Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, January 23, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

NUP–R.I.P.
The New Unity Partnership is no more. NUP was a loose faction of three AFL-CIO affiliates--SEIU, UNITE-HERE, and the Laborers–along with the Carpenters, who bolted the federation a few years ago in a renunciation of no-raiding agreements with others in the building trades.

NUP, which argued for a drastic consolidation and centralization of union structure and greatly expanded, but narrowly focused organizing, had been making noises about a possible split with the AFL-CIO if their strategy was not adopted. SEIU launched a web site, Unite to Win, open to discussion about change in the labor movement. Recently the AFL-CIO established a similar site of their own.

The dissolution of NUP appears to be a gesture backing off the threat of splitting from the "house of labor." UNITE-HERE co-president Bruce Raynor told the liberal Democrat American Prospect Online: "I think it [NUP] served its purpose. It sparked this great debate in the labor movement, which is what we wanted. Now, we want it to be an inclusive discussion, not an exclusive one. The list of unions calling for reform has expanded. Hopefully, the AFL-CIO now becomes the vehicle to reform the labor movement."

Christopher Hayes, in a perceptive and informative In These Times article, The Fight for Our Future, concludes: "The worst possible outcome [of the discussion] is one that seems increasingly likely: watered-down reform, palatable to all the parties involved. That might be the only way to keep the AFL-CIO together, but keeping the AFL-CIO together is not the point. Revitalizing the labor movement is."

This prediction by Hayes may well come to pass. That’s why it’s all the more important for the many who have useful ideas about how to revitalize the labor movement to take advantage of this narrow window of glasnost before perestroika is launched. You can follow–and contribute to–an online discussion through KC Labor. Better yet, you can also join us in a face-to-face exchange in Kansas City April 22-23. (We’ll do a special mailing to our list about the April conference within the next few days.)

Nurses Fight I
Last year health care in California was strengthened by passage of a law mandating nurse-patient ratios in Golden State hospitals. That ratio was set to decrease January 1 but was delayed by an executive order by Governor Schwarzenegger. The California Nurses Association–the prime movers behind the original legislation--mobilized over a thousand nurses to come to Sacramento last Tuesday for a rally and to attend a state hearing on the matter. CNA purchased radio ads statewide, and submitted more than 11,000 letters opposing the Governor’s action to the state Health Services Department. The union has also filed a lawsuit to block Schwarzenegger’s interference. On the other side, the California Hospital Association is spending two million dollars on television advertising backing the Terminator’s attack on patient care.

Nurses Fight II
Nurses at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in suburban St Louis voted to end their five-week strike in what has to be characterized as a major defeat. The scab sisters in charge of this "non-profit" corporate arm of the church brought in professional strike-breakers from US Nurse Corp, and nurses from throughout the 40+ hospitals they own, from day one. As the strike wore on hundreds of St John’s nurses crossed the line as well. While the UFCW retains a contract the settlement approved eliminates the union shop provision–a central issue in contention--and places strikers on a recall list.

Wal-Mart Decries ‘Undemocratic’ Quebec Labor Laws
Employees at the Wal-Mart in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec were certified Wednesday as a bargaining unit by the Quebec Labour Relations Commission. The commission found that a majority of the workers had signed cards with the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada. This is the second Wal-Mart Quebec store to unionize under that province’s card check rules for certification. Wal-Mart claims the process is "undemocratic." They much prefer American labor law providing for elections–after a campaign where all the rules are stacked in favor of the employer. Wal-Mart has lost only one such election–and promptly closed that store meat department where "associates" picked the UFCW. Wal-Mart has 240 stores, employing 65,000 workers in Canada.

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all