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Labor News Round-Up

April 26, 2011

DOMESTIC

NLRB to sue Arizona, South Dakota over anti-card check laws.

NLRB blocks Boeing plant relocation, declares it illegal retaliation.

Air traffic controllers union presses for naps.

WI union battle affects local races.

MA unions fight State House speaker’s bid to restrict collective
bargaining
rights.

Illinois State Senate approves education reform bill.

NM Supreme Court orders Gov. Martinez to reinstate dismissed labor
relations board members.

Churches weigh in in union rights debate.

SEIU plans to canvass in 17 cities over union rights.

IBEW members rally against coal plant shutdown in Chicago.

Las Vegas University Medical Center workers reject 2% pay cut.

Blue Cross Blue Shield locks out 400 workers in Buffalo.

Honeywell locks out 228 in Illinois.

TSA workers heading to a runoff election.

Michigan seeking $95m in concessions from corrections officers.

Associated Press reaches deal with News Media Guild.

UFW pushing for card check bill in CA.

L.A. city worker unions agree to raise retirement contributions.

Pittsburgh teachers union accused of “trying to lace” school board election.

INTERNATIONAL

Argentine oil workers end strike.

UK: House of Commons proposes 50% strike vote threshhold for emergency
and transport workers.

UK: Teachers union calls for transparency over head teacher pay.

Botswana: public sector workers allege government strikebreaking tactics.

South Africa: Metalworkers protest at Japanese embassy over Bridgestone lockout.

Italy: Fiat workers agree to concessions in exchange for investment in plant.

Finland: Nokia engineers prepare for mass layoffs.

Air Namibia reaches deal with workers.

Sri Lankan government set to extend pension scheme to private sector workers.

South Korea: rail union blames KORAIL derailment on staff cuts.

France: Factory workers strike because management speaks only English.

Labor News Round-Up

April 13, 2011

DOMESTIC

Wisconsin Supreme Court race still up in the air.

NH: Right to work bill makes it out of committee.

PA House introduces Right to Work bill.

Pro-union rally in Chicago.

Boston: nurses at Tufts Medical Center take strike vote.

NY State carpenters union merges with NJ regional council.

Tennessee teachers leaving profession over budget debates.

Sheboygan, WI transit union chief pitches TA.

Labor talks stalled at Phoenix bus company.

American Airlines rejects contract extension for flight attendants.

Conn. beer distribution workers locked out, call for Budweiser boycott.

Paterson, NJ moves to strip city workers of longevity pay.

NJ Gov. Christie vetoes bill on teacher layofffs.

Washington Teachers’ Union to protest Washington Post over ties to Kaplan.

Ikea outsourcing to US.

INTERNATIONAL:

South Africa: Johannesburg city government threatens striking garbage workers.

Canada: Nova Scotia public employees union pushes min. wage hike to $11.

UK: Nurses threaten industrial action over NHS service cuts.

Denmark sending out unemployed to pick up garbage.

China: ACFTU warns about occupational disease.

Legislative Clerkship Conference at Georgetown Law

April 6, 2011

Yesterday, Georgetown Law Center and Stanford Law School co-sponsored a conference entitled Legislative Clerkships and Their Implications for Legal Education, Politics, and the Law.  The conference brought together students, scholars, practitioners, and lawmakers to discuss the creation of a congressional law clerk program modeled after the judicial law clerk program and Honors programs at executive agencies.  A bill to create such a program garnered bipartisan support in the US House, where it passed in 2008 and 2009.  It is expected that similar legislation will be introduced in the current session.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) delivered the breakfast keynote address.  Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) keynoted the luncheon portion.  Among the other speakers was Katie Corrigan, Policy Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative, who spoke about how her time as a fellow at Georgetown’s Federal Legislation Clinic shaped her career.  Click here to see a full agenda for the event.

Labor News Round-Up

April 5, 2011

DOMESTIC

Ohio Gov. Kasich signs collective bargaining bill into law.

…Opponents push for referendum.

700 anti-union bills pending in almost every state.

Tennessee Republican legislators propose to strip teachers of union rights.

Wisconsin union law hangs in balance with state Supreme Court race.

Nebraska Gov. Heineman takes aim at unions.

Connecticut Republican legislators take aim at shop steward work.

NH House passes right to work bill; Gov. Lynch pledges to veto.

Illinois Republican legislators call for Gov. Quinn to renegotiate.

Michigan teachers may strike over budget cuts; Republicans increase strike fines.

Florida senate panel passes anti-PLA bill.

Union rallies to commemorate MLK assassination in Indiana

Oklahoma

Florida

North Carolina

and elsewhere

NTEU and NFFE rally federal workers against government shutdown.

