Tenn. Teamsters spying probe continues to spread

At least two current or former law enforcement officers probably will face charges in the growing scandal involving hidden cameras at a Wilson County youth camp, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations officials said Wednesday. According to the arrest warrant for former Metro police Lt. Calvin Hullett, two unidentified individuals accompanied him to install a secret video device and other recording equipment at the Andrew Jackson Police Youth Camp on Old Hickory Lake, just across the Davidson County line. The Fraternal Order of Police runs the camp.

Hullett has been on a police disability pension since 2006 and works as a national organizer for the Teamsters union, which last year wrested away the right to be the bargaining agent for Metro's police officers from the FOP.

The two unions have feuded since then, and FOP supporters are circulating a petition in an attempt to retake control of union duties.

"The safe assumption, since this occurred during the decertification drive, is that it was to somehow discredit the FOP," said Brock Parks, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police. "Otherwise, the timing would be too coincidental."

Teamsters attorney Jack Byrd refused to comment.

TBI monitored phone

Before affiliating with the Teamsters, Hullett was the president of the FOP. According to a police affidavit, he admitted to putting up the video devices during a telephone conversation that the TBI was listening in on.

Hullett's lawyer, Alan Poindexter, said it would be "disingenuous" to say that animosity between the two groups didn't play a role in Hullett's actions, "but as far as that being the motive, I don't think so."

Poindexter said Hullett suspected that officers working at the camp had been drinking beer in front of children. Metro police investigated the tip and found no evidence of that.

Scope of probe grows

While a member of the FOP, Hullett ran the camp for "several years" and it remains "near and dear to his heart," Poindexter said.

Hullett allegedly set up the recording devices in early June. He was arrested earlier this month on an aggravated burglary charge, and since then the scope of the investigation has broadened to include the Teamsters union. Search warrants were served at Hullett's home and at the Teamsters' local office.

During a search of Hullett's house, investigators found the names of several people who either knew who was with Hullett or knew he was going to put up the cameras, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

State investigators were still looking for "at least two" of those people, who probably will face criminal charges, she said. She said they were "current or former" officers, but she would not name the agency they work for.

Two Shelby County Sheriff's officers have been suspended with pay in connection with the probe. Both have been interviewed by the TBI in connection with the Wilson County investigation, sheriff's department spokes-man Steve Shular said. Neither has been charged criminally.

One of the officers is vice president of the Shelby County Deputy Sheriffs Association, which is working toward an affiliation with the Teamsters, Shular said.


Carpenters Union nabbed in nationwide outsourcing

The picketers marching in a circle in front of a downtown Washington, D.C. office building chanting about low wages do not seem fully focused on their message. Many have arrived with large suitcases or bags holding their belongings, which they keep in sight. Several are smoking cigarettes. One works a crossword puzzle. Another bangs a tambourine, while several drum on large white buckets. Some of the men walking the line call out to passing women, "Hey, baby." A few picketers gyrate and dance while chanting: "What do we want? Fair wages. When do we want them? Now."

Although their placards identify the picketers as being with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, they are not union members. They're hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs.

"It's about the cash," said Tina Shaw, 44, who lives in a House of Ruth women's shelter and has walked the line at various sites. "We're against low wages, but I'm here for the cash."

Carpenters locals across the country are outsourcing their picket lines, hiring the homeless, students, retirees and day laborers to get their message across. Larry Hujo, a spokesman for the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters, calls it a "shift in the paradigm" of picketing.

Political groups also are tapping into local homeless shelters for temps.

One resident of the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter earns $30 a day holding a sign outside a Metro stop protesting nuclear war. In 2004, residents of at least 10 shelters were paid to collect signatures on petitions in favor of legalized gambling. Residents call this type of work "lobbying."

The carpenters union is one of the most active picketers in the District, routinely staging as many as eight picket lines a day at buildings where construction or renovation work is being done without union labor.

Supporters of the practice consider it a creative tactic in an era of declining union membership and clout. But critics say the reliance on nonunion members -- who are paid $1 above minimum wage and receive no benefits -- diminishes the impact and undercuts a principle established over decades of union struggles.

"If I was a member of the general public, and I asked someone picketing why they were there, and they said they don't work for the union and they were just hired to stand there, that wouldn't create a very positive impression on me, nor would it create a very sympathetic position," said Wayne Ranick, spokesman for the United Steelworkers of America.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the Mid-Atlantic local's parent, is one of seven unions in Change to Win, a group formed in 2005 after a split from the AFL-CIO. One reason the carpenters union left was because it favored more aggressive organizing.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters is the only union that routinely hires homeless people for its picket lines, union leaders and labor scholars say. It targets locations where work such as carpentry and drywall and floor installation is done without union labor. In a June newsletter on the union's Web site, the union's president and chief executive, Bill Halbert, referred to the pickets as "area standards campaigns."

Halbert did not respond to phone calls and messages left at the union's office in Forestville. George Eisner, the local's lead organizer in Baltimore, did not keep an appointment for a scheduled phone interview and did not answer several messages.

Hujo said the Indiana-Kentucky council has been hiring homeless people, retirees and college students as picketers for about two years.

Carpenters unions in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, San Diego and Columbus, Ohio, also hire picketers, including the homeless, largely because the union members are busy working and aren't able to leave job sites, he said.

"People say it's not normal," Hujo said. "But this is a quality-of-life issue. This is not a union versus nonunion issue."

