Friday, December 31, 2010

Direct Action Opportunity

As you may remember, I have written about the Starbucks Workers Union(SWU/IWW) before, and it seems we have an opportunity to lend a hand with some direct action.  The just received a message from the IWW that they could use some help from labor activists to bring some justice to a union member who has been fighting for better working conditions in Nebraska, and has come under attack.

Here is the message from the IWW:

As of 12/30 SWU Barista and Organizer Tyler Swain has been suspended with pay from Starbucks Coffee Company. We believe over the last 5 months, since the Nebraska SWU went public with it's organizing campaign, Starbucks corporate has been aggressively working to terminate FW Swain's employment with the company because of his union activity.

During this period of time FW Swain has been written up 6 times, for trumped up charges ranging from cash handling violations to insubordination. During this time Starbucks has also attempted and failed to drum up various ethics allegations against FW Swain, alleging that he has been sexually involved with other workers, and attempting to pressure workers into coming forward on made up sexual harassment allegations. All of these attempts to fire FW Swain to this point have failed, because they are unjust.

Now however, a new manager has been placed at his store, as well as a new District Manager in charge of his area, and they are no doubt trying to earn points in there new positions by ridding the company of FW Swain.

Please call District Manager Heather West at (402)321-3611 Begining at 9:00 am CST and voice your support for the workers of the Nebraska SWU.

Hello, my name is , and I'm calling to express concern over the way Scott Creed has treated his workers since taking over the management position at the 15th and Douglas store. He is disrespectful to his workers, managing in an atmosphere of fear, rather than support and open dialogue. Workers deserve a respectful and safe environment to work, these are the aims of the Nebraska SWU, and I support their cause. 


Please Forward to all interested parties.

This afternoon the store manager of the 15th and Douglas Starbucks took action to terminate FW Tyler Swain because of his engagement in union activities. FW Swain enacted his Weingarten Rights before the conversation began, and Scott Creed and district manager Heather West promptly denied his right at which point FW Swain refused to take part in the conversation and walked out.

We urge all members and supporters to please call Scott Creed directly and let him know that his unfair and biased treatment of his workers will not be tolerated, that we are well aware of his unjust actions and will not stand idly by as he tries to force workers to submit by removing FW Swain from the workplace.

Contact Scott Creed at


*UPDATE* Scott turned off his cell phone last night. He is staying at the Sleep Inn; please call 402.342.2525 and ask for Scott Creed if he does not answer his cell phone.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolutions for the New Year

With just a few days remaining in 2010, I am reflecting, as I usually do, on the last year, and where I'd like to go next year.  This year I'm making a list on labor-related things I'd like to get done in the next year.

1.  More substantive posts here on The Virtual Picket Line.

2. Reach 5,000 hits on the VPL Blog.

3. Land a Union Staff job. (This has been on the list going on 4 years)

4. Quit Smoking. (Actually, this finally gets taken off the list after 8 years - I quit about a month ago)

5. Finish my 1st book, start on my 2nd.

6. Establish VPL as a legitimate labor journalism entity.

7. Land more interviews with top labor officials.

Happy New Year!

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Greetings From The Virtual Picket Line

Happy ChristmaChanuKwaanzakah!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.  Please make sure you patronize union shops for your shopping needs.  For a guide to buying just about any kind of product from a union shop, check out this website:

Enjoy the Festivus, and look for VPL's list of New Year's Resolutions coming in the next week or so.

In Solidarity,


UFCW Wins Free Speech Battle in Canada

If only they were as successful in their attempts to organize Wal-Mart...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Labor Movement and St. Paul

Did you know that trade unions played an instrumental part in the growth of Christianity during the first years of its existence?  Many people are aware that St Paul undertook three major journeys in the course of his work to spread Christianity.  Paul visited much of the Roman empire, with stops in cities such as Phillippi, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus along the way.  What most people don't realize is that much of Paul's major travel would not have been available if it hadn't been for his union membership.

Paul was a union member?  YES!

You see, Paul was a tent maker by trade, and was a member of a tent maker's guild that had given him the contacts in the various cities, as well as access inside the cities.  In those days, one couldn't just walk up the the gates of a city and walk right in.  You needed someone to vouch for you, and Paul's membership in the tent maker's guild provided that for him.

So, whatever your view of Christianity, it is important sometimes to see how the labor movement has shaped history, even going back a few thousand years.

In Solidarity,


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Could The NFL Lockout Unite The Labor Movement?

With the CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA set to expire after this season, the NFL is facing the very real possibility of a lockout when the free-agency period begins.  The fact that the owners unanimously agreed to opt out of the extension until 2012 makes this possibility all the more likely.  I for one believe this is very likely to take place.  The reason I believe this is that the NFL team owners have an agreement with DirecTV that pays each owner $1 Billion even if there are no games played.  

Did you catch that?

The owners make $1 Billion with no overhead or investment.  Why would they even consider negotiating with the NFLPA?  The answer is that they won't.  As is the case with most labor disputes, this is all about the money.

As bad as this situation appears for the NFLPA, their brothers and sisters(us!) in the labor movement may be able to save the day.  Imagine if, starting tomorrow, every union that has any members that do any work that affects the NFL(stadiums, concessions, supplies, etc) started putting public pressure on the NFL owners to come back to the table and bargain in good faith.  Can you picture union members picketing outside the stadiums this December and throughout the playoffs to protect the jobs of construction workers and maintenance workers who really make the NFL run every week?

The reality is that Big Labor has a huge opportunity to make some inroads in the realm of public relations, while at the same time standing up for it's members, from the athletes, to the vendors.  

Perhaps the AFL-CIO and CtW could come together and purchase a Super Bowl ad.  Now that's Solidarity!

In Solidarity,


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why The Federal Pay Freeze Is Clintonian Triangulation, And Why Having a Union Contract Matters

This past week, the White House announced a proposal to freeze all federal employees for two years, with the exception of active duty military personnel.  This seems eerily similar to President Clinton's behavior after the massive losses in 1994.  Obama, like Clinton, is making a foolhardy attempt to prove that his "Presidency still has relevance," and is proposing this pay freeze in order to beat the GOP to their own position.  This makes me wonder if Dick Morris is hiding out somewhere at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

My problem with this proposed freeze is that there is a better solution if President Obama wanted to institute a freeze while sparing the middle-class federal workers - Institute the pay freeze, with an exemption for employees making under $50k.  Since federal pay increases are based upon percentage of salary(I received .30 an hour last year), the real money savings are on the overpaid management salaries.  For instance, cutting the President's salary from $400k to $200k for one year would save more money than freezing 320 employees with my salary.  Cutting the salary of one member of the House of Representatives from $177k to $100k for one year is the equivalent of freezing over 160 federal employees with my salary.  There are 435 members of the House of Representatives.  Drop their salaries for a year to $100k(still overpaid), and you have the equivalent of  freezing the salaries of nearly 54k federal employees making under $50k.

