Published in the interests of the working people of Kansas City
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Labor Advocate started out as Labor Party Advocate, newsletter of the Kansas City Area Labor Party, six years ago. For the first few years it appeared on a fairly regular monthly schedule, mailed to area Labor Party members, and those who signed up on the LP mailing list, and distributed at union meetings and public events. It combined routine announcements of official LP business with news affecting the labor movement as well as analytical discussion articles. We generally got high marks from our readers.
But eventually finances caught up with us. While all of our writing, typesetting, and mail assembly was done with volunteer labor we still had to pay a union printer and the U.S. Postal Service. The small local dues charged by the LP Chapter didn’t cover the costs of a monthly mailing to our members—much less trying to reach out to new people. We started scaling back both the size and frequency of the newsletter—but that only lowered the satisfaction level of our readership without putting us on a workable budget.
February Kansas City Area Labor Party members decided to suspend the printed and
mailed edition of the newsletter. We chose instead to launch Labor Advocate
as an online publication, a part of the kclabor.org site. We aim to go back to a
monthly publication schedule. We’ll still carry Labor Party news but will also
have a lot more analytical and opinion pieces too. We can even liven things up a
bit with graphics. And we can do all this on a shoe-string budget.
you have comments, or want to submit news or an article, send it along to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associated Wholesale Grocers have acted in a particularly despicable manner in trying to fire 1200 Teamsters employees. The Teamsters have charged AWG with bad-faith bargaining and there can be no doubt of this unfairness to any reasonable person.
the Union’s charge with the National Labor Relations Board will be upheld is
another matter. Labor laws in this country weren’t enacted to ensure fairness.
They are stacked in favor of the bosses. An NLRB victory by AWG workers is by no
means certain. Even if they do prevail appeals could drag out for years.
We need to change the labor law. One of the Labor Party’s central campaigns is for a Workplace Bill of Rights. But we can’t ask AWG workers to sit back and wait until we get better laws. They need help now.
Working people buy the most groceries. A boycott of AWG-supplied stores can be effective. The entire labor movement should be educating their membership on this issue and asking them to not shop at Price Chopper, Sun Fresh, Hen House, or Thriftway until the Teamsters get a settlement.
we hear some vacillating and grumbling from some union leaders. “It’s a
complicated issue,” they say. “We don’t want to hurt our UFCW
brothers and sisters at the AWG-supplied stores. And, after all, the Teamsters
have never affiliated with the central labor council.”
disturbing how far some union leaders have drifted from the most elementary
concept of solidarity. The Teamsters may not pay per capita to the central labor
council. But they have an excellent record of supporting all unions on strike by
refusing to cross their picket lines—support that can often make the
difference between victory and defeat. There have undoubtedly been times when
Teamsters members have lost pay because of other workers strikes—but they’ve
never whined about it.
get back to basics. An injury to one is still an injury to all. It’s our duty
to boycott scab-supplied grocery stores.
the April 27 Heartland Labor Forum radio show.]
1. On the legislative front, asbestos bills threaten the legal rights of tens of thousands of injured workers and their families.
bills introduced in the 106th Congress would severely limit the ability of tens
of thousands of injured asbestos workers to receive fair compensation from
asbestos companies. The House Bill
is HR 1283, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Henry Hyde, and the
Senate Bill is S 758, sponsored by Missouri Senator John Ashcroft. This bill's supporters claim this legislation will make the
asbestos compensation system
easier, less litigious and fairer for injured workers.
In fact, the bills would cut costs for asbestos companies and insulate
them from much of their liability by wiping out certain kinds of suits and
making it harder for injured workers to get compensation.
The bills are a substantial step backward in the effort to vindicate the
rights of workers exposed to asbestos.
to the analysis from the Public Citizen website, at http://www.citizen.org/,
these bills would wipe out many existing claims and would adopt overly
restrictive medical criteria. New layers of legal procedures would increase the cost and
delay to injured workers.
These bills would also consistently disfavor the plaintiffs.
For example, a cap would be set on most plaintiff attorney fees, while no
cap is placed on asbestos company
Citizen points out that the bills dodge the real issues in asbestos litigation,
namely, how liability should be allocated among the various defendant
corporations. Because most asbestos
injured workers were exposed to multiple products, asbestos litigation
often involves 10 or more defendant companies.
Astonishingly, the asbestos bills ignore this problem.
Many leading physicians and scientists have publicly opposed these bills. The documents can be found on the Public Citizen website, as well as additional information about these bills by clicking on the "asbestos" section.
election year pressure from the Missouri AFL-CIO and other labor groups, Senator
Ashcroft recently agreed to take the asbestos bill off the Senate's agenda.
His decision is regarded on Capitol Hill as an effort to defuse the issue
until after November. However, the
House Majority Whip, Richard Armey, told reporters that he intends to move the
House Bill 1283 through the house with such a strong positive vote that the
Senate will rethink its position and take it up again before November.
your representatives at http://www.house.gov/.
Senators can be contacted through http://www.senate.gov/.
The house and senate switchboard
number is (202) 224-3121. Let them
know that you oppose these asbestos industry bailout bills.
forget Worker's Memorial Day, Friday, April 28th.
Memorial Day will be marked all over the world by unions and safety and health
activists to remember those who have suffered and died on the job.
In the U.S., Workers Memorial Day events are planned in at least 22
states at 46 locations. Throughout
the U.S., activists are calling for urgent action to reduce the toll of disease
and injury that claims more than 65,000 lives each year, six thousand of them
resulting from traumatic injuries.
this area, a permanent marker and tree planting dedicated to workers killed or
injured on the job is located at the UAW Local 31 Union Hall.
event will also be an opportunity to focus attention on the need for a strong
OSHA ergonomics standard, which will prevent hundreds of thousands of
potentially disabling injuries each year.
published its ergonomics proposal in the November 23, 1999 Federal Register.