Other unions have not embraced the idea of hired feet, but few openly criticize the carpenters.

Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO, differentiated between picketers calling for a boycott or a strike and picket lines such as the ones the carpenters have. "It's an informational picket, so it's a legitimate tool," he said.

John Boardman, executive secretary treasurer of UNITE HERE local 25 in Washington, said the issue of who the picketers are is less important than why they're there. "Let's focus on the message -- that there are people in this building that are working for substandard wages and benefits," he said.

In Washington, the carpenters union targets a different building almost daily.

At the protest site, union organizers ask for identification and a Social Security card from those who want to picket. The picketers are divided into groups of about 30, and some are sent on to other sites. They are often accompanied by an eight-foot-tall inflatable rat brought in by pickup.

On a recent Thursday morning, one group was sent to 1100 13th St. NW, another group to the corner of 21st and M streets. Typically, two or three union members are on hand to oversee each group. Armed with clipboards, they check off the names of picketers when they arrive and leave to ensure that they work their full two to four hours.

One day, a group picketed from 9 to 11 a.m. in the 600 block of Indiana Avenue NW. After an hour lunch break, the picketers headed to the 900 block of Capitol Street NW from noon to 2 p.m.

Their placards have the name of the targeted firm taped at the top; when the picketers move on to another company, the name is changed.

Capitol Drywall was the name on one placard two weeks ago. The carpenters' picketers were outside an office building on New Hampshire Avenue NW, where the company's employees were erecting drywall.

Mark Sokoloff, Capitol's vice president of operations, said his company is not unionized but offers its employees fair and competitive wages, as well as benefits.

"It's something that we would like to see disappear and go away," he said of the picket lines that appear frequently at job sites. "But if it won't, it's something that we will deal with."

The picketers get mixed reactions from passersby. Some drivers honk to show support. But many who work in nearby buildings and must listen to the picketers' chants for several hours are irritated.

Several picketers said they have had water thrown on them from upper floors in office buildings. That only encourages picketers to get louder, said one picketer who asked that his name not be published.

D.C. police Cmdr. Patrick Burke, who oversees the homeland security and special operations division, said the picketers have never broken any laws. If police receive noise complaints, officers will ask them to quiet down, he said, and they always comply.

"They have a First Amendment right to engage in free speech and assembly," he said. "We don't want to discourage people from doing so. But they just have to do so within reason."

Some activists for the homeless are unhappy with the practice of paid picketing. They say it amounts to using people down on their luck rather than giving them a hand up. Ingrid Reed, who coordinates job placement and housing at the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter, said the money the unions pay picketers would be better spent on training or apprentice programs that teach skills.

"These jobs won't pay the rent," Reed said. "If they're out there every day Monday through Friday, when are they looking for a job?"

Reed said many residents of the shelter are hired to demonstrate at corners throughout the city.

"On any given day, if you have 20 protesters out there somewhere, 15 of them live here," she said.

Several picketers said they see the time spent on the line as one of the few legal ways they are able to earn money.

William R. Strange, 41, said he started working as a for-hire picket two years ago when he lived in a homeless shelter on New York Avenue. He is now paid $12 an hour because he plays the buckets during the demonstrations.

A few months ago, after a day's picketing across from the National Geographic Society at 17th and M streets NW, Strange went inside and filled out a job application. He now loads trucks for National Geographic's warehouse at night. He still pickets during the day.

Strange also recently moved into his own one-bedroom apartment near the Brookland Metro station.

"Every day I turn that key to my apartment, I feel great. I owe that to the picketing," he said. "And it keeps me out of trouble."


Teamsters ruled out in Indiana, vow to persist

The Teamsters won't represent bus drivers and aides employed by the Richmond Community Schools. On Wednesday, the corporation's board of school trustees voted unanimously against a request by a bus committee to be represented by the union. "Outside representation to us seems to be ... the establishment of one more layer of bureaucracy which we see as a problem in effective communication," said Richmond Community Schools Superintendent Allen Bourff. "We're attempting to get to the most effective one-on-one communication that we can. Adding another layer seems counterproductive to the effort of addressing their concerns and communications."

With the help of Teamsters Agent Jerry Hayden, a majority of the corporation's drivers and aides have addressed the board verbally to have the union be their representative. School officials filed away their complaints until they received a written request, which came last week.

The board's vote was somewhat of a formality in light of remarks made by Bourff at previous meetings that he had no interest in recognizing a union. Indiana law also doesn't require school boards to recognize unions except for teachers.

"All he did was make it look like it was about money," Hayden said to transportation employees outside of the corporation's administrative offices following the vote. "It's not about money. It's about representation. If the committee got the respect they should get to handle issues, then you guys wouldn't even call the Teamsters."

While talk of unions intensified in recent months, the issue has been discussed since 2004. In those three years, bus employees' wages have increased 19 percent.

"Union talks have always fell through," said Vicki Meek, a bus driver and member of the bus committee. "We're not going away this time."

In a meeting on July 10 between transportation workers and school officials, Bourff said, employees complained about five items. They are:

# Route assignments

# Communication

# Complaint procedures

# Cost of health insurance

# Representation of drivers

Bourff hopes at least the first three will be addressed by the hiring of a new transportation coordinator. Johnny McFarland, a former RCS technician, rejoined the corporation on Wednesday. He replaces Kelly Helms, who is taking a job as the secretary of the bus garage.

