Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, January 16, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

A Solid, If Incomplete Victory
Washington, DC hotel workers have a tentative agreement, certain to be approved, that is a welcome departure from the typical give-back settlements prevailing today. On the eve of a pre-inaugural strike deadline the employers backed off their demand to stick workers with part of the cost of health insurance premiums. They also agreed to a 50-cents-an-hour across the board wage increase–retroactive to September 15, when the old contract expired–and improvements for the union in contract language on a number of important working conditions.

Like the UNITE-HERE settlement in Atlantic City a couple of months ago, this agreement did fall short in one major goal. Trying to apply strategy advocated by the New Unity Partnership, UNITE-HERE assigned a high priority to getting common expiration dates for hotel/casino contracts in ten major cities. Employer tenacity on this issue–while at the same time offering an otherwise acceptable package–forced the union to abandon this worthy objective.

Hotel disputes continue in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s too early to tell whether the Washington agreement can become a pattern for settling those as well.

Bay Area Grocery Bosses Throw Down Gauntlet
Management at Safeway, Kroger, and Albertsons refused Friday to further extend a contract for 20,000 UFCW workers in the Bay Area. The stores had been operating on such extensions since the old contract expired last September. Northern California bosses seem anxious to impose the same kind of drastic give-backs that were extracted from southern California UFCW workers after a 4˝ month strike/lockout last year. Among their demands are a big shift in health care costs to the workers and making new hires wait up to ten years to reach top pay rates. The union has set a deadline of their own for January 24 before engaging in actions such as store boycotts.

New York Transit Strike
Two ATU locals representing 850 transit workers at two private bus lines being taken over by New York City have been on strike since the beginning of last week. 70,000 riders in Brooklyn and The Bronx have had to find other transportation. The two companies have long been in serious financial trouble and service has been plagued with frequent mechanical breakdowns. Responding to public outcry the city has moved to take both over by May 1 and to provide new buses. But the Bloomberg administration has reneged on earlier commitments made to workers for a back pay settlement. The ATU members haven’t had a raise in over two years.

Welcome USPFRMEAISWIU To the Circled Wagons Camp
Sound like a mouth full? Actually these initials do save some breath when talking about the United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union. That’s the catchy new name proposed for the merger of the Steelworkers with PACE. Conventions in April are expected to approve this latest example of merger mania as union officials seek to imitate successful employer business plans in the oil, telecommunications, and retail industries. The new entity claims to have about 800,000 members.

This Ringer As Neutral As Swiss Cheese
The Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, which rules on appeals of workers' compensation claims, unemployment insurance and crime victims' compensation, consists of a representative of employers, a representative of workers and a "neutral" chairman who is supposed to represent the public. New governor Matt Blunt last week appointed his neutral chair: William Ringer. Ringer currently works for the law firm of Evans and Dixon, which specializes in insurance defense litigation. Ringer's specialty is workers' compensation--defending the employer and the employer's insurer against claims made by employees.

Spilling the Dirt On New Labour’s NHS
Britain’s National Health Service was established by a Labour government in 1948. It’s first minister was a Welsh coal miner, a working class hero by the name of Aneurin Bevan. The NHS–sometimes known as socialized medicine--generally still gets high marks. All in Britain get access to good medical care for far less cost than Americans lucky enough to have employer-provided plans have to shell out.

But there is an embarrassing and growing problem in Britain’s hospitals and clinics–they’re dirty. The source of this scandal is not hard to pin point. In 1984, during the height of Thatcher’s Tory rule, the NHS employed 100,000 workers to keep the premises spotless. As Tony Blair’s "New" Labour downsized and outsourced that number fell to 55,000.

Coming Up In KC...
There are two important events next Saturday, January 22. The Kansas City Labor Party will meet at Noon at 2113 Erie, North Kansas City. That evening, starting at 6:30, is Planned Parenthood’s annual Chili for Choice fund raiser at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 4501 Walnut. You can find details of these and other events on the KC Labor Events Calendar.

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all