Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt: General Strikes and Revolution

As the world watches the situation in Egypt, the tension in the rest of the Arab world is going mostly unnoticed.  Yemen, the most impoverished country in the region, has been experiencing ongoing, peaceful general strikes for several weeks.  It seems that if the Egyptian people are successful, as I believe they will be, in democratizing their country, that several countries in the region will follow suit.

It will be interesting to see what role the trade unions will take in the coming days and weeks ahead.  As we have learned over the course of history, general strikes are one of the most effective methods to bring about social and political change.

Let's stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Arab world as they fight to democratize their countries and to control their own destiny!

In Solidarity,


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Missing Person Report: Candidate Obama

It’s not enough just to help those at the top. Prosperity is not just going to trickle down. We’ve got to help the middle class.”

The fundamentals of the economy have to be measured by whether or not the middle class is getting a fair shake.”

The problem with a spending freeze is you’re using a hatchet where you need a scalpel.”

“You know about the families all across this country who are out of work, or uninsured, or struggling to pay rising costs for everything from a tank of gas to a bag of groceries. And that’s why you know that we need change in this country.”

Is anyone else wondering where this guy disappeared to?  Perhaps we could pitch in for a reward of some type?

If having a Treasury Department loaded with Goldman Sachs weren't enough for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to revolt, then this should:

My good friend Chris Townsend, National Political Director for the United Electrical Workers, informed me that Jefferey Immelt, the CEO at GE, has overseen the closing or outsourcing of nearly 30 plants in the United States in recent years.  

So apparently, the supposedly labor-friendly candidate Obama who was the darling of big labor, has morphed into President Obama who thinks that the guy who thinks shutting down plants and shipping them overseas is the best guy to put in charge of job creation.  

I don't even know where to start on this one...

At least there is one politician with enough testicular fortitude to call the White House out on this steaming pile of you-know-what:

Bernie Sanders.  I am all for cloning if we can get a few more of his kind into Congress.

In Solidarity,


Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King's Thoughts on the Labor Movement.

‎"The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress...the captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome." - Martin Luther King, Jr

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jimmy Johns Workers Prevail in NLRB Ruling

In Big Union Victory, Jimmy John's Union Election Nullified Due to Employer Labor Rights Violations

MINNEAPOLIS– The National Labor Relations Board approved a settlement today nullifying the results of the historic October 22 union election at Jimmy John's, putting victory back on the table for the nation's first-ever union in franchised fast food. The settlement validates workers' claims that franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan were able to squeak out an 87-85 victory in the election only by resorting to unlawful tactics including threatening a wage freeze, intentionally fabricating rumors that the union engaged in sabotage, retaliating against union supporters, and numerous other labor rights violations.
With the tainted election results nullified, the union is asking the franchise owners to negotiate over its "10 Point Program for Justice at Jimmy John's," a comprehensive package of reforms that will bring respect, dignity, and democracy to the fast food workplace.

“There can now be no doubt that our rights were severely violated, but we're willing to put the past behind us. We are calling on Mike and Rob Mulligan to make a fresh start and work with us, rather than against us, to improve the lives of Jimmy John's workers and their families by negotiating over our 10 Point Program for modest but urgently needed changes,” said Micah Buckley-Farlee, a delivery driver at Jimmy John's and active member of the union campaign.
Based around benefits that workers in many other industries take for granted, the program is the response of Jimmy John's workers to their most pressing problems on the job. Core demands include sick days, improved job security, guaranteed work hours, a reasonable pay increase and regular raises, improved harassment policies, other basic job benefits, and the establishment of a system of shop committees giving workers a democratic voice within the company.

If franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan refuse to cooperate, the union has indicated a willingness to return to the trenches and continue the fight for union recognition, this time on terms that are much more favorable to the union due to the settlement agreement.
Under the NLRB settlement, Jimmy John's must cease engaging in a wide range of unlawful anti-union activities, post notices informing employees of the company's new commitment to obeying the law, and host a series of mandatory employee meetings in which a representative of the NLRB will read the notices in the presence of the company owner.

In 60 days, the Union will also be eligible to file for a fresh election at any point in the next 18 months, with an abbreviated “campaigning period” of 30 days, 12 days shorter than what is customary for NLRB elections.
Union member Ayo Collins said, "Mike and Rob Mulligan can either continue their losing battle against their employees, or they can work with us and distinguish themselves as leaders in bringing much-needed change to the nation's fast food industry. For our part, we're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. We are more confident than ever that in the end, we will win, setting an example for 3.5 million fast food workers to follow."

