May 22, 2009: Hoffa’s Trade Show Director John Perry is in court on charges of assaulting a Teamster member for filing a grievance.
Will Hoffa take a stand against violence and for seniority rights in the Trade Show industry?
As an IBT Division Director, John Perry is supposed to coordinate our International Union’s efforts to defend Teamster members’ rights in the Trade Show industry.
Instead, Perry faces criminal charges for assaulting a Teamster who filed a grievance to enforce members’ seniority rights. The assault is part of a wider pattern of violent intimidation in Boston Local 82.
Critics charge that Perry has made a devil’s pact with a group of thugs with violent criminal records who provide Perry with muscle to control Local 82 and intimidate Teamster members in exchange for lucrative jobs at Boston trade shows.
At the center of the controversy is Joseph “JoJo” Burhoe, whose extensive rap sheet includes a conviction for armed bank robbery. Court documents reveal that Burhoe has served as an informant to the FBI since his release from prison.
Perry brought Burhoe into the local after a rank-and-file insurgency in the local union passed bylaws changes that transferred power from Perry to the union’s membership and nearly toppled Perry in a local union election.
Burhoe is once again a criminal defendant, this time on charges that he assaulted Local 82 member Eddie Flaherty—a rank-and-file critic of John Perry’s. The violent beating left Flaherty unconscious and hospitalized. Flaherty has left the Trade Show industry in fear of his personal safety.
Perry continues to appoint Burhoe as the contact person that Local 82 members must call to get work at trade show exhibitions.
The seniority rights of long-time Local 82 Teamster members get in the way of Perry’s scheme to get access to Trade Show jobs for thugs and their cronies. Perry’s solution has been to gut members’ seniority rights.
Local 82’s contracts have strong language that requires employers to give preferential hiring to workers who have experience in the Trade Show industry prior to 2003. The language is legal and the traditional mechanism used by unions to help make sure that senior employees don’t get passed over for work.
For years, Perry has refused to enforce the seniority provisions in the contract—called the “2003 language.” Now, Perry is trying to bargain away the seniority language altogether. But Local 82 members are fighting back.
Members Stand Up For Seniority
Members at Freeman Decorating Company voted to reject contracts negotiated by Perry that eliminated the 2003 seniority language.
Following that vote, Perry took no chances on the contract vote at Greyhound Exposition Services (GES), another major Trade Show employer. Perry stationed JoJo Burhoe, Jimmy “The Bull” Deamicis and a police officer outside the door of the union hall. Only members approved by Burhoe or Deamicis were allowed to enter the hall to vote on their contract. With the vote stacked, the GES contract passed—minus the 2003 seniority language.
But Local 82 members aren’t giving up. On May 20, Trade Show Teamsters voted to reject the proposed contract at Champion Exposition Services because the 2003 seniority language has been removed.
Perry Faces Assault Charges
Meanwhile, Perry faces charges that he assaulted Local 82 member Jimmy Lee in retaliation for filing a grievance on a violation of the 2003 seniority language.
According to the complaint against Perry, he assaulted Lee the day after a seniority grievance was turned in.
Perry has been arraigned for assault and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for June 11. Public documents reveal that Boston police have rescinded the licenses to carry firearms from Perry and Local 82 President Pat Geary and confiscated their guns.
Hoffa Needs To Act
The Independent Review Board (IRB), the panel set up to investigate Teamster corruption, is interviewing members. Their investigation is long overdue. The assault against Flaherty took place more than a year and a half ago. Lee charged Perry with assault more than six months ago.
If the Hoffa administration is serious about acting against corruption and protecting Teamster contracts, they will not wait on the IRB to take action.
It is hard for our International Union to credibly make the case that the government is no longer needed in our union when our union takes no action to investigate charges of violent intimidation of Teamster members by a top Hoffa appointee.
Perry is on Hoffa’s payroll to the tune of $59,955 last year as the IBT Trade Show Director. He bagged a total of $186,963 in Teamster salaries last year.
By failing to act, the Hoffa administration is helping anti-union forces who would love to take advantage of the scandal to undermine Teamster organizing drives or use the allegations of violence in Local 82 to weaken Teamster members’ rights in the Boston Trade Show industry. Our union cannot allow that to happen.
The Hoffa administration needs to take action to preserve seniority language in our trade show contracts and decisively put an end to cronyism, violence and intimidation in Boston Local 82.
