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News From the AFL-CIO, CtW, International & National Unions
Unions vowed that the struggle “is far from over” after the disappointing loss June 5 in the effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “We wanted a different outcome, but Wisconsin forced the governor to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people. Their resolve has inspired a nation to follow their lead and stand up for the values of hard work, unity, and decency that we believe in,” said AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka. The Wisconsin AFLCIO said the recall campaign “created a new, energetic, broad-based movement for working people that is defying the odds.” The campaign was “about much more than just this one election,” said the state fed. “We laid the groundwork for a powerful movement to push back against extremist policies everywhere.” The election, the third recall against a sitting governor in history, was the most expensive one yet. Overall expenditures are expected to exceed $60 million. Scott Walker’s campaign outraised Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 7 to 1, $30 million to $4 million, while two thirds of Walker’s money came from out of state.
Labor expressed “dismay” over the May employment report, describing the addition of 65,000 jobs and a small uptick in the jobless rates as “alarming and unacceptable.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blamed Republicans in Congress who have blocked President Obama’s efforts to enact job-growth policies “whether it’s the American Jobs Act or routine highway infrastructure investments.” “The employment report’s hint of a renewed slowdown also tells a deeper story. Not only did the financial crash of 2008 trigger the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it also showed that the economic model we have been following for thirty years has profound flaws,” he said. He called for a “continued expansionary policy” to generate shared prosperity. “That means policies which reconnect wages to productivity growth, strengthen manufacturing, and correct the trade deficit, particularly with China.”
The AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), joined by the AFL-CIO and Laborers International Union, released the findings of a first-ever state-by-state comparative analysis of the Associated Builders and Contractors trade association, better known as ABC, and its affiliate organizations. The report is entitled “Driving the Low Road in the Construction Industry: An Analysis of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).” “The findings expose ABC’s data manipulation and an aggressive disinformation campaign designed to confuse elected officials, the public and the press into supporting policies that produce fewer jobs, lower wages, and minimal workforce training, which have had a detrimental effect on workers, their communities and the US construction industry as a whole,” the BCTD said in a statement. In other news, the BCTD mourned the death of Mark H. Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department since 2007, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on April 8 in Washington. He was 63. Secretary-Treasurer Sean McGarvey was unanimously elected to succeed Ayers.
The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) called for all labor organizations with an open contract covering blood services to join in the strike against the American Red Cross (ARC). The union pointed out that more than 50 bargaining units exists in ARC across the nation and each negotiates separately. For the first time, four of these units joined together in a strike that began March 30. The units are OPEIU Local 459 and Teamsters Local 580 in Lansing, Michigan and Teamsters and UFCW workers in Toledo, Ohio. “ARC is too big to feel the pain of even four simultaneous strikes,” said OPEIU International President Michael Goodwin in a statement. He also called on labor to suspend all American Red Cross blood drives and all union members to not donate money or blood to the ARC until the strike is resolved. Local 459 Service Representative and OPEIU Vice President Joe Marutiak said the strike is the result “of mismanagement at the American Red Cross that has put our nation’s blood supply at risk and abused the employees and the donors.”
Three leaders of Congress urged American Airlines to comply with an order from U.S. labor officials that has prevented its passenger service agents from voting on union representation. A representation election has been held up for more than a month because of the airline’s refusal to supply the union with the names and addresses of employees who will receive ballots, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Reps. George Miller and Nick Rahall said in a letter to AMR Corp. CEO Tom Horton. The letter was released by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, a unit of the Communication Workers of America. The congressional leaders also criticized the bankrupt airline for filing a related lawsuit on the issue. “It is troubling that a company in bankruptcy, which should be endeavoring to cut waste, may be using its limited resources incurring fees in new litigation solely to suspend the election process and deny workers the right to choose for themselves whether or not to have union representation,” they wrote.
Federal regulators need to pay more attention to workplace health and safety in the shale gas industry, national union leaders warned recently. The warning focused on crystalline silica, or sand, which is used as part of the fracking process. The heads of the AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers and United Mine Workers of America issued the warning in letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. They cited a NIOSH study which also called attention to worker exposure to diesel particulates, airborne aldehydes and hydrogen sulfides. The leaders said that, according to NIOSH, the workplace fatality rate among oil and gas workers is 27.5 deaths per 100,000 workers.
