Avenue. Of the seven men who showed up there the next morning, all but one said they had arrived in the country illegally within recent years, leaving homes in Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico. Robert Fuchs, an immigration attorney working with the union, took general histories from each of the men, and explained their options under the law.

All of the workers said they had been dispatched to Advanced by the temp agency, R. Friends, which was listed on their paychecks. No taxes were deducted from the checks and no pay stubs provided. The men said they were told upfront at the temp agency that all hours worked would be paid at the same rate. In what the union said was an apparent dodge of overtime laws, the men received a separate check from another temp agency with the same address as R. Friends covering any hours worked beyond the 40-hour federal limit.

Last week, a woman answering the phone at R. Friends confirmed that Advanced uses workers from the agency but said she couldn't provide any information. Eugene Skowronski, the listed owner of Advanced, did not return calls. Also ducking questions was Vornado Realty, the powerful corporate owner of 2 Penn Plaza as well as many of the city's biggest office buildings. The firm is currently bidding, as part of a partnership with Related Companies, to handle the $600 million transformation of the Farley Post Office into a new midtown train station.

Johnson, the Laborers' organizing director, said there was little surprising about the problems discovered at Advanced: "Abuses of immigrant workers today are like the abuses of unskilled workers in the 1930s that organized labor fought to address. This is the next battlefront."

05-14-2005, 05:04 PM
May 13, 2005

On May 12, members of Local 385 in Orlando and Local 769 in Miami overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year agreement with Atlanta Gas and Light (AGL), ending a 39-day strike against the company.

“This is a great victory for these workers,” said Josh Zivalich, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 769. “By standing firm, they were able to prevail against the company’s hard-line tactics. The company backed down on the biggest issues, like outsourcing. We are really proud of our members.”

The 70 members took action when the company refused to negotiate unless concessions for outsourcing skilled union jobs and virtually eliminating seniority were accepted. They also had concerns about wage, pension and healthcare issues.

The new agreement deals favorably with the workers concerns, providing a no-outsourcing clause and maintaining seniority rights, including a “bumping clause,” allowing senior employees the right to first option on jobs in other departments. Pension, wage and healthcare were addressed as well.

“I said from the beginning that this wasn’t about money, it was about job security and respect for years of loyal service,” said Bill Joynt, a 33-year AGL worker and member of Local 385. “The company finally seems to understand. We were resolved to stay out until they did. Our two locals turned into quite a team.”

In addition to striking the Brevard and Dade County locations, the members went to the annual shareholders meeting held in Atlanta in late April to protest their treatment and voice concerns directly to shareholders.

“AGL had no idea that a group of 70 members could have such an impact on the company,” said Daisy Gonzalez, business agent at Local 769. “They assumed the workers would give up and take what they could get. They were wrong. These guys are troopers—and they made a difference in the company’s attitude and, ultimately, their offer.”

“This strike was not easy on any of us, but we had to do it,” said Lorenzo Menendez, a member of Local 769 and 12-year AGL worker. “The company would have continued to walk all over us if we had not taken a stand.”

Clay Jeffries, business agent at Local 385, noted that one of the biggest benefits was the solidarity and communication that developed between the two locals. He credits the unity for much of their success.

“Before the strike, we barely knew about the situation at the other plant,” said Jeffries. “Now these guys are one strong team. I know they will continue to watch out for each other. That’s a union as it should be.”

Highlights of the contract include the following:

Protection against any type of outsourcing by the company;

Maintenance and protection for all seniority rights, including bumping rights;

Improved grievance procedures, including maintenance of current discipline system;

Changes in healthcare benefits to include all workers in the superior Teamsters health plan;

Wage equity measures for all positions, including increases of up to $2 for lower end workers, and one-time bonuses for top scale workers;

Maintenance of pension benefits; and

Improved general language throughout the agreement.

“This was an important victory, sending a clear message to the company that we won’t be treated like dirt,” said Mike Scott, President of Local 769. “Mike Stapleton, President of Local 385 and I also want to acknowledge the support from UPS, the Teachers Union, the IBEW, and other locals and community groups. It kept the workers motivated and strong through long weeks on the picket line.”

05-17-2005, 09:16 AM
You guys..
I'm an old man.
I remember when the N&W RR was trying to frukk over it's boys. DIDN'T HAPPEN. Different time/ different mentality.. NO CREDIT CARDS etc.. which all you young guys thrive on.
SHIT. I could take a year off, at that time, and never feel a pinch.. Most of us could.

If you guys band together, NationWide.
have the ability to cripple the infustructure of the power grid simply by calling in sick.. I mean THOUSANDS. calling in sick.
Don't you see this ?

that the idiots on the "board" relenquish their "bennies", "perks" and other nonsense or shut them down.
Make them, make it right or THEY can go run the bucket and break out the tool pouch...NOT !

Beware of Azzholes in Cowboy hats.
The fools bowed to Reagan.. Will they bow to the Dumbest PieceA Chit that ever loitered in the White(whore) House ?

Trubbleman for ComEdy
05-17-2005, 04:10 PM
Murdock, I hate to say it, I just maxed out my one and only credit card, I feel terrible about it and it makes me sick about the interest, Im gonna have to make a run on the OT to pay it off. $300.00. :) :D

07-15-2005, 07:31 AM
With such rates of employee retention, Costco’s savings are significant. “It costs $2,500 to $3,000 per worker to recruit, interview, test and train a new hire, even in retail,” said Eileen Appelbaum, Professor at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations. “With Wal-Mart’s turnover rate that comes to an extra $1.5 to $2 million in costs each year.”

Other analysts of the retail industry agree that happier, well-compensated workers help generate bigger profits. George Whalin, president of Retail Management Consultants in San Marcos, Calif., disagrees with many of Wal-Mart’s critics, but said: “There’s no doubt Wal-Mart and many other retailers could do a better job taking care of their employees. The best retailers do take care of their employees — Nordstrom’s, Costco, The Container store — with fair pay, good benefits and managers who care about people. You have fewer employee issues, less turnover and more productivity. It lessens costs to the company.”

Still, Wall Street analysts intent on cutting up-front labor costs tend to frown upon Costco’s model. “Costco’s corporate philosophy is to put its customers first, then its employees, then its vendors and finally its shareholders. Shareholders get the short end of stick,” said Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Dreher.

But Costco’s stock has quadrupled in the past ten years, and has in the past year inched closer to Wal-Mart’s per-share-price. In fiscal year 2004, Costco recorded record sales and earnings. While Wal-Mart continues to profit and expand, its stock has lost value — in recent months it is 16% off its 52-week high — as sales have been more sluggish as gas prices cause customers to cut back on driving to and from the store. The negative publicity around the company has also caused some damage.

Of course, other factors besides low turnover and employee productivity are responsible for Costco’s efficiency. The company has a wealthier customer base than Wal-Mart’s; these customers buy higher-margin goods, purchase in bulk and have steadier spending habits. Costco also saves millions because it does not advertise.

More Than Hot Air
Besides the efficiency of its workforce, another reason Costco can afford to pay more is that it cuts the fat from executive paychecks. The overall corporate philosophy is that workers deserve a fair share of the profits they help generate — not just a pat on the back or a new job title like “associate.”

For example, while CEOs at other major corporations average 531 times the pay of their lowest-paid employees, Sinegal takes only 10 times the pay of his typical employee. His annual salary is $350,000, compared to about $5.3 million awarded to Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott.

After California Costco workers ratified their Teamster contract last March, CEO Jim Sinegal said Costco workers are “entitled to buy homes and live in reasonably nice neighborhoods and send their children to school.”

That the company’s stated ideals match up with workers’ paychecks helps explain employee loyalty at Costco.

Originally from El Salvador, 28-year-old Cesar Martinez has worked at a Redwood City, Calif. Costco for 10 years, serving as a Teamster shop steward for seven years. His pay is now up to $19.42 an hour, which he estimates brings him $43,000 per year.

“There’s a feeling here that the company takes care of its employees and wants to share the profits. We feel compensated fairly,” Martinez said.

“I’ve stuck with it so long because I like the job. And the salary is solid and we have a pension that gives me security into the future. That’s important to me,” he added.

By contrast, some Wal-Mart employees experience the supposed care for “associates” as empty rhetoric. Forty-two-year-old Rosetta Brown, a Sam’s Club employee in Chicago, Ill., for example, stands back each morning when managers and associates gather for the Sam’s Club cheer.

“I refuse to do it,” she said. “I don’t believe the company lives up to what they’re cheering for,” she said.

Rosetta, mother to five children ranging in age from three to 25, does not feel well compensated at $11.34 per hour after five years. She is also suing Wal-Mart, parent company to Sam’s Club, for costs associated with a herniated disc she suffered when she said she was locked in while working the night shift.

Twenty-seven-year-old Jason Mrkwa, who works as a frozen foods stocker in Independence, Kansas, also stands back when it’s cheer time at his store. But he insists he doesn’t hate Wal-Mart: “I’m not another disgruntled employee. I like my job. I just feel cheated with the pay I get.” He started at $7 per hour five years ago, and now makes just $8.53 per hour.

Julie Molina, 38, has worked at Costco’s South San Francisco store for 19 years. “People stick around — most people in my store have been there ten years more. No one in retail makes as much as we do. Plus it’s a good working environment.”

Molina attributes the positive working environment in large part to the Teamsters’ presence. “It works really well now. When problems arise management comes to the union for advice. But without the union I’m not sure what would take place. Would they treat us like Wal-Mart treats its workers? You hear horror stories,” she said.

Of course Costco is not paradise — “On a local level, some managers don’t play fair — they might harass workers, fire them unreasonably or pattern bonuses unfairly. That’s where union representation is the real advantage,” explained Rome Aloise.

Into the future, the question will be which model of employee compensation predominates in retail — the high road of Costco or the low road of Wal-Mart.

“When companies like Wal-Mart are setting the standard, we have to ask: Do we want to live in a country where the largest employer pays below poverty-level wages, whose workers cannot afford health care?” says Paul Blank, chief spokesperson of Wake Up Wal-Mart, the United Food and Commercial Workers’ new campaign to change the company’s practices. “Or do we want Americans to enjoy a decent income and a sense of security in return for their work?”

Costco v. Wal-Mart: How They Stack Up

Global Workforce
Wal-Mart: 1.6 million associates
Costco: 113,000 employees

U.S. Workforce
Wal-Mart: 1.2 million
Costco: 83,600

U.S. Union Members
Wal-Mart: 0
Costco: 15,000

U.S. Stores
Wal-Mart: 3,600
Costco: 336

Net Profits (2004)
Wal-Mart: $10.5 billion
Costco: $882 million

CEO Salary + Bonus (2004)
Wal-Mart: $5.3 million
Costco: $350,000

Average Pay
Wal-Mart: $9.68/hour
Costco: $16/hour

Health Plan Costs
Wal-Mart: Associates pay 34% of premiums + deductible ($350-$1,000)
Costco: Comprehensive; employees pay 5-8% of premiums

Employees Covered By Company Health Insurance
Wal-Mart: 48%
Costco: 82%

Employee Turnover (estimate)
Wal-Mart: 50%
Costco: 24%

07-15-2005, 07:32 AM
Costco passes on similar compensation packages to its non-union workers; thThe Costco Challenge: An Alternative to Wal-Martization?

by Moira Herbst

Critics believe that Wal-Mart should play the role General Motors played after World War II… [and] establish the post-world-war middle class that the country is so proud of. The facts are that retailing doesn’t perform that role in the economy. Retailing doesn’t perform that role in any country.
—Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, April 2005

To workers and union leaders, it is a familiar refrain. These days, the story goes, consumers demand low prices, meaning goods must be produced and sold cheaply — and retail wages must be kept as low as possible. Companies like Wal-Mart insist they’re feeling the squeeze and must pay workers poverty wages — even while netting $10.5 billion in annual profits and awarding millions to top executives.

But there’s another company that is breaking the Wal-Mart mold: Costco Wholesale Corp., now the fifth-largest retailer in the U.S. While Wal-Mart pays an average of $9.68 an hour, the average hourly wage of employees of the Issaquah, Wash.-based warehouse club operator is $16. After three years a typical full-time Costco worker makes about $42,000, and the company foots 92% of its workers’ health insurance tab.

How does Costco pull it off? How can a discount retail chain pay middle-class wages and still bring in over $880 million in net revenues? And, a cynic may ask, with Wal-Mart wages becoming the norm, why does it bother?

A number of factors explain Costco’s success at building a retail chain both profitable and fair to its workers. But the basic formula is one the labor movement has been advocating for decades: a loyal, well-compensated workforce means a more efficient and productive one.

The Union Difference
Though only about 18% of Costco’s total workforce is unionized, union representation creates a ripple effect and helps determine labor standards in all stores. The Teamsters represent about 15,000 workers at 56 Costco stores in California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. Workers are covered by West coast and East coast contracts, negotiated in February and April of last year.

“The agreements lock in wage and benefits packages that are the highest in the grocery and [discount] retail industries,” said Rome Aloise, chief IBT negotiator for Costco and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif.

e contracts act as templates for other stores’ employee handbooks.

“The union contracts raise the bar and set the standard for all employees,” explained Aloise. “Still, while the company extends wage and pay raises to non-union employees, only union members enjoy benefits like seniority-based promotions, a grievance procedure and minimum hours for part-time workers,” he added.

The Payoff of Better Pay
Strong union representation isn’t the only reason Costco jobs are so well compensated; the company itself has an unusually forward-looking corporate philosophy.

Costco CEO Jim Senegal has said: “We pay much better than Wal-Mart. That’s not altruism. It’s good business.”

Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti explained: “From day one, we’ve run the company with the philosophy that if we pay better than average, provide a salary people can live on, have a positive environment and good benefits, we’ll be able to hire better people, they’ll stay longer and be more efficient.”

A 2004 Business Week study ran the numbers to test Costco’s business model against that of Wal-Mart. The study confirmed that Costco’s well-compensated employees are more productive.

The study shows that Costco’s employees sell more: $795 of sales per square foot, versus only $516 at Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart (which, like Costco, operates as a members-only warehouse club). Consequently Costco pulls in more revenue per employee; U.S. operating profit per hourly employee was $13,647 at Costco versus $11,039 at Sam’s Club.

The study also revealed that Costco’s labor costs are actually lower than Wal-Mart’s as a percentage of sales. Its labor and overhead costs (classed as SG&A, or selling, general and administrative expenses) are 9.8% of revenues, compared to Wal-Mart’s 17%.

By compensating its workers well, Costco also enjoys rates of turnover far below industry norms. Costco’s rate of turnover is one-third the industry average of 65% as estimated by the National Retail Foundation. Wal-Mart reports a turnover rate of about 50%.

08-23-2005, 06:33 AM
Stop endangering employees
By John R. Lott Jr. and April L. Dabney
August 23, 2005

Banning guns from the workplace seems like the obvious way to prevent workplace violence. At least that is the policy at ConocoPhillips and many other companies. The nation's largest oil refiner bans employees from storing locked guns in their cars while parked in company parking lots. The issue erupted this month when the NRA announced a boycott of Conoco and Phillips 66 gasoline stations and editorial pages across the country attacked the NRA's action as outrageous.
Two-and-a-half years ago, 12 employees at a Weyerhauser plant in Oklahoma were fired when they were caught unawares of a change in the company's ban on guns policy that was extended to the parking lot. The company had used trained dogs to find guns in employees' vehicles. Oklahoma's legislature overwhelmingly passed a law letting employees keep locked guns in their cars, but two firms, ConocoPhillips and the Williams Co., are challenging the law in court on the grounds that it endangers worker "safety."
Gun-free zones may appear like the solution to violence, but consider an analogy: Suppose a criminal is stalking you or your family. Would you feel safer putting a sign in front of your home saying, "This Home Is a Gun-Free Zone"? The answer seems pretty clear. Since law-abiding citizens will obey the signs, such "safe zones" simply mean that criminals have a lot less to worry about. Indeed, international data as well as data from across the United States indicate that criminals are much less likely to attack residents in their homes when they suspect that the residents own guns.
Consider also the impact of right-to-carry laws — laws that automatically grant permits for concealed handguns once applicants pass a criminal background check, pay their fees and (when required) complete a training class. In 1985, just eight states had these laws. Today, 37 states do.
Examining all the multiple-victim public shootings from 1977 to 1999, one of the current authors with Bill Landes at the University of Chicago found that, on average, states that adopt right-to-carry laws experience a 60 percent drop in the rate at which the attacks occur and a 78 percent drop in the rate at which people are killed or injured from such attacks.
To the extent that such attacks still occurred in right-to-carry states, they overwhelmingly took place in so-called gun-free zones. The effect of right-to-carry laws is greater on multiple-victim public shootings than on other crimes, and for a simple reason: Increasing the probability that someone will be able to protect himself improves deterrence. Though it may be statistically unlikely that any person in particular in a crowd is carrying a concealed handgun, the probability that at least one person is armed is high.
For these attacks, the most important factor in determining the amount of harm is the length of time between the start of the attack and when someone with a gun can stop the attack. The longer the delay, the more people are harmed. By reducing the number harmed, right-to-carry laws take away much of the benefit these warped minds think they are achieving by their attack.
The vast majority of academic research finds that concealed handguns reduce violent crime, and, despite all the national studies that have been done, there is not a single refereed academic journal publication that claims a statistically significant increase in violent crime.
The experiences in states with right-to-carry laws indicate that permit holders are extremely responsible and extremely law-abiding. Accidental gun deaths simply have not increased after states adopt these laws, and permit holders lose their permits for even the most trivial firearms-related violations at hundredths or thousandths of a percent. Police are important in deterring crime, but they almost always arrive after the crime has been committed. Annual surveys of crime victims in the United States by the Justice Department show that when confronted by a criminal, people are safest if they have a gun.
The real question is why the two firms bringing the case, ConocoPhillips and the Williams Co., are doing so. States supersede company decisions all the time on safety issues, and the legislature is clearly on record saying they believe that employees having access to their guns on net make them safer. The companies seem to have no more chance of winning this case than they do saying that they object to requirements that smoke alarms be installed. Given the NRA's belief that "The right-to-carry saves lives," it is hard to fault them for boycotting firms they think are endangering worker safety. Good intentions do not necessarily make good policy. What counts is whether the rules ultimately save lives.
The new rules that prohibit lawful gun-owners from having guns on company property look more likely to actually wind up costing more lives, rather than saving them.

