Monday, October 25, 2010

The latest Nafta victim: The Detroit Symphony

The effects of NAFTA are trickling upward. Just go to Detroit, where upper-middle-class white-collar workers are now struggling. That's because far fewer well-paid factory workers are making products there than they did before job-killing trade agreements.

Back when NAFTA started giving Detroit's autoworkers the SHAFTA, people thought it was a problem that only blue-collar workers had to deal with.

But two decades have passed and now Mexico exports more cars than America does. It sure isn't cheaper to buy a car here. And Detroit's upper-middle class is finding out that high wages for union members didn't make things worse for them after all. They made things better.

With the disappearance of so many good-paying union jobs, Detroit's realtors, lawyers, accountants, restaurateurs and sporting-goods store owners are having a tough go of it. Wealthy Detroit suburbs are falling on hard times. Even the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is struggling.

Harold Meyerson points out how Detroit -- and Los Angeles as well -- once flourished because factory workers were paid well.

...Detroit had had the greatest concentration of single-family homes of any American city until Los Angeles surpassed it, and both cities owed this distinction to the income levels of their factory workers. Detroit in the '20s saw a boom in the construction of single-family homes; more manufacturing workers could afford to buy homes in the heart of the auto industry than in any other city at that time...

...The years from 1947 to 1973 were the only extended period in our history when working-class incomes rose as steeply as upper-middle-class incomes. Not coincidentally, these were the only years when more than a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unionized. And they were the years when America became something new under the sun: the first nation in history with — by the yardstick of consumption, anyway — a middle-class majority.

All that has changed in Detroit. Grosse Pointe, for example, is a suburb once synonymous with wealth and privilege. Now, according to Time Magazine, Grosse Pointe is synonymous with "new frugality." the Grosse Pointe Moms Club, a support group for more than 100 at-home moms, reality means bargain hunting and budget consciousness. The challenges of the prolonged economic downturn — job loss and retraining, business slowdowns, wallet tightening — spill out in daily conversations at swing sets and kitchen counters....

The frugality in Grosse Pointe is but one example of the economic struggles in the Detroit suburbs, where the grip on middle-class life has, for some families, become tenuous. The loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs among families without any real nest egg has imposed painful and unfamiliar choices — about which bills to stop paying, about going to a government office to sign up kids for Medicaid, about calling to register for food assistance...

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that the symphony -- a symbol of prosperity in cities around the world -- is broke. It has lost millions in the past few years and has to pay rising interest rates on $50 million in debt. Now the musicians are on strike.

On Monday, the musicians begin their fourth week off the job, protesting proposed pay cuts they say are too steep. The orchestra says it has been forced to cancel all performances through Nov. 7, that the remaining ones are in jeopardy, and that no further talks are scheduled.

So next time you hear someone saying that the autoworkers ruined the domestic auto industry, tell them it was trade deals that did it. And tell them that trade deals are ruining the rest of the middle class as well.

Today's Teamster News 10/25/10

Safety Chief Warns China on Toys Wall Street Journal ...The CPSC ... in 2009 ... stopped nearly twice as many products at ports as in 2008, and of 1,800 samples collected more than half showed evidence of a safety hazard...

Creditors Back Plan At Tribune Wall Street Journal ...a bankruptcy judge granted Tribune's official committee of unsecured creditors the right to sue some of the parties that helped engineer the ill-fated buyout...

School Bus Drivers Vote To Unionize With Teamsters KAKE ...drivers have no retirement plan options or health insurance benefits. Organizing with the Teamsters Union will give them the opportunity to bargain with the company for contracts that might include those types of things...

Labor officials meet in Wichita to discuss "wage theft" problem Associated Press ...Kansas Labor Secretary Jim Garner told the group that his office collects more than $1 million a year in wages that were wrongfully withheld from workers...

Teamster badass fights off thieves who threatened his life and jobs Teamster Magazine ...When Patrick Johnston, a Local 624 Teamster in Santa Rosa, Calif., saw two thieves coming at him with sticks, he knew he was in for the fight of his life...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Today's Teamster News 10/21/10

California: Solar Plant Advances Associated Press ...a big solar energy plant in the Mojave Desert on Wednesday (was approved) ... making it the fifth such project on public land in the West to win federal authorization...

Teamsters Local 331 leaders vow better pay, dedicate hall in Egg Harbor City ... Teamsters Local 331 dedicated its new headquarters Wednesday with a promise of providing better-paying jobs for many of southern New Jersey's unemployed workers...

Jeffboat owner to be bought by private equity firm Louisville Courier-Journal ...A private equity firm has proposed to buy American Commercial Lines, owner of the Jeffboat shipyard in Jeffersonville, Ind....

Voters In Four States Facing Anti-Union Ballot Questions ThinkProgress ...they are an attempt at preempting the strengthening of unions through the Employee Free Choice Act...

Tribune Set to Name Caretaker Managers Wall Street Journal ...Tribune Co.'s board is preparing to replace Chief Executive Randy Michaels with a four-person caretaker management team to steer the company as it attempts to exit bankruptcy...

