10.29.2003

Suggest a book!

Suggest a book! [LabourStart] LabourStart is assembling an online bookshelf for trade unionists -- a list of the books that every trade unionist should own.

10.28.2003

News from the Committee on Education and the Workforce

Committee on Education and the Workforce Press Release Committee Releases Final ULLICO Report; Calls on Labor Department to Fully Investigate Whether Sweetheart Stock Deals Violated Federal Labor and Pension Laws

“At the very same time that union leaders were joining the chorus of well-deserved criticism of Enron and others for corporate misconduct, ULLICO set up a system of insider stock deals that made millions for the board at the expense of rank-and-file union members,” said Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee.  “Our Committee’s investigation has concluded that the union leaders who set up these sweetheart stock transactions may well have violated federal labor and pension laws.” 

“We are hopeful that the Department of Labor sheds light on these unanswered questions because American workers deserve to know whether ULLICO directors violated the law and made millions at the expense of the rank-and-file union members they represent,” added Boehner.  “The Committee will continue to exercise its oversight authority to ensure that these labor and pension laws are effective in protecting the rights of American workers, and if they are not, in considering legislative solutions to guard against similar future abuses.” 

10.19.2003

Michigan AFL-CIO President Comments On ‘One Delegate, One Vote’ Proposal

LaborTalk October 22, 2003
Michigan AFL-CIO President Comments On ‘One Delegate, One Vote’ Proposal
By Harry Kelber
Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO, which has 650,000 members and 350,000 retirees, is quite content to have only one vote at AFL-CIO conventions, even though many international unions have hundreds of thousands of votes. Here is the text of an e-mail that Brother Gaffney sent me:

"Mr. Kelber, you are simply wrong in your 'LaborTalk' of 10-15-03. The State Federations and CLC's should not have voting power equal to affiliated unions at the National AFL-CIO. Simply put, the affiliated unions pay millions of dollars in per capita, we pay none. The Executive Council, General Board and especially the convention are rightfully the place where per capita strength should be exercised. We in the AFL-CIO work for and provide service for the affiliates. This is one State that respects the principle of per capita strength." Mark T. Gaffney, president, Michigan State AFL-CIO.

But Brother Gaffney, isn’t it the members’ dues that give the international presidents the money for per capita payments, and shouldn’t they be entitled to at least some voice at AFL-CIO conventions through their elected State Federation and Central Labor Council representatives? From the members’ viewpoint, isn’t this “taxation without representation”? You know that the Executive Council is not accountable to the members, but you don’t seem to mind.

As you see it, your duty as a State Fed president is to follow the decisions handed down by the national AFL-CIO leadership without question, whatever those decisions are, because they have the “per capita strength.”

You were the Michigan State AFL-CIO delegate at the 2001 convention in Las Vegas. Didn’t you feel peculiar, sitting in the convention hall with your one vote, while nearby was an SEIU delegate who could cast 57,800 votes and a CWA delegate to the right of you, who was entitled to 39,133 votes?

And what did you do at that convention? You went along with the amendment to the AFL-CIO Constitution to hold conventions every four years, instead of every two, passed by voice vote with only about 15 seconds of discussion by one speaker.

You supported the amendment to hold Executive Council meetings only twice a year, instead of three times a year, without any discussion at all.

You didn’t find anything wrong when those international leaders with their “per capita strength” got themselves re-elected for four more years, all by unanimous voice vote. Did you notice that not one of the 51 elected Executive Council members was an officer of a State Fed or CLC, and that none has been elected to high national office for more than 30 years? Does it matter to you? What were you doing at this convention, Brother Gaffney, and did you mention anything about these outrageously undemocratic actions to your union officers and members in Michigan?

The blunt truth is that State Federations and Central Labor Councils play no role at all at any AFL-CIO convention. They’re simply window-dressing. At the 2001 convention, there were 47 delegates from State Federations and 226 from Central Labor Councils, who said nothing and did nothing of any consequence. Their combined voting strength was about one-eighth of the American Train Dispatcher Department’s 2,100 votes.

