Category Archives: Labor and Worker Justice

Libertarian Based Uber Driver Services Pushed into Manchester by Democrats??

Jon Hopwood gives a very thorough analysis of the Uber “ride sharing” program as it pushes its way across the country, leaving a trail of injuries, assaults, rapes and even complaints of price gouging.  As Jon Hopwood notes and as is supported by this Wa-Po article, former Obama advisor David Plouffe has thrown his hat into the ring of cash opportunity by accepting a position as their PR chief.  We’ve been told that Uber was also used by NH Democratic leadership to shuttle party dignitaries  back and forth to the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner last October.

Its troubling that Democrats support the Uber “ride sharing” company even though Uber’s business model mimics a popular trend of companies skirting employment law by declaring their workforce comprises “independent contractors“.  This practice, popular among unethical business owners and especially among libertarians, shifts the burden of business expenses and losses from the business owner directly onto the worker.  Also called misclassification this practice has already caused the erosion of living wages and protections for workers in many industries such as construction, IT and many service industries.  In 2014, as this report from the Boston Globe states, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Boston Uber drivers claiming that their classification as independent contractors amounts to fraud, the drivers also claimed that Uber demanded a portion of all tips as well, contrary to Massachusetts law.

As traditional supporters of labor and workers, that the Democratic leadership in New Hampshire would choose to support and even hire this very anti-worker and anti-consumer company speaks volumes.  That Garth Corriveau, a Manchester alderman and darling of the Democratic leadership, would be pushing Uber onto Manchester despite many of the well documented problems it poses and its threat to further eroding regulations to protect workers should cause good people to stop and think.  Does the Democratic leadership in New Hampshire really care about workers? Many at the state level have vowed to assist labor in working to stop the erosion of worker’s protections and the fraud of misclassification.  With their leadership treating the issue so cavalierly, can we be confident that they will in fact defend labor?  Will they work to rid New Hampshire of the economic and social scourge of misclassification?  Some things to think about.  Now onto Jon Hopwood’s look at Uber and its efforts to destroy regulations of drivers in Manchester and other cities to gain a foothold on the market:

Uber Über Manchester: Ride-Sharing Company Lobbies For Special Treatment

Alderman Garth Corriveau (l.) & BOMA Chair Dan O'Neil
Alderman Garth Corriveau (l.) & BOMA Chair Dan O’Neil
Jon Hopwood

MANCHESTER, NH — The controversial ride-sharing company Uber has brought its confrontational management style to Manchester. Buoyed by a lobbying effort marshaled nationally by former Obama presidential campaign major domo David Plouffe, Uber is trying to justify its Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged management philosophy as a harbinger of 21st Century High Tech new millennialism rather than a throwback to the dog-eat-dog, the public-be-damned social Darwinism of the Gilded Age.

Manchester is home to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT), New England’s fourth busiest airport. Approximately 2.5 million passengers used MHT in 2013, making it a major market for the livery services that a ride-sharing company like Uber can provide.

App or Transportation Company?

The major question being asked in Manchester, as well across the nation: Is Uber a tech company selling an app, or a transportation company?

During a December 19th, 2014 appearance on the Girard at Large radio show, Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau — Uber’s paladin on the Queen City Board of Mayor and Alderman (BOMA) — made the argument that Uber was a tech company peddling an app, though under questioning, he did concede that it was a transportation services company.

The crux of Corriveau’s argument was that Uber drivers were independent contractors and, unlike taxi cab companies, Uber did not own the fleet. Ride-share drivers provide their own vehicles. The Democrat Corriveau agreed with ultra-conservative Republican radio show host Rich Girard that the market should regulate Uber.

While Uber’s stance that its drivers are independent contactors isn’t questioned by Corriveau, it has been by some of the company’s drivers and by federal judges.

Independent Contractors or Employees?

In California, Uber drivers disenchanted with the company have sued the company on the grounds that they’re employees entitled to minimum wage, reimbursement for expenses and other benefits. Skeptical that Uber’s drivers are independent contractors, a federal judge in the 9th Circuit declared while adjudicating a lawsuit pitting Uber against its so-called “independent contractors” that they may, indeed, have to be treated as employees.

