Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, July 18, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

Welcome to those new to the list
Greetings to all

Hats Off To USLAW
US Labor Against the War has made quite an impact on the union convention season. Bring the troops home resolutions were passed at the SEIU and AFSCME national conventions. These two unions make up about a quarter of the AFL-CIO membership. Antiwar delegates to the AFT convention unfurled “Say No to War” banners while John F Kerry thanked the convention for his endorsement. At the gathering of the nation’s biggest state fed, California, not only was an excellent antiwar resolution passed; the delegates also reaffirmed the need for international solidarity and called on the AFL-CIO to abandon the pernicious National Endowment for Democracy.

Two Decisions on Worker Rights
The interests of truck drivers—and all who travel highways—got at least a temporary assist when a court threw out new DoT rules adopted earlier this year allowing drivers to spend more time on the road without taking a break. Public Citizen had filed the suit challenging the change on grounds it ignored worker health. Agreeing, the three judge panel ordered the agency to rewrite the rule.

But the other side won a big one too. The NLRB ruled that teaching assistants at private universities are students, not workers, and are therefore not entitled to union representation. The 3-2 vote reversed earlier board rulings that allowed the UAW to win bargaining rights at New York University and launch organizing campaigns at other campuses. The latest decision came out of a contested effort at Brown University in Providence, RI.

A Breath of Fresh Air
Minnesota labor unions and environmental groups have launched the Minnesota Blue-Green Alliance. “For years, we’ve let politicians pit working people and environmentalists against each other,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron. “The choice between good jobs and a clean environment is a false one. We need to work together to get both.” Blue Green Alliance Partner Organizations include the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, United Steelworkers of America District 11, Clean Water Action Alliance, AFSCME Council 6, SEIU Minnesota State Council, Teamsters Joint Council 32, Minnesota Building Trades and Environment 2004, Izaak Walton League of America -Midwest Office, Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient (ME3) Economy, Institute for a Sustainable Future (ISF) and the League of Rural Voters.

Stuttgart Learns From Detroit
“Whipsawing” is a time honored tactic among American auto companies. Plants are pitted against one another in competition for jobs. Whoever gives back the most gets the work. When Daimler Benz acquired former Big Three Chrysler, creating Daimler Chrysler, they apparently picked up some of these old bargaining tricks as well. Daimler has demanded that its flagship plant in Sindelfingen, currently employing 41,000, cut paid breaks and extra pay for late shifts and weekends—in addition to a one-year wage freeze already accepted by those workers. Otherwise future work will be shifted to Bremen, a northern German plant with fewer contractual benefits, and to their right-hand-drive facility in East London, South Africa. More than 6,000 jobs could be lost at Sindelfingen.

Unlike their UAW counterparts, however, the worker response to the company’s attempt at extortion was a protest strike. The stop work action not only included the Sindelfingen plant; it spread to plants and distribution centers in Untertuerkheim, Hamburg, Berlin and Duesseldorf as well. And, in a different, unrelated dispute, Daimler is facing the threat of a strike by the National Union of Metalworkers at its South Africa plant.

But all this is just a dress rehearsal for the really big fight ahead—the demand by Daimler, and all major German manufacturers, to scrap the current 35-hour week and return to the forty-hour. This, the bosses say, is necessary because of competition of the newly “liberated” workers of eastern Europe who now have few restraints on hours and conditions and wages far below western Europe.

Do You Want the News?
These Week In Review columns are largely based on stories from our Daily Labor News Digest, updated Monday-Saturday. This is by far the biggest work component of the KC Labor project, generally consuming about 20-25 hours of labor per week. We’re pleased to get frequent compliments about our News Digest. But we’re disappointed that visits to the news page are actually dropping. In March, there were 1167 visits to the news page—about two percent of the overall hits on kclabor.org. In June the news got only 739 hits. Obviously, if this trend were to continue it would be hard to justify the effort involved. If you’re not regularly checking out our news please give it a try. If you are a satisfied regular please help spread the word to others.

Another Film Worth Seeing
Under pressure at home, I’ve started going to movies again. Sometimes I even find films that I can recommend, as I did last week with Fahrenheit 911. Well, here’s another one you should try to catch: The Control Room. It’s a documentary about the independent Arabic satellite news channel, Aljazeera, contrasting their coverage of the early stages of the Iraq war to what we saw on American networks. It’s playing in Kansas City at the Tivoli.

On To Minneapolis
I’ll be on the road again for a few days to attend the July 24 Festival to Mark the 70th Anniversary of the 1934 Teamsters Strike. I’ll have a report on this event when I return. Unfortunately, that will mean no updates of the Daily Digest this coming Friday, Weekend, and the following Monday. We’ll resume the following Tuesday. (Okay, I know this doesn't help the news ratings.)

What Have You Heard About the March?
The Million Worker March got some coverage on the Heartland Labor Forum radio show the other night. The demonstration call has received some endorsements, including the National Education Association. But it’s also being discouraged by the top layers of the AFL-CIO. I would be very interested in getting reports—either off the record or for attribution—on what you are hearing about the March in your local area.

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all

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