McFarland's duties include supervising and assisting the corporation's implementation of a new emergency notification system that sends out messages to the corporation's employees, students and parents via cell phone or e-mail.

Other issues, including the cost of health insurance, are a work in progress. An insurance company is busy creating an alternative insurance plan that could be made available to bus employees, said Bourff.

Some board members reacted to the union issue.

"First of all, all of our employees are important," said David Stidham. But the employees' grievances, Stidham said about the employees' benefits, don't add up.

In addition to insurance, employees receive six paid vacation days, seven sick days and two personal days. Employees' benefits and salaries are also above the state and national average, school officials said.

"This seems extremely lucrative to me," Stidham said.


UFCW takes dues hit as idled plant closes

A lot of people were expecting it, but the general reaction was that of shock when news circulated on Wednesday that the Barry Group will no longer process fish at its Port aux Basques plant. Among those feeling the blow is SeaFreez plant manager Dave Feltham. He wasn’t surprised with the company decision based on the recent history of low production at the plant. But that didn’t make his week any easier knowing that the 105 people on the plant’s seniority list will not work another shift.

Not everyone on the list worked regularly at the plant. In fact, only four people worked enough hours at the plant alone last year to qualify for Employment Insurance. But, an estimated 60 to 70 people relied on the plant for hours of work to help qualify for EI benefits.

Mr. Feltham said, “I’ve been expecting it because I see the bottom line everyday.”

The decision to cease production as of Friday was made due to lack of resource.

In addition to ceasing production, the cold storage unit will also will be cleaned out and shut down.

“We will still be open to buy fish and move it out (to Corner Brook) if that’s possible. But there will be no processing. There’s not enough to process to make it even close to worthwhile.

“We have tried a number of different things to make this place work and I guess we came to the end of our rope.

“We got big overheads, big expenses and no fish,” explained Mr. Feltham.

Mr. Feltham was quick to answer “no” when asked if the Barry Group’s decision to purchase the plant in Harbour Breton contributed to its decision to cease production in Port aux Basques.

“The raw materials are just not there and it’s becoming more and more difficult to go out and buy fish to keep your plants going,” said Mr. Feltham.

Left at the plant will be Mr. Feltham who will take on other duties for the company based out of Port aux Basques, the production manager and the quality control/maintenance person.

“That is for the time being,” said Mr. Feltham, who started work at the plant in 1972. “After next month, who knows? The three of us could be gone. Neither one of us is untouchable. We work for a company, and when there is no more use for you, there’s no more use for you.”

Mr. Feltham hopes to continue to buy fish from the fish harvesters who deal with him.

“If the fishermen still want to sell to me, and I can get it out over the road, I will still take care of my fishermen, yes.

“I will try to hold on to my fishermen. If I can’t, I can’t. It’s their prerogative where they want to go. That’s entirely up to them. But I will try to give them the same service I have always given them,” he said.

Freezing bait for fishers is one benefit that Mr. Feltham provided. He plans to continue doing so in the bait depot on Wharf Road now that his cold storage unit is shut down. And, he plans to truck ice in from Corner Brook for his fishers.

To date there is no plans to move equipment out of the plant yet.

Mr. Feltham said his management team wasn’t “overly surprised” but there was an element of shock when they were told production would shut down.

“I suppose even when you’re expecting something it comes as a shock when it actually happens. Because while it don’t happen, you’re hoping something else will come up,” he said.

SeaFreez is not the only plant the Barry Group intends to close. Mr. Feltham wouldn’t say what other plants will be affected, but that the company is going through a consolidation process and there are other plants slated to go.

A new piece was built on to the SeaFreez plant five years ago to help process pelagics. Last year an icehouse was added. These were positive signs to the community.

“Pelagics is a nice boost if you have enough ground fish. Last year, I put an icehouse on because we had intentions of making this place work. We got the infrastructure in place, but no resource to do it with,” said Mr. Feltham.

The Barry Group purchased the plant in Port aux Basques in 1991 with 350 people on the seniority list, one year before the cod moratorium. After the 1992 moratorium, the plant remained a viable operation due to frozen-at-sea perch. Mr. Feltham said some people forget those days when his boss, Bill Barry, tried new things to keep the plant doors open.

“We were the only plant on the island working eight months of the year. We struggled at it, but we made it work.

“I thought we would be one of the ones that would be able to hold in there, and we did for a long time.”

In the end, a lack of resource along with other factors prompted the decision to stop operating.

“When you look at it, it’s a combination of things, it’s the Chinese, the Canadian dollar, lack of fish, lack of quotas, you put it all together and there’s nothing there,” said Mr. Feltham.

Another Burgeo

Duane Lawrence, local representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union that represents workers at SeaFreez Foods, said his workplace is a first class facility and the union is hoping someone else will be found to operate in it.

Otherwise, he said, “It’ll be another Burgeo.”

Mr. Lawrence agrees with Mr. Feltham that there isn’t enough resource, but he disagrees with the statement that the Harbour Breton fish plant acquisition by the Barry Group had nothing to do with the demise of the local plant.

“We’ve been saying all along, when the provincial government allowed them (Barry Group) to buy the Harbour Breton plant, it was a nail in our coffin,” said Mr. Lawrence.

Mr. Lawrence said SeaFreez Foods worked only one four-hour shift on red fish last winter and 36 hours last week since the Harbour Breton plant re-opened in December 2006.