John R. Lott Jr., the author of "More Guns, Less Crime," is a resident scholar and April L. Dabney an assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.

09-05-2005, 03:47 PM
Breakaway union leaders outline strategy for labor
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press
September 5, 2005
WASHINGTON — Unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO hope to rebuild the tattered labor movement by targeting workers in growing industries such as health care, waste management and security.
"We want to identify jobs that can't be shipped overseas," Teamsters President James Hoffa said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
The targeted industries, which also include food service and businesses that cater to retirees, account for 30 million to 45 million workers, said Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. He said workers in these industries, which employ a large number of immigrants and minorities who do not have college degrees, aren't paid fairly for their work, Stern said.
"We are living through the most profound transformative economic revolution in world history as we go from a manufacturing to a service and information economy and from a local and national economy to an international economy," Stern said.
The AFL-CIO was not adapting to the new economy with its global reach, fast-growing industries in service, health care and security, the labor leaders said.
"The AFL-CIO is the United Nations and we're NATO," Stern said, reflecting the belief of the breakaway union leaders that the labor federation was not adapting quickly enough to the changes. It's critical for labor to organize whole sectors of the economy to avoid industries competing to see which one can pay the lowest wages, Stern said.
"We're talking about organizing wholesale, not retail," Stern said. "It requires a different thinking."
The breakaway unions say they will have millions of dollars in annual fees they aren't paying to the AFL-CIO to use in organizing their own core industries.
"The AFL-CIO was not working," Hoffa said. "We had less people in the labor movement. The numbers were going down, not up. We're more nimble and we don't have the big bloated bureaucracy."
Stern said the Northwest Airlines strike was an example of what has gone wrong in the labor movement, with multiple unions not having sufficient clout to reach an agreement.
The labor leaders said the movement needs to do a better job of educating workers and consumers about the importance of boosting wages and keeping jobs in America. He also said a key to the new labor strategy is to do more organizing overseas.
The labor movement is changing to a global effort because companies now have a global presence, Stern said.
The Teamsters and SEIU broke away from the AFL-CIO in late July, saying the labor federation was spending too much time on politics and not enough on recruiting new members. The United Food and Commercial Workers broke away soon after that, meaning three of the largest unions in the AFL-CIO representing more than 4 million workers were leaving the federation of more than 50 labor unions that had numbered 13 million workers.
Several others, including the Laborers, Unite Here and the United Farm Workers have joined the breakaway unions in the Change to Win Coalition, but those three are still in the AFL-CIO. The Carpenters' Union, which left the AFL-CIO in 2001, has also joined the new labor coalition.
Hoffa said the new labor group plans to hold a one-day convention in St. Louis on Sept. 27.
The new group will focus more on organizing and less on party politics, which Hoffa and Stern say was too much at the center of the AFL-CIO operation. The new groups say they will support politicians who back labor, rather than backing one party's politicians.
"We are spending our money talking to workers and not Democratic politicians and hoping they'll save us," Stern said. "Workers can't wait for a magical transformation of our country."
But Stern and Hoffa acknowledged they face a difficult task rebuilding labor's strength.
When the AFL-CIO formed 50 years ago, union membership was at its zenith, with one of every three private-sector workers belonging to a labor group. Now, less than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.
"Corporate America is incredibly strong, people are out to bury us right now," Stern said. "We're trying to climb out of a hole that took an awful long time to dig, but we're going to climb out."

09-14-2005, 07:53 AM
PHILADELPHIA - Terrence Ryan knew Scott McNulty in passing at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where they both work.
But it was McNulty's blog, or Web log, that made Ryan take a harder look. It showed Ryan that McNulty, a systems administrator, really knew computers. More important, it revealed his ``geeky love of technology,'' a personal quality that ``tends to work really well in our department,'' Ryan said.

Because of the blog, Ryan offered McNulty, 28, of Philadelphia, a promotion to systems programmer on a team responsible for information-technology services. McNulty took it.

He still writes his blog -- a blend of his musings on the personal and technical at blankbaby.typepad.com -- knowing that several of his co-workers and his bosses read it. ``It's had a very positive impact on my career,'' he said.

About 10 million Americans now write blogs, ranging from the confessional and edgy to the technical and mundane, estimates Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Thirty-five million read them.

For businesses, blogs and other forms of personal Internet communication constitute a new frontier fraught with promise and peril. On the one hand, companies are scrambling to use them as a recruiting and marketing tool, and are encouraging some employees to blog. On the other, they are wondering how to deal with the damage that current and former employees and dissatisfied customers can do on the Web.

The result is a ``mild level of social panic,'' Rainie said. ``The lawyers and the marketers are, in many cases, at least in covert war with each other.''

For the moment, much of the news falls into the ``cautionary tale'' category. In August, a California automobile club fired 27 workers for posting messages on the Web that offended co-workers. Not long before, a Boston University instructor was fired for blogging about a distractingly attractive student; a blogging nanny was fired for telling too much about herself and her employers, and a New York beauty editor lost a new job because of blogs about the fashion industry.

Andy Fox, a senior investigator who conducts background checks for Investigative Group International, said Internet searches on prospective employees were now commonplace. For high-profile jobs, he said, ``I'll run everything down on Google if it goes to 27 o's.'' Each o in a Google search is worth 10 entries.

Curt Hopkins, a 41-year-old freelance writer in Oregon, began keeping an online list of people whose blogs got them fired, disciplined, or rejected for new jobs after his own blog sidelined his quest for work at Minnesota Public Radio last year.

``It just seemed so antithetical to the notion of free speech,'' Hopkins said.

Michael Skoler, MPR's managing director of news, acknowledged that Hopkins' blog was an important factor in the decision not to hire him. He said he was concerned about Hopkins' use of profanity and name-calling. ``It didn't seem to represent good journalistic judgment,'' Skoler said.

Hopkins and others are now calling on companies to write blogging policies. ``My feeling is, whether you're an employer or an employee, you need to broach the topic,'' said Hopkins, who currently is figuring out how to protect bloggers in repressive countries.

International Business Machines Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have instituted blogging policies. Both focus on helping employees write entertaining blogs without revealing company secrets or offending suppliers and customers. IBM discourages anonymous blogging or covert marketing. Sun urges employees to expose their personalities but warns that ``a blog is a public place and you should avoid embarrassing your readers or the company.''

Tim Bray, Sun's director of Web technologies, said the company realized it needed the new rules as it prepared to encourage employee blogging and discovered an impediment. Sun had a policy ``that no one can say anything publicly without prior legal approval.'' With the new rules in place, more than 1,500 employees now have blogs hosted on the company's computer server.

In Newtown Square, Pa., software maker SAP America Inc., which wants employees to blog, is updating its media policy to include blogging. ``We encourage people to communicate, but to stay within their area of expertise,'' said Steve Bauer, vice president of global communications. As for private blogging, ``anything that would really go against our values as a company would be certainly discouraged.''

Jonathan Segal, a Philadelphia employment lawyer, said that overly restrictive policies or publicity about company attacks on bloggers could hurt a company, particularly if it wanted creative young employees. ``It may have the effect of driving talent away,'' he said.

Some companies have begun monitoring what is said about them in blogs or other Internet sites. But employment lawyers said big companies are unlikely to have the time or desire to regularly read every employee's blog. People are more likely to get in trouble when a meddlesome co-worker or offended customer tells higher-ups.

Still, employment lawyers caution that the 1st Amendment was designed to protect people from the government, not private employers. Only a few states have passed laws preventing companies from reaching into employees' private, legal activities.

All bloggers, they said, would be wise to write as if their bosses, future bosses or grandmothers were reading over their shoulders. While many currently are recommending that bloggers with incendiary messages write anonymously, some experts say that won't work if a company really wants to find out who you are. And it won't look good once you're caught.

``If you didn't think you were doing anything wrong, why did you hide your identity?'' Segal said company lawyers were likely to ask.

Heather Armstrong's Web address, dooce.com, spawned the verb used for someone fired for blogging, as in ``he was dooced.'' Bored and frustrated at work, the Web designer used her name as she wrote what she called ``caricatures'' of co-workers, but never named them or the software company where she worked. Someone sent the link to top executives. At 26, she was dooced.

Increasingly, people familiar with company hiring practices say, job-seekers should expect that the company will do an Internet search on them.

``Anybody who is hiring would be absolutely, totally nuts if they didn't ascertain whether somebody had a blog and, if they do, take a look at it,'' Sun's Bray said.

A blogger himself, Bray (www.tbray.org/ongoing/) knows Sun officials read his work before hiring him. After one interview, he asked, ``Is there anything else you need to know about me?''

``No, you're kind of an open source,'' his interviewer replied.

A fifth of companies currently perform general Internet searches on job candidates, according to a January survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Bette Francis, director of human resources for Strategic Products & Services in Cedar Knolls, N.J., started conducting Google searches of job candidates in February. So far, she hasn't found anything bad. The blogs she has seen have given her insight into the candidates' communication styles, work ethic and expertise. ``It's another piece of information,'' she said.

Bray believes that blogs can boost careers. Those who get in trouble for blogging likely have other problems, too.

``Those are the kind of people who would compromise their careers one way or another,'' he said. ``... Perhaps having a blog would speed that up.''

Marlyn Kalitan, senior vice president of career-management consulting at Right Management Consultants in Philadelphia, said blogs were like tattoos. What we think is fun and creative when we're young may be an indelible blemish later.

``You can't take the Internet so lightly anymore,'' said Kalitan, who helps people make career transitions. ``You can't think that this is just a fun toy, because it's not. It's a lasting record of who you are.''

At Wharton, Scott McNulty said his blog had grown more personal as more people he knew read it. But he remains circumspect about work. ``I've said I've had bad days,'' he said, ``but never, `I've had a bad day because Joe is an idiot.' That's not good territory to be in when everyone you work with reads your blog.''

09-26-2005, 06:01 PM
Labor Voices

Union power creates middle-class benefits

Decline of labor ends up hurting prosperity of nonunion workers

By Mark Gaffney

Labor Voices

Labor Voices are written for The Detroit News on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger, Teamster President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney and Michigan Education Association President Lu Battaglieri. The News hopes to provide a forum for discussing workplace issues that are critical to a large segment of Michigan's population, whether or not they are union members. Look for Labor Voices every Friday in The Detroit News.

There has been much media attention and discussion recently about the continuing struggles of organized labor. Job loss due to free trade agreements, an increasing de-industrialization of our economy, competition from nonunion firms and labor laws slanted toward employers have all been part of the causes of the decline of union membership as a percentage of the overall work force.

It is also true that unions today have roughly the same number of members as in our heyday, about 15.5 million, and it is still true that union workers earn more, have better medical and pension benefits and a better quality of life than nonunion workers (union workers participate in the political process in greater numbers than nonunion voters and the vast majority of those union voters -- approximately 75 percent -- vote for economic reasons and vote Democratic).

But union membership has fallen, especially in certain sectors and unions today do struggle to achieve economic influence.

This begs the question: Why should nonunion workers care? What does it mean to them?

It may be the case that union families power the American middle class. If so, has a diminished union population had an impact?

Labor's wage influence drops

It seems so. The effects may have already been felt through a jump in income inequality. A recent story by the New York Times found that the after-tax income of the top 1 percent of American households jumped 139 percent to more than $700,000 between 1979 and 2001. The income of the middle class, however, has risen just 17 percent, most of that eaten away by inflation, while the poorest of Americans have seen their income rise only 9 percent during the same time.

If a nonunion worker seeks the middle class, then union strength matters.

Because unions are only 12.5 percent of the overall workforce, our influence on nonunion workers wages is less. In the past, union grocery clerks' wages would have caused Wal-Mart wages to be higher as Wal-Mart would then be forced to compete for workers.

Now, it's the reverse. Since there are more nonunion Wal-Mart retail workers, their poor wages and lack of health care coverage exert downward pressure on wage gains during union negotiations. As a result, all workers in the grocery/retail industry are earning less each hour than they did relative to other wages in the 1960s and 1980s. If nonunion workers want higher wages, union strength matters.

Unions provide a firewall against concessions demanded of employees. General Motors' white-collar retirees pay 27 percent of their health care costs, but United Auto Workers' retirees do not.

Unions still tend to protect pension benefits of all workers (by setting the standards that employers compete to), but in this era of a looming national pension crisis, the effect is less. In 1975, 43 percent of corporate employees were covered by a traditional pension, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. By 2000, that number dropped to 20 percent.

In 1985, there were 112,208 direct benefit pension plans in the United States. By 2004, that number had plummeted to 29,651.

Half the pension plans in the country have been lost in the past decade, according to the American Benefits Council. As union membership declined as a percentage of the overall work force, so did the overall numbers of workers with pensions.

Unions protect health costs

Why should nonunion workers care if unions lose members and strength? It could mean workers paying much, much more, even all of their health care costs.

In today's economy, it is really only the voice of organized labor insisting that health care programs continue to be employer-based and employer-provided. Without unions, individuals will see more plans like health savings accounts and will be responsible for increasing shares of their health care costs.

Having weakened unions means an economy that is geared only to consumers; providing the cheapest price, no matter what. America would be better off with organized labor's vision of an economy that appreciates that the consumer is also a worker and that higher wages, good benefits provided by the collective bargaining relationship (not tax funded government programs) and a secure pension are all good for America's economy.

Only in a rising tide caused by labor unions and good jobs will the nonunion boat rise alongside the union boat to benefit all workers.

Labor Voices Mark Gaffney is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO. Mail letters to Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226, fax them to (313) 222-6417 or e-mail them to letters@detnews.com.

09-26-2005, 10:44 PM
has anyone ever heard of SALTING?????????????

10-03-2005, 06:32 AM
Power output boosted to 5,400 megawatts

By Taghreed Mansour

Azzaman, September 27, 2005

The country’s power production is now higher than before the U.S.-led 2003 war that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, said Electricity Minister Muhsen Shallal.

But Shallal said outages which currently may last up to 20 hours a day in some places will continue until 2008.

“The ministry now produces 5,400 megawatts and that is a figure we never reached before,” said Shallal.

He said his main target was now to reduce power cuts so that Iraqis will have electricity four hours on and two hours off.

The output is expected to increase further by the end of the year, the minister said.

He said next month two new generating units with a 200 megawatt capacity will be added to the national grid.

“We are now installing more generating units at Khor al-Zubair in the south with an additional capacity of 240 megawatts,” he added.

This summer was among the harshest for Iraqis. Despite the additional output, demand has been much higher than supply.

But Shallal said his ministry was currently in talks with neighboring countries, particularly Iran and Turkey, to boost the country’s electricity imports to 1,000 megawatts in the summer of next year.

He said his ministry was recently given $50 million along with additional assistance from Japan that will eventually revive power stations either idle or working way below capacity.

He said the Japanese have agreed to boost the capacity of the power station in Musayab to 1,800 from the current 1,200.

The state-owned power sector employs more than 50,000 people and Shallal said he was keen to improve their living conditions.

“The life of our employees is under constant danger and we have made good progress to raise their wages,” he said.

Shallal said his ministry was “a hideout for corruption” under his predecessor Ayham al-Samarrai.

His administration has discovered ‘fake contracts” worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“But we managed to stop these contracts when we assumed the responsibility of the ministry,” he said.

Shallal said one of his top priorities was how to rid the ministry of “all corruptive elements.”

The power infrastructure is also target of sabotage.

Shallal said saboteurs carried out three attacks that destroyed three pylons “which greatly affected supplies to the capital Baghdad,” he said.

10-04-2005, 08:22 PM
Ruling rats out union prop

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October 4, 2005

A recent labor judge's ruling may have let some air out of the seemingly ubiquitous giant inflatable rat.

The rat spat was addressed in a June decision by a National Labor Relations Board administrative judge, who ruled that use of the inflatable rodent by unions constitutes illegal picketing. If the ruling stands, it could affect the way the rats - some of which are as tall as 30 feet - are used in union disputes.

For now, the Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund, which was accused by two companies of using the rat to picket illegally, is appealing the ruling to the full labor board, a process that could take anywhere from months to years, said Lowell Peterson, the union's attorney and a partner at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C. If either party is unsatisfied with that ruling, it can be appealed to a federal appeals court and to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The union argued its activities were protected by the First Amendment, in the same way that passing out handbills is considered free speech.

However, Judge Steven Davis disagreed: "The respondent's display of the rat near the entrance to the work sites was the functional equivalent of picketing - it sent a signal to those who approached the entrance that a labor dispute was occurring and that action on their part was desired."

Davis ruled that use of the rat was illegal picketing because it was intended to force one company to bargain with the union and to stop another company from doing business with the first company. The unions argued that members were just handing out information, not picketing.

Use of the rat in New York goes back to the 1990s. Although the ruling means the rat can still be used during legal picketing, unions want to be able to drag out the big rodent when calling attention to businesses accused of unsafe working conditions or unfair wages.

Local 78 of the Asbestos, Lead, and Hazardous Waste Laborers union has a fleet of six inflatable rats in three sizes - 15, 20 and 30 feet - and may have been introduced the practice to New York, said union spokesman Richard Weiss.

"We use the rat to call public attention to an issue that otherwise would be very difficult to get our message out," Weiss said. "Even in New York City, a 30-foot inflatable rat does stop people and call their attention to something going on there."

10-08-2005, 07:44 AM
Wal-Mart's Giant Sucking Sound
That's what one hears as the giant retailer sops up the vitality from middle-class families, local communities, and the national economy

Using a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, Wal-Mart's (WMT ) executives are defiantly blasting back at opponents who have criticized the retail giant's shoddy labor practices. But most people and even Wal-Mart's critics are missing the real crisis, which is that the behemoth from Bentonville, Ark., with its nationally destabilizing business model, is a dangerous detriment to America's local and national economies and to the middle class.

When H. Ross Perot ran for President back in 1992, he coined a memorable political phrase. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said, would create "a giant sucking sound" -- the sound of jobs escaping out of the U.S. and into Mexico.

Today, if you listen carefully, you can hear a second giant sucking sound: Wal-Mart sopping up the vitality from middle-class American families, local communities, and the national economy.

