On the picket line

Federal workers reject pay freeze

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 670,000 workers (including those who work for the District of Columbia), are calling on Congress to reject the “mean-spirited proposal” to extend the two-year pay freeze for another year. Federal workers have already sacrificed $103 billion over 10 years for deficit reduction, $60 billion of which came from freezing wages in 2011 and 2012. The already-tiny 0.5 percent raise isn’t scheduled to kick in until April.

AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said that reducing federal workers’ wages through an extended freeze is “a cheap political ploy. Not only does it inflict tremendous damage on the families of these modestly paid workers, more than half of whom are veterans, but it also hits the communities where these employees live, since they will continue to be unable to afford any kind of economic activity beyond paying for the bare necessities of living.” Cox noted that federal wages are already lower than those paid to workers in the private sector and to state and local government workers who perform the same type of jobs. (afge.org, Jan. 1)

N.J. child care workers ratify first contract

The mostly women workers at Capital Child Care in Trenton, N.J., voted unanimously for their first contract on Jan. 2. Now the workers, who care for about 150 infants and toddlers each day, will see a pay increase, additional paid holidays, a grievance procedure and modest benefits.

One of the many reasons why these workers joined Communication Workers Local 1039 last March was serious concerns about the safety of the children amidst bad working conditions. Management was also so cheap that it fudged time sheets to avoid paying overtime and deducted from the workers’ paychecks things they purchased to help them do their jobs. But conditions were even worse. During contract negotiations, the workers discovered they were paid wages far below the industry standard in that area. (cwa-union.org, Jan. 3)

Union busting killed Twinkies

An editorial in the Dec. 30 Orlando Sentinel, entitled “Union-Busting’s the Secret Filling Inside Twinkie Demise,” exposed the myths about the end of Hostess and correctly blamed the company’s downfall on management’s assault on the workers and their union. Prior to the editorial, the Wall Street Journal exposed that the company diverted payments it was supposed to make to the employee pension fund into their operating accounts. Then management decided to take money from those accounts to give themselves salary raises and more bonuses.

“There is much more to this story than ‘the union and Hostess failed to reach an agreement and 18,000 jobs were lost,’” noted Bakery union (BCTGM) President David B. Durkee. “This union and its Hostess members have been saying for the past decade that the company’s debt was too high; its machinery and equipment antiquated; its product mix out of date; and its management too inexperienced in the banking industry to turn this iconic company around.”

An AFL-CIO blog praising the editorial noted, “Don’t be mistaken. What happened at Hostess is part of a long, protracted shift in the [U.S.] workplace. Companies use any means at their disposal, including bankruptcy reorganization, to get rid of unions.” (afl-cio.org.blog, Jan. 3)