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Labor Unions - Page Two

"It was more or less required that you participate in the political action
committee if you were an officer." - Alberto Gude Jr., former Enron executive

Union Challenges Boeing Layoffs

Seattle Times – by Kyung M. Song – December 22, 2001

(12/21/01) - The Machinists union yesterday filed grievances challenging last Friday's layoffs of 1,000 of its members as the job-cut tally among Boeing's hourly workers continued to mount.

Boeing today is issuing 60-day layoff warnings to 1,737 workers nationwide, including 1,287 locally. This brings to 16,637 the number of jobs Boeing has slated for cuts since Oct. 12. Some 12,000 of those workers already have left the company.

The latest tally includes layoffs of 753 members of Machinist Dist. 751 in the Puget Sound area. Machinists have accounted for 5,100, or 62 percent, of Boeing's 8,200 layoff notices in the region.

Yesterday, the union filed two separate charges with Boeing, contending some layoffs shouldn't have happened. It claims Boeing violated language in the Machinists labor contract by displacing union jobs after shifting work to contractors and suppliers.

This is the Machinists' most visible attempt to enforce certain "no-layoffs" job-security clauses under its 1999 labor agreement, which the union's then-president hailed as the "best contract in aerospace" and which took the union to the brink of a strike before it was ratified.

Boeing and the Machinists union are preparing to renegotiate the contract, which expires in September. "The union can have the best contract language in the world, but if Boeing chooses to ignore it, we have to pursue justice in the legal arena," Dist. 751 President Mark Blondin said in a statement.

Cris McHugh, a Boeing spokeswoman, said the company has not seen the grievances but believes "we are honoring all our commitments outlined in the contract."

The Machinists' mostly blue-collar members have been hardest hit by Boeing's massive downsizing. Dist. 751 represents more Boeing workers locally than any other union. But it may lose that distinction to the engineering union at Boeing if the layoff pattern continues.

Last Friday, 2,725 local Machinist members were laid off, reducing to 22,075 the number of active workers represented by the union in the region. On the same day, 400 of the 19,500 local members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) were scheduled to be laid off.

Boeing will announce additional job cuts monthly until it reaches its target of 25,000 to 30,000 by the middle of next year. The next round will be announced Jan. 18.

Workers receiving layoff notices today will work their final shift Feb. 22.

One of yesterday's grievances involves an issue already pending before a federal arbitrator. In that case, the union is arguing Boeing violated the contract by displacing Machinists workers in Renton when it decided to transfer 757-fuselage work to its plant in Wichita, Kan.

The Wichita workers belong to the Machinists union, and any resulting job losses in the Seattle area would be exempt from the no-layoffs clause.

However, the union contends Boeing also is shifting some 757 fuselage-panel work from Wichita to a Boeing parts supplier, Alenia of Italy, and thus is sending the Renton jobs outside the company.

The union also is challenging layoffs among tooling workers in Kent as well as electricians, maintenance mechanics, carpenters and other facilities employees it contends lost their jobs to contract workers.

Labor Union Targets Backers of Trade Bill

The Charlotte Observer – by Richard Rubin - December 15, 2001

5 House members helped pass fast-track trade authority bill

KANNAPOLIS -- Labor union leaders are promising a hard-fought election campaign against five N.C. members of Congress who cast the deciding votes on a trade bill last week.

"Their opponents could be Attila the Hun, and they're not going to get our support - not any longer," Harris Raynor, southern regional director for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, said at a news conference in Kannapolis on Thursday.

The labor unions oppose the so-called "fast-track" trade authority legislation, which would prohibit Congress from altering trade deals negotiated by the administration and would require a simple yes-or-no vote.

The bill passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 6 by a 215-214 vote, the tie-breaking ballot cast by Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., of Concord. It still must pass the Senate.

Hayes defended his vote, made after long negotiations with President Bush and House leaders. He said Thursday that the bill and the agreement with the administration are "pro-textile worker," bringing the industry to the forefront of American trade policy and benefiting it in the long run. "We've got attention (for the industry) that hasn't been there before," he said.

The Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce, noting concessions Hayes won on the bill, issued a resolution Thursday commending Hayes "for his tireless efforts to retain and expand textile jobs" in North Carolina.

U.S. presidents have lacked fast-track authority since 1994, when the last law expired. Since then, presidents Clinton and Bush have lobbied heavily for its return. But the bill is controversial in the Carolinas, where thousands of jobs in the textile and furniture industries have been lost to international competition, including hundreds in Hayes' 8th District.

Labor unions oppose the bill because it would prevent individual members of Congress from negotiating industry-specific compromises on future deals.

"They may have given up their authority," Raynor said. "We have given up on them."