EMPTY DOWNTOWNS. This happens in three different but related ways. First, there's the clobbering of Main Street: Wal-Mart moves in on the edges of towns, and the much smaller downtown merchants, unable to match its prices, soon go under. Second, there's the miserable wage and benefits package offered by Sam Walton's creation. And third, there's Wal-Mart's purchasing strategy, which seems to be about buying American-made products only as a last resort -- to the point that today Wal-Mart, by itself, is China's eighth-largest trading partner!

You could make the case that we are well on our way to becoming "Wal-Mart Nation." But maybe we don't have to be. Consider Costco (COST ), Wal-Mart's most notable competitor –- whose much more sensitive and noble business model actually serves as a boost to the national economy and to its shareholders.

Costco's pay scale begins at around $10 per hour and averages $16. After four years, a Costco cashier can earn $44,000 (counting bonuses), which is significant purchasing power. In comparison, Wal-Mart's average hourly wage is a miserly $9.68. To appreciate the impact of this 65% difference in average wages, University of California at Berkeley researchers recently concluded that in 2003 Wal-Mart's low wages and benefits for its employees in California compelled taxpayers there to give these employees $86 million in food stamps, health-care, and housing subsidies just to stay above water.

UNCOVERED WORKERS. Overall, only 38% of Wal-Mart's nonsupervisory workers receive health-care benefits, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers Union. The company won't disclose how much of its total workforce receives company benefits. It does say 56% of employees in the core U.S. Wal-Mart unit, which excludes operations such as Sam's Club, receive company benefits. Judging by any reasonable standard, it's clear Wal-Mart has left American taxpayers the burden of picking up a huge tab for its uncovered health-care costs.

Wal-Mart has gone so far as to actively instruct its employees on how to apply effectively for government health-care programs like Medicaid. Costco, on the other hand, covers 85% of its employees' health-care costs. Costco is even pilot-testing a program offering discounted health-care plans to its customers in California who are either self-employed or cannot get coverage at work -– about 1.5 million people.

Not surprisingly, Costco's employee turnover is only about one-third that of Wal-Mart's, and Costco's customers are loyal almost beyond measure.

And yet Costco has operated this way while also satisfying Wall Street investors. Wal-Mart, of course, dwarfs Costco in size -– heck, it dwarfs even General Electric (GE ) and Microsoft! (MSFT ) -– but Costco may in fact be the much better-run company. Wal-Mart operates 5,332 stores with annual sales of $288 billion, or $54 million per store. Costco has 452 stores with annual sales of $48 billion, or $106 million per store.

WAKE-UP CALL. Costco is a living example that a company can be extremely profitable and competitive and at the same time not destroy everything and everyone in its corporate path.

Wal-Mart's success has come at an enormous and painful cost to our national and local economies. From its boarding-up of Main Streets to its failure to pay workers fairly, to its imposing on taxpayers welfare costs for its underpaid employees, to its material contribution to our obscene ballooning trade deficit with China, this "Wal-Martization" of America is leaving us with an economy increasingly characterized by a gaggle of cheap imported consumer goods, shoddy employee practices, and insensitivity to communities.

It is beyond time for all Americans to wake up from this nightmare and support those companies –- Costco, for example –- that believe that companies and their CEOs have as much responsibility to employees, customers, and the nation as to shareholders. And it is way beyond time for us to take our support away from those companies that believe otherwise and do more to aggrandize management than to serve employees and their communities.

10-08-2005, 09:50 AM
Florida Wal-Mart workers start to organize - without union
By MITCH STACY, Associated Press
October 1, 2005
TAMPA — It's not a union, but some Wal-Mart workers say it might be the next best thing. Searching for a voice in their work lives, employees of some central Florida Wal-Mart stores have formed a workers group to collectively air complaints about what they claim is shoddy treatment by the retail giant.
TAMPA — It's not a union, but some Wal-Mart workers say it might be the next best thing.
Searching for a voice in their work lives, employees of some central Florida Wal-Mart stores have formed a workers group to collectively air complaints about what they claim is shoddy treatment by the retail giant.
About 250 employees and former employees from 40 central Florida stores have joined the fledgling Wal-Mart Workers Association, spurred by what they say is a reduction of hours and schedule changes recently that may jeopardize health care benefits for some. Organizers say the word-of-mouth campaign is attracting 15 to 20 new members every week.
The members say they hope their efforts will persuade the company to listen to its people and make some changes.
"Management seems like they don't really respect the associates," said Carl Jones, acting chairman of the new group, who makes $9.40 an hour as the lead cart-pusher at a store outside Orlando. "We don't have a voice. We don't have any rights at all."
The company, however, says most of its associates are happy, and characterized the effort in Florida as another attempt by the unions to get their hands in the pockets of some of its 1.3 million workers in the United States.
"It's within (employees') legal rights to do that, but this group is a wolf in sheep's clothing," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said. "This is a labor organization attempting to masquerade as something else."
The world's largest and most profitable retailer has heard the employees' complaints before. Stores around the United States have been accused of everything from paying lousy wages and locking workers in overnight to discriminating against women, while foiling attempts by labor groups such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to organize workers.
The food and commercial workers union is among the sponsors of the new workers association, along with the Service Employees International Union, and Acorn, an advocacy group for the poor. Central Florida was chosen for the launch because of Wal-Mart's aggressive expansion here.
Nine Wal-Mart Supercenters, including two in Collier County, have opened in Florida so far this year to go along with a dozen new stores last year, according to the company. The state has 170 Supercenters and discount stores, 39 Sam's Club stores, eight neighborhood markets and six distribution center. More than 92,000 people work in the company's Florida facilities.
"Florida is like Wal-Mart central," said Rick Smith, state director of the Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now (WARN), a coalition of labor, anti-poverty and environmental groups trying to change the way Wal-Mart does business. Smith is spearheading the workers association project, which is also being launched soon in the Dallas area with hopes of expanding it to other cities.
"It was carefully formulated," he said. "This is not the traditional unit we have now in terms of collective bargaining or having an election, this is about what sort of problems Wal-Mart employees are having at work and what can they do to make their lives better at work."
The group has already helped some of the employees who've had their hours cut apply for partial unemployment benefits, Smith said.
Claire Middleton, 70, said she worked a full-time day job for four years taking in returns at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pinellas Park near St. Petersburg. The store changed her schedule in July, telling her she would have to be available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week if she wanted to keep getting shifts.
Her bad eyes make it difficult to drive after dark and she's afraid of losing her health care benefits if she doesn't work enough hours. She makes $8.56 an hour.
Rveva Barrett, 61, was working as the community involvement coordinator at the same store, even appearing in a national Wal-Mart commercial last year with community leaders. Her job was eliminated recently and she was told she could take another position with a $200 a month pay cut or leave.
Both women have joined the workers association, paying the $5-a-month dues.
"This is a really bad thing that's happening to all the people at Wal-Mart," Barrett said. "Unless we do something about it now, it's going to get worse."
Gallagher, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the incidents are isolated. She said the company has an "open-door policy" and urges associates to talk over any problems with managers. That works for most, she said, noting that associates themselves have shunned opportunities to unionize.
"We regularly receive thousands of applications for 400 jobs when we open new stores," she said. "I think that certainly would be an example that we are seen as a benefit to a lot of our associates."

10-22-2005, 05:47 AM
Time to protect unions


One by one, America's great industrial unions are being defanged. Where once presidents of these unions could march into the White House and leave with a pledge by President John F. Kennedy to end a strike on favorable terms, they are now sitting in bankruptcy court watching as unelected judges rip their contracts to shreds - or "negotiating" massive givebacks.
The first union to be broken in this way was the United Steel Workers of America, or USWA. In 2002 and 2003, the global steel industry was in crisis. Every major American steel company was insolvent or nearly so. The union cut the best deals it could for its members. But its overarching goal became working to ensure corporate profitability. For all practical purposes, the once mighty Steel Workers Union is now a management subsidiary.

Next to be broken were airline industry unions. Nearly every large airline has filed for bankruptcy protection. Managers of companies that haven't filed for protection have used the threat of bankruptcy to slash workers' wages and benefits, sometimes by as much as 50%.

Now it's the United Auto Workers' turn to feel the full brunt of 21st century America's definition of labor rights. Delphi, the largest auto parts supplier in the country, just filed for bankruptcy protection. Before it did, management told the UAW it wanted the union's members to swallow wage and benefits cuts of 60%. The UAW rejected this out of hand - as Delphi management knew it would. Now it's up to a bankruptcy court judge to slash Delphi workers' wages, benefits and jobs.

How did we get to the place where labor rights are so unprotected that bankruptcy court judges are the final arbiters of wage, benefits and working conditions in what are still some of our most important industries? There are a number of answers. First are judges who have simply assumed this role. Bankruptcy court judges agreeing with management and tearing up union contracts as a matter of course is a recent innovation.

The second development that has fatally undermined labor rights is a federal government that, regardless of which political party is in power, consistently sides with management in labor disputes.

The final development is a situation that affects nearly every employee - and employer - in the country: America's horribly mismanaged and inefficient health care system. Analysts estimate health care costs add from $1,000 to $1,500 to the price of every automobile produced in the United States. Manufacturers in no other advanced economy face these costs, since health care is funded by their national governments. America's dysfunctional health care system even dissuades investment here. Honda recently decided to build a new North American plant. It chose to build it in Canada. One of its stated reasons: our neighbor to the north's universal health care system.

The protection of labor rights in America has regressed to where this country stood in the 1920s. The result is neutered unions, stagnant wages, shrinking benefits and more insecurity.

There's a growing unease in the country, a sense the American Dream is unattainable to those who lack the right pedigree or the right connections. It's time for government and others to address the roadblocks that prevent everyone from sharing in our economy's gains. A rediscovery of labor rights is a good place to start.

Jordan, a former union organizer and strategist, is President of Washington-based Principor Communications.

11-10-2005, 10:21 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that companies must pay plant workers for the time it takes to change into protective clothing and safety gear and walk to their work stations.

Skip to next paragraph
Text of Decisions: United States vs. Olson | IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez The issue was one of two that justices settled in a pair of unanimous decisions, the first rulings under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts in the new fall term. Roberts did not write either one.

In a defeat for business, the court said that employers must pay wages for the donning of ''integral'' gear and the time it takes workers to then walk to the production area.

The court, in a ruling by Justice John Paul Stevens, upheld a decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of workers at a meat processing plant in Pasco, Wash. Those workers typically put on sanitary outer garments, boots, hardhats, aprons and gloves.

In a second ruling, the justices said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider whether federal officials can be sued for negligence over an accident in an Arizona copper mine.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing that opinion, said the appeals court ruled too broadly in allowing the lawsuit by two men who were seriously injured in 2000 when a nine-ton rock slab fell from the ceiling of the Mission Underground Mine.

The worker pay case was the first appeal argued this term, on Oct. 3, and the first in which Roberts was presiding on the court.

The time spent putting on protective gear was not the focus of the ruling, because the Supreme Court held nearly 50 years ago that workers at a battery plant must be compensated for time spent putting on special protective clothes.

Instead, the dispute focused on the time employees spend walking from place to place. Justices had been told that workers sometimes have long waits after putting on their gear.

''The relevant walking in this case occurs after the workday begins and before it ends,'' Stevens wrote.

The decision involves a Washington state plant now owned by Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., a subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., and a separate Barber Foods chicken processing plant in Portland, Maine.

It was not a total defeat for business. Stevens wrote that workers could not demand payment for time spent waiting in line for equipment and safety gear when they first arrive for work.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, Tyson Foods said: ''We appreciate the court's clarification of the law. ... We will now analyze what impact, if any, these rulings will have on the company.''

The cases are IBP Inc. v. Alvarez, 03-1238; Tum v. Barber Foods Inc., 04-66; and U.S. v. Olson, 04-759.


12-09-2005, 09:21 PM
Don't reward companies on naughty list

FedEx, other firms exploit workers and contradict spirit of goodwill

James P. Hoffa / Special to The Detroit News

December 9, 2005

The holiday season is upon us, and consumer pulses have begun to quicken. Wal-Mart shoppers are already mauling each other for the newest, cheapest, China-made laptop, and retailers are seducing us into spending even more money on our loved ones.

If reducing the insatiable materialism that rages during the holiday season is a clichéd, if not hopeless goal, I have a more realistic proposal. If we won't reduce our consumption, let's direct it toward companies whose responsible practices deserve our loyalty -- and our hard-earned dollars.

Social responsibility and corporate citizenship are terms that get tossed around a lot in corporate America. Some companies pay lip service through sponsorships and charity donations.

True corporate responsibility

Others put their money where their mouths are by providing their employees with decent wages, benefits and working conditions, and keeping jobs in the United States. The people of Detroit have always understood the significance of buying American-made cars.

Many families here and across America drive a few extra miles to shop at a union-friendly store like Costco to send a message to Wal-Mart -- that the fair treatment of workers is more important than basement prices. Many responsible companies avoid doing business with Cintas Corp., the giant uniform supply company, because of its racist practices and overall ill will toward workers. And this year, there is another company on Santa's naughty list: FedEx Corp.

FedEx has built much of its empire on low-cost business models and other unsavory practices, some of which are now coming back to haunt it. This September, African-American and Latino workers won class-action status for their lawsuit (Satchell v. FedEx Corp.) against the shipping giant, alleging discrimination in pay, promotions and disciplinary action.

FedEx's low-cost model

Statistical evidence paints a picture of minority workers stuck in part-time, low-paying positions, while arbitrary evaluations and invalid skill tests keep them there. The company may try to blame discriminatory practices on a few bad apple managers, but the trail leads much farther up the chain of command.

FedEx is also a major proponent of an alarming trend in today's job market: dishonestly classifying workers as "independent contractors." This allows employers to maintain absolute control over operations and shift costs and risks onto workers, while reaping all the benefits of their labor.

FedEx Ground has 14,000 independent contractors that make its domestic, nonexpress package deliveries. These drivers receive no health care or retirement benefits. The drivers pay taxes for workers' compensation, unemployment insurance and Social Security, and they purchase fuel and maintain their own trucks, all out of their own pockets. Overtime pay and vacation days do not exist for these "independent contractors." Such is the price of FedEx's so-called entrepreneurial freedom.

FedEx claims a typical driver makes $50,000 to $55,000 a year. But as one ground driver pointed out, the fuel, maintenance and loans on his truck cut his salary to $20,000. When FedEx takes a free ride on the backs of its employees, it's no wonder it can afford to undercut union competitors like UPS.

Teamster members at UPS have won medical care, pensions and 401(k)s. All driving costs are covered by the company. By the way, UPS remains so successful because it has a unionized work force.

Tactic prevents organizing

As exploited workers are wont to do, FedEx's ground drivers are fighting back. Drivers have sued the company to challenge their independent contractor status in more than 20 states. FedEx is already under court order to reclassify drivers in California and has suffered similar defeats elsewhere.

Beyond immediate dollars and cents benefits, there is a larger corporate incentive -- being an independent contractor means you cannot legally organize into a union.

Such an unfair advantage puts downward pressure on wages, benefits and other industry standards. And there's a clear trail of where the money is going.

After President Bush's 2002 tax cuts, FedEx founder and Chief Executive Fred Smith began paying annual dividends to himself and other stockholders for the first time in the company's history. Since 2002, Smith himself has collected nearly $14.5 million in dividend bonuses.

Perhaps taking cues from Delphi Chief Executive Steve Miller, Smith refuses to put the company's profits on the bargaining table.

On Monday, the Teamsters Union will launch a Web site ( www.fedexwatch.com) to track the anti-worker tactics and bad business practices of FedEx.

This holiday season, we as consumers can send a message to corporations in the language they speak best -- the almighty dollar. The true meaning of Christmas has always been goodwill toward your fellow man. In keeping with that spirit this year, demand justice and dignity for American workers. It is the best present we can give.

Labor Voices James P. Hoffa is president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Mail letters to The News, Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226, or fax them to (313) 222-6417 or e-mail them to letters@detnews.com.

12-15-2005, 06:37 PM


HOUSTON - After only a year at CenterPoint Energy, Shelley Daniel has big plans for her career. In 20 years, she sees herself in the company's executive management ranks; by the time she retires, CEO.

This recent college grad, in other words, is exactly what the energy industry is looking for - not just because she's highly motivated, but because she wants to remain in the business.

For years, energy analysts have been warning that their industry will run out of employees faster than it runs out of oil or gas. By some estimates, half the workforce will retire in the next 10 years. But the biggest need, they say, is to replenish the ranks of senior management.

"The need for an infusion of new talent is a real dilemma right now - especially for energy executives," says Gene Morrissy, a senior consultant at RHR International, an executive development firm based in Wood Dale, Ill. "And it's incumbent on them to make sure, once they find that talent, that they are training them for those senior roles."

To be sure, industries of all types face the same demographic squeeze as 79 million baby boomers begin to retire, leaving too many positions open for 48 million Generation Xers to fill. RHR reports that America's 500 largest companies anticipate losing half their senior management in the next five to six years.

But nowhere is the need more acute than in energy, where two decades of boom and bust led to multiple rounds of downsizing and pushed some of the industry's best prospects to find work in more stable sectors. The effects are noticeable.

"I was the tail end of a hiring boom and what follows behind me is a huge gap," says Mat Castaneda, General Electric's vice president and general manager for North America. He says his company is prepared to promote him, but it can't because it can't find anyone qualified to take his current position.

Wanted: 450 different skills

"You cannot exaggerate the magnitude of the problem," says Matthew Simmons, chairman of Simmons & Co., a Houston-based energy investment bank. The industry is incredibly complicated and manpower intensive. This summer, for instance, British Petroleum hired 13 different headhunters to find individuals with one or more of 450 different skills by the end of the year, he adds.

Indeed, just as important as finding new talent is keeping it. The downsizing of the 1990s cleaned out middle management and created little loyalty.

"Every time prices collapsed, the industry downsized again," Mr. Simmons says. "And the new recruits were always the first casualties of the downsizing."

Enrollments fall to 1,500

After one or two layoffs, those recruits found steadier industries - and have not returned to the energy sector. In addition, the number of petroleum engineers graduating from US schools is nowhere near what the industry demands - to say nothing of the schools that have cut their programs altogether. Only 1,500 students are enrolled in petroleum-engineering programs this year, down 85 percent from 20 years ago, says Lane Sloan, chairman of the Global Energy Management Institute at the University of Houston and former CEO of Shell Chemical.

