By Alejandra Cancino- Chicago Tribune reporter.
Employees filed nearly 100,000 discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in fiscal 2011, the highest number in the commission’s 46 year history, according to a report released Thursday by law firm Littler Mendelson P.C.
A portion of the report focused on systemic discrimination cases, which involve more than 20 victims. It found that in 40 percent of the investigations completed in this area, the commission determined it reasonable to conclude that the employers’ policies or practices were discriminatory.
“These statistics are disconcerting for employers,” Barry Hartstein, lead author of the report, said in a statement. “Reasonable cause determinations are typically issued in only five percent of charges that the EEOC investigates.”
Although the commission will continue fighting cases of systemic discrimination, the report says that the lawsuits filed by the commission have been subjected to close scrutiny. In two recent lawsuits, employers were awarded over $7 million in attorneys’ fees based on what the courts called “sue first, ask questions later litigation strategy,” according to the report.
Last fiscal year, the commission filed 261 merit-based suits against companies, 11 more than in fiscal year 2010. Of those, 84 had multiple victims and 23 were considered systemic. The leading cause for lawsuits was disability discrimination, followed by retaliation, sexual harassment and race discrimination.
The top five states where lawsuits were filed were California, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan. Illinois was sixth, with 15 lawsuits.
By Carl Horowitz for the National Legal and policy Center.
Unions for many years have been a highly reliable segment of the Democratic Party Left. Yet this perhaps no more was this true than in 2011 – and with good reason. The year began with the Republicans holding a nearly 50-seat edge in the House of Representatives following the GOP’s smashing wins in the November 2010 midterm elections. Avoiding legislative process became a top priority for organized labor. Union officials and organizers at every opportunity created and exploited populist rage toward the wealthy, now redubbed “the 1 percent,” playing a key role in shutting down the Wisconsin State Capitol, organizing Occupy Wall Street protests, and conducting corporate harassment campaigns. Taking the high road, unions also heavily relied on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enact what amounted to stealth legislation.
In the NLRB, at least, unions had a true ally. By law, the normally five-member NLRB must consist of three members of one major party and two of the other. With Barack Obama in the White House, Democrats now provided the tiebreaker vote. The president’s recess appointments in March 2010 of two party members, Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, both experienced union lawyers, paid off handsomely last year. This past April the board filed a complaint against Boeing Co., claiming the company had deprived an International Association of Machinists local in Washington State of its right to strike when it located a second production line for a new jumbo jet to South Carolina, a Right to Work state. The board effectively sent a message to unionized manufacturers that they must subject key expansion decisions to union veto power. Every union, not just the IAM, stood to gain. And in the end, they did. The NLRB dropped the suit in December, providing Boeing with a nominal victory, but only after the Machinists had worked out a favorable contract extension with the company several days earlier.
The NLRB, meanwhile, unveiled a new rule in June to reduce drastically the time elapse between a union filing for representation petition and workers voting on whether to unionize. The board finalized the regulation in December in the face of intense House GOP opposition, thus assuring (for now) that employers will have little time to oppose a union organizing campaign. And the NLRB ruling by 3 to 1 in UNICCO Service Co. made it more difficult for an employer taking over a unionized company to avoid recognition of the union as a bargaining agent (i.e., the “successor bar”).
The board invited scrutiny in other ways. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in September wrote Becker on what role he played, if any, in preparing an anti-corporate organizing manual for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where he formerly served as associate general counsel. The SEIU found this manual highly useful in its more than year-long campaign to destroy the brand name of Sodexo, which eventually, this March, countered with a racketeering suit against the SEIU. Sen. Hatch’s request might seem moot in the aftermath of President Obama’s withdrawal of his nomination in December of Becker for a full term on the board. But the president, faced with another protracted period with a nonfunctioning two-member board, only days ago appointed Left-leaning Democrats Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, along with the obligatory second Republican, Terence Flynn, to the board during a Senate “recess” of dubious constitutionality.
The Service Employees revealed themselves once more to be masters of political agitprop. Not only did the union engage in an intimidation campaign against Sodexo, it also played a central role in fomenting Occupy Wall Street and offshoot campaigns. Moreover, as reported in February, two of the Midwest residences raided by the FBI in September 2010 for possible linkages to the terrorist groups Hamas (Gaza and the West Bank) and FARC (Colombia) belonged, respectively, to a current and former official of Chicago-based SEIU Local 73, Joe Iosbaker and Tom Burke. Iosbaker, at least, is back in the news. He and another FBI suspect, Andy Thayer, helped lead Occupy Chicago protests in October. And a longtime prominent SEIU organizer, Stephen Lerner, not only was active in the Occupy movement, but earlier in the year laid out an economic destabilization plan – caught on tape during a speech in New York – to decimate America’s banks and corporations. Lerner, several times a visitor to the Obama White House, has been all over the map since, identifying and denouncing “billionaires” at whom activists could vent their wrath.
