Company Unions Threaten Progressive Labor Movement

The controversial and failed effort by Catholic Healthcare Partners in Ohio to hand-pick a union to represent their employees is not a new problem for the labor movement - but a very old one. It's unfortunate that SEIU's resort to using violence in the wake of this defeat has distracted from the real danger in this situation, which is the new rise of company unions. The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee commits to working against company unions any time they threaten healthcare workers.

Related video: "How CNA saved Ohio nurses from SEIU"

After the 1914 Ludlow mine massacre, John D. Rockefeller hit upon this perfect strategy for labor "peace": a union either controlled directly by the employer or which at least would agree to further the employer's interests-the company union. His maneuver undercut miner solidarity in the aftermath of the massacre and turned national attention away from the company's disgraceful record. Within just a few years, more than one million workers were represented by these phony unions, putting the entire labor movement at risk.

What Rockefeller proposed last century is being eyed today by hospital and HMO chains. We are entering an era of heightened healthcare unionization, which will result in either a progressive, democratic, movement of workers committed to better patient care or in a new wave of unions that don't stand up to employers so much as cuddle up to them.

That is exactly the scenario that Catholic Healthcare Partners faced in Ohio. They were in talks with both the AFL-CIO and SEIU, a stark contrast. The AFL-CIO remains America's House of Labor, and has become a more progressive and effective force in recent years. SEIU under Andy Stern, on the other hand, has embarked on a strategy of growth built on corporate agreements. Stern's deals with nursing home operators, hospital chains, insurance corporations, and the pharmaceutical industry have consistently placed the wants of his corporate allies ahead of the needs of workers.

Faced with this choice, Catholic Healthcare Partners dropped talks with the AFL-CIO, and made a back-room deal for a snap election with SEIU. It is noteworthy that CHP themselves filed for the election, most likely because of a distinct lack of worker support. Not only does Andy Stern's SEIU have a poor reputation among RNs nationally, but at this very chain, three years of organizing at five hospitals had only led to fourteen nurses supporting SEIU.

That's a failed organizing drive. By contrast, most union elections require a showing of interest of at least 30 percent of the employees.

This lack of worker support forced CHP to run its election in a nearly-unprecedented manner. Both hospital and union officials were gagged from answering questions from workers ... they were literally blocked from giving out the most basic information. Other unions, including CNA/NNOC, which has members at the facilities, were barred from the ballot. The snap elections were held with just two weeks' notice.

RN's from across the country saw this as a threat not only to their labor rights, but also to their professional practice, which SEIU has a poor record of defending. About a dozen of these RNs from California and Ohio traveled throughout the state, and after a few days of campaigning at the hospitals, were able defeat a deal that the Ohio Hospital Association, the lobbying group, called "refreshing."

In a humiliating defeat not only for themselves, but for all employers looking to hand-pick a union, Catholic Healthcare Partners was forced to withdraw its petition to hold a vote. While its collapse was not mourned by employees ,the employer made its feelings clear to the Associated Press: "We believe in the process we developed, and we hope to use it in the future."

CHP and all other hospital chains should be on notice: any time an employer files for an election to determine representation of Registered Nurses, that employer will have to face the RNs of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee. We are a progressive, democratic, feminist social movement trade union and we will not allow you to undermine our work with a new wave of company unionism.

As at Ludlow, the stakes are too high.

- Zenei Cortez is President of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC.) In our April 22nd edition, Beyond Chron published the opinion of an SEIU member regarding this controversy.


Novel attack v. Right to Work in labor-state

With little chance left of getting "right-to-work" backers to pull their ballot measure, business and labor interests have drawn up battle plans. A union-backed coalition filed a last-minute proposal Friday that would change the definition of a labor organization in the state of Colorado. The aim is to exempt unions from the impact of a potential right-to-work law that would bar compulsory union membership in workplaces.

"This is such an incredibly divisive issue," said Jess Knox, head of the Protect Colorado's Future coalition. "We wanted to make sure Coloradans have an opportunity to vote affirmatively for the current system."