Veronica Roberts, shop steward, said the union is discouraging fishers from selling their catches to the Barry Group and encouraging them to sell to another local plant so the processing work can stay in the area.

She said a lot of workers are upset with the decision to cease production at SeaFreez and the members plan to stop fish from begin trucked out of the area for processing.

“Our workforce is aged. Some are in their 60s. They grew up in the fish plant and that’s all they know. What will they do now at their ages?

“We have some workers who are couples where a man and his wife work at the plant. There are some single people too who support themselves. As for me, I’m the sole breadwinner in my household,” said Mrs. Roberts.

Mr. Lawrence said the union has been asking for a meeting with Mr. Barry over the last number of months to discuss the future of the plant, but their request wasn’t met.

“After all the energy that the workers have put into this plant, he should have responded to some of the requests for a meeting,” said Mr. Lawrence.

The union membership met on Friday. Mrs. Roberts said they would talk about a forming a protest. The results of that meeting were unknown as of deadline.


Calif. SEIU to protest discipline of city loafers

Three Bakersfield, CA Recreation and Parks workers have been fired, four given written reprimands and six more could lose their jobs after an investigation into their use of time, city Human Resources Manager Javier Lozano said Wednesday. The investigation focused on employees taking long breaks and where they were driving city trucks. The inquiry began when a supervisor noticed that data from the GPS receivers in the trucks was suspicious, Lozano said. It kept growing, he said, as more employees were interviewed and named more names.

All the employees involved are department maintenance workers, Lozano said. The three fired were in their six-month probationary period. The other six are entitled to a disciplinary hearing before Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover. They can also appeal to the city's Civil Service Board. City officials refused to name the disciplined employees.

Chuck Waide, the union boss of SEIU Local 521 that represents the workers, said he is looking into the matter. "We're still gathering information at this point. There are some questions that we have," he said. He said there have been suggestions that the employees were acting the way the rest of the department acted, and that they thought supervisors had no objections.

"It's highly unusual to have this kind of action with this many people involved," Waide said.


Caterpillar sues UAW over healthcare

Caterpillar Inc. filed lawsuits Wednesday to make the United Auto Workers pay if courts rule that the heavy equipment maker reneged on a promise to provide free health care for life to retirees and surviving spouses. Peoria-based Caterpillar argues that the union negotiated and approved contracts that scaled back health care coverage, but is now backing two class-action lawsuits seeking lifetime coverage for thousands of retirees and surviving spouses.

"How can the union sponsor lawsuits that fight the very terms that the union proposed, negotiated and ratified during collective bargaining? That's the question," Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn said. A UAW spokesman declined to comment Wednesday, saying union officials have not yet received copies of the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville against the UAW and seven of its locals in Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

UAW spokesman Roger Kerson also declined to comment on Caterpillar's allegations that the union encouraged and supported the lawsuits over health care, which were filed by Caterpillar retirees and surviving spouses -- not the UAW.

"We are disappointed that instead of abiding by its agreements, the UAW would actively encourage and sponsor the retirees' litigation," said Dan Day, Caterpillar's corporate human resources manager.

Tens of millions of dollars could be at stake if courts side with the retirees and surviving spouses, said Peter Feuille, head of the University of Illinois' Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations.

Caterpillar officials said Wednesday that they expect courts will back the company, but say the UAW should cover costs of a settlement if they don't.

"This is not by any means against retirees or employees. We just think the union should be accountable to what we agreed to in the contract," Day said.

One of the class-action lawsuits seeks free lifetime coverage for workers who retired between March 1998 and January 1992, when Caterpillar and the UAW were locked in a bitter, strike-marred contract stalemate.

The suit argues those workers are entitled to terms of a previous contract that provided free lifetime coverage for all eligible retirees and their dependents. Caterpillar maintains those workers are covered under a contract implemented by the company in 1992 that scaled back health care benefits. The case is scheduled for trial in October 2008.

The second lawsuit seeks free coverage for surviving spouses of Caterpillar employees who retired between March 1998 and January 2005.

Those dates cover a contract between Caterpillar and the union that provided free lifetime health coverage for surviving spouses upon the employees' deaths, according to the suit. Caterpillar maintains the contract implemented in 1992 and subsequent contracts scaled back those benefits. That case is scheduled for trial in June 2008.


Gov't union strike spreads to libraries

Vancouver, B.C.'s public libraries are behind picket lines Thursday morning, meaning all library services, including the virtual library, are shut down. "We're asking people to hold on to their books, to keep them at home until the libraries reopen. There will be no late fees charged for the duration of any strike or job action," said Jean Kavanagh, speaking for the library management. Kavanagh said late fees will not be charged during the strike and she is asking people to keep their books at home until the libraries reopen. The librarians' union CUPE Local 391 gave notice to management Wednesday evening.


Despite port strike threat, no picket lines

Dockside work in the nation's largest seaport was operating as normal late Wednesday despite reports that clerical workers were preparing to walk off the job in a labor dispute with shippers. Earlier in the day, negotiators for both workers and employers said labor talks had reached an impasse, with union leaders hinting a strike was imminent. Despite the threat, no picket lines materialized. Spokesmen for the union and employers did not return phone calls.

More than 900 front-office clerks represented by Local 63 Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU-OCU) have been working without a contract since July 1.

The groups began bargaining for a new contract in May, and workers authorized their leaders to call a strike on June 30, but have continued negotiations since that time.