Recognizing the shortfall of top-ranked talent, the university launched this year the nation's first energy-specific executive MBA. The program aims to take those with high potential and significant technical skill and teach them the management and finance skills to advance to senior levels.

"We're not focusing on middle management," says P. David Shields, associate dean for graduate and professional programs at the university's business school. "We're focusing on ... the top guys, the upper echelons."

The first Global Energy MBA class is small - 11 students total - and industry officials point out that it will produce only a fraction of the talent needed. Companies must also play a strong role in recruiting, training, and retaining, Simmons points out.

Still, interest in the university program is building as the word gets out. Ms. Daniel and Mr. Castaneda are enrolled. So is Johnny Ramirez, a marine charter scheduler for Shell Trading. He says his company is well aware of the problem and is putting a lot of emphasis on grooming future management within the company.

Seven years into his career, Mr. Ramirez says he plans on staying with Shell and would like to work his way up to chief financial officer.

The next generation of senior managers may also have to be more well rounded. "A lot of the leaders in the energy industry tend to be technical people who don't really have the acumen to talk to the public," says Lane Sloan, chairman of the university's Global Energy Management Institute and former Shell Chemical CEO. "And on top of that, the only time they're talking to the public is when there is some sort of crisis. They need to get out in front of these things."

The new energy MBA promises just that, which is what drew Kirsten Kennedy to the program. She has a background in geology, but needed a better understanding of the entire industry to move up in her career at Shell Pipeline Company.

"I lacked the finance side of things, the marketing side," she says, preparing for a quiz in oil and gas accounting. "There is such a push for hiring new people right now. I have to set myself apart from the others."

12-20-2005, 12:03 PM
New York City Transit Workers Strike

NEW YORK - Subways and buses ground to a halt Tuesday morning as transit workers walked off the job at the height of the holiday shopping and tourist season, forcing millions of riders to find new ways to get around.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had said the strike would cost the city as much as $400 million a day, joined the throngs of people crossing the Brooklyn Bridge as he walked from a Brooklyn emergency headquarters to City Hall. Other New Yorkers car-pooled or rode bicycles in the cold; early morning temperatures were in the 20s.

"It doesn't seem right to tie up the cultural and investment center of the world," said Larry Scarinzi, 72, a retired engineer from Whippany, N.J., waiting for a cab outside Penn Station. "They're breaking the law. They're tearing the heart out of the nation's economy."

It is New York's first citywide transit walkout since an 11-day strike in 1980, and officials said they would seek quick court action, which could include stiff fines. Pay raises and pension and health benefits for new hires were main sticking points.

Authorities began locking turnstiles and shuttering subway entrances shortly after the Transport Workers Union ordered the strike. The nation's largest mass transit system counts each fare as a rider, giving it more than 7 million riders each day — although many customers take a daily round trip.

At one subway booth, a handwritten sign read, "Strike in Effect. Station Closed. Happy Holidays!!!!" At Penn Station, an announcement over the loudspeaker told people to "please exit the subway system."

Huge lines formed at ticket booths for the commuter railroads that stayed in operation, and Manhattan-bound traffic backed up at many bridges and tunnels as police turned away cars with fewer than four people. All the while, transit workers took to the picket lines with signs that read "We Move NY. Respect Us!"

"I think they all should get fired," said Eddie Goncalves, a doorman trying to get home after his overnight shift. He said he expected to spend an extra $30 per day in cab and train fares.

Commuters, scrounging for ways to get to work, lined up for cabs and gathered in clusters on designated spots throughout the city for company vans and buses to shuttle them to their offices.

"There were hundreds of people waiting for cabs, pulling doors left and right," said taxi driver Angel Aponte, who left his meter off and charged $10 per person.

Bloomberg has said the strike would be particularly harsh taking place during the holidays, predicting it would freeze traffic into "gridlock that will tie the record for all gridlocks."

He began putting into effect a sweeping emergency plan, including the requirement that cars coming into Manhattan below 96th Street have at least four occupants.

The union called the strike around 3 a.m. after a late round of negotiations broke down Monday night. Union President Roger Toussaint said the union board voted overwhelmingly to call the strike.

"This is a fight over dignity and respect on the job, a concept that is very alien to the MTA," Toussaint said. "Transit workers are tired of being underappreciated and disrespected."

The news drew an angry response from the mayor, governor and head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"This is not only an affront to the concept of public service, it is a cowardly attempt by Roger Toussaint and the TWU to bring the city to its knees to create leverage for their own bargaining position," said Bloomberg at a news conference.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow called the strike "a slap in the face" to all New Yorkers and said lawyers will immediately head to court. It is illegal for mass transit workers to strike in New York, and the 33,000 bus and subway employees could face fines of two days' pay for each day on strike.

"They have broken the trust of the people of New York," said Gov. George Pataki. "They have not only endangered our city and state's economy, but they are also recklessly endangering the health and safety of each and every New Yorker."

The union said the latest MTA offer included annual raises of 3 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent; the previous proposal included 3 percent raises each year. MTA workers typically earn from $35,000 as a starting salary to about $55,000 annually.

Toussaint said the union wanted a better offer from the MTA, especially when the agency has a $1 billion surplus this year.

"With a $1 billion surplus, this contract between the MTA and the Transport Workers Union should have been a no-brainer," Toussaint said. "Sadly, that has not been the case."

A key issue was the MTA's proposal to raise the age at which new employees become eligible for a full pension from 55 to 62, which the union says is unfair. The MTA later agreed to allow pension eligibility at 55 for new employees, but asked that they contribute 6 percent of their salaries for their first 10 years of employment.

The down-to-the-wire negotiations came as workers at two private bus lines in Queens walked off the job, a move meant to step up pressure on the MTA.

The contract expired Friday at midnight, but the two sides agreed to keep talking through the weekend and the union set a new deadline for Tuesday.

Commuter frustration was evident both before the strike and after it was called.

"Enough is enough," said Craig DeRosa, who relies on the subway to get to work. "Their benefits are as rich as you see anywhere in this country and they are still complaining. I don't get it."

12-22-2005, 07:29 PM
Jury Awards $172M to Wal-Mart Employees
CBS News ^

Posted on 12/22/2005 4:19:58 PM PST by traumer

(AP) A California jury on Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.

The world's largest retailer was ordered to pay $57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages to about 116,000 current and former California employees for violating a 2001 state law that requires employers to give 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks to employees who work at least six hours.

The damages were originally tallied as $207 million after a court clerk misread the punitive damages as $150 million. The amount of punitive damages was later clarified.

The class-action lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court is one of about 40 nationwide alleging workplace violations by Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, which earned $10 billion last year, settled a similar lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million.

In the California suit, Wal-Mart had claimed that workers did not demand penalty wages on a timely basis. Under the law, the company must pay workers a full hour's wages for every missed lunch.

The company also said it paid some employees their penalty pay and, in 2003, most workers agreed to waive their meal periods as the law allows.

The lawsuit covers former and current employees in California from 2001 to 2005. The workers claimed they were owed more than $66 million plus interest, and sought damages to punish the company for alleged wrongdoing.

The lawsuit was filed by several former Wal-Mart employees in the San Francisco Bay area in 2001. It took four years of legal wrangling to get to trial.

The verdict comes as the company is waging an intense public-relations campaign to counter critics aiming to stop the retailer's expansion and make it boost workers' salaries and benefits. The company added lower-cost health insurance this year after an internal memo surfaced that showed 46 percent of Wal-Mart employees' children were on Medicaid or uninsured.

A federal lawsuit pending in San Francisco federal court accuses the company of paying men more than women.

01-25-2006, 06:12 PM
I.B.M. Accused of Denying Overtime Pay to Workers
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24 - A lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday accusing I.B.M. of denying overtime pay to tens of thousands of workers.

The suit, which seeks class-action status nationwide, contends that the company violated federal and state labor laws in California and New York by misclassifying full-time computer installation and maintenance workers as exempt from overtime.

"We believe that those tens of thousands of workers have worked tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of unpaid overtime hours," James M. Finberg, a lawyer at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, said at a news conference in San Francisco, where the suit was filed.

Employees working more than 40 hours a week are generally entitled to overtime pay under federal law, unless they fall under specific legal exemptions. The plaintiffs in this suit do not "fall into the very narrow exceptions to the overtime laws," Mr. Finberg said.

The suit names as plaintiffs two current I.B.M. employees in California, Thomas Rosenburg and John Shelly, and one former employee in New York, Exaldo Topacio, who worked for I.B.M. for a year beginning in March 2003. I.B.M. is based in Armonk, N.Y.

"There were many occasions when I was required to work in excess of 40 hours per week," said Mr. Topacio, a former technical support worker in I.B.M.'s New York network support division, responsible for installing and maintaining computer software and hardware.

Mr. Topacio, who worked for another computer company before I.B.M., also said that such violations were commonplace in the industry, where workers typically earn $40,000 to $60,000 annually.

Mr. Topacio said that I.B.M. informed him and his colleagues that under the law, they were exempt from overtime pay.

In a phone interview, John Bukovinsky, an I.B.M. spokesman, said: "The company does not comment on pending or on ongoing litigation. We're reviewing the documents."

The suit seeks compensation for unpaid overtime nationally and, in California, it also seeks an injunction against I.B.M. to stop what the plaintiffs call unfair labor practices regarding unpaid overtime.

The plaintiffs are also likely to seek additional damages equal to double the compensatory overtime, arguing that I.B.M. should have investigated and followed federal overtime laws but did not, Mr. Finberg said.

02-05-2006, 12:58 PM
FedEx drivers win right to hold union ballot
Labor relations panel says workers aren't contractors
By Diane E. Lewis, Globe Staff | February 2, 2006

Truck drivers for a FedEx division in Worcester are employees, not independent contractors, according to a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Boston that gives the drivers the right to hold a secret-ballot election for a union.

The decision against FedEx Home Delivery, a division of FedEx Ground Package System Inc. in Pittsburgh, argues that although 23 drivers at the terminal signed contracts stating that they would operate as independent contractors, they should be considered employees under labor law because they must adhere to the company's rules and regulations and do not exercise full control over work, compensation, training, or routes.

''FHD exercises substantial control over the contractors' performance of their functions," wrote Rosemary Pye, the NLRB's regional director. The decision, issued last week, was released yesterday by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is trying to organize the drivers.

The decision stems from allegations brought by Teamsters Local 170, which said workers were wrongly denied access to a union because the company said they were not full employees.

''If they were independent contractors, they should have been able to operate their business the way they chose," said Mike Hogan, a Teamsters organizer. ''We felt it was a sham."

Hogan said the Teamsters Union sent a letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly yesterday urging him to investigate the company. Meredith Baumann, a spokesperson in the attorney general's office, said there is an open investigation of FedEx's use of independent contractors. ''This NLRB decision will be instructive and will assist in our ongoing discussions with FedEx," said Baumann.

Perry Colosimo, managing director of communications for FedEx Ground, said the company would continue to rely on independent contractors.

''FedEx Ground disagrees with the regional director's decision to allow FedEx Home Delivery independent contractors in Worcester to participate in an election for third-party representation," said Colosimo, who said the company would appeal. ''These small-business owners deliver industry leading service to our mutual customers without the need for third party representation."

02-07-2006, 07:01 AM
In Modern Rarity, Workers Form Union at Small Chain
Among the thousands of stores in New York's low-income neighborhoods, labor unions have virtually no presence, except in a few supermarkets. But in a remarkable culmination to a yearlong struggle, 95 workers at a chain of 10 sneaker stores have formed a union.

For much of last year, workers with the sneaker chain, Footco, protested what they said were widespread minimum-wage violations. Last month, however, they signed a union contract that raised their wages and gave them paid vacations and health insurance.

Footco's employees — almost all of them are immigrants — used some unusual pressure tactics to form a union. They worked with a community group that threatened to boycott Footco's stores, and they filed a complaint with Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, claiming minimum-wage and overtime violations.

"They really didn't want to increase our wages," said Melissa Brooker, a sales clerk at a Footco store in Bushwick, Brooklyn. "They knew they were backed into a corner."

The union that Footco's workers joined, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said its success in combining community support with boycott threats could be copied to unionize other small apparel and shoe chains across New York.

"I don't know when was the last time that a small chain like this was organized," said Jeffrey Eichler, the union's coordinator of retail organizing. "We're going to try to use this model elsewhere in the city."

Talking about Footco's decision to recognize the union and sign a contract, Young B. Cho, the company's owner, said: "We're happy to do it. It's the right thing to do. Everybody is happier. The workers are happier."

Ms. Brooker, 23, a native of St. Vincent's in the Caribbean, said that last summer her Footco store, called New York Sneakers, paid her $4.75 an hour and never paid time-and-a-half for overtime, even when she worked 60-hour weeks. For those weeks, she earned just $270, she said.

Footco's workers turned to Make the Road by Walking, a community group in Bushwick that helps immigrant workers. That group and the retail workers' union began gathering information about wage violations at Footco's stores in Bushwick, Brownsville, Jamaica, Washington Heights and other neighborhoods.

"We saw that conditions at Footco were really bad," said Andrew Friedman, co-director of Make the Road by Walking. "We surveyed the workers, and they said their priorities were higher wages and health insurance, and we knew we couldn't get those in many stores simultaneously without helping the workers to unionize."

Make the Road has strong community support — 1,500 people have paid $100 each to become members — and to help Footco's workers, it threatened a boycott unless the company signed its "Good Business Community Agreement."

Upset about widespread minimum wage and overtime violations among retailers throughout Bushwick, Make the Road got more than 1,000 Bushwick residents to sign statements pledging to boycott stores that treated their employees improperly.

The day the Footco boycott was to begin last August, the company signed the community agreement, which called for not fighting unionization efforts and for recognizing a union if a majority of workers voiced support for one.

Within two weeks, Manuel Guerrero, an organizer for the retail workers' union, got 90 percent of Footco's workers to sign statements saying they wanted to unionize.

"It went very fast," he said. "They were very enthusiastic."

Footco recognized the union in October, pressured by the complaint filed with the attorney general. Negotiators for the workers told Footco's owner that if he signed a union contract and improved wages, Mr. Spitzer might demand less back pay for wage violations.

Patricia Smith, director of the attorney general's labor bureau, said her office was negotiating a back-pay settlement with Footco.

"We told Footco what we tell everyone — if they have increased labor costs, we'll take that into consideration," she said.

On Jan. 18, after three months of negotiations, the two sides signed a contract. The three-year accord sets wages at $7.25 an hour, rising to $7.50 on July 1. To increase earnings, it guarantees most workers 45 hours of work each week, meaning five hours of overtime.

The contract gives workers three paid sick days a year (they had not been getting paid if they stayed home sick).

The contract also gives two paid bereavement days and one week of paid vacation, rising to two weeks after five years on the job. Previously, Footco's employees had no paid vacation.

Workers employed more than 20 hours a week will have health coverage, with the company contributing $2,200 a year per worker.

"We didn't have nothing," said Jose Enriques, 32, an immigrant from Mexico who has worked at Footco for five years. "But now what we got, it's good. Now I will make the same money working 45 hours a week that I used to make working 55, 60 hours."

The contract, union officials say, will increase Footco's labor costs by a total of $2 million over three years.

"My read on the company was they didn't want to have a big fight," Mr. Friedman said. "I think they genuinely wanted to do the right thing. They realized they had been doing the wrong thing. But they were nervous about the cost."

02-23-2006, 02:35 PM
One of my favorite movie scenes is from Norma Rae. She asked the union organizer if it was true that Jews were different. He said, "Yes." She inquired, “What makes Jews different?” He replied, "History".

Our history makes us unique. There are people who don't want us to know our history. They want us to believe history is about millionaires and kings, not the struggles of working people against millionaires and kings. There is power in knowing our history.

The history of our struggle for justice is old as pharaoh’s tomb. The ancient Hebrew word for strike is regiah, the laying down of tools. You don’t think the ancient Jews were trade unionists? The Lord commanded, “Keep holy the Sabbath.” Jews interpreted that to mean – “No work”. You can bet your holiday pay that wasn’t management’s idea.

African American slaves were masters of the slow down. The work songs they sang in fields and chain gangs weren't the meaningless harmonies of happy fools. Songs were designed to instill solidarity, convey messages, and control the pace of the work. Everyone moved in rhythm with the song. The boss couldn't punish someone for falling behind or working too slow because everyone worked at the same slow methodical pace. Slaves protected the elderly, the injured, the lame, and preserved strength and solidarity with song. Rhythm controlled production. That’s how they worked to rule.

The slogan “work to rule” has a double meaning. Work to rule is a method of slowing production by following every rule to the letter. The aim is to leverage negotiations. Work to rule is also an invocation for workers to govern collectively, to control the conditions of their labor. Work to rule means power to the people.

Work to rule is an in-plant strategy, a method of influencing negotiations without going on strike. Workers follow the boss’s orders but do nothing on their own initiative. They keep their knowledge and experience to themselves, defer all decisions to the straw boss, and let the pieces fall where they may.

Work to rule has roots to an article by Frank Bohn printed in the IWW newsletter Solidarity in 1912. Bohn wrote: “Sabotage means strike and stay in the shop. Striking workers thus are enabled to draw pay and keep out scabs while fighting capitalists.”

Historically, sabotage did not mean destruction of machinery or property. The word sabotage “was first used officially by French labor organizations in 1897”. The French word sabot means wooden shoe. The term sabotage originates from the French expression “Travailler a coups de sabots,” meaning “to work as one wearing wooden shoes,” that is, slow and clumsy. In the 1915 pamphlet, Sabotage, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote, “Sabotage is not physical violence; sabotage is an internal industrial process.” [source: Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology ]

In the 1930’s union members occupied factories. The sit down strikes were illegal, but there is a higher authority than the bossing class. When workers work to rule human rights take precedent over property rights. In the 1930’s workers claimed ownership of their jobs and stared down the barrel of a gun to win union recognition.

Why shouldn’t we occupy plants? Why should we walk out on the jobs that belong to us? Why should we allow the boss to give our jobs away? Whole communities have been destroyed by ruthless owners. We have a right to defend ourselves. The struggle of the bossing class against the working class is about control of production and corporate manipulation of supply. The name of the game is Monopoly not free enterprise.

