Labor coalition welcomes British grocer to U.S.

As British retailer Tesco prepares to debut its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores on Nov. 8, a coalition of labor groups is mounting what it calls an "education campaign" calling attention to the grocer's use of non-union workers.

Members of the California Food and Drug Council met this week in Los Angeles to discuss a united response to Tesco's arrival in California, Nevada and Arizona. The retailer plans to open more than 100 stores by 2009, including 48 in the Inland region.

The food and drug coalition has been in place for the past three decades and focuses on public education programs touting the benefits of working and buying union. It has about 30 affiliates, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The group says its affiliates represent hundreds of thousands of union workers in the retail food and drug industries. Grocery workers at more than 180 Inland Stater Bros., Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons stores are represented by the UFCW.

The coalition's director, Ellen Anreder, said Friday about 100 labor leaders, from all three states where Tesco plans stores, met Monday in downtown Los Angeles to discuss strategies for the coming weeks. She said the group has met several times since Tesco's 2006 announcement of its first U.S. stores. "Tesco's stores in the United Kingdom are staffed by union employees," coalition president Paul Kenny said in the statement. "But they seem to be determined to make their American operation non-union.

In a statement Friday, Simon Uwins, chief marketing officer for Fresh & Easy, responded that the company is "committed to being a great place to work."

"We conducted extensive research in the U.S. market and we listened," Uwins said. "What we heard was, above all, employees want to be treated with respect. We believe growth opportunities, flexibility and providing competitive rewards are key to a positive workplace."


Students walk out to protest teachers strike

Classes will not be held Monday in the Seneca Valley School District, even if the district and its teachers reach an agreement in contract negotiations before then.

District spokeswoman Linda Andreassi said the district canceled classes Monday for kindergarten through grade 12 because if an agreement between the two parties is reached late Sunday, officials would not have enough time to notify everyone that classes could be held.

"What will happen in that case is we'll notify everyone Monday and classes would then resume Tuesday," she said. Extracurricular activities and athletics will continue as scheduled. The district plans to post updates of the situation on its Web site, www.svsd.net.

Yesterday, about 250 students at Seneca Valley Intermediate High School walked out of the classroom in protest of the strike that teachers said they would begin Monday if no agreement was reached.

Under state law, teachers would have to end the strike in time for students to receive 180 days of instruction by June 15. If the strike begins Monday, that deadline would occur in November, according to the district.

The district's 575 teachers have been without a contract since June 30, 2006. The major disagreement is over salaries, with the district offering an average 4 percent annual increase for a five-year contract. The teachers' most recent request is for an average of 6 percent per year. The average teacher's salary in Seneca Valley is $54,949.

District officials received word early yesterday that students planned to walk out of their classrooms in protest. About 10:30 a.m., students marched from their classrooms to the football field, where they sat on the bleachers, Ms. Andreassi said.

"It was very peaceful and very respectful," she said.

Superintendent Don Tylinski went to the field to talk to the students and promised to relay their concerns to the teachers' union representatives.

"The student council president then stood up and instructed everyone to return to class, and they did," Ms. Andreassi said.

The students will not be punished, she said.

"This is such a highly emotional time that we didn't think it would help to hand out punishments on top of everything else," she said. "Because they were also respectful and peaceful, that made a difference as well."

At 1:30 p.m., Dr. Tylinski addressed the seniors about how the strike would affect their final year at Seneca Valley.

"They have a lot of questions right now about what this means for them," Ms. Andreassi said.

The district considered having administrators fill in for teachers so that seniors could finish classes on time, but not enough people with certifications in the needed areas were available to do so.

"It just wasn't possible," Ms. Andreassi said.

The student walkout came roughly 12 hours after a 3 1/2-hour negotiation session Thursday night ended with no progress.

State mediator Bob Lavery had called the meeting between the two sides after teachers turned down a request from the district to participate in nonbinding arbitration instead of going on strike.

Tom King, an attorney representing the district in negotiations, said the district made the request in an effort to avoid disrupting the school year with a strike. He said the district still hoped to reach an agreement that would circumvent a strike.

