Labor Advocate Online
KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, August 1, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org
Another Fortnight In Review
Last week we were on the road, charging our batteries at the celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strikes. We’re gradually settling back in to our weekly routine.
Worker Rights North
In many respects our Canadian cousins have won better labor laws than those of us south of the border are stuck with. This is one local custom Arkansas based Wal-Mart doesn’t respect. When the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board granted a UFCW request to subpoena company documents concerning union busting tactics the world’s largest private employer squealed no fair. They found a grandly titled Court of Queen's Bench judge to agree. Her majesty’s jurist scolded the LRB for being subservient to the union. Emboldened by early success Wal-Mart has escalated their drive to Americanize labor relations north of the border by asking the courts to declare a section of Canada's Trade Union Act unconstitutional. The target is the section that prevents an employer from interfering in the union drive process through "advice" or "intimidation." Such restrictions violate Wal-Mart’s charter guaranteed freedom of expression, they argue. All of this high powered legal assault flows from a union drive at a small store in Weyburn, southeast of Regina. Wal-Mart has 65,000 employees across Canada. Like their operation in the USA, not a single one of them is under a union contract.
Worker ‘Rights‘ South
Many of you are familiar with the Association for Union Democracy that counsels trade unionists about their rights in battles with both boss and undemocratic union misleaders. Not so well known is a boss funded outfit that does just the opposite. The National Right to Work Foundation recruits stooges to initiate legal actions against legitimate unions. Their lawyers pulled off a couple of victories this past week:
• The United Farm Workers agreed to pay 105,000 dollars to 105 former employees of Coastal Berry who claimed their discharge for refusal to pay union dues was illegal because the union hadn’t offered them fee objector status. Fee objectors can only be required to pay the portion of dues that go directly to contract negotiation and enforcement.
• This same trojan horse outfit challenged card check recognition of the steelworkers at a Goodyear plant in Kentucky.
Pension Disaster Near
Enron showed what can happen to the much hyped 401(k) retirement plans. Now defined benefit pensions are under the gun as well. UAL (United Airlines), an outfit that has cynically used bankruptcy to force renegotiation of wage and health care agreements, is now threatening to default on the company's $7.5 billion pension deficit. Should that happen the whole ERISA “safety net” long counted on to guarantee private pensions could collapse. Another powerful argument for protecting and expanding Social Security.
We did some major make overs on our Daily Labor News Digest and Labor Advocate Online pages. We appreciate any comments.
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