International Labor News
A new report from the International Labor Organization found the transformation to a greener economy could generate 15 to 60 million additional jobs globally over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty. The study “Working towards sustainable development: Opportunities for decent work and social inclusion in a green economy,” was led by the ILO’s Green Jobs Initiative. The report said, however, these gains depend on whether the right set of government policies is put into place. “The current development model has proven to be inefficient and unsustainable, not only for the environment, but for economies and societies as well”, said ILO Director- General Juan Somavia. “We urgently need to move to a sustainable development path with a coherent set of policies with people and the planet at the center.” The report found that while changes will be felt throughout the economy, eight key sectors are expected to play a central role and be most affected: agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, resource-intensive manufacturing, recycling, building and transport.
SACOM protesting the working conditions of Foxconn’s Factories.
Flickr.com photo used under Creative Commons from Lennon Ying-Dah Wong.
Despite pledges to halt labor violations, working conditions have barely improved at Foxconn’s gargantuan Chinese factories that assemble Apple products, said workers’ rights activists and employees. Hong Kong-based labor watchdog group Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) issued a new report May 31 which found rights violations “remain the norm” including high production targets, inhumane treatment and signs of overall salary cuts. The report was based on visits to several Foxconn factories and 170 worker interviews. “The frontline management continues to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers,” the report said. “The above findings demonstrate that Apple and Foxconn have not turned over a new leaf.” Foxconn Technology Group, Apple’s main global contract manufacturer run by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou, employs 1.2 million workers in China. The firm has come under fire in recent years for running massive “sweatshops” to mass produce high-end iPads and iPhones.
Some 2,000 Burmese workers have waged a sit-strike at the Hi Mo wig factory in Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone since May 17. Recently, the Korean owner of the factory cut all food supplies and electricity inside the workers barracks that they have been occupying at the plant in an attempt to starve them out. The Hi Mo wig factory workers began their strike on May 9, but reached an agreement the following day with the management that wages be increased to 30,000 kyat. But the Korean factory owner refused to honor the agreement, and the workers resumed strike action by occupying the plants. The workers said they will continue their strike until the factory manager agrees to the previous deal. “It is not just one factory, but a whole series of factory disputes,” said Nay Myo Zin, a former political prisoner who now heads the Myanmar Social Development Network. “The factory owners simply refuse to negotiate because they believe the workers are powerless to resist them. They think that, eventually, the strikers will simply have to come back to work.”
National & Political Events
U.S. political observers cautioned that the faltering U.S. recovery and looming economic crisis in Europe threaten President Obama’s reelection more than attacks from his opponents. “This election will be a referendum on Obama, not on the quality of the Republican nominee,” said one labor political operative. May’s employment report was the third month in a row of weak job growth and the first time since last June that the unemployment rate rose, from 8.1 to 8.2 percent. Republicans took delight in the weak economic news, with presidential challenger Mitt Romney attacking the president’s policies. Few Americans, however, realize that the country stood on “an economic precipice” when Obama took office and that the president saved the nation from “from falling off the edge.” “The situation he inherited was called ‘The Great Recession’ for a reason,” said one observer. “This recovery will take longer than a typical business downturn and people have to be patient.” The challenge for President Obama is whether he can communicate that message to voters.
Republican U.S. National Labor Relations Board member Terence Flynn resigned May 25 in the face of allegations that he illegally released confidential board information, including decisions before rulings were issued. According to the inspector general’s investigation, Flynn, while chief counsel to a Republican member and before he was appointed by Obama, improperly gave a draft of an unpublished decision and dissents in three cases to Peter Schaumber, his NLRB boss until August 2010. Some of the information was released while Schaumber was a labor adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney has since dropped Schaumber’s name from his campaign website. Flynn was appointed to the board by President Obama in January along with two Democratic members when the Senate was not in session which bypassed confirmation proceedings. He was one of two GOP members on the five-person board.
