Unions to hog-tie pork spokesperson

Paula Deen is as political as a plate of fried chicken, with greens, squash casserole and corn bread on the side. The only group that might have a beef with her is Weight Watchers, or grumpy vegans, not a big national union.

Yet on Monday, supporters of the United Food and Commercial Workers union plan to be on the sidewalk outside The Lady & Sons restaurant - and wearing chef's hats, no less - to protest her role as a paid spokeswoman for the Smithfield Food corporation.

The head wear is a nice touch. But if it's not too late, they should go with dunce caps.

Smithfield is the nation's leading producer of pork products. Paula Deen is one of the country's experts in getting those pork products past people's taste buds.

The pairing is a natural. While I have no idea what Smithfield is paying her, she's worth every dime. She's the Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan of Southern cooking. Celebrity-wise, the road to "real" food goes slap dab through her kitchen, thanks to her show on TV's Food Network, a pantry of cookbooks and her rich-as-real-butter personality.

And organized labor knows it. That's why it's going downtown to hog-tie Savannah's best-known foodie. It hopes to use the Sultaness of Scrumptious as leverage in a bitter, decade-old labor dispute at a Smithfield plant in North Carolina.

Sadly, even some local Democrats have swallowed the union's logic, which is to paint Paula as a hapless tool of a cruel and evil overlord.

"We need to encourage Paula Deen to do something about the situation," according a Democratic Party e-mail that went out last Thursday. It encouraged Savannahians to join the picketing during the lunch and dinner hours.

Gee, and after that, maybe they can all march down to the waterfront and toss the Waving Girl statue into the Savannah River, to protest a sexist display of overt female friendliness.

Local Democrats have more important things to do - like maintaining their credibility.

Party poobahs and labor bigwigs are joined at the hip at the national level. But Dems here should know that picketing Paula, the Grande Dame of Good Cheer, is a brainless move. It's not going to generate sympathy for a union that wants organize several thousand workers in Tar Heel, N.C. Instead, it's going to make picketers look like heels - and probably serve up some local voters to the GOP on a silver platter.

I've never been inside a pork processing plant. I have, however, seen what happens inside a plant that turns live chickens into food parts. It's messy, grim and not a place I'd choose to work, even if management treated me royally.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union maintains that Smithfield treats its North Carolina workers like peons, then threatens to fire those who breathe the U-word.

Smithfield denies it. The company says its employees have asked for a secret ballot vote on unionization, but the union has refused, opting instead for a campaign to pressure Smithfield at the corporate level to cave in.

This fight has been going on in North Carolina, which is a right-to-work state like Georgia, for at least 10 years.

Look for it to continue for another 10, since neither the union nor management seem ready to blink.

But that's their food fight. Don't drag a lady who turned humble sack lunches into a home-cooking conglomerate into the middle of it.

Targeting Paula Deen isn't a sign of a union's support of workers at a non-union plant. It's a sign of desperation.

Besides, the Vamp of Vittles has other fish to fry - covered in corn bread mix, of course.


Financial Core Status - A choice for union members

Please explain the writer's strike and how it is affecting daytime. -- Greta in Parsippany, N.Y. asks Lynda. She answers, The strike has to do with all things technology. With the Internet offering more and more television scenes, writers want a piece of the online pie.

"Young and Restless'" last taped show airs Dec. 20. There is a story afoot that the show has shut down, but they do it every year so the staff can enjoy joint vacations. In order to get the six weeks off, the show produces six episodes a week for several weeks.

While almost every soap writer says they will honor the strike, there is a way to hedge the promise. Writers can choose to go on "financial core status." That means writers can work and collect benefits, but can no longer vote as member of the Writers Guild of America.

There have been suggestions that when Y&R staffers return, they will not be headed by Leah Laiman, who has served as the show's head writer and executive producer. Other shows are using the time to rethink their writing staff. If the scripts dry up, they will just spend more time going on auditions.

One actor who is not one to save his money fears a long writer's strike could cause him to lose his New York condo.


Union claims exemption from ethics rules

The local transit union has given notice to Escambia County (FL) that its members are exempting themselves of the county's revised ethics policy because the county didn't negotiate the policy changes with the union.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395, which represents 325 county employees who work under the Board of County Commissioners, is referring to a chapter of state law that deals with labor organizations that represent public employees.

Mike Lowery, president of the local Pensacola transit union, said that because some of the county's revised policies could lead to possible discipline or termination of union employees, the county is required by law to negotiate and explain the conditions of such a policy with the union before approving it.

