Labor Advocate Online
Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 17, 2006
Hey, He Was On A Tight Household Budget
Some expressed disappointment with the revelation that “labor friend” Deval L. Patrick, a candidate for the Democrat nomination for Massachusetts governor, used all nonunion labor to build a three-million dollar “summer home” in Richmond. “We're not talking about repainting someone's kitchen or rehabbing a triple decker,” said the political director of the Painters Union. Patrick's campaign would not confirm or deny whether the house was built with nonunion workers, and issued the following statement:
“Deval and his wife Diane have been blessed. Their house in Richmond is a place where they and their extended family can enjoy time together. During the construction, they did their due diligence like every other homeowner to ensure that all relevant laws were complied with.”
What a ringing endorsement for fair wages and conditions from a man who hopes to have a say in the spending of billions of dollars of state construction funds.
Wonder how blessed Patrick’s other seasonal residences may be?
Power and Pain
AP writer Ellen Simon summed it up well,
“The buyout package Ford Motor is offering 75,000 union workers shows the vestiges of the United Autoworker Union's might: It offers lifetime retirement benefits for workers 50 or older with 10 years of service, and a $100,000 education account for children or spouses.
“But the deal also shows what the union has been reduced to: Getting a good deal for its members as they leave their jobs forever.”
Iraq Labor Solidarity Fund Needs Urgent Help
You hear almost nothing in the mainstream media about heroic efforts of the Iraqi trade union movement. The General Union of Oil Workers, launched in Basra, has conducted strikes over both wages and privatization moves and, with the collaboration of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, is reaching out to oil workers elsewhere in Iraq. They are battling their employers on the job and their leaders have been targets of assassination and kidnaping.
But, most of all, Iraqi unionists are confronted by the U.S. occupation forces who try to enforce anti-union laws left over from the old dictatorship, have frozen their financial assets, and sometimes raid and wreck their offices.
US Labor Against the War has played a crucial, honorable role in building solidarity with the Iraqi union movement. They have issued an urgent appeal for their Iraq Labor Solidarity Fund. Read the details about this fund here—and please help out.
The Ones Who Got Left
In the face of a court order to return to work, a majority of the Detroit Federation of Teachers ended a 17-day strike and reluctantly approved a slightly improved concession contract. The 7,000 members had previously agreed to a wage freeze last year. The new deal includes a wage freeze and five percent in non-wage give-backs the first year, a one percent raise in the second, and a 2.5 percent raise in the final third year.
Of course, wage freezes not only hurt for that year—their compounded effect can add up to losses of thousands of dollars over the span of an employee’s work life and pension. Even the paltry back-loaded raises won’t keep up with inflation for those years.
As long as education continues to be funded mainly through local property taxes, school districts in urban cores abandoned by sprawl will face increased suffering. That’s why the Labor Party says “We call for: National financing of all public education (instead of property taxes) so that each child, not just those of the rich, has the resources necessary for a good learning environment,” in the Ensure Everyone Access to Quality Public Education section of the party’s program.
Not A Cork-Popper
Kansas City Star business columnist Diane Stafford is not celebrating news about the closing in the gender gap in wages. The Census Bureau issued a report proclaiming female wages had increased to a whopping record 77 percent of men’s. Stafford notes,
“That’s a mere half-cent improvement from 76.5 cents on the dollar in 2004.
“But there’s an even more important reason why the narrower gap isn’t worth a confetti shower: The pay gap shrank largely because, in real terms, men’s median wages fell.
“But wait. Women’s fell, too. Men’s merely fell more than women’s.
“Both men and women are suffering from a decline in real income—the number produced when nominal income is factored against the rate of inflation.”
We’ve posted one more tardy article in our still incomplete Labor Day Special—Immigrant Rights. Wages is next to come.
Off To the Palmetto State
Later this week I’ll be hitting the road again, this time to Columbia, South Carolina, my first visit to the Palmetto State. The Interim National Council (national committee) of the Labor Party is meeting there following the Founding Convention of the South Carolina Labor Party. The convention is the final stage in the process of establishing official party status in the state. This will mark the first time that the Labor Party has achieved access to a ballot line.
I’ll be posting an article about these events and also speaking about them locally at a meeting of the Kansas City Labor Party on Saturday, October 7 (details and location to be posted on the KC Labor Party web page soon.)
An Update Gap
Because of my road trip, there will be a one week interruption in our Daily Labor News Digest updates. After this Wednesday, September 20, our next news posting will be Wednesday, September 27. Our next Week In Review will be a little late as well.
That’s all for this week.
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