Management thinks they control the plant with their clipboards, portable phones, and panties twisted in a knot. But when workers work to rule the bosses find out who really runs the plant, who keeps machines humming, production flowing, and the money coming in.

Owners have declared an overcapacity in the auto industry. The Big 3 with support of the Federal Reserve saturated the market with 0% financing. In preparation for negotiations they built up massive inventories. Unemployment escalated as 2.6 million manufacturing jobs were exported. Conditions are ideal for concessions.

Why should workers contribute to the stockpile? Why should we increase productivity when only the least productive, the CEOs, are rewarded? Why should labor sacrifice? There’s a solution to overcapacity: a shorter work week. There’s a solution to concession bargaining: work to rule.

In the 1980’s Jerry Tucker, a UAW Servicing Rep in St. Louis organized a work to rule campaign at Moog Industries, an automotive parts supplier. The recession coupled with Reagan’s antagonism toward unions incited a relentless drive for concessions. Workers needed a new strategy to combat the tactics of heavy handed union busters.

Moog was profitable, but the company wanted to take advantage of the trend and demand concessions. They hired one of the most expensive union busting law firms in St. Louis. The legal vultures expected the union to go out on strike; they were prepared. Instead, union members voted the contract down and decided on an in-plant strategy – work to rule.

They continued to work, but without a contract the gloves were off. Workers have a federally protected right to “concerted union activity”. They have a right to seek redress for grievances, but without a contract they do not have a collaborative commitment with management to resolve the conflict. Instead of following an orderly grievance process, workers confronted the boss en masse. Chaos ensued.

Whole departments shut down while workers argued in the boss’s office. They “ran the plant backwards.” They didn’t damage equipment but they wreaked havoc with production by following all the Process Control Instructions to a T. Without a contract they were free to engage in “concerted union activity” as they saw fit. Everyone refused overtime. It was all for one and one for all. Disciplinary action of an individual crashed into a wall of mass resistance. The in-plant strategy succeeded.

All concessions were rolled back and all discharged workers were reinstated and made whole. Jerry Tucker helped organize five other UAW work to rule campaigns in the 1980’s. They were all successful. In an era when concessions were the norm and union busting was in vogue work to rule empowered workers with the tools to fight back and win.

The bossing class has perverted the traditional meaning of sabotage into malicious destruction of property. They must have looked into their own souls for the new definition.

When bosses order us to pass along substandard quality, it is, by their own definition, sabotage. When Ford designs vehicles that roll over or blow up on impact, it’s sabotage. When GM sells out, shuts down, spins off, and thereby guts the city of Flint, it’s sabotage. When Delphi builds all its new plants outside the US while closing American factories, it’s sabotage. When CEOs layoff thousands of workers and reward themselves with multi million dollar perks, it’s sabotage. When the President of the United States commits soldiers to war under false pretenses, bankrupts the treasury with lavish rewards to his cronies, and encourages a trade policy that exports American jobs, it’s not patriotism, it’s sabotage.

Workers are not saboteurs. Workers want to build, not destroy. Work to rule simply means: to rigorously adhere to Process Control Instructions and strive to meet the stated goals of high quality, lean inventory, and just in time delivery in order to compel “cooperation” from the boss. Working to rule is like keeping kosher – a strict code of law.

In May 1902 kosher meat prices in New York City jumped 50% in one day. Jewish women walked into kosher butcher shops, picked up the meat, and dropped it on the floor. They didn’t loot, they didn’t steal, they didn’t destroy property. The owners were free to dust off their product and put it back on the shelves. But the meat was no longer kosher, it was trayf, unfit to eat. No one would buy it. Prices returned to normal the next day.

Kosher laws like ISO Quality Programs rely on a collaborative commitment. Kosher has no meaning outside a working relationship. Kosher like “Quality” is not a label, it is a living agreement that promotes the highest standards.

By exporting jobs, laying off workers, and passing along shoddy products, management commits a lethal act of sabotage, violates the ethic of work, and betrays the relationship that upholds quality, production, delivery, and loyalty.

Labor creates wealth, bosses exploit it. Labor builds community, bosses prey upon it. It’s time for labor to let the feces fall where it may and traitors be exposed where they lie.

There is power in knowing our history. There is power in our fingers, power in our knowledge, power in our skill. From the longshore to the teamsters, from the mine to the mill, from the warehouse to the clerk, there is power in our work.

Workers will rule when they work to rule.

03-01-2006, 06:37 PM
AK Steel Locks Out Union Workers

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 1, 2006; 2:25 AM

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- AK Steel locked out nearly 2,700 hourly workers after their contract expired without a new agreement early Wednesday, and will use temporary workers to continue filling orders, a company spokesman said.

AK Steel Holding Corp. and its union workers disagreed over the company's demand that it be able to reduce the work force, freeze pensions and require employees to pay more of their health costs, among other issues.

Union members had recently voted to allow union leaders to authorize a strike if negotiations failed.

Salaried employees and temporary replacements will allow the company to continue meeting customers' needs for now, said company spokesman Alan McCoy.

Customers have "counted on us for 105 years," McCoy said. "We'd like to continue serving them for another 105."

Brian Daley, president of Armco Employees Independent Federation, informed hundreds of workers gathered outside the union hall about the lockout when he arrived from negotiations shortly after midnight.

He said the union had offered to continue working under the terms of the existing contract, but the company refused. He said both sides agreed to continue negotiating, but no talks had been scheduled.

"We have been trying to do everything we can to get a contract," Daley said.

Company officials wanted a contract based on one negotiated last year at its Ashland Works in Kentucky, which they said would allow the company to remain competitive.

That contract froze the company's pension plan, reduced the number of job classifications so that workers can handle more duties, eliminated guarantees on the number of workers at the plant and increased employees' share of health care expenses.

AK Steel produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steels, along with tubular steel products, for customers in the automotive, appliance, construction and manufacturing markets.

Shares of AK Steel fell 3.6 percent, or 41 cents, to $11.10 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.


Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Middletown contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Associated Press

03-02-2006, 07:29 PM
Most of you local 15 guys probably already know that Axelon uses the Burke group to do their union busting for them. I recently visited their website and on the first page they listed their beliefs. It was painfully obvious that Axelon doesn't share their views on how to treat employees with dignity and respect. Visit their website and read it, Its a real joke.

03-02-2006, 09:57 PM
Tipping the Scales Toward National Health Care (March 1, 2006)

Thirty percent of the nation’s Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are ready for Congress to consider a national health care plan, the highest percentage ever recorded by the annual survey of U.S. senior finance executives conducted by CFO magazine. Twenty-three percent say they “are not sure” about a national plan; 45 percent are opposed.

The business community has long rejected this obvious solution to the growing health care crisis in the U.S., but there is a simple explanation for this new level of support. Eighty percent of the CFOs report that they are concerned about the effect of rising health care costs on profits.

In the post-Sarbanes Oxley environment, CFOs have more power and influence in U.S. companies than ever before. As the chief executive for a company’s finance and reporting function, the CFO has the greatest awareness of the impact of benefit costs and liabilities on the organization’s earnings and long-term prospects. CFO support for a national health care plan carries tremendous significance.

These same CFOs report that in 2006, their companies will once again tap every cost-shifting vehicle to push more health care costs onto workers. Almost two-thirds say that they will increase co-payments and deductibles. Six out of ten say they will raise employee contributions to health insurance premiums. Almost half say they will use health savings accounts, the first step in installing the new high-deductible “consumer driven” plans now promoted by the Bush administration.

Other evidence of employers’ ongoing determination to cut their share of health benefit costs comes from the annual BNA survey of employer bargaining objectives. Cutting health benefit costs stands at the top of the employer agenda for contract negotiations in 2006, with two-thirds of surveyed employers indicating that this is their top priority.

Provisions for cost shifting in new contracts will be a top goal, the BNA survey shows. Although most covered workers already contribute to health insurance costs through co-payments, deductibles or premium contributions, more than three in five employers will bargain to either increase workers' existing payments (48 percent) or add new cost-sharing provisions (14 percent) in 2006. Seven in ten manufacturers (69 percent) plan to bargain for higher employee health care contributions.

Health provisions most commonly targeted for cuts in the 2006 bargaining round include prescription drug coverage (28 percent), doctor visits (25 percent), hospital coverage (22 percent) and surgical coverage (21 percent). Other areas that top employers' lists for winning concessions include pensions/retirement (29 percent), wages (28 percent), job security (17 percent) and paid leave benefits (16 percent). As noted, health care/insurance led all priority areas (67 percent).

Employers will also attempt to hold wage increases in the three percent range, which means that real wages will continue to decline. With inflation now running at an annual rate of four percent, workers will see their real wages drop by more than one percent when increased health care contributions are factored into the equation.

The consumer-driven plans now promoted by the Bush administration and the employer camp leave employees facing huge deductibles but only slightly lower premium payments. A survey by Mercer reports that the average monthly employee contribution for family coverage is $290 for a PPO plan, $266 for an HMO, and $206 for a consumer-driven plan (CDHP). As a percentage of the total premium paid, the employee contribution for a CDHP is 35 percent, compared with 33 percent for a PPO or HMO plan, and the CDHP carries disastrously high deductibles.

The health care crisis is only growing worse. Although the annual double-digit increases in health benefit costs moderated somewhat in 2005 and should remain at still high but more moderate levels in 2006, experts predict that cost increases will jump back up to double-digit levels in 2007.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid reported in February that health care will suck up 20 percent of total GDP by 2015, up from its current 16.2 percent level. Annual health care costs will reach $12,320 per person by 2015. This will be a disaster for the economy as a whole and particularly for middle and low income Americans.

The only real solution to unbearably high cost-sharing for workers with health insurance is for unions to join forces with the substantial part of the employer community that is ready to support a national health care plan.

© 2006 Labor Research Association

03-03-2006, 11:22 PM
AK Steel Ordered to Pay $46.2M in Suit

The Associated Press
Thursday, March 2, 2006; 11:46 PM

CINCINNATI -- A federal judge has ordered AK Steel Corp. to pay at least $46.2 million to 1,250 former employees in a class action lawsuit over pension benefits.

The 2002 lawsuit charged that the company miscalculated the lump sum pension payment for participants in one of its pension plans. The plaintiffs claimed the method used to calculate the payments does not comply with federal law and resulted in underpayments.

The plaintiffs all retired or were terminated on or after Jan. 1, 1995, and got their pension benefits under the Retirement Accumulation Pension Plan in a lump sum by April 1, 2005.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith ordered AK Steel on Feb. 22 to pay about $37.6 million in damages and $8.6 million in prejudgement interest for a total of about $46.2 million, but the judge also ordered that post-judgement interest will accrue at a rate of 4.7 percent per year until the payment is made.

AK Steel notified the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that it plans to appeal the ruling.

The company also said that if its appeal does not succeed, the payments to class members may have a "negative impact on the company's consolidated financial position, results of operations and cash flows."

AK Steel produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steels, along with tubular steel products, for customers in the automotive, appliance, construction and manufacturing markets. It had 2005 sales of $5.65 billion.

The company is currently involved in a labor dispute. AK Steel locked out union workers Tuesday when the Armco Employees Independent Federation refused a contract that would allow the company to eliminate jobs, train workers to perform several tasks and bill them for part of the cost of their health insurance. The company says its labor costs are $40 to $50 more per ton than those of competitors.

Plaintiffs' attorney Thomas Theado said Thursday that he anticipated the company would appeal.

04-07-2006, 09:09 PM
Working stiffs, unite
Respect on the job shouldn't be something that we have to work overtime to achieve

Studs Terkel of Chicago, the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is "And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey." He is working on his memoirs
Published April 7, 2006

I feel a shift in the air. It may have started last summer with the big storm. The television filled with images from New Orleans that we usually associate with developing countries. The southern city we loved to romanticize was under water, and its poor were left to fend for themselves. Our nation wanted answers.

Then, right before the Labor Day holidays, New York City's transit system shut down. New Yorkers grumbled about marathon walks and having to share taxis. Bus drivers, conductors and train operators, men and women used to flying down the tracks and getting folks to work, stood idled. They wanted to make sure the newly hired received the same benefits package they had. The rest of New York just wanted to know what was slowing their lives down.

And just this spring, 500,000 Los Angelinos and a million Parisians hit the streets. French students and workers are demanding a reversal in a new law that would make it easier to fire young workers. Back in the U.S. a groundswell has surged in protest against anti-immigrant workers legislation. There is some serious hot air out there.

It just could be, and this would be a welcome development, a call for a shake-up of the status quo. Moving poverty from the shadows and taking the conditions that create it to task. Transit workers refusing to have their pensions raided. Hotel workers on the move toward good pay and safe working conditions. Young Latinos striving to make sure the jobs available to them aren't perpetual sweatshop jobs of second-class status. Like the meat cutters, and public employees before them, today's workers know that higher standards on the job come with a union. Workers earn more with a collective bargaining agreement, and employers benefit from reduced turnover and increased productivity.

Here in Chicago health-care workers and nurses are organizing. They have the best interests of their patients at heart. As far as common sense goes it seems to me that if you do right by the workers then you do right by the patients. But some health-care workers, earning as little $8 an hour, can't afford to pay for their own health insurance. They see the hypocrisy. They're coming together to form a union.

Giving breath to the union dream is the first step in what invariably becomes the long trip through employer intimidation. Workers face incredible opposition when they discuss forming a union. In the Chicago area, when employers are faced with organizing campaigns, 30 percent fire pro-union workers, and 49 percent threaten to close a work site, according to a recent study commissioned by American Rights at Work.

Too many employers have trampled upon the rights of America's workers for too long. But janitors won't allow them to get away with that anymore. They organize and then walk out as a whole, across an entire city. Hotel staff see the cost of the amenities add up for guests and work piling on them without a bump up in their wages. They learn from their industry's consolidation trends. If the hotels are to be run by four big chains, then workers will bargain across those chains.

Cable technicians, bartenders and truckers will do the work to keep America running--the work that can't be off-shored. With a voice at work they'll make those jobs good jobs.

What brings workers together can be heavy-handed employers, but it also can be a belief, a hope of improving the climate and community at work--the spaces where so many of us spend so much of our lives. Respect on the job and a voice at the workplace shouldn't be something Americans have to work overtime to achieve. Their work is more than an inanimate unit of labor, and they deserve to knock off at the end of the day with the same dignity they clocked in with.

Feelings of self-respect, appreciation and pride do not show up on economic forecasts or on a profit and loss spreadsheet, but they are the result of decent pay for honest work. The security a breadwinner feels knowing a sick family member will receive the care they need. The joy a mother and father experience when they can afford to help send their kids to college. When people come together to join a union, they build something bigger and better for themselves and their families. They create community.

We could use more of that.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

04-13-2006, 01:24 AM
I want to know when the affiliated unions of the AFL-CIO are going to start conducting informational pickets outside of Walmart locations. It is WAY overdue. What the hell are we waiting for????? There was a French Company in Houston about three years ago that was doing the wallmart thing... they were keeping all their employees part time so they paid no benifits... The Union came out against them... pickets were set up... and after about a year of that the company folded... I'm thinkin we could make a dent in Wallmart... the American Icon...

06-02-2006, 06:51 AM

Laborers call strike
Dan Ryan repairs slowed; O'Hare modernization project halted

By Stephen Franklin
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 2, 2006

A Laborers Union strike on Thursday shut down highway and building projects in the Chicago area, trimmed repair work on the Dan Ryan Expressway, halted modernization efforts at O'Hare International Airport and stirred concerns about the effect it could have on a construction-driven economy.

In the first walkout by the Chicago Laborers District Council since a nine-day stoppage in 1991, the union struck members of the Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association, one of several building associations with whom it has contracts.

As the laborers' 5-year-old contract with about a dozen construction organizations ran out at midnight Wednesday, it had reached agreements or extended its contracts with all of them except MARBA, said union attorney Robert Bloch.

But in the case of MARBA, the union and builders remained far apart after a month of talks, and the union quit negotiations Wednesday, indicating its dismay with the contractors' offer.

Warning that the strike could hurt major construction projects like the one on the Dan Ryan, MARBA said it would seek the help of a federal mediator to bring the union back to the bargaining table.

The Laborers' workplace clout was quickly proven, as members of other building-trades unions refused to cross their picket lines, bringing an eerie hush over construction sites and putting thousands besides the laborers out of work.

With no talks scheduled between the laborers and MARBA, their dispute segued into countercharges and a debate over whether the contractors organization has the authority to bargain on behalf of its 250 members, some of whom are major firms in the Chicago area.

Randy Larson, a spokesman for MARBA, said that though his group's right to bargain for its members expired Wednesday, it was ready to continue talks with the union.

"If we were to hammer out a deal, I am sure most contractors would say fine," said Larson.

But Bloch said he was confused by MARBA's willingness to still talk with the union.

"They have notified all of the contractors that they are on their own," he said.

Larson described the negotiations with the union as "unusual" because it had not countered his organization's initial offer of a $2.20-an-hour raise each year for a two-year contract. The average wage for laborers, whose health-care coverage costs are paid by their employers, is $30.15 an hour, he said.

But Bloch said the union did not respond to the contractors' offer because there were other issues that needed to be dealt with.

One thing the union wants is more control over work subcontracted to members of other unions, said Larson, who added that such a change could have a "significant impact" on jobs.

The contractors oppose such a change because, he explained, "It would put us into constant disputes over who would have jurisdiction [over jobs]."

Larson acknowledged, as union officials pointed out, that such a clause exists in its contracts with other trades. But, he said, the "ramifications" could be more significant for the laborers because of contractors' reliance on subcontracting.

Much of the work on the Dan Ryan Expressway will continue because the major contractor, Walsh Construction Co., has a contract with the union, said Mike Claffey, an Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman. But at least one of the firm's subcontractors was struck, forcing it to halt its work, he said.

And out of 200 highway construction projects in the six-county area, at least 150 were stopped Thursday as a result of the strike, Claffey said.

"We certainly hope this is a short-term issue," he said.

Construction work also was halted at O'Hare, where several hundred workers have been carrying out a modernization program since fall, said Rosemarie Andolino, executive director of the program.

Alan Lev, president of Belgravia Group, a leading residential developer, said one of his company's downtown projects was shut down, and he was hoping for a prompt settlement.