Uber’s contention that is is merely an app (software program), a view shared by Alderman Corriveau, has not been embraced by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen.

“The idea that Uber is simply a software platform,” Chen said, “ I don’t find that a very persuasive argument.”

It is important for the members of Manchester’s BOMA (aside from Corriveau) to note that Uber uses the “independent contractor” argument to deflect liability for accidents and corporate responsibility for discrimination practiced by its drivers.

When a national group representing the disabled attacked Uber over complaints that its drivers discriminated against the blind, the company dismissed the allegations on the grounds that it can’t control what its drivers do because they’re independent contractors. Uber rejected a request by the group to negotiate a solution to the problem of its drivers refusing to service the blind and, in one instance, mistreating a blind-person’s guide dog.

Taxi cab operators are forbidden by federal law from discriminating against the disabled, regardless of whether cabbies legally are considered independent contractors.

Background Checks

Uber has had problems with its background checks of drivers. Without a regulation requiring the use of a sophisticated background checking system, Uber and other ride-sharing companies can eschew more thorough (and thus more expensive) background checks in favor of cheaper, less thorough checks, such as those services that glean info from online government databases. The updating of those databases often is spotty.

Uber failed to perform background checks on at least one of its drivers in Chicago.

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar — two other ride-sharing companies in the Chicago market – use different background check services, raising the specter of “gaps” in the researching of the criminal backgrounds of potential ride-share drivers. Without a regulation on background checks mandating the scope of the coverage, no one can be sure how thorough or up-to-date the search is.

Background checks can be cursory and create a static picture in time, i.e., one that is not updated after the initial check. Taxi cab companies in California use “Live Scan”, a dynamic service that combs databases and updates information about new offenses, informing the cab company when a driver has incurred a violation.

Incidentally, Live Scan was NOT mandated by California’s state regulatory authority for Uber or other ride-sharing companies. Uber had launched an intense lobbying effort on the California Public Utilities Commission, and the lack of a mandate for Live Scan may be a result. The background checks for Uber drivers in California likely will be less stringent than that of cab drivers.

In response to problems with Uber and the other ride-sharing companies, Chicago regulators proposed the standardization of regulations on background checks and a mandate requiring the name and photo of drivers on ride-share company’s apps and web sites, akin to the “licenses” posted in taxis.

Safety and the Insurance Gap

The Uber app poses a safety issue, akin to the problem of texting by drivers. Uber drivers use a dashboard mounted app akin to a GPS that – along with the cutthroat nature of the taxi business – might distract them.

The app is always on and Uber drivers, competing against each other and traditional “hail” taxis, are constantly monitoring it in the fierce competition for fares. There is concern that the distraction of driver monitoring of the Uber app may cause accidents and that accidents that occur before or after a driver ferries a passenger will not be covered by insurance.

Compounding the problem is Uber’s use of a donut hole defense to deny responsibility for accidents that occur when the driver is not actually transporting a fare, most notably in the death of a San Francisco girl killed by one of its drivers. Unlike a traditional, regulated taxi company, Uber claims that its insurance only kicks in when the driver picks up a fare; while a driver is waiting for passengers, driving to a passenger, and after discharging a passenger, Uber claims it bearsd no liability for the actions of its drivers. In contrast, cabbies working for traditional taxi services are covered at all times.)

Uber’s insurance coverage paradigm has created a “gap” in coverage. This gap may provide a ride-share driver’s auto insurer with the grounds to deny coverage for those accidents Uber refuses to cover, as the insurer may consider them actually working for Uber at the time of the accident.

Because of the uniqueness of the ride-sharing model, insurance companies increasingly are refusing coverage to drivers.

To Regulate or Not to Regulate

That Uber drivers not ferrying a passenger, and thus not covered by Uber’s commercial general liability insurance, likely are distracted by the pressure of monitoring Uber’s app, raises questions over safety and an “insurance gap” that only regulators like Manchester’s BOMA can answer.