"It is truly sad that the county continues to ignore their legal obligation when dealing with the sole collective bargaining agent, the ATU, of these classified employees," Lowery said. "The county has demonstrated that the good ol' boy politics and mannerisms will continue when dealing with employees. Where is the good faith negotiations by the county?"

County commissioners approved changes Thursday to the county's ethics policy, most of which address questionable business dealings and disclosure issues by former County Administrator George Touart. However, the union still hasn't been presented a copy of the changes, Lowery said.

"Since the county has chosen not to present the new policy to the union prior to the county commissioners approving the new policy, the union hereby notifies the county that the classified employees represented by ATU are exempt from this policy," Lowery said in a letter to county officials.

County Administrator Bob McLaughlin and the County Human Resources office directed questions on the issue to the county's union attorney, Mike Mattimore, based in Tallahassee. Mattimore could not be reached for comment Friday.

County commissioners in September requested the county's ethics policy be revised to help head off future ethical issues like the one that ended in Touart's sudden resignation on Sept. 6. The county's ethics policy has been in place since March 2004.

Some of the revisions, which are set to take effect Jan. 1, apply to all county employees who work under the Board of County Commissioners, while most target senior management.

"This policy was aimed primarily at senior management, and I believe the people represented by the ATU, for the most part, do not fall under that classification," said Commissioner Mike Whitehead. "If we have to go through the policy with the union again then we will. It is our intent to include everyone. But I don't think it was the rank and file employees we were concerned with in these ethics changes."

In this case, the Local 1395 is defending the portion of its membership known as "blue collar" classified county employees, which includes Roads & Bridges, Solid Waste, Parks and Recreation, Facilities Management, Mosquito Control, Building Inspection, and Custodial departments.

"That's not to say we won't approve the ethics policy changes, but they are supposed to bring it to us prior to approving it," Lowery said. "It's called good-faith negotiations. The county does this all the time. They don't want to recognize the employees' union. They act like we're not here sometimes."


Tyranny of the union minority

The Associated Press brings us a doozie of a story about the creation of an entirely new area of union representation created in order to represent a workforce that mostly doesn’t even know they have a union in the first place. For that matter, this new union representation has a workforce the majority of which didn’t vote to join. This was one neat trick for the union, for sure. In essence the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) created a new branch of their union out of whole cloth with the approving nod of 11 Democrat state administrations.

How did they do it? They sent a postcard in the mail and since a bunch came back saying they’d like the idea, wham-o-change-o a union was created out of thin air. But here is the thing: there was no vote, there were no mass meetings, there was no election of leadership… the unions just sent out a few postcards and decided they were now authorized to create a new union for a workforce that had no such union.

The SEIU has decided that in 11 states they now represent child-care providers that work out of their homes. Again, there were no meetings, there was no vote. Just some postcards.

In New York, for instance, the AP reports that this presumptuous new union organization represents 28,000 child-care providers. How did it happen? Well, see, the SEIU sent out postcards and got back 8,382 that said they wanted to join such a thing if it were to be created. So, as far as the SEIU is concerned with less than 30% of the 28,000 New York child-care providers saying it was a good idea that gives them the right to claim they are now representing ALL of the rest of them!

What gall!

This is simply amazing. Here we have a business run by individuals, working for themselves, who will now be FORCED to become a member of a union most of them didn’t even know existed. Who is the “oppressive employer” here? These employees are working out of their homes, working for themselves! What right does a union have to force independent contractors such as these to pay them dues?

And who will bear the brunt of these union dues? Anyone who has young children and has to work for a living. Anyone who cannot afford to send their kids to the big chain, professional child-care companies and have to seek out a local, neighborhood lady who has set up a business in her home. THAT’S who will bear the brunt of this presumptuous new “union.”

After all, these tiny businesses will have to raise their prices to be able to afford the exorbitant dues. Furthermore, since the SEIU will be forcing governments to pass laws to affect these small business, who can doubt that the state fees and licenses giving in home entrepreneurs the permission to open such businesses will go up so that these new provisions of health-care and pension plans can be maintained?

And, again, who will bear the brunt of these sharply rising costs?

Poorer parents who use these small town, in home businesses, that’s who.

One last thing… this also means that many of these small businesses will have to shut down because the sharply rising costs to maintain them will get too high, driving them right out of the market.

But, this is yet another example of Democrats bowing and scraping to these un-American demands of union thugs. It is also another example of Democrats making it harder on the poor to get by!


How to deal with overpaid teacher union thugs

Washington County (WI) District Attorney Todd Martens is declining to charge James Buss, the knucklehead teacher and former union official, with trying to incite violence through a goofy comment on a blog.

