Daily Archives: November 21, 2011
Richard Trumka stands at the podium like a man with his foot in the doorway of history, relaxed and confident and grinning at the audience. Wisconsin? The attempted murder of public unions? That was actually a win, he says.
A big beefy guy with a bristling mustache and Blagojevich hair, Trumka started life as a coal miner. His grandfather was a union man. His father was a union man. He became a union man and put himself through college on the midnight shift, leading many bitter strikes in the coal patch where rock-throwing miners confronted guards with machine guns, scenes from an epic American history few people remember. Two years ago he rose to the top of the American labor movement, president of the AFL-CIO, where he represents twelve million firefighters, teachers, nurses, miners, electricians, and entertainers. He came in with a lifetime’s worth of dreams for reviving labor and saving America. So when Governor Scott Walker this year took away the right of collective bargaining for government workers in Wisconsin, the law of the land for seventy-five years, Walker didn’t just aim a dagger straight at the heart of American labor, he aimed it at Rich Trumka’s heart. Read the full article here.
However, also please read the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation fact sheet on Trumka’s history of violence and corruption here.
“I’m barely hanging on,” one driver lamented. His employer, the U.P.S. freight unit, was turning to nonunion drivers — people outside the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, he said.
“We need to start enforcing our contracts!” Troublemaker replied.
Troublemaker, better known as Sandy Pope, is the first woman to run for the presidency of the Teamsters, against the powerful, three-term incumbent, James P. Hoffa.
Odds are that Ms. Pope will lose — final results are due today. But whatever the outcome, Ms. Pope represents a new face of labor, one that increasingly is female. In this “We are the 99 percent” moment, when corporate profits are up and wages flat, a handful of women are challenging the old, mostly male world of union bosses.
Unions, of course, have been in retreat for years. But Ms. Pope and several other women, notably Rose Ann DeMoro, of National Nurses United, and Mary Kay Henry, of the Service Employees International Union, are pushing back. Their ascendance has rekindled hope that organized labor maybe, just maybe, could stage a comeback. They have also helped inspire the likes of Occupy Wall Street.
“Some of these women might even make unions relevant to the average American again,” said Steve Early, a labor journalist, union organizer and author of “The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor.” Read the full article by Kathleen Sharp at Ocala.com.
The United Auto Workers union, whose leader has staked its future bargaining power on organizing U.S. plants of Asian and European automakers, plans to start pressuring the companies through dealership campaigns.
Regional UAW representatives trained members about how the campaign will work at UAW Local 2209 on Nov. 19, said Mark Gevaart, president of the local in Roanoke, Indiana. The union hasn’t selected the automaker it will target and didn’t discuss when the drive will begin, he said in a phone interview.
Restoring the UAW’s clout in negotiating with the industry depends on organizing the U.S. factories of automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Daimler AG, union President Bob King told members at the union’s bargaining convention in March. The UAW has failed in attempts to organize Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.’s U.S. plants in the past.
“King has to find some way of cracking open the transplants,” Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. “He has to generate revenue, and for unions generating revenue means more members.”
The UAW’s membership increased last year by 6 percent to 376,612, according to a March 31 filing with the U.S. Labor Department. After its first annual membership gain in six years, the Detroit-based UAW would have to almost quadruple in size to return to its 1979 peak of more than 1.5 million members.
Michele Martin, a spokeswoman for the UAW, declined to comment about the dealership campaign.
“This is not a picket in any way,” Gevaart said. The meeting at UAW Local 2209, which represents workers at General Motors Co.’s Fort Wayne Assembly plant, lasted about 90 minutes, he said, without giving more specifics.
King, 65, secured new four-year contracts with GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC in September and October. The union avoided a strike with Ford and reached agreements with GM and Chrysler without arbitration.
The UAW president was “statesmanlike” in negotiating deals with the three U.S. automakers this year, said Art Schwartz, president of Labor & Economics Associates in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The union still is likely to get pushback from any automaker it targets for organizing and has yet to convince workers that they need union representation, he said.
“The UAW has got a really tough chore in front of them to organize these plants,” Schwartz, a GM former labor negotiator, said in a phone interview. “They probably are going to try every tactic they can. This is important, especially to Bob.”
After members ratified the last of the three accords with Chrysler on Oct. 27, King told reporters on a conference call that he still hoped to organize a nonunion plant in the U.S. this year. He has said the union set aside $60 million from its strike fund this year for the organizing push, and in January warned that the UAW will label any automaker that tries to block its efforts as a “human-rights violator.”
The UAW’s challenge will be crafting its pitch to nonunion autoworkers while companies such as Toyota and Volkswagen AG expand their workforce by adding production and opening new U.S. factories, Clark University’s Chaison said.
Toyota opened a plant in Mississippi last month to build Corolla compact cars, while Volkswagen began making Passat sedans in Tennessee earlier this year. VW pays employees about $27 an hour in wages and benefits at its factory in Chattanooga, less than the more-than-$50 rates paid to hourly workers at GM, Ford and Chrysler, according to Barclays Capital.
“The UAW has to play this one carefully,” Chaison said. “They have to work not on the premise that these are improving times, but that they’re just not improving as much for workers without a union, and that that’s unfair.” Source: Craig Trudell. Bloomberg.