Delta ground & cabin crew supported by U.S., global unions
Transport unions across the U.S. are joining forces with International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) affiliates in North America to back the Machinists’ (IAM) campaign to organize the ground and cabin crew at Delta Air Lines. Following endorsements from the Transport Workers Union and Flight Attendants (APFA), the Air Line Pilots Association became the latest to join the campaign the week of May 20.
The campaign already received support from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton at IAM’s recent transportation conference in Las Vegas. There APFA National President Lori Bassani announced her union’s support.
ITF and its worldwide affiliates are showing solidarity by meeting Delta cabin crews during international layovers and sharing their experiences. (itfglobal.org, May 24)
Judge orders new union vote at Kumho Tire in Macon, Ga.
A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled May 14 that a new union vote must take place at Kumho Tire in Macon, Ga. The judge found the south-Korean-owned company violated workers’ rights before and during the United Steelworkers balloting in October 2017.
The USW lost the election by only 28 votes, following a relentless campaign of intimidation, scaremongering and suppression of union organizing by seven full-time union busters at the plant. The judge ruled that Kumho’s tactics were “pervasive,” as it illegally interrogated employees and threatened to fire union supporters and close the plant if the union won. The judge ordered the “extraordinary” remedy of requiring company officials to read a notice to all employees outlining the specific ways in which workers’ rights had been violated.
The USW is affiliated with IndustriALL Global Union, a global union federation which the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), representing over 3,500 workers at Kumho Tire in south Korea, is also affiliated with. IndustriALL and KMWU have been supporting the Macon workers in their battle for union representation.
“IndustriALL congratulates USW campaigners. We will stand alongside our USW sisters and brothers until Kumho Tire workers in Macon, Georgia, win their first collective agreement.” (industriALL.org, May 28)
Fighting lockout at DowDuPont chemical plant in Texas
On 22 April members of United Steelworkers Local 13-1 were locked out of a plant that produces specialized acrylic-based chemicals at Rohm and Haas Texas lnc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical in Deer Park, near Houston. The 235 workers were locked out after attempts to negotiate a collective agreement with DowDuPont (merger of Dow and DuPont in August 2018) went nowhere. The company’s “last, final and best” offer on May 20 offered no substantial changes from its previous hardline position.
The workers, concerned about understaffing and its consequences for safety, have made several proposals, which the company has ignored. The workers fear the local community is at risk because inexperienced managers are handling dangerous chemicals and using unfamiliar processes that are not part of their duties.
This struggle is supported by the DowDuPont North American Labor Council, led by the USW. The network includes DowDuPont unions around the world and IndustriALL Global Union, which is mobilizing international solidarity. (industriALL.org, May 22)
Stopping wage theft in Minnesota
Provisions in the Minnesota Jobs, Economic Development, and Energy omnibus budget bill passed May 24 make wage theft in excess of $1,000 a felony and penalize employers who retaliate against employees who report it. The bill, one of the strongest such U.S. laws, also provides an increase of nearly $4 million to expand prevention, inspection and investigative efforts.
Wage theft occurs when employers don’t compensate workers by failing to pay overtime, misclassifying them as independent contractors or declining to pay them outright. The law increases the state’s ability to prosecute employers to prevent the loss of an estimated $12 million in unpaid wages annually from roughly 39,000 Minnesota workers.
Passage of this law is a huge victory for the Minnesota Coalition to End Wage Theft, which includes 21 unions and worker advocacy organizations. A coalition statement pointed out that institutional imbalances of power disproportionately impact women, people of color and immigrants.
Nely Bautista, a wage theft victim and member of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha, a group in the coalition, said, “It gives us hope because we’re being taken seriously. This change comes from us, the workers. [It] is going to benefit a lot of people. We are going to be able to work more confidently with the knowledge that the law protects us.” (Workday Minnesota, May 24)