Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
October 4, 2006

Sold Down the [Kentucky] River
The long awaited ruling by the National Labor Relations Board on three cases collectively known as Kentucky River was made public yesterday. As expected, a 3-2 majority ruled in favor of employers enlarging the definition of supervisory employees—who are excluded from collective bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act governing most of the private sector. The case at hand dealt specifically with nurses but is likely to be greatly expanded to include many crafts and professions in most industries.

Historically, supervisors have been defined as those not only assigning work tasks to others as their principal duty but also having input into hiring and firing. The new elastic NLRB decision defines supervisors as any who train, assign or direct work of others and/or use “independent judgment,” over the course of as little as ten percent of their work time. This could affect all working foremen, group leaders, quality control inspectors, and many more. If bosses run with this new precedent it’s estimated as many as 35 million workers could ultimately be legally excluded from union eligibility.

Of course, all unions condemned this massive blow to our already skimpy labor rights. Noting that the NLRB vote was split along party lines, most could only suggest answering this attack by voting for Democrats in the midterm election and preparing to elect a Democrat President in 2008. Even assuming that an eventual Democrat congress and White House would work to reverse Kentucky River much irreparable damage could be inflicted upon us over the next 2-3 years.

One union has courageously put forward a different response. Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, announced the following immediate steps,

“1. Put employers on notice in all CNA/NNOC-represented facilities that the RNs will strike if the employer seeks to exploit the ruling. More than 30,000 CNA/NNOC members have already signed strike pledges to do just that.

“2. Hold protests or other public events with RNs Thursday, October 5 in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, and Bangor, Me. as a beginning wave of actions in response to the decision.

“3. Work with the AFL-CIO and AARN on legislation in Congress to overturn the decision.”

Anticipating the Board’s action, Ed Bruno, national organizing coordinator of CNA/NNOC, earlier wrote in a submission to the Labor Day Special on this web site,

“Summon up the will to defy the upcoming Kentucky River decision. Pledge that we will not allow even one existing bargaining unit to be weakened or destroyed as a result of this Board order, and back it up with a mutual aid pact for both members ready to picket and money.”

That approach—similar to the kind of determined actions that initially built the American labor movement—is more likely to get satisfactory results than hustling votes for Democrats.

A New Myth Buster
We’re pleased to report that we’ve posted a new article by Doug Bonney,
The Mythical Right To Your Day In Court, on this site’s Know Your Rights section. Doug, a veteran Kansas City labor and civil liberties attorney, is our labor law editor. He can also be heard once a month on the Heartland Labor Forum radio show.

Local 1287 Online
One of the unions I pay (retiree) dues to, ATU Local 1287 representing workers at the KC ATA and Johnson County Transit, recently launched an
impressive new web site.

Et Tu Bob?
Bob Woodward, who once shilled the Iraq war for Bush, has caused considerable embarrassment for the Administration exposing how they have lied and manipulated to keep the American people from knowing the full depth of the nightmare generated by that conflict. His new book and talk show appearances also seems to have had a salutary effect on the timid mass media who have recently increased their coverage of the misery and danger gripping both the Iraqi people and American GIs. Eleven GIs were killed yesterday alone, along with dozens of ordinary Iraqis.

The Democrats hope to benefit from all this in the midterms but offer absolutely no different program for the war other than the vague promise to do things better. Fortunately, more in the labor movement are stepping up to demand this unjust war be stopped and our men and women in uniform brought home. A labor antiwar conference and demonstration is planned for December in Cleveland. You can find details by clicking here.

Headed For the Library
I urge those of you in the Kansas City area to come to the North Kansas City Library this Saturday for the Fall Meeting of the
Kansas City Labor Party. We’ll be deciding positions on propositions on the November ballot; I’ll be giving a report about the inspiring example of the South Carolina Labor Party and the recent Labor Party national leadership meeting; and we’ll talk about future local LP public activities. You can get the details of time, place, and agenda by clicking here.

Out Of Sync
Our recent road trips have skewed our cycle of these columns which we usually aim to publish on Sunday. We’ll try a little double-clutching next weekend to get back in sync.

As usual, much of the material for this column was taken from stories posted on our Daily Labor News Digest, appearing Monday-Saturday by 7AM Central.

That’s all for this week.

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