So what good is a union contract if they are going to freeze federal pay?  Our union contract guarantees our longevity and performance-based pay increases.  This safeguards us from instances like this when we become a political football.  Without our union contract, we would almost certainly have all pay increases frozen.  Before we kick and scream at our union leaders for a federal freeze that they are already fighting against, we should thank the members of the bargaining committee from the last contract negotiations.

In Solidarity,


Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Labor Observations

I spent the last week in Tennessee visiting family, as I often do this time of year.  I had a few observations I'd like to share.  Have you noticed in the recent years how more and more businesses, especially in the retail sector are open on Thanksgiving Day?  I remember that when I was growing up, nothing was open except the 7-eleven, and that was just the owner and his wife.  Now, you can find every possible kind of business forcing their employees to spend time making the company money rather than spending this time with their families.

The next day, I decided to see which of these stores that were opened the previous day had union contracts in place.  Of the stores I stopped at, only two were unionized.  The employees told me they volunteered, and earned double-time, or holiday pay as it is commonly referred to, for working Thanksgiving Day.  The non-union employees told me they were forced into working, and only received time-and-a-half pay rates.

This let me know that we have a long way to go as far as organizing the retail sector, which I know I have harped on many times.  It's just important some times to pull back the curtain and put a human face on the holiday workforce as we're out and about this time of year.

In Solidarity,


Thursday, November 18, 2010

We Don't Need No Education?

No, I'm not referring to the Pink Floyd Classic:

I'm talking about the lack of education when it comes to the rank and file membership in the labor movement. How many times have you explained something to a member of your bargaining unit, and they responded, "I didn't know that was in our contract!"  If you're like me, the number is way higher than you care to admit.

This is a bigger problem than I think is widely realized within the labor movement.  If our members don't know their own contract, how are they supposed to know when it is being violated?  We have to to a much better job of educating people.

This can be done through lunch and learns, or by simple flyers with bullet points at regular functions like picnics, etc.  I also like to send out a small insert if you have a regular newsletter.  However you do it, the important thing is to do something. Anything that plants the seed in a member's mind is a positive move for the local, the international, and the movement as a whole.

A hundred years ago, members carried their union contract on their person as frequently as a wallet.(I hear some UMWA folks still do!)  They did so because they had worked hard to earn it, many times with their own blood.  Granted, we haven't had the violent battles like they did back then, but perhaps we should at least print a small version of the contract that people can fit in their pocket in case they need to refer to it on the job.

In Solidarity,


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Tea Party and The Labor Movement

Just a quick thought I had while brainstorming on my article involving remaining bias against leftist members of the labor movement:

If the AFL-CIO onstitution bans anyone associated with any group that advocates Totalitarian ideals, why isn't big labor rushing to purge anyone connected with the Tea Party from its ranks?

Just some quick food for thought. More on this later.

In Solidarity,


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Keith Olbermann: Why Union Contracts Matter

As those of you who are plugged into the world of politics may know, popular MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely without pay for donating $2,400 to three Democratic candidates.

So what does this have to do with union contracts?

In one word:     Everything.

You see, this rule, which I believe violates the 1st amendment, was not always in place.  In fact, other high profile MSNBC employees such as Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough also made donations in the past.  The difference is that MSNBC management changed the rule a few years ago.

The reason this is relevant to the importance of having a union contract is that because MSNBC employees do not have a union contract, management was able to change this workplace rule without any negotiation or notice.  Had their been a union contract in place, management would have had to notify the union and bargain the details of it's implementation and effect on employees.  We know how it worked out for Olbermann.  While Olbermann will probably be back on the air due to his loyal following, the majority of MSNBC employees working without a contract do not enjoy the same safety net.  If I were an MSNBC employee, I would already be calling an organizer from IATSE, AFTRA, CWA, OPEIU, or any other relevant union to organize.

Let's hope Olbermann uses this situation to help his co-workers get the protections they need and deserve.

In Solidarity,


Thursday, November 4, 2010

2010 Elections: Was Labor's Effort Worth It?

Well, if you were looking for suspense and unpredictability this election cycle, you probably woke up Wednesday morning as disappointed as the DNC leadership team.  This mid-term went just as we all knew it would, despite Big Labor's strong effort to mobilize its membership. Perhaps without Labor's contribution, the Democrats might have lost a few more seats in the House, and Harry Reid owes SEIU his soul for sparing him eternal Tom Daschle icon status, but aside from these situations, what did we get for the millions of dollars in membership dues spent on this election?

As is often the case, we will probably never know exactly how much money was spent by Big Labor during the 2010 election cycle.  However, we do know that it was a LOT.  AFSCME, along with SEIU, likely spent upwards of $100 million each.  UFCW, CWA, and the other larger unions probably spent around $50 million as well.  These rough estimates do not even count the amount of money donated in the form of paid union staff sent to battleground states working as de facto volunteers for the DNC.

I can't help but think that this massive amount of money could be better spent on some wild idea like, say, addressing the direct needs of our membership.  Think of what we could do if we invested the several million dollars into organizing and member education and mobilization.  Hell, we could start a program to give high school graduates full scholarships to the National Labor College.  Any of the aforementioned possibilities sounds better to me than the flushing noise that is still ringing in our ears from Tuesday.

The Democrats received this shellacking, as Obama properly phrased it, not because the Democratic base wasn't mobilized enough, or because rank-and-file union members didn't do enough labor walks in October.  The Democrats lost because they lost their memory of the last decade and decided it would be nice to try bipartisanship.  They lost because they sucked at governing over the last two years.  The lack of a unified strategy exacerbated their situation.

I hope I live long enough for the labor movement to come out of this comatose state in which we hand over large amounts of cash every two years to an entity that hasn't reciprocated since FDR was still alive.  Now's as good a time as any.

In Solidarity,


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Proof That Everything, Even NFL Coaching Decisions, Is Related To Labor

It appears that the decision of whether the Dallas Cowboys will fire their coach might depend on the possible lockout due to labor issues between the players' union(NFLPA) and management.

Full story here:

In Solidarity,


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prophetic Words from UE

My good friend Chris Townsend, Political Director of the United Electrical Workers of America(UE) has posted a very good article on the predicament the Democrats have gotten themselves into via their quixotic quest for bipartisanship.