A group of Denver business leaders has been weighing several options for a voter dissuasion campaign, while labor groups will try first to knock the right-to-work amendment off the ballot by finding enough invalid signatures on the petitions that were turned in this month.

"You hope, hope, hope in your heart of hearts that everybody will stand down," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Denver Metro Economic Development Corp., an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. "But you've got to plan for the worst."

In a slide presentation obtained by the Rocky Mountain News, the economic development corp.'s executive committee discussed various strategies last week for warding off "mutually assured destruction":

* Support the right-to-work effort and oppose several labor-backed initiatives (including a plan requiring employers to pay for employee health care and to give workers annual pay increases that keep pace with inflation.) The group noted that this "yes-no" option carries the risk that some businesses won't help fund the campaign and that linking business and labor issues in voter minds could prove difficult.

* Campaign for "no" on everything but risk splitting the business vote on right-to-work. "No" votes are "easiest" to get because they only require creating uncertainty.

* Let the right-to-work group run a "yes" campaign on its own measure. The chamber and economic development affiliate would run a "no" campaign on labor proposals, giving the appearance that many groups oppose them.

Clark said the executive committee hasn't voted on which avenue to pursue. But he noted it would be difficult for his group to run a "yes-no" campaign at a time when so many initiatives appear headed for the fall ballot.

He reiterated his frustration with the right-to-work measure, saying his economic development efforts have been aided by the state's current law because it sets a higher bar for all- union shops but doesn't outlaw them as a right-to-work measure would.

"We've had the benefit of being able to argue it both ways," said Clark, who maintained it would have been difficult to recruit the labor-friendly Anheuser-Busch to Fort Collins if a right-to-work law had been in place.

Right-to-work supporters, led by Coors Brewing descendant Jonathan Coors, want to abolish the potential for union contract clauses that require workers to pay for the cost of contract negotiations and union representation.

A campaign spokesman said Friday that the effort is "moving forward with an eye on winning in November."

As the plan moves closer to a vote here, a labor-backed coalition has been preparing to sift through the right-to-work petitions to look for potentially invalid signatures once they become available to the public.

Protect Colorado's Future has yet to begin collecting signatures for its own ballot measures, including one making it harder for employers to fire workers and another taking aim at corporate fraud.

But Protect Colorado's Future expects a boost from this week's challenge by a group analyzing the signatures that qualified an anti-affirmative action measure proposed by California conservative Ward Connerly. The group's legal challenge claims more than half of those signatures are invalid.

"Ward Connerly and the special interests behind right-to-work reportedly used the same paid signature gatherers, so we expect them to have many of the same problems," said Knox of Protect Colorado's Future.


Pro-union Gov. gets smacked down on dues

The Independence Institute, a Golden, Colorado based think tank, is circulating petitions for a ballot initiative that would stop governmental agencies from collecting union dues from their employees. In 2001, then-Gov. Bill Owens signed an executive order that stopped the payroll deduction for unionized state employees. Soon after Bill Ritter’s election, the new governor issued a new executive order to resume the automatic deductions.

Jon Caldera, president of Independence, says the organization doesn’t believe governments should be collectors and distributors of dues for unions that turn around and spend that money to lobby the same governments. Independence believes that taxpayers should not be subsidizing unions that often work counter to the taxpayers’ general interest.

We agree.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association says CEA’s view is that “once the employee has earned their salary, it’s theirs to spend as they fit and making a union contribution is their right.”

We have no quarrel with that right. But there is no right to force taxpayers to foot the bill for union members making those contributions. Let the members write checks to their unions.

This Independence Institute effort is worthwhile, and we urge Coloradans to sign the petitions.


No choice: UPS welcomes Hoffa to Oregon

About 150 UPS Freight workers in Oregon, most of whom work in Portland terminals, signed authorization cards to become Teamsters, the labor union said Friday. Of the 150 workers, 111 work in the Portland and South Portland terminals and will be joining Teams Local 81 in Portland, according to a news release. The remaining workers are from terminals in Medford and Eugene. It's the second such announcement this week. Another 13 workers from the Hermiston terminal were announced Wednesday.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the number of UPS Freight drivers and dockworkers to sign cards has now risen to 10,550 since Jan. 16.