"Over the last several years, we've been lucky that we haven't had work stoppages," he said.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for Harris Private Bank, said the specter of a long-term strike would be especially troubling for the Chicago economy because it has relied on a strong boost from its construction sector.

"A prolonged strike could have a profound negative impact on Chicago," Ablin said. "Of all the major cities, Chicago enjoys probably one of the strongest construction markets."

06-28-2006, 03:18 PM
2,000 temporary workers hired as replacements

Bloomberg News

June 28, 2006

TROY, Mich. -- Delphi Corp. has hired 2,000 temporary workers to replace thousands of more expensive union members taking early retirement or buyouts.

The temporary employees are being trained at U.S. plants before moving into jobs held by United Auto Workers members, Delphi spokesman Lindsey Williams said Tuesday. Most temporary hires at the company will earn $14 an hour rather than the $27 paid to union workers.

Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy protection for its U.S. operations on Oct. 8, said Monday that 12,600 workers accepted retirement offers, and it expects more to take buyouts under a June program. The company is trimming employment to reduce costs under its plan to exit bankruptcy by mid-2007.

"There should be some short-term loss of productivity, but the lower wages rates should more than compensate," said Morgan Keegan & Co. analyst Pete Hastings, who is based in Memphis.

"It's a cost that Delphi is more than willing to absorb. Delphi is also giving themselves a chance to succeed by getting the labor-cost structure right."

UAW spokesman Paul Krell said that the hiring of temporary workers wasn't a surprise, and that the union had agreed to the move.

The company doesn't yet know how many workers it will need as a result of the departures, Williams said.

Delphi is closing 21 of its 29 U.S. manufacturing sites, and some of the remaining plants might not need as many workers because the company also is exiting product lines.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

08-16-2006, 06:48 AM

Eye on the NLRB: July 2005 Published 07-27-2005

Big Brother Nixes Happy Hour
NLRB Green Lights Ban on Off-Duty Fraternizing Among Co-Workers

It is a regular pastime for co-workers to chat during a coffee break, at a union hall, or over a beer about workplace issues, good grilling recipes, and celebrity gossip. Yet a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allows employers to ban off-duty fraternizing among co-workers, severely weakening the rights of free association and speech, and violating basic standards of privacy for America's workers.

So how did the NLRB decide to weaken fundamental workplace protections? Security firm Guardsmark instituted a rule directing employees not to "fraternize on duty or off duty, date, or become overly friendly with the client's employees or with co-employees." In September 2003, the Service Employees International Union filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Guardsmark, claiming that the company's work rules inhibited its employees' Section 7 rights.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act grants workers the right to "self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations…and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection..." While the law allows employers to ban association among co-workers during work hours, Guardsmark's rule was broader in that it applied to the off-duty association of co-workers.

On June 7, 2005, the Board ruled 2 to 1 that Guardsmark's fraternization rule was lawful.1 The Board majority argued that workers would likely interpret the fraternization rule as merely a ban on dating, and not a prohibition of the association among co-workers protected by Section 7. But the dissenting member of the Board pointed out that since the rule already mentions dating, workers would understand fraternization to mean something else. She noted, "the primary meaning of the term 'fraternize…[is] to associate in a brotherly manner'…and that kind of association is the essence of workplace solidarity."

Growing Workforce, Shrinking Protection

Number of U.S. workers for every employee of the NLRB:
In 1980: 30,1762
In 2003: 69,4073

While there are reasons for employers to ban dating among co-workers (namely to prevent sexual harassment), prohibiting off-duty fraternization is something quite different. Such a ban inevitably chills collective action of any sort—be it on a purely social basis or related to employees discussing whether to form a union or not.

Since employers are not obligated to inform employees of their legally-protected right to associate with their co-workers, how can we expect any employee to assume that a rule banning fraternization doesn't interfere with these rights? And why would someone risk violating a no-fraternization rule, given that most employees work 'at will'—meaning they can be fired for no reason?

America's workers need more opportunities to come together to discuss vexing workplace issues, or just to make personal connections with those we spend most of our waking hours with. But the NLRB gives employers the green light to invade our privacy and chip away at our most basic rights in the workplace.


Additional Resources

1. Sign-up to receive an alert via email when the next monthly edition of Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB is published.

2. Read past editions of Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB.

3. If you know of a case that we should highlight in a future edition of Workers’ Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB, please let us know. Send these stories, along with your contact information, case details and related information to nlrbstories@americanrightsatwork.org.

1. Guardsmark, LLC, 344 NLRB No. 97 (2005).
2. Human Rights Watch, "Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards" (2000).
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employees on non-farm payrolls by major industry sector, 1955 to date."

09-29-2006, 07:28 PM
Aged Equipment Sends a Jolt Through Strained Power Industry
By UWUA 369
Created 08/29/2006 - 2:22pm
Even as a hot summer strains the electric-power grid, industry officials are growing worried they have underestimated another problem: decades-old underground cables and other gear prone to fail under stress.

Repeated heavy loads or just nearby construction can sometimes fry this gear, and knock out other pieces of electrical equipment nearby. Antique equipment is often associated with recent power outages, such as a length of 59-year-old cable whose failure was a factor in a 10-day blackout that plagued the Queens section of New York last month.

Engineering experts now believe the nation is entering a period that could be marked by a dramatic increase in localized power outages unless considerably more is spent on replacing old and deteriorated lines. Replacing these old cables and equipment could add billions to utility spending.

Yesterday, Texas set a new record for electricity usage, exceeding last year's peak by 4.6%, a huge jump by industry measures. Most regions also have set records this summer and some of the hottest weather may still be ahead.

"We've been using equipment far beyond its original intended life because we've been concerned with the cost of replacement and the need to keep utility rates down," says Dean Oskvig, president and chief executive of B&V Energy, a unit of Black & Veatch, a global engineering firm based in St. Louis, Mo.

To save money, the industry often waits for a failure to occur before replacing aged power lines and equipment. This "run to fail" approach leaves equipment in place long after its expected life and raises the prospect of more outages where they have already occurred.

U.S. utilities currently spend more than $18 billion a year on their local electricity-delivery systems, but much of that is spent on stringing wire to new housing developments and customers. Black & Veatch estimates the industry needs to spend an additional $8 billion to $10 billion a year to tackle the problem of obsolete and corroded equipment.

But such pro-active replacements could add about 5% to residential electric rates. That is a hard sell with electricity prices alreadyunder pressure from rising power-generation costs.

Few utilities know the exact age of their oldest pieces of equipment, which often lie buried below city streets and are hard to get at. "Records are pretty sparse," says Chet Knapp, manager of reliability for Pepco Holdings Inc., owner of the utility that serves Washington, D.C., and parts of Maryland. It is not unusual for utilities to find equipment dating to the era of the Model T Ford.

That is what happened a couple of years ago in Philadelphia, when workers for the local utility, PECO Energy, a unit of Exelon Corp.,found lengths of underground electricity cable still in service they later dated to 1899. Nearby, they found more wires put down in 1900 and 1904 that also were in good shape. Some of the old wiring equipment has
been left untouched because it has a smaller diameter than newer cable. So replacing old stuff would also require installing new conduit, the protective pipe through which the cable runs. A small job would quickly become a big, messy job requiring burrowing under streets and sometimes buildings.

In addition to chronological age, "there's another aging mechanism going on and it's related to the overheating of equipment that's caused by heavy electricity use," says Ralph Masiello, senior vice president of KEMA consulting, which often works for utilities. Put simply, equipment that's repeatedly stressed will age faster -- and be more likely suddenly to give out.

The recent outage in Queens involved cable that was nearly identical to the type found by those Philadelphia utility workers. They are known as "PILC" cable -- short for "paper-insulated, lead-covered" -- and are found beneath the streets of many big U.S. cities.

Although the cable is remarkable for its durability, it wears out eventually, usually when disturbed by digging nearby or as moistureinvades the sheath. Consolidated Edison Inc., which serves the New York City area, began a concerted effort in 1986 to replace all of this type of cable with wires of a newer design that employs synthetic coverings
over metal wire. But the cost, about $25 million a year, is so great that ConEd doesn't expect to finish until 2024. By then, some of its replacements will be 38 years old. Currently, about 27% of its system consists of the old paper-insulated cable.

As work continues, cables fail. The failures of PILC cables were blamed for power outages in Manhattan in July 1999 that affected 200,000 people. As with the Queens blackout, the earlier failures also occurred in the middle of a heat wave, where there was exceptionally high electricity demand.

ConEd uses different diagnostic tests to try to ferret out which lines may be susceptible to collapse but some tests actually can damage lines. Others are unreliable. "There is no perfect test," says John Miksad,senior vice president of electrical operations at ConEd.

In San Francisco, a failed PILC cable was blamed for a December 2003 outage that affected 100,000 residents and darkened the popular Union Square shopping district at the height of the holiday shopping season. An investigation concluded a 40-year-old cable failed "explosively" and started a substation fire that caused $4.6 million worth of damage because it wasn't immediately detected. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the
local utility, now is replacing all similar PILC cables at its unmanned San Francisco substations and beneath about 100 miles of Oakland and San Francisco streets.

Investigators found that the older cable, when strung vertically, gradually loses its insulating properties. That happens because old PILC cable consists of copper wires wrapped in oil-impregnated insulating paper. Over time, the oil can migrate to the bottom of a suspended wire,leaving the upper stretches brittle and more thinly insulated.Insulation failure is a leading cause of PILC cable failures.

Distribution-system outages haven't received as much attention as big transmission-line failures because they generally affect fewer people at one time. In "networked" systems found in downtown areas, there's rdundancy built into the system and it requires multiple line failures in order for power flows to be noticeably disrupted.

An increase in PILC cable failures could have a significant impact on reliability and costs. The cables are typically found in underground systems and are the most difficult to repair or replace.

Many utilities feel a pressing need to spend more money on their power-distribution systems. In a survey of 39 top utility executives that will be released next month, distribution-system spending ranked as the No. 1 priority, ahead of generation and environmental compliance,according to Jone-Lin Wang, senior director at energy consultants Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

It is hard to say how much PILC cable still is in use, but it's believed to be a lot. The decision about whether and when to replace cables is made on a utility-by-utility basis. Expense is always a major consideration.

Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International, recently sought approval to replace 800 miles of aging underground cable, including some PILC type, after concluding cable failures were the leading cause of controllable outages. But consumer advocates at the California Public Utilities Commission fought the $145 million request,
arguing that there was no proof that the worst cables would be replaced first, given inadequate utility records.

Instead, the utility got permission to replace only 300 miles of cable at a cost of $54 million. An administrative law judge acknowledged the reduction might mean "running cable to failure" and "poorer system reliability than what customers experience today."

Ron Litzinger, senior vice president of transmission and distribution at the utility, says the utility expects to present more compelling data for its next rate request in three years. In the meantime, it plans to spend $250 million more than is recouped in customers' bills "because we don't want to get too far behind."

Regulators are paying more attention to reliability issues. A study by the Oregon Public Utility Commission, for instance, found a gradual worsening of service quality between 2001 and 2005. Excluding storms, it found equipment failures were the leading cause of outage. In 2005, failed equipment caused from 25% to 45% of outages at the state's three biggest utilities.

The electric sector is trying to beef up its data collection and analysis. It's also installing more sensors in equipment to warn of imminent failures. "We're the last industry to aggressively embrace sensors," says Clark Gellings, vice president of innovation at EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif.

Given the remarkable durability of PILC cable, some observers think it should be used as replacement cable, too. But the lead covering is regarded as an environmental hazard and it takes more skill to join together lengths of the older-style cable than newer types.

Workers splicing PILC cable work with hot lead solder, shaping it by hand and taking care there are no voids that later could allow moisture to intrude. It takes twice as long to splice the older-style cable as the newer types. "It's really something of an art," says ConEd's Mr. Miksad. Someday, he says, "it could be a lost art."

Write to Rebecca Smith at rebecca.smith@wsj.com [1]

10-02-2006, 03:39 PM
Agency drops bid to change work rules
Federal Workers: Melissa Harris

September 29, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security abandoned its final court appeal this week in its push to take greater control over the way the agency fires, pays and negotiates with its workers.

The decision leaves union contracts intact.

Larry Orluskie, a spokesman for Homeland Security, said that the Solicitor General's office, which handles all appellate litigation on behalf of the federal government, made the call not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal district judge and three-panel appeals court already had voided workplace rules that would have allowed top officials to "unilaterally" ignore union contracts and implement reforms without consulting with workers.

The ruling was a major setback to President Bush's efforts to spread a so-called "pay-for-performance" program - one that ties raises to an annual performance rating from a manager - through the entire government.

Colleen Kelley, president of the agency's largest union, the National Treasury Employees Union, said that the department now must go through a "meet and confer" process to develop new rules that would replace the ones the court voided and to implement pay-for-performance.

By the end of October, more than 10,000 managers and nonunion members at Homeland Security will fall under the pay-for-performance program, known as MaxHR. But Kelley said that little work has been done on reforms for union members because the struggling agency has been roiled by high-level turnover.

"There's been so many vacancies that no one's been driving this since April," she said.

The agency recently hired Marta Brito Perez from the Office of Personnel Management to restart the effort. Congress gave the department until January 2009 to change its labor relations rules.

It's unclear whether the Department of Defense in a similar, but separate, case also will abandon its appeal.

02-05-2007, 06:20 PM


02-06-2007, 06:25 PM
Quite inspiring. Unfortunately, I don't see us getting there. Greed and ingnorance is prevelant and that, thoughtful thinking, is probably long gone. Good read though. Wish somebody up top would grow some ballz and realize the situation. That said, I wish more customers would wake up and realize that service is going downhill. Go and bitch about it maybe. Then, when there's some bad publicity, maybe the people upstairs might (I use that loosely) start to get the point.

Racer X
02-15-2007, 11:38 AM
You posted lots of info. Is there any hope for us, or are we in the 1890's again?

02-15-2007, 05:37 PM
I Dont Know, It Seems That Every Play We Make We Get Sacked.
I Hope The Law Suit Goes Our Way, That Would Be A Great Moral Boost.
I Like To Think We Are Up Into The 1920's.

02-21-2007, 06:11 AM
Norma Rae, why's it so hard?
Published February 18, 2007


During the summer of my first year of law school, I was employed as a law clerk by District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Manhattan. It was a great job that allowed me to train under some generous and talented union lawyers. But, on one of my first days on the job, I was asked whether I would cross a picket line.

Because the union was so large, the secretarial staff had been organized by an outside union, and labor negotiations were on the cusp of breaking down. DC 37 was about to be struck and it wanted its employees to defy the pickets and continue working. (I said no way.)

Thankfully those events never came to pass. But I relay them to illustrate that I know from personal experience that unions are not perfect. I've seen rigid, counterproductive, self-preserving and even corrupt behavior by some of the more than a dozen unions I have dealt with in my professional life. Still, I know of no system better at getting workers a fair shake on the job.

Just compare the benefits accruing to union versus nonunion workers: Median weekly wages for union workers are 30 percent higher, and unionized workers can expect far more in terms of fringe benefits including health care, pensions, disability insurance and vacation time. But, perhaps most valuably, unions bring job security.

Unionized workers generally cannot be fired at the whim of management or because they are getting expensive due to their many years on the job. (The notoriously antiunion Wal-Mart suggested in an internal memo that workers who stay on the job year after year are unduly driving up labor costs. Jeesh.)

With all this going for it and polls showing that 60-million American workers who are not unionized would like to be, why are union rates dropping?

In a phrase: Union-busting.

It used to be that employers would take this phrase literally, using Pinkerton agents to bust the heads of union organizers. Today's equivalents are the legions of consultants who are enlisted by almost every company that thinks it is about to be unionized. These hired guns come with fancy law degrees, but their mission is the same as the muscle - to cow employees into rejecting the union.

In a hearing before a House subcommittee, Keith Ludlum, a veteran of Desert Storm, told his story about being fired by Smithfield's Tar Heel, N.C., hog slaughter and pork processing plant after he attempted to organize his fellow workers.

Ludlum described the dangerous conditions at the plant. He said a fellow worker in his 50s broke his leg by having it pinned between an electric pallet jack and a concrete wall, then had to come to work the next day or get fired. The company provided no sick days, according to Ludlum, and didn't want to have to report the injury to OSHA.

Smithfield says it has no record of that incident and has a good safety record. But the company admitted that it offers no paid sick leave and that it "made mistakes" in the way it responded to union organizing at the plant.

Ludlum said that when the whiff of unionism was in the air, Smithfield viciously fought back. Findings by the National Labor Relations Board confirm an illegal campaign of coercion and intimidation. In 2004, the board ordered Smithfield to stop firing employees and threatening them with physical assault and other reprisals for their union support.

Stories like this are remarkably common. Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, says that one in four employers discharge employees for union activities.

Clearly, current law isn't protective enough of today's Norma Raes. So, what's to be done?

Worker-friendly members of Congress have lined up behind the Employee Free Choice Act - a measure that passed a House committee on Wednesday. It would substantially increase penalties on employers who act against employee organizers. Also, the bill would give workers the ability to authorize a union if a majority sign up for one, rather than through an election.

Employers use the election process as a delaying tactic. Between the time that a bulk of workers say they want a union by signing certification cards and the election, consultants are hired and the threats start flying.

America's story of widening income inequality is also the story of its shrinking unions. When workers have no say, they take the crumbs that are offered.

02-21-2007, 08:23 PM
States Want to Crack Down on Metal Theft

AP Business Writer

February 21, 2007, 2:06 PM EST

ST. LOUIS -- The thieves weren't interested in the collection boxes or the computer equipment at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. They were after the copper on the roof and along the sides.

Wielding pickaxes and crowbars, they pried up the gutters and the flashing, leaving a $12,000 mess that the old church -- with no insurance at the time -- is still struggling to clean up.

Stealing metal and selling it to scrap dealers has long been a way to make money, but with metal prices running higher than usual, the problem has gotten especially bad, and now lawmakers in Illinois and at least a dozen other states are trying to stop some of the plundering of vacant houses, businesses, construction sites, churches, even graveyards.

They are pushing measures that would require scrap dealers to keep detailed records on those who sell them metal. The hope is that the paper trail will lead to arrests.

For scrap-metal thieves, anything is fair game -- siding, gutters, spools of electric cable, pipes, even beer kegs. Some of the more brazen ones raid salvage yards, then sell the stolen metal back to the businesses.

