Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Save Our Unions

Whenever I get a chance to alert people to a new publication that I believe is important to the future of the labor movement, I try to take it. Allow me to recommend Save Our Unions. 

Save Our Unions is the forthcoming book by veterans labor journalist Steve Early.  Early is a longtime labor activist, former staffer of many years with the Communication Workers of America, as well as the author of Embedded With Organized Labor, and Civil Wars in U.S. Labor.

In Save Our Unions, Early explores the history and future of rank-and-file movements in the labor movement as a whole, expounding on his thorough coverage of the rank-and-file struggle against SEIU in California in Civil Wars.

I've been perusing the advanced preview I was fortunate enough to get my hands on(one of the few perks in this labor of love) and I simply cannot wait until it hits the shelves.  Save Our Unions will be a godsend to any activist member, reformer, or anyone who just wants their union to act like a union and not just a lighter version of management.  This book will light a fire under you and get you ready to take your union back!

Until Save Our Unions hits the shelves, I recommend checking out Steve Early's last two books that are must reads for anyone who cares about the labor movement. You can find them here:

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shutdown...or Lockout?

We are now into week two of the full blown circus that is the government shutdown of 2013.  For some 800,000 federal employees who are being furloughed, there is another word for this situation: lockout.


[lok-out] Show IPA
the temporary closing of a business or the refusal by an employer to allow employees to come to work until they accept the employer's terms.
The only difference between this situation, and the definition from our friends at is that the federal employees do not have the means to accept the employer's terms.  This is because they are being kept off the job by a few dozen extremists in the House of Representatives who do not care about the livelihood of 800,000 people.
The American Federation of Government Employees(AFGE) is the largest of the labor organizations representing about 300,000 dues paying members.  While AFGE President J. David Cox has made some media appearances, and there have been a few rallies on the Hill, AFGE has not yet started treating this like the lockout that it is.

In most cases, when unions are locked out by management, they immediately set up a picket line and pull out all the stops to force an end to the stalemate.  So far, there have been a few small rallies and a membership drive that allows members to earn a $100 rebate for signing up new members.  While I'm all about membership drives, and was active in them during my years as an AFGE member, perhaps a more militant, in your face approach might be appropriate given the task at hand.
My good friend, Bill Preston, President of AFGE Local 17, is spearheading a rally this Friday.  Here is the pertinent information:

Join Local 17 of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) for a Rally at the Capitol to Protest the Government Shutdown and Support your Fellow Workers

When: Friday, October 11, 2013 from 12:00 Noon until 3:00 PM

Where: The West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building  The attached map from the U.S. Capitol Police gives the exact location: It is the demonstration permit area marked # 1.

Who: All Federal employees* and their friends and families and allies, including veterans (Local 17 represents workers at the VA's Central Office)

Bring any homemade signs to express to Congress your feelings about the shutdown.

I've applied for a permit to hold the Rally.  

* Federal employees may attend this Rally if they are:

- in a furlough status;

- taking annual leave; or

- attending during their regular 30-minute lunch period.

Please note that furlough–exempted employees (those still working due to continued funding) should take annual leave if they plan to attend for longer than the 30-minute lunch period.  Furlough–excepted employees cannot take annual leave, but may still attend during their regular lunch period.
Come help make this a successful Rally!!  We look forward to seeing you on Friday!!
If you are in DC and are able to attend, please do so in solidarity with those who are furloughed.  This rally is an excellent start, and I would like to see a more proactive push from the AFGE national leadership.  Let's set up some picket lines and burn barrels near the Capitol and House office buildings.  It's time to take the fight to them and put some real pressure on them to stop this insanity.
In Solidarity,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Labor Movement's 1%?

Amid the speeches and rallies at the AFL-CIO Convention this past week in Los Angeles, there were many resolutions passed, as well as a handful of amendments to the AFL-CIO constitution.  Most of the resolution and amendments were what you would expect from a labor convention.  There were resolutions opposing efforts to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as one supporting the American Labor Museum.  There was also an amendment recognizing the role of young workers with a seat on the Executive Board.

Then there was Constitutional Amendment 11.