Regional & Local Labor News
Teamsters Local Union 814 announced May 31 that art handlers approved a new contract with Sotheby’s auction house in New York, ending a 10-month lock-out that had become a symbol of Occupy Wall Street’s protest. The high-end auction house locked out 43 Teamsters members when they resisted company demands for wage cuts and more outsourcing of union jobs. “People are ready to go back to work,” said Teamsters Local 814 President Jason Ide. “After 10 months we fought our way back to decent job standards.” The pact protects union jobs, raises wages 1 percent a year, with a new starting salary of $18.50 an hour, and maintains current benefits. The lock-out became a symbol of inequality as art buyers paid millions for paintings while workers faced pay cuts and threats of job loss.
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 267G (BCTGM) in Crookston, Minn. returned to the bargaining table June 4 with the American Crystal Sugar Co. under the auspices of a federal mediator to resolve a ten-month long lockout. Company officials, however, said “our final offer is our final offer.” Union members have voted overwhelmingly to reject that offer twice and have made a series of concessions on issues the company identified as significant, including the cost of health insurance. The lockout affects about 1,300 union workers at the company’s sugar beet processing plants in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The plants have been operating with replacement workers. Workers, meanwhile, embarked on a 200-mile journey from Drayton, North Dakota., to Moorhead, Minnesota to highlight their cause and force the company back to the bargaining table. Crystal Sugar is the largest beet sugar processor in the country.
Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 reached an 11th hour deal June 1 for 2,000 linemen and other workers at NSTAR, Massachusetts’ largest electric and gas utility. The three-year agreement averted a possible strike over management demands for higher health insurance payments and reduced sick days. Local President Dan Hurley said the union also saved 250 jobs at NSTAR’s Westwood call center. “We wanted to protect those jobs. They are good Massachusetts jobs. We were afraid they were going to shift them to Connecticut,” said Hurley. According to news reports, the proposed three-year contract includes: annual wage increases of 3 percent, 2.75 percent and 2.5 percent, in each year; a choice of three medical, dental and vision plans; and an enhanced 401(k) defined contribution plan for new hires. NSTAR Electric and Gas serves nearly 1.4 million customers in Eastern, Central and Southeastern Massachusetts.
In the Public Sector
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union endorsed President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. “For too long, lesbian and gay Americans have been denied the right to marry the person they love, raise a family and live as equal citizens in our country,” said AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders in a joint statement. “The President deserves praise for recognizing that this issue is about equality under the law and the right of all Americans to live their lives free from discrimination.” The two leaders pointed out that homosexual couples are denied access to pension benefits, Social Security survivor benefits, family health and bereavement leave and family immigration rights. “That discrimination harms all of us, not just LGBT Americans. We have an obligation to work to overturn unjust laws and amendments to state constitutions that codify prejudice and promote discrimination against fellow citizens,” they said.
The American Postal Workers Union called on members to urge speedy passage of recently enacted Senate postal reform legislation. “We must continue to take our message to members of Congress and the American people,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey. “We must encourage legislators to address postal reform immediately. Although the Senate bill (S. 1789) is flawed, it is far better than a bill that was passed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in October.” He said the House bill fails to address the Postal Service’s underlying problems while “management is about to embark on its plan to close and consolidate mail processing facilities.” The House bill, he warned, would gut collective bargaining and calls for $3 billion in cuts to mail processing facilities and post offices.
Significant Legal and NLRB Decisions
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg recently struck down a National Labor Relations Board regulation to speed up union elections. In his ruling, the judge said the labor board only had two members vote on the final rule in December 2011 when it needed three members to form a quorum. He said his ruling was not made on the rule’s merits and that the agency could vote again to pass it if it has a quorum in place. But the agency suspended the rule’s implementation in the wake of the court decision. “We continue to believe that the amendments represent a significant improvement in our process and serve the public interest by eliminating unnecessary litigation,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce. “We are determined to move forward.” The rule, scheduled to be implemented April 30, would have shortened the representation election period to about 30 days from 60- 90 days. The AFL-CIO called the judge’s decision “flat-out wrong” by focusing only on procedure and not on the rule itself.