You can read the full article here:

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The IWW, Fast Food, and a Lesson for Big Labor

The recent narrow loss suffered by employees of the Jimmy John's restaurants in Minnesota led me to consider the future of the labor movement.  The workers in this case were attempting to join the Industrial Workers of the World(IWW).  The IWW has a long, storied history of militant, rank and file unionism, but has been largely marginalized due to lack of membership for the last several decades.  However, the IWW appears to enjoying a bit of a renaissance due to the inaction of the mainstream labor movement when it comes to certain industries.

While the IWW still subscribes to the One Big Union philosophy, they seem to have discovered their niche in the fast food and service industry.  Their work with the Starbucks Union has yielded some positive results, and their near victory in Minneapolis should be a reminder to big labor that we shoot ourselves in the foot when we write off an entire section of the working class.

For years, big labor has shied away from organizing fast food and other restaurant staff.  Their reasoning behind this is that the bargaining unit is too small, and therefore is more susceptible to decertification.  They also don't want to invest the resources necessary for that small a yield in membership.  The reason I reject this line of thought is that while the initial investment is more than the net gain, it would set in motion the momentum to organize more of this ever growing section of our economy.

Think about it:  less than 1% of fast food employees in the Unites States are union members.  Now think about how many fast food workers there are in the area where you live.  While the turnover rate in the fast food world is fairly high, much of this can be attributed to the squalid working conditions the employees endure.  I worked several fast food places when I was younger, and I can tell you that the conditions were similar to Wal-Mart(yes, I worked there too).

We should support any labor organization that is willing to take on this industry whose employees are in desperate need of union representation.  You can also donate to the IWW here:

In Solidarity,


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Google Maps Union Shop Finder

I wondered to myself today if there was a google map tool that would let you locate a union shop in your area so that you could patronize those shops.  After I did not find one, I decided to start my own.  Please visit the map here:

I have set the map to allow open editing.  Please feel free to bookmark unions shops that you know about in your area.

In Solidarity,


Monday, October 18, 2010

Labor Unions' Constitutions Still Harbor Anti-Leftist Bias

I'm in the early research stage of an article on the anti-leftist bias that still exists within the labor movement.  The AFL-CIO, and many of their affiliate unions have language that barres anyone with "authoritarian or totalitarian views" from holding office.  This is a thinly veiled allusion to those who publicly espouse views that are in line with Communism, as well as Socialism in general.  While it is a well known fact that the AFL-CIO was purged of it's most militant members during the McCarthy Era, it is very seldom mentioned that a lot of these policies are still in place.

This causes many of our most militant members today to hide their beliefs in order to be successful in the labor movement.  I hope to gather information and statements from several sources in order to have a thorough discussion on this subject, which is very important to the future of our movement.

In Solidarity,


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Union Building Strategy: Apprenticeships

I know I've bitched a lot about my lack of enthusiasm for PAC fund spending, so I figured I better offer a viable alternative to this spending that might actually pay off in the way of growing membership. Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the apprenticeship programs offered by building trade unions like the IBEW(Electricians, IUPAT(Plumbers), UA(Pipefitters), etc. Unfortunately, these programs only accept applicants who already have a high school diploma or GED.

I believe it is high time that the trade unions make a collective effort to build apprenticeship programs with the high schools in their respective areas. Many times, auto shop is the only trade class offered. Imagine if the local high school offered Electrical Shop, Masonry, or Plumbing programs that started in the 10th or 11th grade and continued right after high school. Not only would the trade unions who are in desperate need of membership(this is a major understatement) gain new members, but the good press and relationship building between the union and the local community would be immense.

In Solidarity,


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Organizing Opportunity: Call Centers

While I was in the midst of my series on Organizing in the Retail Sector, I began to think to myself about other sectors that in my opinion, are ripe for organizing. The first thing that popped into my mind was Customer Service Call Centers.

Think about it for a minute. call centers(the ones that are still here and have not been outsourced) employ workers who are not paid very much, who work in stressful environments, have limited benefits, and who are disconnected from upper management. The disconnect between their pay level, and that of management is also a good source of ammunition.

So why haven't OPEIU or SEIU, or anyone else made an effort to organize these people?

For one, I know an excuse could be that organizing workers at a call center would be more difficult due to heightened security at these offices, but hell, if we can organize other workers in secure locations(Airline Industry, anyone?)

My point is, shouldn't we at least be making the attempt? For once, instead of another PAC commercial this and every other fall, I'd like to see a simple commercial from the AFL-CIO(or even CtW) that says, "If you and your co-workers want to form a union, call us at 1-800-go-union." Of course, we'd then have to divert precious PAC money into something else like - BUILDING A LABOR MOVEMENT.

Think about how many call centers you pass every time you drive down a highway into downtown of wherever you live. Think about how many employees there are who could join the labor movement if we made the effort.

"You can't do it, unless you organize." - Samuel Gompers

In Solidarity,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Anyone Need a Dedicated Labor Activist?

I just wanted to briefly mention that I am looking for full-time employment in the labor movement in any capacity. I am located in the Washington, DC metro area, but would consider West Virginia or Eastern PA as well. For more information, check out my bio, or shoot me an email at, and I will send you my resume.

I'm still hard at work at the Dept of Veterans Affairs, but I am looking for a better opportunity to do what I love for a living.

In Solidarity,


Friday, September 24, 2010

One Nation March, 10/2/10

As I'm sure most of you from the states are aware, the One Nation, Working Together March on Washington is coming to town on October 10th. Here is AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka with his official invite:

I think this has the potential to be a good thing, as long as it doesn't turn into a rah-rah, let's get out the vote for Democrats rally. The labor movement needs to galvanize around more than just an election cycle. In fact, I have a novel idea(this means you shouldn't hold your breath) that could really build some solidarity, as well as some major press at a time when the labor movement could definitely use some.

Visualize for a second the National Mall in Washington, full of working-class folks from every conceivable labor organization. Then, to the roar of the crowd, the leaders of the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and the independents(well, probably minus the Carpenters) all come on stage together, and announce that they are going to bury the hatchet and put forward a united front to move the struggle forward into the 21st century. Can you imagine the solidarity(and let's not forget the press) that would create?

If only it were that easy. I guess there's always hope.

In Solidarity,


p.s. - I am actually looking to catch a ride so I can document this event. if anyone is around the Brunswick, MD area(Frederick County), shoot me a message.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: In and Out of the Working Class by Michael Yates

Let me begin with a quick caveat: I do not follow the traditional book review format. I was forced to use it one too many times in college, and have sworn off of it forever. I have always found it more interesting, and frankly, more useful to just talk about the book, and what I liked or didn't like, and then give my rating and recommendation.