A majority of UPS Freight workers in 37 states, including Oregon, have submitted cards.

"This has been the largest organizing victory in the freight industry in 25 years," Ken Hall, director of the Teamsters Packing Division, said in a statement.


10 of 77 UAW-GM locals have ratified pact

General Motors Corp. employees at the Fairfax plant continued making Chevrolet Malibus on Friday as officials negotiated past a strike deadline trying to reach a new local contract. Talks will continue through the weekend because the union believes some movement has occurred on disputed issues, said John Melton, bargaining chairman of United Auto Workers Local 31.

"We felt like there was enough progress to continue meeting," he said Friday shortly before 10 a.m., which was the earliest 2,700 hourly workers could have struck the Fairfax plant.

The extension for now averts a job action that could have halted the bulk of Malibu production. The new Malibu, which represents GM's attempt to reassert itself in the Japanese-dominated midsize car market, has sold well in a slow economy that has hurt the auto industry.

Ben Ippolito, the GM Fairfax plant spokesman, confirmed that both sides have consented to keep bargaining indefinitely.

"The UAW has agreed to give a 12-hour notice prior to any strike action," he said. "GM remains committed to bargaining in good faith and reaching an agreement as soon as possible."

The Fairfax plant is one of four GM factories where the UAW has issued a strike notice while talks continue toward new local agreements. One plant near Lansing, Mich., that produces GM's crossover vehicles went on strike April 17.

Some industry analysts believe the UAW's actions against key GM facilities are an attempt to get the automaker to bring pressure toward a settlement in a two-month strike at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc., where the company is asking for concessions. The shutdown of American Axle, a big GM supplier, has affected the automaker's production, mainly of sport utility vehicles and minivans that are in plenty of supply.

The redesigned Malibu, however, has posted strong sales since its launch last fall and is in strong demand from Chevrolet dealers. The average transaction price on the Malibu reportedly is nearly $21,000. GM executives also believe the Malibu will be GM's best-selling passenger car this month, which would not be a small undertaking given that the Chevrolet Impala outsold the Malibu almost 2-to-1 in March.

GM also began producing the Malibu earlier this year at a plant that mainly builds the Pontiac G6 in Orion Township, Mich. However, the bulk of Malibu production is at the Fairfax facility, which also makes the Saturn Aura.

Some industry observers believe a threatened UAW shutdown of the Fairfax plant could hurt GM's bottom line enough that the automaker would use its influence with American Axle.

But UAW officials have denied that the negotiations at various GM plants are related to the American Axle dispute. Local 31's Melton said this is his fifth negotiation and it has been the longest the Fairfax plant has gone without a new local contract following the approval of the national agreement.

Seniority rights and job-security issues related to work historically done by union members are the key local concerns in the Fairfax talks, Melton has indicated.

Despite the timing, one automotive analyst said the union's disputes with GM may not be connected to American Axle. GM's national contract with the UAW left gave local plants the discretion to define core assembly jobs, said Brett Smith, senior analyst with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. In the latest national agreement, the automakers sought to outsource some work to nonunion employees, such as janitorial duty.

"Even after the national contract got done, there were still enormous issues as to what core and noncore jobs are at GM," Smith said. "There are a lot of important issues that have to be resolved at GM. You're not seeing these disputes at Ford because they had more of these disputes completed at the national level."

Only 10 of GM's 77 plants have ratified a new local contract, a company spokesman said earlier this week.


News Union braces for dues hit from NY Times

"The New York Times newsroom is bracing for a bloodbath in the next 10 days." So says NY Post columnist Keith Kelly.
The word from inside is that approximately 50 unionized journalists have accepted the buyout proposal, and only another 20 non-union editorial employees have gotten on board.

That means the ax could fall on as many as 30 editorial people in the company's first-ever mass firing of journalists in its 156-year history.