In response to these problems, Uber was classified as a a transportation company by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in September 2013 because it performs like a telephone dispatch taxi service. Creating a new category of livery service called “Transportation Network Company” (TNC) for Uber and its ride-sharing kin that provide online apps to book rides, the CPUC became the first state regulator to recognize ride-sharing as an official transportation service.

The new regs were akin to those governing the provision of limousine services. They covered background checks, drug testing, liability insurance and driver training.

In November 2014, the CPUC issued more stringent regulations on insurance coverage, tackling the issue of the gap in insurance coverage. The CPUC mandated that there were three “periods” in the provision of ride-sharing services: Period One, when the TNC’s app is open and the TNC driver is waiting for a fare, called a “match” of the driver and the passenger; Period Two, when the match has been accepted but the driver has not yet picked up the passenger; and Period Three, when the driver transports the passenger on a trip, from the time the client enters the vehicle and until they exit it.

For the first period, the regs mandate a minimum of coverage of $100,000 for one person and $300,000 for two or more people, plus $50,000 for property damage. For the second and third periods, a minimum of $1 million in primary commercial liability insurance coverage is required. The coverage can be provided by the TNC in whole or in partnership with the driver.

The CPUC regulations, which also cover such areas as licensing, vehicle inspection, and providing service at airports, provide a template for the BOMA for regulating TNCs in Manchester.

Jon’s article was originally published in the Examiner, we use it here in full with his permission.

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STOP THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP TREATY!

We will be posting as often as we can perspectives on the Fast Track Trans-Pacific Partnership, a treaty that will unite global corporations and twelve nations in a unified agreement on trade.  In summary, the aggreement, in the process of formation for many years now, will lock-on more favors to global manufacturers by providing mostly an easier ability to exploit labor markets in Indonesia and southern Asia.  There also exist loopholes around and restrictions to action involving labor rights, environmental concerns and even traditional tariffs to protect goods produced in countries such as the United States.  If you thought the trade with China over the last forty years or so has destroyed American manufacturing and business, just imagine that expanded even more.  Needless to say, labor leaders and groups worldwide are coming out against new global affront to the planet and to working people.

Our first analysis on this issue comes from the Socialist Worker.org:

A treaty to outlaw democracy

Australian socialist Michael Kandelaars explains what’s what we’re learning about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, in an article published at Red Flag.

Thousands protest in Tokyo against the Trans-Pacific PartnershipThousands protest in Tokyo against the Trans-Pacific Partnership

THE TRANS-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is set to be the largest economic treaty ever signed. It currently involves 12 countries, including Australia, that represent more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP.

Yet it is being negotiated in secret to ensure it is free of any public criticism or scrutiny–so secret that the text of the agreement will be released only four years after the deal has been signed.

How do we know what’s in the agreement? We know parts only because sections of the working documents have been leaked and published by whistleblower website Wikileaks. These leaks have exposed how the rich and powerful are conspiring to make tougher the lives of millions of people across the globe.

On 25 March Wikileaks released the Advanced Investment chapter of the TPP. It details a massive expansion of the rights of the rich and their corporations to rampage across the world.

The most controversial part is the establishment of an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arrangement. This will give “investors” the right to sue governments if they pass laws that impede profits.

A case would not be held in the country that is being sued, but in a special international court with no right of appeal. This not only grants exceptional legal rights to corporations but also erodes the basic right of countries to make their own laws.

An example of how this can be used involves the provincial government of Quebec in Canada. It is currently being sued for $250 million by U.S.-based Lone Pine Resources Inc. over the government’s ban of gas fracking. Lone Pine is not suing primarily for loss of income, but for the loss of future profits expected from fracking. This is being conducted through the ISDS clauses in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.

Another important case involves French multinational Veolia, which is suing the Egyptian government under a similar bilateral agreement for increasing the minimum wage. Egypt is also being sued by Indorama Corp. for the nationalization of a textile factory during the 2011 revolution.