Supreme Court considers Wal-Mart sex discrimination case.

SEIU files charges against Raynor for financial misconduct.

UAW membership up for first time in 6 years.

Huffington Post Union of Bloggers launches site.

Aramark food service workers at Georgetown win recognition.

INTERNATIONAL

Honduran teachers back to work after nationwide strike.

Gabon oil workers, government reach agreement.

Zambia: Shoprite fires all union workers nationwide following strike.

Scotland teachers union polls members over government pay proposal.

Canada: Ontario legislature rejects bill banning replacement workers.

KALMANOVITZ IN THE NEWS

KI Director Joe McCartin writes op-ed for CNN.

Labor News Round-Up

March 29, 2011

DOMESTIC

Ohio lawmakers set to vote on Senate Bill 5 this week.

Indiana Democrats return to Capitol after Republicans give up on Right
to Work
bill.

Florida House joins Senate in passing bill barring automatic dues deductions.

Wisconsin moves ahead with implementing union law despite judge’s
retraining order.

University of Wisconsin faculty join AFT.

Wisconsin school board suspends contract talks with teachers.

Maine governor orders labor mural removed from state Department of Labor.

US House Republicans pushing to reverse aviation and rail union election rules.

UAW protests Bank of America.

UAW criticizes Ford CEO pay.

Los Angeles, city workers reach TA.

AirTran workers join IAM.

Workers at Volvo truck plant in Virginia ratify 5 year contract.

Maryland teachers offer alternative pension plan to Maryland House.

Pennsylvania faculty union offers pay freeze.

Steve Lerner plotting to crash the stock market.

INTERNATIONAL

300,000 in UK protest public service cuts.

Mexican Congress considering labor law reform.

Honduras president threatens to fire striking teachers.

Egyptian unions protest anti-strike law.

New Zealand union fights 90 day trial period policy.

Israel social worker strike ends.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Remembrance

March 25, 2011

On Monday, March 21, the Kalmanovitz Initiative co-sponsored a symposium to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City.  The fire resulted in the deaths of 146 workers, most of whom were female immigrants.

Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, kicked off the symposium with a welcome address.  Her address was followed by a reading of Senate Resolution 106, submitted by Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) which recognizes the week of March 21-March 25 as the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Remembrance Week.

The first panel – which was moderated by Sara Manzano-Diaz, Director of the Women’s Bureau at the US Department of Labor – offered an in-depth historical look at the fire and its aftermath.  Joe McCartin, the KI’s Executive Director, spoke about the context in which this fire occurred.  The early twentieth century, he said, was a time of changes in workforce organization, changes that included more women and immigrant workers.  It was also a time when government regulation of industry was viewed with great skepticism and industrial accidents, including fires, were typical.  One of the lessons of the Triangle fire, he asserted, was that the market alone cannot be allowed to determine work conditions; the public good must be taken into account, as well.

Robyn Muncy, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, discussed the difficulties women immigrant workers faced to organize at that time.  In spite of their 1909 strike, the workers at Triangle were not able to form a union.  Had they had such representation, they might have been able to prevent management’s policy of leaving all but one door padlocked from the outside – a policy that prevented the workers from escaping the fire’s flames.

Rounding out the first panel was Kirstin Downey, author of The Woman Behind the New Deal, a biography of Frances Perkins.  Ms. Downey talked about how witnessing the fire was a transformative event in Perkins’s life.  Within the two years following the fire alone, she helped herald 43 pro-worker bills through the New York legislature, 34 of which were passed.

The second panel – moderated by American Rights at Work’s Executive Director, Kim Freeman Brown – examined the current state of play of worker health and safety in a variety of industries.  David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, spoke about the failure of worker health and safety laws to make workers who are injured or die on the job whole.  With 3 million injuries reported to OSHA per year, Dr. Michaels spoke of the need for legislative action to right these wrongs.  Norma Flores Lopez, a former child laborer who is currently the Director of Children in the Fields, spoke both about her own experience as a child and how the same challenges continue to plague child agricultural workers.   The audience then heard from Chris Jones, whose brother died while working on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010.  Mr. Jones spoke about the toll that workplace injuries and deaths have not only on workers, but on their families, friends and communities, as well.

Pamela Vossenas of UNITE HERE!’s Occupational Health and Safety Program, talked about dangers workers in the service industry face.  She focused on hotel housekeepers and the failure of many national hotel chains to provide their housekeepers with ergonomic tools to prevent injuries as well as their lack of accommodations to employees who have already sustained injuries on the job.  Eric Frumin, Change to Win’s Safety and Health Director, also spoke of safety issues specifically related to those in service-sector jobs.  He noted how even modest reforms face huge opposition.

