Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Flex Time and the Loss of Overtime

So it appears that the Republican zombie of ending overtime as we know it has reared its ugly head again.  As reported in the American Prospect, the GOP is once again trying to convince people that allowing comp time will give them more flexibility in the workplace.  This is nonsense, and a simple ploy that would allow companies to work their employees as much as they want without paying them in a timely fashion, or at all. 
Image result for wage theft
Of course, the legislation claims it will be the employee's choice to accept flex time, but do you honestly think companies aren't going to pressure the hell out of people to opt onto this scheme?  If you don't think so, I've got some oceanfront property in West Texas to sfor ell you.

What I really want to point out is the dirty little secret they don't want to talk about, and that is the fact that this would open the door for a flat out wage theft epidemic.  This would make it far to easy for companies to make the "honest mistake" of miscalculating how much flex time an employee has accrued, or to impose "use or lose" policies.  Retail workers, whom often have blacked out sections on the calendar stand to be hit the worst, but millions of low wage workers who aren't able to keep up with their own calculations and records will be at the mercy of their employers to do the right thing.  It is easy to see where this is headed.

If anything, this makes clear that workers need to join unions in order to protect themselves from these draconian policies that threaten their livelihood.  

In Solidarity,

Joe Riedel

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Can Labor Win in South Carolina?

On February 15, employees at the Boeing plant in Charleston, South Carolina will vote on whether to join the Machinists Union(IAM).  If the union is successful, it would be a huge victory in the least unionized state in the country.  South Carolina is dead last by a margin that isn't even close.  The 49th state, neighboring North Carolina, has more than twice the number of unionized employees.

Winning a large scale organizing campaign in a state that Donald Trump carried by 14 points would arguably be the biggest union win in recent memory.  Unions would desperately like to win this battle, especially after the bitter UAW defeat in Chattanooga, which saw the governor insert himself to influence the vote.

If the workers at Boeing stick together in spite of an onslaught of negative, and outright intimidation by management, not only will they improve their own situation, they will provide much needed inspiration for other southern workers who seek to improve their working conditions.

In Solidarity,


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Labor in the Era of Trump

We are only a few weeks into the Trump administration, and already we have seen the birth of the resistance.  The Women's March on Washington drew the largest collective nationwide protest in modern American history.  Spontaneous protests broke out at airports around the country when Trump issued an executive order banning Muslim refugees and immigrants from seven countries from entering the United States.

Earlier this week, national Right to Work Fire legislation was introduced by Iowa congressman Steve King.  While this stands little chance of overcoming a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, it highlights the fact that collective bargaining rights have been on a losing streak in recent years.  In the last five years alone, six states have enacted Right to Work legislation, bringing the total number of states with open shop laws to twenty eight.  The AFL-CIO has held public rallies at the respective statehouses, op-eds have been penned, in some cases, court challenges have been filed.  However, in every state after losing the battle, it seems that the house of labor folds like a house of cards.

With private sector union density dropping to 6.4% in 2016, one starts to wonder when the AFL-CIO will find that the time is right to abandon the strategy of placing all our eggs in the Democratic Party basket.  If we look back at the biggest victories in American labor history, they are social, not political.  I recently asked a few friends in the labor movement their thoughts on the current state of labor.  There were a few points made that really resonated with me.  Chris Townsend, retired national political director of the UE, who is now the Field Mobilization Director of the ATU, assessed the current state of the labor movement this way: "Most of the unions are paralyzed, owing to their conservative political approach and combined with the fact that major sections of union membership voted for Trump."  

This has been evidenced recently by a meeting, which was reported by the New York Times between leadership of the North America's Building Trades Unions and President Trump.  It is almost unfathomable that the leader of a labor organization would say of a president who has said he supports right to work 100%, "We have a common bond with the President...he understands the value of driving development, moving people to the middle class."

The hard truth, as a union organizer that I know pointed out, is that a lot of rank and file members voted for Trump.  This was based on a variety of issues, but the underlying problem for union leadership is the struggle many members face when they weigh supporting labor endorsed candidates with whom they have moral disagreements on everything from guns to abortion.  It would seem that the Wobbly approach of non-political involvement in favor of direct action might be due for another look.

Back to my original point of how all of this plays into the current situation with the Trump administration, I would like to offer the following observation as a warning:  when unions become more of a political organization than a collective of workers, they inevitably become a political enemy of one side or the other.  When the opposite side finds themselves in power, as is the case now, labor runs the risk of becoming a political casualty.  The question is, will they realize it and change course in time?

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Back In Action

Over the last two years, my labor reporting has taken a back seat to parenting - we had zero children when I started this blog, we now have three - and working as a rank and file Teamster in an environment in which I often find myself in the position of fighting both management and my Local.  I know many Teamsters out there can empathize.

But I digress.

There is simply too much going on in the labor movement for me to not get back at it.  We have an administration headed by a man with a history of fighting unions in his business life, who openly support Right to Work Fire, and a Congress that has just introduced national RtW legislation.  This of course might become moot before it ever gets passed into law, as we have seen many states pass anti-union legislation, from the heart of United Mine Workers country in Kentucky, to the birthplace of the United Auto Workers in Michigan.  It would have been almost unfathomable ten years ago to think that Harlan County and the Motor City would be RtW, but here we are.

The labor movement has some long overdue soul searching to do on our next move.  I'll be reaching out to friends and leaders in the labor movement in the coming weeks to get their take on where we should go next, as well as offering my take on things.

In Solidarity,