To continue reading:  A Treaty to Outlaw Democracy

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April 19, 1974

Another example of the struggle for equal pay.

Today in Labor History

2013-06-10-EqualPayButtonA one-week national strike by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers begins over wage inequality. The Canada Post Office’s new postal mechanization system was staffed with female postal code machine operators paid $2.94/hour compared to male postal clerks making $3.69/hour. In the end, an arbitrator awarded female postal coders the same wages as male postal clerks.

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April 17, 1912

The sacrifices made in the cause of labor worldwide should never be forgotten.

Today in Labor History

After_Lena_MassacreThe military arrives to crush a strike by more than 6,000 gold miners – on strike over long hours, appalling working conditions, and starvation wages – along the Lena River in southeast Siberia, Russia. The entire strike committee was quickly arrested and when 2,500 workers marched to demand their release, soldiers opened fire on them, killing and wounding over 500 people. Anger over the mass murder fueled a subsequent wave of strikes across the country.

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Workers Demand Higher Wages and Walmart Punishes Active Workers

 

Strikers march outside a Wendy's restaurant in Boston

Strikers march outside a Wendy’s restaurant in Boston, for link to story click on image.

 

Across the country low-wage workers of all sectors went on strike demanding a raise to the minimum wage to $15/hour.  From Boston to Los Angelos and even globally, low-wage workers were making noise on tax day.

David Moberg an award-winning journalist for In These Times reports:

Fast Food Workers in 236 Cities Pull Off Largest Strikes Yet as Other Low-wage Workers Join Fight

(Milwaukee Teachers Education Association / Flickr)

A hand-lettered placard, reading “McDonald’s: Stop Fooling Around, $15 and a union,” caught the spirit of the crowd of at least 3,000 protestors in Chicago for a march to a McDonald’s restaurant in the downtown Loop area connected to the Chicago Board of Trade. In 236 cities in the U.S. and roughly 100 more around the world from Sao Paulo to New Zealand and from Glasgow to Tokyo, according to protest spokespeople, fast food and other low-wage workers joined together to pressure employers like McDonald’s to raise their workers’ pay.

Organizers claimed that it was the largest protest by low-wage workers in U.S. history. And it may very well rank as one of the broadest global worker protests ever undertaken against multinational corporations—one reinforced by recent investigations and lawsuits in Europe against the company for violations of labor, health, safety, tax and other laws.

With its intense public relations campaign, the campaign amplifies the actions of fast food workers—some of whom walk off their assigned shifts as in a traditional strike. For brand-sensitive consumer product companies, many organizers believe, such bad publicity can cost companies greatly—and potentially open up new organizing possibilities.

These protests have also changed the political climate, both locally and nationally. Seattle and Sea-Tac in Washington and San Francisco have raised their minimum to $15 an hour. The same change may be possible sometime soon in both Los Angeles and the District of Columbia. In Chicago, politically embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed under political pressure to raise the minimum to $13 over several years—far above what he would have contemplated a short while ago. The movement is likely to keep pressure over the coming year on Democratic candidates, even presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton, to advocate the higher pay levels.

For more click to In These Times: Fast Food Workers…
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But there’s always a push-back when one pushes the powerful and nowhere is that more evident than right here in good ole America.  A writer for Daily KOS connects the dots with the mysterious “plumbing issues” closings of Wal-Marts across the country.  It seems that possibly, its not really plumbing that Wal-Mart intends to fix, but more likely, the “problem” of workers standing up for themselves:

Walmart Temporarily Closes 5 Stores Citing Plumbing Problems

In a highly unusual move Monday, Walmart closed 5 stores, citing plumbing problems requiring a 6 month closure being needed for repairs to be made. The closures were made suddenly with as little as 5 hours notice to many of the employees of the pending closures and layoffs. This is a highly unusual move by Walmart when you look at the work being done in the stores through renovations and upgrading to Walmart SuperCenters where contractors and employees were forced to work through the projects without store closures. This raises suspicion that the reason for the store closures may be something other than what Walmart is claiming publicly.