Last on the panel was Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, who gave a global perspective to the event.  She focused specifically on the garment industry in Bangladesh, where conditions today are strikingly similar to those at the Triangle Factory 100 years ago.  According to the Bangladeshi government, 414 garment workers died between 2004 and 2009.  Ms. Gearhart reported that factories often bribe fire inspectors and fire drills are uncommon.

Stanley “Goose” Stewart, a survivor of the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, and Cecil Roberts, President of United Mine Workers of America, were keynote speakers.  Mr. Stewart described Upper Big Branche under the management of Massey Energy as the least safe mine he has ever worked at.  He spoke of a poor work climate – one in which the company routinely dismissed workers to dissuade others from voicing concerns or engaging in organizing activity.  And he described in chilling detail the events of April 5, 2010 and the impact this disaster has had on his life since then.

Mr. Roberts discussed the harmful effects bad actors have in the mining industry.  He described two ways to make mines safer: legislation and unionization.  In the absence of legislative efforts to increase worker safety standards, he argued for unionization as the best way to ensure workers are protected.

Kalmanovitz Initiative in the News

March 22, 2011

The KI’s Executive Director, Joe McCartin, comments on the assault on public sector unions for a Stateline article by Daniel C. Vock.

ResetDoc’s Martina Toti interviews Joe McCartin about state workers. Click on the link or read the interview below:

Professor McCartin, in USA there is a growing bipartisan consensus concerning public employees benefits and union contracts: why do so many politicians believe – or try to persuade people to believe – that those are a prime cause of government budget deficits?

Politicians from both parties have pressured public employees to accepts less pay and reduced benefits as a way of dealing with budget deficits.  Public worker pay and benefits are not the prime cause of the current deficits.  These are primarily the results of an economic crash.  Politicians find it easier to put pressure on workers than to muster the political will to stimulate the economy or raise taxes on the wealthy.  The differences between the parties come on the issue of public sector unions.  Republicans are trying to use the crisis not only to pressure workers for concessions but to go after their rights to union representation under the guise of trying to deal with budget deficits.

What about the public opinion? Where does it stand?

The public generally believes that public sector workers need to share the pain during a hard economic time.  But the majority do not support the idea of taking away workers’ union rights.

Let’s discuss about private and public workers. How are they represented by trade unions? Is there a divide between the two? If so what is the role of trade unions and how are they trying to cover the gap?

There is a difference.  Private sector workers’ rights are guaranteed by the federal government’s laws.  Public sector workers’ rights are defined by state laws.  There can be a great deal of variability in rights from state to state.  Some states offer limited bargaining rights; some none at all.  Some unions specialize in representing public sector workers.  But more and more unions have attempted to organize public sector workers (even unions like the United Auto Workers, or the Steelworkers)  because over the last 30 years it has been easier to organize public sector workers.  Only about 7 percent of private sector workers are organized; but about 36 percent of government workers are organized.

The Wisconsin case tells us that workers and unions don’t want to give up collective bargaining and rights, however conservative politics is pushing them into a defensive position. Do you think that this might change in the future? And do trade unions have any responsibility?

The Wisconsin case could potentially cause a backlash against those who are trying to take away collective bargaining rights.   While unions are on the defensive, they have gained greater public sympathy than they have enjoyed in a generation.  And their members are angry and mobilized.  It is too early to say whether this can rally the unions into a resurgence.  But it is the responsibility of the unions’ leaders to respond aggressively.

Do you see an international pattern in the assault to public workers and in the challenges that are battering trade unions?

Yes. The changing nature of the global economy over the last 30 years has eroded private sector unions across the industrialized world.  This has left public sector unions more isolated than before and therefore more vulnerable to their enemies.

In a recent issue of Dissent Magazine you defined public workers as “a convenient scapegoat”. Can you explain us this concept?

During this time of economic trouble, it is easier to find a group against which to direct the anger of voters than it is to come up with ways of building a fair and sustainable economy.  Public employees have become that group.

In the article we have just mentioned you discussed about the language used by labor enemies: you said that they have learned to master the populist language that was once labor’s province. What are the consequences and what kind of changes does that impose to trade unions current language?

Unfortunately, the word “élite” is used more effectively today by conservatives in attacking liberals and unions than it is used by the left in attacking the economic élite.  Conservatives have become adept at turning the anger of workers who are feeling squeezed economically against other workers.  The left needs to find a way to better articulate its vision in ways that connect to the broad majority.