In exchange for his vote for the bill, Hayes extracted concessions from Bush, including a promise that textiles imported duty-free from the Caribbean and South America would have to be finished and dyed in the United States. Bush also promised stiffer enforcement of existing trade agreements and pressure on foreign countries to open their markets to American-made textiles.

In a statement released after the vote, Bush said: "I intend to ensure that the interests of our textile industry and workers are at the heart of our trade negotiations. The objective Robin and I share is a trade policy that improves the prospects for textile workers in the 8th District."

But at Thursday's news conference, union leaders said the concessions were paper promises, worthless because they're not codified in legislation.

"We think (Hayes has) been sold a bill of goods, and that will be proven," Raynor said.

Hayes said he's confident Bush and the House Republican leaders will keep their promises.

As for the union, Hayes said, "The last time I checked, they never supported me."

Raynor and other union leaders supported Hayes' opponent last year, but they've also worked with him while in office. Now they've pledged an even more thorough effort to oppose Hayes and the other N.C. lawmakers who voted for the fast-track bill.

They are Sue Myrick, R-N.C., of Charlotte, Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., of Lillington, Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., of Hickory and Richard Burr, R-N.C., of Winston-Salem. S.C. Republicans Henry Brown and Jim DeMint also voted for the bill.

Even before the trade vote, Hayes was a prime target for Democrats trying to take control of the House in 2002. Democrats in the N.C. General Assembly brought his 8th District into east Charlotte, adding thousands of more liberal voters.

Militant Action Disclaimer

Employee Advocate - – December 8, 2001

It should not be necessary to post a disclaimer for the following article: “Militant Action Wins Severance Pay.” But times being what they are, we will post it anyway.

The Worker’s World article tell of the success that labor unions and workers have had in France, by using militant tactics. Union workers occupied a plant for three months, threatening to detonate acid, acetylene, gas and petrol, if they were not granted severance pay. They won.

Other tactics mentioned in the article were flooding streets with beer, dumping sulfuric acid, and kidnapping executives!

The article is presented solely because it is interesting, not to suggest that such tactics be attempted in the United States. We advocate only legal means to resolve employment issues.

All issues can be resolved without bloodshed, destruction of property, or a shot being fired. The mechanisms for redress are already in place. All employees ever had to do was to just use them. If only one tenth of the employees who have complained to each other about various issues, would register their complaints in the proper places, needed improvement would come almost overnight!

Militant Action Wins Severance Pay

Workers World - By G. Dunkel – December 8, 2001

The big sign hanging on the Moulinex plant in Cormelles-le-Royal, France, summed it up: "Money or boom." Moulinex, a midsize maker of small appliances in France, went bankrupt in early September. The German firm SEB bought the company, located in a small town in France's northern "rust belt." SEB decided to move most of its production out of France.

Workers demanded a severance bonus. Some 50 to 100 workers, according to a union spokesperson, put "acid, acetylene, gas and petrol at strategic points so that they can blow the place if we don't get the money we are asking for."

After occupying their plants for three months, holding the government's negotiator hostage, burning down an unused warehouse and threatening to "blow the place," the 4,400 workers at Moulinex finally won their demand.

Those with over 25 years seniority--more than two-thirds of the workforce--will get a bonus of about $17,000, as well as the normal layoff and unemployment benefits.

Five of the six union confederations involved in the struggle signed off on the agreement on Nov. 21. The sixth confederation, the CFDT, is expected to sign soon.

The workers have dismantled their protest occupation and the new owners are preparing to move the machinery.

What makes the bosses listen?

Some officials of the CFDT had urged the workers not to destroy the factory, saying that would destroy any chance of finding a buyer who might restore their jobs. But the workers didn't agree.

Antonio Thomas, a 28-year veteran of the Cormelles factory, told the Wall Street Journal that threats of violence "are the only thing that makes management and politicians listen. It's our only weapon to put pressure on them." Another worker, who gave her name as Patricia, told Libération, "September 11, that's dramatic; the fall of the Airbus in New York, that's dramatic; but us losing our jobs, that's dramatic, too."

The past few years in France, workers have resorted to bold tactics in their struggles with management. Facing cutbacks, bank workers at Credit Foncier and aluminum workers at Pechiney kidnapped management executives. Brewery workers in Alsace-Loraine in eastern France flooded the streets with beer. Textile workers dumped sulfuric acid and threatened to detonate chemicals stored in their factory.

France does not have a Bill of Rights. It has "anti-terrorist" laws that are in many respects more severe than similar laws in the United States. But the state in France couldn't charge the Moulinex workers and their unions with terrorist acts because the French working class regards what they did as valid tactics in the class struggle.