French Leader Vows to Punish Violent Protesters New York Times ...Sarkozy warned on Thursday that “troublemakers” using violence in the protests against his proposed pension changes would be pursued and punished...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today's Teamster News 10/20/10

Bus strike ends in Pr. George's Washington Post ...Tommy Ratliff, president of Teamsters Local 639, said union members voted 93 to 12 to approve a three-year contract with Veolia Transportation...

China Said to Widen Its Embargo of Minerals New York Times ...China mines 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements, which have broad commercial and military applications, and are vital to the manufacture of products as diverse as cellphones, large wind turbines and guided missiles...

Will Bankers go to Jail for Foreclosure-gate? Time enforcement officials are investigating whether banks and their employees broke federal law in the handling of foreclosures...

The Perfect Storm (opinion) ...An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work...

The Wall Comes Tumbling Down The Nation agreement (was reached) with the 4000-memberCoalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to implement a penny per pound pay raise—which stands to increase workers’ annual earnings from about $10,000 to as much as $17,000—and establish a code of conduct that includes an external complaint resolution system, shade and protective equipment in the fields, and a worker-to-worker education process on their rights under the new agreement...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today's Teamster News 10/19/10

From Obama, the tax cut nobody heard of New York Times ...What if a president cut American income taxes by $116 billion and nobody noticed?...

Jobless benefits about to crash Politico ...there's little prospect anytime soon for the sort of costly and complex rescue that's necessary...

Largest Bank Will Resume Foreclosure Push in 23 States New York Times ...Bank of America announced on Monday it would resume home foreclosures in nearly two dozen states...

Teamsters rack up four organizing wins People's World ...the wins added almost 1,900 workers to the union...

Witness: Foreclosure firm owner gave gifts for altering documents Tampa Bay Online ...Some employees of Florida's largest "foreclosure mill" were given jewelry, cars and houses from the firm, in exchange for altering and forging key documents...

The New Tax Man: Big Banks and Hedge Funds Huffington Post ...Nearly a dozen major banks and hedge funds, anticipating quick profits from homeowners who fall behind on property taxes, are quietly plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into businesses that collect the debts, tack on escalating fees and threaten to foreclose on the homes of those who fail to pay...

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Not one positive thing to say" about U.S. Chamber

The Greater Hudson Chamber of Commerce in Nashua, N.H., has left the U.S. Chamber.

Why? Because the New Hampshire chamber doesn't want to have anything to do with the U.S. Chamber's ads attacking Democratic candidates.

Jerry Mayotte, executive vice president of the New Hampshire chamber, had a few choice words about the U.S. Chamber.

“We didn’t like the fact that the U.S. Chamber was supporting particular candidates. We don’t think it’s good business practice to do so...As far as I’m concerned, I could not find one positive thing to say about being involved in the U.S. Chamber."

Today's Teamster News 10/18/10

China Escalates Fight With U.S. on Energy Aid New York Times ...Zhang Guobao, sharply rebuked the Obama administration for opening an inquiry on Friday into the subsidies...

Republicans, Democrats who criticized stimulus wrote letters seeking funds Washington Post ...They include tea party favorites such as freshman Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), as well as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)...

GOP cash threatens to swamp Dems Politico ...the widening cash flow to Republican challengers is a disturbing development for Democrats who are struggling to stem the incoming GOP tide...

Iowa workers feel pay theft pinch DesMoines Register ...the federal government has investigated an increasing number of wage theft cases in an effort to prevent billions in lost worker pay and tax revenue...

Union-Backed Critic of U.S. Chamber Asks IRS to Probe Political Funding Bloomberg ... the chamber may have misstated financial transactions and given improper compensation to Chamber President Thomas Donohue...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some good news on the trade front

The Obama administration says it will investigate the United Steelworkers' complaint about China illegally subsidizing green technology.

The Teamsters are quite pleased.

Here's what Hoffa had to say:

"President Obama is fighting for America's jobs today and America's jobs tomorrow. Green technology is vital to our economic future. We cannot allow China to get ahead of us by cheating."

The steelworkers were pretty happy about it too. Their president, Leo Gerard, said "America is not going to stand by while our jobs get outsourced."

Today's Teamster News 10/15/10

Chamber of Commerce hits Democratic Senate candidates on union bill The Hill ...The two “issue ads” in Missouri and Pennsylvania target candidates Joe Sestak and Robin Carnahan, respectively, for their support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)...

Paul, Conway spar over union balloting in Ky. Associated Press ...Paul positioned himself as a staunch opponent of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act ... Conway said he believes employees should be able to form a union if 50 percent of workers want one...

How much can we blame on state pensions? Washington Post ...Pension obligations currently account for 3.8 percent of the average state's spending. That's not where the current crisis is coming from...

Taking a Vote on Union Construction New York Times month, residents of San Diego County, which includes the two cities, will vote on a similar ban against favoring unions in county construction contracts...

As Genesys Regional Medical Center technical workers approve contract, registered nurses prepare for more rough negotiations ahead Flint Journal ...recording secretary Angie Oberman ... (said) “It feels like we’ve been at war for 10 months and now there is justice for it all,” ...