Early Wednesday, John Fageaux Jr., president of the Local 63 Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said workers were ready to strike.

"Talks are over ... we've gone as far as we could go and done everything we could do," Fageaux said in comments to KNX-AM (1070) radio.

"The next step is we're going to get together
with our group and determine when and where pickets signs are going to go up."

Employers, represented at the bargaining table by attorney Steve Berry, said they offered the union a fair wage and benefit package, but couldn't give any more.

"We are at an impasse," Berry told KNX.

More than 7,000 ILWU longshoremen who work in Long Beach and Los Angeles have agreed to honor picket lines put up by clerical workers - a move that would shut down the port complex. Other workers, including more than 650 machinists who work on the docks, have also pledged to honor picket lines.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex directly and indirectly supports more than 3 million jobs across the country and is one of Long Beach and San Pedro's largest employers, with more than 7,000 people employed in longshore work alone.

Others that may be affected by a strike are port truckers, freight forwarders, importers and exporters.


Have a Coke and a strike

Workers at a Coca-Cola plant began a 48-hour strike today after rejecting a pay offer. Union officials have warned the walkout, at the firm's biggest UK bottling and distribution centre, will have a "devastating effect" on supplies. About 100 workers based at the site in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, took to the picket line with banners, including one which read: "Strike - it's the real thing." The site also produces other soft drinks including Oasis and Dr Pepper and supplies shops, supermarkets, vending machines and pubs across the UK.

Unite said it was furious that management offered to improve the 2.5% offer by asking workers to sacrifice overtime rates and bonuses.

Technician Steven Tattersall, 38, from Barnsley, said he has worked at the site for 13 years.

He said: "The technicians are just fed up of taking lower than inflation raises.

"A lot of these guys have been here since the site opened in 1989.

"They have a lot of pride in their jobs and the company, but the attitude of the company is changing the attitude of the workers here.

"They are frustrated with the management for making them feel that way.

"A lot of staff feel as if they are not valued any more.

"People's standards of living have dropped."

Darren Stead, 30, a technician operative who has worked at the site for five years, said: "We are not asking for much, we are just asking for the going rate to keep our heads up.

"This is a last resort being here.

"We love what we do, we just feel it has been a bit of a kick in the teeth what we have been offered."

Workers at another Coca-Cola site, in Milton Keynes, will strike for 24 hours tomorrow as part of the same dispute.

Speaking from the picket line, Unite regional secretary Davey Hall said: "The offer that they made doesn't match up to the expectations of our members.

"Coca-Cola is an international and extremely profitable company - that profit is devolved from the contributions that are made by our members."

He said he was hopeful a further planned action on August 13 and 14 would not be necessary.

The union was prepared to accept the participation of an independent third party to resolve the issue, he added.

Regional officer Kelvin Mawer, who conducts negotiations with the company, said it was unfair to ask workers to sacrifice overtime rates.

"Some of the lads leave here near exhaustion at the end of a 12-hour shift. When they do get overtime they want it at one and a half time.

"The 2.5% is a derisory offer.

"The workers just want to maintain their standard of living."

The Wakefield operation, which produces 200 million cans of Coke a week, employs 517 staff, including manufacturing and distribution technicians and local delivery drivers.

Workers at the Wakefield site are also banning overtime as part of their campaign of industrial action.

The GMB general workers union said more than 140 trade union members are expected to go on strike at the North Field Road site in Milton Keynes tomorrow.

GMB organiser Alan Costello said: "A pay increase of 2.5% is not enough frankly. GMB members want the December 2006 rate of inflation which was 3.8%.

"GMB and other unions have been in talks with Coca-Cola since January and the company has not moved so they can hardly by surprised that the members are at the end of their patience and determined to show the company that they want a proper pay raise and that they want it now.

"GMB is available at any time to attend talks with the company that will advance the situation."

But Coca-Cola Enterprises said it was "business as usual" despite the strike at Wakefield.

The company said the action has had no effect on its normal UK manufacturing and distributing operation levels for a typical Thursday.

Head of operations Stephen Moorhouse said: "We have designed a highly efficient supply system to flex according to normal fluctuations in demand.

"Our priority is to ensure our customers always get the soft drinks they want in the volumes, places and mix of products they need for their consumers, from our network.

"It's why our customers continually vote us number one for customer service."

Mr Moorhouse said: "Our employees are very important to us, and one reason we attract and keep the best people is that we pay rates which we know are significantly above what other businesses in the area and our competitors pay - plus we provide benefits like health insurance, a final salary pension scheme and share options.

"Our priority is to settle this disappointing dispute but we're equally committed to maintaining the highest quality service to our customers, so we have taken action to ensure stocks are high throughout our network and we can confidently reassure everyone there will be cans and bottles of our drinks on the shelves throughout the summer.

"We have already worked with ACAS to try to resolve this dispute and still hope with their help and ongoing dialogue that we can resolve this situation soon."


No end in sight to massive logging strike

About 6,000 forestry workers in British Columbia have been on strike since the weekend, with no new talks in sight. The striking members of the United Steelworkers are employed by 32 companies that harvest and process logs from B.C.'s coastal forests of cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir. Picket lines went up on late Saturday afternoon, shutting down the entire coastal forest operations, said Stephen Hunt, union spokesman. Workers want more control over their work schedules, better severance packages and protections to ensure their jobs aren't lost to contract workers, according to Hunt.

