“AFL-CIO Targets McCain With $53 Million Campaign.”

Posted in News on March 11, 2008 by onebigunion

WASHINGTON (Wall Street Journal) March 11 - The fight between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination could drag on for months, but one of the largest Democratic interest groups plans to shift attention to defeating Sen. John McCain in the general election. The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union organization, will announce plans Wednesday for a $53 million effort to elect a Democrat to the White House.

The AFL-CIO will rely on one of the oldest strategies in the political playbook: Define your opponent before your opponent defines himself. The labor organization will launch its “McCain Revealed” campaign to paint McCain as anti-worker and to tie him to the economic policies of President Bush. The AFL-CIO, which is an umbrella group for dozens of large national labor unions, has tailored messages about McCain for each of its member unions. Members of the American Federation of Teachers will get information about where McCain stands on education, for example.

With more than 13 million union members and family members, the AFL-CIO talks directly to more voters than nearly any organization outside of the presidential campaigns and the national political parties. The AFL-CIO didn’t endorse any Democrat in the primaries. Other unions have split their support for Obama and Clinton. The $53 million that the AFL-CIO plans is a record for the union. The money will be spent communicating an anti-McCain message directly to union members and households through mailings, visits to worksites and door knocking.

Though union membership is down nationwide, the union share of the electorate is growing and is particularly strong on battleground states such as Ohio, where the last few presidential election have been decided.

Congressional report blames Murray Energy, MSHA for mine disaster.

Posted in News on March 7, 2008 by onebigunion

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WASHINGTON  (Salt Lake Tribune) March 6 -

 A congressional committee says the operator of the Crandall Canyon mine, where nine people died in separate cave-ins last year, ignored substantial warning signs, may have been conducting unauthorized mining and had an illegal agreement with federal regulators on reporting standards.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committed released a scathing report on Thursday laying blame for the tragedy also on the Mine Safety and Health Administration for missing “significant flaws” in engineering analysis of the mine and ignoring several red flags, including an earlier cave-in that the report says should have been more thoroughly probed.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., says the report shows a need for a full, criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

“The committee’s investigation has revealed that the owner of Crandall Canyon mine, Murray Energy, disregarded dangerous conditions at the mine, failed to tell federal regulators about these dangers, conducted unauthorized mining and — as a result — exposed its miners to serious risks,” Kennedy said in a statement. “MSHA also unconscionably failed to protect miners by hastily rubber-stamping the plan. This is a clear case of callous disregard for the law and for safety standards, and hardworking miners lost their lives.”

A spokesman for MSHA, Matthew Faraci, says speculation by Kennedy’s staff is inappropriate while the agency’s Accident Investigation Team is still preparing its official report to determine the root causes of this accident.

Michael O. McKown, general counsel of UtahAmerican Energy, Inc., the subsidiary of Murray Energy that operated the mine, issued a statement shortly after Kennedy released his report, saying the company is shocked and outraged at such “serious and biased allegations.”

“This report is politically motivated, irresponsible and unjustified,” McKown said, calling it political grandstanding by some of the committee’s members.

“This sensational and irresponsible report makes slanderous allegations against innocent individuals. We are confident that, with a full review of the facts, this will be established,” he said.

Link to the report.

George Bush doesn’t care about coal miners.

Posted in Commentary, News on February 11, 2008 by onebigunion

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From Dailykos:

Mine safety hack is out, and then he’s right back in

Just when you thought George Bush had exhausted every conceivable trick to thwart the will of Congress, he invents another novelty stunt. In this case Bush re-installed his controversial head of mine safety only three days after the man’s recess appointment had lapsed – forcing him to give up the office he’d clung to for more than a year. This episode perfectly encapsulates the President’s passion for putting industry insiders in charge of regulatory agencies. What an absurd tale this is.

In September 2005 Bush nominated Richard Stickler, a former executive at Beth Energy, to head up the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The company had had a reasonably lousy safety record under Stickler. His nomination, opposed by the United Mine Workers and AFL-CIO, went nowhere.

In 2006 the Senate decided it couldn’t tolerate an industry hack in that job and rejected Stickler’s nomination once, and then a second time when Bush re-nominated him. So taking the low road, as you might expect, in October 2006 Bush installed Stickler as head of MSHA by means of a recess appointment.

In November 2006 and again in January 2007 Bush re-nominated Stickler for the permanent position, but to no avail.

The rest here.

BREAKING: Tentative Settlement in WGA Strike!