Butch Santicola, a Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman, said the teachers have offered to meet daily over the weekend.

The district serves 7,580 students in Cranberry, Jackson, Zelienople, Seven Fields, Evans City, Harmony, Forward, Lancaster and Callery.


SEIU estimates cost of nurses' 2-day strike

The two-day strike by the California Nurses Association at nine Sutter Health hospitals likely will cost hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars, considering the cost of replacement workers, advertising and advice from attorneys and other consultants.

Sutter brought in more than 1,000 replacement workers Oct. 10 and 11, to cover shifts for some 4,200 Bay Area nurses in what union officials said was the largest nursing walkout of the decade.

The strike involved nurses from nine Sutter hospitals, including large centers like Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland, and California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco. The walkout also involved two hospitals from the Fremont-Rideout Health Group in Yuba City and Marysville.

"The (industry) benchmark is $1,000 a day per RN," said John Borsos, administrative vice president with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. "What you will find in some strikes is that hospitals have to rely on the scab RNs to replace the non-RNs."


Union cancels strike, puts away pickets

The strike by the United Steelworkers union at steel tubing maker PTC Alliance appears to be coming to an end. The union said the company has agreed to its proposal, sent Wednesday, that workers return to the Alliance (OH) plant starting 11 p.m. Sunday under terms of the old contract that expired Sept. 30. Union members went on strike on Oct. 1.

The company and union will continue to negotiate a new contract, said Mike Johnson, president of Steelworkers Local 3059. "We'll still be negotiating and retaining the right to strike if we can't reach an agreement at some point," Johnson said. "We'll be in working, but there's a whole lot ahead."

The company could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday afternoon. PTC Alliance, headquartered near Pittsburgh, has issued statements saying the Alliance plant machinery is operating and that the strike has not affected customer orders. The company has said it is committed to getting a consensual agreement with the union.

Company and union negotiators met with a federal mediator on Wednesday in Alliance to try to resolve their differences.

The union is trying to get language in the new contract that protects workers' jobs and the contract in case the company is sold. The company and union previously said their main dispute has been over non-economic issues.

Union members will continue picketing at the plant until they start returning to work Sunday night, Johnson said. It is possible that the company might not operate the plant at full staffing, he said.

The Steelworkers leadership plans to meet with union members 1 p.m. Friday at the Moose Lodge in Alliance to discuss the return to work, Johnson said.


Union has time - and law - on its side

Where do victims of an assault case wind up having to pay the legal costs of the abusers? Only in Philadelphia.

Nine years ago this month, two protesters at City Hall received the lambasting of their lives. During a public protest against former President Bill Clinton, Don Adams and his sister, Teri Adams, were attacked by a group of Teamsters.

Last week, they filed an appeal after a federal judge ordered the Adams' to pay the International Brotherhood of Teamsters $15,000 in legal costs stemming from the October 2000 civil rights suit.

Five members of Teamster Local 115 eventually pleaded guilty to criminal assault, conspiracy and other charges.

Several years ago, Judge William H. Yohn dismissed the Adams' federal civil rights claim and remanded the civil suit back to state court. Charges of malicious prosecution, conspiracy and defamation of character are still being litigated against the Teamsters Local 115 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for accusing Don Adams of being involved with organized crime. One count of malicious prosecution still stands against Gov. Ed Rendell, for his alleged involvement in the attack.

According to Don Adams, Mr. Rendell, Philadelphia mayor at the time, has since admitted to inviting Local 115 Vice President John Morris and Local 115 members to attend the rally at City Hall. Don Adams said Gov. Rendell acknowledged in court he encouraged the teamsters to "drown out" Clinton protesters. A spokesperson for Gov. Rendell said they have filed a motion to dismiss the charge but no decision has yet been reached.

"Every step of the way, the court rulings have eaten away at our civil case, and I just feel we're fighting the political establishment," Don Adams said.

Attorney Joseph Adams, cousin of the plaintiffs, is among several attorneys who represented the Adams in the last nine years.