In Cities Fighting Wal-Mart, Target Welcomed Wall Street Journal ...the opposition has caused Wal-Mart to lose ground to competitors—notably Minneapolis-based Target, which has moved into large cities in recent years with comparatively little opposition despite also employing nonunion workers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Two more reasons why a trade deal with Colombia is a bad idea

A trade deal with Colombia is a horrible idea for a lot of reasons. Here are two of the latest:

According to U.S. LEAP (the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project), the violence against workers is getting worse, not better, in Colombia.

...violence against trade unionists is set to exceed the 38 assassinated in 2009, with 36 killings reported as of September 15.

Impunity for the 3,000 cases of civilian deaths at the hands of Colombian armed forces continues, death threats against Afro-Colombian leaders, unionists and human rights defenders have increased significantly, and Colombia’s intelligence agency (DAS) still operates in spite of allegations of widespread illegal surveillance...

And according to Public Citizen, so-called "free-trade agreements" like the one proposed for Colombia actually discourage U.S. exports.

Global Trade Watch found that the growth of U.S. exports to countries with which we don't have "free-trade agreements" is faster than the growth of U.S. exports to the 17 countries with which we do have these agreements.

Says GTW:

Last month, the corporate members of the President’s Export Council released a letter advocating for the passage of the Bush-negotiated Korea, Panama, and Colombia Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), claiming that passage would boost exports. They ignored the fact that the growth of exports to FTA partners has lagged behind exports to other countries, as we showed in our recent report.

It is possible that these corporations are pushing for FTAs since it would facilitate the export of American jobs rather than American goods.

Chamber of Commerce makes the coward's argument

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce still won't tell anyone how much foreign money it's funneling to run misleading ads against candidates it doesn't like.

ThinkProgress broke the story about the Chamber's illegal political activity. The blog reported today that the Chamber's own documents showed that it collected $885,000 from over 80 foreign companies. That money went into the same account used to pay for political attack ads.

The Chamber's top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, flat-out told CNN's Chuck Todd that they would continue to stonewall.

Here's the exchange:

TODD: Are you guys eventually going to disclose?


TODD: So your donors are afraid of a public backlash?

JOSTEN: Absolutely. […] Corporations, as I said, have employees, vendors, suppliers, and shareholders of all political stripes. They’re not trying to alienate anybody. They’re looking for representative organizations, such as mine and thousands of others, to be an express organization to advocate for them on their behalf.

It's what the Sunlight Foundation calls the "coward's argument against transparency."

Today's Teamster News 10/14/10

Rove, Chamber ads widely debunked as false or misleading Washington Post ...the sheer scale and dimension of dishonesty and distortion coming from the conservative side of this debate is a very big part of the story. And it's largely going untold...

Bankers Ignored Signs of Trouble on Foreclosures New York Times ... all 50 state attorneys general announced that they would investigate foreclosure practices...

U.S. Trade Deficit Widens; Producer Prices Rise Associated Press ...The politically sensitive deficit with China reached an all-time high...

GW’s Gelman Library Opens International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor History Research Center George Washington University ...Center is first major labor history center to open in the U.S in 30 Years, IBT Archives, dating back to the 1900s, will Peprmanently reside at GW...

Jobless claims rise, topping 460,000 CNN ...The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The myth of jobs Americans won't take

Have you read any of those news stories about how companies have jobs but American workers won't take them?

You probably thought there was something fishy about them. You were right.

Dan Rather, writing for The Huffington Post, went to Georgia to see if American workers were refusing to work in the fields.

Here's what he found:

...we found plenty of out-of-work Americans -- literally hundreds -- vying for jobs in the fields. The problem, these folks told us, is that the farmers in the area would rather import foreign guest workers to pick their vegetables than hire Americans.

Labor advocates say that farmers may like their labor cheap, fast and disposable, but it's illegal discrimination.

Rather went to J&R Baker Farms in Colquitt County. Six days before he got there, 136 Americans got jobs with the farm.

Many of the new hires said day after day, they'd been reporting for duty before daybreak, only to stand around for hours waiting for impossible assignments (like picking vegetables from a field that had already been harvested) and declared unqualified. They told us that the farm sent them home after an hour or two of work and their first week's paychecks amounted to less than $50. By week two, nearly all of the American workers had either quit or been fired. Meanwhile, foreign guest workers -- who were imported by the farm using a federal visa program known as the H-2A program -- were out in the in fields picking away.

The Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are investigating, Rather says.

Hoffa: Politics is about corporate power vs. the people

My boss, Jim Hoffa, wrote a terrific column in the Detroit News today about how nuts it is to describe politicians as "left" or "right."

He says that it doesn't make sense to talk about politicians as "liberal," "conservative," or "moderate." It only makes sense to describe them as pro-corporation or pro-ordinary American.
If you understand politics as a battle between liberal and conservative, then you don't understand politics at all.

The central political battle today is between the corporate billionaires on one side and the little guy on the other. The fight is about whether the government should protect corporate power to enrich a few billionaires, or restrict corporate power to protect the liberty and property of the average American.

He writes that the government isn't doing enough to help ordinary workers because corporations have way too much power.