Here is the amendment in its entirety:
Submitted by the Executive Council
 Referred to the Constitution Committee

Article V, Section 5 is amended as follows (New language in bold and italics)
Section 5

(a) The President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Executive Vice President, or any one of them, after having served five years as an Executive Officer of the Federation and either having reached age 65 or having served in any capacity a total of 20 years with any organization affiliated with the Federation, and/or with the Federation, shall, upon leaving office, have the title of President Emeritus or Emerita, Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus or Emerita and Executive Vice President Emeritus or Emerita and shall render such service to the Federation in an advisory and consultative status as is mutually agreed to by the Executive Council and the emeritus or emerita officer.

(b) The President Emeritus or Emerita, Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus or Emerita and Executive Vice President Emeritus or Emerita shall, in consideration of their active service prior to leaving office, be afforded for life a pension, payable weekly, in an annual amount equal to 60 percent of either the highest annual salary received as an Executive Officer or thereafter paid to the corresponding Executive Officer, whichever is greater. If, after attaining eligibility for this pension, such Executive Officer shall die, either before or after receiving such pension, the Officer’s surviving spouse shall be paid an annual annuity for life, payable in weekly installments, of 30 percent of either the highest salary received by such Executive Officer, as an Executive Officer, or thereafter paid to the corresponding Executive Officer, whichever is greater. The Executive Council is authorized and directed to enter into a legal and binding agreement with the President, the Secretary-Treasurer, and the Executive Vice President to make these retirement compensation and annuity benefits payable by the Federation for their intended duration pursuant to the terms and conditions of this Section. The Executive Council is also authorized to provide, after such benefits become non-forfeitable, for (1) the cash-out of a portion of these retirement compensation and annuity benefits (through accelerated payment of the present value thereof) where the officer will be subject to taxes on the value of benefits not yet otherwise payable, and (2) appropriate arrangements, including payment by the Federation, for payment of employment taxes attributable to these retirement compensation and annuity benefits. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Executive Council is authorized to modify or eliminate the benefits provided in this section. 

When I first read this amendment, I didn't really think anything of it.  After all, I am all in favor of pensions, as just about anyone in the labor movement is.  The crisis around Social Security has far more to do with companies reneging on employee pensions than it does about baby boomers - but I digress.

When I really started to dig into the language of this amendment, I began to realize just how tone deaf the leadership of the labor movement has become.  The amendment awards pension in the amount of 60% of the officeholder's highest grossing year after 5 years on the Executive Council, or 20 years with any affiliated labor organization.  This also increases any time a current officeholder's salary is increased in order to keep up with inflation.

This happens to work out great for Richard Trumka, who served three terms as the president of the United Mine Workers of America(UMWA).  Given his length of time as an officer with UMWA, he almost certainly is eligible to draw a pension from that organization.  Now he is eligible to draw a pension from the AFL-CIO that as of 2012 would pay him an estimated $166,000 annually for life.

It works out even better for Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler.  According to the amendment, an officer becomes eligible for the lifetime pension when they either reach retirement age, or their total service time with affiliated labor organizations reaches 20 years.  Guess which year Liz Shuler took her first staff job with the IBEW?  That's right, 1993.  I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt, but you have to admit that's one hell of a coincidence.  I'm 33, and Ms. Shuler is not all that much older than I am.  She could decide to leave the AFL-CIO tomorrow, and under this new amendment, she would collect roughly $146,000 a year.  This is remarkable since she easily has 15-20 years before she is retirement age.

At a time when the AFL-CIO is out railing against the 1%(and rightfully so) and the inequality of wealth in the workplace, it seems unfathomable that they would pick this moment to make the divide between the rank and file union member and their leadership even wider.  To do so in such a public fashion is even more stunning.  This sort of excess harms the labor movement and does little to dispel feelings among the average worker that their union leadership is out of touch with the day-to-day struggle in the shop.

The bottom line is that while there shouldn't be an issue with our leaders being fairly compensated - that's what we're fighting for after all - but it should be done in a common sense way that is not excessive.  

Maybe next convention someone will have the good sense to introduce an amendment inspired by the United Electrical Workers(UE) that restricts the salary of the national president to the same level of the highest dues paying member.  Given the diversity of the workers in the house of labor, they'd still be doing pretty well for themselves.

In Solidarity,


Monday, September 9, 2013

AFL-CIO Proposed Resolutions

The 2013 AFL-CIO Convention is underway in Los Angeles, and I decided to peruse the proposed resolutions, as well as proposed amendments to the AFL-CIO Constitution.

Here are some of my favorites:

Resolution 5, which just passed, co-opts the IWW method of growing membership to organize the unorganized.  This would extend AFL-CIO membership to all workers, even if they are not yet working under a collective bargaining agreement.

