Teamsters suspected in Oakland scab murder

Five people, including a reported replacement driver in the recent East Bay Teamsters - Waste Management garbage lockout, were shot to death in Oakland in a bloody 28-hour period ending early this morning. The deaths occurred in four apparently unrelated incidents.

Byron K. Mitchell, 29, a Chicago man who was a replacement worked in last month's Waste Management garbage lockout, was killed sometime before 12:35 a.m. today when police found him shot from an apparent robbery attempt in his hotel room near the Oakland airport, according to the Oakland Tribune.

Police said Mitchell apparently answered a knock on the door of his room at the La Quinta Inn, 8465 Enterprise Way, and was shot in a struggle by someone who tried to rob him, the Tribune said.

A motel clerk refused to comment on the shooting. Police declined to provide details, and the coroner's office would not confirm Mitchell's identity.

Two men were killed and one injured about 1:45 a.m. Friday by gunshots outside a downtown nightclub, At 17 , in the 500 block of 17th Street, according to police. The victims were taken to Highland Hospital, where two were pronounced dead. Oakland police and the Alameda County coroner would not release the names of the victims.

At about 11:06 p.m. Friday, a woman was shot in the 100 block of Eighth Street. She was taken to Highland Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. No other information was released. Police and the coroner refused to release her name.

At about 4:40 a.m. today, a man was found shot to death in the 1300 block of 49th Street, according to police. No other details were provided. Police and the coroner refused to identify the victim.


UAW preps for Big 3 strike

When union contract negotiations are kicked off, the press is on the topic like white on rice, but interest quickly wanes after bargaining has been underway for a couple weeks. Right now we have no idea what's going on at the negotiating table, but one thing is for certain; both sides are gearing up for the possibility of a strike. The UAW currently has a war chest of almost $1 billion, and on August 5-6, meetings will take place to decide how the cash is doled out and to train local leaders on the art of the strike.

Strike meetings during contract talks are nothing new, but as bad as the car business is for the domestic automakers, both sides are hoping work stoppages can be avoided. While the automakers can ill-afford a strike, $1 billion only amounts to about $5,500 per person with 180,000 active UAW members, and workers probably want paychecks to stop even less than the automakers. We don't know how these negotiations will all pan out, but if the domestics can't close the $30/hr labor cost gap with their Japanese competition, there's a chance none of the active or retired UAW workers will have a retirement to look forward to.


Retired NYC teacher-scab reminisces

Always follow your heart; speak up and speak out. This has been my mantra for ages. I am one who is not afraid to do that and to relay to anyone how I feel about issues. I think through an issue, weigh the pros and cons and sincerely and earnestly come to a conclusion.

There are important issues today that need to be addressed. Our senators, representatives and president need to know what our views are; so write that letter, make that call; be counted. Unfortunately, the average person does not feel that way. Most people want the other guy to speak up.

Many, many years ago, when I was a New York City educator, I had to decide to strike or not to strike! Of course, I decided not to strike. How could I strike? I'm a teacher. I was labeled a scab; I crossed the picket line and entered the school. I lost a lot of "friends" by doing what my spirit, my heart told me to do. Although this was a long time ago, I still remember it today.

Constance A. Lynch, Deep Creek


Inconvenient truth of Vancouver-area CUPE settlements

As pressure mounts on the City of Vancouver to break off from the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau and sign a deal with CUPE similar to Richmond's, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Philip Hochstein warns that taxpayers in Richmond are paying a lot more than they think.

"They got the math wrong when they reported the Richmond deal at 17.5%. When the numbers are compounded the base salary increase is 18.76%. And that is a minimum, because of crazy "me too" language in the final year which entitles workers to an even higher raise if wage settlements in the GVRD exceed four percent."

Hochstein also claims the Richmond deal is full of outrageous but hard to recognize cost inflators and benefits that private sector workers wouldn't dream of.

According to a recent article in the Richmond Review, CUPE 394 President Dave Shapiro claimed that a proposed "job re-evaluation" plan could mean that the actual increases could be closer to the 28% councillors received and called the deal "the best we've ever had."

"On the benefits side, the City of Vancouver deal already contains ridiculous concepts such as three Gratuity Days on top of an already generous vacation entitlement and ten days of sick leave," says Hochstein. "And the Richmond deal piles on a long list of additional extravagances like nine days of work every two weeks and $500 allowances to hire dieticians."