Corporate power explains why the U.S. hasn't made the transformation to renewable energy. It's why we can't trust our food, drugs or toys to be safe. It's why we're struggling to develop new industries. It's why workers' wages have stagnated or fallen over the past decade and why so many families are losing their homes.

It's why so many jobs moved offshore so quickly. U.S. multinationals now employ one-third of their work force overseas.

A single corporate billionaire -- FedEx chairman Fred Smith -- has actually held up funding for the entire Federal Aviation Administration for three years. He doesn't like the bill because it puts FedEx back under the same labor law that all other delivery companies have to follow.

Hoffa also makes a good point about how corporations hide their intentions. This is especially important right now because the Supreme Court lets corporations spend millions of dollars secretly on their candidates. The corporations realize that people wouldn't believe their attack ads if they knew who was behind them.

Hoffa writes,
...corporations have been wily about disguising their plans to further concentrate their wealth and influence. They're adept at creating phony populist groups that claim to support individual freedom.

He also has a message for the tea partiers: If you're worried about individual freedom, you should worry about the concentration of corporate power.
It's the banks, not the government, that are taking people's homes away from them without even making sure they have the right to foreclose on them. Last onth, Jason Grodensky paid cash for a home in Florida, only to have the bank sell it out from under him in a foreclosure "mistake."

Just the other day, Nancy Jacobini was alone inside her Florida home when she heard someone breaking into her front door. She locked herself in the bathroom and called 911. It turns out the intruder was someone who worked for JP Morgan Chase. He was changing the locks on her home, something he had no legal right to do.

Does anyone think the banks want government to "interfere" with the "free market" and make sure they stop breaking into people's homes and selling houses they don't own? Of course not. But does anyone really think it's "conservative" to let powerful banks steal people's property?

Today's Teamster News 10/13/10

Banks hired hair stylists, teens to process foreclosure documents Associated Press ...(on) Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was...

Over 1.5 million hit the streets in France Americablog ...French unions have staged their biggest strikes and demonstrations so far in opposition to the government's pension reform plans...

Vice President Biden Keeps Hammering Away at Chamber of Commerce ABC News ..."Why can't the Chamber say, 'These are where the contributions are coming from?'...

Across the U.S., Long Recovery Looks Like Recession New York Times ...Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years...

Atlantic Southeast Airlines Mechanics and Related Workers Join Teamsters IBT ....Nearly 600 mechanics and related workers at Atlantic Southeast Airlines voted to join the Teamsters by a 2-to-1 margin...

Illinois School Bus Workers Choose Teamsters Union IBT ... First Student school bus drivers, aides and crossing guards in Belvidere, Illinois, have voted to join Teamsters Local 777 in Brookfield...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chamber can't or won't prove it isn't funneling foreign money to U.S. elections

Of COURSE the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is soliciting money from foreign countries (who by and large want to take our jobs) and spending it on mostly Republican political candidates. Which is, by the way, against the law.

The Chamber claims it "segregates" the money but won't explain how. Some Democrats actually think it's a bad idea to attack the Chamber for an activity that's loathsome to most voters.

David Dayen at firedoglake has a good take on the controversy:

It’s incredible that anyone would call the charges about the Chamber “baseless.” The Chamber solicits donations from abroad. That money goes into an account. The Chamber then spends $75 million dollars from that same account. They say that the money is segregated but refuse to show any documentation backing that up. Nobody disputes any of this. Why is it at all out of bounds to point it out?

But some battered-wife-syndrome Democrats think that defending themselves during an election is just terribly partisan and not at all what the God-fearing voters in real America want.

Voters in America want jobs in America. The Chamber wants to raise money by helping foreign multinationals move jobs overseas.

Seems pretty cut and dried.

Today's Teamster News 10/12/10

Supermarkets, Teamsters have five-year deal The Press-Enterprise ...Warehouse workers and drivers overwhelmingly ratified a ... contract with Southern California's major grocery chains ... giving workers pay increases and holding the line on their medical costs...

Union attacks Rite-Aid for delaying severance talks Observer-Dispatch ...Rite Aid has repeatedly refused to provide financial documents supporting their decision to close the facility and move some workers to a non-unionized Liverpool distribution center as a cost-saving measure...

Ohio Attorney General Fights Against Wall Street New York Times ...Richard Cordray in two years in office has ... sue(d) early and often, filing lawsuits against global financial houses, rating agencies, subprime lenders and foreclosure scammers...

Wall Street Pay: A Record $144 Billion Wall Street Journal ...Pay on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year...

Unemployed find old jobs now require more skills Associated Press ...some of the jobless no longer even qualify for their old positions...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Has Chamber proved it hasn't funneled foreign money to political campaigns?

White House adviser David Axelrod says the U.S. Chamber has some 'splaining to do. He appeared on "Face the Nation" yesterday and told Bob Schieffer that the U.S. Chamber hasn't proven that the foreign money it funneled to U.S. campaigns is "peanuts":

The fact is the Chamber has asserted that, but they won't release any information about where their money is coming from. And that's the core of the problem.