Any other decision would have been surprising, at the very least, especially since Martens is one of the smarter prosecutors around. (Another surprise to some folks: Turns out I was actually right when I said as much in a recent column.)

Buss posted an anonymous message lauding the Columbine killers on a conservative Web site discussing teacher pay.

"They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs," he wrote. "One shot at a time! Too bad the liberls (sic) rip them; they were heros (sic) and should be remembered that way."

He wasn't seriously advocating violence, and certainly wasn't inciting it in any imminent way (the legal standard). His sign-on name was "Observer," not "Killer."

The only thing harder to believe than his anonymous and idiotic posting is that anybody ever took it seriously.


Act of God to cancel Hollywood deals

Talks between Hollywood writers and studios imploded Friday, dashing hopes of an imminent resolution to a five-week-old strike that has upended the entertainment industry.

The impasse is the latest turn in what has become one of the most tumultuous and vitriolic labor disputes in recent Hollywood history. It comes after eight days of contentious negotiations that yielded very little, if any, progress between the parties.

The sides remain deeply divided on how to split up new media revenues as digital technology and the Internet transform the way entertainment is delivered and consumed.

Both sides blamed the other for the breakdown of the talks, which fell apart over disputes about how much writers should be paid for shows distributed online, and whether writers who work in reality TV and feature animation should be covered under the Writer's Guild of America contract.

In a statement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, said it was "puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing WGA negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike."

Guild officials were not immediately available for comment.The latest setback will have far reaching consequences across Hollywood and for many businesses throughout Southern California that feed off the industry.

It may also foreshadow a new period of labor unrest in Hollywood, which has enjoyed relative peace for most of the last two decades.

A continued walkout won't affect only the 10,500 writers on pickets lines, but also thousands of other workers -- from crew members and actors to talent agents and studio office employees. Already, the strike has taken a heavy toll on so-called below-the-line production workers who work behind the scenes on film and TV shows.

The television industry, which already has been disrupted by the shutdown of more than 50 shows, will be even harder hit. Virtually all scripted television shows are expected to stop production by next week, causing a loss of 15,000 jobs and costing the Los Angeles economy an estimated $21 million a day in direct production spending, according to FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits.

Some economists have predicted that a strike stretching into next year could cost the overall L.A. economy more that $1 billion. The entertainment industry accounts for almost 7% of Los Angeles County's $442-billion economy.

Instead of watching new episodes of their favorite TV shows like "Desperate Housewives," "The Office," and "Cold Case," viewers will see reruns and a plethora of reality, sports and news programs.

With no fresh episodes, networks stand to lose tens of millions in advertising dollars. They could also see a further exodus of younger viewers to the Internet and other forms of entertainment, eroding the networks' market share.

Film studios will also suffer more disruptions. While they have enough movies to fill theaters in 2008, already several productions have been delayed because of the strike. Those include Ron Howard's "Angels & Demons," a sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" and Oliver Stone's "Pinkville." Other films could face similar fates.

Studios plan in the coming weeks to ratchet up the pressure on writers by invoking "force majeure" clauses in employment contracts with producers and others. The provision allows studios in a crisis such as a strike to terminate deals after a period of time, typically four to eight weeks after suspension notices go out. Shortly after the strike began Nov. 5, studios sent out dozens of such suspension letters to writer-producers of shows that shut down.

Most studios have contingency plans to pare overhead after the first of the year that include shedding some production deals and employee layoffs, several studio executive said this week. Talent agencies, which have slashed expenses, plan similar job cuts.

The studios will now try to strike a deal with directors, whose contract expires June 30. The Directors Guild of America, which has struck only once in its 71 years, for five minutes, has a history of negotiating contracts early and has a more cordial relationship with the studios than the writers union does.

Studios are hoping that a deal with directors would set the template for agreements with writers and actors, whose contract also expires June 30.

Such a strategy, however, could harden the resolve of the striking writers, whose guild has often sparred with the directors union on pay issues. It could also drive writers even closer to actors, who share many of the same concerns and who are preparing for equally tough negotiations. Screen Actors Guild leaders have strongly backed writers during the walkout, with a number of their celebrity members walking the picket lines.

Studios have been preparing for months for the prospect of an actors strike by moving up movies' production start dates so they could wrap by the end of June.

A prolonged strike also carries risks for the Writer Guild. Although union members have been strongly united behind their leadership, the solidarity could fracture if the strike drags on, creating severe hardships for many lower- and middle-income writers. Already, a group of top writer-producers known as show runners has expressed concern about how the strike is hurting their own staffs.

With so much at stake for both sides, many question why the parties have so far failed to come to terms on a new, three-year contract.