Copper is particularly desirable. Copper prices hit an all-time high at about $4 a pound last May and averaged slightly more than $3 a pound through 2006.

"Scrap metal thieving is out of control, it really is," said Lt. Brad Wells of the Madison County, Ill., Sheriff's Department, which last month requested public help in trying to identify three men caught on security cameras stealing from a shuttered site victimized at least a dozen times. No arrests have been made.

Among the proposals for cracking down on thefts:

* In Illinois, a measure would require scrap dealers to copy the driver's license or state ID of metal sellers and photograph the license plate and side of the seller's vehicle, along with the items purchased.

* A bill in Hawaii would bar scrap copper dealers from buying the metal from minors and people without a government-issued picture ID. Other proposals would require sellers of scrap copper to be fingerprinted.

* In Texas, one measure calls for scrap dealers to record the make, model and license plate numbers of vehicles used to transport a certain amount of salvaged copper, brass, bronze and aluminum.

* And in Washington state, where scrap dealers already must record their suppliers' identities, lawmakers are considering stiffer penalties for copper thieves, including a year tacked on to the standard theft sentence and guaranteed prison time. A botched copper theft in Washington last month knocked out cable TV service to 50,000 customers for most of the day.

The precautions are similar to those commonly required of pawn brokers.

"It's come to the point where this has to be done," said Illinois state Sen. Bill Haine.

Scrap dealers are not so sure.

Steve Hirsch, associate counsel for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, said many jurisdictions already have laws requiring scrap yards to log their customers, but those laws often are not enforced.

Some of the other measures would be too burdensome, including proposals requiring that all scrap metal purchases be held for at least 30 days before the seller gets paid, Hirsch said. He said scrap yard owners would have to maintain numerous piles of material -- each labeled with the seller's name -- that would take up a lot of room and cost dealers money.

"Their business is to process that material quickly," he added, noting that the price of copper can fluctuate 15 to 20 cents in a day.

For more than a decade, the recyclers organization has policed itself, maintaining a network under which scrap dealers across the country are notified -- in recent years by e-mail -- of metal thefts, Hirsch said.

In desperately poor East St. Louis, Ill., the city's many vacant buildings are plundered with staggering frequency.

"It's bad. It's daily, and it's a nightmare," Detective Ken Berry said. Thieves tear out walls to reach the wiring and pipes, often causing thousands of dollars in damage, usually for small amounts of metal.

Berry said that without logs, fingerprints or some other sort of information to tie thieves to scrap yards, police are powerless.

"If we don't catch these guys in the act," he said, "there's nothing we can do."
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

02-27-2007, 08:21 PM
A Shield Against Corporate Bullying

By Lance Compa
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; A15

A proposal to let American workers decide in peace and quiet about whether to join a union has provoked a torrent of crocodile tears from corporate executives. The Employee Free Choice Act, which the House is due to vote on this week, would permit an employee to choose union representation by signing a membership card. If a majority of workers in a defined "bargaining unit" opted for it, employers would have to bargain in good faith with the workers' union.

Business spokesmen shout that the act deprives workers of their right to an election held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). But what companies really prize is management's power to exploit the election procedure to mount aggressive, one-sided attacks on workers' freedom of association.

Why the sudden concern for democracy in a culture of otherwise unilateral employer dominion? We don't hear companies calling for secret-ballot votes on management decisions or CEO stock options, or to elect worker representatives to boards of directors. Bosses' democratic impulses appear only when workers want to exercise their right to organize.

Current labor law puts employers in control of what should be employees' concern. Even when by a big majority workers join a union to bargain collectively, employers can force a vote run by the NLRB. During the weeks it takes to set up the election, management can launch a devastating campaign to thwart workers' choice. Employers say they are just telling employees the downsides of organizing. But they go way beyond that point, hauling workers into mandatory meetings and threatening to shutter the workplace or to permanently replace workers who exercise the right to strike.

Imagine a campaign for president where legally just one candidate can spend an unlimited amount of money for TV advertisements and the other candidate can only pass out flyers at highway intersections. Imagine a campaign for Congress in which every employer in the country can force its employees into a mandatory meeting to tell them: "If you vote for the candidate of Party A, I'll have to close the business; vote for Party B if you want to keep your job." Imagine a campaign for governor where every employer in the state singles out and fires employees who support the candidate whom management opposes.

These examples parallel the reality of union election campaigns under current law. Employers have unlimited access to harangue workers against organizing, while union representatives are relegated to passing out flyers to workers speeding out of parking lots and asking time-stressed employees to attend evening or weekend meetings. Employers have unlimited power to hold captive-audience meetings where they can legally "predict" workplace closure, as long as they don't illegally "threaten" it (a Supreme Court decision created the distinction, though many understandably have trouble differentiating between the two). And though it's illegal, employers routinely fire worker activists to frighten others into submission, knowing it will take years for reinstatement orders to take effect.

A card-based system for choosing union representation is already allowed under current law. Many fair-minded employers use it. But most nullify it, forcing workers into the NLRB election process. These managements say they need an opportunity to offer their version of union "facts," but their presentations are often threat-filled diatribes.

Nothing in the proposed legislation prevents employers from presenting their views -- including their diatribes. Actually, employers are entitled to mount union-avoidance campaigns starting on Day One of a worker's employment. Their campaign is the wages and benefits they pay and the way they treat employees. If workers turn to union representation, it should be their business, not the company's.

Workers should be able to organize without fear-mongering by bosses or, by the same token, pressure from union organizers. This is how the card-based system already works; safeguards against undue pressure from any side are built in. It includes rapid arbitration to resolve any disputes, compared with years of dragged-out NLRB proceedings and federal court appeals.

Many companies have agreed to a card-based system. They find that when workers choose bargaining, a more peaceful, productive negotiating-table dynamic results than in the case of negotiations that follow an NLRB election war. Congress should build such positive labor relations into the architecture of our labor laws by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

Lance Compa, a senior lecturer at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, wrote the Human Rights Watch report "Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards."

02-28-2007, 08:42 PM
Major Work Stoppages Idle Fewer Workers

Associated Press Writer

February 27, 2007, 5:33 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- About 70,000 workers missed days on the job because of labor disputes last year, only about one-fourth as many as a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The change reflects the more powerful position of employers, high anxiety among workers and new labor strategies, according to labor veterans and analysts.

The number of those who missed days because of work stoppages was 273,000 in 1996 and had grown to 394,000 by 2000.

"Employers have a much stronger hand in the workplace," said Stewart Acuff, organizing director at the AFL-CIO. "People are afraid to strike and afraid to join unions" because of the imbalance of power.

Bob McCracken, a former Verizon worker who is now a union official for Communication Workers of America Local 1103, recalled that a threatened strike in New York was called off several years ago when Verizon was prepared to bring in thousands of replacement workers.

"The company had a strike-breaking force of about 25,000 contractors who could do the work and management people from all over," he said. "We stated we would not go out on strike, that the company would have to lock us out. We settled the contract six weeks after the expiration."

The number of workers nationally who missed days on the job declined from 2005 when 100,000 missed work, but the number of lost workdays was up by 1 million days in 2006 to a total of 2.7 million days, BLS reported.

The increase in the number of days lost in 2006 was caused by the length of some of the strikes and lockouts.

Major work stoppages covered by the BLS study includes strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more employees and lasting at least one shift.

The longest work stoppages in 2006 reported by the BLS:

* The longest stoppage starting in 2006 lasted 211 days and involved AK Steel Corp. and the Armco Employees Independent Federation. That work stoppage has not been settled.

* The work stoppage between Northwest Airlines and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, cost 812,100 workdays lost in 2006 and 1,183,800 workdays lost in total since it began on Aug. 20, 2005. That strike was settled in November.

* The largest in terms of worker participation with 12,600 employees involved, was between the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers of America, with 718,000 days idled in 2006. The Goodyear strike was settled at the end of last year.

Of the 20 major work stoppages that started in 2006, 12 were in private industry and eight were in state and local government, BLS reported. That's about half the number of major strikes in 1996, but some strikes these days are lasting a long time.

"We're seeing strikes that are going on for months and months," said Elizabeth Ashack, an economist at the Labor Department. "Unions and companies now are not willing to settle quickly."

Greg Denier, a spokesman for the Change To Win federation, said unions have found other methods to pressure corporations, short of striking.

"Workers now don't look at it as strictly a worker-corporate confrontation on a picket line," Denier said. "They're doing outreach to the community, consumers, political leaders and investors."
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

04-04-2007, 06:16 PM

March 26, 2007

Re: Strike Preparations

To All Shop Stewards in EED and Call Center,

As all of you are aware we have now been in negotiations with PECO for nearly two years. Although many issues have been tentatively agreed to by both sides, we are still apart on some key issues. Your Negotiating Committee realizes that the Company’s “last, best and final” offer will be coming shortly. Based on all the information we have available, it is felt that the time has come to get prepared in the event of a vote to strike.

At this time I am asking that each Shop Steward compile a list of those members you represent and make sure you have both their cell and home telephone numbers. Please get your list to your Assistant Business Manager so we can compile a master list. This list will also be used to determine picket location assignments in the event of a strike.

I would hope the Company realizes how valuable a workforce they have and respond to the contract negotiations with a fair and equitable offer. In either case we have to be prepared.

In Solidarity,
Frank P. Kuders
President/Business Manager
IBEW Local Union #614

04-05-2007, 10:34 PM
RE: Strike Information Request
To All Local Union #614 EED and Call Center Members

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At our last Local Union Regular Union Meeting on Wednesday, March 14th, 2007, the EED and Call Center membership present had a number of questions regarding their benefits in the event of a strike. I explained that I had requested that information verbally and would follow-up on that request. As a result I sent a written request to Carol Sawicki, Exelon Human Resources Representative, requesting what would happen to the following benefits in the event of an EED and Call Center strike;
1) Medical
2) Life Insurance
3) Vision and Hearing
4) STD-to include information if already on STD
5) LTD-to include information if already on LTD
6) Dental coverage
7) Retirement-if already retired or if planning to retire
8) 401K Deductions
9) Savings Deductions

As soon as I receive answers to this requested information, I will get it out to our members. It would be unfortunate if the Company digs in and forces us to strike. The Company must realize that we, the workers are the backbone of this Company. We are the workers who are required to work in all kinds of weather to assure our customers have safe and reliable service. All we ask for and deserve in return is a fair contract.

With our EED and Call Center negotiations heating up, I strongly encourage all members to be at our next Union Meeting on Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 at IBEW Local Union #654’s Union Hall to hear what is happening on important issues such as these. This is YOUR Local, be there!

In Solidarity,
Frank P. Kuders
President/Business Manager
Local Union #614

04-06-2007, 10:02 AM
I hope things go well for y'all. All the other locals will be there for you. If you end up going on stike, We need line hands in LU 104, We have a lot of work in our juridiction. I cant say with authority, but I think LU 42 has a lot work coming up. I find your articles very informative and have learned some things from it.

04-07-2007, 09:37 AM


Statutes Amended In Order of Appearance
220 ILCS 5/4-602 new
220 ILCS 5/4-603 new

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Public Utilities Act. Provides that the Illinois Commerce Commission shall conduct a comprehensive workforce analysis study of each electric utility to determine the adequacy of the total in-house staffing in each job classification or job title critical to maintaining quality reliability and restoring service in each electric utility's service territory. Provides that each report shall contain a yearly detailed comparison beginning with 1995 and ending in 2006 of certain ratios for each electric utility. Provides that the ratios shall be reported from each utility's named service area, district, division, outlying area, village, municipality, reporting point, or region. Provides that the analysis shall determine the total number of contractor employees for the same time frame and shall be conducted in the same manner as the in-house analysis. Provides that the Commission may hold public hearings while conducting the analysis to assist in the adequacy of the study. Requires the Commission to hold public hearings on the study and present the results to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2008. Provides that the Commission shall require electric utilities to develop and implement strategies to attract and retain workers and remedy any deficiencies found by the study. Provides that the Commission shall develop and implement rules to require each electric utility to employ an adequately sized, well-trained in-house utility work force, including, but not limited to, benchmarks for employee staffing levels for each classification and employee training for each classification. Effective immediately.

House Amendment No. 1
Adds language providing that an electric utility shall bear the costs of issuing any reports required by provisions concerning an electric utility workforce study and it shall not be entitled to recovery of any costs incurred in complying with those provisions.

Fiscal Note, House Amendment No. 1 (Illinois Commerce Commission)
Since the bill requires the companies to pay for all costs associated with this bill, the ICC's fiscal impact will be minimal.

04-07-2007, 09:41 AM


House Sponsors
Rep. Robert F. Flider - Daniel V. Beiser, Careen M Gordon and Patrick J Verschoore

Last Action
Date Chamber Action
3/27/2007 House Placed on Calendar Order of 3rd Reading - Short Debate

Statutes Amended In Order of Appearance
220 ILCS 5/16-128

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law of 1997 in the Public Utilities Act. Provides that the General Assembly finds that it is necessary to assure that employees operating in the deregulated industry have the requisite skills, knowledge, training, experience, and competence to provide reliable and safe electrical service (now, the findings only provide it necessary to assure that employees have the requisite skills, knowledge, and competence to provide reliable and safe electrical service). Requires the Illinois Commerce Commission to determine whether an applicant meets the standards for certification as an alternative retail electric supplier by requiring the applicant to demonstrate possession of the requisite knowledge, skills, training, experience, and competence to perform those functions in a safe and responsible manner in order to provide safe and reliable service (now, an applicant must demonstrate possession of the requisite knowledge, skills, and competence to perform those functions). Removes language that makes the provisions concerning utility employees apply only during the mandatory transition period. Effective immediately.

House Amendment No. 1
Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Adds findings of the General Assembly. Adds language providing that nothing shall prohibit an electric utility from establishing knowledge, skill, training, experience, and competence levels than those required as of January 1, 2007. Adds language providing that the Illinois Commerce Commission shall have an affirmative statutory obligation to ensure that an electric utility is employing employees and contractors and subcontractors with employees who meet the requirements of certain provisions when installing, operating, and maintaining generation, transmission, or distribution facilities and equipment within this State. Effective immediately.

Fiscal Note, House Amendment No. 1 (Illinois Commerce Commission)
Current Commission resources are sufficient to meet the obligations this bill imposes.

04-07-2007, 09:45 AM

Statutes Amended In Order of Appearance
220 ILCS 5/4-605 new

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Public Utilities Act. Provides that the Illinois Commerce Commission, for reasons of safety and reliability, shall adopt rules to prohibit residential, commercial, and industrial customers from installing their own distribution facilities and equipment. The Commission shall have the authority to impose significant penalties to customers and electric utilities for a violation of this Section. Effective immediately.

House Amendment No. 1
Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Provides that no electric utility shall allow a retail customer or any person, corporation, or agent on behalf of such customer to install, operate, or maintain any electric distribution facility or equipment. Provides an exemption to the provision for retail customers of a municipal system or electric cooperative. Provides that employees of an electric utility that are obligated to install, operate, or maintain electric distribution facilities and equipment shall have an independent statutory cause of action to file a complaint against an electric utility, retail customer or person, corporation, or agent acting on behalf of a retail customer for alleged violations of the provision. Effective immediately.

Fiscal Note, House Amendment No. 1 (Illinois Commerce Commission)
Current Commission resources are sufficient to meet the obligations this bill imposes.

04-14-2007, 06:04 AM
IBEW Illinois State Conference Update

The semi-annual meeting of the IBEW Illinois State Conference was held on March 20 and 21, 2007, in Springfield, Illinois. The Illinois State Conference is held in accordance with ‘The Declaration of Principals of the IBEW Illinois State Conference’ which states in part: “We pledge ourselves to secure through honorable means, the enactment and enforcement of just legislation which will promote the interests of the organized electrical workers in the state.” Listed below are IBEW labor’s positions on bills on the House floor distributed by the Illinois IBEW State Conference on behalf of its affiliated IBEW unions on the week of March 20, 2007.

HB 458 – (Rep. Bradley (D)-Marion) – Creates Southern Illinois Aggregate for Viable Energy Solutions (SAVES) Program. Sets forth the requirements for a municipality and part of a county that is not a municipality within the program area to become a member of the program. Contains provisions concerning Board of Directors and their terms of office, powers, and duties. Provides for a plan of operation and governance of the program. Contains provisions concerning the duties and obligations of members of the program. SUPPORT

HB 719 – (Rep. Smith (D)-Peoria) – Amends the Public Utilities Act. Requires each electric utility to submit to the Illinois Commerce Commission a non-emergency vegetation management schedule for the utility’s service areas that is no more that 4 years in duration and that ensures that trees in all parts of the utility’s service areas are trimmed at least once every 4 years. SUPPORT

HB 818 – (Rep. Joyce (D)-Worth) – Provides that no electric utility shall allow a retail customer or any person, corporation, or agent on behalf of such customer to install, operate, or maintain any electric distribution facility or equipment. Provides an exemption to the provision for retail customers of a municipal system or electric cooperative. SUPPORT

HB 825 – (Rep. Phelps (D)-Harrisburg) – Provides that the Illinois Commerce Commission shall conduct a comprehensive workforce analysis study of each electric utility to determine the adequacy of the total in-house staffing in each job classification or job title critical to maintaining quality reliability and restoring service in each electric utility’s service territory. SUPPORT

HB 1119 – (Rep. Flider (D)-Decatur) – Provides that the General Assembly finds that it is necessary to assure that employees operating in the deregulated industry have the requisite skills, knowledge, training, experience, and competence to provide reliable and safe electrical service. SUPPORT

Listed below are the names and contact information of the Representatives that sponsored the Labor House bills listed above. These House Bills have been created by our affiliated IBEW Unions for the protection of all utility workers. We urge you to contact these Representatives and express your support of the bills and also let them know that you appreciate their support. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them.

Illinois House of Representatives Bill Sponsors

Representatives District Telephone #

Richard Bradley 117 (217) 782-0387

Michael K. Smith 91 (217) 782-8152

Kevin Joyce 35 (217) 782-8200

Brandon W. Phelps 118 (217) 782-5131

Illinois Covered Plan

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s “Illinois Covered” plan was rolled out at the conference by Katherine Shannon, a member of his staff. Affordable, comprehensive and quality healthcare is essential for the well-being of all Illinoisans. Unfortunately, more than 1.4 million adults in Illinois are uninsured. Governor Blagojevich’s “Illinois Covered” plan will ensure that all Illinoisans have access to quality, affordable, healthcare options. If you would like a copy of the plan, contact Katherine Shannon or Abby Ottenhoff at (312) 814-3158 or (217) 782-7355, at the Governor’s Office.