The strike — though extensive — is likely to have little impact on Inland Northwest sawmills, said Tim Cochran, associate editor for Random Lengths, a Eugene, Ore.-based wood products newsletter.

"It's not affecting your basic, commodity wood products for home construction," he said.

Though B.C.'s coastal forestry workers produce commodity lumber for the construction industry, most of those products are consumed in Canada, or sold oversees to Asian markets, Cochran said. The imported Canadian lumber that competes directly with Inland Northwest sawmills comes from B.C.'s interior region.

If the strike hangs on, however, it could impact prices for cedar boards, Cochran said. Canada is a large exporter of cedar, which is produced in smaller quantities in the Inland Northwest.

Ron Shewchuk, spokesman for the timber companies, said the employers weren't willing to sweeten their offer, which addressed shift scheduling issues and benefits. "We've gone as far as we're going to go," he said.

Current market conditions provide little incentive for mill owners to come to a speedy resolution, said Kevin Mason of Equity Research Associates. With the strong Canadian dollar and weak U.S. housing market, some companies are losing money. A lull in operations could actually benefit those firms' bottom lines, he said.


Petitions seek resignation of Oregon gov't union boss

An update to the June 27 Rogue of the Week: After nearly a month of online raging about SEIU Local 503 president Joe DiNicola seeking overtime compensation, a petition calling for DiNicola's resignation has begun circulating on the web. Signature collector Rosalie Pedrazo wouldn't comment on how many signatures have been gathered.

The debate surrounds DiNicola's efforts to collect about $110,000 in back pay, something his critics say he is not entitled to. "Imagine his [DiNicola's] surprise," writes Robert Gourley in comment 117 on the original Rogue that appeared in WW, "when members collect enough signatures to call for a Mulligan." DiNicola didn't return calls seeking comment.

"More on Overtime Joe"
petition information sheet: http://gtff.net/rats/final_facts_7-18-07.doc
petition: http://gtff.net/rats/7-18_petition.doc


Striking CUPE caught in labor double-standard?

A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents says she’ll cross CUPE picket lines. CUPE, she says, expects rights and benefits for their own members that they have denied their own secretaries. In Dec. 2002, CUPE arranged for Vancouver Police to telephone and visit her at her home to demand that she muzzle herself about unfair labour practices inside CUPE.

The whistle blowing secretary, who will be identified here by her initials “R.M.”, had exposed CUPE for allegedly operating a “non-union sweatshop” in which she saw two female co-workers fired after speaking up about issues such as an excessive workload, verbal abuse, and the reneging on a promise to provide a pension plan. She saw a third co-worker fired after she got cancer and became less efficient.

This scandal, says the former secretary who left CUPE with two glowing letters of reference, goes right to the top of CUPE. When she obtained a copy of the police report, she discovered that as “evidence”, police had been given a copy of a letter she had sent to Barry O’Neill, President of CUPE BC and a similar one she had sent to Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Laobur. The polite letters outlined unfair labour practices to which secretaries working inside the non-unionized office of CUPE Local 116 had been subjected. The message was clear, she says: “CUPE and the BC Fed believe that a woman speaking up about working conditions is committing a crime.”

The secretary asked both O’Neill and Sinclair in writing in 2003 to have these letters removed from the police property office. Speaking up about working conditions is not a crime, she reminded them. Neither O’Neill or Sinclair had the letters removed.

The whistleblowing secretary appealed to the Vancouver Police to expunge the notation of “Workplace Harassment” adjacent to her name on the police computer resulting from CUPE’s complaint. Speaking up about unfair labour practices is a right, not workplace harassment, she pointed out, and in her case she had not even visited or telephoned Local 116 since leaving her job there. The VPD responded in writing that such notations remain on record for “99 years”, even in cases such as hers in which the accused has been completely cleared.

It is not just top union leaders, though, who have demonstrated that the abuses in this case are within their comfort zone. In 2003, CUPE Locals in Vancouver — including those currently striking — and the surrounding area were notified of human rights abuses raised by the case of the secretaries and asked to ensure that CUPE leaders resolve this case. What did they do? Nothing.

The secretary was not the only whistleblower CUPE Local 116 and CUPE Regional attempted to muzzle. They successfully muzzled a whistle blowing steam fitter just months earlier in a case that led to accusations against CUPE Regional of practicing political psychiatry. The steam fitter,”S.J.”, had worked for years in Plant Operations at the University of BC and was a dues-paying member of CUPE Local 116 (unlike the whistle blowing secretary who was directly employed by CUPE Local 116.)

The steam fitter got on the wrong side of CUPE when he was briefly off work on compensation. Compensation cheques were issued through the union office and the steam fitter claimed that he and others receiving cheques were being shortchanged. He did the math and took the figures to CUPE. He was ignored. But he persisted. He received a cheque for $1,500 in the mail, the amount he had claimed he was shortchanged, but CUPE wouldn’t tell him what the cheque was for. He didn’t shut up. He spoke to CUPE Regional and CUPE National. Just as the steam fitter was considering going to the RCMP to request an investigation, CUPE called the RCMP on him.

Leaders at CUPE Local 116 told the RCMP that the steam fitter had threatened CUPE Vice President Paul Cooke. The steam fitter, an immigrant from Scotland, and Cooke, an immigrant from Ireland, know each other well. The pipe fitter claims he had a few beers and sent Cooke an e-mail about the compensation cheque issue and told him, ‘I should take you out’, an expression used in pub life in Britain. It means, the steam fitter explained, that the two of us should go outside and settle this with our fists. The RCMP spoke to the steam fitter. No charges were laid.