"The teamsters squelched the First Amendment rights of Don and Teri Adams," Joe Adams said.

Last month, Judge Yohn ordered the beating victims to pay the attorney fees of the teamsters - a technicality of Pennsylvania law to which the defendants are entitled.

"But this case transcends the spirit of that rule," Joe Adams said.

"We made the argument the Teamsters should not be awarded those costs. It seems inequitable that you would have that kind of result."

Joe Adams stood trial in 1999 on assault charges brought by one Teamster. He was found not guilty.

Don Adams said the attack was organized and led by late Teamster boss John Morris. The union boss died in May 2002 of heart failure.

"There was a great injustice perpetrated against myself and my sister," Don Adams said.

"It is clear the Teamsters have no interest in trying to resolve the matter in an amicable way."

Don Adams said he suffered "pummeling, kicking and punching," on Oct. 2 outside City Hall, after anti-Clinton demonstrators collided with pro-Clinton demonstrators. The assault was captured on video.

"It was a clear attempt to silence us," he said.

Attorney for Teamsters Local 115 Thomas Kohn, of the Markowitz & Richman law firm in Philadelphia, did not return phone calls at press time. Robert Baptiste, attorney with Baptiste & Wilder, P.C. of Philadelphia, represents the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, also did not return phone calls.

"Had the [federal] court decided to keep those state law claims in federal court, those claims would have been heard, and, based on all the evidence, we should have prevailed," Jon Adams said.

A trial has been scheduled for April of next year in Philadelphia Common Please Court. The Adams' case will be represented by Sam Stretton, a lawyer out of West Chester.


Long forestry strike fails to halt industry

Almost half the usual volume of timber is still being harvested on the Coast despite a three-month-long strike by 7,000 woodworkers, according to government statistics.

The scaled harvest volume for the Coast in September from Crown land was 45 per cent of last year's volume while August's volume was 43 per cent as high as last year, strong indicators that the United Steelworkers strike has failed to shut down the industry, said independent analyst Kevin Mason.

"The wood is still moving," Mason, of Equity Research Associates, said Friday. "Those of us who live on the Coast have seen it and we have heard anecdotally that there's a lot of logging going on. Now we have the numbers that prove it."

On July 21, 7,000 loggers and sawmill workers went on strike. The union is fighting over contracting out, changes in shifts and hours of work, and attempts by some companies to freeze workers out of severance pay through partial shutdowns.

In a partial shutdown, most of the workforce is laid off until their seniority runs out. A portion of the operation stays open with only a few employees who would then be eligible for severance pay.

The issues do not affect everyone equally and have led to a bitter strike, where so-called good operators are being lumped in with bad, and crews with no complaints are striking in support of comrades who have been affected.

The Steelworkers are picketing 33 companies, 31 of them who are represented by their bargaining agent, Forest Industrial Relations.

FIR companies are not operating but since the last coastal strike in 2003, significant changes have taken place. Most major licensees now contract out logging and a number of the contractors have both union and non-union operations.

Further, in 2005 the B.C. government took back 20 per cent of the timber tenure held by major licensees. That timber is now being distributed it to First Nations, community forests and the government's own timber sales program, which auctions wood to the lowest bidder.

Much of the timber logged is being processed at 10 sawmills representing roughly a quarter of the Coast's capacity that remain open despite the strike. Most are either non-union or represented by a different union. Twenty mills are shut down.

Steve Hunt, Steelworkers regional director, acknowledged that logging is taking place, largely by small non-union contractors.

"A lot of these small ones, we never did represent the workers, so I am not surprised they are trying to get the wood out. I guess that's what they do for a living."

He said it is often difficult, given the size of the Coast and the terrain, to track down operators and to determine if they are, in fact, cutting for a company whose own crews are on strike.

"We chase them down. But the problem is, you've got to find them. They are small companies. Who knows where they are and who knows who they are cutting for."

Hunt said despite the numbers, he knows the strike is having an effect on companies that are behind picket lines.

"I know 7,000 people aren't working. That must be having an impact somewhere," he said.

Dave Lewis, executive director of the Truck Loggers Association, said a number of his members are still on the job despite the strike.