Executive Editor William Keller had said originally that he was looking to cut 100 people from the Times staff in response to the dismal newspaper advertising environment...

With just 70 people stepping forward for buyouts, it is very likely that 30 newsroom staffers will be forced out in coming days.
A Times spokesman tells RAW STORY that no decisions have been made yet regarding lay offs.

"The details of the staff reduction are still under discussion internally, and no decisions have yet been reached on the scale of the buyouts," said Abbe Ruttenberg Serphos, the Times public relations director, in an e-mail Friday afternoon.

Kelly says the Times doesn't intend to make cuts at the business or national desk, because of competitive pressure from the Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

The Metro desk, he says, is expected to take most of the cuts.
Tuesday was the deadline for employees choosing to accept buyout packages, which offer three weeks of severance for each year worked. Management and other non-unionized employees were to have accepted their buyout offers by Monday.

Anthony Napoli, a Newspaper Guild representative, said his office was not sure how names were turned in.

"The process is not finalized," he said. "We're waiting for the Times to tell us how many have been returned and how many have been accepted."

Union swarm pulls NoVa Dems leftward

In a matter of months, Northern Virginia's 11th Congressional District has morphed from the home court of popular Republican Tom Davis to a left-leaning battleground in which two major Democratic candidates are spending most of their time trying to outdo each other's liberal credentials.

Davis, 59, who will retire at the end of this year, has easily won elections in what had been safely Republican territory for much of his 14-year tenure in the House. With a recent history of choosing Democrats, however, the 11th District is viewed nationally as fertile ground for a takeover. That has prompted a fiercely competitive four-way primary contest for the Democratic nomination this year. And it has pitted the two most well-known, well-funded candidates -- Leslie L. Byrne, a former representative, and Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors -- against each other in a fight for what they view as the liberal soul of the district.

The other two candidates on the primary ballot are Iraq war veteran Douglas J. Denneny and physical therapist Lori P. Alexander.

"It is clear that Fairfax County has turned blue and has had a great series of elections," said Del. James M. Scott (D-Fairfax), who has endorsed Connolly. "Democrats are gaining ground at all levels, and I think we have a real good shot at picking up this House seat. Clearly, both candidates are going after the folks who have been Democrats a long time and believe in a substantial amount of the Democratic values."

That dynamic has produced a series of attempts at left-leaning one-upmanship between Byrne and Connolly, who have traded comments questioning their opponent's progressive credentials and highlighting their own. Just this week, Byrne accused Connolly of misappropriating the logo of the National Organization for Women in a mailing. The group has endorsed Byrne. Also this week, Connolly cited two major union endorsements as evidence that Byrne's hold on the labor movement is not as strong as she states.

"Leslie's narrative is just blown apart," Connolly said.

Responded Byrne: "He has to do that because he has no record to appeal to the base of the Democratic Party. He has to reinvent himself."

Byrne, 61, has a long history of liberal activism on such issues as women's rights, labor, health care and the environment. In Congress, where she served for one term before Davis defeated her in 1994, she voted for the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act and pushed such issues as protection of federal wages and increased federal oversight of energy pipelines. She promoted a similar agenda during her seven years in the Virginia House and four in the state Senate.

As a result, Byrne has a list of endorsements from such large and influential groups as NOW, Emily's List, the Communication Workers of America and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "Leslie has been there and has sought us out over the years," said Marj Signer, president of the Virginia chapter of NOW. "We don't have to ask her where she stands on our issues. She has defined many of those issues."

Connolly, 58, does not concede that point. A popular politician in Fairfax who overwhelmingly won reelection as board chairman in November, Connolly has built a progressive record by promoting energy conservation, fair wage policies and a county rule sought by a grocery workers' union to restrict Wal-Mart and other "big box" stores in Fairfax.

Connolly's history of liberal activism doesn't reach back as far as Byrne's, but he and his supporters believe his relationships in the business community and his winning electoral record make him the better candidate to face a well-funded Republican, Keith S. Fimian, in November.