May 15, 2009: Step right up to the “Nest Egg Toss” game! On April 23 on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature, workers could toss an egg representing their “nest egg” at painted pictures of nests. The eggs splatted on the plywood and ran down, just like auto workers’ hopes for a decent retirement.
About 13,000 people, mostly retired Canadian Auto Workers members, gathered in front of the legislature to tell Premier Dalton McGuinty that they are concerned about their pensions and demand stronger pension protections from government and corporations.
Buses filled University Avenue as far as the eye could see, full of retirees from Windsor, Oshawa, St. Catharines, and many points in between. They had been stunned when McGuinty announced that the Ontario Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund could not handle one of the Big 3 automakers going bankrupt. The Fund is supposed to guarantee a minimum amount of a retiree’s pension in case of bankruptcy.
Hugh Davis, a retiree from CAW Local 88 who has Parkinson’s disease, was warned that the walking at the rally might be rough. “I’m determined to go,” said Davis. “My health care benefits are everything.” Although the most immediate threat was to the auto workers, they were joined by a large delegation from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The crowd on the legislature lawn parted, and the OPSEU members filed into the center of the protest with their flags flying high amid a roar of applause. Private and public sector unions were standing side by side, flags waving in the wind.
CAW President Ken Lewenza decried the unfairness of reducing retired workers to a “cost,” speaking of the retiree pensions and health benefits that employers call “legacy costs.” Retirees were workers who fought for the rights that we have today, Lewenza said, workers who made the Big 3 billions of dollars, workers with real needs and bills to pay.
Right now the pension crisis is a gigantic concern for auto workers but the sentiment was clear among all the unions. If the largest private sector union in Canada could be threatened with losing pensions, then it could happen to any retiree. The global financial crisis and recession has called into question the viability of many Canadian pension plans.
The rally had another important focus: the unfair and sad fact that less than half of all Canadian workers get any sort of pension from their employers at all.
The message was clear: Don’t even think about touching our pensions!
By Cathy Austin, President, CAW Local 88Click here to read more labor news at www.labornotes.org
May 14, 2009: Just four days before George Bush left office, the Department of Labor put new restrictions to the Family and Medical Leave Act into effect. Now a new bill would restore protections.
On April 29, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) introduced the FMLA Restoration Act to roll back the changes made by Bush.
The Family and Medical Leave Act, a 1993 federal law, requires employers to allow eligible employees up to 12 weeks time off per year in the event of serious illnesses or medical conditions of the worker or his or her family.
The new rules make it harder for workers to take intermittent leave and let employers contact workers’ doctors without their consent. Click here to read a detailed report on the changes from pro-union attorney Robert Schwartz.
You can help win back stronger protections for workers who take time off to care for their families. Click here to contact your Congressional Representative and ask them to support the FMLA Restoration Act.
April 27, 2009: The President has announced his intention to nominate two Members of the National Labor Relations Board.
April 24, 2009 press release: here
Both individuals are Democrats. Both are lawyers representing labor unions.
The NLRB normally has five Members, but currently there are only two, one Democrat and one Republican. By law, no more than three can be from the same political party, so the next appointment will have to be a Republican.
Craig Becker currently serves as Associate General Counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale College in 1978 and received his J.D. in 1981 from Yale Law School where he was an Editor of the Yale Law Journal. After law school he clerked for the Honorable Donald P. Lay, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. For the past 27 years, he has practiced and taught labor law. He was a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law between 1989 and 1994 and has also taught at the University of Chicago and Georgetown Law Schools. He has published numerous articles on labor and employment law in scholarly journals, including the Harvard Law Review and Chicago Law Review, and has argued labor and employment cases in virtually every federal court of appeals and before the United States Supreme Court.
Mark Gaston Pearce has been a labor lawyer for his entire career. He is one of the founding partners of the Buffalo, New York law firm of Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux where he practices union side labor and employment law before state and federal courts and agencies including the N.Y.S. Public Employment Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board. Pearce in 2008 was appointed by the NYS Governor to serve as a Board Member on the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals, an independent quasi-judicial agency responsible for review of certain rulings and compliance orders of the NYS Department of Labor in matters including wage and hour law. Pearce has taught several courses in the labor studies program at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations Extension. He is a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Prior to 2002, Pearce practiced union side labor law and employment law at Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll, Salisbury & Cambria LLP. From 1979 to 1994, he was an attorney and District Trial Specialist for the NLRB in Buffalo, NY. Pearce received his J.D. from State University of New York, and his B.A. from Cornell University.