The parties remain sharply at odds over a host of complex issues, at the heart of which is how writers will be paid as entertainment migrates online.

"The industry is at crossroads," said industry veteran Sidney Sheinberg, former president of Universal Pictures' longtime corporate parent, MCA Inc. "Fear is a great motivator here on both sides."

Writers fear being short-changed as the studios rush to distribute their TV shows and movies on the Web, cellphones, video iPods and other devices. They sharply disagree with studios over how much they should be paid when shows are sold and reused online or created specifically for the Web.

"I'm not going to be the chairman of the negotiating committee that gives away the Internet," said the guild's John F. Bowman. "There's an enormous burden of history here."

The studios, confronted with dwindling profits from DVD sales and rising production and marketing costs, say they are concerned about committing to the guild's new-media pay demands when the economics of the Internet and other digital technologies are still so uncertain.

"They deserve to participate in the growth of the business, but you can't choke a business before it gets started," one top studio executive said of the writers and their demands.

The dispute isn't fueled only by the issues, however. A clash of personalities and styles of the opposing parties -- with the guild's chief negotiator, David Young, and President Patric M. Verrone facing off against the studios' negotiator, Nick Counter. That bad blood exacerbated tensions and caused dysfunctional negotiations.

Young, a veteran labor organizer of garment and construction workers and a newcomer to Hollywood, transformed the guild's culture from a somewhat insular artists group to a more traditional, activist union focused on growing its base. His confrontational tactics, more associated with blue-collar unions, put him sharply at odds with Counter, a veteran and hard-nosed entertainment industry negotiator who publicly blasted Young as inexperienced and militant. The two men openly sparred well before talks even began.

The conflict set the stage for a dysfunctional and erratic bargaining process.

Although negotiations ostensibly started back in July, they didn't get serious until Nov. 4, the day before writers walked.

Talks resumed last week, prompted by a flurry of back-channel communications involving writers-producers, studio executives and top agents, led by Creative Artists Agency partner Bryan Lourd. That raised hopes that a deal was within reach.

Tuesday marked the first time that they had a serious discussion about one of the biggest issues dividing them: pay for shows streamed online.

The next day, however, talks took a turn for the worse as writers reiterated their demands for jurisdiction over reality TV and feature animation and a proposal that would give writers the right to wage sympathy strikes in solidarity with other unions.

Studio executives considered those nonnegotiable issues and were angry because they thought writers wanted negotiations to focus on new-media pay only.

Writers were equally upset that the studios didn't offer better proposals on such key issues as residuals for shows sold online and episodes created for the Web.

The frustrations on both sides boiled Thursday and Friday with the sides accusing each of misstating facts about the details of the latest round of talks.


AFSCME strikers surround employer with Dems

More than 100 members of the classified employees union of the Multnomah Education Service District rallied Friday to mark the first week of their strike against the district and add political pressure with dozens of letters from public officials and legislators encouraging both sides to bargain in good faith.

The next negotiation session is set for Sunday.

Letters sent to the striking workers of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1995 include ones from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Portland City Council members, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden and several other politicians.

"We have now surrounded MESD with every political body there is," said Ralph Groener, an Oregon political coordinator for the union who led the rally.

The union represents the district's 381 classified employees, 80 percent of whom are participating in the strike. They include educational assistants, custodians and payroll specialists for the district, which provides to the eight Multnomah County school districts services that include special and alternative education, Outdoor School, health services and technology.

"The letters are telling the board that they need to get back to negotiations and get something done," said union spokesman Don Loving. The union has been working without a contract since July 1 and authorized a strike Nov. 13, when negotiations, which began in January, failed.

Both sides have accused the other of poor conduct. The district says strikers intercepted children on their way to class and tried to influence their opinions about the dispute. Union members -- who deny inappropriate behavior -- have blamed the district for postponing negotiations and said students are not being properly supervised.

The main contention in negotiations is rising insurance costs for workers. The union wants 30-hour educational assistants to be considered full-time employees, which would increase the district's contribution for insurance benefits to those workers and lower employees' share.

District spokesman Mark Skolnick said that the district and the union are still "far apart" on the issue and that the district has offered equal benefits to all its employees and can't give better benefits to any one group. He said the contract is fair and workers should not focus "on the emotions or the brush fires that are created."

"We don't need those letters to feel pressure," Skolnick said "The pressure of meeting the needs of our children is much greater than a rally in front of our building."

The district has hired more than 100 workers to replace the 300 striking union members.

The union complained that the district's outside-hired attorney, who advises the board's negotiation team, is "calling all the shots." Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard echoed that sentiment at the rally, saying the board should "take responsibility for the negotiations and fire the attorney they hired."

