The Week In Review, Sunday, November 16, 2003
Tough Loss At Research
Nurses United, part of the health care division of the American Federation of Teachers, lost an NLRB election for 620 RNs at Research Medical Center. At the same time the Steelworkers Health Care Council lost a bid to represent 730 Research service workers. Nurses United polled 39 percent, the Steelworkers only 36 percent. This was a rerun of an election held last year but set aside because of challenges of who was eligible to vote. Over the past few years Nurses United won impressive organizing victories at three hospitals and a first contract at one.
By all appearances Nurses United, and their Steelworker allies, did the right things to win at Research as well. They mobilized community support including newspaper ads and rallies featuring prominent local clergy.
But, for the first time, they were up against HCA—a health industry giant that owns over 200 hospitals. HCA recently completed a deal to acquire Health Midwest and its 12 KC area hospitals, including Research. HCA is not union friendly and is skilled in using [anti]labor laws to keep unions out.
HCA “used lies and distortions to disparage the collective bargaining accomplishments of other union nurses in Kansas City,” the union said in a statement. “HCA also orchestrated a campaign of intimidation and threats designed to silence union supporters and clamp down on any open discussion in the hospital of the potential benefits — for nurses and for patients — of organizing a union.”
Especially in today's climate of economic uncertainty it's tough to organize unionbuster outfits like HCA—and even tougher to get a first contract if you do make it through all the hoops. The odds will continue to catch up with even the best organizers, such as Nurses United, until we win fundamental change in American labor law.
Off!—Veterans Day In
Did you notice this story we posted Friday, Anti-Iraq War Veterans Pulled from Parade? Some aging Vietnam vets, members of Veterans for Peace, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, might have recalled the Country Joe and the Fish refrain, “It's One, Two, Three—What Were We fighting For?” They thought they were entitled to march in the annual Veterans Day Parade in the Florida capital. They paid their ten dollar registration fee and stepped out along with other vet groups, high school marching bands, and some young women employees of a local Hooters. They carried a banner reading, “Honor the Warrior, Not the War.”
That didn't sit well with the parade organizers who ordered the antiwar vets out of the procession and back on to the sidewalk. Initially these two-bit brass impersonators asserted the ejection had been requested by the cops. But a police sergeant told a reporter, “We don't have an opinion on who's in it, as long as they're not walking around naked or drinking in public. It's just not a police decision." A second vice commander of the local American Legion quickly chipped in, “It's disrespectful, that's what it is, and I just can't stomach or tolerate or conceive of it."
But surprised onlookers apparently had stronger stomachs than this queasy legionnaire. "I don't think it's right," said LaToya Jackson, a JROTC member from Rickards High School. "They said they were supporting the troops, just not the war." Marc and Khristina Munday of Tallahassee suggested the veterans have earned a special right to have their voices heard. "They were in Vietnam, which may or may not have been a just war," Marc Munday said. "And quite a few people feel the way they do about the war in Iraq. They shouldn't have been kicked out of the parade. America is about free speech."
Sometimes a Big Lie can cut two ways. Our masters have always told us America only goes to war to fight for liberty and we owe the veterans for our freedom. A lot of folks like Marc Munday take the claim that “America is about free speech” seriously. That's not only gratifying for the brave vets fighting today for peace. Such attitudes will ultimately be the downfall of the deceitful politicians who send our young people off to war under false pretenses.
"There's a war going on that's based on lies, just like Vietnam," said veteran Tom Baxter, an Army equipment maintenance officer in Vietnam for 16 months in 1967-69. "They were lying then, and they're lying now." Right on, brother!
Futility of Trying to Buy Jobs
When American Airlines acquired TWA it was obvious the new owners wouldn't need all the maintenance capacity they had picked up. The TWA overhaul base in Kansas City has meant thousands of good paying jobs for years. The city government started negotiating with American and finally agreed to tax payer gifts of 83 million dollars to keep the base open. American also got 22 million from Tulsa to modernize a similar facility in Oklahoma. This week American announced that Kansas City would get the work on aging MD-80s while Tulsa gets the newer 737s. KC is “guaranteed” jobs through 2005—but no hard commitments beyond. A few years ago Indianapolis gave United Airlines 320 million dollars to build a new high tech maintenance center. Six months ago United simply abandoned the place leaving the Hoosiers with the most technologically advanced empty building in North America. Had these cities instead invested these sums in rebuilding their crumbling infrastructure they would have more good jobs and a better place to live for their tax paying residents.
¶A small but spirited group gathered at the North Kansas City Library yesterday to hear a report on the Labor Party Just Health Care conference held recently in Chicago.
¶Kansas City Labor Against the War also met yesterday. They voted to endorse the resolutions and organizational structure that came out of the recent National Labor Assembly for Peace and to affiliate with US Labor Against the War. Locally the group will be concentrating on USLAW's labor rights campaign.
¶Workers at Powell's Books, the first unionized bookseller on the Internet, are in a tough contract fight with their boss. As of now they are not asking for a boycott. If they do we will suspend our partner link. Visit the union web site and Sign-Up to Support their fight.
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