04-14-2007, 04:21 PM
chi hand, thanks for all the info you keep posting. i find it to be very interesting. i like the post on large developers installing there own urd sestems. they have been doing that here for awhile.all because of lack of qualifyed personel,been going there ever since to fix it. keep on postin' and be safe

04-15-2007, 08:20 AM
Thanks For Reading Them.
Everyone Needs A Hobby And Luckily I Have About 1000 Of Them, And Posting Stuff Here Is One Of Them.
Stay Safe Bro.

04-25-2007, 06:16 AM
April 21, 2007
House Votes to Give Investors Say on Executive Pay
WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) — The House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday to give shareholders the right to cast nonbinding votes on the pay of top company executives, handing investor advocates a victory over the business community and defying the Bush administration.

By a 269-to-134 vote, the House passed the “say on pay” bill drafted by Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts and the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, amid soaring pay for chief executives and rising concerns over income inequality.

The measure would require corporations to hold the symbolic shareholder votes on pay each year, but they could ignore the outcomes. The measure is meant to make boards think twice before giving huge pay packages to managers.

Leading business organizations opposed the bill as a government intrusion and a potential source of lawsuits. The White House opposes the bill.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said after the House vote that he would offer a companion bill in the Senate. The prospects for the bill in the Senate are uncertain.

Right now, executive pay is set by directors who are nominated by managers and approved by shareholders. Critics contend that this gives chief executives too much say on their own pay.

Chief executives respond that giving shareholders a vote on pay — even a symbolic one — would be costly and distracting and would inject outside politics into business decisions.

“Say on pay” votes are common in Britain and Australia, but are controversial in the United States, where chief executives typically wield more power and enjoy higher compensation.

World U.S. N.Y. / Region Business Technology Science Health Sports Opinion Arts Style Travel Jobs Real Estate Automobiles Back to Top
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

05-01-2007, 06:19 AM
May Day - the Real Labor Day


May 1st, International Workers' Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in every country except the United States, Canada, and South Africa. This despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880s in the United States, with the fight for an eight-hour work day.

In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute a legal day's work from and after May 1, 1886. The resolution called for a general strike to achieve the goal, since legislative methods had already failed. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, rank-and-file support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of many union leaders. By April 1886, 250,000 workers were involved in the May Day movement.

The heart of the movement was in Chicago, organized primarily by the anarchist International Working People's Association. Businesses and the state were terrified by the increasingly revolutionary character of the movement and prepared accordingly. The police and militia were increased in size and received new and powerful weapons financed by local business leaders. Chicago's Commercial Club purchased a $2000 machine gun for the Illinois National Guard to be used against strikers. Nevertheless, by May 1st, the movement had already won gains for many Chicago clothing cutters, shoemakers, and packing-house workers. But on May 3, 1886, police fired into a crowd of strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four and wounding many. Anarchists called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality.

The meeting proceeded without incident, and by the time the last speaker was on the platform, the rainy gathering was already breaking up, with only a few hundred people remaining. It was then that 180 cops marched into the square and ordered the meeting to disperse. As the speakers climbed down from the platform, a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one and injuring seventy. Police responded by firing into the crowd, killing one worker and injuring many others.

Although it was never determined who threw the bomb, the incident was used as an excuse to attack the entire Left and labor movement. Police ransacked the homes and offices of suspected radicals, and hundreds were arrested without charge. Anarchists in particular were harassed, and eight of Chicago's most active were charged with conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket bombing. A kangaroo court found all eight guilty, despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to the bomb-thrower (only one was even present at the meeting, and he was on the speakers' platform), and they were sentenced to die. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison, The remaining three were finally pardoned in 1893.

It is not surprising that the state, business leaders, mainstream union officials, and the media would want to hide the true history of May Day, portraying it as a holiday celebrated only in Moscow's Red Square. In its attempt to erase the history and significance of May Day, the United States government declared May 1st to be "Law Day", and gave us instead Labor Day - a holiday devoid of any historical significance other than its importance as a day to swill beer and sit in traffic jams.

Nevertheless, rather than suppressing labor and radical movements, the events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago anarchists actually mobilized many generations of radicals. Emma Goldman, a young immigrant at the time, later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth. Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert Parsons, called upon the poor to direct their anger toward those responsible - the rich. Instead of disappearing, the anarchist movement only grew in the wake of Haymarket, spawning other radical movements and organizations, including the Industrial Workers of the World.

By covering up the history of May Day, the state, business, mainstream unions and the media have covered up an entire legacy of dissent in this country. They are terrified of what a similarly militant and organized movement could accomplish today, and they suppress the seeds of such organization whenever and wherever they can. As workers, we must recognize and commemorate May Day not only for it's historical significance, but also as a time to organize around issues of vital importance to working-class people today.

As IWW songwriter Joe Hill wrote in one of his most powerful songs:

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We'll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Workers' Commonwealth.

This article written and distributed by: l.gaylord@m.cc.utah.edu

05-23-2007, 06:19 AM
Turbulence Over Executive Pay
Airline Workers Question Leaders' Bonuses After Rank-and-File Pay Cuts

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 22, 2007; D01

FORT WORTH -- American Airlines executives should have been celebrating last week during their annual stockholders' meeting, the first in six years at which they could spotlight an annual profit.

Instead, chief executive Gerard J. Arpey spent much of the session fending off questions from irate employees. After agreeing to accept massive pay cuts in recent years to keep American flying, the employees said they were upset that the carrier's top officers have been given stock-based bonuses worth millions of dollars. One employee at the meeting called Arpey and other executives "arrogant, greedy, selfish and heartless individuals."

The anger over airline leaders' pay is not unique to American. Employees who have taken pay cuts at United and Northwest airlines and US Airways are also battling their executives over similar deals.

Labor groups say the unhappiness has led to at least two showdowns with managers over contractual issues. Some say demoralized workers could also hurt service.

"When you have a bitter and angry workforce, that translates into a rough-and-tumble summer travel season," said Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, an umbrella organization that lobbies on behalf of airline unions.

The executives and their representatives all defended the deals, saying the bonuses were granted for solid performance. The companies say much of their executives' compensation is in the form of stock grants, which could lose value if the airlines perform badly or rise if they sustain their recoveries. They also note that the companies' boards, not the executives themselves, set the compensation levels.

During American's annual stockholder meeting, Arpey said that the $160 million in stock awards given to top executives and managers was a motivational tool that helped keep the carrier out of bankruptcy.

Arpey, who made a little more than $6 million last month when he sold his stock awards, noted that the carrier preserved its workers' pensions and that employees also have benefited from rising stock prices. They were given 38 million stock options in 2003.

"This may be an issue on which we may have a hard time finding common ground," Arpey told the shareholders and workers.

Other airline bosses are also reaping bonuses for helping turn carriers around. Glenn F. Tilton, United's chief executive, received 545,000 shares of United stock, worth about $20 million, last year that will vest over four years. He also was granted more than 800,000 stock options, which could prove lucrative if the carrier's stock price climbs.

Northwest, which was granted court approval last week to exit bankruptcy protection, announced recently that its chief executive, Douglas M. Steenland, received stock and options worth more than $20 million that will vest over four years. Meanwhile, W. Douglas Parker, chief executive of US Airways, was given cash bonuses and stock grants worth about $4.8 million last year, according to SEC filings.

Worried about employee reaction to the payout at a time of slumping performance, Parker sent workers an e-mail last month to address why "many of you are wondering how I could be paid so much when our airline is doing so poorly right now."

The bonuses are already resulting in labor disputes.

Last month, United's pilots voted overwhelmingly to reject a deal that would have allowed some pilots to fly extra hours each month during the busy summer and fall travel seasons. A spokesman for the union said the vote reflected anger over executive compensation.

American's pilots last year torpedoed the carrier's high-profile bid to win a lucrative nonstop route to China by refusing to fly longer hours. Union representatives have said in news reports that pilots were upset in part about stock grants to the company's leadership.

Last week, at a rally held by transportation workers on the Mall, airline workers said the bonuses sent a mixed message to employees.

"Management continues to make terrible decisions," said Sara Nelson, a United flight attendant and union representative. "They aren't putting money back into the airline. They are squandering goodwill."

Analysts said that the executive compensation deals are not outrageous compared with those given by other large companies but that they come at a bad time for the airlines. Some contracts are coming up for negotiation, and other labor groups are pressing to reopen talks early.

"The whole idea of the last couple years was to create new cultures at airlines that would keep costs down," said Darryl Jenkins, an aviation consultant. "These very large executive payouts are going to end up costing airlines an enormous amount of money. The employees are going to want their fair share."

Jenkins noted that Delta's chief executive, Gerald Grinstein, turned down pay packages when his carrier exited bankruptcy protection a few weeks ago and that Continental's executives last year turned down $23 million in stock incentives. Those moves helped build goodwill with employees, Jenkins said.

Bull Dog
06-04-2007, 04:39 PM
Chi hand I have a question about arcos. They are about to start it at the co were i work. What could they say if you would respond and then go home half hour later. I would say it meets the requirements of arcos. Has anyone there done this and how did it come out just looking for advise.

06-05-2007, 07:40 AM
Once They Have You On Property Here They Wont Let You Go Until The Are Done With You.
The Only Way Out Is To Tell Them You Are To Fatigued To Work Safely And That Usually Comes After Working 16 Or More Or Being Up For 24 Hours Without Any Rest.

Good Luck Bro.

06-06-2007, 06:37 AM


Corporate abuse exposing unfair labor practices & union corruption: Teamsters local-435
Independent Media Center ^ | 09/2005 | nadog12corporatemisconduct

Posted on 06/06/2007 3:01:34 AM PDT by misconduct912


Evidence of audio tracks secretly recorded during grievance proceedings at UPS Denver, CO. regarding drivers continues ongoing-payroll problems, and was accused of an allegation having no merit to these accusations was discriminated, harassed and abused during these proceedings as Teamsters local union 435 stood by and allowed this abusive behavior from the company (UPS) to continue. We invite you to please review this website: www.corporate-misconduct.com in order to understand the severity and ongoing occurrences of abusive behavior and discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Please publish this article based upon evidence: revealing and exposing embezzlement of money illegally taken out from the backside of this driver's weekly payroll checks, and the results in the outcome and fate of this employee (driver) during his employment with UPS have filed a wage claim with the Department of Labor, and filed charges with the (NLRB) National Labor Relations Board against local 435 who did not represent and protect this driver during his employment with UPS. The employee (driver) had filed continuous grievances over the same issues relating to his nightmare on-going- payroll problems, and article 37 harassment concerns exposing abusive behavior, and discrimination with limited solutions, and no results from teamster’s local union 435. UPS retaliated against the driver in filing grievances and charges related to the issues at hand. Then the driver was terminated for an accident he had with the company vehicle because he was like a thorn in the company’s side. Note: He informed the customer his van slid into their fence due to wet weather conditions. The customer called UPS to inform them their driver slid into there fence. Other employees with UPS have experienced a similar fate; set-up by the union then UPS terminated them for unjust cause. Still today UPS employee’s are being mistreated and abused by bigotry and discrimination at various levels evoking grave concerns. Note: See (Evidence) News page & Resources page of website: corporate-misconduct.com Open link: Letter Addressed: District Manager United Parcel Service from Colo. House Of Representatives 4-29-97 Please respond or forward this email to the appropriate investigative News I-team who will assist and help expose these allegations regarding the Teamsters, Local 435, and UPS who continues to get away with hell! Note: Detailed facts of Evidence: Synopsis, documents, letters from government agencies, witnesses, audio tracks and transcripts can be obtained through website: corporate-misconduct.com exposing union corruption, and corporate misconduct: Inappropriate behavior, labor abuse and discrimination at various levels of employment with UPS. Please review Summary page, News page and Resources page from website: corporate-misconduct.com. Your response to this news article would be appreciative. You may contact us and leave a voicemail message @ (720) 246-7496 and Email comments to: cccbms@netscape.net or nadog12@corporate-misconduct.com

corporate-misconduct.com now can be viewed @ Published websites listed:

1. View: Website Evidence (Links) Transcripts PDF, Audio Tracks & Synopsis @ http://www.phillyimc.org/en/2007/05/39095.shtml

2. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=corporate+misconduct+voices+that+challenge&btnG

3. http://www.indymedia.org/en/2007/03/882355.shtml


07-10-2007, 06:50 PM
A Modern Parable

A Japanese company ( Toyota ) and an American company (General Motors)
decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River . Both teams
practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate
the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior
management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.
Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person
steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a
consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second
opinion. They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the
boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent
another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was
totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering
superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1
person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called
the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free
pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes
and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor
performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and
canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was
distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's
racing team was out-sourced to India.

Sad, but true.

Here's something else to think about:

Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the
US , claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

Toyota has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants
inside the US.

The last quarter's results:

Toyota makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in
losses. Ford folks are still scratching their heads.

08-05-2007, 07:45 AM


08-27-2007, 08:52 AM
Help Wanted Ads Go Unanswered in West

Email this Story

Aug 25, 8:26 AM (ET)


HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The owner of a fast food joint in Montana's booming oil patch found himself outsourcing the drive-thru window to a Texas telemarketing firm, not because it's cheaper but because he can't find workers.

Record low unemployment across parts of the West has created tough working conditions for business owners, who in places are being forced to boost wages or be creative to fill their jobs.

John Francis, who owns the McDonald's in Sidney, Mont., said he tried advertising in the local newspaper and even offered up to $10 an hour to compete with higher-paying oil field jobs. Yet the only calls were from other business owners upset they would have to raise wages, too. Of course, Francis' current employees also wanted a pay hike.

"I don't know what the answer is," Francis said. "There's just nobody around that wants to work."

Unemployment rates have been as low as 2 percent this year in places like Montana, and nearly as low in neighboring states. Economists cite such factors as an aging work force and booming tourism economies for the tight labor market.

For places like Montana, it has been a steady climb in the nearly two decades since the timber and mining industry recession. The state approached double-digit unemployment levels in the 1980s and began the slow crawl back in the early 1990s.

"This is actually the biggest economic story of our time, and we don't quite grasp it because it is 15 years in the making," said economist Larry Swanson, director of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports the mountain West region - covering eight states along the Rocky Mountains - has the lowest overall unemployment rate in the nation. The region hit an all-time low of 3.4 percent in May.

The effects are everywhere. Logging equipment in Idaho sits idle as companies have a tough time finding workers. A shortage of lifeguards has forced Helena to shorten hours at children-only pools. A local paper in Jackson, Wyo., has page after page of help wanted ads.

In Jackson Hole, the Four Seasons Resort still had openings in late July. The problem has created longer hours and tougher working conditions for current employees.

For years, the resort has imported dozens of workers from Eastern Europe who often come as much for the summer recreation opportunity as the money. This year, however, that wasn't enough and so for the first time the resort also sent recruiters to a high school job fair, said spokeswoman Greer Terry. It only helped a little.

"It's been a struggle finding employees this summer," Terry said.

Economists say there are a number of reasons why parts of the West are feeling the labor pinch.

Established baby boomers, including retirees, have been moving into Montana for the mountain views and recreation, bringing with them money for new homes that fuel construction job growth, said Swanson.

Along the way, younger people have moved away searching for bigger paychecks as the state's wages still lag behind other areas and are slowly increasing overall. Now, the aging work force is unable to expand to meet the demands of the job market, Swanson said.

He said the problem is compounded by the fact that employers, accustomed to paying relatively low wages, have been slow to increase salaries. Montana wages have historically been among the lowest in the country, and still rank near the bottom. The silver lining for workers is that wages are now growing at the third-fastest rate among U.S. states.

Now, workers with more options in some places are unwilling to take $12-an-hour jobs.

The problem could get worse as more baby boomers retire, Swanson said. By 2030, Montana and Wyoming are predicted to have among the oldest populations in the U.S, with about 26 percent of residents 65 and older, Swanson said. That compares to 19.7 percent predicted nationally.

"We thought the labor force crunch wouldn't come until 2012, but it's already arrived in a lot of these fast-growth areas," Swanson said. As a result, "you'll find older workers working longer, people will sort of linger in the work force. The employers will make it worth their time to."

Swanson added the phenomenon of quasi-retirement with older workers cutting back on hours but still heading to the office will grow, while international workers will be drawn to the region. Younger workers who used to leave will find it worth their while to stay.

"The squeeze is on. You get into these 2 percent and less unemployment rates and you're moving into a seller's market with the seller being the worker," Swanson said.

Officials worry the razor thin labor market could bind economic growth, although there has been no indication of that yet.

"One of the reasons we are seeing the lower (unemployment) rates is we are starting to see more investment in our economy. It's like finding an undervalued stock," said Tyler Turner, Montana's economic development chief.

In Helena, the pool of applicants has been shrinking even for jobs on the police force. For professional jobs, such as department managers, the city is considering hiring slightly underqualified people that can be trained on the job.

"This is the tightest market I have ever seen," said Salty Payne, who has worked in the Helena City human resource office for 15 years.

Payne in part blames the area's building boom, which is drawing workers to construction trades that are offering higher salaries.

Montana state lawmaker Art Noonan lives in the mining town of Butte - the epicenter of a big mining bust 20 years ago. Now, more people are moving in to build second homes and high paying jobs are coming back as copper prices go up.

"All of these things are sort of clicking at the same time," Noonan said. "The only economic development we used to get was the creation of more economic development offices."

In Utah - where unemployment rates have been hovering around 2.5 percent - amusement parks, trucking companies, telemarketing firms and others have been paying bonuses of hundreds of dollars or more to find workers.

"It boils down to the attractiveness of the (interior) West," said Mark Knold, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services. "It is a population magnet."

And workers have benefited. Utah workers saw a 5.4 percent average wage increase in 2006, Knold said.

But questions remain about how long the West can weather the problems that come with low unemployment.

"The hardest thing is to keep the economy growing at a strong rate when you have a low unemployment rate," he said. "Take a company that wants to expand. Where is the next worker going to come from?"