Posted in News on February 9, 2008 by onebigunion

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LOS ANGELES (New York Times) Feb. 9 — An end to Hollywood’s long and bitter writers’ strike appeared close on Saturday, as union leaders representing some 12,000 movie and television writers said they had reached a tentative deal with production companies.

The strike, which began Nov. 5, remains in effect until the governing boards of the two writers’ guilds formally review the agreement and decide whether to end the walkout. The boards are expected to meet as early as Sunday, and the strike could be over by Monday morning.

A resolution would be good news for the producers, who have been patching together prime-time schedules with reruns and reality shows and had delayed their feature film plans. It would also bring relief to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was nervously making plans for an Oscar night without writers.

Word of the tentative deal came Saturday in an early morning e-mail message to members of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East. The deal was to be reviewed by members at mass meetings here and in New York later in the day.

In their e-mail message, Patric M. Verrone, president of the West Coast guild, and Michael Winship, his East Coast counterpart, said: “Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success.”

While approval appears likely, members have warily debated the expected agreement all week, and are certain to scrutinize the details closely at the Saturday meetings.

A guild spokesman on Saturday morning declined to confirm plans for Sunday board meetings.

The walkout, Hollywood’s longest since writers struck for five months in 1988, closed down dozens of television shows, slowed development of feature films and threw tens of thousands of people out of work.

Writers had demanded a much bigger share of returns from new media than they had received in the past from the distribution of shows on older media like cassettes and DVDs, as well as expanded jurisdiction over reality television and animated features.

Company representatives initially responded by insisting on a complete revamping of Hollywood’s time-honored residuals system, under which writers, directors, actors and others are paid for reuse of their work on television and home video.

As the more expansive demands for wider jurisdiction and a narrowing of residuals were dropped, the sides were finally left with a more conventional negotiation that turned on precise amounts that would be paid in the next three years for growing digital distribution of shows.

The tentative agreement became possible when the sides reached a handshake deal last week on a crucial term under which writers would be paid a fixed residual amounting to about $1,300 for the right to stream a television program online. In the third year of their contract, the writers would achieve one of their major goals — payments amounting to 2 percent of the distributor’s revenue from such streams.

The percentage formula is viewed by many writers as protection against the possibility that traditional television reruns — which have paid them residuals amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per episode in the past — will disappear because of Web streams in the near future.

The tentative agreement resulted from a weeklong, and sometimes heated, exchange of contractual provisions, following informal talks between guild and companies leaders over the last several weeks. The informal talks began immediately after companies reached a deal with the Directors Guild of America last month, pointing toward solutions that helped resolve the dispute with writers.

Television viewers began seeing the effects of the strike firsthand in the last few weeks, as scripted shows faded further into reruns and networks started promoting reality shows like “American Gladiators” on NBC that do not employ guild writers. The Golden Globes ceremony, a showy precursor to the Oscars, was reduced to a news conference when actors agreed to not cross picket lines.

The Oscars themselves — a giant billboard for the film industry that doubles as one of the biggest advertising events of the year — looked to be in trouble because of the strike. Producers will be anxiously watching how the unions react to the tentative deal to see if the Academy can avoid the fate of the Golden Globes and air a full broadcast, with writers no doubt contributing many jokes about their own situation.

Late last week, producers of the network’s late-night talk shows plotted their return to normalcy — possible good news for hosts who have been improvising night after night. “Everybody is telling everybody to come in Monday,” Jeff Ross, the executive producer of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” on NBC, said Friday.

Other late-night shows have been making similar plans. An NBC spokeswoman said that writers for the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” will be invited back on Monday to lighten the load on the host, Jay Leno, who, despite protest from the guild, said he had permission to write all the show’s comedy material himself — replacing the staff of 19 who usually perform that task.

The one NBC late-night show that has been dark for the entire duration of the strike, “Saturday Night Live,” may have its writers back working as early as Monday, but the show is not scheduled to return to the air for another two weeks.

Comedy Central’s late-night shows, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert, are both “prepared to welcome writers with open arms Monday,” said Steve Albani, a spokesman for the channel. “We’re so ready for them to come back.”

Not so fast.   NPR is reporting that the rank and file may not be happy with this deal, that not enough concessions have been made.  Stay tuned…

One Big Union, 2/9/08.

Posted in News on February 9, 2008 by onebigunion

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Firefighters want no talk of drug tests in contract (Boston Herald) Feb. 8 – The city’s quest to force on firefighters hit a snag yesterday as their union sought to keep mandatory screening off the negotiating table.

The Boston Firefighters Union Local 718 argued that the issue should be barred from discussions before the three-member Joint Labor-Management Committee for Municipal Police and Fire because it was not included in the city’s original contract proposal.