But Skolnick said attorneys are part of any labor negotiation and the district's merely advises the board, just as paid union workers who do not work for the district advise the striking classified union members and their negotiation team.

"Has the board abdicated its role? Absolutely not," Skolnick said, and he also disputed the union's claim that the district canceled a bargaining session last week. The state mediator never scheduled a session, Skolnick said. But he did confirm that the board's attorney was away at a conference for a week, "because both sides are sometimes unavailable."


Strike-happy SEIU nurses at it again

Union nurses at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center have voted to strike again if negotiations are not resolved over concerns involving wages and staffing.

They have yet to set a date, but talk within the union might focus on the holiday season and the end of the month.

"We've tried for eight months to find common ground with management on a contract to hire and hold onto the seasoned registered nurses that every hospital needs to ensure quality patient care," said Sue Weinstein, executive director of Local 121RN of the Service Employees International Union. "But (hospital CEO Richard) Yochum has rejected all our proposals."

Representatives from the hospital said they knew about the vote, but were not aware of the results of the recent strike authorization vote or what the union's intentions are. If the nurses do strike, said Kathy Roche, spokeswoman for the hospital, it would not be appropriate or in the best intentions of patients and the community. "We believe it would be irresponsible," Roche said. "But if they chose to do that, we would continue to provide high levels of patient care, as we always do."

The Wednesday vote by a 4-1 margin in favor of another strike was made by registered nurses who are presented by the SEIU, which has been in negotiations with the hospital since April.

"The hospital essentially refused to move off their position from their last (offer) several weeks ago," Weinstein said. "The nurses find that unacceptable."

The union's next step is to decided when to submit a strike notice.

Weinstein said the union has to give 10 days notice before going on strike at the hospital.

Nurses in the union twice walked the picket lines in September.

The key issues of concern to them are job security and staff-to-patient ratios.


Philadelphia's Racist Trade Unions

They call Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love. However, anyone who knows anything about Philly knows there's nothing brotherly about it--especially if you're a union construction worker who also happens to be a minority. In fact, it's surprising that the only sheets you see in Philadelphia are the bedsheets drying on clothes lines.

This morning, as we were posting news items for EmployerReport.com, we ran across the Philadelphia Inquirer story of Paul Solomon, a black construction worker in Philadelphia who, about a month ago, complained that another construction worker from the Glaziers' union had brandished a noose while working at the city's Comcast Center.

The incident spawned a demonstration called Build Smarter: End Discrimination in Philadelphia's Construction Industry Now!

Well, this morning's article mentioned a couple of things that piqued our attention:

First, the alleged perpetrator of the noose incident has not been allowed to work back at the Comcast Center. However, the Inquirer article does not say that the union (part of the Painters and Allied Trades) has done anything else to further discipline its member, nor does the article state that the union has done anything affirmative to ensure racial incidents will not occur in the future.

Second, Mr. Solomon's own union seems to be retaliating against him for lodging the complaint about the noose.

In fact, Mr. Solomon claims that since he complained about the Oct. 1st incident, he's been "blackballed as a 'trouble maker.'"

However, once we saw that Mr. Solomon is a member of Operating Engineers Local 542, in Fort Washington, PA, it didn't seem too hard to believe. You see, IUOE 542 seems to have a long history of denying diversity is a part of the American fabric--whether you're in a union or not.

In fact, instead of just calling the union hall and being satisfied with writing: "...Local 542 of the International Union of Operating Engineers did not return calls seeking comment yesterday," the Philly Inquirer writer should have dug a little deeper.

Had he done some real investigative journalism he might have found, based on Local 542's past, that Mr. Solomon may not be wrong in feeling as though he's being blackballed.

Although the union bosses in Philadelphia may want to keep their dirty little secret under their sheets, the problem is:

IUOE, LOCAL 542 HAS HAD MORE THAN 30 YEARS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS, as well as a U.S. Court-Ordered Supervision of Local 542 because of Racial Discrimination

NOVEMBER, 1971: 12 black plaintiffs, on behalf of an entire class of minority workers, sued Local 542 of the Operating Engineers for:

* discriminatory membership practices;
* discriminatory hiring hall practices;
* discrimination in the hours of work given and the wages earned; and
* unfair representation.

JUNE 19, 1972: Plaintiffs John Dent and Marion Eaddy, while at a Local 542 hiring hall, were physically attacked by three white members of Local 542. This attack took place in front of Local 542’s business agent and approximately 15 members of the union.

JUNE 20, 1972: Plaintiffs Cleveland Allen, John Dent, and Marion Eaddy were beaten outside of Local 542’s hiring hall by at least fifteen white members of Local 542.