- END -

Reprinted from the Dec. 6, 2001, issue of Workers World newspaper

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: For subscription info send message to: Web:

No Unions for South Carolina Attorney General

Associated Press – October 28, 2001

The New York AFL-CIO says it's "sickened" by remarks from South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon about state troopers forming a union.

Earlier this year, Condon urged troopers not to form a union. He said organized labor "sends the signal to South Carolinians that their long-standing sense of professionalism and devotion to duty is being eroded."

In a letter sent to Condon on Thursday, New York Public Employee Division Director Arthur Wilcox said implying that officers "would lack devotion to duty because they belonged to a union is not true."

"The members of the New York City Police and Fire Departments and Port Authority Police Department who gave up their lives on September 11, 2001, in order to save others, were all members of labor unions. I ask that you immediately rescind your statement," Wilcox wrote.

Condon has maintained that a public labor union in South Carolina does not have the power to collectively bargain or strike and runs the risk of violating the law.

In a letter to Wilcox on Friday, Condon said he was angry because the union "grossly distorts" his position.

"It is obvious that you are using these heroes to advance the political agenda of the AFL-CIO," Condon wrote. "That is unfair, particularly in this moment of crisis when all Americans should stand together as one."

There are about 100 South Carolina members of the International Union of Police Associations. They are upset with low pay, poor working conditions and the threat of layoffs.

The president of the state AFL-CIO called Condon's remarks "ill-timed and unfortunate."

"It is outrageous that Attorney General Condon would question the professionalism of public safety officers because they belong to a union or are interested in forming one," said union President Donna DeWitt. South Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the nation.

Some Freightliner Employees Get Pay Cuts

Employee Advocate - - October 4, 2001

The Charlotte Observer reported that over 1,700 Freightliner employees would receive salary reductions and health benefits reductions. All of the affected employees are nonunion.

Freightliner would be more than happy to cut pay and benefits for the union workers also. But, there is one problem with that. The union employees have a contract.

Onan Settles Retirement Plan Lawsuit

Pioneer Press - by Mike Hughlett - September 28, 2001

Workers who sued Fridley-based Onan Corp. over its conversion to a "cash balance" pension plan have reached a settlement that will cost the company at least $23 million, and will result in higher pension benefits for some employees.

Conversions to cash-balance pension plans, such as the one at Onan and a highly publicized switch at IBM, have been controversial in recent years, even sparking congressional hearings. Veteran workers at Onan, IBM and elsewhere have claimed their pension benefits were cut when their employers switched to cash-balance plans, which resemble 401(k) accounts more than traditional defined benefit retirement plans.

Four Onan workers sued the generator maker in 1997, claiming age discrimination and violations of federal employee retirement income laws in connection with a pension plan instituted in 1989. The suit became a class action, covering about 1,450 workers.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that Onan's conversion to cash balance plan didn't violate age discrimination laws. But the judge left the door open for a trial on whether the plan violated federal retirement income laws. A settlement was reached last week, though it must still win approval of the Internal Revenue Service and a federal court in Indiana.

"We got the company to modify the plan, to go back and, I guess one would say, give us what was rightly ours,'' said Jim Eaton, one of the suit's four plaintiffs. Eaton, of New Hope, worked at Onan for 38 years, retiring in 1995. Under the settlement, Onan, a division of Indiana-based Cummins Engine Co., will pay out $23 million to $53 million to workers, depending on choices they make on their benefits, Eaton said. A lawyer for the company, Marc Sciscoe, confirmed that the settlement would cost at least $23 million, though he couldn't confirm the higher figure. When the pension plan was adopted in the late 1980s, some workers were not allowed to choose whether to receive their benefits in a lump sum or an annuity stream. Under the settlement, they will be allowed to choose, Sciscoe said. Plus, Onan will recalculate both lump sum and annuity benefits under a new actuarial formula. Those who chose lump sum distributions before may now be eligible for higher lump sums retroactively.

The pension plan switch at Onan not only spawned a lawsuit, but it helped spark a drive last year to unionize the plant's roughly 770 hourly workers. In November, workers voted against affiliating with the United Auto Workers by a margin of 53 to 47 percent.

However, the union challenged the election to the National Labor Relations Board, claiming among other things that a company offer to settle the pension lawsuit -- made known to workers just a week before the November election -- interfered with the organizing campaign. The labor board agreed, and ordered a new election.

The new election was held Wednesday -- eight days after the lawsuit settlement agreement was reached -- and this time the autoworkers lost by a margin of 58 to 42 percent. Union officials couldn't be reached for comment.