The U.S. Chamber is probably the single biggest contributor to U.S. political campaigns, and it has long championed NAFTA, CAFTA and all the trade deals that give workers the SHAFTA (as my boss, Jim Hoffa, likes to say).
The Washington Post and the New York Times, both ardent supporters of job-killing trade deals, dismiss the story about the U.S> Chamber's practice of funneling money to pro-free-trade candidates from countries like Bahrain, Egypt and India.

But ThinkProgress, the blog that originally reported the story, produced the chart above that shows how the U.S. Chamber does it.
And ThinkProgress asks two very good questions that neither the Times nor the Post thought to get answered:
How many foreign sources of funding does the U.S. Chamber have? and

Are the foreign funds being directed to the same general account that is being used to pay for partisan attack ads?

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chamber funnels foreign money to influence U.S. elections

TeamsterNation has always maintained that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce should take "U.S." out of its name. The organization not only has directors who represent domestic multinational corporations that have sent hundreds of thousands of American jobs overseas, it actually has directors who represent foreign multinationals from Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Bermuda, Belfium, the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Now the U.S. China Chamber is embroiled in a fundraising scandal that it dismisses at its peril. The organization allegedly funneled foreign money to pay for attack ads against Democratic candidates.

ThinkProgress has the story:

...the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general
account, which solicits foreign funding. ... According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.

The Chamber is funding attack ads against candidates the Teamsters strongly support: Jerry Brown for governor of California, Barbara Boxer for senator from California, Jack Conway for Senator from Kentucky.

The U.S. Chamber actually has an office in Bahrain, called “U.S.-Bahrain Business Council” (USBBC). ThinkProgress tells us:

...the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises well over $100,000 a year in money from foreign businesses through its operation in Bahrain...

It also has an office in India, where it boasts it can help U.S. companies outsource jobs and collects $200,000 a year. And it has an affiliate in Egypt. And it has a secret relationship with an affiliate in Russia, but we can guess what that's all about.

Here's why the Chamber is able to gather so much money from foreign companies (and, we suspect, foreign government-owned companies):

The Chamber has repeatedly sent out issue alerts attacking Democratic efforts to encourage businesses to hire locally rather than outsource to foreign counties. The Chamber has also bitterly fought Democrats for opposing unfettered free trade deals.

A reminder to the Chamber: it's against the law for foreign entities to contribute to political races here in America.

Former Teamster Gary McDowell In Tough Race for Congress

The Teamsters' own Gary McDowell is running for Congress in Michigan as a Democrat in a tough year for the party in power.

McDowell's opponent is a Tea Party Republican who thinks privatizing Social Security is a good idea. He says social programs don't belong in government because Americans will take care of Americans in need.

But when it came to taking care of his own kids, Dr. Dan Benishek lied to a judge about his hefty income in order to lower his child support payments.

Despite that embarrassing incident from his past and a wildly unpopular position on Social Security, Benishek is mounting a tough challenge to McDowell for the open congressional seat in the Upper Peninsula. Corporate money is flooding in from out of state to support Benishek's candidacy.

Gary McDowell thinks he can win. One reason is that he's on the right side of the Social Security issue. He believes retirement savings should not be subject to the whims of the stock market or the predations of Wall Street.

"We have to make sure it's a safe and secure future so you have the peace of mind when you retire that your money is safe and secure," says McDowell, a 33-year UPS driver.

McDowell spoke with UPS Teamster Magazine before the Republican primary results were in.
Here's what he had to say:

“All my opponents are looking back. They want to go back to where we were two years ago. I can remember two years ago.We were in freefall, losing 700,000 jobs amonth, Chrysler and GM going into bankruptcy. My opponents want to be a right-to-work state, they want to do away with prevailing wages, they want to lower our standard of living.

“Michigan and the country need middle-class jobs. In Michigan, we have core industries like timber, mines, agriculture.We need to focus on these types of jobs to build themiddle-class jobs that have made America great.”

If and whenMcDowell gets to Congress, his priorities are clear: enacting the Express Carrier Employee Protection Act, preventing the misclassification of workers and creating jobs.

“I’m always looking out for working families,” McDowell said.“That’s where I came from, that’s who I am, that’s what I’ll do.”

Today's Teamster News 10/08/10

Cuts in Government Led U.S. Economy to Lose 95,000 Jobs New York Timess government jobs fell by 159,000, private sector companies added 64,000 jobs last month...

Obama to Veto Bill That Could Speed Foreclosures New York Times ...another major lender indicated it would suspend sales of foreclosed homes and White House officials said President Obama would not sign a bill that critics suggested could facilitate foreclosure fraud...

U.S. companies buy back stock in droves as they hold record levels of cash Washington Post ...companies (are) ... starting to deploy some of that money - not to hire workers or build factories, but to prop up their share prices...

Respect My Vote! Hip Hop Caucus and Women of Labor United for the Vote Huffington Post ...The Hip Hop Caucus recently teamed with American Rights at Work, who organized prominent women of color in the labor movement to show their support for young people's participation in these 2010 mid-term elections...

Report: Lou Dobbs has used illegal workers for years USA Today ...Lou Dobbs, who for years has railed against illegal immigrants and employers who hire them, is accused of relying on undocumented workers at his New Jersey estate and horse farm and at a winter home in Florida...