The stores closing are located in the southern tier of the US coast to coast. The stores are located in:

Pico Rivera, CA. 530 employees, were told they will continue to receive regular pay, and benefits for 60 days, along with possibly being transferred to another store.

Midland, TX. 400 employees, were told they would be able to transfer to other stores or, get the compensation packages. With 60 days pay due to the short notice of closing and are eligible will receive a severance pay of one week of pay per year of service. Upon reopening current employees who did not stay with Wal-Mart will have to reapply.

Livingston, Tx. 400 employees, employees will receive two months pay, with some being eligible for severance pay, and also a position at another store which isn’t guaranteed.

Tulsa, OK. 400 employees, employees will receive two months pay, with some being eligible for severance pay 1 week per year worked, and also a position at another store which isn’t guaranteed.

Brandon, FL. 400-500 employees, who will be able to receive two months pay, severance pay depending on length of service, and possibly a transfer to another store.

It should be noted that the 60 days pay is required by law in the event of a closure without notice and not the benevolence of America’s Richest Family. All of the affected stores have had at least 100 plumbing issues documented in the last year claimed by Walmart as the reason for closing. Despite that claim several news reports claim to have contacted local building officials asking if permits have been applied for or, plans have been submitted and none were noted as of yet. Building officials also stated that no building code violations were noted at the locations. In addition no contractors or repair services have been visible at any of the locations closing. Liberty Tax Service who had kiosks in many of the stores were also suddenly told to vacate the building along with the employees on April 13th, just 2 days before the April 15th, IRS Tax Filing Deadline.

But there’s more! Read on at Daily KOS: Wal Mart Temporarily Closes Stores

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Remembering Karen Silkwood: A Modern Heroine for Workers, Gone but Never Forgotten

alewitz silkwood mural

Mural by Mike Alewitz, 1994, dedicated to Karen Silkwood’s memory.

 

Today, February 19th, 1946, Karen Silkwood was born.  If she had not been the victim of a still mysterious crash on November 13th, 1974, she’d be 68 years old today.

Ms. Silkwood was a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee Fuel Fabrication site in Oklahoma.  Silkwood was a member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union and was later elected to her local’s bargaining committee, being the first woman chosen to that position. (from wikipedia).

Silkwood’s life was cut short on the night of November 13th in an auto accident, the fault of which has never seen resolution.  Many facts point to the possibility that Kerr-McGee had a part in her death in order to silence the results of her building work about the safety violations of the Kerr-McGee plant.

Kerr-McGee finally settled with Silkwood’s family after her death regarding her high levels of plutonium in her blood from her work at the plant.  This only after a historically long court battle and finally an appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 1979 by the company that refused to pay or admit any wrong-doing in her death.  A settlement was finally reached with the family.

Silkwood’s life and legacy of fighting against corporate power should serve as inspiration for all future works.  Corporate power has increased in this country by leaps and bounds since Silkwood’s efforts to challenge the shady practices of Kerr-McGee that put worker’s lives in danger for the sake of profit.  The outright hostility and disregard for human life of corporate capitalism is repeated over and over again in the millions of stories and struggles of workers in this country and across the globe.

We can never assume for a minute that any corporation as the safety of the workers as their primary goal in operations; its not.  Their primary goal, as according to the requirement of capitalist competition, is to make a profit and expand operations.  The toll taken to workers on the front lines of producing a profit for companies is seen as an impediment, not a part of, the model of profit and production.

Let us never forget the sacrifice of Karen Silkwood and work always with her legacy as our inspiration.

For more about Karen Silkwood see the links below:

Wikipedia summary: Karen Silkwood
PBS Frontline special: Nuclear Reaction, The Karen Silkwood Story
A television mystery show telling her story: Karen Silkwood, A Life on the Line

h/t Linda Horan, a strong sister dedicated to worker justice in New Hampshire

 

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Dedication Speech for Mural of Karen Silkwood: Mike Alewitz, 1994

One of five portable murals/ 7′ x 10’/ 1994 by Mike Alewitz

 

History of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union/ Union Action 

by Mike Alewitz

One of five portable murals/ 7′ x 10’/ 1994

OCAW Reporter/ September-October, 1994

 On Monday, Aug. 29, 1994, muralist Mike Alewitz gave the following talk to the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union Convention, dedicating his mural on OCAW history to Karen Silkwood.