Constitutional Amendment 1, which would add a Young Workers' Representative to the AFL-CIO Executive Board.

Then there's Constitutional Amendment 2 & 3.  Amendment 2 is the Machinists' Union(IAM) complaining about Raider Unions, which made me think, "Pot, meet the kettle."  Amendment 3 is an amendment to reaffirm that Article XX(anti-raiding) will not be applied to non-affiliated unions. Paranoid much?

Let's see what else comes up.

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What It Means To Be The Only Non-Union Employees in a Union Environment

I thought about this entry on Monday, but I'm just getting the chance to post it.  The reason for this is that I was working on Labor Day, along with the other employees in my department.  We happened to be the only employees in the plant who were required to work.  We are also the only department that is not in the bargaining unit.

While working Monday didn't really bother me(I consider May 1st to be the real Labor Day), it did get me thinking about the other differences between the employees in the bargaining unit, and my department.

There are the obvious holidays that we do not get to enjoy spending with family and friends.  We also do not follow seniority when it comes to open job promotions, or bidding on our routes.  We were also the only employees in the plant who did not have their cost of living increases retrograded, which meant a few hundred dollars to most of us.  We also do not ever get weekend days off unless we are on vacation.  This is despite the fact that there are enough of us to rotate weekend duty so that everyone gets one weekend day a month off.

Then there is the most important issue - Job Security.

There have been several people in the bargaining unit who have lost their jobs over questionable evidence, and nearly all of them have been awarded their jobs back with back pay by arbitrators.  Our department has had four employees terminated in the last six months.  While the evidence was much stronger in some cases over others, none of the employees was allowed to have the chance to have their day in court.

In contrast, my job classification in a nearby plant happens to be in the bargaining unit.
What are the differences between those employees and us?

For starters, they make $3.13 more an hour than we do, which is a direct result of their contract negotiations.  Secondly, they can bid on their routes using seniority, which means your loyalty to the company is rewarded by giving you first choice of your job assignments.  They also rotate weekend assignments, and had their cost of living increase retrograded.  Most importantly, they have the right to grieve any adverse action taken by management against them.
So when I think of what it means to be union(which I have been in the past) and non-union(what I am now), the difference is crystal clear:

Lower Pay, Less Fairness, No Job Security.

In Solidarity,


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Change to Win - An Island of Two?

Mike Elk scored a huge scoop this past weekend, reporting that UFCW will vote to rejoin the AFL-CIO after its upcoming convention in August.

You can read Mike's full story at In These Times.

When I covered LIUNA's decision to return to the AFL-CIO back in 2010, I interviewed James Williams, President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades(IUPAT) to get his opinion on LIUNA's return.  One of my main inquiries was regarding whether the AFL-CIO should require LIUNA to pay back per capita as a condition of rejoining the federation.  My feeling back then was that not requiring some form of repayment would make it attractive for unions to leave the federation to avoid per capita for a time if they ran into financial trouble.  The union could then hypothetically rejoin the AFL-CIO without any penalty.

As Mike Elk reports in his story,

Details of the negotiations between the UFCW and AFL-CIO are unknown at this time. However, inside sources say the AFL-CIO is likely to offer the UFCW some sort of deal, such as a discount on dues, as motivation to rejoin.

I understand that having UFCW back in the fold is more important o the AFL-CIO than some back per capita taxes, but it doesn't exactly set a good precedent going forward.

The larger implication for the labor movement is that Change to Win can't really be looked at as a labor coalition or federation anymore.  However, I am floating a few new name ideas for the two remaining unions.  How about Steamsters, or SEI-2.  They could make t-shirts saying Purple and Black Attack.

Although the return of UFCW will certainly get people wondering if SEIU and the Teamsters will rejoin the AFL-CIO, I don't foresee that happening any time soon, with different reasons for each organization.

The departure of the Teamsters was almost entirely about two things: 1) money and 2)money. Also 3)Article 20.  The Teamsters are in deep with their pension plan, and I don't see them willingly adding more per capita taxes when they don't even have a way to pay for their own pension fund 20 years from now.  They also still like to raid other unions, which Article 20 prohibits.  It would be something to see the Machinists and Teamsters under the same roof again.

I could actually picture SEIU coming back to the AFL-CIO before the Teamsters.  SEIU has the money for per capita, and rejoining the AFL-CIO could be used as a strategic way of blocking the National union of Healthcare Workers(NUHW) from organizing more members, as NUHW is now affiliated with CNA, and therefore subject to Article 20, which prohibits raiding other AFL-CIO member unions.