Labor Unions a Key to Happiness, New Report Finds In These Times ...a new report finds that labor groups ... improve the general well-being for union and non-union citizens in several industrialized countries.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The moral to this shocking story: It pays to be union!

It took real estate billionaire Sam Zell just one year to drive the Tribune Co. into bankruptcy, after dissolving the employees' 401(k) plans and diverting their contributions.

Because of the way Zell structured the his purchase of the Tribune Co., workers technically own the company. But they'll get nothing from the bankruptcy settlement. The only group of workers who won't be left high and dry in retirement (other than Zell's pals in management) are Teamster-represented Tribune workers. They're still receiving contributions to their pension funds as required by their collective bargaining agreements.

Sadly, it isn't really shocking that a private leveraged buyout would result in the destruction of a functioning business like the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and WGN. The Teamsters have had plenty of nasty experiences with private equity firms. They tend to buy profitable companies, load them with debt, loot the assets and then kick their worthless carcasses to the curb.

What is shocking about the Tribune Co. is the way the new management abused employees. As The New York Times reported, executives'

...use of sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective shocked and offended people throughout the company...

Now Teamsters are generally not offended by a little bad language. But according to the Times,

One of their first priorities was rewriting the employee handbook.

“Working at Tribune means accepting that you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use,” the new handbook warned. “You might experience an attitude you don’t share. You might hear a joke that you don’t consider funny. That is because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process.” It then added, “This should be understood, should not be a surprise and not considered harassment.”

In that "nonlinear atmosphere," 4,200 employees lost their jobs. The Tribune Tower was turned into a virtual frat house, the immensely popular WGN-AM radio station was ruined and longtime employees quit because they couldn't stand the work atmosphere.

Said the former managing editor,
“They wheeled around here doing what they wished, showing a clear contempt for most everyone that was here and used power just because they had it. They used the notion of reinventing the newspapers simply as a cover for cost-cutting.”

How much will top management award itself for driving the Tribune Co. over a cliff in a year?

They've proposed bonuses of $100 million for themselves for 2010.

Now that's shocking.

Teamsters Tell Congress: Protect Social Security!

Hundreds of Teamsters are fighting back against a well-funded and well-organized attack on Social Security.

The latest development: the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is meeting in Washington, D.C. to come up with ways to eliminate the nation’s debt. Nicknamed the "Catfood Commission," it may recommend cuts to the Social Security program.

The recommendations are due to Congress by December 1. There could be a vote in Congress on the report.

In the past few weeks, Teamsters have sent a whopping 1,400 e-mails to their representatives in Congress urging them to oppose any cuts to Social Security.

The message is simple. Social Security has not contributed to the federal deficit – it actually has a surplus of $2.6 trillion. Social Security belongs to us – the people who have worked hard and paid taxes to the program. It should not be cut to reduce the deficit.

Teamster activists sent e-mails asking their representative to support two crucial efforts. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is circulating a letter to President Obama opposing any Social Security benefit cuts and efforts to privatize the program.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is sponsoring a House Resolution that opposes any increase in the retirement age. The retirement age has already been raised from 65 to 66, and it will go to 67 in 2022. Some in Congress want to raise it to 70. That would cut benefits by 20 percent!

Click here if you want to join the effort. It will take just a few minutes of your time.

Today's Teamster News 10/07/10

Teamsters step up, waive raises, save Indian River County union jobs slated for demise TC Palm ...Daniee Jarratt ... was one of 17 employees facing the latest round of county layoffs...But his fellow ... Teamsters ... were able to save his job and nine others...

Christie's Silence Spurs Worries for Train Tunnel New York Times ...(there are) rumors that Mr. Christie is about to withdraw the state funds (which would) ... effectively scuttle the biggest transit project under way in the country...

An Unexpected Decrease in Filings for Jobless Benefits Associated Press ...layoffs are declining...

Foreclosure Cover for Banks Seen in Bill at Obama's Desk Reuters ...A bill that homeowners advocates warn will make it more difficult to challenge improper foreclosure attempts by big mortgage processors is awaiting President Barack Obama's signature after it quietly zoomed through the Senate last week...

Chamber of Commerce Denies Foreign Money Funding Campaign Ads CBS News ...The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ... is denying a report from a liberal group that it is using money from foreign corporations on campaign ads...

Baltimore teachers union is the hero, not the villain Washington Post ...The Baltimore contract, on which teachers will vote Oct. 14, bases pay on acombination of professional development training, joint management-teacher evaluation and measured student achievement...

Feds OK Union Vote for FreshDirect The Queens Gazette ...The National Labor Relations Board last week approved a request by a group of FreshDirect employees to hold a (Teamsters) union election at FreshDirect’s Long Island City warehouse...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Today's Teamster News 10/06/10

Foreclosure Furor Rises; Many Call for a Freeze New York Times ...The uproar over bad conduct by mortgage lenders intensified Tuesday, as lawmakers in Washington requested a federal investigation...

Dim Outlook for Holiday Jobs New York Times ...As the economy sputters, prospects are dimming for unemployed workers who were banking on a seasonal retail job...