The agency received more than 7,000 comments during the 100 day comment
period and will be listening to more than 1,000 witnesses during nine weeks of
hearings scheduled to conclude May 12. OSHA
expects to publish a final standard by the end of this year.
expert commentators keep telling us strikes are a relic of a bygone era, that
where unions still exist they should be jointly pursuing win-win solutions with
the flipside of the strike coin—the lockout—is still considered good
business sense, however. Even though the Teamsters came up with significant
concessions in work rules at AWG they failed to put enough win in the win-win
for the company. The bosses just kept saying “no, that’s not
enough”—while lining up professional scabs to replace their entire
workforce. In so doing AWG joins a long list of employers, such as Kaiser
Aluminum for example, that have taken the initiative in not just trying to break
the union but ridding themselves of long-term employees with bad habits—such
as wanting decent wages and a say in their working conditions. Where are the
editorials denouncing this throwback to the “bygone days of class warfare?”
what about strikes, where the workers take the initiative in walking off the
job? Are they obsolete, even counterproductive?
Certainly striking can be tough. The Teamsters have been out at Union Pacific’s Overnite Transportation for over six months, fighting to get a first contract, and the end is not yet in sight. There are a number of other strikes around the country that have been dragging on for months, even years. It can’t be denied that some strikes ultimately end in defeat or without a clear cut winner.
But most strikes do win something for the workers. That’s why workers keep striking. And that’s why the bosses and editorial writers try so hard to convince us that they’re passé. Let’s look at some strikes over just the past few weeks.
the bosses at the aerospace giant really started to believe the propaganda that
unions only have diminishing power among the blue collars and have little appeal
to white collars and professionals. They clearly underestimated the Society
of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. SPEEA adopted the
slogan, “No Nerds, No Birds,” and they backed their words with action.
doesn’t have a union shop agreement. They have to go out and convince
individuals to voluntarily join. Before the strike they had only about 40
percent of the 20,000 eligible employees signed up. Incredibly, that number
increased to 65 percent during the course of the strike. There were few
scabs and the management people pressed into service couldn’t come close to
keeping up. Completed aircraft started piling up, unable to move without the
approval of the striking professionals.
blue collar IAM members at Boeing, who have some
experience with past strikes, gave some helpful hints to the Nerds on basic
things like setting up picket lines, soup kitchens, and the like. But the IAM
veterans also learned a few things as well.
first thing SPEEA did was set up a strike web site. They had e-mail lists and
discussion boards going strong. They supplemented traditional union strike
methods with new technology that they had learned to use in their work.
After six weeks a shocked and battered Boeing management agreed to a settlement that can only be considered a big victory for SPEEA. The triumph of the Boeing Nerds will undoubtedly inspire many other professional and technical workers, who were watching the struggle with great interest, to pursue union organization.
Justice for Janitors
Service Employees International Union has put
together an impressive campaign to organize, and win first or improved
contracts, for tens of thousands of janitors in cities across the country. These
are among the lowest-paid workers. A high percentage are immigrants—many of
them recent and not fluent in English.
Justice for Janitors campaign is being fought on many fronts. They have done a
good job in publicizing the plight of janitors and winning public sympathy. They
have involved high-profile clergy and politicians—such as the Reverend Jesse
Jackson—in marches and rallies. They have applied pressure on their
employers’ clients, many of which are sensitive to public opinion. And, in
several cases, they have also used the strike. A three-week strike in Los
Angeles, brief walkouts in New York and Chicago, and credible strike threats in
several other cities, have won decent contract settlements.
traditional strikes continue as well. IAM aerospace workers shut down
Lockheed’s Ft Worth plant for several days to get an acceptable deal.
bygone days of class struggle never really went away. Class warfare continues
even as the employers make more money off the labor of their employees than
ever. The strike is not a magic weapon that can solve all of labor’s problems.
It can’t be successfully applied at all times. But the strike remains a
valuable tactic within labor’s overall strategy of dealing with the bosses’
war on workers.
The actions around China trade relations, and the World Bank/IMF, in the nation’s capital in April were marked with important achievements.
Internationalism versus Protectionism
Contrary to the smears by Big Business, the protests organized by labor, environmental, faith, and human rights groups did not call for a reactionary “Fortress America” answer to the challenges of globalization. On the contrary new links in international solidarity were forged and old ties strengthened. 1930s-style protectionism would be a dead-end but the global response to global challenges gives working people a fighting chance.
Educating the Public
We tip our hats to the efforts of the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, and others, who did an excellent job in getting out the facts about the real issues involved, helping to shape public opinion.
Sorting Out Alliances
never underestimating the potential power of organized labor we need to be
mindful that unions only represent about ten percent of the working class.
Alliances are needed. Progress was made in working with environmental, family
farmer and faith groups.
are also seeing an important revival of student activism. Students are noted for
their energy and are open to new ideas. Student volunteers played an important
role in the labor upsurge of the 1930s. Students were the base of the mass civil
rights, womens’ rights and antiwar movements of the Sixties and Seventies and
have helped spread environmental awareness. Now students are getting involved
around the issues of globalization and some are working closely with unions.
Now we face a new challenge—the 2000 elections. Much effort of the alliance will be diverted to supporting candidates. It’s important that we not allow the educational and action work to atrophy.
Education and protest are another—and higher—form of politics that must not be neglected during the electoral season.