In and Out of the Working Class
by Michael Yates

I must begin by saying I hate economics. I mean, I really dislike conversing and studying economics. I know that a labor activists who hates economic discussion sounds ridiculous, but it is true. The fact that I burned through Yates' book in two days speaks volumes about Yates' abilities as a writer as well as his ability to explain economics to a wide audience. In and Out of the Working Class is a fascinating read that weaves between fiction and non-fiction(mostly non-fiction) through various stories and experiences ranging from a creative non-fiction retelling of an encounter with Cesar Chavez, to my favorite chapter of the book, which tells us what Lenin and a Catholic priest from Yates' past have in common.

The chapters that cover Yates' experiences on campus are in my opinion, the highlight of the book. I must admit I am a bit biased, as I related quite a bit to the frustration the author had with lazy students in my generation who, with a regrettable sense of entitlement, rob themselves of a more thorough education.

The most important revelation I had while reading this book is that if there were a few more Economics professors out there like Yates, perhaps fewer people would view economics like I did before I read In and Out of the Working Class. This in of itself would be a major accomplishment. The ability of the author to explain economics through real life stories, rather than through statistics and numbers is something more authors and university professors should try to emulate.

I highly recommend this book, whether or not you fancy yourself a fan of economics. It will not disappoint.

You can purchase In and Out of the Working Class here:

In Solidarity,


Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Pair Of Good Labor Books

Hello Everyone,

I apologize for the lack of posts, I've been hunkered down this past week on a deadline for an article. I should return to normal on Monday with some book reviews and a lot of new topics to discuss, including Organizing Office Staff, the October 2 Labor March in Washington, DC, Organizing the American Red Cross, a series on reform groups in various labor unions, and a series on independent unions.

In the meantime, I'd like to plug a couple of excellent new labor books I've been reading over the last few weeks(check back for some reviews):

Embedded With Organized Labor by Steve Early

I have already read through a good portion of each of these books, and love them both.

Early's book is chock full of reviews of past labor works, as well as the kind of insight you could only acquire with multiple decades inside the labor movement.

I have found Yates' work to be captivating, as he weaves back and forth from non-fiction to the occasional fiction story. Want to know what Lenin and a Catholic priest have in common? Read Yates' book and you'll find out.

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Social Network for Labor Activists

Hello Everyone,

I just thought I'd give UnionBook a little shout out here. Eric Lee, of LabourStart fame, has created this awesome social networking site for labor activists to cennect. If you haven't checked it out yet, I recommend it!

Click on the image below:


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is It Time For a New Labor Party?

Is it time for a new labor party?

Some time ago, I began to ponder this question. I can't remember exactly when. Perhaps it was when Congress passed a healthcare bill that did not include single-payer or a public option. Maybe it was after I campaigned in over a dozen states for a progressive candidate who, once in office, appointed robber barons to fix the economic crisis. It might have had something to do with the Employee Free Choice Act being on life support, with a less than stellar prognosis.

Come to think of it, it was probably a little bit of everything. The question remains: Is it time for a new labor party? I am beginning to think so. Even with the system so heavily tilted in favor of having two parties(Thank you Martin Van Buren), I could see it happening, and here is a brief explanation how I think it could be accomplished. Given the fact that the South Carolina Labor Party never got past the fish or cut bait moment, the field seems to be open for a new entity.

I believe that a growing amount of Americans do not identify with either major party. This is not news, but important nonetheless. I believe that any successful attempt to organize a new political party based around economic issues would do well to incorporate the following ideas:

1. Avoid making party-wide stances on volatile wedge issues that individual candidates can handle.

For example, despite the fact that many Democrats happen to be pro-life, they have allowed themselves as a party to be boxed inby the GOP on this issue. This also goes for gun rights, etc. Let the individual candidates make that call, and let the party focus on galvanizing the working class.

2. Appeal to the economic anger of the tea party crowd.

I know it may be hard for some of my inside the beltway friends to believe, but there are a fair amount of rank-and-file union members in the Tea Party Movement(for those of you who missed my post devoted to this subject, you can read it here). As I stated in the aforementioned entry, I believe the reason for this is that the Labor Movement missed a major opportunity to unite working-class Americans against the capitalist system that got us into this financial mess. Instead, the Tea Party Movement has hijacked the message to push their fringe, right-wing agenda. We have to get to work on fighting this nonsense. If we can do this effectively, we could build a movement built on the economic interests of the working-class.

3. Solicit support from existing Socialist groups.

I know Socialist is a bad word to many people, but that's because they don't know what the hell a socialist is. Any attempt to organize a legitimate labor party is going to need the help of groups like the Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Party USA, The International Socialist Organization, and other groups like this who are dedicated to the cause of labor.

Will this ever happen? I don't know, but what I do know is that we'll be hard-pressed to find another economic situation like this in the near future where a large portion of the population is tired of the two-party nonsense and is listening if someone else offers a better solution.

Let's offer it to them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Return of LIUNA: What This Really Means for the Building Trade Unions of the AFL-CIO

Solidarity. That was the message AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent in a statement welcoming the Laborers’ international Union of North America (LIUNA) back into the fold, after the organization announced on August 13, 2010, that it will rejoin the AFL-CIO, effective October 1, 2010. In his statement, Trumka said,

We are very happy that LIUNA is rejoining the AFL-CIO at a critical moment for working people…LIUNA brings a proud history and dedication to the union movement and we are delighted to welcome them back to the AFL-CIO.”

Aside from the expected kumbaya moment where labor leaders flaunt terms like Solidarity and Coalition Building, what does LIUNA’s return to the AFL-CIO mean in practice for the Labor Movement, the AFL-CIO, and more specifically, the other members of the AFL-CIO Building Trades Coalition Department? Will this move galvanize the building trades, or will it cause former tensions to resurface? Once the ink is dry on the press statements and the photo ops have ended, there will be some serious issues to be hammered out between LIUNA and the AFL-CIO.

First, there is the question of whether the AFL-CIO should levy any penalty or back per capita dues accrued during LIUNA’s time away from the Federation. James Williams, General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) said in an interview on August 27, 2010, that he couldn’t comment as to whether the AFL-CIO would assess any back per capita, as it would come up in the executive meetings in the near future. When asked his personal feeling on whether the back per capita should be an option, Williams stated, “In a perfect world I would say they should pay some back per capita, but realistically, it’s not likely to happen.” Williams later said that he didn’t feel that it was necessary to impose a per capita penalty on LIUNA at this time. Given the fact that the AFL-CIO did not levy a penalty against Unite Here! when they returned in 2009, it appears extremely unlikely that LIUNA will face any financial penalty for its split from the AFL-CIO in 2005.

This poses a very serious issue for the AFL-CIO: If in practice, there is no penalty for leaving the AFL-CIO, in part to escape paying per capita taxes, which was very much part of the decision back in 2005, what is to stop any affiliate union from bailing from the AFL-CIO for a few years if they get into financial problems? With the ticking time bomb many unions have with their pension programs, this precedent could turn out to be disastrous for the AFL-CIO in the coming years.