Southern California Grocery Teamsters Overwhelmingly Ratify Agreements IBT ...Teamsters at seven southern California Teamster Locals have overwhelmingly ratified agreements with grocers Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Vons and Albertsons...

Teamsters Local 71 Organizing Machine Rolls On With American Red Cross Victory IBT ...American Red Cross workers in Charlotte have voted to join Teamsters Local 71...

Government workers' pensions no longer sacred Washington Post ...Public employees are facing a backlash that has intensified with the nation's economic woes...

Audit faults Missouri labor agency St. Louis Post-Dispatch ... the labor department has failed to hold companies doing business in the state accountable for the number of "misclassified workers" on private payrolls...

Most 9/11 responders OK settlement resolving suit Associated Press ...A lawyer representing 10,000 ground zero workers suing New York City over their exposure to World Trade Center dust said Tuesday that 75 percent have signed a settlement...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A new low in politics, brought to you by Nick Rahall's opponents

Nick Rahall is a Democratic congressman from West Virginia who has been with the Teamsters 100 percent of the time on our important issues. He is also Christian of Lebanese descent, born and raised in West Virginia.

Today, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo took Rahall's opponents to task for a dirty campaign ad. Says Marshall,

In this election cycle of perpetual lows, achieving a new low is a serious accomplishment. But we've got one.

An "independent" group ran a campaign commercial slamming Rahall for chairing a group of Arab-Americans for Obama. The ad, sponsored by the West Virginia Conservative Foundation, aired scary music in the background with Rahall saying ,

I proudly chaired the Arab-Americans for Obama campaign nationwide group.

Wonder what scary Arab-Americans the West Virginia Conservative Foundation is afraid of. Could it be Quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Jeff George?

Sen. George Mitchell?

Actress Selma Hayek? Coach Jim Harrick?

It couldn't be Christa McAuliffe or Frank Zappa -- they're both dead -- but what about Moon Unit and Dweezel?

Or maybe they're scared of Marlo Thomas or Paula Abdul.

Or could it be that the West Virginia Conservative Foundation simply represents a bunch of bigots?

To save lives, military turns to renewable energy

The New York Times had a great story today about how the military is going green because it's safer for the troops. Perhaps it's a parable for the whole planet. Around the world, workers are dying on oil rigs and in refinery explosions, not to mention the wars that start over oil fields.

Today the Times reports that truck convoys hauling fuel to bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sitting ducks for the enemy. One person is killed for every 24 fuel convoys that set out. And so,
With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.

The military's appetite for equipment that runs on renewable energy brings with it a bright promise. Combined, the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines have the buying paper to create products and markets.

Some cool things the military is doing include:
  • A Marine company from California brought to Helmand Province portable solar panels that fold into boxes; energy-saving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers.
  • The Navy introduced its first hybrid vessel, an amphibious assault ship called the U.S.S. Makin Island. It runs on electricity under 10 knots runs on electricity instead of fossil fuel
  • The Air Force has flown test flights using a mix of plant-based biofuel and jet fuel.
Teamster General President Jim Hoffa has argued for years that we need to get America running on clean energy. The Teamsters are pushing for green jobs that pay workers decent wages and benefits.

Good to know the military is helping to pioneer our transformation into an economy based on renewable energy.

Today's Teamster Links 10/05/10

Veolia Locks Out Teamsters Local 104 Members IBT ...More than 60 Phoenix-based Teamsters Local 104 Veolia fuelers, cleaners, parts clerks and tire service workers were escorted off Veolia property early Monday morning by security...

Cities in Debt Turn to States, Adding Strain New York Times ...a growing number of towns, cities and other local governments are seeking refuge in similar (state distressed cities programs) .... as alternatives to federal bankruptcy court...

U.S. Chamber of Commerce turns on past allies Associated Press ...The chamber is now spending millions of dollars on ads trying to elect candidates whose campaigns are based on opposing the very bank rescue and stimulus law it once supported...

California Supreme Court upholds unpaid furloughs for more than 200,000 state workers Los Angeles Times ...Unions hail part of the ruling that said the governor lacks unilateral authority to cut work weeks and pay. The governor says it upholds 'the state's actions to protect taxpayers.'...

Tidal wave of outside money floods congressional campaign coffers McClatchy ... From Aug. 1 to Sept. 20, the study found, Republican-leaning interests outspent Democrats by about 5 to 1 on ads...

Monday, October 4, 2010

If you break the law, should you get a government contract?

At the very least, the government shouldn't reward serial labor law violators with big fat federal contracts, argues our brother blogger TeamsterPower over at dailykos.

But it does. And the government gives contracts to so many bad actors that one-fifth of federal contracted workers did not earn enough to raise a family of four above the poverty line, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

TeamsterPower writes that the federal government should award more contracts to companies that provide good jobs here -- and give fewer contracts to those that cheat their workers and send jobs overseas. By improving its procurement practices, the government could improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in their daily lives.

TeamsterPower writes:
Like it or not, the U.S. government spends about $500 billion a year on goods and services from private businesses. Only in countries like Somalia does the government not have a major role in the national economy.

As economist
Bob Kuttner points out, federal procurement directly or indirectly influences one job in four in the economy.