JUNE 20, 1972 - JUNE 22, 1972: An emergency hearing had to be held regarding the violence on June 19th and the morning of June 20th.

AUGUST 4, 1972: The Court found that white members of Local 542 had repeatedly attacked the plaintiffs, as retaliation for filing the lawsuit. Because of this, the Judge prohibited all members of Local 542 from:

Threatening, intimidating, harassing, assaulting, injuring, or otherwise interfering in any manner with the named and class plaintiffs’ federal statutory and Constitutional rights to be free from retaliation because of their instituting and processing the instant employment discrimination lawsuit; and

Doing any and all other acts which in any manner interfere with named and class plaintiffs’ federal statutory and Constitutional rights to institute and process the instant employment discrimination lawsuit.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et. al. v. Local Union No. 542, International Union of Operating Engineers, 347 F.Supp. 268, 302 (E.D. Pa. 1972). The Judge finished by writing that all Federal Marshalls would be available to enforce his order.

JANUARY 19, 1976: The trial into Local 542’s racially discriminatory practices begins.

NOVEMBER 30, 1978: Nearly three years later, the Judge ruled that Local 542 discriminated against minorities. Specifically, the court found:

“At the critical level of viable jobs and equal opportunities, there were intentional and persistent efforts to exclude and discourage most of the minorities who, but for their race, would have been considered for entry into the union and for the more lucrative jobs.” Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Raymond Williams, et. al. v. Local Union 542, International Union of Operating Engineers, 469 F. Supp. 329, 337 (E.D. Pa 1978), (emphasis added), aff’d 648 F.2d 922 (3rd Cir 1981).

The Court also found that Local 542 had repeatedly misrepresented the number of minorities in the union. In 1968, an official with Local 542 estimated that there were approximately 650 minority members out of the total membership of 5000. By 1969, the union determined that there were only 400 minority members out of a total membership of 6000. In a document filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Local 542 finally admitted that it had a mere 259 minority members out of a total membership of 6128. As the Judge wrote:

“It is not acceptable to describe the repeated gross inaccuracies as merely incorrect guesses. . . . While it is conceivable that in one instance the union could have inadvertently made a significant error in overestimating the number of minorities in the union, it is incredible that errors of this magnitude could have occurred consistently by any mere coincidence. . .. Only a finding of discriminatory intent can explain this subterfuge.” 469 F.Supp. at 344, (emphasis added).

AUGUST 8, 1979: The Court enters a “CONSENT DECREE” against Local 542. The first portion of that document, called a PERMANENT INJUNCTION, orders that:

“Defendants shall not discriminate against any minority person because of his color or national origin, with respect to acquisition, retention of membership or affiliation in said local union, with respect to referral and selection for employment, with respect to any training, retraining or upgrading programs, or with respect to any other terms and conditions of employment, union membership or affiliation.”

The document goes on to order Local 542 to increase minority representation in the union and ensure EQUAL WORK AND PAY between minority and white members.

The court decided it needed to oversee Local 542’s compliance with the order, at least through March 31, 1984. A Special Master, attorney Frank Jenkins, was appointed to monitor Local 542’s performance regarding these goals.

DECEMBER 15, 1982: The court approves a monetary settlement reached between the plaintiffs and the union. Local 542 agrees to pay the plaintiffs $1.5 MILLION because of the discrimination.

MAY, 1985: Special Master Frank Jenkins found that Local 542 was still discriminating against minorities.

OCTOBER 10, 1985: The Court, in agreeing with the Special Master, holds Local 542 in contempt of court for failing to take the actions required by the 1979 Consent Decree. Specifically, the Court found that:

“The union was given five years in which to prove to this court that it could operate the hiring hall in a non-discriminatory, fair and equitable manner. The court finds that the union has failed in this regard and to the contrary, has continued to use the hiring hall as a tool of discrimination, albeit at a reduced level, but discrimination nevertheless.” Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et. al. v. Local 542, International Union of Operating Engineers, 619 F.Supp. 1273, 1277 (E.D Pa 1985), aff’d 807 F.2d 330 (3rd Cir 1986).

As a result of the ongoing discrimination, the Court appointed a full-time Hiring Hall Monitor to oversee the day-to-day operations of the hiring hall. The Court also extended the Consent Decree through August 31, 1987.

MAY 12, 1987: The Judge established a Civil Rights Committee to monitor Local 542’s activities. The Judge also ordered that the Special Master (Mark Halpern, attorney-at-law) provide a report on Local 542’s activities by October 15, 1993.