Second, there is the lingering issue of whether the AFL-CIO should require some form of a public mea culpa from LIUNA regarding the situation with the unaffiliated United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC). A long-time, high-ranking union official, who did not wish to be identified due to the subject matter, noted that this should make some of the other members of the AFL-CIO Building Trades Coalition a bit uneasy due to LIUNA’s past behavior. Several years ago, LIUNA conspired with the Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) to set up a tier system in which the UBC would organize the skilled laborers, and LIUNA would organize the unskilled laborers, therefore squeezing out the other building trade unions. This scheme fell apart, mainly because the employers weren’t cooperative enough. However, if the employers would have gone along with this plan, several of the AFL-CIO building trade unions may have ceased to exist. Given this past activity, it should worry some of the building trade unions that not only is the AFL-CIO accepting LIUNA back with open arms, but also without any type of apology or public denouncement regarding the aforementioned situation with the Carpenters. At the very least, the AFL-CIO should require a public statement from LIUNA affirming their dedication to Article 20 of the AFL-CIO Constitution, which prohibits this type of activity by its affiliate unions.

For their part, the member unions of the AFL-CIO Building Trades Coalition Department are publicly supportive of LIUNA’s return. IUPAT General President James Williams said he is “Glad to have Terry [O’Sullivan] back,” and hailed him as a “Strong, progressive leader.” One has to wonder, however, how this will play out behind closed doors at the upcoming AFL-CIO executive meetings, and whether this will turn out to be a major victory for President Trumka, or another division in the house of labor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Union Baby is Born!

Hello Everyone,

I apologize for the lack of updates. My wife and I welcomed our first child, Aodhan Jasper Riedel into the world on August 19th. I promise I will return shortly with a look into the history between LIUNA and the Carpenter's Union, and what LIUNA's return to the AFL-CIO may mean for trade union affilliates.

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Tale of Two Futures

Where are we going?

As I sit in this hospital room where my wife will give birth to our first child in the morning, I have started to wonder where the labor movement will be in a couple decades when he enters the workforce. I'll be putting together a longer piece in the next few days, but I encourage everyone to take a realistic look at where they think the labor movement will be in twenty years based on where we are today, and if they are satisfied with that.

More to come.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bringing Organizing Into the 21st Century

I spoke to a friend of mine who works on the social media side of things last night, and we mulled over some ideas to update the traditional methods of organizing, be it labor organizing, community, or otherwise. While I am somewhat traditional on organizing, there were a few things that his line of work has to offer that I believe could seriously improve our efficiency and success rate.

1. Tie in the use of systems like Salsa to Blackberry and iPhone apps. Think about how much easier it would make it for the average organizer if they could eliminate the time and effort of filling out a paper form for every house visit. Instead, they could utilize software from Salsa to punch in the data on their Blackberry. This would also allow for real time data accessibility during a large scale organizing blitz. This would be as big as the introduction of electronic voting machines vs. the paper ballot system.

2. Use Salsa as a sort of one-stop shop for Locals to consolidate all of the tedious bookkeeping and management functions in one place. I know from my experience using Salsa with a Young Democrats Chapter that it made life much easier when you could log in one place and check on everything. It saved a lot of time and headaches.

3. Use the technology to help with member run organizing campaigns. In many cases, labor organizations hesitate to invest resources on organizing campaigns until the members themselves have done a lot of the footwork themselves. Salsa could be utilized to set up an area for the employees to keep the union abreast of the progress without the union having to invest time and money in the very early stages.

While I have just spent a fair amount of space extolling the virtues of Salsa, I stand firmly by the conviction that technology alone cannot save the labor movement. House visits, along with other face to face communications are still our most effective outlet. However, technology can definitely be used to eliminate the clutter between those moments.

Check out Salsa here:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Employee Free Choice Act: An Obituary

Although I'm sure someone else has probably said it already, let me make this important declaration:

The Employee Free Choice Act is dead.


Kicked the Bucket.

Bought the Farm.

And with it, the hope for reviving the mainstream labor movement.

And who do we have to blame for the death of the most treasured piece of pro-labor legislation in the last sixty years? The pro-corporation, anti-worker fat cats? The Republicans?


We have ourselves to blame. Allow me to explain:

For decades, the labor movement has continued to suck at the tit of a Democratic Party that has had a bosom full of poison since the party bosses managed to exchange Harry "the puppet" Truman for Henry "the real deal" Wallace in 1944.

For many years, we were able to survive by inoculating ourselves by investing dues money from the expanding membership. But with the declining membership and burdensome pensions that most unions have no real plan to pay for, the poison will finally begin to kill us, unless we begin to ween ourselves off of it immediately.

When we keep returning to the Democratic Party every election cycle like a prostitute to an abusive pimp(I apologize for the imagery, but it is a good description of the relationship between labor and the Democratic Party), we are extending the cycle that has brought us nothing in the manner of actual progress for the American working class. Every other November, the party puts(pimps) us out on the corner to attract voters(johns), and despite all our whining and complaining, what do we do? We put on our stilettos and fake mink coat and take to the streets.

The only way the labor movement will ever make a comeback in the hearts and minds of the workers is if we publicly cut the cord with the Democratic Party and begin to use our numbers to affect individual races that benefit us. No more dumping millions of dollars into the DNC, just so they can use it to promote the likes of Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson.

Let's go find us a few more candidates like Bernie Sanders, and let these anti-worker Democrats fend for themselves. After all that's exactly what they've done for us, isn't it?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Organizing In The Retail Sector: Starbucks

I live in Washington, DC. There is a spot in Dupont Circle where you can actually see three Starbucks simultaneously. There are approximately 11,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, which with an average of 7 employees in each store, would equal about 75,000 employees in the US, out of the 142,000 total employees worldwide.
While there is an existing upstart Starbucks Workers Union, it has not attracted much of a following outside of New York and Chicago. The main reason for this is that they are affiliated with the IWW(Industrial Workers of the World) which according to its own estimates, currently has around 900 members in good standing. While I support rank-and-file unions in general, and I support what the IWW does most of the time, I believe that it will take significant resources in order to organize Starbucks employees in the Unites States. Here is why:

1. Starbucks does not franchise.

Because of this, there will pretty much need to be an all out blitz across the nation. This would take an army of organizers and volunteers. The IWW simply does not have the resources to accomplish a campaign of this magnitude, and unfortunately, many Starbucks employees would balk at the dues rates of the UFCW, who is big enough to do it.

2. Starbucks has the money to launch a serious union-busting campaign.
Given the fact that organizing Starbucks would likely have to be a national campaign, it would give the corporation the time to coordinate a massive union-busting effort. A lot of employees would probably get fired in the process, and high turnover rates would make the job even more difficult.