However this hashes out, this will be an interesting year in the House of Labor.

In Solidarity,


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Massive Motor City Union Busting Scheme

This afternoon, Detroit became the largest city in the history of the United States to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  The city had been the subject of a hostile takeover by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who appointed Kevin Orr, a bankruptcy expert, to rescue the city from massive deficits.

Why would you hire a bankruptcy expert to turn a city's finances around?

The obvious answer to that question is that someone doesn't want the city to recover. The who in this question becomes a little clearer once you find out that Governor Rick Snyder is a venture capitalist.  And what are venture capitalists experts in? Bankrupting companies and selling off their assets.

The purpose of this action could not be any clearer:

This is the biggest, most blatant union busting stunt since PATCO, and it might even be bigger. In filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the state would be able to sell off the city's assets, renege on pension obligations, and make labor agreements obsolete.  This isn't your average union busting scheme - this is the Twinkification of an entire city.

Make no mistake, if this is allowed to stand, you will see this in every major city with a strong collective bargaining presence. If the working class was waiting for a moment to get out in the streets with the pitchforks(well, not pitchforks, but pots and pans maybe) and raise nine kinds of hell, this is it.

We have to get in the streets and fight this battle.  We can't just throw money, or send email blasts, or send out our talking heads on cable news.  All of us - you, me, your buddy, my grandma, your pastor, the neighbors and their dog all have to get out in the streets and fight to keep the corporate vultures from imposing their will upon us. It's time for sit-ins, teach-ins, walk-outs, and anything else necessary to get the job done.

It has begun.

In Solidarity,


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rank and File Rejection At UPS

The rank and file members at UPS have rejected a concession-riddled contract negotiated by Teamsters' management.  According to Labor Notes, Teamsters for a Democratic Union(TDU) was able to mobilize members to vote down the contract at the regional and local levels.

Read the Labor Notes story here:

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ten Principles All Unions Should Be Built Upon

I found this list of precepts from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union(ILWU).  The ILWU is a militant, independent union that most unions could learn a few things from.  The ILWU honors every picket line, which I have written about before here. The ILWU has a long history of successful labor actions and an extremely active membership.  The following is a list of the ILWU's ten guiding principles.  The labor movement would do well to adopt them across the board.

A Union is built on its members. The  strength, understanding and unity of the membership can determine the union’s  course and its advancements. The members who work, who make up the union and pay  its dues can best determine their own destiny. If the facts are honestly  presented to the members in the ranks, they will best judge what should be done  and how it should be done. In brief, it is the membership of the union which is  the best judge of its own welfare; not the officers, not the employers, not the  politicians and the fair weather friends of labor. Above all, this approach is based on the conviction that given the truth and an  opportunity to determine their own course of action, the rank and file in 99  cases out of 100 will take the right path in their own interests and in the  interests of all the people.

 Labor unity is at all times the key for  a successful economic advancement. Anything that detracts from labor unity hurts  all labor. Any group of workers which decides to put itself above other workers  through craft unionism or through cozy deals at the expense of others will in  the long run gain but little and inevitably will lose both its substance and its  friends. No matter how difficult the going, a union must fight in every possible way to  advance the principle of labor unity.

 Workers are indivisible. There can be  no discrimination because of race, color, creed, national origin, religious or  political belief. Any division among the workers can help no one but the  employers. Discrimination of worker against worker is suicide. Discrimination is  a weapon of the boss. Its entire history is proof that it has served no other  purpose than to pit worker against worker to their own destruction.

“To help any worker in  distress” must be a daily guide in the life of every trade union and its  individual members. Labor solidarity means just that. Unions have to accept the fact  that the solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the so-called  sanctity of the contract. We cannot adopt for ourselves the policies of union  leaders who insist that because they have a contract, their members are  compelled to perform work even behind a picket line. Every picket line must be respected as though it were our own.

Any union, if it is to fulfill its appointed task, must put aside all internal  differences and issues to combine for the common cause of advancing the welfare  of the membership. No union can successfully fulfill its purpose in life if it  allows itself to be distracted by any issue which causes division in its ranks  and undermines the unity which all labor must have in the face of the employer.