But CUPE Regional pulled out the big guns. They sent their in-house lawyer to a meeting arranged with the steamfitter at UBC. She was “tough” the steam fitter said of the lawyer. She informed him that he would have to submit to a psychiatric assessment and take medication in order to keep his job. He did not have a lawyer at the meeting and, in order to keep his job, he succumbed. CUPE ruined his chances of ever getting a promotion, he believes. Each time he has applied for a better job in the workplace, he has been ignored.

The whistleblowing secretary knows the steam fitter but neither knew of one another’s problems with CUPE as they were occurring. The ‘workplace harassment’ and psych record the steam fitter acquired will be attached to his name on the police computer system for life. Just as “Workplace Harassment” is going to remain on the whistleblowing secretary’s record for life, to be exact “99 years”.

If I encounter a CUPE picket line, the secretary says, I’ll cross it and I’ll tell them why. If they try to convince me to support their job action, I’ll say, “Talk to me in 99 years.”


State asked to end competition for corrections workers

New Hampshire's State Employees Association is asking a state labor board to dismiss a request from prison employees to join a new union. The New England Police Benevolent Association has filed two petitions with the state Public Employee Relations Labor Board asking to take over union representation for the prison's corrections officers and supervisors. The union, based in Lowell, Mass., said it had the support of at least 30 percent of the prison staff and supervisors, as is required to file a petition. The SEA argues that the association filed its petition at the wrong time and says it doubts the group had the required 30 percent support.


Steelworkers strike hurts Western Canada

The longer the coastal forest industry is shut down by the United Steelworkers strike, the harder it will be to rebuild relationships and markets lost due to a lack of fibre supply, according to industry experts. "Once you lose a market, you always have trouble getting it back," said Brian Zak of All Forest Solutions, a forestry consulting firm. The coastal industry has always had to overcome the issue of supply in order to get a foothold in markets, particularly in Japan, he added. But it isn't only Asia. "All our markets want (guaranteed continuity of supply). They need it and they are actively looking for it," Zak said, noting there are plenty of competitors waiting in the wings.

The forest industry was idled last Saturday after bargaining between the Steelworkers and coastal companies broke down on four different fronts. Zak said competitors from around the world will use the fact B.C.'s coastal industry is shut down against it as they try to sell competing products to Japan and other key markets. "The rest of the global suppliers are extending their reach into markets where we're strong and they will use this to their advantage," Zak said, adding the impact could be felt in Asia, Europe and in the U.S.

Those sentiments were echoed by Rick Jeffery, president of the Coast Forest Products Association, who said industry has worked hard to eliminate the reputation the coast has had for inconsistent supply due to work stoppages.

"It's definitely a big concern because the coastal industry has had to scrap and fight for a share of market in all of our markets," he said.

Jeffery said it is unlikely they will see much of an impact over the first two or three weeks of a strike.

"When you get beyond that point customers start to work through the inventory they have and find alternative sources," he said. They will first look to different wood species and then to different products -- concrete, steel and fibreglass -- instead of dimension lumber.

The impact of the strike will also be felt at home with remanufacturing plants, such as the four owned by Western Forest Products, struggling to find wood supply.

According to Western CEO Reynold Hert, three of the four plants will be able to work for a while as the company intends to acquire wood and work through its own remaining inventory. Two of Western's operations are working in Chemainus and there is another at Duke Point in Nanaimo. Western's fourth, at Somass, is down as it shares an entryway with an operation currently behind a picket line.

"Right now we don't have a timeline [inventory]," Hert said, though his main concern is losing international market share. "Customers get concerned when there is disruption to their supply and after a certain time, and you can't blame them, they will start to look at alternatives."

Coastal pulp mills will also have to find an alternate source for chips if the strike carries on long-term.

"They probably have a month's worth of inventory in front of them ... then they will face curtailments which will get more severe as time goes on," said Jeffery.

Those pulp mills can source chips from the B.C. Interior, but depending on the final pulp or paper product many of them cannot use those chips without blending them with coastal fibre.


BC slips back into Strike-istan

British Columbia has come a long way from the days when one of its main claims to international fame was labour instability. Expo 86 marked the end of an unfortunate era for B.C., in a decade that included a near-general strike over modest provincial service reductions, and a showdown with international construction unions over the world’s fair itself. It’s events like this that leave the label of Soviet Strike-istan hanging over our heads.

Indeed, a history of labour turmoil, combined with the unique uncertainty of our lack of aboriginal treaties, has cost B.C. an incalculable amount of investment. That all seemed to be changing after a sweeping set of long-term contracts was negotiated across the B.C. public service. Suddenly it all seems at risk again, as the coastal forest industry and the Vancouver municipal workers begin what may be a long, hot summer of unproductive confrontation.

The coastal forest dispute has an air of unreality about it. Here’s an industry rapidly losing price competitiveness. And what emerges as a major issue? Flexibility to run 10-hour shifts at the mills still lucky enough to be operating, rather than a traditional office-hours approach that generates more overtime and is seldom seen in other industrial workplaces. Indeed, 24-hour shift schedules are commonplace in plants where shutting down and starting up involve more than flipping a few switches, and of course fallers and truck drivers don’t get to punch out and go home at 5.

