Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, January 31, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

Performance Vs Longevity
Beginning with the department they created, the Bush administration announced last week they will move forward to eliminate civil service in Homeland Security. Pay will no longer be graded on years of faithful service. Instead it will be pegged to supervisor evaluations. As the Washington Post reported this won’t stop with DHS.

"‘We really have created a system that rewards performance, not longevity,’ OPM Director Kay Coles James said in a briefing for reporters. ‘It can truly serve as a model for the rest of the federal government.’ And soon it might. The White House will propose legislation within a month to allow all agencies to restructure their personnel systems in a similar way, said Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget."

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), along with three other federal worker unions, promptly filed a suit against implementation of this sea change in DHS labor relations. They will also be putting pressure on congress to defeat Bush’s legislation to eliminate civil service throughout all departments and agencies.

Of course rewarding performance sounds like a good thing. Maybe it would be–if there was a fair way of evaluating performance and fair rewards. That’s yet to happen under American Free Enterprise, private or public sector–and never will. Performance evaluation promotes toadying, favoritism, sometimes even bribery. That’s why workers have fought so hard over the years for protections such as civil service and union seniority clauses.

You can bet that if public sector bosses succeed in deep-sixing civil service every private sector boss will soon be demanding the end of seniority. That’s why all workers should be rallying around the federal employees who are under the gun right now.

We’re pleased to announce that Kelley Dull, president of AFGE Local 2904 and council 171, will be addressing this fight at the Future Of American Labor conference.

A Mouthpiece For Our Side
Also added to the speaker list at the April conference is Doug Bonney, well known labor and civil liberties attorney. Some of you may have heard Doug speak at our Labor and the Law conference in 2001. He is also the editor of this site’s Know Your Rights page.

They Felt Our Pain
A couple of weeks ago we reported on Governor Blunt’s appointment of a top gun worker comp insurance defense lawyer to head up the commission dealing with worker comp claim appeals. Last week the Missouri Senate Committee on Small Business, Insurance and Industrial Relations voted 6-3 to drastically alter the law itself. Their bill would define an injury as an "accident," meaning an unexpected event identifiable by time and place "caused by a specific event during a single work shift." It would also say that work must be the "prevailing" factor in an injury instead of just a "substantial" factor. Such a definition would virtually exclude such gradual disabilities as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and a host of others.

Abiding the Law
When the Long Island Rail Road started using nonunion personnel to move locomotives in the maintenance yard the engineer’s union threatened to strike. But, with an astonishing speed never seen by LIRR commuters, the carrier promptly found a two-bit judge to issue an injunction banning the strike before it could start. Journalists anxious to warn readers about any threats to rush hour travel were reassured by the general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers-Teamsters: "We respect the law, we continue to respect the law, and we'll be guided by the judge's decision."

It’s Still a Jungle In There
Human Rights Watch issued a report last week that concluded working conditions among the nation's meatpackers and slaughterhouses are so bad that they violate basic human rights. The New York Times noted the similarity to Upton Sinclair’s classic novel, The Jungle, that exposed the meat industry nearly a century ago. The HRW report centered on three industry leaders: Tyson, Smithfield, and Nebraska Beef. Not so coincidently, this troika are among the leaders in vicious antiunion practices.

Falling Indicator I
The latest union density figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the free fall continues. The segment of all workers in unions dropped to 12.5 percent last year from 12.9 percent in 2003, the bureau said, while the percentage of private-sector workers in unions fell to 7.9 percent from 8.2 percent--making it the lowest level since the early 1900's.

Falling Indicator II
Reuters reported "U.S. worker salaries are growing much more slowly than inflation, raising concerns about consumers' ability to repay loans and credit cards bills at a time when borrowing is near all-time highs." Wages increased a meager an 2.5 percent over the past year -- the smallest increase on record. Prices rose 3.3 percent.

Hats Off of the Week Award
The 7,000 members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association at United rejected a deal with their bankrupt carrier that would have slashed wages and benefits over 18 percent. They also voted to authorize a strike if the employer gets the bankruptcy judge to impose the cuts.

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all

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