 The days are long gone when a union can consider dealing with single employers.  The powerful financial interests of the country are bound together in every  conceivable type of united organization to promote their own welfare and to  resist the demands of labor. Labor can no more win with the ancient weapons of  taking on a single employer in industry any more than it can hope to win through  the worn-out dream of withholding its skill until an employer sues for peace.  The employers of this country are part of a well-organized, carefully  coordinated, effective fighting machine. They can be met only on equal  terms, which requires industry-wide bargaining and the most extensive economic  strength of organized labor.

 Just as water flows to its lowest level, so do wages if the bulk of  the workers are left unorganized. The day of craft unionism – the aristocracy of  labor – was over when mass production methods were introduced. To organize the  unorganized must be a cardinal principle of any union worth its salt; and to  accomplish this is not merely in the interest of the unorganized, it is for the  benefit of the organized as well.

   The basic aspiration and desires of the workers throughout the world are the  same. Workers are workers the world over. International solidarity, particularly  to maritime workers, is essential to their protection and a guarantee of reserve  economic power in times of strife.

 A new type of unionism is called for which does not confine its ambitions and  demands only to wages. Conditions of work, security of employment and adequate  provisions for the workers and their families in times of need are of equal, if  not greater importance, than the hourly wage.

Jurisdictional warfare and jurisdictional raiding must be outlawed by labor  itself. Nothing can do as much damage to the ranks of labor and to the principle  of labor unity and solidarity as jurisdictional bickering and raiding among  unions. Both public support and strike victories and jeopardized by  jurisdictional warfare. This code for rank and file unionism is implemented by the membership’s  participation in organization, negotiations, strike machinery, contract  enforcement and every other aspect of union life. Thus, its discipline springs  out of participation, conviction and the right of the membership to decide its  own course of action. The above principles and steps to implement them, and an  informed and alert membership make the union what it is.

In Solidarity,


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Is May Day?

This past week, workers from around the globe commemorated the 127th anniversary of the massacre at Haymarket Square, where four unarmed workers were shot and killed by police who were attempting to breakup a general strike.  Remembrance of this tragic event became known as International Workers' Day, or May Day. 

May Day is an official holiday in over 80 countries, but you rarely hear anything about May Day in the United States.  Why is that?  To be frank, the big labor federations in the United States have long been in bed with federal agencies that are controlled by anti-worker corporate interests, as well as participating in class-collaboration with corporations themselves.  It was in this spirit that the Knights of Labor went along with Grover Cleveland's endeavor to sweep the Haymarket Affair under the rug by creating Labor Day in September.

So just what were the workers fighting for with their general strike in Haymarket Square?  A little thing you might recognize called the eight hour work day.  Four innocent workers gave their lives to secure that right that is so often taken for granted.  Today, you can barely get workers to organize because people are afraid of losing their $9 an hour job, when we are able to work a normal work week because workers just like us were willing to sacrifice to make sure the next generation had better working conditions than they enjoyed.

So my question is, what are you willing to sacrifice for the workers of tomorrow?

Just a thought.

In Solidarity,


P.S. - Here are a few links if you are interested in learning more about the labor movement outside the United States:

Eric Lee from LabourStart has just published a book that will introduce you to the various labor federations from around the world.  You can find it here:

To see what a real labor federation looks like, check out the World Federation of Trade Unions.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Into The Hollers(working title) excerpt

Hey everyone,

The following is a rough draft excerpt from the book I'm working on that recounts my year as an organizer in West Virginia and Kentucky with SEIU/District 1199 WV/KY/OH.

This section talks about my first day on the job. All feedback would be helpful and encouraged.

Day One

Shit. I mumbled to myself as I sat up along the side of the bed in the darkness of my room at the Ramada Inn situated right off Interstate 64 in Huntington, WEst Virginia. Still groggy from my six hour drive through the mountains from Brunswick, Maryland the night before, I stumbled over to the window and drew the shades. The morning sky was dreary, and it was still raining. As the cars passed along the interstate, I joked to myself, "We'll, can't beat the view."

I got myself together and climbed into my 1999 Volvo station wagon - an unconventional vehicle choice for a union organizer. I soon discovered that most organizers drive either a small four cylinder car because of the amount of miles they drive, or an SUV. This is handy for hauling union supplies around, but it is useful mainly for dragging members to events.

The HR coordinator had informed me that rather than spending my first day filling out paperwork during a traditional orientation, I would be traveling in a three hour caravan from Huntington to Columbus, Ohio for a rally against Ohio Senate Bill 5. S.B. 5 proposed the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. Aside from the general importance of showing solidarity with our union sisters and brothers, this would affect about 7,000 members of our Local, approximately a third of the total membership of our Local.