"Some of us are doing okay," he said.

Lewis said three distinct types of companies are still operating despite the strike.

-- Non-union companies "who are full at it."

-- Non-union companies being put behind pickets and sometime resorting to bringing in the police in order to remain open.

-- Union operations where the union has struck a special deal or where the workers have returned to the job.

"It used to be in a strike everyone was down. Maybe this has been drawn out so long because there is so much harvest billing," Lewis said.

One contractor told Lewis that before the strike he couldn't find 20 fallers to work for him but now he has 30 fallers every day.

The ministry of forests statistics also show that equally heavy volumes of timber are being logged from private lands as well as public lands. In August, the volume of logs scaled from private lands was 46 per cent of last August's volume. In September, the figure was 43 per cent.

A representative for the largest private landholder in the province, TimberWest Forest, said the company's operations are behind picket lines and despite the numbers, it's not TimberWest wood that is being logged.

"There's wood that was produced before the initiation of the strike that is still being sold," said Steve Lorimer. "I know there is activity around. There are smaller landowners, not part of the union strike action, that have activities going on."

On other fronts in the coastal strike, the Labour Relations Board ruled against TimberWest Friday for offering signing bonuses of $100,000 each to 29 forestry crewmen and engineers, in exchange for a five-year agreement that the union claimed is designed to destroy the rest of the bargaining unit.


Pittsburgh teachers union in strike authorize vote

The union representing about 3,500 teachers and other Pittsburgh Public Schools employees plans to conduct a strike authorization vote by mail, though Superintendent Mark Roosevelt says the tone of contract talks has been upbeat.

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President John Tarka is holding a general membership meeting at 9 a.m. today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. Mr. Tarka said he'll use the occasion to update members on contract talks and ask members to support the strike authorization vote.

"The PFT's primary goal is to attain a collective bargaining agreement for our members, and we want to do that without a disruption," Mr. Tarka said yesterday. But he added that members wanted to be fairly paid and treated for the work they're doing to overhaul the troubled school district.

Mr. Roosevelt said a strike would be damaging to his improvement efforts. He called the tone of recent talks "very positive" and said, "I don't think there's any reason whatsoever to anticipate a strike." A strike potentially would idle more than 28,000 students.

The PFT has three bargaining units -- 2,805 teachers and other professionals, 600 paraprofessionals and 60 technical-clerical workers, according to union figures. Contracts with all three units expired June 30.

Also expired are contracts with three units not affiliated with the PFT -- 85 members of Pittsburgh Regional Building Construction and Trades Council, about 460 members of Local 297 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and 260 members of AFSCME Local 2924.

Because of the PFT's size, negotiations with that union typically set the course for talks with the others. AFSCME Local 297 President Jeff Frontera said some unhappy workers have begun wearing T-shirts that say, "Excellence for all. Pay raises for some," a reference to Mr. Roosevelt's Excellence for All improvement campaign and to the raises that Mr. Roosevelt and other administrators received this year.

Theresa Colaizzi, who chairs the school board negotiations committee, said she's surprised that the union intends to extend a strike authorization vote to all three bargaining units when it has "not even opened" talks on paraprofessionals and technical-clerical workers. Before the union moves toward strike authorization, she said, she'd like to discuss all issues of all units.

Mr. Tarka said the district wanted to focus on teachers and other professionals first, in part because of the financial considerations. He added that he's made the district aware of the other units' concerns and said issues concerning many paraprofessionals have been raised during the parties' negotiations on special-education services.

The district and professional employees had a difficult time resolving the last contract dispute. In spring 2006, the bargaining unit initially voted down a contract proposal at a membership meeting and then approved the same proposal in a mail ballot three weeks later.

That two-year contract gave $3,000 raises to teachers and other professionals at the top of the salary scale, making top-scale pay $73,500 for a teacher with a master's degree. The agreement gave step increases, but no raises, to less-senior bargaining unit members. It also held the line on what bargaining unit members contribute to health care, 5 percent to 20 percent of premium costs, based on the plan the employee selects, the district said.