I think that Starbucks can be organized, but it will take an effort that will require significant cooperation from various labor organizations that frankly, do not have a good history of working together.

In the meantime, why not donate to the SWU(Starbucks Workers Union) ? They have been fighting this battle for six years, and could use all the help they can get.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Organizing In The Retail Sector: Pizza Delivery

When you look at union membership in the retail sector(or the lack thereof), it's striking how many retail and food industries are completely unorganized across the board.

Most labor unions are unwilling to devote the time and resources needed to organize workers in low paying jobs in the retail and food service industries. Their reasons vary from the high turnover rate, to the small bargaining unit in some fast food stores, to the fact that low income workers will have lower dues. While some of this reasoning makes sense, especially with the turnover rate with younger workers, ignoring entire industries is a failed strategy in my opinion.

In the next few entries, I will explore some of these industries, and whether union organization is feasible. The first industry I will look at is Pizza Delivery.

There have been two major efforts to organize this industry in the past. The first was an organization I was involved with, the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers(APDD), lost an organizing campaign by one vote in Nebraska. The APDD subsequently ran out of money, and is now a distant memory.

The 2nd was run by a Domino's driver named Jim Pohle, who founded the American Union of Pizza Delivery Drivers(AUPDD). He successfully ran an organizing campaign and won a NLRB vote in Florida. Unfortunately, like 2/3 of workers who vote in favor of union representation, they never could get the owner of the Domino's franchise to negotiate a contract. Jim eventually ran out of money and merged his upstart union with the Amalgamated Transit Union(ATU) who promptly forgot about him. As a result, the AUPDD is now defunct.

I still think that the pizza delivery industry is ripe for union organization. There are an estimated 10k big 3(Domino's Papa John's, Pizza Hut)stores in the United States. Pizza drivers are already inoculated against management, as they have been getting screwed by them for years. With tip credit laws that are lowering hourly wages to sub-minimum wage, and lackluster mileage compensation, the vast majority of drivers are supportive of the idea of unionization.

Unfortunately, most labor organizations that have been contacted by pizza delivery drivers have been dismissive or completely unresponsive. One driver I know already have several signed cards in hand, and was flatly turned down by an organizer for the UFCW. This kind of attitude must be changed if the labor movement wants to start winning over the unorganized.

This industry could be organized if a dedicated(Unite Here! anyone?) union takes the strategy of organizing the biggest franchises first. There are franchises in each of the Big 3 that have over 100 stores. There is also a dedicated base of career drivers that are willing to jump in on the front lines if there is an effort with some legitimacy.

That is the key. Legitimacy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Election Season 2010

The mid-term season is upon us once again, and like a lot of labor activists out there, I find myself trying to make up my mind whether or not to get actively involved this fall. I have often found myself in this position in the past. It's not very often that a candidate comes along on whose behalf I actually want to go out and canvass. I can actually count them on one hand:

Ann Richards

Barack Obama(candidate Obama was a hell of a lot more liberal than the centrist President Obama)

Andrew Duck

That's pretty much it. Not a long list. What this means is that because of the lack of any viable leftist political party in the United States, I am almost always forced to choose between holding my nose and voting for the Democratic candidate, or voting 3rd party or write-in.

The 1st question I have to ask myself this time around is, "What have the Democrats done to inspire me to hit the pavement for them?" I have to say, not a damn thing. They sold us out on the Health Care Bill, which did not include single-payer or a public option. They have all but abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act, and they attacked labor unions who backed a pro-labor candidate against an establishment Democrat who has screwed us in the past.

I've heard pleas from big labor leadership that we have to get out and support Democrats because the Republicans are worse, and that staying home will be cutting off our nose to spite our face. I don't buy that argument because in the end, a Republican who doesn't support EFCA and Public Option Health Care and a Democrat who doesn't support EFCA and the Public Option produce the exact same result.

I will support Andrew Duck this fall in the MD 6th District because of his strong support of labor, but the DNC will have one less activist this fall. They can have Blanche Lincoln.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Andrew Duck For Congress 2010

As my wife and I have been preparing to move to Brunswick, Maryland, one of our first priorities was to research who our elected officials would be, and how they have voted.

We were disappointed to find out that Roscoe(a la Boss Hogg) Bartlett(R) opposes just about everything that we believe in. I'm not talking about extremely partisan issues here. I'm talking about opposing common sense solutions that most Americans support. Things like unemployment benefits in the worst economic down
turn since the Great Depression. Issues like making sure that a big insurance company can't deny coverage to a child fighting cancer. And worst of all, siding with BP, while the lives of working folks, who are no different than the folks in Maryland's 6th District, have their livelihoods destroyed.

The good folks in Maryland's 6th District deserve a champion who will fight for our interests and not the interests of corrupt CEOs. Luckily, we have that champion as one of our neighbors here in the Maryland 6th Congressional District.

Andrew Duck is a man who will go to Washington and fight for the hard-working folks in the 6th District. While many people may have heard of his 20 years of exemplary service in the US Army, including tours in both Bosnia and Iraq, many folks have not yet heard about his excellent economic credentials. Andrew has studied economics at the graduate level, and has worked as a financial consultant. He has also held Series 7 and 63 licenses from NASD. The incumbent, Roscoe Jenkins, supported George Bush's economic policies that led to this financial crisis. We need a Congressman like Andrew Duck who has the financial expertise to right our economic ship.

Andrew is also solid on labor issues. he fully supports the right of working men and women to have a voice in their workplace. He is someone that we can count on to back the working men and women of Maryland's 6th and not the corporations who are trying to put profits above people.

If you live in, or around the 6th District, or if you live somewhere else and just want to send someone with integrity to Washington for a change, please consider volunteering your time or making a donation of any amount to Andrew Duck's campaign. I look forward to mobilizing my sisters and brothers in the labor movement between now and election day.

Find out more about Andrew and where he stands on the issues here:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Merging: Why Less Is More

As I mentioned in my last entry, I believe that the labor movement needs to take a hard look at industries and trades where there are overlapping unions and make some tough decisions on merging certain organizations together.

First, let's look at a few obstacles to the concept of merging unions:

1. The big labor federations receive per capita dues from their affiliates, which means that if some of the unions in the AFL-CIO or CtW merged, there would be less per capita dues being paid to the aforementioned federations. This means the federations would most likely oppose any idea of mergers.

2. As I mentioned, each labor union has developed its own sort of fiefdom, which will not be given up easily, but if one looks at the long-term interest of the labor movement, I believe they would agree that it is a necessity.