Other unions flexed their muscles at the perfidious “1 percent.” AFL-CIO-affiliated labor federations in Boston, Chicago and Orange County, Calif., for instance, organized “Occupy” protests. Along with the SEIU, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, AFSCME and the New York State United Teachers each endorsed Occupy Wall Street squatters. Even AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka paid the Wall Street occupiers a friendly personal visit. Trumka had plenty else to keep him busy, most notably, a fledgling “Super PAC” to raise money for progressive candidates in 2012. He’ll have plenty of allies in Wisconsin, where public employees unions spearheaded a three-week mass takeover of the State Capitol in Madison and surrounding grounds starting in mid-February. Supportive Democratic state senators fled town in unison with the intention of preventing a quorum for a vote on GOP Governor Scott Walker’s budget, a large portion of which contained proposals to curtail union collective bargaining authority. They lost – temporarily. After the AWOL senators returned home to a hero’s welcome, the GOP-majority legislature passed the bill and the Wisconsin Supreme Court in June, by a 4-3 margin, upheld the law, reversing a permanent injunction issued the previous month by a state circuit court. A union-driven recall campaign against certain pro-Walker legislators proved mostly unsuccessful. But activists on November 15 launched a petition drive to recall the governor and are reportedly close to acquiring the minimum required signatures for submission by the January 17 deadline.
Political confrontation wasn’t the whole story in 2011. As usual, union officials and functionaries produced numerous examples of financial impropriety. Among the more dramatic stories: Tim Foley, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134 in Chicago, resigned his post in October following revelations that he and three other union officials had been illegally double-dipping into their municipal and union pension plans. The leaders of a United Food and Commercial Workers local in Brooklyn, N.Y. were arrested and charged with shaking down or stealing $2.4 million from employers and members. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) health and pension plan boss Bruce Dow and his cronies faced unexpected scrutiny for the disappearance of possibly $10 million in union benefits. Hundreds of FBI and other law enforcement agents in a single January morning arrested well over 100 Mafia wise guys and associates, mainly in the New York City area, for murder, racketeering, money-laundering, loan-sharking, extortion and other offenses going back some three decades. The FBI in October arrested nearly a dozen persons, including retired union employees of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), for conspiring to concoct phony medical histories in order to expand eligibility for outsized pension and “disability” checks, a scheme that over the long term could cost U.S. taxpayers at least $1 billion. And Melissa King, first exposed in late 2009, pleaded guilty to fleecing the New York-area Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) “Sandhogs” local where she served as benefits manager, though in an amount less than the alleged sum of more than $40 million.
Taking into account the subjective criteria used in the past for ranking importance, here are the ten corruption/aggression stories, in reverse order, that stood out most in 2011:
2011 Chrysler-UAW contract language for hourly production, maintenance and parts workers as well as pension and appendix language. Linky. The summary below is on the front page of Soldiers of Solidarity. The site is the work of Gary Shotwell, a long time UAW member, and agitator of the UAW. Mr Shotwell’s banner statement: “Workers Rights are not defined by Law or Contract. Workers Rights are defined by Struggle. You will Win what you are willing to Fight for. Nothing more.”– G. Shotwell.
CHRYSLER CONTRACT LOWLIGHTS
This contract has NO FAIRNESS. We ALL deserve better.
There is a lot of “NO” in this contract:
NO parity with General Motors or Ford:
· We get $1750 upon ratification. The other $1750, only “when the company achieves financial stability,” is misrepresented as a ratification bonus—we might not get it at all.
· We get only $500 a year “inflation protection” which is less than the $600 Christmas bonus we lost in 2009. We might get another $500 for quality, but “no award will be paid if Chrysler Group LLC determines that targets were not met.” An “audit score adjustment factor” would give workers in some plants up to $1000, but only if they achieve a bronze or higher WCM score (not likely in the next four years).
· Profit sharing? Chrysler can make up to $1.25 billion in operating profits—a long shot considering the company claims to have “lost” $254 million in the first half of 2011—before we get a cent.
· In other words all but $3750 depends on “metrics” that we have no say in and minimal control over.
