Archive for the Commentary Category

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.

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“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.

One Big Union: 1/06/08.

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , , , on January 6, 2008 by onebigunion

Union hot over Cal Fire criticism: (San Diego Union Tribune)The union that represents state firefighters is fighting back against what it considers undue criticism of Cal Fire, the state fire agency that has been scrutinized for its response to the October wildfires.

CDF Firefighters paid thousands of dollars to publish two advertisements last week in The San Diego Union-Tribune  and Today’s Local News,  a free daily newspaper in North County. Both papers are published by The Copley Press Inc.

Powerful Nev. union plans endorsement after New Hampshire primary: LAS VEGAS (AP) – A powerful Nevada union says it won’t endorse a Democratic presidential candidate until after Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

The 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 plans to announce its endorsement, along with parent union UNITE HERE, at a Wednesday morning press conference at its Las Vegas headquarters, political director Pilar Weiss said Saturday.

Chinese Employers Accused of Goon Hiring: (AP) – Huang Qingnan lifts his hospital sheets and shows a long scar below his left hip. His right thigh needed stitches and surgeons fought to mend muscle and tendon gashed in his calf.

The 34-year-old labor activist was stabbed repeatedly by knife-wielding thugs, one in a series of attacks that experts and workers’ rights advocates fear may signal a worrying new trend — privatized intimidation.

Once it would have been the communist government going after activists such as Huang. Today, he’s less worried about the government and more about gangsters he believes are being hired by China’s rough new capitalists to cow troublesome workers.

New Hampshire and Those Labor AdsMANCHESTER, N.H. (New York Times “The Caucus”) As we’ve been driving around New Hampshire this week, we can’t help but hear the radio ads playing repeatedly. We’ve heard Ron Paul ads, John McCain ads and then ads that just stopped us — those for Hillary Rodham Clinton and against Senator Barack Obama…