I was more than a little excited about the reality that I was now getting paid to attend a rally that I usually would have showed up to for free. I met with a few of our members at the union office across town, where we piled into a fifteen passenger van in preparation for our three hour journey. After a few minutes of pleasantries and being welcomed to the union, I struck up a conversation with a woman whom I thought was one of my members. After we shared a very in depth discussion on our respective philosophies regarding the labor movement, including a very frank assessment of the internal struggle going on in California with NUHW, I discovered that the woman I had been speaking to was in fact the Executive Vice-President of the entire Local.

As I sat internally kicking myself for being so open about my opinion regarding SEIU's undemocratic direction, Kathy assured me that they did things differently, and that due to 1199's merger agreement, they could never be placed under trusteeship. This time, I kept my trap shut on not sharing her opinion on this point. I decided to play it safe and stick to non-work related topics for the remainder of the trip.

When we arrived at the main office in Columbus, the building was overflowing with staff and members who were being herded onto charter buses that would ferry us downtown to the statehouse. There had been rumors that the governor would have the state police lock the doors, and sure enough, about five minutes after we gained access, we were informed that once we left the building, we would not be permitted to re-enter the facility. The building was filled to the brim with union members. I was struck by the diversity of the labor community I could see around me. There were truck drivers talking to librarians, firemen chanting with nurses, plumbers alongside prison guards. Every combination you could imagine was represented.

For the next several hours, we sang, chanted, and raised all sorts of hell while the Republican controlled Senate did their best to ignore us. There were visits from former governor Ted Strickland, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who were both greeted by cheers from the crowd. F

After returning to the union office, we made the drive back to Huntington. By the time I made it back to the hotel, it was around 10:30pm. I rolled into bed, thoroughly exhausted, but with a huge smile on my face. "This could be good," I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

As I mentioned, this is a rough draft and I'm open to any feedback. More to come.

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Overtime In Danger?

Apparently, Republicans have decided that the time is ripe to reintroduce this dandy proposal to weaken overtime laws.  Under this remake of the 2003 Family Time Flexibility Act, employees could choose to take comp time in lieu of overtime pay.  I put the word choose in italics because while it prohibits companies from pressuring employees to give up their overtime pay, I believe that is exactly what will happen.

After all, companies are prohibited from coercing employees during union organizing campaigns, but that has never stopped them.  Why then, would this be any different, especially when there is a direct monetary incentive to pushing an employee to opt out of overtime pay.

For those of you who haven't figured out yet that the GOP has a long term game plan for crushing any sort of workers' rights, this is just another clue.  What's next - the 40 hour work week?

In Solidarity,


Friday, February 1, 2013

Labor Friendly Super Bowl Ads

I will be holding my breath again this year to see if the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, or anyone else for that matter will take advantage of the massive audience watching the Super Bowl to air a pro-labor commercial.

I have called in the past for an ad that utilizes various members of the labor community, from construction workers who build stadiums, to the players who, by the way, happen to be union members.

The ad could be simple, ending with a 1-800 number for people to call if they are interested in forming a union where they work. This is not rocket science. Labor membership is now below 7% nationally. If not now, when is this sort of action appropriate.

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

American University Food Service Workers Get a Fair Contract

I was elated to see that the hard working employees at my university have reached a fair contract.  They can now take culinary classes and get paid for doing so, and prepare meals from scratch.  This means that there will be much better food coming out of TDR, and that is a good thing.

You can read the whole story from Labor Notes here:

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NUHW-CNA: A Real Match Made In Heaven

Some time ago, I wrote about the proposed affiliation between the International Association of Machinists(IAM) and the National Union of HealthCare Workers(NUHW).  While that proposed partnership never came to fruition, NUHW and the California Nurses Association(CNA) recently made their affiliation public.

I always held the opinion that CNA was a much better fit for an affiliation with NUHW than the Machinists, for various reasons.  The most obvious is that CNA is a healthcare union that would help bridge the gap between organizing professional and non-professional employees.  The partnership with NUHW sort of fills the doughnut hole, if you will. Secondly, as much as IAM would have liked to assist NUHW in the upcoming Kaiser election re-runs, I don't believe they would have brought as much to the table as CNA does.