Here are a few examples of unions that should consider merging:

The Amalgamated Transit Union(ATU) and the Transport Workers Union(TWU) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen(BRS) and the American Train Dispatchers Association(ADTA)

The International Longeshoremen's Association(ILA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union(ILWU)

United Farm Workers(UFW) and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee(FLOC)

International Association of Firefighters(IAFF) the International Union of Police Associations(IUPA) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees(AFSCME)

American Postal Workers Union(APWU) and the National Association of Letter Carriers(NALC)

With all these proposed mergers, I must point out that while I do favor merging different organizations, I am very strongly opposed to the creation of what I refer to as "Mega-Locals." Members of SEIU's Local 1199 will understand what I'm saying here. A Local with 20,000 members in several different states is entirely too big to give its members adequate representation.

If these, and other unions merged, it would free up funding for member education, along with a plethora of other opportunities to further the labor movement.
Fewer Unions, but with more members. Locals that are truly local.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A New Direction: Reform Ideas For The Labor Movement

I've given a lot of thought lately to the future of the labor movement, and where we're heading. I had a nice conversation over the weekend with a Political Director from an unnamed union regarding where the labor movement is headed in the next twenty years. It was his prediction that within the next two decades, at least two dozen mainstream unions will cease to exist. Although it is a sad thought, I have to agree with his sentiment.

What can be done to help change our direction?

1. I believe that unions must go back to a rank-and-file style of operation. We operate too much like corporations, and not enough like the people who fight against them. Although it's not anywhere near the level corporate CEO's are paid, we still pay our national officers too much.

2. I know I've said this before, but we need to stop wasting our money on PACs, and start using it on member education programs, organizing, and actual political action. It's time to admit our PAC money has been wasted, and return to actual mobilization that yields actual results.

3. There needs to be some serious consideration given to merging some of the overlapping trade unions. This will have to be done by the members, as leadership will not want to give up their fiefdoms.

4, We need to create a new union specifically for Retail and Food Workers. Specifically, one that is not the UFCW. I have coined the name: FARWA, which is an acronym for Food And Retail Worker Association. This would cover the service industry workers that the labor movement has ignored. They have ignored them because the workers are young and turnover is high, or because the small workforce.

I believe we can be successful in organizing these industries if we go franchise by franchise. I believe the main reason the turnover rate is so high is because of the poor work conditions and low pay. These are the very things that unions are supposed to exist to combat!

These are just a few points to start with. We have to change direction soon, or it will be too late.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Opportunity Missed: How The Tea Party Beat Big Labor To The Punch

Big Labor has once again missed a major opportunity to further its cause. While Rahm Emmanuel's "Never let a crisis go to waste" quote made most of us cringe, there is a grain of truth to be found in his statement.

With the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression ravaging our country coupled with high unemployment and corporations laying off employees and gutting their benefits, there is an unrivaled amount of anger in the American population. Who would channel this anger towards corporate greed and lukewarm politicians?

Not the Labor Movement.

As we have all seen over the past year, this populist anger has been hijacked by the tea party, and used for the political gain of it's mainstream political leaders(Dick Armey, anyone?). Instead of seeing labor unions mobilize their members at town halls, and in the halls of Congress, we've seen the populist high ground purposely misdirected into no man's land by the extreme fringes of the right wing.

How did this happen?

I am in the crowd that believes that spending money on PACs is a complete waste of resources. If the labor movement were more involved with actually mobilizing its membership and the working public to take action instead of relying on lobbyists in failed attempts to enact political change, it might have been able to direct this anger in the right direction: the corporate plutocracy that enslaves the working class.

We have to do better.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Disconnected: Why Rank and File Union Members Don’t Trust Their Leadership

This is a hot button issue among rank-and-file union members from nearly ever mainstream labor organization in the United States. It matters little whether the union is public or private sector, trade union or white collar. Ask your random dues paying member if the International Office staff understands what they are going through on a day to day basis, and the answer is almost always no. This presents a serious problem for a labor community in the Unites States that is already suffering from declining membership and growing apathy within their ranks.

What is the cause of this dilemma?

I believe there are two main factors that have led to the disconnect between the international and the local levels of the labor movement:

  1. Over the last decade or two, labor unions have all but abandoned the practice of identifying potential leaders from their rank-and-file members and then training them into leaders at the international level. It has become far too common for labor organizations to recruit kids right out of college to become staff members at the national office. Hiring them as organizers is even more common. The problem with this is that your average Yalie has no clue what it's like to work in a steel factory, or to be a housekeeper at a hotel. Chances are, the closest they have ever come to real work is the federal work-study program. I don't mean to disparage education. It is very valuable and important, but it is not more important than real life experience. Members of the working class resent some ivy league kid who's never had his hands dirty insinuating that he feels their pain.
  2. Labor unions have wasted an obscene amount of money on Political Action Committees that frankly have not yielded results even remotely close to being on par with what has been spent. The fact that has somehow managed to escape the leaders of the labor movement is that the biggest successes that were achieved were not the result of political action funds. They were the result of forcing our will on management(sit-down strikes ring a bell?).

How do we fix the problem?

We need to step up our efforts to recognize rank-and-file members who, given the necessary training, could be effective leaders. I don't think we need to stop hiring recent graduates, but there has to be a healthy balance.

The time for unions to take the fight to the streets is long past due. We need to build another public movement to mobilize our members in real actions that produce real results. In case you were wondering, I'm not talking about canvassing and labor walks here. What I'm talking about is taking large groups of workers to town halls and the halls of congressional office buildings, and corporate offices. We don't need several million dollars to win this fight.

We just have to find the heart to win again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Case For Salting: Wal-Mart

What is Salting?

Salting is the act of gaining employment with the sole intent to organize a union.

As many people in the labor movement know, Unite Here! is well known for their use of salts in their organizing campaigns. While many labor unions officially oppose these tactics, they are perfect for labor organizations like Unite Here! who represent workers in the service industry, including retail, food service, and in hotels. During an open mic session at the Young Workers Summit, I proposed the following action:

Develop a well-trained force of 200-500 young workers to employ in Salting campaigns around the country. One of the biggest sectors of non-union involvement in the United States is the service industry. The 800lb gorilla in the room is that most permanent(non-student) service industry workers tend to be less educated. I should know - I was one for several years. These workers trust someone they work with who is in the trenches more than they will ever trust some Yalie organizer who was hired by an International Union right out of college having never worked a real job.

Want to know why the UFCW has been unsuccessful thus far in their attempts at organizing Wal-Mart?

It's not the toothless NLRB, the Wal-Mart corporate union-busting team, or the intimidated employees, although the aforementioned factors definitely play their part. The real reason is the strategy. UFCW has historically focused on organizing a few stores at a time. This approach allows Wal-Mart to send in their very effective union-busting team to kill the efforts. Even in Canada, which has more union-friendly laws than the US, Wal-Mart shut down the first store that won an organizing campaign.