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Inside Government Radio Show 1/14

I will be a guest on tomorrow's Inside Government radio program.  I will be discussing the Veterans Canteen Service and the federal pay freeze.  You can check it out here:

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Creative at the Bargaining Table

It's no secret that in the course of negotiating a union contract, pay levels/increases are often the most contentious subject in the entire process.  So what do you do if you don't have the ability to negotiate pay increases?   You Get Creative.

I learned a valuable lesson from the negotiation team working on our proposed new contract: sometimes, you can negotiate something without negotiating it at all.


Please allow me to explain.  I am a member of the American Federation of Government Employees.  Specifically, I am covered by a master agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs and AFGE.  Negotiations for the proposed contract have been ongoing for several years, and have finally reached the ratification stage.

To explain my previous statement, federal employees have their pay schedules set by federal law, so they are not subject to direct bargaining.  So how did they negotiate an increase in take home pay without negotiating a pay increase?  The employees in the Veterans Canteen Service(a sub-agency of the VA) currently receive a 50% discount at lunch.  The proposed contract contains an increase to 100% for all VCS employees.  This may not sound like a big deal, but it will add up to around $750 in extra take home pay for each VCS employee.  For employees making under $25k a year, this is a big deal.

This case presents a good lesson for approaching contract negotiations.  Sometimes you can sneak in a window when the company tries to slam the door on pay increases.  If the company rejects the numbers you're looking for in direct pay increases, perhaps you can negotiate for an increase in the uniform allowance, or annual leave, or anything else that amounts to more money in your members' pockets.

In Solidarity,


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Direct Action Alert: Starbucks

Once again, we are presented with an opportunity to assist a fellow worker who has been unjustly targeted for attempting to unionize his workplace.

Tyler Swain was wrongfully terminated in Omaha, Nebraska for being a leader in his workplace.  Please call the supervisor who screwed him over, Scott Creed, at 402-342-4486 and demand that Swain be reinstated immediately.

Or just give him a piece of your mind about being a union busting POS.

That's what I was actually thinking...

Full Story here:

In Solidarity,


VPL Endorsement: Sandy Pope For IBT General President

The Virtual Picket Line has not endorsed specific candidates for union office in the past, but I'm breaking that trend with an endorsement for Sandy Pope.  Pope, president of Local 805, is challenging James Hoffa, Jr for the office of IBT President. Pope has shown herself as an effective, militant leader who would serve the Teamsters well.

Find out more about Sandy Pope at her campaign's website:

In Solidarity,


Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Can Labor Change?

This is the first time I've actually solicited comments here on the Virtual Picket Line, although I would welcome them any time.

As I mentioned earlier, I am working on a book that has the working title, Labor Reformation, and I need opinions from across the spectrum.  Here's my question for you?

If you could make one decision across the entire labor movement to change it for the better, what would it be?

Please add your ideas as a comment, or send an email to  If it's a good idea, I may include it in my book, with appropriate attribution of course.

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Here Come The Clowns...

And I'm not just talking about the Republicans.

John Boehner was sworn is as Speaker of the House today.  This, along with the incoming freshman class of TeaBaggers, and the lowest number of freshman Dems(9) since 1912, should make for an interesting couple of years.

Time will tell just how anti-union this Congress will turn out to be, but federal employee unions in general should be on guard, as the Tea Party members have already signaled their desire to go after the benefits and pay of public servants.

On a side note, how long before Queen Crazy(Michelle Bachmann) throws her hat into the ring for the 2012 primary?

In Solidarity,


2,000 Hits

The Virtual Picket Line just crossed the 2,000 hit threshold.  Not a big number for some, but a huge number for me.  Thanks to all the regular visitors, and please, keep stopping by!

In Solidarity,


Monday, January 3, 2011

Not 'Waiting For SuperMan'

This Washington Post critique of the extremely biased film, Waiting For Superman, is definitely worth cross-posting:

The film doesn't even try to hide it's anti-union bias, which is no surprise, given the film's warm and fuzzy treatment of former DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

You can find out more about the "Not Waiting For Superman group here:

In Solidarity,


Podcasts Working Again

It appears that my podcast links have not been working, so I have fixed them.  I should be adding more soon.

In Solidarity,