 

“THANK YOU, BROTHERS AND sisters. My purpose in being here today is to dedicate this mural, and before I do that, I want to say a few words about culture in the labor movement.

 In 1913, a young journalist by the name of John Reed visited Paterson, N.J. during the historic silk workers’ strike. He wrote an article for a magazine, and said: “There’s a war going on in Paterson, but it’s a strange war. The violence all comes from one side and it’s directed against the workers.”

 John Reed, who was very young at the time, went to the workers. He learned of their struggle. He learned of the years that the workers in Paterson had spent overcoming the craft divisions within their industry. He learned of the years they’d spent overcoming the gender divisions, because there were a lot of women working in the silk mills — and overcoming the national divisions of many nationalities working together that couldn’t even speak the same language.

 He learned about how these workers had forged solidarity, and a unity, that enabled them to shut down Paterson, N.J., to shut down the silk industry there in a great struggle against speed-up and for basic human dignity.

 In the midst of that historic struggle, Reed went to his artist friends in Greenwich Village, enlisted them in the struggle, and together with the workers, they organized a great pageant, which was a popular art form at the time.

The workers marched from Paterson to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. They rigged up lights over Madison Square Garden that spelled out “IWW” for the Industrial Workers of the World.

 Audience became performers

 The workers marched in off the street and onto the stage where they re-enacted the different episodes of their historic strike, and the actual strike leaders, people like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and “Big Bill” Haywood, gave speeches they had actually given during the course of the strike. The workers led the audience in the singing of their strike songs.

 The audience became the performers; the performers became the audience. It was the greatest pageant that had ever taken place in U.S. history. It pretty much destroyed pageantry as an elitist art form from that time on, because it told the stories of the workers.

 John Reed understood that the real drama that was going on in society — the real drama in the world — was taking place in the streets of Paterson, not on the stages of fancy clubs in Manhattan. In 1913, the real story was what was taking place in Ludlow (Colorado), and in Paterson, and that has not changed to this day. It is still working class issues that provide the real drama for what is going on in society.

What could possibly be more dramatic than the plight of millions of immigrant workers driven into this country in search for economic betterment or political freedom? What could possibly be more dramatic than the Caterpillar strike going on in Illinois?

 Genuine drama

What could be more dramatic than when oil workers shut down a country, as they have done in Nigeria, and lead a general strike that challenges the very foundations of power in an important African nation? That’s genuine drama, not what we’re fed on TV. It would be a good special to have — oil workers in a Nigerian strike on an HBO special.

Just as the workers in Nigeria realize that they produce the wealth (workers in this country are beginning to realize it too), they also produce ideas of culture. The Wobblies, as IWW members called themselves, understood that very well. Their cultural work was inseparable from their political activity of organizing. So they wrote song parodies, they cartooned. Before they went to jail, they would each learn different poems so they could recite them to each other while they were in jail.

Any living labor movement immediately turns to art and culture to inspire its members and those it wishes to win over. That has always been the tradition of the American labor movement. It was a tradition of the sit-down strikers who organized orchestras to serenade their members when they were inside the plant, and then transformed them into brass bands to march around cities when they had won their strikes. These same workers conducted theatre and wrote poetry.

That’s what our little project — the Labor Art Mural Project (LAMP) — is trying to do. We’re attempting to resurrect these traditions. It comes from our experience painting murals with P-9 strikers who waged a bitter strike against the Hormel Meatpacking Co., and with Pittston miners, painting on their walls and writing songs in the struggle against the mine owners.