APRIL 30, 1989: Special Master Halpern, and the Court, ended the day-to-day monitoring of Local 542. According to Mr. Halprin, Local 542 had “earned the right to serve as its own watchdog.”

MAY 25, 1993: Because of the numerous complaints received by the Court alleging discrimination by Local 542 against minority union members, the Court ordered Special Master Halpern to again investigate Local 542’s hiring/assignment practices.

APRIL 15, 1994: Local 542 is again placed under strict court supervision. According to Mr. Halpern’s report, the “gains made by minorities prior to April 1989, when court supervision was lifted by Bechtle, were ‘wiped out’ in the following four years.”

JULY 20, 1998: Even though the Civil Rights Committee had been around for over 10 years, Local 542 continued to violate the rules regarding the election of four of the members. Even though only minorities were entitled to vote on the four elected members, Local 542 allowed white women to also vote. Local 542 was ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees - $11,869.50 in total.

AND THE ISSUES CONTINUED MORE THAN 30 YEARS LATER. February 16, 2000, a lawsuit by five black members of Local 542 for discrimination was filed against Local 542 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Willie Lee Jackson, et al. v. Local Union 542, International Union of Operating Engineers, Civil Action No. 00-854)

It would appear that Mr. Solomon isn't alone in feeling that the City of Brotherly Love's trade unions aren't living up to their city's motto. For, in Philadelphia, there is too much history of discrimination that, in the end, may prove Mr. Solomon wiser than the crackers who take his monthly dues.


Fresh & Easy chief looks past UFCW

Tim Mason is confused. The chief executive of Tesco's US convenience chain Fresh & Easy is sitting at the back of a coach that should be en route to the retailer's distribution centre to the east of Los Angeles.

He may have lived in Los Angeles for less than two years but Mason is convinced the coach driver has gone the wrong way. "Greg - where are we going?" he bellows to the front of the coach. "We should go on the 10 and the 60 unless it is blocked. What is he doing? He is going down to the 110 which is absolutely ridiculous."

It has been a gruelling few days for Mason. Just three weeks after he opened his first Fresh & Easy convenience store he has embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the fledgling operation with more than 100 City investors and analysts.

To make matters worse heavy rain - a rare occurrence in LA - has bought the entire City to a halt. "Its like when it snows in London," says Mason.

British winters are not something Mason misses about the UK. In fact apart from his children - a number of whom have stayed in England - he misses very little about home. "My wife enjoys it, my children enjoy it," he says. "I miss my kids in England. But I get back to see them once a month - that works quite well."

Mason has certainly adapted to the Californian way of life. "The local coffee shop at the end of our street is exactly like pubs used to be in England. It is extraordinary. It is where people go to chat, to hang out. It is really, really busy. I like the mix of cultures. The mix of people. I find it very enjoyable," said Mason.

The former Tesco marketing director - the driving force behind the development of Tesco Clubcard and Tesco.com - is even dressing like a Californian. Worn jeans and brown loafers are standard issue and Mason even has a check shirt - which is of course Fresh & Easy's corporate green. He even has a green friendship bracelet.

But it's not just his wardrobe that has changed - US portion sizes appear to have taken their toll. The formerly svelte 50-year-old triathlete has - how do I put this? - put on a few pounds while he has been in the US. Perhaps not surprisingly Mason has struggled to find time to work out in recent months having spent the last two years masterminding Tesco's US invasion.

One of the few British retailers to have stepped on to the international stage and prospered, over the past decade Tesco has been transformed from the UK's number two supermarket chain into an international powerhouse.

Now the supermarket chain is moving into the US and Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive, has charged Mason his closet lieutenant with spearheading the invasion.

Mason and Sir Terry have worked together for more than 25 years - it was Leahy who first hired him as a product manager. Both men joined the board in the mid 1990s and Mason has been widely tipped as Leahy's successor.

So what has it been like living on different continents after more than two decades working so closely together?

"It was very good for me to do something that was different. It was perfect timing. It is a very different relationship. We don't both have our head in the same engine," says Mason, who has retained a seat on the Tesco board.

Although he is quick to add: "The reason I have always stayed with Tesco is a measure of how much I enjoy working with Terry."

Leahy spent much of last week looking round the first 13 Fresh & Easy stores that have been opened by Mason.

"He has been incredibly supportive. Very supportive," says Mason. "Because he has been visiting overseas countries for 20 years he is very good at coming in, lifting people up and making people feel motivated. Touching the tiller, giving them direction, without undermining the chief executive.

"At the end of the day the chief executive of the country has to be the chief executive," he adds.

With the first stores open and the distribution centre up and running - despite opposition from the powerful UFCW union - Mason is flying high, even if it is raining.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing. Mason freely admits that there have been some hard times over the last two years.

