Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
October 9, 2006

When Rubber Meets the Bricks
Last Thursday afternoon the USW shut down a dozen Goodyear-Kelly-Dunlop plants covered under the Goodyear national contract. Nearly 13,000 active, and close to 2,000 laid off workers are involved in what promises to be a bruising fight with the world’s third biggest tire maker.

Goodyear rejected the “pattern” agreement obtained by the union at Goodrich (now owned by Michelin.) That deal involved some concessions but also provided a guarantee of no plant closings for the life of the agreement. Goodyear insists on even greater cuts in wages and benefits and has already stated their intention to close plants in Gadsden, Alabama, and Tyler, Texas, that employ about 2,190 people.

That’s too bitter for Goodyear workers to swallow. When the last negotiations were held in 2003 the company claimed to be on the verge of collapse. The union agreed to massive concessions, including the closing of one plant, to help save the company. With the help of these sacrifices Goodyear has made a dramatic turn around. Profitable once more, Goodyear CEO Robert Keegan was awarded a 2.6 million dollar bonus this year on top of his seven-figure salary and other executives received similar rewards. Far from grateful, these predators that have now tasted blood are looking for another feast in the chicken coop.

The Goodyear strike is not only a battle to save jobs in twelve plants; it is part and parcel of the struggle by our dwindling unions to maintain decent jobs in a global economy. It’s a fight that deserves the support of all working people.

The Kansas City Labor Party passed a statement of support for the strike and has adopted USW Local 307 in Topeka—about an hour down the Interstate—as the focus of solidarity efforts. If you live in this area and want to get involved give me a call at 816-753-1672.

Jury Not In
It didn’t make big headlines when New York appeals court judges rejected a union request for a jury trial over charges stemming from last December’s New York transit strike. The police state Taylor Law, prohibiting most public sector strikes, was used to force strikers back to work; imposed a 2.5 million dollar fine on the local union; set up the suspension of union dues checkoff; and fined individual strikers 2˝ days pay. No wonder they didn’t want to allow this to be decided by a jury of worker peers.

Pledge Drive
Over thirty thousand RNs have signed on to a pledge circulated by the California Nurses Association to strike any employer who tries to use the recent NLRB Kentucky River ruling to remove nurses from union bargaining units. Last Thursday hundreds of nurses surrounded the Los Angeles offices of the NLRB holding copies of the strike pledges.

For an excellent explanation of the impact of Kentucky River be sure to check out a PBS video interview of CNA executive director Rose Ann DeMoro. (Thanks to our friend Rod in Vancouver for calling this link to my attention.) I have a dream that some day most union leaders will talk like this.

Buck We Hardly Knew You
Fame came late in life to John “Buck” O’Neil. His career as a baseball player was during a time when men with his skin pigment were banned from the major leagues. He wasn’t a super-star like the legendary Cool Pappa Bell but was a slick fielding first baseman who twice won the Negro League batting title.

After serving as one of the final managers of the Kansas City Monarchs (Negro League) he was hired by the Chicago Cubs as a scout. Among those he signed were two Hall of Famers—Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. He finally got to don a Cubs uniform in Wrigley Field in 1962—as the very first Black major league coach.

Coaches and scouts are not very high profile positions and few noticed Buck then. And, in those days, even star major league players worked part-time jobs in the winter to get by. Neither fame nor money but love of baseball is what kept Buck working, in whatever part of the sport would accept him, well past normal retirement age.

Buck finally got some deserved attention through the extensive interviews about the Negro League he did with Ken Burns in the baseball film watched by so many of us on PBS during the baseball strike in 1994. This generated so much interest that even our civic leaders in Kansas City could envision a market. Support was found to launch the Negro League Museum and Buck finally became a local icon. Buck even got some product endorsement gigs on television in his final days—an income supplement never offered to any of the Negro League players.

John “Buck” O’Neil passed away this past weekend just shy of his 95th birthday.

Say What?
The American Industrial Hygiene Association, the professional group for I.H.s charged with promoting workplace health and safety practices, is again organizing one of their annual gatherings of the Future Leaders Institute. Their stated purpose is to “develop early-career industrial hygiene professionals.” This year something new has been added—corporate sponsorship. The good bosses picking up the tab are certainly well known for their dedication to worker well being on the job—Exxon-Mobil and BP. Maybe next year’s training could be hosted in Texas City.

Just In Time for the Holidays
The KC Labor web site never charges for content. To maintain our editorial independence we don’t accept paid advertising or grants. We do have a limited number of shopping links where we get a small commission for any purchases made directly through them. We have just added Union Jean Co., sellers of a wide variety of union made garments. We have long had a relationship with Café Campesino, a distributor of Fair Trade, organic, shade-grown coffee. The modest income from these sales goes toward our travel expenses to cover labor movement stories such as the Labor Notes Conference, the Founding Convention of the South Carolina Labor Party, and the upcoming National Labor Antiwar Conference in Cleveland in December. So if you are an online shopper please check out the KC Labor Store.

Of course, whether or not you are an Internet shopper we gratefully accept money contributions which you can easily and safely make through our PayPal buttons.

We came pretty close to our objective of getting back to a Sunday publication of this column; we should make it for sure next time.

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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