I should add that there were two CLCs that spoke out for the “One Delegate, One Vote,” amendment: the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council and the Colorado Springs Area Labor Council.

It would be interesting to know how the members of the 24 CLCs in Michigan feel about Brother Gaffney’s leadership style, and whether other State Feds and CLCs agree that they should remain wall flowers at AFL-CIO conventions.

Our weekly “LaborTalk” and “Labor and the War” columns can be viewed at our Web site (www.laboreducator.org). Union members should check (www.rankandfileaflcio.org) for information about the AFL-CIO Reform Movement.

10.16.2003

related links re: leaked 13 page NUP memo

New Unity Partnership document 200 dpi scans

NUP01.jpg 625x528 pixels page 1 - reduced file size
7. Politics
- meet with Karl Rove

NUP02.jpg 606x745 pixels page 2 - reduced file size
American union members and leaders face a choice:
. Make history by fundamentally changing their unions to respond to today's employers, or
. Continue current practices and preside over organized labor's continued decline.

The New Unity Partnership, A Manifest Destiny for Labor By JOANN WYPIJEWSKI

Gang of Five’ Union Leaders Plot Radical Takeover of AFL-CIO LaborTalk (September 17, 2003)
By Harry Kelber

10.14.2003

63 International Presidents Are Asked If They Will Support Fair Union Elections

LaborTalk October 15, 2003
63 International Presidents Are Asked If They Will Support Fair Union Elections
By Harry Kelber

The following letter (marked "confidential") has been sent to the presidents of the AFL-CIO's 63 international unions, asking their help to ensure that there will be free and fair elections at the federation's 2005 convention.

October 6, 2003
Dear President ______:

We are asking you and the other 62 AFL-CIO international union presidents, who together represent 13 million union members, to rectify a grossly discriminatory practice that is damaging labor's public image and helping anti-union employers to defeat organizing campaigns.

We refer to the provision in the AFL-CIO Constitution that gives international unions as many convention votes as the number of their members, based on their per capita payments, while limiting state federations and central labor councils to one vote each.

Thus, a small union like the Federation of Professional Athletes, with 1,700 members, has almost three times the convention votes of the 51 state federations and 600 central labor councils, combined. This lop-sided voting system is manifestly unfair and cannot be justified.

We are advocating a constitutional amendment that gives every delegate one--and only one--vote, whether he or she is from an international union, state federation or central labor council. Most organizations operate under that principle, including the Canadian Labour Congress, to which many AFL-CIO unions are affiliated and abide by.

Under the AFL-CIO Constitution, unions like yours would still have considerable advantage over state federations and central labor councils. You are entitled to 9 delegates for the first 175,000 members and an extra delegate for each additional 75,000 members.

The "one delegate, one vote" system is the best way to ensure that the "best and brightest" will be elected as future leaders of the labor movement. Labor leaders should not fear to participate in an election that is open and fair to all candidates.

We are asking you and the other international union leaders to support a constitutional amendment that would give all convention delegates an equal voice. We sincerely hope you will support this amendment, but if you oppose it, we’d appreciate knowing why. We would like to have your answer by October 31st..

Fraternally

10.13.2003

New England Carpenters win right to elect regional council officers

Victory for union democracy: Carpenters win right to elect regional council officers
Union Democracy Review Nov/Dec Issue by Carl Biers
In a major victory for union democracy, New England carpenters have won the right to directly elect the officers of their regional council. On October 8, federal judge Richard Stearns in Massachusetts directed the U.S. Department of Labor to order the New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERC) to hold officer elections. The NERC represents 27,000 carpenters in 26 locals from Connecticut to Maine.

In its arguments, AUD supported the union's right to create large regional councils, which may be necessary to deal appropriately with the increasingly centralized nature of the construction industry where large, regional, national, and even international companies are becoming dominant. "The Carpenters are privileged to create strong Regional Councils," wrote Hyde in his brief. "However, if Regional Councils negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements, control job referrals, retain most dues, and discipline members, then they perform the 'functions and purposes' of locals and must elect officers by direction elections."