Salary and insurance are again stumbling blocks, with members seeking what Mr. Tarka calls fair remuneration for their sacrifices of recent years. Since Mr. Roosevelt joined the district, he's shifted hundreds of teachers to different schools, required them to teach new curriculum and eliminated hundreds of positions, most through attrition.

Mr. Roosevelt said he's well aware of the PFT's work but can't ignore the district's financial squeeze. According to projections provided to the school board in May, the district will end 2007 with an unreserved fund balance of $57.3 million but run a $7 million deficit by the end of 2009.

While much attention has been paid to new hires and raises for some administrators, Mr. Roosevelt said, important cuts have received scant notice. He said the number of central office positions is down 1011/2 and central office spending is down $3.1 million since 2004. Also, he said, some new positions, such as those in the office of high school reform, are funded with foundation or other outside money.


Workers on strike at California manufacturer

Union workers today continued picketing outside Simpson Strong-Tie in the Stockton (CA) airport industrial district on Day 3 of a strike over wages and health-care benefits.

“We’re in a negotiation session right now,” Sheet Metal Workers Local 162 business representative Sal Rotolo said during a short break about 9:45 a.m. today. “We’re all negotiating in good faith. There seems to be some progress being made. We’ll get there.”

The 270 members of Rotolo’s union who work at Simpson Strong-Tie, 5151 S. Airport Way, walked off the job at 5 a.m. Wednesday after voting 220-2 last Saturday to authorize a strike. They intend to stay out until a settlement is reached. “I’m hoping to get a good deal today that we can ratify and vote on this weekend, but it’s hard to say, to be honest with you,” Rotolo said this morning.

Simpson spokeswoman Kristin Lincoln confirmed that good-faith negotiations are continuing. “We’re definitely making progress and looking forward to an agreement very soon,” Lincoln said this morning.


Lies about teachers and teachers unions

There was a time when public school teachers plied their trade in relative anonymity, content in the knowledge that their noble profession was respected (if not adequately compensated) by their community. Teachers were seldom mentioned in the media; and when they were, it usually involved a commendation or warm "human interest" story.

Today, we read about teachers being arrested for sexually molesting their students, and, increasingly, being charged with gross incompetence - being accused of a level of ineptitude that renders them "unqualified" to teach. In the first instance, the guilty teachers are stripped of their credential and carted off to prison, in the second, they continue teaching. Why? Well, if one believes the myth, it's because their big, bad union won't allow them to be fired.

Union obstructionism is cited by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a major cause of the startling decline in student performance. Despite so many obvious factors - staggering shifts in demographics, increased transience, language barriers, the breakdown of the nuclear family, and a lack of state funding for education - the chief culprits have been narrowed down to incompetent teachers and the evil union that "shelters" them. Take Ariana Huffington, the liberal pundit and self-promoter. She's swallowed the trumped-up charges and gone on record, blaming the union for the state's low test scores.

But these are the same unionized teachers who ran the classrooms at the same unionized schools back in the glory days when California's public school system (K to 12) was the envy of the nation, routinely ranked among the top two or three in the country. How can it be the union's fault? How can the same teachers who were credited for California's success now be identified as the root cause of its failure?

The LAUSD isn't helpless. They find a snake in the woodpile, they can get rid of it. The District can fire its teachers at any time, for any reason, without explanation---for up to two full years from their date of hire (compare that to the standard 60 or 90-day probationary periods found in most industries). After two years, they are required to show cause for terminating a teacher. What's so wrong with that?

Union members in this country get fired every day, for infractions ranging from absenteeism to insubordination to DOJ (drunk on the job). The notion of a union contract containing language that would somehow "exclude" an employee from the disciplinary process is nutty.

Think about it. Even if a union negotiator were arrogant or twitchy enough to request such "immunity," what company would ever agree to it? What management team would sign a contract that, effectively, abrogated its right to manage? Yet, the myth persists; people go around saying that all a union worker has to do is sweat out his/her probationary period, and they're home free. After that, management can't touch them.

The record will show that AWPPW Local 672 is no candy-assed union. Over the years, the local has filed hundreds of grievances, dozens of ULPs (Unfair Labor Practice charges), and half a dozen lawsuits. Twice they went on strike, shut it down and sent everyone home. By post-Reagan, west coast standards, Local 672 was militant .Yet, diligent and prickly as the union was, people were still fired. They were fired because management, unlike the LAUSD, was neither spineless nor lazy. Rightly or wrongly, the managers did what they thought had to be done, and the union executive board responded in kind. Someone needs to remind the LAUSD that you're not supposed to whine about the other guys; you're supposed to act. That's why you sign a contract, to delineate the boundaries.

At Local 672, discharges were treated as economic homicide. All terminations were appealed, no exceptions. When an appeal was denied, the local had to decide whether to accept the verdict, or send the case to arbitration, the final step in the process. Employees whose grievances weren't sent up had no choice but to stay fired or sue the union. While a handful of members threatened legal action, only two actually did it. Both lost. As for arbitration rulings, the union's record was spotty: Some grievants won reinstatement; the overwhelming majority did not.

Yes, it's harder to get fired from a union shop than a non-union shop, but that's one of the sterling virtues of a union. A boss can't just walk up and fire you because he wants to give your spot to his wife's nephew, who's looking for a summer job before returning to college. In a union shop there have to be grounds for dismissal.

It was unions, after all, not congress, the church, or philanthropic organizations, who first outlawed child labor, mandated equal pay for women, and introduced industrial safety codes to the workplace. Heroically, unions beat everybody to the punch. Protecting workers is what unions strive to do.

Finally, if unions are the ones responsible for preventing management from firing its deadbeats, how do we explain the conspicuous incompetence found in so many non-union facilities? The truth is, like it or not, the woods are full of marginal workers. Having a union to blame simply gives a weak employer an excuse. If there were Moslems to blame, instead of unions, they'd blame the Moslems.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was president and chief contract negotiator of the Assn. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, Local 672, from 1989 to 2000.


No vote for 7,000 striking Steelworkers

The United Steelworkers (USW) said Friday that, for the second time, the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) has rejected TimberWest Forest Corp.'s application for a "final offer" vote of some USW members in the company's attempt to gain concessions affecting hundreds of other unionized employees working for logging contractors, who would not have the opportunity to vote.

In its effort to circumvent collective bargaining, TimberWest offered signing bonuses of $2.9-million to 29 forestry crewmen and engineers, in exchange for a sub-standard five-year agreement that the union says is designed to destroy the rest of the bargaining unit and impact hundreds more workers on the BC Coast. A previous similar effort was made and was also rejected by the LRB (see BCLRB No. B189/2007).

On Friday the LRB issued a ruling confirming USW arguments (BCLRB No. B233/2007). The decision, written by Vice-Chair Ken Saunders, notes that the Coast Master Agreement contains a unique letter of understanding called the Woodlands Letter of Understanding ("the LOU"). The LOU allows the company to contract out logging operations while workers maintain rights with TimberWest as their original employer. The company was seeking to alter this arrangement in its 'final offer'. The LRB ruled:

"... the Woodlands Employees enjoy subsisting rights under the LOU. The Employer assumed those continuing obligations when it exercised the right to contract out the woodlands operations. The last offer proposes to rewrite protections under the LOU. Not allowing the Woodlands Employees to vote on the proposed changes would render those ongoing rights illusory and directly belie the quid pro quo underpinning the LOU."

"For the third time, the LRB has ruled against TimberWest," said USW Western Canada Director Steve Hunt, noting that the Board ruled against the company's first 'final offer' application and also found the company guilty of bad faith bargaining on July 11 (BCLRB No. B124/2007). "What is becoming clear to everyone but TimberWest management is that these games don't work and companies have to bargain a collective agreement at the bargaining table, across from the union."

TimberWest has yet to bargain in good faith with the union, said Hunt.

TimberWest employees are on strike against the company as Steelworkers continue strikes against other coastal forest employers, including Interfor, Island Timberlands, and client companies of Forest Industrial Relations (FIR), which includes Western Forest Products.


Oregon labor briefs

The workers at Rosemont School for Girls in Portland, OR voted Oct. 10 to join SEIU Local 503 by a vote of 37-8. This was a hard-fought NLRB-sponsored election campaign, with lots of anti-union literature, unfair labor practices by management, captive audience meetings, and the termination of a union supporter.

The Rosemont School, a center for young female offenders, did everything to block the unionization effort, up to and including the hiring of union-busting lawyers. The workers, however, hung together and stayed focused on their vision of a better Rosemont School for both themselves and the school’s students and families.

This win came while the Oregon AFL-CIO was in a session that will be remembered for the applause given to John Edwards when he pledged that there will be no scabs if he is elected president.

Alice Dale, now executive director of Local 49 of the Service Employees International Union, is likely to gain labor support in her run for attorney general of Oregon. Her candidacy gives Oregonians an opportunity to vote for a labor leader who has been deeply involved in reforming the workers’ compensation system, fighting for living wages and keeping the public employees retirement system intact.

Oregon construction workers recently saw passage of a new prevailing wage law on controversial public-private partnership construction jobs. The Oregon building trades unions have also blocked several legislative bills that would have weakened safety standards. These victories come as construction worker deaths on the job reach into the double digits for the first time since 1997.

Jose Cobian, a Carpenters’ union organizer active in Oregon, has been deported to Mexico after a long legal battle. While his deportation case moved through the courts he and his family survived through donations received from union co-workers. Turning the tide on ending construction site fatalities will depend on an aggressive union organizing and legislative strategy and organizing among Oregon’s growing number of Spanish-speaking construction workers, say many union building trades workers.

Higher education workers in Oregon’s American Federation of Teachers union have been struggling for many years against the overuse and exploitation of part-time college faculty. The AFT recently won an executive order creating a commission to study how part-time faculty are used in the state’s universities and community colleges. An earlier effort to cap the use of part-time faculty at 25 percent failed in Oregon’s Legislature. AFT members in Oregon are gearing up for the 2009 legislative sessions.

Members of he American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees working for the state of Oregon are considering a “me-too” agreement covering 4,000 AFSCME members. This contract essentially mirrors the agreement recently reached between the state and SEIU Local 503. That deal created new social policy in Oregon by instituting a wage floor based on food stamp eligibility for a family of three. It also signaled union strength in Oregon by forcing the state’s governor to change positions in union contract bargaining and attempt to make up for a previous wage freeze and an attack on the public employees retirement system. As a result of the AFSCME “me-too” agreement, some members of SEIU Local 503/OPEU have already received special additional wage increases. Some AFSCME units are rejecting the agreement because state managers have been given raises by the governor well beyond what union workers have won. Both AFSCME and SEIU have expressed worker anger over these increases and both unions are now seeking higher wages or additional guarantees.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees units working for the state of Oregon have ratified a “me-too” agreement covering 4,000 AFSCME members. This contract essentially mirrors the agreement recently reached between the state and SEIU Local 503. That deal created new social policy in Oregon by instituting a wage floor based on food stamp eligibility for a family of three. It also signaled union strength in Oregon by forcing the state’s governor to change positions in union contract bargaining and attempt to make up for a previous wage freeze and an attack on the public employees retirement system. As a result of the AFSCME “me-too” agreement, some members of SEIU Local 503/OPEU will also receive special additional wage increases.

Oregon’s Department of Human Services (DHS) will soon make available a list of employers whose workers are receiving food stamps. An attempt by pro-worker forces in the Oregon Legislature to pass legislation mandating this failed, but pressure on DHS forced agency heads to comply with the intent of the legislation.

Finally, Portland’s City Council recently passed a resolution to develop a sweat-free procurement policy that will shine the light on the city’s uniform and apparel vendors who sell sweatshop-produced garments and other goods. Leadership in this struggle came from AFSCME, Laborers Local 483 and Portland Jobs with Justice.

For more information on these and other Oregon developments, visit http://willamettereds.blogspot.com/.

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