Relearning some traditions

Cultural work is one of the traditions that has to be relearned, just like many of the other traditions in the labor movement that have gotten somewhat rusty:

  • Like the tradition of extending solidarity, wherever it may be, including across borders;
  • Like the tradition of ignoring illegal back-to-work injunctions handed down by judges in the pockets of employers (there are no legal injunctions — slavery has been outlawed in the United States);
  • Like the tradition of not voting for employers’ political candidates, or the tradition of organizing the unorganized that you’ve been addressing at this convention.

In 1994, just as in 1913, there’s a one-sided war going on, and if these traditions are not put back into practice, and if they’re not relearned, then, as President Wages pointed out this morning, the labor movement will perish.

It’s been a privilege for me to sit here listening to some of your initial plans. I believe OCAW is attempting to ensure that the labor movement does not die, and in doing that, you’ve taken on a responsibility that goes beyond your own members and speaks to the hearts and minds of all workers — workers in other unions, workers who are unorganized, and workers who are just arriving in this country.

I believe this is most clearly expressed in your promotion of Labor Party Advocates, in the idea that workers are entitled to an independent voice in politics, just as they are entitled to an independent voice in culture. So here, I must put on my LPA cap on top of my artist’s beret and take this opportunity to thank Tony Mazzocchi, who, I believe, has earned a special place in the labor movement. It is not an accident that the clearest voice over the past years in advocating the formation of a labor party is also in the forefront of promoting cultural activities for the labor movement.

The next project of LAMP will be a mural project with mushroom pickers in Eastern Pennsylvania. These workers have self-organized themselves into a union much as CIO workers did decades ago, much as drywall strikers recently did in Southern California.

These workers, mostly Mexican immigrant workers, have organized themselves into a union and are attempting to bring themselves into the AFL-CIO. If the labor movement does not embrace these kinds of workers and bring them into the AFL-CIO and into organized labor, someone else will get them.

And with that in mind, and with the tasks’ that you have outlined in mind, it’s a privilege and honor to dedicate this mural to Karen Silkwood.

A great heroine

Karen Silkwood was a great heroine. Not because she was murdered – the atomic industry has murdered many people. It’s not an industry known for it’s respect of the sanctity of life. This is an industry that conducted tests on retarded children, that gave them irradiated milk and told them they were members of a science club. They’ve murdered many.

It wasn’t dying that made Karen Silkwood great, it was how she lived that made her important for us and for the rest of labor. She made a conscious decision to place the interests of humanity and of her fellow workers above the interests of her job, and as some of your officers have pointed out at this convention, that is something that the workers alone can decide to do. No politician, no union official can change the world today; only workers can do that. That was expressed, I thought, very well by all of the artists in the presentation this morning.

So I dedicate this mural to Karen Silkwood because she showed us how to live and how to extend solidarity in real life by building her union.

They can’t kill our movement’

I present this mural to you, the elected delegates of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, who represent the great rank and file of this union and those who, in the future, you will organize into its ranks.

The bosses killed Karen Silkwood, but they can’t kill the union, they can’t kill our movement. Karen Silkwood will rise again. Others will fill her shoes, new battles will unfold, labor will march forward.

Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of that process, to say these few words, and good luck on your convention. ■

Mike Alewitz directs the Labor Art and Mural Project (LAMP) at Rutgers Labor Education Center where he is Artist-in-Residence for the New Jersey Industrial Union Council. He is a well-known artist painting in the magic-realist tradition, and has organized and executed projects for the United Mine Workers, United Auto Workers and many other unions.”

10  OCAW Reporter

September-October, 1994

Click Here for the History of the OCAW Mural

For more of Mike Alewitz’s work: check out his homepage, alewitz.com

House Hears Testimony Against Right to Work (Part Deux)

More testimony against HB 402 thanks to NH Labor News again, from Dexter Arnold, a worker and union member in New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee is having the hearings and will vote on whether or not to recommend this bill as either “ought to pass” or “inexpedient to legislate” .  Then it will go to the house for a full vote.  Many reps follow the recommendation of the committees.