The city countered that the state-appointed board has routinely ruled on contractual issues not included in original filings.

Both sides met with the JLMC on Beacon Hill yesterday when the board voted to oversee the negotiations. The panel, which is chaired by retired Judge Samuel Zoll, took no position on whether to allow the testing issue into talks, although one member, Massachusetts Professional Firefighters Association president Robert McCarthy, pledged to keep it out of discussions.

The rest here.

Police union alleges unfair labor practice (Times-Tribune, Scanton, PA) Feb. 8 – Lawyers for the city’s police union have filed an unfair-labor-practice charge against city administrators for allegedly releasing details of a contract offer made in December.

The five-page, 46-point complaint to Patricia Crawford, of the state Labor Relations Board, confirms the details of a contract proposal reported by The Times-Tribune last month, but contends that the parties were not close to agreement on the terms and that city officials should not have disclosed it…

A spokesman for the Labor Relations Board said the complaint had not yet been registered and therefore he could not comment. The union complaint does not seek specific damages, but such charges can often result in fines if proven.

The complaint’s premise is a union allegation that The Times-Tribune is a supporter of Mayor Chris Doherty and is used by the mayor to further an agenda against city unions.

In the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Times-Tribune on Thursday, the union lawyers wrote that the newspaper reported “false claims” by the administration that the bargaining committee for the union had agreed in principal to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.

“In fact, the city knew that nothing could be further from the truth,” union attorney Stephen J. Holroyd said in the document.

City officials said they were merely responding to union President Anne Marie Stulgis’ public claims that nothing was offered.

The rest here.

Union’s big rat joins protest at Kingston (Allentown PA Morning Call) Feb. 8 – A $200 million upgrade at Keystone Cement, one of the biggest construction projects in Northampton County, has reopened years-old conflicts between unions and nonunion contractors – and drawn out a local union’s giant inflatable rat.

Three weeks ago, the beady-eyed rat that Lehigh Valley Carpenters Union Local 600 has toted to dozens of Lehigh Valley construction projects, showed up at Keystone’s East Allen Township plant. The group routinely pickets when union officials believe contractors are paying below-market wages to out-of-state or foreign workers.

”It hurts,” said union representative Jose Cruz of Tamaqua. Out-of-state contractors ”come into this area and lower the standards and the wages,” he said, standing on the picket line next to Route 329.

”It hurts,” said union representative Jose Cruz of Tamaqua. Out-of-state contractors ”come into this area and lower the standards and the wages,” he said, standing on the picket line next to Route 329.

The rest here.

“Beyond the Labor Board.”

Posted in Commentary, News, NLRB, organizing on January 8, 2008 by onebigunion

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From The Nation:

This past September, the National Labor Relations Board issued a startling sixty-one decisions in a legal blitzkrieg on working Americans. The NLRB has been led by a pro-business majority of Bush appointees since 2002. Its bias was never more apparent than during this latest round of decisions, labeled a “September massacre” by the AFL-CIO. One ruling makes it harder to join a union through majority sign-up procedures–the preferred organizing method for many unions that hold out little hope for fair and timely NLRB elections–while another allows employers to decertify existing unions using the very same forms of majority recognition now denied to union organizers. Other rulings facilitate employer discrimination against union supporters and limit remedies available to workers illegally fired for engaging in union activity. Canned for demanding a voice at the workplace? No back pay if you choose to walk a picket line instead of looking for a new job!

According to Jon Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, “The Bush board has so changed the law, in terms of established precedent, that it’s now virtually impossible for workers to get a fair shake, either in the unfair labor practices arena or the elections arena.” Instead, the AFL-CIO is demanding the board be “shut down” until less partisan appointments are made to three recently vacated posts on the five-member board.

Bush’s labor board may indeed be the worst in history, and a temporary shutdown couldn’t be a bad thing. But it wouldn’t address the deeper problems plaguing the labor movement, which date back at least to 1947, when the Taft-Hartley Act greatly curtailed workers’ ability to strike and otherwise pressure employers to recognize unions. Since then, Democratic labor board majorities have had little positive effect on organizing. Private-sector union membership dropped steadily and by more than half between 1977 and 2000, while the two parties spent equal time in the White House. The Reagan years were particularly dismal, but labor didn’t exactly thrive under the Carter and Clinton boards. Today less than 8 percent of private-sector workers belong to a union…

Read the rest here.  Worth your time.

One Big Union: 1/07/08.

Posted in Commentary, News with tags on January 7, 2008 by onebigunion

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Utah school workers shun teachers union, seek Legislature’s ear: (Salt Lake Tribune) – Hundreds of Utah school workers, many of whom don’t want to be a part of the state’s largest teachers union, have joined a new group that’s hoping to catch legislators’ ears on education issues this year.