"He's never lost an election, and Leslie's won some and lost some," Scott said. "People understand that. They believe that this is such a great opportunity, and they've got a proven winner in Gerry."

Connolly also has his own list of endorsements, including the Service Employees International Union, the International Association of Firefighters and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

"She's got the steamfitters and the steelworkers," Connolly said. "That's great; they're rewarding her. But the dynamic unions that are growing and that have a different take on things have endorsed me."

The bottom line is that both have good records on labor and are splitting those votes down the middle, said Daniel Duncan, president of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council. "People have friends on both sides," said Duncan, whose organization is staying neutral in the June 10 primary. "Leslie has walked many a picket line with us and shown up at many an event. And Gerry, after working with him and lobbying him, did help get the living wage and the big box ordinance."

Less clear is how the two split the women's rights vote. NOW issued a statement this week criticizing Connolly for sending out a mailer that included a photograph of an abortion rights rally and NOW placards. "It felt like we were being used," Signer said.

Connolly said that the mailer's purpose was simply to state his views on abortion and women's rights and that the picture was intended to generically illustrate an abortion rights rally. Although he sought an interview with NOW to secure its endorsement, Connolly said, the organization endorsed Byrne without granting him one. Signer confirmed that but blamed scheduling and missed phone calls.

Byrne's longer history on women's issues made her a natural choice for endorsement, Signer said. "We know her," she said. "We know her really, really well."


Police union levels serious charge at authorities

Claiming city officials are ignoring a "crisis" in the Police Department, police union officials have unleashed a string of increasingly shrill attacks on the top brass at City Hall. Tucson (AZ) Police Officers Association President Larry Lopez contends a lack of officers on the street and pay that is slipping below comparable cities in Maricopa County are hurting morale.

Lopez upped the ante in the growing dispute this week by accusing City Manager Mike Hein of manipulating and withholding budget figures and by calling for Councilman Rodney Glassman to be removed from a city panel for making "anti-union" statements.

Lopez said the union had to resort to attacking city officials because Hein, other city staffers and some council members are willfully ignoring the "crisis."

Hein said the union is trying to stir up emotions to get a better labor pact.

With the city fighting tough budget times, Hein has recommended no pay raises for any employees and no increase in the number of police officers for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Lopez and other TPOA members accused Hein of withholding information and called for other City Council members to strip Glassman of his position as head of their subcommittee on public safety at Tuesday's council meeting.

TPOA officials say Glassman made anti-union statements to a police detective during a break in the last subcommittee meeting.

Lopez said Glassman was quizzing a TPOA detective on why he wasn't wearing a uniform, and commented, " 'If I had your union president, I wouldn't wear my uniform, either.' "

Glassman denied making the comment and said the union's call for his removal was "disappointing." He said the whole budget situation involving the Police Department is "frustrating."

"There were no anti-union statements," Glassman said. "I'm committed to not let these personal attacks get in the way of my support for public safety."

Lopez called Glassman's reputed comment "character assassination," and said Glassman is too immature to be the head of the public safety subcommittee.

He accused Glassman, a Democrat, of being upset that the union endorsed his Republican opponent, Lori Oien, in last year's council race, saying, "This goes back to the campaign in '07."

Union officials are also offended that Glassman quizzed a number of on-duty officers as to whether they live in the city.

Glassman, an outspoken advocate of all city employees living in the city, said he hoped more officers would be city residents so they could better create a "community policing" program.

Lopez blasted Glassman's position as "unprofessional and unethical," saying the Tucson Unified School District is the main reason officers don't live in the city.

"TUSD is a school district that is one of the worst school districts in the nation, and most of us, like myself, would not want my children to go to TUSD schools," Lopez said during the last public-safety subcommittee meeting.

TPOA also wants the council to raid the reserve fund to pay for salary hikes and 40 new officers. The union wants to ensure that its members' salaries are at least 95 percent of comparable cities in metro Phoenix.

The raises and 40 new officers would cost $8.5 million a year, said Deputy City Manager Mike Letcher, at a time the city is already looking at an $11 million shortfall that must be corrected before next year's budget is approved in June.

