November 21, 2007: Last Thursday, a band of roughly 1,000 demonstrators assembled by the AFL-CIO paraded past the White House, in a driving rain, to the headquarters of the National Labor Relations Board. They asked the board, which was established 72 years ago to protect workers' right to bargain, to cease and desist. No more rulings. And no more new members (the terms of three of the board's five members are due to expire shortly) who see their mission as destroying the right of employees to bargain with their bosses.
The outburst was prompted by the board's September work product: 61 decisions that both weakened workers' rights and ran counter to the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, which proclaims that the policy of the United States is to protect "the exercise by workers of full freedom of association [and] self-organization." Absent such rights, the act states, the nation's economy would suffer from workers' diminished purchasing power and run greater risks of economic downturns. It's a very Keynesian act, the NLRA.
Click here to read Harold Meyerson's full column in the Washington Post.
November 14, 2007: Drivers are left to decide for themselves whether to stop work for studios in support of striking writers.
Rick Valencia stared through his windshield at the Hollywood writers pacing in front of the Paramount Studios gate, a blur of red T-shirts and picket signs blocking his passage.
He'd been driving trucks for more than three decades, but earned less in a year than some of these writers made in a week. Scribes in the upper echelon of the Writers Guild of America were bona-fide members of the Hollywood elite. The 57-year-old driver reflected on how enraged he had been in 1988 when writers crossed a Teamster picket line he had been walking.
Jun 12, 2007, By Mike Hall: Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) is poised to sign legislation that will give the state’s public employees the freedom to form a union when the majority of employees at a workplace put their signatures on union authorization cards.
Yesterday, the Oregon Senate approved the majority sign-up legislation, which also allows workers to opt for an election if they so choose. It now goes back to the House, which approved it earlier, to bring it in line with the Senate bill. Kulongoski has promised to sign the legislation.
In May, the New Hampshire Legislature also approved majority sign-up for public employees. Both bills are similar to the majority sign-up provisions for private-sector workers in the federal Employee Free Choice Act. Majority sign-up is much faster than the government-run balloting process and leaves less time for employers to harass and intimidate workers so they will back off from joining a union.
As Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney says:
The right to organize played a critical role in building our middle class. If a majority of employees want to form a union, Oregon will respect that choice. It’s just common sense.
Oregon union members mobilized outreach to lawmakers through e-mail, letters, phone calls and personal visits to win passage of the bill. Says Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain:
More than 300 workers across Oregon helped lobby their elected officials, often telling their stories of abuse at the hands of employers. This vote protects the secret ballot and helps balance the playing field….
Workers appreciate the freedom and choices granted by majority sign-up. They can still have a traditional union election and secret ballot if they want one, but they also have the chance to have their union recognized when a majority of them have signed authorization forms.
In May, during a campaign swing through Oregon, presidential candidate John Edwards threw his support behind the bill. In a letter to Chamberlain, he wrote:
By protecting a worker’s right to join a union, we give more Americans the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and into the middle class, which is why I have been all over this country the past few years working with over 20 national unions organizing thousands of workers into unions.
Says Oregon Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown (D):
This is a simple matter of majority rule. If a majority of workers agree to be represented by the union, then they should be.
April 13, 2007: New York Times: If there is a single, logical justification for the wild executive compensation packages that have become standard at large American companies, it is performance. In too many cases, pay has little or nothing to do with results, and some of the most jaw-dropping packages are for executives who have been told to hand over the reins.
April 11, 2007: Santiago Rafael Cruz, an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), was found bound and beaten to death yesterday in the group's Monterrey, Mexico, office. FLOC doesn't believe it was a random killing.
April 9, 2007: McDonald's Corp. on Monday said it has agreed to pay an additional penny per pound for Florida tomatoes, ending a two-year campaign for the increase by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Interview with Dawn Stanger,Local 597, UPS, VT
Why did you get involved in solidarity work?
I realized how important it was during the UPS strike. Every time people came to the picket line with donuts and hung out and talked, I realized that there are hundreds and probably thousands of union members who have common concerns and interests who don’t know each other and never talk to each other about union issues. Eventually I got involved in a group that specifically does solidarity work, the VermontWorkersCenter.
Any success stories?
We helped a lot on an organizing campaign at Fletcher Allen hospital. Just this summer the 1,200 nurses won their first contract with some excellent language. The VermontWorkersCenter helped with community outreach and turning people out for events. Of course the most important thing was the strength of the nurses. But they got energy from our efforts. And we got people involved who can honestly feel that they were part of making a piece of labor history.
Ideas or suggestions for getting others active?
Things that quickly mobilize people are most effective and things that get people outside of their houses and out from in front of their television set. Jobs with Justice has a rapid response network (RRN) now. In the hospital campaign one nurse got fired and the RRN was on it right away and had a candlelight vigil outside the CEO’s apartment building. The nurse was back to work within two weeks. They have 1,500 names on the RRN. Not all participate, but it is a way to get the word out to them rather quickly
There is a tendency to think that just having e-mail lists and links to websites is enough. Although you’ve got to have all that it can be a little passive. One better way to go is to use pledge cards where people pledge to participate in so many actions or events a year. Then you build accountability into if you can organize a system to get back with them and remind them of their commitment.
It is also very helpful to get members to morale-boosting events, like the JwJ conferences that any union member can go to or our own TDU Convention in the IBT. This can help make sure that they “catch the bug” and get a good picture of what it is all about.
March 13, 2007: Public Citizen has filed a lawsuit against the federal government to get information about the Bush administration's Mexico-domiciled truck plan.
Thirteen Republicans joined 228 Democrats in voting for the bill. Two Democrats and 183 Republicans voted against the bill.
Contact your U.S. Senators today to urge them to vote for the Senate version of the bill sponsored by Ted Kennedy.
The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers greater freedom to join a union by:
- Establishing stronger penalties for violations of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations,
- Providing mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes, and
- Allowing employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.
President Bush has vowed to veto the legislation. It’s unclear whether the bill will reach his desk: supporters of the legislation will need 60 votes to overcome a likely Republican-led filibuster.
March 6, 2007: In this editorial, the New York Times supports the Employee Free Choice Act, the proposed law that would make it harder for employers to keep workers from joining unions.