NO repayment of past losses! $3750 does not begin to compensate us for the concessions of 2009—“suspensions” of raises, bonuses, holidays and more that were supposed to be temporary—that cost each worker a minimum of $9000. Bonuses that average less than $1000 per year do not make up for the thousands of dollars we will have lost at the end of our Chrysler career if we allow the “suspensions” to be transformed into permanent losses.
NO end to two-tier pay. Raises for “entry level” workers—UAW sisters and brothers like everyone else—leave them at least a $9 an hour behind “traditional” employees and their pay can still barely support a family. There are no commitments to make Temporary Part Time workers permanent. TPTs and Summer Vacation Replacements do not count towards the 25% cap on “entry level,” which does not even go into effect until 2015. Even if some entry level workers are moved into the “traditional” pay bracket they will not get traditional benefits. All these tiers lower wages for everyone in the long run and keep us all “divided and conquered.”
NO COLA or improvement factor raises—“traditional” pay is frozen for another four years. We have not had a raise since 2006. Are we paying the same for food, gas and utilities as we did in 2006? Time-and-a-half only after 40 hours.
NO guarantees that there will be 2100 new jobs; any new jobs will be 100 per cent second tier. New jobs will be offset by reduction of jobs in skilled trades. Language that made the company fill attritional openings has been deleted. A new loophole—“market related volume declines” has been added to the toothless moratorium on plant closings and spinoffs. The UAW workforce at Chrysler could be even less than 26,000 by 2015.
NO end to forced transfers of workers on indefinite layoff—without “closed plant” status they still lose their seniority. Laid off workers run out of SUB after 26-52 weeks. The job bank is gone.
NO let up in the decimation of skilled trades. The company will continue cutting skilled trades to the bone through outsourcing, combining and eliminating classifications (“rationalization”), and dumping more trades work on production through Autonomous Maintenance. Lines of demarcation will be a thing of the past. Two thirds of all skilled positions could be eliminated at Chrysler, Ford and GM if they follow the pattern of GM’s totally restructured Lake Orion assembly plant.
NO lost holidays returned. We did not get back Easter Monday and lost the “floating holiday” (the one Friday before Labor Day that was in the last contract) and July 5, 2013 (the Friday after Thursday, July 4, which we would have off with pay in previous contracts).
NO restoration of relief time cut in 2009, which amounts to roughly 25 hours per year. Six to eight minutes per day now cut for Alternative Work Schedule/Flexible Operating Pattern workers.
NO $700 Christmas bonus for retirees and pensions are frozen for four years.
NO bereavement for same-sex partners and health insurance cut for same-sex partners’ children.
NO change to the inhumane combined attendance and tardiness procedure. One occurrence removed now, and then 4 more years under the gun.
NO end to AWS and FOP, with some crews having their regularly scheduled 10-12 hour days on weekends for straight time. Dundee and Trenton only won—after Dundee voted to strike—relief from changing shifts from week to week. The company can impose AWS or FOP on a plant without local union approval.
NO fairness in overtime: “the Local Unions and local plant managements may negotiate local agreements for the purposes of equalizing team based”—not by rotation or seniority anymore—“overtime hours or overtime opportunities in the same department and classification and on the same shift.”
AND NO, Fiat-Chrysler is not broke. Cash reserves of Fiat and Chrysler have been combined and the company is sitting on a pot worth $27 billion. Car sales are up and market share has increased. Chrysler’s hourly labor costs are $7-9 less than Ford, GM and Toyota. The Treasury loans have been paid in full ahead of schedule, drastically lowering lending rates. And they did not “lose” $254 million. When the bosses borrowed money to pay off the Treasury there were servicing fees. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and their cohorts got half billion bucks. We got a button! We are forfeiting everything we thought we could get back if we vote yes.
Many of us are understandably worried about what we could lose if we vote no and the contract goes to arbitration. We are on unchartered waters. There is no predicting how the arbitrator would rule or how long it would take. We don’t know what might weigh in on the ruling. There are the GM and Ford patterns, our past concessions, and there’s Fiat’s 27-billion-dollar cash reserve. Might not an arbitrator consider these factors? Granted, it is a huge gamble. But can’t our negotiators go back to the table and try to demand a better contract?
The “Occupy Wall St.” protests in New York and hundreds of other cities have put the spotlight on corporate greed. One way we can protest corporate greed is by voting NO on this contract. We would be acting in a proud and dignified manner in the tradition of the sit-downs of the 1930s. We would be showing Marchionne that we reject his “culture of poverty” and will not be blackmailed by scare tactics.
Whatever the vote, we rank-and-file members have to come together. We can’t let tiers keep us divided. We need to find a way to revive the fighting tradition of the UAW.