"It's difficult to imagine how you can advocate for increased compensation when we're not increasing services to the community," Hein said.

He said the union's tactics are designed to whip up hysteria, and he likened the union's attacks to "biting the hand that feeds you."

TPOA has at least one ally on the council in Democrat Shirley Scott, who wants more officers hired despite the budget problems.

"I'm concerned about having enough officers on the street," Scott said. "I think we need to find the money to support that."

Scott was more circumspect about raises, however, adding she would support raises only if they went to all city employees, not just public safety officers.

"I don't think there is money at this time to give everyone raises," Scott said. "Certainly I'm for more cops on streets -- that's the bottom line."

She declined to comment on the criticism of Glassman.

Democratic Councilwoman Regina Romero said police officers receive good pay and benefits, and that the city doesn't have the money to pay for raises or more officers this year.

"I don't know how we can do that when we don't have the money," Romero said.

The city also can't get into a bidding war for officers with cities in Maricopa County because Tucson doesn't have the resources to win that fight, she said, adding that she expects the police to continue to act professionally despite the dispute.

Romero said she doesn't support Glassman's ouster but acknowledged that he elicited the controversy.

"We need to behave ourselves as elected officials," Romero said. "He needs to be a little more sensitive about his comments. I like Rodney, I campaigned with Rodney and and will not call for his removal from the subcommittee."


The Tucson Police Officers Association displaced the Fraternal Order of Police as the union representing city police officers in 1996, after gathering enough petition signatures to force an election. The FOP, which had represented the officers for more than 25 years, tried to re-claim its position two years later but failed.


AFSCME raiders will go as low as it takes

Related story: "AFSCME invades Land of Enchantment"

They will decide whether to change from their current union, the New Mexico Transportation Union known as NMTU, to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, known as AFSCME.

Bus drivers and concerned citizens gathered Thursday to talk about the election and problems that led up to it. Some drivers said they were fired after they began showing interest in a new union.

"I truly believe I was fired because of my involvement with AFSCME. I was talking to co-workers and two days later I was terminated," said former bus driver Josephine Miera-Felder.

The bitter debate reached new heights last week when fliers were posted comparing NMTU to Osama bin Laden and President George W. Bush. Other fliers were posted in retaliation. They claimed that AFSCME would take away drivers' pay raises.


UAW to disrupt Foxwoods' MGM Grand gala

The United Auto Workers plans to mark the opening of the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods, but not by attending the black tie gala. The union is planning a "major demonstration" for May 17 at the casino near Ledyard. The UAW declined to provide further details Friday, saying it would do so at a press conference Monday.

The demonstration is scheduled for the same day Foxwoods opens its new $700 million MGM Grand expansion with a party by invitation only. The new wing, which includes a casino, hotel tower, shopping, restaurants and a 4,000-seat theater, will open to the public at midnight.

The UAW won a federally supervised election last fall when table game dealers voted to be represented by the Detroit-based union. The UAW would have an estimated 2,600 members at Foxwoods and would become the first labor union at the tribal casino.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns the casino, has challenged the election several times, saying federal labor law doesn't apply to a casino on tribal land. The tribe is contesting the results of the vote before the National Labor Relations Board.

The May 17 protest coincides with marches and other events scheduled around the country to raise awareness about challenges to union organizing and other legislation supporting workers being considered by Congress, said John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

"There is no more obvious example here," Olsen said, referring to the Mashantucket Pequots' continuing resistance to the formation of a union.

A spokesman for the tribe declined to comment Friday on the planned protest.


UAW strikers throw American Axle for a loss

American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. says it lost $27 million in the first quarter largely because of a strike by the United Auto Workers. The Detroit-based auto parts maker said the strike has caused an estimated $133 million in lost sales and nearly $46 million in operating income.

About 3,600 UAW members have been striking the company since Feb. 26 in a dispute over the company's demands for lower wages and benefits to match its competitors. American Axle earned $15.7 million in the January-March period last year. The company's shares were selling for $20.96 at the end of regular trading Friday, down 87 cents.