There is still time to make legislators think twice about passing this horrible legislation, please call or email the members of the committee listed above.

Right To Work Is Just Bad Public Policy

Dexter Arnold

I live in Nashua. I am a member of UAW Local 1981, and I strongly oppose HB 402. HB402 is bad public policy that flunks a truth in advertising test. This bill is not about individual rights, which are already well protected. This bill’s sole purpose is to weaken New Hampshire workers’ ability to have a say over their jobs and working conditions. It is improper state interference with the collective bargaining process.

More than ninety years ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former President and conservative Republican, who was no friend of unions, stated that “a single employee was helpless in dealing with an employer.” That’s the key issue at stake in this bill. By requiring a state-mandated open shop, HB 402 targets the core of what unionism is all about – that together, workers are able to do accomplish things that they can’t do as individuals

I want to talk briefly from personal and family experience. My father and grandfather were New Hampshire natives. They were lifelong Republicans. And they were local union presidents. Their union responsibilities were in addition to their fulltime jobs as a printer and a machinist. They understood that unions are a way that workers can accomplish together what they cannot do as individuals. That’s why they got together with others to organize their local unions in Nashua. They believed in personal responsibility and did not confuse individual liberty with demanding a free ride on someone else’s back. They certainly would have felt that it was inappropriate to make free rides state policy.

I also want to make a point based on my own experience as vice president and grievance chair in a union that did not have a fair-share agreement. When they had problems, non-members who were paying nothing for representation had no problem coming to the union and drawing on its resources for help. As a grievance representative, I handled and won several such cases.

To read the rest of his testimony, refer to: Dexter Arnold (UAW) Testimony HB 402: Right To Work Is Just Bad Public Policy

 

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Fairpoint Workers Continue to Strike Despite NLRB Decision to not Charge Fairpoint

   From NH Labor News 

In response to the Region 1 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision to dismiss unfair labor practice charges the unions filed against FairPoint, union leaders issued the following statements:

“While disappointing, the NLRB’s decision is not surprising,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of the unions’ bargaining committee and Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327. “Unfortunately, US labor law favors corporations like FairPoint, not working people. The NLRB is one tool in our toolbox—the NLRB does not decide what’s best for our workers and our communities. We remain united and committed in our fight for fairness at FairPoint.”

Fairpoint workers rally in Concord, NH on December 22nd.

“Our decision to strike on October 17th was not based on the NLRB and today’s announcement does not change our commitment to our jobs, our communities, and each other,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “The pressure on FairPoint is mounting and their contingency plan is failing. We know it, they know it, their shareholders know it, and our customers know it. We remain committed to our struggle for fair treatment from FairPoint and good service for our communities and our customers in New England.”

Union leaders also announced they will appeal the Regional Director’s decision to the General Counsel of the NLRB in Washington, DC.

Since approximately 1,800 workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont went on strike on October 17th, the three states have seen a “dramatic spike” in the number of complaints against FairPoint.

Last week, New Hampshire officials declined to approve a $13 million contract with FairPoint for phone and internet services, citing concerns with the “poor service levels” customers are currently experiencing.

The negotiations for a new contract at FairPoint began in April, and from the outset FairPoint pressed to increase outsourcing, cut pay for new workers, and slash benefits for all employees.

In August, FairPoint abruptly ended negotiations and imposed its package of aggressive cuts. The workers spent nearly two more months trying to find common ground with FairPoint, but the company refused to negotiate and union workers launched their strike on October 17th.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

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December 23, 2008

We were out during last Christmas week but this was in our inbox, better late than never, especially considering that the struggle of retail workers all across the country for fair wages and even compliance with existing labor law continues daily.

Today in Labor History

Schuhrke_Compton_Back_Pay_Walmart_WarehouseA class action lawsuit brought by 63 workers against Walmart is settled when the company agrees to pay plaintiffs between $352 million and $640 million for unpaid overtime and failing to allow workers to take breaks. Walmart said in a press release that the claims made “are not representative of the company we are today.” However, the company continues to actively engage in wage theft.

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