If The Old Strategies Won't Work, What Will?

I truly believe that in order to win the war with Wal-Mart, the UFCW must change its strategy.

I propose the following action:

1. Train 80-100 workers to go to work at Wal-Mart locations spread around the country in a massive Salting campaign.
2. The Salts must work for at least a year before any type of mobilization is attempted. This is for the reasons I explained earlier in this article.
3. At the appropriate time, launch a concerted, all-out blitz. This will have to involve an army of organizers. It will also have to be coordinated with every allied community action group possible.

By spreading out the Salts geographically, it will nullify the ability of Wal-Mart's union-busting team to kill every organizing drive. If only 10% of the drives are successful, seven stores will win their campaigns. While Wal-Mart was able to close a single store in Quebec and get away with it, the likelihood that they would get away with closing 7-10 stores in the Midwest or South is unlikely.

I admit that this would be a costly campaign with no guarantee of success, but nothing in the labor movement ever is. One thing we know for sure though, the way we've been doing it isn't working.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Young Workers Summit: Day 2

Today was an interesting day. I found some like-minded militant labor activists during my breakout sessions. I boiled down my solution to energizing young workers into one sentence:

Stop Bullshitting Them.

Talk to young workers straight and stop spoon-feeding them and only trotting them out for canvassing and PR events.

Here's our message to the Labor Movement:

We're ready to fight.

We want to fight.

Either fight with us, or we'll be fighting you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Answer to Improving Labor Education

I am the first speaker on the panel discussion video above.

AFL-CIO Young Workers Summit: Day 1

Day 1 is a wrap.

Today we heard from the leaders of the AFL-CIO, including President Richard Trumka, and Secretary-Treasury Liz Shuler.

After lunch, we headed to our breakout sessions where we discussed ideas for strategies to energize our young workers.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Live Blogging The AFL-CIO Young Workers Summit

I'll be updating daily throughout the conference on our new ideas for the next generation of the labor movement.

I met some nice guys from IATSE at the bar. They bought me a Yeungling. Nice guys.

The cocktail party was alright. I used my drink ticket and have retired for the evening.

I'm looking forward to a full day tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Little Rock A Line In The Sand?

Well, it finally happened.

The leaders of the labor movement seem to have finally had enough of the carrot on a stick from the Democratic Party. Like most of the labor movement, my sentiment is - What took you so long? Perhaps next week, they'll come out against the Taft-Hartley Act as well.

And what, might you ask, finally prompted union leaders to stop being lap dogs to the Democratic Party?

Was it NAFTA, Failure to support the Employee Free Choice Act, Single-Payer or the Public Option?

None of the Above.

Turns out, all it took for labor to draw a line in the sand was a Democratic primary race in Arkansas. I hope the AFL-CIO and the SEIU make good on their promise not to back Lincoln either financially, or with field staff for the general election. Lincoln is not a friend of labor. She does not support EFCA, did not support the Public Option, and supports free trade agreements that are detrimental to American workers.

Here's some fun stuff on the growing feud between the White House and the house of labor:

Until the labor movement builds a political movement of its own and stops diverting resources to a Democratic Party that rarely reciprocates, we will continue to spins our wheels while we go nowhere.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Comcast-NBCU Merger Would Lead To Job Cuts

CWA District 9 Vice-President James Weitkamp made these remarks before a filed hearing of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. You can read the press release here:

The Communication Workers of America(CWA) represent approximately 700,000 workers in the Unites States. This includes employees at both NBC and Comcast.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Public Employees: The New GOP Whipping Boy

This is such a crock of shit. Why is it that the GOP has it in their heads that public sector employees are vastly overpaid, and that the unions are to blame? The only federal employees who are overpaid are the non-bargaining unit employees that are somewhere above GS 13. The vast majority of federal and state employees are on average paid less than their private sector counterparts. Here is an interesting story by Politico on the subject:

Friday, June 4, 2010

National Mediation Board Changes National Railway Act Election Rules

This is a few weeks old, but I feel that this is still important enough to post. When I was in NYC attending the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, we did an event with an IAM Lodge that is currently organizing Delta employees, and I was struck by their commitment to the rights of their members. The National Mediation Board(NMB) has ruled to change the archaic election laws in the National Railway Act.

After the Delta/Northwest merger, Delta began a fierce union-busting campaign against the IAM. Delta has been anti-union for years, and was trying not only to keep its employees from having union representation, but also trying to strip unionized Northwest employees of their rights as well. Thanks to this ruling, the union must get 50+1% of casted votes to win the election, as opposed to the previous standard, which forced the union to get 50+1% of all votes, whether the vote was casted or not. This meant that if you were sick and could not make it to vote, your vote was a no vote, even if you had intended to vote yes. This is a HUGE decision for the Machinists Union(IAM).

You can read the press release here:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Canadian Hotel Employees Vote to Authorize Strike

Hotel employees at 32 Toronto-area hotels have voted to authorize a strike prior to the upcoming G20 Summit. Unite Here! Local 75 represents the approximately 5,500 affected workers. Read the full press release here:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Striking UFCW Workers March To Boston

Over 300 workers represented by Local 791, UFCW, have been on strike from the SuperValu owned Shaw Distribution Center in Methuen, MA since March 7. They began marching from Methuen on May 23rd, and arrived in Boston to rally in front of the Statehouse on May 27th, before finishing the March at a local Shaw's Market.

Full coverage here:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

IATSE Organizes "Doonby" Film Crew

On May 25, Locals 484 and 600, of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Arts and Allied Craftsof the Unites States, its Territories, and Canada(IATSE) successfully organized the crew of the film Doonby. This was accomplished after the crew staged a one day strike when management failed to live up to its agreement.

Read the press release from IATSE here:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

European Nations Cutting Public Sector Jobs & Benefits

Public sector workers in several European countries have been taking to the streets after several governments went public with plans to raise the retirement age, slash wages, and cut benefits.

In Spain, President Zapatero announced a 5 percent reduction in public-sector salaries. This is in addition to a previous announcement that the retirement age would be raised from 65-67.

In Great Britain, the new coalition government announced that $8.7 billion in civil service jobs will be eliminated.

Read more here:

As is pointed out in the linked article, civil servants in the United States, such as myself, are still paid lower than their private sector counterparts.

The Little Town That Could

Local 3968 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees recently won their first contract after a two year struggle. Local 3968, which represents approximately 80 city workers in Yankton, South Dakota, persevered through union-busting and stall tactics by the city government officials.

The contract includes a 4 percent retroactive pay increase and structured grievance process. Read more here: