SEIU discovers novel source for campaign funding

An independent arbitrator has ordered Yale-New Haven Hospital to pay $4.5 million to the union trying to organize workers at the hospital as well as employees who were set to vote in a secret ballot election last year.

SEIU called the union vote off last December after Yale-New Haven was cited for violating the terms of a fair election agreement crafted by both sides, as a condition for the city's fast-track approval of a new cancer center. In a decision Tuesday, arbitrator Margaret Kern said the hospital ruined any chance for a fair election by intimidating union supporters and spreading misinformation.

She ordered the hospital to pay SEIU $2.3 million dollars, to cover its organizing expenses and $2.2 million dollars to some 1,700 hospital employees eligible to vote in the election. The second figure is the amount Yale-New Haven paid to IRI Consultants to Management Inc., the company it hired to coordinate its union-busting campaign.

"Employees were deprived of the right to truthful information, the right to do their job uninterrupted by solicitation, and the right not to participate in captive audience meetings," wrote Kern.

The arbitrator gave Yale-New Haven the right to challenge the figures, an option the hospital may explore, said spokesman Vin Petrini. "We recognize we made mistakes throughout the campaign."

To repair the damage, SEIU had asked that Yale-New Haven be forced to recognize the union; A majority of the 1,700 employees set to vote in December had signed cards indicating they wanted a union. Kern stopped short of granting that request.

SEIU has no plans to pursue another election but is currently exploring other ideas, said a union spokesman.


Judge assigned to union organizing-RICO case

It's been used against mobsters, corrupt labor unions and anti-abortion protesters.

Now Smithfield Foods Inc., the Virginia-based meat-processing giant, has joined companies turning to federal racketeering law to try to block a campaign geared to unionization of its employees.

Smithfield Foods' lawyers filed the civil racketeering lawsuit Oct. 17 in federal court in Richmond, Va., the latest development in Smithfield's 14-year fight to prevent the United Food and Commercial Workers from unionizing 4,650 hourly workers at its largest pork-processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C.

The lawsuit contends that the union has resorted to "smear tactics," including trying to undermine the company's stock price by leaking false statements to Wall Street stock analysts. The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $5.9 million for business losses Smithfield Foods says can be traced to the union campaign, as well as an injunction barring the unions from continuing their activities.

The lawsuit - Smithfield Food Inc. vs. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union - has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne.

UFCW officials issued a statement maintaining that Smithfield has a long history of worker intimidation and calling the lawsuit an attempt by Smithfield to avoid a union vote.

UFCW officials noted that the suit was filed two days after negotiators for the company walked out of talks that were close to setting a mutually agreed-upon process for holding a unionization election at the Tar Heel processing plant.

"It is truly shameful that Smithfield is willing to spend millions of dollars on high-priced lawyers and frivolous lawsuits rather than committing the resources needed to provide basic safety and health improvements for Tar Heel workers," the union statement read.

According to the lawsuit, union members have demonstrated at food stores carrying Smithfield Foods products and at public appearances of celebrity chef Paula Deen to urge her to break her contract with Smithfield. Deen's Food Network cable television program, Paula's Home Cooking, features Smithfield products.

The lawsuit contends that in September 2005, the UFCW's Local 400 "decided to abandon all efforts to convince Smithfield employees of the benefits of union membership in favor of a new plan aimed not at the employees, but at Smithfield itself."

The lawsuit says UFCW decided to "extort" Smithfield's recognition of Local 400 "regardless of the degree of actual employee support for such representation, by injuring Smithfield economically until Smithfield either agreed to [union] demands or was run out of business."

In addition to the UFCW international union, in Washington, and Local 400, the Smithfield lawsuit names three groups and seven individuals it describes as "co-conspirators" with the union.

While the use of the federal racketeering statute in a union-organizing dispute may seem unusual, other companies have turned to the racketeering law, says Lynn C. Outwater, a labor relations lawyer and managing partner of the Pittsburgh office of the law firm Jackson Lewis.

Outwater cited the March ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan, of the Eastern District of New York, allowing a civil-racketeering conspiracy case to proceed against the Laborers' International Union.

The lawsuit by the Asbestos & Lead Removal Corp. contended that Laborers Local 78 and business manager Edison Severino carried out a campaign of violence and extortion designed to force the company to agree to a collective-bargaining agreement with Local 78.

The stakes are high in the protracted unionization struggle between Smithfield and the UFCW. With annual sales of $12 billion, Smithfield Foods calls itself the largest producer of hogs and the "leading processor and marketer of fresh pork and processed meats in the United States."

The Tar Heel plant is the largest meat processing plant of its type, according to Smithfield Farms, and slaughters, processes and packages more than 32,000 hogs per day.

The UFCW, on the other hand, represents 1.4 million workers and Landover, Md.-based Local 400 claims 40,000 members.

Local 400 began trying to organize Smithfield's Tar Heel workers in 1994, two years after the sprawling processing plant opened.


State denies uncivilized strikers' appeal

An appeals court has refused to throw out an injunction that sets standards of behavior on the picket line in the strike against Dresser-Rand Co. in Painted Post, NY.

The ruling came from the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of state Supreme Court. Local 313 IUE-CWA, which is in the 12th week of its strike against Dresser-Rand, filed an appeal seeking to have the injunction set aside.

The injunction, issued by Acting Supreme Court Justice Marianne Furfure on Oct. 2, prohibits illegal, harassing, intimidating or disruptive behavior on the picket line.

“We are extremely pleased with this decision,” said Dresser-Rand spokesman Dan Meisner.

More than 400 members of Local 313 walked off the job Aug. 4 in a dispute over work rules and the cost of health insurance. About a half-dozen members of the union have crossed the picket lines to return to their jobs, said Local 313 President Steve Coates.


Change to Win trumps AFL-CIO for union award

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is the winner of Union Free America's 2nd Annual 'Most Decertified Union Award.' This honor is awarded to the labor union that lost the most decertification elections during the preceding 12 months.

The judging was based on an analysis of the reports of election results on the National Labor Relations Board's web site for the period August 2006 through July 2007. During that time the NLRB conducted 353 decertification elections. Employees seeking to rid themselves of a union won 236 or 67 percent of them.

The Teamsters union won the 'Most Decertified Union Award' by being decertified 61 times during that period. The Teamsters were involved in a total of 86 decertification elections of which they lost 71 percent.

The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union was in a distant second place with a loss of 19 of 25 elections.

Honorable mention in the 2007 competition was awarded to the Sheetmetal Workers International Association, which even though it only participated in 7 decertification elections, lost 100 percent of them.

The Teamsters outstanding performance helped the Change to Win unions edge past the AFL-CIO affiliates in the competition. Despite the fact that the AFL-CIO is a considerably larger federation, Change to Win unions participated in a total of 164 decertification elections and lost 110 of them compared to just 148 elections with 102 losses for the AFL-CIO.

Colorful certificates commemorating these achievements have been sent to the Teamsters, Steel Workers and Sheetmetal Workers unions.

"Labor union officials will contend that they don't compete for the 'Most Decertified Union Award' but actions speak louder than words," said David Denholm, the founder of Union Free America.

Union Free America was founded in 2002 to provide advice and encouragement to workers fighting to stay, or become, Union Free. The 'Most Decertified Union Award' was established in 2006 in response to the growing number of requests from workers for information about how they could rid themselves of unwanted union representation.


Faculty strikers cross picket line to give blood

Acadia University faculty members crossed the picket line Tuesday, but only to give blood. The strike by the university’s faculty union entered its second week Monday and there’s no end in sight.

No new talks are scheduled yet and professors remain on the picket line, although the union allowed its members and others to cross the line Tuesday to donate at a blood donor clinic on the campus.

The strike hasn’t caused much in the way of cancellations, university spokesman Scott Roberts said Tuesday. It has forced the postponement of an open house for prospective students scheduled for this Friday, however.

He also said a workshop at the campus planned for this week by the Association of Atlantic University Teachers was cancelled by the group because it wouldn’t cross the picket line.

He said there is no specific mid-term schedule because not all professors have the tests, so there is no official cancellation. How those are made up will be up to the professors.

The Acadia students union is planning a pro-student rally for Thursday. In a release, the union said that as the strike continues, students are becoming fed up and are frustrated that negotiations are at an impasse.

Kyle Steele, president of the students union, said in the release that tensions at Acadia are directly affecting students’ futures.

"Many students are stressed that they will have a difficult time catching up on their course work once the strike ends," he said. "They feel that they are losing out on valuable class time and contact with their professors."

He said both sides need to get back to the table and work out a deal.


Striking Teamster drivers replaced, no complaints yet

As fires move through the Santa Clarita Valley, Waste Management drivers are still on the picket line. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were no new discussions or negotiations between leaders of Waste Management and Teamster Union 396, which represents the truck drivers.

Replacement drivers have since resumed service for Waste Management, which has experienced minimal service disruptions since the labor strike started over the weekend.

"Things are going pretty well," Waste Management spokeswoman Kit Cole said, and added that replacement drivers are servicing the Santa Clarita Valley, picking up trash at local residences and businesses. Cole also said that Waste Management has not received any complaints since the strike began.

She stated there is no timeline for when the strike will end. Teamsters at Waste Management overwhelmingly voted to reject Waste Management's most recent contract offer, deciding to go on strike on October 19. Members of the Teamsters Local 396 rejected the offer by a 247-115 margin. It is the third time that the union rejected a Waste Management contract offer.

Both sides have been in negotiations since August, in attempts to come to terms with a new agreement, replacing the last contract between the two parties which expired on Sept. 30. Residents within the Santa Clarita city limits are not affected by the strike - though residents and businesses in unincorporated areas surrounding Santa Clarita may have experienced temporary service disruptions through Monday.

Replacement drivers resumed service on Monday morning, giving the highest priority to servicing hospitals, health clinics, child care facilities, and residents.

The strike involves approximately 500 union truck drivers who serve 225,000 residents and 29,000 business in the Los Angeles area. According to union leadership, the decision to strike was made after extensive discussions between union leadership and membership, in an attempt to gain awareness on what Teamsters believes is an unfair contract.

Alleged wage discrepancies are at the heart of the dispute, according to union leaders and members.


Truckmaker disappointed by unfortunate UAW strike

International Truck and Engine Corporation announced today that the United Auto Workers union (UAW) has elected to strike the company. The UAW represents approximately 3,700 employees at nine company facilities that are covered by multi-site contracts that expired on October 1.

In response, International has activated a series of production continuation measures designed to provide uninterrupted delivery of products and services to its customers. "We expect our customers to continue to receive their orders in a timely manner," said Jeff Bowen, vice president of human resources at International.

For more than two years, the company and union have engaged in various periods of "early" negotiations attempting to reach agreement on changes that would improve the competitiveness of International's UAW-represented facilities. In June 2006, the company and UAW leadership reached a tentative agreement on new contracts, but 84 percent of the voting UAW membership rejected it.

Negotiations began again on August 27, 2007 and have continued past the expiration of the labor agreements until today when the UAW chose to strike.

"The union's decision to strike is disappointing," Bowen said. "All of the changes we have been discussing are already in place at other UAW-represented manufacturers in our industry. We've been bargaining in good faith for over two years, and we continue to work very hard to reach a positive outcome for our business and our employees. This strike is unfortunate, but it does not change our goals."

International remains committed to continue negotiating to reach an agreement that improves the competitive position of its UAW-represented facilities and maintains a good quality of life for its employees and retirees. "Most important, during these times of high emotion and uncertainty, we're asking that safety and respect continue to be top-of-mind for all employees," Bowen said. "We remain ready to continue bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement."

The UAW represents approximately 3,700 employees at nine International Truck and Engine facilities in Indianapolis, Ind. (engine assembly and foundry), Melrose Park, Ill. (engine assembly and engine engineering), Springfield, Ohio (truck assembly), Atlanta, York (Pa.) and Dallas (parts distribution centers) and Fort Wayne, Ind. (truck engineering). Total worldwide employment at the company is 16,000.

For more information on Navistar's negotiations, visit: www.navistar.com/negotiations.


UAW strikes truckmaker over outsourcing

The United Auto Workers union walked out Tuesday at Navistar International plants in Indianapolis and elsewhere, contending the company outsourced work at an Ohio truck plant in violation of a labor agreement.

The union announced the strike by about 4,000 UAW members at 5 p.m. Tuesday, halting contract talks in suburban Chicago that had begun nearly three weeks ago to replace an expired labor agreement.

The UAW represents about 1,625 workers at an Indianapolis foundry and diesel assembly plant that supplies Ford with engines for full-size pickups. The walkout also includes about 400 UAW members at Navistar’s Fort Wayne engineering center.

“It’s an unfair labor practice strike. I don’t think it’s going to be that long, but it’s hard to say,” said Roland Rusie, president of UAW Local 98 at the Indianapolis diesel plant.

Navistar’s operating arm is International Truck and Engine Corp., or ITE, which runs the Indianapolis plants.

Navistar transferred work from the International Truck plant in Springfield, Ohio, to plants in Mexico and Texas, violating a labor agreement that bars such moves, the union charges.

“ITE executives moved our work to Mexico and to non-union plants in Texas, canceled our supplemental unemployment benefits, and ignored our job security program,” said General Holie8field, a UAW vice president, in a prepared statement.
Roy Wiley, spokesman for Warrenville, Ill.-based ITE, said the company has been “negotiating in good faith.”

“The union’s allegations are entirely unfounded and false, and I’m convinced (we) will be vindicated once we get into the NLRB process,” Wiley said.

In Indianapolis, workers reportedly set up picket lines at the manufacturing complex at 5565 Brookville Road shortly after the strike was announced.

The UAW has had no major strikes at Navistar since a five-month walkout began in November 1979 against the company, then known as International Harvester, Rusie said.

That 1979 strike, followed by the recession of 1980-81, flattened Harvester, which then employed more than 35,000 UAW members, and set in process a restructuring that led to a downsizing and closing of its massive Fort Wayne truck assembly plant.


UAW tactical strike hits Springfield, OH

About 1,200 workers at the International Truck and Engine Corp. plant on Urbana Road walked off the job at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The strike began after negotiations between United Auto Workers and International broke down late Tuesday afternoon, said UAW Local 402 boss Charlie Hayden.

The national contract between UAW and International expired Oct. 1 but the two sides continued negotiations off and on since then.

Roy Wiley, company spokesman, confirmed the UAW notified the Warrensville, Ill.-based company of the strike but would not comment otherwise. Members of local 402 and 658 — which include technical and clerical workers — went on strike as part of a nationwide move with more than 4,000 UAW members striking in six states, according to a UAW press release.

In Springfield, some 700 employees already were laid off in late September, said Hayden, after the company halted truck productions until a contract was agreed upon. Production was moved to plants in Texas and Mexico.

"That was unfair labor practice," said Hayden. "We were fine building those trucks here."

Other UAW workers remained in the paint and metal stamping areas of the plant during the production halt.

Hayden said national union representatives have not been in touch with the company since the strike began.

With temperatures hovering in the 50s, sporadic rain and wind gusts up to 15 mph, Hayden was busy coordinating a schedule to relieve strikers and keep them warm.

Members at Local 402 headquarters, just south of the plant, prepared barrels of wood and hot coffee while strikers holding signs that read "UAW On Strike. Unfair Labor Practice" prepared for what could be a long night.

"We just want to keep our jobs," said Jim Wirkner, who has been on the job 30 years.

Hayden declined to elaborate on details of why the talks were halted.

He did say UAW would be on strike until an agreement is reached.

"It's tough," Hayden said. "I just don't like what we have to do. It's much easier if the company you work for tries to work with you."


Union members revolt over UAW-Chrysler deal

Ratification of a proposed concessionary union contract at Chrysler was in doubt as Socialist Worker went to press.

Despite arm-twisting by leaders of the United Auto Workers (UAW), workers at six union locals voted to reject the deal--which contains not just the same concessions in the recently approved UAW contract with General Motors, but worse. The final outcome of the vote will depend heavily on a vote at Chrysler plants in Belvidere, Ill., and Sterling Heights, Mich., where the local presidents have not endorsed the deal.

Like the GM contract, the tentative agreement at Chrysler, reached after a token six-hour strike October 10, calls for cutting wages in half for all “non-core” jobs--that is, for workers not directly involved in assembly line production. At GM, this was understood to mean pay cuts for future hires in jobs like materials handling, janitorial work and jobs in parts warehouses.

In the Chrysler deal, however, the lower-tier wages would also be instituted for all jobs in three key manufacturing plants--Toledo Machining, Detroit Axle and Marysville (Mich.) Axle. Workers at 19 parts depots will also be designated as “non-core,” as will transport workers. As at GM, all new hires would no longer get pensions, but a 401(k) plan instead.

And where GM offered full-time jobs for about 3,000 temporary workers, Chrysler refused to do so. That was a key reason why UAW Local 1268 President Thomas Littlejohn, who represents workers at the Belvidere plant, refused to endorse the deal. Out of a workforce of 3,800 in the plant, some 600 are temps.

Further, Chrysler failed to commit to substantial investments in U.S. plants, as GM had done.

The two-tier wage provision was the main reason why Local 1700 President Bill Parker of the Sterling Heights plant also opposed the deal. Parker, elected as chair of the Chrysler bargaining committee, broke with UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and other top union officials to call for a rejection of the deal at a meeting of the UAW’s Chrysler Council, comprised of leaders from Chrysler plants.

The meeting was stormy, and opposition was greater than what was reported by UAW leaders. According to Shawn Fain, a skilled trades committeeman in Local 1166 in Kokomo, Ind., his motion for a roll call vote at the meeting was ruled out of order in order guarantee passage of the deal.

“I made a motion for a roll call vote so that we could have an exact count to report to our respective local memberships,” Fain wrote in a report to his local. “According to Jim Coakley, who chaired the council meeting, my motion was defeated. Again, this vote was a total sham, due to the fact that there was no way to get an accurate count of those voting in favor or opposed, and the fact that there are numerous people in the council meeting who have no voice, yet they yell out their vote anyway.”

Another reason for opposition to the deal is the proposal to eliminate most classifications for skilled trade workers--that is, forcing electricians, millwrights and others to do one another’s work and reducing the number of these well-paid jobs.

Like the GM contract, the Chrysler deal would create a union-controlled Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), which would take over retiree health care costs. But where GM will under fund the VEBA at 70 percent of its liabilities, the Chrysler VEBA will be funded at just 50 percent. “In reality, it’s $7.1 billion cash for $19 billion in liability,” wrote Gregg Shotwell, a GM worker and an activist in the Soldiers of Solidarity opposition network.

A public memo on the Portfolio.com Web site to Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli spelled out the benefits of the contract to the management of Chrysler, now owned by the private equity firm Cerberus.

“[The UAW] pretended to strike, and you pretended to cave,” reads the memo. “In reality, the $11 billion you paid to get the health-benefit liabilities off your books will soon look outrageously cheap, and limiting job guarantees to the lifetime of the individual products will give you far more maneuverability than anyone is reporting.”

Despite the lack of reporting, a large number Chrysler workers recognize the deal for what it is--an unprecedented capitulation to management.


French unions call more strikes

The French capital endured new commuter disruption Tuesday as civil servants and teachers said they would join train drivers fighting government plans to cut pension benefits and other cost-cutting measures.

There were 200 kilometers (125 miles) of morning rush hour traffic jams around Paris and the rail service between Charles de Gaulle airport and central Paris was again disrupted, with only half of trains running, the SNCF state rail company said.

Commuters have suffered since the industrial action started last Thursday against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to scrap pension benefits enjoyed by rail workers and some other public employees.

Seven unions representing civil servants said they would strike on November 20, saying in a statement that "the government was not considering their two priority demands -- purchasing power and public sector jobs."

Five teachers' unions said they would strike the same day in protest at the 11,000 job cuts planned in the education sector.

Sarkozy has announced plans to scrap 22,900 civil service jobs in 2008 by not replacing retiring employees.

Eight unions representing rail workers are to meet again on October 31 to decide whether to stage an unlimited strike from mid-November to protest the pension reforms.

Sarkozy has vowed he will not compromise on plans to end special benefits that allow half a million public transport and utility employees to retire as early as 50.

The head of the CGT rail union Didier Le Reste said the government should not underestimate the protest movement.

"When 73.5 percent of railway workers go on strike, the government should listen," Le Reste told Le Parisien newspaper. "It should be seriously concerned. It must go back to the drawing board."

Rail traffic outside Paris was normal on Tuesday as was service on the Paris metro and bus system.

The strikes are seen as the first real test of Sarkozy's resolve to push through reforms that were the centerpiece of the election campaign that won him the French presidency five months ago.

Strikes and mass protests forced a previous government to back down on the reform of the so-called "special regimes" in 1995.

The five unions representing energy workers from state-controlled EDF and GDF were to meet later in the day to decide whether to join in the November strike wave.

Employment Minister Xavier Bertrand was to begin a fresh round of negotiations on pension reform after one of the unions, the more moderate CFDT, offered to compromise.

CFDT leader Francois Chereque said members could agree to make pension contributions for a longer period of time: but only if the changes were implemented in phases and new criteria were used for calculating the pension benefits.

But a leader of the hardline Sud-Rail union, Christian Mahieux, told RTL radio that government demands to extend employee contributions from 37.5 working years to 40 were a non-starter.

"There is nothing to negotiate," Mahieux said, adding that if the government refused to back down, "we are effectively headed toward a conflict that could last ten days."

Chereque ruled out joining the civil servants' strike on November 20, saying there should be no attempt to "mix up" the issues, but the CGT union said the two groups could possibly unite their forces.

Polls show the government enjoys public backing for scrapping the pension benefits that are increasingly seen as unfair.

But plans to streamline the public service -- which employs one in five people in the French labour force -- do not enjoy the same level of public support.


Collective bargaining danger warning issued

The issue has raised its ugly head once again at the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board: collective bargaining. (Can you say “teacher strikes?”) The unions must see a shot at a majority vote on this board and can’t help but make a power grab. Forget the children, parents and the public. The unions want to be the exclusive bargaining agent for all teachers and employees. Are our schools auto factories? Are our teachers now just better-dressed teamsters? I thought they wanted to be treated as professionals and paid accordingly? Well, does your doctor, lawyer, CPA or engineer belong to a union ... and go on strike?

If some teachers choose to join a union, so be it. They can have their union representative at the school board meetings to raise whatever issues concern them. But that union rep only has one seat at the table, just like every other interested party—including taxpayers. Collective bargaining would give the union rep the ONLY seat at the table with the board, and leave you out of the picture, despite it involving your child, your money and your community school system. The union members all have a right to vote on their school board members. Let those elected officials represent them along with all other parents and taxpayers.

Can the board possibly think collective bargaining is going to fix our schools? After just getting out from under the court’s desegregation order, do they really want their hands tied again by collective bargaining? Does any board member think this is going to improve their image in the eyes of the public, inspire confidence and build support?

A warning to the board: Approving collective bargaining is a step backward into the past and could cost you business and public support.


National RTW Legal Defense Foundation

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