The following is Mr. Pearce's biography as it appears on the Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux web site:
Mark Gaston Pearce has dedicated his career to the practice of labor and employment law. He is currently a principal partner in a firm representing individuals as well as public and private sector labor unions in all matters involving employment and labor relations. Previously a district trial specialist with the National Labor Relations Board and a partner at a major Buffalo law firm, Mr. Pearce has extensive trial experience in state and federal courts and agencies. He also represents clients in civil service and employment discrimination litigation, collective bargaining, contract compliance, arbitration, and Taylor law prosecution. Additionally, Mr. Pearce represents individuals in all employment matters including the negotiation of professional employment contracts, partnership, and severance agreements.
Mr. Pearce is a graduate of Cornell University and State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law. He is admitted to practice in New York State and the United States District Court for the Western District of New York in 1979 and 1980 respectively.
In 2007 and 2008 Mr. Pearce was appointed by NYS Governor Elliott Spitzer to the Commission on Increasing Diversity in the State Government Workforce and the Industrial Board of Appeals respectively. He has served on the NYS Office of Court Administration Commission to Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice and contributed to its report and recommendation issued in 2006. Mr. Pearce is a member of the Procedures and Practices Committee of the American Bar Association Section on Labor and Employment Law, the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Economic Justice, the WNY Workforce Investment Board, the Advisory Board of the Labor and Employment Relations Association of Western New York (formerly IRRA), The Labor Advisory Board of Cornell University School of Industrial Labor Relations- Great Lakes Division, Buffalo Arts Studio, the Erie County Bar Foundation and the Council of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. He also serves on the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division 4th Dept. Committee on Character and Fitness, the Board of Directors of the Lawyers Coordinating Committee of the AFL-CIO and has served as president of the Volunteer Lawyers Project Inc., the Minority Bar Association of Western New York, and Housing Opportunities Made Equal.
Mr. Pearce is adjunct faculty at Cornell University School of Industrial Labor Relations and is a member of Cornell Adjunct Faculty -Upstate, New York State United Teachers Local # 37-950 an affiliate of American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO). He is a member of the sections on Labor and Employment Law of the American Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association, the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (an affiliate chapter of the National Bar Association), The Bar Association of Erie County. Mr. Pearce has lectured on labor and employment law and given Continuing Legal Education presentations for the American Bar Association , New York State Bar Association, the Pacific Coast Labor and Employment Law Conference, the AFL-CIO, Cornell University and the National Labor Relations Board.
Mr. Pearce is a recipient of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York Legal Service and President's Awards; the 1490 Enterprises of Western New York Black Achiever in Industry award; special recognition from the Buffalo Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; the Coalition for Economic Justice Rev. Robert Beck Award; the Communications Workers of America, Western New York Council Eugene J. Mays Citizenship Award and was designated an "Uncrowned King" and African American Community Builder by the Uncrowned Queens Institute. Mr. Pearce is a class of 2000 graduate of Leadership Buffalo and is listed in the 2007 Buffalo Spree magazine's Superlawyer edition for New York State.By Prof. Ross Runkel, Employment Law Editor for Law Memo, Inc.
April 27, 2009: Attorney Paul Taylor of the Truckers’ Justice Center says that it is time to replace the appointees to the Administrative Review Board (ARB), and that Labor Secretary Hilda Solís should act quickly. You can help make it happen.
The ARB functions as an “appeals court” for whistleblowers, including truck drivers who are punished for refusing to drive in unsafe conditions or vehicles.
Taylor says that “The Bush/Chao ARB has been hostile to whistleblowers, issuing outrageous decisions which have devastated protections for truck drivers who refused to drive while fatigued, and holding that truck drivers are not protected when "red-tagging" unsafe vehicles.”
Labor Secretary Solís has the power to appoint new members of the ARB without Senate confirmation. Numerous qualified experts have already interviewed for the positions. However, it has been seven weeks since Secretary Solís' confirmation and we still do not have a new ARB.
You can get more info and can make your voice heard by going to the National Whistleblowers Center: www.whistleblowers.org
March 11, 2009: Yesterday, lawmakers in both houses of Congress introduced a new law that will make it easier for workers to form unions. You can help pass it.