Hochstein, who represents industrial, commercial and institutional construction contractors, says that municipal services to his industry such as permitting, licensing and inspection response times have deteriorated drastically in the last decade and worries about how an even richer package with more days off will affect the construction industry.

"We all want the strike to end as soon as possible," Hochstein says. "But taxpayers and businesses should be aware of the direct link between the outrageous settlements we are seeing and the increases in taxes that are inevitable to pay for them, without any increase in service."

Hochstein goes on to state that the system in which we continually bargain with public sector unions under duress is clearly broken.

"In Canada, we suffer 50 times the strike days per capita compared to Britain because our labour laws allow unions with essential service monopoliesto intimidate our citizens by removing those services during bargaining," says Hochstein. "The result is that we have institutionalized bargaining at the point of a gun. Governments at all levels need to address the systemic problems we have with these union monopolies."


UFCW negotiates amid decert campaign

UFCW union members at the Dakota Premium Foods beef slaughterhouse in St. Paul, MN, are on a campaign to decertify the union. The workers' drive comes in the midst of contract negotiations between the company and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, which represents the 200 plus workers in the plant.

"This fight to maintain the union at Dakota has high stakes for meatpackers and for the labor movement in the entire Midwest," said Julian Santana, a worker in the kill department. "If the company breaks the union, other meatpacking companies in the area will be emboldened to do the same."

The contract expired June 30. Leading up to the expiration, two pro-company workers began circulating petitions "to remove the union," requesting that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hold an election to decertify the union. The company broke off contract negotiations in mid-July.

"The company wants to get rid of the union so that they can go back to the ways things were before, and do whatever they want," said Juan Vargas, a worker in the kill department.

Workers at Dakota Premium won their first contract in October 2002, after a two-year battle including a sit-down strike that forged the union in the plant. They approved the agreement by a vote of 149 to 21.

"If the union goes down we all go down," said Ricardo Orozco, who has worked at Dakota Premium for more than 3 years. He said that the majority of workers in the plant were hired recently. "All of us have to pass the message to others."

"We are taking this attack very seriously," said Don Seaquist, Local 789 boss. "If our members decertify the union at Dakota, it could spread to other plants." Local 789 also organizes workers at Dakota Premium's sister plant, Long Prairie Packing in Long Prairie, Minnesota.

According to workers, the company has been increasing the speed of the processing line. They said that in the last five months the line speed jumped from about 80 cows per hour to over 90. The company's drive to increase production led to a June 2000 sit-down strike.

Prior to the plantón, as workers here refer to the strike, the company had carried out a decade-long anti-union offensive. Those who worked in the plant then report that bosses intimidated, fired, or bought off pro-union workers, used legal maneuvers, and carried out a deceitful propaganda campaign in an effort to keep the union out.

Workers fought back with determination and unity and put their stamp on the organizing drive. For example, when the company tried to victimize or fire a pro-union worker, others would come to their aid. Frequently, large delegations of workers would go to the office together to protest intolerable conditions or boss abuses. They also publicized their struggles in the Workers' Voice, an in-plant newsletter published in English and Spanish, which was also circulated at Long Prairie.

The pro-union workers reached out broadly for solidarity from other unions and the community. Leading up to the July 2000 representation election, they talked to each worker in the plant individually to win them to the union.

Samuel Farley, a worker in the boning department and a shop steward, was part of the union organizing drive. "Before, if you got injured they would automatically get rid of you. Today the company can’t do that." This and other reasons are "why we need a union," he said.

The union held a special meeting July 26 to discuss the next steps in the fight against the decertification attempt. According to workers, supervisors stopped the line that day, blocked exits and bathrooms, and herded workers into the cafeteria for a meeting with Steve Cortinas, the plant manager. Cortinas announced the company would resume negotiations.

Workers asked what the conditions, wages, and benefits would be without the union. Cortinas said that "before the union, during the union, and after the union" there were raises, seniority rights, and benefits. Several workers challenged this. One said that he had worked in the plant for 10 years, and before the union there were no raises for at least five years.

Union supporters from both the cut and the kill floor put out a new issue of Workers Voice. They are planning to use it reach to out to every worker in the plant and more broadly.