UAW relieved by lapsed GM strike notice

Negotiations resume today after 1,679 members of UAW Local 730 came within minutes of a strike Friday at General Motors Co. stamping plant here. "Everybody's relieved that we didn't strike," Local 730 president Barb Henderson said. Negotiators worked through the night Thursday trying to reach agreement on local work rules. Early Friday, they chose to carry on talks and delay a slated 9 a.m. walkout.

For now, the plant is operating under its existing local contract.

If an impasse develops, the union still could call a strike with a 12-hour notice. But Henderson and others with Local 730 are hoping that does not happen.

Although the strike threat came down to the wire, local union leaders are not bad-mouthing the plant management. The talks, Henderson said, are "pretty respectful.

"Nobody's giving daggers to each other when you pass them in the hallway," she said. "There was a lot of mistrust through the years with management, and they've worked hard in the past several years to get the workers to trust them."

As the strike at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. drags on -- now in its second month -- the ripples have hit GM plants around the country, including the Wyoming site. Nearly a third of the hourly work force is on layoff; of 575 off work, 470 layoffs are caused by the American Axle strike.

Members of Local 730 support the United Auto Workers members striking American Axle.

Earlier this month, several went to the Three Rivers plant to walk the picket line with striking workers.

General Motors accounts for 80 percent of American Axle's parts business. About 3,600 UAW workers at five American Axle plants have been on strike since Feb. 26. Negotiations are continuing.

On Friday, the Wyoming plant was one of two GM sites with strike deadlines. A Kansas City assembly plant where the Chevy Malibu is built also delayed a walkout. Local plants negotiate their own operating agreements separate from the national contract, which was settled last year. The local contract deals with issues such as overtime and work rules.

Jeff Manning, president of Local 31 in Kansas City, said the union was preparing for a strike after talks recessed late Thursday. But both sides met again Friday morning and made some progress, he said.

"Talks are continuing and progress is being made," Local 730 said on its Web site. "As long as the talks continue and progress is made, workers will continue to work and the strike will be avoided."

GM spokesman Dan Flores also said progress had been made.

"Our focus is to continue the bargaining and avoid any more walkouts," he said.

A GM plant in Delta Township near Lansing that makes strong-selling crossover vehicles went on strike April 17, and another local at a key transmission plant in Warren is negotiating and could give a 12-hour strike notice at any time. In addition, workers at a metal stamping plant in Mansfield, Ohio, have threatened to strike Monday.

Flores says negotiations are under way at all the plants.

GM said earlier this week the Delta Township strike has not yet hurt its sales of the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook or GMC Acadia crossovers, but the strike is a concern to the company.


UAW-GM strikers unlikely to make-back losses

Sounds of support for strikers of UAW local 602. "People go by and beep and wave which is nice," Striker Lisa Smith said. Smith and her co-workers have been on the picket lines for more than a week. "We do four hour shifts, seven days a week 24 hours a day," Mike Salazar said.

Salazar is a 24-year veteran of GM. He said the time off hasn't been all bad. "I've been riding my bike a lot," Salazar said. "I just bought a new Harley."

But he admits eight days without a pay check has been rough; strike pay doesn't kick in until next week. "Right now I have a pretty good savings account, but I'm starting to dip into it," he said. "It's going to start hurting here pretty soon."

Even when the strike pay goes into effect, $200 a week isn't all that much. "I'm a single mom with 2 kids," Smith said.

Smith has a sixteen-year-old daughter and fourteen-year-old son. "I had all my bills paid for the month just to be safe," she said. "Right now I'm just getting by. I have everything paid up until the end of May, then it will get tight."

If the strike doesn't end before the end of the month, GM's health insurance will.

"I have a disabled son, he really needs the insurance," Smith said.

Strikers said they haven't heard anything and don't know how negotiations are going, but are anxious for this strike to end.

"I'd rather be working," Smith said.
"I think everybody is ready to get back," Salazar added.

But they all said they will continue to support the union for as long as the strike lasts.


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