The Employee Free Choice Act will make it easier for workers to join a union when a majority of workers support unionizing, and it will penalize employers who harass and fire union supporters.
Help give other workers a voice at work. Click here to send a message to your representatives in Congress.
March 11, 2009: A federal judge in New York March 9 dismissed Cintas Corp.'s racketeering and trademark infringement claims against UNITE HERE, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and their labor federation Change to Win (Cintas Corp. v. UNITE HERE, S.D.N.Y., No. 08cv2185, 3/9/09).
Even accepting as true the allegations in the 105-page amended complaint, Judge William H. Pauley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the “corporate campaign” conducted by the unions to pressure the company to sign a neutrality/card-check agreement does not constitute attempted extortion under federal and Ohio law.
Cintas alleged that the unions engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by committing attempted extortion in violation of the federal Hobbs Act and Ohio law. However, Pauley found that Cintas, not just the unions, would receive some benefit from a neutrality/card-check agreement and that the company does not have a right to pursue its business interests without receiving any criticism.
Cintas also alleged that the unions infringed the company's trademark in violation of the Lanham Act by using the “CINTAS” trademark on Web sites directed at Cintas's customers and workers. But Pauley found that the unions are not using the trademark to sell competing goods or services but rather to criticize the company's actions.
The judge declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Cintas's state-law claims and dismissed the suit.
Organizing Campaign Began in 2003
Cintas is the largest uniform supplier in North America and has more than 34,000 employees. UNITE HERE formally launched a campaign in February 2003 to organize about 17,000 Cintas laundry workers (25 DLR A-9, 2/6/03). The Teamsters later joined the organizing campaign (123 DLR A-12, 6/26/03).
The unions want Cintas to sign a neutrality/card-check agreement requiring the company to remain neutral regarding their employees' choice about union representation and to recognize either union as the exclusive bargaining representative of each unit in which a majority of the workers sign union authorization cards. Cintas alleged that the unions are conducting a corporate campaign to pressure the company to sign an agreement by disparaging the company through letters, flyers, newsletters, press releases, and Web sites directed at customers, investors, stock analysts, and employees.
Some of the “consumer bulletins” on a Web site www.cintasexposed.org run by UNITE HERE use the company's trademark. The site contains a link to the homepage of the union's main Web site, which in turn has a link to the union's online “store” that sells items bearing the union's logo. The homepage also includes links to Web sites that promote uniforms and other products made by union-represented workers. The “Cintas exposed” Web site included a disclaimer stating that it is an independent site run by UNITE HERE.
UNITE HERE, the Teamsters, and CTW each have Web sites that accuse Cintas of paying poverty-level wages, discriminating against workers, having workplace safety problems, and violating federal laws. The three organizations also maintain a Web site www.uniformjustice.org that invites Cintas employees to report health and safety violations and another site www.notonmytrack.info that asks car-racing fans to urge NASCAR to stop using Cintas.
Cintas filed the racketeering and trademark infringement suit one year ago (48 DLR A-4, 3/12/08) and filed an amended complaint a few months later. The unions filed a joint motion to dismiss in June 2008.
In other litigation between the parties, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled 2-1 last September that UNITE HERE violated the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act by accessing Cintas employees' motor vehicle records to obtain their addresses (176 DLR AA-1, 9/11/08). UNITE HERE brought a False Claims Act suit alleging that Cintas defrauded the federal government by failing to comply with the Service Contract Act's minimum labor standards (182 DLR A-13, 9/20/07). The union's appeal of a district court's dismissal of the suit is pending in the Ninth Circuit. UNITE HERE voluntarily dismissed a securities suit against Cintas after a judge denied the union's motion for a preliminary injunction and found that the union failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits (102 DLR A-6, 5/29/07).
Judge Calls Complaint ‘Public Relations Piece.'
Pauley criticized Cintas's amended complaint as “sprawling,” “larded with” exhibits, and “a manifesto by a Fortune 500 company that is more a public relations piece than a pleading.”
Cintas alleged a pattern of racketeering activity consisting of attempted extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, violation of Ohio extortion law, and violation of the Travel Act by traveling between states with the intention to commit extortion.
The Hobbs Act defines attempted extortion as attempting to “obtain the property of another, with his consent, induced by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear.” Cintas argued that the unions attempted to obtain property in the form of a neutrality/card-check agreement through fear of economic loss. Pauley found that a Hobbs Act violation occurs “when a defendant exploits a plaintiff's fear of economic loss and receives property to which it has no lawful claim.”