Kuttner, in the
October issue of the American Prospect, notes that the federal government gives business to companies that systemically violate labor law and decent standards. The federal government sometimes awards lucrative contracts to companies that batter down wages.

We got an idea of how bad the problem is on Friday, when the Government Accountability Office released a report that said 20 federal contractors received half of the 50 biggest fines levied by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division between the 2005 and 2009 budget years.

Those companies received more than $9 billion in federal contracts in the 2009 budget year. Not one was suspended or disbarred.

The government actually awarded $500 million in contracts last year to Tyson Foods, which had more than 100 OSHA health and safety violations and 13 Wage and Hour violations. The company fired multiple employees for taking lawful family medical leave and cheated 3,000 workers of $250,000. Not outraged yet? Consider this:

OSHA cited the company for one serious violation and a $7,000 fine when (an) employee who fell into a wastewater pit containing poultry debris was fatally asphyxiated when the debris lodged into his throat in 2004.

Here are some other companies that get big, fat government contracts even though they mistreat their employees:
  • FedEx a notorious union-buster that routinely misclassifies employees, received $1.5 billion in Defense Department contracts last year.
  • U.S. Foodservice, another union buster, received $2 billion in military contracts over the past decade.

Today's Teamster News 10/04/10

Thousands gather in D.C. for 'One Nation' rally USA Today ...Thousands of people from across the country converged on the National Mall on Saturday ... to rally for jobs, education, immigration overhaul and other liberal causes...

Teamsters March on Washington for Jobs IBT ...Hundreds of Teamsters came from around the country to march for jobs and justice at the One Nation Working Together rally...

Teamsters Local 104 Members Prepare for Veolia Lockout IBT ...fuelers, cleaners, parts clerks and tire service workers on Saturday prepared to be locked out as 11th-hour negotiations with their French multi-national employer continue...

Fiscal, not social issues, draw ballot attention McClatchy ...The hot social questions of 2008 are taking a back seat to fiscal matters in November's ...

Genesys technical workers to vote on tentative contract agreement ...Genesys Regional Medical Center and the union that represents its 283 technical workers have come to a tentative agreement...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hundreds of Teamsters converge on Washington for historic march

Hundreds of Teamsters came from all across America today to join in a historic march for jobs, justice and education. They came in busloads and they came by themselves; they came from as close as Washington, D.C., and as far away as California. And they carried big black and gold signs with one unmistakable message: JOBS!
Close to 200,000 people rallied for policies that put people before Wall Street. They were workers, students, environmentalists, clergy, civil rights activists and retirees. They didn't have an entire television network and conservative personality promoting the event. But organizers felt they made themselves heard.
Here's the statement from One Nation Working Together:
"As of 3:00 p.m., an estimated 175,000+ Americans -- representing all 50 states and our country's great diversity -- joined together at the Lincoln Memorial to reclaim the American dream and raise their voices for jobs, justice and public education."
One Nation described the march as "an important moment in the progressive movement."
Here's what Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa had to say:
"The Teamsters aren't afraid to get involved. We believe every working person in America should have a good job if he wants one. That's what this is all about.
"We've moved too far away from the dream that anyone who works hard and obeys the rules can live a good and decent life. We need to reclaim that dream."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Driving Across the Country for Jobs and Justice

Luis Ceja drove for a week from California to join the many thousands of people converging on Washington for the One Nation Working Together march on Oct. 2.

Ceja, a port organizer with Joint Council 42, drove a 35-foot RV with nine young bloggers who stopped along the way to talk to Americans about their hopes and struggles. Joined by Alfredo Oswaldo Hernandez, a port organizer with Local 572, they recorded their experiences at (Click on “RV Across One Nation.”)

“I came here for jobs and justice,” Ceja said. “I came to show that the Teamstersare not afraid to get involved. I came to show the Teamsters believe that every working person in America should have a good job.”

“To be part of this is a learning experience, especially with the kids,” Ceja said. “They were Japanese, Muslim, Latino, men, women, meat-eaters, vegetarian. They say, ‘We’re one nation.’”

There were a lot of ups and downs on the trip, said a tired-looking Ceja on Friday afternoon. “We were like a family by the end.”

Today's Teamster News 10/01/10

Joe Hansen Takes Helm at Change to Win Wall Street Journal ...Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, will head the federation of four labor unions ... (t)he federation also ... elected Teamsters President Jim Hoffa as secretary-treasurer...

Congress leaves with unfinished business Washington Post ...Unable to get support from any Senate Republicans, Democrats couldn't push through a ... provision that Democrats said would limit the outsourcing of jobs abroad...

China's Manufacturing Growing Wall Street Journal ...Chinese growth remains robust...

Road Safety Laws Slow to Take Hold Washington Post ...years can pass before anything is done ...

Holders Reject Proposal By Hertz Wall Street Journal ...Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. shareholders on Thursday threw out an agreed $1.54 billion buyout by Hertz...

Austerity plans cloud global jobs recovery: ILO Agence France-Press ...The UN labour agency said Friday that employment in many countries would only return to pre-crisis levels in 2015 ... as austerity programmes aggravate job losses...