For NUHW, this partnership brings two very big benefits:

1. By affiliating with an AFL-CIO member union, NUHW is protected by Article 20 of the AFL-CIO constitution.  Article 20 protects member organizations from being raided by other AFL-CIO affiliated unions.  While this won't help to keep SEIU from trying to raid their chapters, it is one less thing to worry about.  On a side note, I believe this clause makes the split between SEIU and the AFL-CIO almost permanent.

2. This partnership will bring much needed resources to NUHW in their ongoing struggle against SEIU.  They will certainly need CNA's organizing and financial assistance if they hope to have a chance to be victorious in the Kaiser fight.

I believe that this is a pivotal moment in the history of the American labor movement.  The Kaiser election will help to shape the direction of the labor movement for years to come.  Only time will tell which way it will go.

In Solidarity,


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Silencing The Truth - SEIU Style

Recently, the organization that I formerly worked with was the target of an information campaign.  Specifically, incriminating evidence of the waste of members' dues money, the extravagant lifestyle of the union president, among other things, was put on display in the wonderful world of facebook.

The response from SEIU/1199 WV/KY/OH was heated and desperate.  They moved quickly to have the account shut down, they had their Executive Vice-President create a fake profile to attack the poster who was releasing the aforementioned information. 

What was very interesting to me as I read the posts and counter-posts, was the fact that no one from the Pro-SEIU point of view, not even the Executive  Vice-President offered any statements or proof to show that anything the person posted was false or exaggerated.  Instead, they attacked the poster, using inflammatory language insinuating that the person must be a disgruntled former SEIU employee with a grudge.  Now admittedly, there is a long line of former employees who have been treated in unsavory ways by this organization.  In full disclosure, I am myself a former employee with my own feelings about SEIU.

That being said, nothing that this person posted was untrue, or exaggerated.  I would go so far as to say that the person probably could have posted things that were both true, and far worse than what they did.  Since SEIU has seen fit to have their account shut down, I will post a list of the excesses pointed out by this unknown person.

If SEIU had not successfully blocked this account, I would not be posting this.  At the end of this list, I will post a link to the LM-2 statement, which I encourage anyone who is a member of SEIU/1199 WV/KY/OH to read for themselves and make their own judgement.

1. SEIU/1199 WV/KY/OH pays for a $2000 a month apartment that is only used by Becky Williams, Kathy McCormick, and I think Mary Jo Ivans and Lisa Hetrick.  There is also a second apartment rented by the organization.  The only issue I have with this is that I believe the president of the union should be willing to relocate to Columbus if they require organizers to relocate.

2.  The union spent over $800,000 on office furniture.  This includes over $5,000 on Becky Williams' desk alone.

3.  The union pays Becky Williams a salary of $122,000.  This is common knowledge, but most members are unaware that she is probably collecting a salary from the International just for sitting on the board.  This is known as "double dipping" in the labor community.

4. Becky Williams and Kathy McCormick took a trip to Europe which was paid for by the Local.  Supposedly, they were meeting with a union official, but according to SEIU's official directory, there are no SEIU Locals outside of the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  Who knows, maybe they are looking to expand WV/KY/OH to France or Italy.  In all fairness, there might have been a legitimate reason for the trip.  I would bet that most members will feel that given their generous salaries, they should have paid for their own trips.

5.  The Local spent $60,000 on a staff party.  This can be found in LM-2 statements.

6.  The Local gave bonus ranging from $100 - $600 to each staff member.  I actually don't have an issue with this, as most of the staff, especially the organizers, are treated poorly.  If they had a choice, they'd probably give the bonus back in exchange for not working 70 hours a week.

There is so much more here.  To view the LM-2 statements, which is a report that every union is required to send to the Department of Labor every year, click here and enter report number 509-111 in the file number box.  This report will give you an itemized report on every penny spent.  There's quite a few eye openers in there.
The most striking thing about this recent ordeal was not that SEIU/1199 was upset.  This is understandable.  What was very telling, to me at least was that they didn't dispute anything the person posted.  They were simply pissed that someone had told the truth, and it wasn't pretty.

One last number to think about: in 2011, the union spent $4,260,424 on Political Activities and Lobbying, but only $3,037,373 on Representational Duties.  This means they spent more on Politics than they did on actual representation of members.  I'm not saying political action isn't important, but is it more important than actual representation of members?  You be the judge.

I'll return to normal, non-SEIU posting in a few weeks when I am up and running with regular internet access again.

In Solidarity,