America’s Building Trades Defend Workers
AFL-CIO Building & Construction Trades Dept.
I assume (the duties of president of the BCTD) with a solemn and heavy heart as we still mourn the loss of our great leader, our great friend and our brother, Mark Ayers. Mark was a man of vision, and it was his vision of pursuing success through the delivery of “Value on Display, Every Day” that we will forever honor as his enduring legacy.
But we move on, and we move forward. Just as Mark would have wanted us to do. And there is a lot to be done.
We must continue to confront the on-going assault on unions and collective bargaining that is taking place all across this nation. And we must continue to trumpet our value proposition that has enabled us to re-position ourselves for success in an ever-changing marketplace.
The attacks on unions and collective bargaining are simply a Trojan horse for the right-wing’s true intent, which is to systematically strip any and all avenues of power and influence from ALL working Americans, union and non-union alike.
These attacks are nothing new. But, what is new is their scale and their intensity.
After outspending unions in the 2010 election by somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-to-1, we can fully expect that ratio to increase in 2012 thanks to the influx of unlimited and unregulated money. And their intent is to drive a stake through the heart of collective bargaining across America, so that they can continue the transfer of income and wealth from working class families to the top 1 percent.
Because in order to continue this upward distribution of wealth, workers’ rights have to be destroyed or taken away and unions have to be weakened.
Clearly, the stakes are high.
Yet, it has always been America’s Building Trades unions that have stood at the vanguard of protecting and promoting the American middle class. And we willingly do so again.
And whether they be economic, political or social, the challenging circumstances we face today now make it incumbent upon all of us to aggressively take ownership in everything we do, and to compel people to see it and acknowledge it.
With success stories that relate to workforce development and training, PLAs and community workforce agreements, successful labor-management partnerships, and innovative construction project financing, each and every one of us needs to take on the role of a marketing professional and tell these stories.
Every day we must be focused on conveying the entire range of value that we provide to construction owners; a lot of which is realized before we ever set foot on the jobsite.
When it comes to site-selection, and potential legislative and regulatory hurdles, we offer value.
When a public education effort may be needed to sway wavering politicians or whole communities on a development or project, we offer value.
Our value proposition can be measured at each step of a project — from concept to ribbon-cutting.
But the economy and the growing power and influence of the super-rich have knocked us and the American Middle Class to our knees. As we have always done throughout our history, America’s Building Trades Unions are once again rising up in a fierce defense of the great American Middle Class. In the face of relentless and hostile fire, our unions are forging a new path forward; one jobsite, and one election, at a time.
Like the Allies launching the great D-Day assault on Europe, the time has come to fix bayonets and make our charge, brothers and sisters. And make no mistake about it, victory will be achieved in the trenches… inch by inch.
The great battle begins this summer and continues on to Election Day. But, the broader war will continue past November and it will be fought in every state, city, and hamlet — large and small. We can’t match their money… and we don’t control the media. But, what we do have is a compelling story to tell. And it will be our intention to tell that story in our communities — one member, and one family, at a time.
In that sense, we need to view ourselves as modern-day Paul Reveres. In effect, we must be the messengers of a 21st century American Revolution. The only difference is this time the Red Coats are already here.
There is nobody on this Earth that can do the job better than we can. It may not seem fair that such a heavy burden is being placed upon us, but these are the responsibilities that come with the oath of membership in our unions.
(This column is excerpted from remarks delivered by Pres. McGarvey to the recent 2012 AFL-CIO Building & Construction Trades Dept. annual Legislative Conference.)
CWA’s Annie Hill Joins Advisory Board
Communications Workers of America Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill is the newest member of the AIL/NILICO Labor Advisory Board, announced AIL/NILICO Chief Executive OfficerPresident Roger Smith.
“CWA Secretary-Treasurer Hill continues the long tradition of CWA participation on the Labor Advisory Board. She is a valuable addition to the board and we look forward to working with her,” Smith said.
Hill was elected CWA Secretary-Treasurer in 2011 by delegates to the Union’s 73rd Convention. She had previously served as the union’s Executive Vice President and replaced former CWA Secretary- Treasurer Jeffrey Rechenbach who retired. Rechenbach also served as a member of the AIL/NILICO Labor Advisory Board and CWA President Emeritus Morton Bahr is a former chairman of the board.