Courts “have held uniformly” that a neutrality/card-check agreement “provides benefits to both an employer and a union,” Pauley said. He found that if the “victim receives something of value in return for capitulating to fear of economic loss,” the victim must show that it had a pre-existing right to pursue its business interests free of that fear. Cintas “does not have a right to operate free from any criticism, organized or otherwise,” the judge said. However, he found that the company is not precluded from bringing a state-law defamation claim.
Pauley explained that trademark infringement under the Lanham Act requires the plaintiff to prove that it has a valid trademark that the defendant used without the plaintiff's consent to sell or advertise goods or services and that the defendant's use is likely to cause confusion as to a connection between the plaintiff and the defendant “or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of the defendant's goods, services, or commercial activities by plaintiff.”
Most of the relevant factors “weigh heavily” in the unions' favor, Pauley said. He found that Cintas and the unions “occupy entirely distinct spheres,” that there is “no proximity” between their goods or services, and that there is “no likelihood” that the unions will enter the company's field. Cintas did not allege that the unions used the trademark with the intent of associating themselves with the company or capitalizing on the company's reputation and goodwill, Pauley said. He also found that Cintas's customer base is “a sophisticated corporate audience” that is unlikely to be confused about who provides Cintas goods and services.
Cintas also alleged that the unions are using the trademark for profit because the “Cintas exposed” Web site links to the UNITE HERE Web site, which links to the union's online store, and because the unions are attempting to obtain a neutrality/card-check agreement, union dues, and pension contributions.
“The twice-removed links to a union ‘store' is at least one bridge too far and insufficient to establish the use of the CINTAS mark for profit,” Pauley said. He also found that an effort to obtain a neutrality/card-check agreement “does not represent an attempt to profit.” The unions can obtain union dues and pension contributions only if the Cintas employees choose either union as their bargaining representative, the judge said. “This is too attenuated and independent from the accused conduct to support any inference that the use is an attempt to profit,” he said.
Unions Welcome Decision
“This is a victory not only for Cintas workers—and all working families—across the country, but a victory for free speech,” UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor said March 10. “This decision will hopefully end the absurd practice of using RICO lawsuits to try to criminalize worker organizing,” he said.
The district court ruling “represents a significant reaffirmation of the basic right that every citizen has to expose companies that make money by exploiting their workers and consumers,” Teamsters Press Secretary Galen Munroe said March 10. The decision “recognizes that unions have the legitimate right to use publicity about a company's business practices as part of an organizing campaign, a right that has been recognized by the courts for decades.”
Gregory M. Utter of Keating, Muething & Klekamp in Cincinnati, who represented Cintas, said the judge “was clearly wrong” and failed to apply the Second Circuit's definition of extortion. The unions say they will stop disparaging the company if it signs a neutrality/card-check agreement, which is something of value, Utter said. “That's extortion,” he said. It is no different than standing on a street corner and saying bad things about someone but promising to stop if the person pays $10,000, Utter said. Cintas has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling, he said.
In addition to Utter, Jamie M. Ramsey, Patricia Hogan, Drew M. Hicks, and Christy M. Nageleisen-Blades in the same firm; Jonathan M. Wagner of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in New York; and Notre Dame Law School professor George R. Blakey represented Cintas. Tobin J. Romero of Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., and Irwin Rochman of Tesser, Ryan & Rochman in New York represented UNITE HERE. Leon Dayan of Bredhoff & Kaiser in Washington, D.C., represented the Teamsters and CTW.
By Susan J. McGolrick
March 5, 2009: The AFL-CIO Executive Council March 4 authorized AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney and some members of the smaller AFL-CIO Executive Committee to continue discussions with the unions of Change to Win and the National Education Association to attempt to unify the labor movement.
The AFL-CIO council is meeting here through March 5.
A statement adopted by the council noted that four years ago internal discussions among the AFL-CIO and a number of affiliated unions failed to resolve issues dealing with the structure, governance, financing, and programs of the federation, leading to the disaffiliation of several unions and the formation of the separate Change to Win federation. “Now is the time to bring the union movement back together,” the statement said.
The council charged Sweeney with reporting on a regular basis to the full executive committee. “All tentative agreements shall be subject to the approval of the Executive Officers, the Executive Committee, and then the full council.”