The Utah Council of Educators, now about 18 months old, was founded partly out of frustration with the Utah Education Association (UEA), council President Dave Barrett said. Like the UEA, the council collects dues. Unlike the UEA, the council is not a union, won’t do collective bargaining and pledges to spend members’ money only on Utah education issues. The group has, for the first time this year, hired the Salt Lake City firm Sego Strategies & Consulting LLC to help it lobby when the Legislature starts Jan. 22, Barrett said.

“It’s part of a larger national trend,” Barrett said. “Teachers don’t want an organization to spend money on issues they don’t agree with.”

The council and UEA have several positions in common, such as wanting to reduce class sizes and raise teacher salaries. But they also differ on some issues. Barrett said most of his group’s members were against vouchers, but the group’s position was to let the public decide and then work with the outcome. The National Education Association (NEA), which is the umbrella organization for many state unions including the UEA, poured more than $3 million into the fight against vouchers in Utah.

“I’m not going to tell our members how to vote,” Barrett said.

UEA President Kim Campbell, however, sees the union’s efforts to defeat vouchers in Utah as an example of how effective the UEA and NEA can be.

Hmmm.  Yes, the NEA can be effective.  There’s a word for what these folks are doing.  Rhymes with “crabs…”   Am I being too hard on them?  You tell me.

WGA strike goes from pinch to burn in Week 10: (San Francisco Chronicle) – The Writers Guild of America strike just passed the two-month mark and only now is it entering the realm of real difficulty. And viewers are about to see not only its damaging effects on television, but also some of its dirty laundry.

Meaning: This is where it gets interesting.

Make no mistake about it, the group on the other side of this issue, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, hasn’t exactly been painting itself with glory. It’s holding onto the money without giving a convincing argument as to why. Greed, always a bad look.

And the WGA has made some convincing claims that the producers alliance hasn’t negotiated in good faith or, lately, negotiated at all. Only the most hopeful (naive?) ever thought it would up until now. Why would it? When the WGA went on strike Nov. 5, there were enough television shows in the can to get into the dead zone of the holiday season – and sometimes beyond, which is where we are now. In fact, mixed into a smattering of lowbrow reality series that were strike induced, viewers will see some new scripted dramas and some returning favorites (all shot prestrike).

Those who know about acrimonious strikes never thought any real negotiation was going to happen until mid-January at the earliest.

That meant that the writers had to stick out the lean holiday period – and stick together. They have certainly done that, but recent decisions by the WGA and a brewing high-profile fight are curious and ill timed.

Guinea PM meets unions in bid to avoid general strike: (Reuters) CONAKRY – Guinea’s prime minister held talks with leaders of the country’s powerful unions on Monday in a bid to avert a general strike called for later this week, almost a year after anti-government protests killed 130 people.

Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, who earlier met President Lansana Conte, told union leaders he hoped to resolve the stand-off “amicably”, a government source close to the negotiations told Reuters.

Union leaders on Friday called a general strike from Jan. 10 in response to Conte’s dismissal of a member of a consensus government, a move which they said violated a power-sharing deal to end the disturbances in January and February 2007.

“Efforts are being made to defuse the crisis, besides all the efforts made by state institutions, religious leaders and union leaders,” Kouyate told a private radio station in Conakry.

“I met the head of state today and we had a very conciliatory exchange. I hope all of that will bring some results.”

Guinea is the world’s top exporter of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium, and last year’s unrest caused major disruption to shipments and hurt an economy already prone to high inflation and sporadic food and fuel shortages.

Human rights groups have accused the police and military of grave abuses during a crackdown last year on the protests against Conte, who has exerted tight control over the former French colony since seizing power in 1984.

Electrical union ratifies labor contract with CN’s Canadian operations: (Canadian Press) Montreal – CN Railway (TSX:CNR) is looking forward to several years of labour peace after members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union ratified a five-year collective agreement at the railway’s Canadian operations.

The agreement, providing improved wages and benefits, affects about 700 workers who maintain Canadian National Railway’s signals and communication systems in Canada.

Workers will see wage increases of three per cent annually between 2008 and 2010, and four per cent in 2011 and 2012. They will also receive $1,000 lump-sum bonuses within 30 days of ratification and again on Jan. 1, 2012.

The new deal, effective Jan. 1, replaces a four-year contract that expired Dec. 31.

CN said Monday the contract resulted from good communications and a commitment by both sides to resolve issues early through regular meetings.

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