Hill has been a leader in CWA since her earliest days as a union member. Most recently, she has served for three years as CWA Vice President for District 7, representing workers in 14 states. She was elected to that post in 2005. As Vice President, Hill bargained critical contracts for members at Qwest Communications, among other employers, and put in place new structures in the district to better represent members across that region. CWA represents more than 500,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada.
AIL Benefit Check Received
AIL/NILICO’s Tim O’Connor (left) delivers an AD&D insurance benefit check to a member of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police who lost an eye while working off duty on security at the Oklahoma Stockyards in Oklahoma City. OACP Acting Director Chief Phil Cotton (second from left) presents the check to the member and his wife.
ILWU Fights for Justice in Hawaii
Dion Dizon, AIL Public Relations, joined a rally in support of more than 300 workers who have struggled to form a union for ten years at Pacific Beach Hotel in Hawaii. They are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142. Shown are (left to right) Joanne Kealoha, ILWU Hawaii Social Services Coordinator, Dizon, Christine Putzulu, Hawaii State Teachers Association member. The rally drew more than 150 participants. Hotel management has been found guilty of repeated labor law violations over the years, using fear and intimidation to prevent the workers from joining a union.
Labor Letter Wins Award
The AIL/NILICO Labor Letter has been cited by The Communicator Awards honouring excellence in marketing and communications.
The newsletter was cited for a Silver Award of Distinction for publications that exceed industry standards in quality and achievement.
This is the second consecutive year that the Labor Letter was cited by The Communicator Awards. The publication received an Award of Distinction in 2011.
The Communicator Awards is sanctioned and judged by the International Academy of Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from acclaimed media, communications, advertising, creative and marketing firms.
Founded nearly two decades ago, The Communicator Awards receives over 6,000 entries annually from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world.
The AIL/NILICO Labor Letter was created more than 40 years ago and remains one of the few publications that reports on the entire range of labor news and issues. The publication is provided as a service by AIL/NILICO to union leaders and activists in both a printed and on-line version.
If you would like to contribute material for the Labor Letter please contact
Oklahoma Demonstrates Against Governor Walker
The Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, Teamsters Local 886 and Oklahoma State Building Trades held a protest demonstration against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Oklahoma City on April 11 that was supported by AIL/NILICO. The event coincided with an appearance by Walker at a fundraiser for the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs where he was the keynote speaker. About 300 union members and community allies mobilized from across the state to participate.
New York “Save Our Postal Service” Rally
David J. Scalisi, National Income Life Public Relations, (center) participated in a recent “Save America’s Postal Service” rally held in Albany, N.Y. Also shown are Jackie Vanacore, Capitol District Area Labor Federation Field Coordinator and Jay Jackson, President of NALC Branch 29. The Albany rally was part of a nationwide day sponsored by the American Postal Workers and the National Association of Letter Carriers. The purpose of the rallies was to educate the public about proposed cuts in the United Postal Service budgets and pending congressional legislation that would undermine postal service in the nation.
D.C. Memorial Service Remembers “B”
A memorial service was held for AIL founder Bernard “B” Rapoport in Washington, D.C. on May 15 that featured President Bill Clinton as one of the speakers.
To an over-flow crowd at the St. Regis Hotel, Clinton praised “B’s” life of service and his philanthropic activities. Other speakers included former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Tom Harkin and former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
The service was hosted by Ron Rapoport, “B’s” son, and Ron’s two daughters, Abby & Emily. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, offered opening and closing remarks.
An earlier service celebrating “B’s” life was held in his home town of Waco, Texas, on April 11. Rapoport passed away April 5 in Waco, Texas. He was 94. He lived a long and storied life which was detailed in a 2002 memoir “Being Rapoport: Capitalist with a Conscience.”
Listed below is a partial list of contributions made on behalf of AIL/NILICO, its State General Agents, and directed by the Labour Advisory Board. All contributions were made between January and May, 2012, and total $692,225.