Obama walks longest-running picket line

U.S. senator and presidential contender Barack Obama took to the picket line today in support of a long-running strike in Chicago and promised to deliver on one of big labor's biggest legislative goals. Obama joined a picket line at a downtown hotel where a local union's been on strike for more than four years. "The Congress Hotel has been a holdout," Obama said. "Four years ago, I marched. I'm marching today. I'll march four years from now."

Efrain Cortina was among about 30 original strikers who turned out Monday. He brought his 14-year old daughter, Yadira. His wages are about half what they were before the strike.

Obama promised the workers that, as president, he would try to rewrite labor law to make it easier for unions to organize new workers and make it harder for employers to break a strike.

"The strike has not crippled the business," said Peter Andjelkovich, attorney for the Congress Hotel. "And when a union walks out, those temporary jobs for people to come to work and they line up outside to get those jobs."

While some union members have complained that Mayor Daley should do more to force the hotel's owners to put the strikers back to work, he said today that he's done everything legally permissible.

"We cannot violate the law," Daley said. "You cannot violate federal or state law just because you don’t like the owner."

The hotel's attorney said that it passed city code inspections with flying colors.

Obama said no election should be needed for a union to represent workers. It should simply need to get a majority of signatures from workers.


Port clerks make final offer as strike looms

Negotiators for a clerical union at the Long Beach-Los Angeles ports have submitted a revised contract proposal to employers in an effort to avert a possible shut-down at the facility. The proposal comes after both sides in the labor dispute agreed to continue negotiating past this morning's 12:01 deadline set by the union. Local 63 union boss John Fageaux Junior says union members anticipate an agreement. He says they've done just about all they can to make a deal.

Fageaux declined to provide specifics of the union's latest proposal. He says the main sticking points in reaching an agreement have been job security and a package proposed by employers that would limit health plan choices for new hires and temporary employees. It could take hours for the employers to review the offer and craft a response.


Roving Teamster pickets shut port for 3 hours

Locked-out Teamsters garbage drivers and International Longshore and Warehouse Union members who honored their picket line shut down the Maersk SeaLand Terminal at the Port of Oakland for several hours today, according to Port spokesman Robert Bernardo. But Bernardo said ILWU members returned to work at 11 a.m. and operations at the Maersk SeaLand terminal and the rest of the Port are back to normal.

Bernardo said there weren't any vessels at the Maersk SeaLand terminal today, so vessel operations weren't affected by the picketing.

Waste Management of Alameda County locked out more than 500 employees who belong to Teamsters Local 70 and two other unions on July 2 after four months of contract talks were unproductive.

Bernardo said that early this morning some locked-out Teamsters members followed a garbage truck driven by replacement workers inside Maersk SeaLand's gate.

He said Teamsters members later set up a picket line and ILWU members honored it for about three hours before returning to work.

In the East Bay, Waste Management serves Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Hayward, Newark, Livermore, the Castro Valley Sanitary District, Oro Loma Sanitary District in parts of San Leandro and San Lorenzo, San Ramon and unincorporated Alameda County.

At 2:30 p.m. today, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller will hold a hearing on a lawsuit filed by the city of Oakland against Waste Management, which seeks to compel the company to collect garbage that has piled up since the lockout began.


Strikers having a little fun

A Royal Mail strike steward lightens up the picket line in Manchester.
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