The statement said that the unity of the labor movement is “among the most important issues facing unions today,” and urged the participants in the discussions to “take this responsibility seriously, and to use their best efforts to find a path to reconciliation that strengthens the AFL-CIO and unites the labor movement.”
The executive committee also put its stamp of approval on a the continuation of a separate effort under way within the AFL-CIO itself on the organization's future. In this effort, discussions have been taking place among many leaders of AFL-CIO affiliated unions on the “future of the federation and the challenges that it is facing.” In the statement, the committee authorized the AFL-CIO officers to continue to participate in those talks.
A dozen presidents of the largest AFL-CIO and Change to Win affiliates, along with the heads of both federations, have been involved in discussions led by former Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) about reunification (5 DLR A-1, 1/9/09). The president of the NEA also has been involved in the talks.
No Agreements Have Been Reached
According to the statement, no agreements have been reached but a number of issues have been identified for resolution including matters of governance, mission, jurisdiction and organizing responsibility, programs, and finances.
Bonior told BNA March 1 that the talks have been going well with “candid and honest” discussions taking place. “There is a desire in the room to create something that unifies the labor movement,” he said.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told BNA March 4 that the “important thing that happened today is that a group of people were authorized to speak as a negotiating committee for the AFL-CIO in the talks.”
Weingarten said that there was a lot of discussion about the statement but in the end it received unanimous approval. She said that during an executive committee meeting March 2, a lot of the “myths and rumors” circulating around the talks were debunked. In particular, she said, there were rumors that smaller unions would lose their autonomy as well as concerns about jurisdictional issues. “That was not the intention,” she said.
Weingarten said there was an issue around how the process started with several labor leaders talking among themselves. “If the AFL-CIO resolution had been broached prior to the beginning of the discussions,” she said, “there would not have been so many concerns.”
Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen told BNA that “jurisdiction is preserved as it is” in a unified labor movement and that issue is not on the table for discussion. He said when the discussions began the participants had a number of goals including “creating a unified labor movement that can speak and act nationally on critical issues” facing working Americans.
Cohen said the discussions currently are focusing on the mission, purpose, and resources of a unified movement and how to focus on legislation, politics, and communications. He said the participants are hopeful they can come up with a framework for what the labor movement would look like.
International Association of Machinists President Thomas Buffenbarger, who has not been part of the reunification talks, told BNA that there seemed to be a lot of “misinformation” about the meetings and what was being discussed. While some of the smaller unions were concerned that they would not be part of the unified group if they weren't of a certain size, he said the AFL-CIO constitution guarantees autonomy for every international and singular union.
Buffenbarger, however, is part of the separate talks under way about the future of the AFL-CIO. He said that group, which includes representatives from about 70 percent of the AFL-CIO unions, has had two or three meetings so far. He said the union leaders have been looking at whether the system of governance and the federation's financial capability is what it needs to be, in particular because of the downturn in the economy.
The IAM president was critical of the continued talks with some of the Change to Win unions. He said the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is under federal monitorship, while UNITE HERE is “getting a divorce and fighting over the bank account.” He said the Service Employees International Union is in “so much turmoil, how can we discuss reunification with them and take their demands seriously when their members” are so dissatisfied.
When asked about the prospects of reunification, AFT's Weingarten said that “if people want it to happen, it will happen.” She added that the “$64,000 question is whether those involved see it in the best interests of working people to have a unified labor movement.”
Change to Win spokesman Greg Denier told BNA March 4 that the leaders of CTW continue to work with the leaders of the AFL-CIO to “build a unified labor organization.” He said that both federations are working together on passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, health care reform, and the economic recovery, and in 2008 worked together in support of Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
“We are building on the positive relationship we now have,” he added.
By Michelle Amber
February 10, 2009: The Chicago window and door workers who took over their factory and inspired workers across the United States are on tour to tell their story.
Last December, workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago found out that their factory was closing. Bank of America refused to extend their company any credit, and workers weren’t going to get paid what they were owed.
The workers, members of the United Electrical Workers Union, occupied their factory for five days, took on Bank of America—and won. Now workers are in the final stages of talks with a potential new owner to re-start production at the plant.
This week, workers from the UE are on tour to share their story, and are meeting with packed crowds. Click here to find out if there’s an event in your area.
Watch a video about the factory occupation.