Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
June 18, 2006

The UAW Convention
Last week I promised you a post-convention assessment of the UAW gathering in Las Vegas. That project has turned out not only too big a job to do adequately as part of the WIR; it’s even too expansive for a single web page article. Earlier today, I posted the first of two installments: The
UAW Convention: Part One—Selective Memory and a Cold Forge. The conclusion will be up by midweek.

Wal-Mart’s British Union Troubles
The big British supermarket chain, Asda, now owned by Wal-Mart, is facing a likely strike for union recognition by the general union GMB. GMB says they have 7000 members signed up at 21 Asda distribution centers. The union has warned temp agencies not to supply replacements during a strike.

Being Prepared
You couldn’t help but hear about the alarmist report that hardly any city in the U.S. was adequately prepared to deal with a catastrophic disaster such as Katrina, or a 9/11-type terrorist attack. Not so prominently featured was a report by the Institute of Medicine about the dangerous state of emergency rooms every day in the USA. The Washington Post said,

“Emergency medical care in the United States is on the verge of collapse, with the nation's declining number of emergency rooms dangerously overcrowded and often unable to provide the expertise needed to treat seriously ill people in a safe and efficient manner.”

Aping the business plans of the manufacturing and service sectors, corporate health care bosses have been reducing capacity and workforces by shutting down and consolidating hospitals left and right. Within hospitals emergency rooms are the least attractive profit centers.

At one time, emergency rooms could turn away those they thought couldn’t afford to pay for their service. Since 1986 they have been required by law to at least evaluate and stabilize those who come or are brought in. About 14 percent of ER patients are uninsured. Another 37 percent are covered by Medicaid or Medicare. In other words, the majority are either poor, disabled, elderly—or maybe all three. They just don’t fit in to the health care business plan.

The California Nurses Association has stepped up their campaign in support of the Conyers Bill providing for a single-payer health care system similar to the Canadian model. You can show your support for this effort by clicking

What Would Ike Do?
President Eisenhower spearheaded the launch of the National Defense Highway System. Never heard of it? Today it’s called the Interstate Highway System. Originally it was touted as essential to moving troops and missiles to defend against a Russian attack. Serendipitously it also empowered urban sprawl and allowed trucking companies to undercut railroads.

Costs of maintaining the Interstates are shared by federal and state governments. Some eastern and Midwest states have long charged tolls on these roads. Now some are selling them. Indiana just concluded a deal to turn over the Indiana Toll Road to an Australian and Spanish investment team for $3.8 billion. Wonder what they could get for the Wabash River?

The Magic of the Moment
Thanks to my friend John Woodruff, with the UE in Connecticut, for pointing out a story I missed in the Washington Post entitled “Johnson, Sodexho Team Up.”

Sodexho is a multinational food and custodial service giant that claims to serve ten million people a day at 500 public and private schools, more than 1,000 universities and colleges, 485 nursing and retirement homes and 1,700 hospitals. They have a well earned reputation for being anti-union. They also had to pay thousands of Black plaintiffs in settlement of a 2001 class action suit charging racial discrimination in management promotions.

The Johnson in this new team? That would be Earvin "Magic" Johnson, one of the all-time greats of NBA basketball, who happens to be African-American. Sodexho Magic, with offices in Sodexho’s corporate headquarters, will have a team to seek out new food service deals, using Johnson’s marquee name as a draw. A Sodexho executive is quoted as saying the deal will “change the face of the food service industry.”

Actually, this is not Magic’s first venture into hustling anti-union food corporations. He had earlier gigs with Starbucks—and now personally owns 100 of that brand coffee shops—Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, who rewarded him with a TGI Friday, and Burger King, who gave him thirty franchises.

A happy holiday to all you fathers out there.

As usual, much of the material for this column came from stories posted on the Daily Labor News Digest.

That’s all for this week.

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