The ruling provides ammunition for carpenters and other unionists throughout the country, who are fighting to democratize the same or similar regional council structures. If you are in such a situation, please contact AUD for assistance.

For more info contact Carl Biers at aud@igc.org, 718-564-1114
read the full article

10.06.2003

Why Can't Any AFL-CIO Union Organize Even One of Wal-Mart's 4,750 Stores?

LaborTalk October 8, 2003
Why Can't Any AFL-CIO Union Organize Even One of Wal-Mart's 4,750 Stores?
By Harry Kelber

After years of trying, the one million-member United Food and Commercial Workers, an AFL-CIO affiliate, has been unable to unionize a single one of Wal-Mart's 4,750 supermarkets, despite a heavy investment of money and resources in its organizing campaign.

The best that the union's large staff of organizers has been able to achieve is its only "historic" breakthrough back in Feb. 17, 2000, when the meatcutters in the delicatessen department of a Wal-Mart supermarket in Jacksonville, Texas voted 7 to 3 in favor of the UFCW in a National Labor Relations Board election. The union was unable to capitalize on this toe-hold victory to organize the entire store.

The UFCW can't blame its organizing failures on the grounds that the nearly one million people who work for Wal-Mart (the world's largest employer) are so happy with their pay, benefits and working conditions that they don't need a union.

The average pay for Wal-Mart employees (they're called "associates") is $8.23 an hour or $13,861 a year. That’s well below the federal poverty line of $14,630 a year for a family of three.

Wal-Mart’s health-insurance plan is considerably below-par, compared with those in the retail industry. It requires a six-month waiting period for new hourly employees. Its deductibles are as high as $1,000, triple the norm. It raised premiums 50% during the past two years. It does not cover retirees.

In truth, Wal-Mart employees are very unhappy at the variety of abuses they've taken from the company, and they've done something about it. Not by joining the union, but by instituting class action suits--and winning many of them.

Two years ago, the giant retailer had to shell out $50 million to 69,000 workers in its Colorado stores, whose class-action suit cited overwhelming evidence of an enormous amount of off-the clock work by employees. Wal-Mart also paid $485,000 to 10 former Hispanic employees in a discrimination suit.

Family members of deceased Wal-Mart employees are suing the company because it took out about 350,000 insurance policies on the lives of its workers, made payable to the company.

On Sept. 24, a California federal judge began considering a plaintiff's petition to include all women who worked at Wal-Mart since late 1998 (a total of 1.6 million women) in a class-action suit that charged that Wal-Mart systematically denied women equal pay and opportunities for promotion. This sex discrimination case could rank as the largest class-action suit ever.

The UFCW might have won the trust of Wal-Mart employees if it had led them in their law suits, but apparently it didn't get directly involved. Even though unionized store employees average about 30% or more in wages and benefits than those at Wal-Mart, UFCW organizers haven't been able to persuade a majority of workers at even one store to join the union.

The abysmal failure at Wal-Mart highlights the fact that AFL-CIO unions in the private sector won't try to unionize scores of corporations with a work force of 30,000 or more. (Remember that General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, General Electric, Westinghouse, U.S. Steel and Bethlehem were organized sixty years ago.) If AFL CIO unions can’t organize the big companies, how are they to grow?

.Since 1992, a total of 13,000 supermarkets, many of them unionized, have shut down, unable to compete with Wal-Mart's price-slashing of consumer goods.. Its labor costs are 20% less than those in union food markets.

All the training programs, conferences, strategy sessions, seminars and tons of literature on union organizing haven't made much of a difference. And even if every union is persuaded to spend 30% of its budget on organizing, it won't lead to significant gains in union membership.

As long as the AFL-CIO’s horrendous record at Wal-Mart remains unchallenged, workers at other large company’s will think twice about joining a union.

What will those union leaders who want to give top priority to organizing have to say about Wal-Mart?

Our weekly "LaborTalk”" and "Labor and the War" column can be viewed at our Web site (www.laboreducator.org). Union members should check www.rankandfileaflcio.org for news and information about the AFL-CIO reform movement.