Steelworkers’ union leaders have advanced the argument longer shifts are a safety issue, but also point out it’s more difficult to coach a ball team when the company can assign changing shifts to meet changing conditions. International competition is eating their lunch with increasing rapidity, mills are closing in a consolidating industry, U.S. demand is in the dumper, whole communities are threatened, and they’re worried about coaching the ball team? Only in B.C.

The Vancouver civic strike projects far beyond its actual importance, due to the concentration of media coverage.

The chainsaws have fallen silent in Stanley Park, reeking garbage begins to pile up in the streets and alleys, and the annual fireworks show is once again threatened. Why? Well, one of the few issues to emerge so far has been the length of contract.

With three years being the norm for municipal contracts, the brainiacs at Vancouver city hall figured they’d like to tack on an extra three months this time, to get past the 2010 Olympics.

Gee, why not think in terms of a four-year deal instead, with some kind of sweetener at the end for signing a longer contract? You know, as the province did with such spectacular success? I guess that would have been too easy.

It’s starting to look as if B.C.’s reputation for boneheaded labour disputes is making a big comeback in the summer of 2007.


Iran sparks worldwide labor union protest

Iran has sparked a storm of protest from trade unionists around the world by imprisoning a bus driver known as the Lech Walesa of the Islamic Republic. Mansour Osanloo, who leads a 17,000-strong bus workers' union, was picked up on the streets of Tehran on July 10 by an unidentified group thought to have been secret policemen. He had just returned from a trip to Europe, where he met officials from the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF) to discuss government harassment of his members.

Now he is languishing on unspecified charges in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison on the orders of Saeed Mortazavi, a hard-line judge accused of presiding over numerous human rights abuses and illegal detentions. Mr. Osanloo's imprisonment is part of a clampdown on dissidents by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, in which scores of pro-democracy activists and academics have been arrested over the past five months.

But unlike some of his fellow political prisoners, Mr. Osanloo, 48, has largely restricted his activities to campaigning for better working conditions for his union members, demanding increases in their wages and better protection against Tehran's appalling smog. He has insisted: "All we are asking is for Iranian workers to be treated as free human beings, not as slaves."

Even that has invited the ire of Iran's leaders, for whom any independent organization with a large membership poses a threat similar to that of Solidarity, the Polish shipyard workers' union led by Mr. Walesa, which opened the first major cracks in communism in the early 1980s.

In Brussels, Mr. Osanloo described a pattern of intimidation in which some union members have been arrested 10 or more times while family members, including children, were beaten, detained and subjected to inhumane treatment.

Asked how he coped with arrests and harassment, he replied: "We decided it is better to die than to live like this."

The international union, which represents nearly 5 million transport workers in 148 countries, has written to Mr. Ahmadinejad, urging him to free Mr. Osanloo immediately.

A spokesman for the ITWF, Sam Dawson, said: "Mr. Osanloo has pushed to create an independent and democratic trade union in Iran, and that appears to be something that the regime is not happy with.

"His organization is not against the Iranian state or a threat in any way. It is open, popular and transparent. We are hoping that the Iranian government will be amenable to outside pressure."

Mr. Osanloo was on his way home from work when the bus in which he was a passenger was pulled over by a carload of men, some reportedly armed with clubs and brass knuckles.

They dragged him into their vehicle, telling passers-by who tried to intervene that he was a "hoodlum and a thug" who was wanted by the police. Witnesses said he was beaten during the abduction, even after he had stopped trying to fight off his attackers.

His abductors presented no identification, but drove a Peugeot car of a kind commonly used by the security services. Iranian authorities at first denied all knowledge of the arrest, and only admitted that he was being held after 48 hours of inquiries by family and friends.

As yet no charges against him have been specified, but Mr. Dawson said the court had indicated he would spend at least two months in prison.

Mr. Osanloo formed the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) in 2003, at the height of the reformist rule of President Mohammed Khatami.

However, Mr. Osanloo has been unable to avoid becoming embroiled in some of the most sensitive issues in Iranian politics. In 2005, his staff brought Tehran's public transport network to a standstill to protest a new rule that female passengers must ride at the back of each bus.

Some Islamic hard-liners are theologically opposed to the concept of a union, arguing that the separation of bosses and workers is a divisive Western approach that Islam should discourage.

Since organizing strikes in 2005, Mr. Osanloo has been arrested several times and beaten by members of the basij, the irregular militia deployed to harass enemies of the regime. On one occasion, he suffered a deep knife cut to his tongue, intended as a warning that he should keep quiet.


UFCW bashes Bashas unfairly

If the readers of your newspaper disregarded the unfounded allegations lodged against Bashas' Food City Markets by the Arizona United Food and Commercial Workers union and investigated the facts they would discover the following:

1. The Basha family and the business entity they founded have been a valued contributor to the community for approximately 50 years.

2. State health department representatives regularly inspect food products served to the public by all grocery stores including Bashas'.

3. No information has been made available that UFCW or any other organization has filed complaints with any health department agencies alleging that Bashas' has been selling out-of-date products or that any health department agencies have so concluded.

UFCW is attempting to unionize Bashas' employees. That is their right. Bashas' management does not favor unionization of their employees. That is their right. To this point, the majority of Bashas' employees do not favor unionization. That is their right.

The UFCW's failure to unionize Bashas' employees does not justify their spurious false allegations against any business, especially one that has contributed so much to the community.

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