The first few months were particularly hard: "When we first moved out here, people weren't with their families."

But it wasn't just home sickness that was a problem - even practicalities like buying a TV were difficult.

"If you don't have a social security number here you can't get anything. And if you don't have a credit history you can't buy anything. You couldn't get a car, you couldn't get an apartment," explains Mason. "Everything seemed to conspire against us."

His personal low came when he was driving home to the "soulless" rented flat he was staying in at the time. Running out of petrol he pulled into what he thought was a petrol station.

"I thought this was a bit odd - it was very quiet for a petrol station - then I realised I had pulled into a bus depot," he says.

But with the opening of the first stores, that is now behind Mason and his top team - many of whom have worked together at Tesco for many years.

"When we opened the Eagle Rock [store] it was just unbelievable. I walked outside to cut the ribbon and I could just not believe the line of people. There were hundreds and hundreds of people queuing.

"It was incredibly emotional for the people who had been here for the ups and downs. The founding fathers as I call them," he says.

Once the initial rush has subsided US shoppers will deliver their verdict. But the City's analysts and investors have certainly given the format the thumbs up.

"Tesco has developed a format that is priced broadly equivalent to Wal-Mart, but that is sited more locally to consumers and takes far less time to shop," wrote James Anstead, a retail analyst at Citigroup.

"It appears to be significantly cheaper than traditional US supermarkets, yet offers more convenience."

Success in the US would - in many observers minds - cement Mason's position as the natural successor to Sir Terry. Mason refuses to be drawn on what he wants to do next.

"I have got to the position in my career when I'll do what is right for Tesco, Tesco people and Tesco shareholders. I'll do whatever the chairman and chief executive ask me to do," he says when quizzed.

Not that he has any intention of leaving California. "I'm very happy to stay and build this thing," he says.

Echoing comments made by Leahy - who believes that the US could eventually be as big as the UK. He argues: "If Fresh & Easy is successful it will be the most exciting thing in retail bar none."

"China could be transformational for Tesco - but it is a very, very long haul. The US has the opportunity to be transformational within a decade."


Teamsters win raid on Machinists, net $500K/yr

More than 1,000 union workers became part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 317 following a vote Friday of BorgWarner employees between the Teamsters and International Association of Machinists, Local 2001.

The Teamsters won by less than 100 votes, 534-459.

The Machinists will lose $500,000 in dues following the defeat, but spokesman John Carr said it was about more than that. “To be honest, it's more than just the dues,” he said. “Our concerns are still with the families and the workers.”

Cal Organ, vice president of human resources at BorgWarner said, “BorgWarner appreciates the high turnout and the professional manner in which the election observers and the voters handled this process.

“We are very grateful to those employees who voted to put your trust in the Company. We respect the opinions of those employees who voted for either union, and we hope that we can all come together as members of the BorgWarner team.”

The vote means the Ithaca-Cortland BorgWarner site is the only union shop of BorgWarner's 13 sites aside from one in Muncie, Ind., which will shut down in 2009.

A representative from the Teamsters could not be reached for comment.


Union facing decert leans on NLRB

A veteran news anchorman at WGGB-TV abc40 is trying to get the union representing employees at the station decertified, while the union has filed five complaints against the station's new owner.

Anchorman Dave Madsen confirmed yesterday that he started collecting signatures last summer to decertify Local 19 of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians as the representative of most employees at the station.

The union represents 68 employees, after 10 people - including seven union members - were laid off last month by new owner John J. Gormally Jr.

Madsen said he is not opposed to unions. In a voice mail message, he said, "I want to make that very clear." He added that as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, he is a member of a union. "It's a very good union that does a lot of good things," he said. "My issue, and the issue of a lot of people here at abc40, is with Local 19 and the way some of the things are done."

William J. Murray, regional representative for the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, said that Local 19 recently got union representation cards signed by "more than a majority" of the union's members.

When the decertification effort began, "we went through the effort to see if we have a majority of support, and we do," he said.

Murray confirmed that the union has filed five complaints of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board since Gormally bought the station early last month. He declined to detail the complaints.

Murray said the union met with Gormally on Thursday for several hours to discuss union proposals for an interim contract or for recognition of the existing one while another is negotiated.

As the new owner of the station, Gormally declined to accept the existing contract with the union.

Murray reported that Gormally said he would consider the proposals and get back to the union, with tentative meeting dates set for later this month or early January.

Murray said employees at the station are anxious.

"They're uncertain about the future, so our members want a contract in place, and that's what we're trying to accomplish," he said.

Gormally could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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