Words fly as ULP strike stalls negotiations

Negotiations between Local 313, IUE-CWA and Dresser-Rand broke down at 2:15 a.m. today, ending talks over the company's proposed health plan for the union members, according to a press release from the union.

Union members have engaged in an unfair labor practice strike. Currently about 20 union members are picketing at the Painted Post, NY plant, according to eye witnesses. Picketers are on the sidewalk near the plant's entrances on Hamilton and High streets. The union members are taking to the picket line during four hour shifts.

"This company has seriously underestimated the resolve of our members. They acted to provoke this strike in an effort to break this union," said union boss Steve Coates in a press release.

Coates reports in the press release that during negotiations with the company, changes were made to the initially proposed health plan that added an increase in out of pocket expenses for union members each year of the contract. The increase had not been included in the plan presented two days ago, Coates said.

In negotiations, the union points to 20 percent pay cuts for Wellsville plant employees while the company’s chief executive officer received a $12 million bonus.

"Our sincere attempts at compromise were met with hostility and contempt that the rich and arrogant reserve for working people," said Glenn Painter, Local 313's chief steward and negotiation committee member.


Vancouver garbage overflowing

The government union strike in Vancouver that has left many of the Lower Mainland's waste and recycling facilities bulging at the seams has spilled over into the City of Abbotsford. On Thursday, Abbotsford felt the first real impact of the job action, as the Matsqui Transfer Station on Valley Road shut its gates to most traffic for one day to clear a backlog of waste that had packed it to capacity.

The closure of the Vancouver Landfill in Delta, which occurred when the strike by Vancouver's civic workers started two weeks ago, has put pressure on waste disposal facilities in other cities. And this surge in demand resulted in Wastech Services Ltd. - the contractor that operates four transfer stations in Matsqui, North Vancouver, Coquitlam and Surrey - closing its North Vancouver site for one day on Tuesday. The facility at Coquitlam followed suit for one day on Wednesday, before the Matsqui station shut for 24 hours on Thursday.

City of Abbotsford spokesman Jay Teichroeb said the Matsqui station closure was the first direct impact the strike has had on Abbotsford.

He did not expect there to be more.

"For us it's been pretty much business as usual and we haven't really been impacted in any way," he said.

"The only one where there is a crossover impact is at the Matsqui Transfer Station."

Teichroeb said the city was informed on Thursday morning that Wastech would be closing the Matsqui facility to give it time to catch up.

"It caught us by surprise. We had no idea it was coming, and probably a day or two ago they didn't either," Teichroeb said.

Yesterday, Teichroeb said workers at the transfer station worked through Thursday night to make sure the facility reopened.

He said the city will continue to monitor the situation.

Tom Land, the operations manager for Wastech, said on Thursday that safety on each waste transfer site is paramount, as potential problems can arise when the facilities are packed to the limit.

Land said "it's possible" more closures could occur in Abbotsford and elsewhere if the strike continues, but he stressed these would be kept short.

"We would never get into the situation of a permanent closure because there's no reason to," he said.

The majority of the current problems, Land said, are the result of the "spillover" from Vancouver.

"Our inventory of refuse has been building for a week-and-a-bit," Land said.

"It seems strange to think of Abbotsford as being affected by that (the strike), but the problem is that as the lineups increase (elsewhere), people will look for other places."

A reported 5,500 inside and outside workers, and 900 library workers, are currently off the job in Vancouver. And as a result of the strike, garbage and recycling waste has not been collected from Vancouver streets since July 20.

The City of Abbotsford's 493 unionized employees were involved in their own strike in 2006, reaching an agreement last July having spent 34 days on the picket lines.


Forestry strikers trip industry lay-offs

Nanaimo, B.C.'s pulp and paper mill says it's starting to feel the pinch of the Steelworkers union forestry strike. Pope and Talbot Ltd. announced Tuesday it is temporarily cutting capacity at the Harmac mill, slowing one of three lines. "That's going to be cut by about 17 per cent," said Mark Rossolo, spokesman for Pope and Talbot. He said it will affect about 70 mill employees over the next six months.

Rossolo said the strong Canadian currency is hurting the U.S.-based company and the availability of affordable timber has dropped. "The strike ... has really affected product availability," said Rossolo. The mill is one of the largest producers of high-quality NBSK pulp in Canada with a production capacity of about 400,000 tons per year. In a press release, the company said the coastal United Steelworkers strike will only worsen the situation in the near future.

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