On the picket line
Published Jan 5, 2008 8:30 AM
Workers strike war profiteer
Some 4,000 members of 11 Auto Workers’ locals in Georgia, Indiana,
Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas who build MaxxPro engines for
blast-resistant Navistar trucks used by the U.S. military in Iraq conducted an
unfair labor practice strike for nearly two months ending Dec. 17, when the
workers ratified a three-year contract. International Truck and Engine, which
tried hiring scabs to maintain its war profits, initially took a hard line but
eventually gave in to the strikers’ demands.
The most important aspect of the new contract, which includes an immediate
$2,500 payment and a 6 percent pay raise over the course of the contract,
pension upgrades, and health care protections, is a moratorium on plant
closings and outsourcing during the life of the contract.
“While it is not a strike against the war, it is still significant that
workers have struck a war profiteer in the midst of war,” noted Larry
Goldbetter, member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, in an e-mail
to U.S. Labor Against the War.
Striking laundry workers hold vigil
In early December, Danny Glover joined striking workers from Prudential Overall
Supply, the largest laundry company based in California, when they began a
12-day vigil outside company headquarters in Irvine. The workers at five
facilities across the state have been striking against unfair labor practices
since Sept. 12. Fighting to improve wages, healthcare and working conditions,
the workers, many of them immigrants, have been met by constant threats,
coercion and intimidation.
In July the laundry workers and UNITE HERE filed a complaint with the
Department of Labor alleging violations of wage, benefit, holiday and paid
time-off standards at Prudential facilities in California and Arizona. The
workers, who filed complaints alleging violations of local living wage
ordinances in San Diego, Oakland, Los Angeles and Ventura County, were
vindicated when San Diego and Oakland terminated their contracts with
Prudential and sued the company for back wages for $1.82 million and $120,000,
Prudential backed out of its contract when notified that Ventura County’s
Living Wage ordinance would be enforced, and workers’ complaints in Los
Angeles are still being investigated. The struggle continues.
Wal-Mart’s sexual discrimination
The three-member Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled Dec. 12
that the largest sexual discrimination case in U.S. history could proceed as a
class action suit against Wal-Mart. Nearly two million women, who since 1998
have worked for the world’s largest retailer and super-exploiter of
workers, stand to collect billions in unpaid wages and damages for being
excluded from promotions. But there’s a hitch. The decision also allows
Wal-Mart to appeal the ruling. Stay tuned.
Make contracts LGBT-inclusive!
Pride at Work, the AFL-CIO affiliate that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender rights on the job, has developed a Union Certification Program to
help workers negotiate LGBT-inclusive contracts. Its first training took place
in November with OPEIU Local 29 in Oakland, Calif.
During the five-hour training, attendees learned how to add contract language
that protects LGBT workers from discrimination and harassment on the job and
gives them access to federal programs like the Family and Medical Leave Act.
They also learned how to argue for domestic partner benefits and
transgender-inclusive health care. To find out more about the program, contact
[email protected]; to set up a training session so your union can become
certified, contact [email protected]
Flight attendants need support
Imagine working up to 20 days a month away from home as a full-time employee
and not qualifying for a family or medical leave when you or a family member
needs help. That’s what flight attendants and pilots face because of the
narrow wording mandating a 40-hour workweek in the Family and Medical Leave
To rectify that, the Airline Flight Crew Family and Medical Leave Act was
introduced in Congress last fall. The struggle for passage continues in 2008.
To show your support, write a letter to lawmakers; a sample letter is posted on
the Flight Attendants’ Web site: www.afanet.org. To ensure hand-delivery
to Congress, address the letter to AFA-CWA, Office of Government Affairs, 501
Third St. NW, Washington, DC 20001.
NLRB issues Scrooge ruling
Just in time to qualify for a Scrooge award, the National Labor Relations Board
issued a 3-2 ruling on Dec. 21 that gives an employer the right to prohibit
workers from using the company’s e-mail system to send out union-related
messages. The ruling said it was legal for employers to have a policy barring
employees from sending e-mail for “non-job-related solicitations”
for any outside organization. But how can bosses dare prohibit workers from
communicating about work-related matters of mutual concern? Though the NLRB has
never throughout its history been a consistent friend of labor, it’s
typical that a Bush-appointed NLRB would issue such a narrow, vindictive
ruling. Just another reason workers will continue to organize and fight for
their rights in 2008!
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