New York's Men of Steel

Washington Post - By Sally Jenkins - September 15, 2001

Hard Hats, Soft Hearts

They tramp into the smoke and dust, a legion of volunteer laborers wearing hard hats and tool belts and thick-soled boots. Hours later they walk out again, looking for fresh gloves and dry socks, or a sandwich, which they eat standing up. They crave food, and batteries.

The men who normally power and run this city, the lawyers, brokers and financiers, are useless. You can tell this by their papers, which have been blown to bits, those formerly crucial documents, so wordy and so thick, that they stuffed in their briefcases. What's left of the World Trade Center is a heap of twisted steel and ruined brick, substances with which many powerful New Yorkers have no experience. A building to them is something to walk through or ride up.

The rest of us don't know where or how to begin, but the impromptu volunteer army of workers does. "We built this city, you know," said Robert Doremus, 36, a carpenter from the Bronx.

They come in carrying Skil saws and wrenches, spades and Halligan tools. They drive loaders, excavators, backhoes and bulldozers. They commit grand acts of improvisation and problem-solving. "Every tradesman in New York is here," said carpenter Frank McCluskey of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 608. "All the construction jobs have ceased."

Elsewhere in the city, cranes stand motionless like birds listening to thunder. The men who operate them are on the only meaningful job, for which an entire city's intelligentsia, normally so supercilious, is suddenly and humbly grateful. The term "laborers" has a new respectability among their fellow citizens. The National Organization for Women won't be suing them for their hiring policies this week. And no one is calling them Larry Lunchpail or Joey Six-pack, either. Much has been said about the brotherhood of police and firemen working tirelessly in the rescue and salvage operation, but alongside them, the volunteers have worked just as heroically, and with a similar sense of brotherhood. "We had a lot of our own guys in there, we lost scores of men who were working on jobs," said McCluskey, of East Chester, N.Y. "Carpenters lost people. Electricians lost people. For us, it's personal."

They come in by busloads, organized by their local union chiefs. They report to a volunteer desk at the Jacob Javits Center and wait to be assigned shifts. Others simply walk up to the barricades at Canal Street, and show a union card to the cops, and ask to be put to work.

Hank Allan, 45, limped up Greenwich Street in a light rain Friday morning, his boots caked in ashy mud, his jeans and T-shirt gray, his glasses smudged with grime. He was coatless in the rain. Someone had given him two blankets, which he wrapped around his shoulders. Most of the work, he said, consists of "just moving big things." An exporter of heavy machinery, he arrived on the site Tuesday morning and immediately started up a Caterpillar, and helped get the rescue effort underway. Now, unable to stop yawning, he was looking for a train home to Tinton, N. J.

Ryan Lennon, a 23-year-old ironworker from Brooklyn, stood at the corner of West Street and Canal and pulled on dry gloves and adjusted his hard hat, preparing to return to the heap despite the fact that he had been on the job since Wednesday and worked for 15 hours straight, through the pelting rain Thursday night. "It was real muddy, wet, and glass kept falling in the wind," he said. "We're here no matter what."

In the heap, he said, you work until you can't anymore. "Or until the blisters on your feet start bleeding," he said. Doremus, a carpenter with Local 608, was on Lexington Avenue and 86th Street when the terrorist attack began. He began walking. He walked all the way, a distance of about six miles, to the World Trade Center, where he had once helped build an office on the 48th floor in one of the towers, doing drywall and framing.

Doremus walked into the still-flaming wreckage, and began helping the ironworkers. All night he carried oxygen tanks and hauled hoses to fuel their blowtorches. He didn't stop until 5 a.m. Wednesday, when he finally went to sleep in the lobby of the American Express building, next to a morgue. "My union brothers and sisters all worked in there," he said. "So, whatever hand I can lend. Every union job in New York City is shut down. They're all my union brothers and sisters, and we're banding together."

In teams, they crawl over the mounds of wreckage, scale it with safety ropes and hooks, and dig through it with their hands. The hazards are numerous; they can't be certain of the air above them or the ground beneath them. The ruins shift under their boots, potential sources of cave-ins or gas main breaks, and windows overhead pop and send shards down on their heads. They ignore all this.

Firefighter Steve Hartman, a volunteer from West Orange, N.J., said, "It's like picking up garbage on your hands and knees. You pick it up and throw it in the bucket. You pass the bucket."

Somehow, they have created order and routine. The iron- and steelworkers cut at the massive beams with blowtorches. When they have cut through a section, the riggers come in and cable it to a crane. When it's cabled, the crane lifts and hauls it out, and drops it into a dumpster. Then the diggers go in to check the holes and crevices underneath. The diggers come upon crushed torsos, wire, sheetrock, broken chairs, office equipment, seat cushions and other flotsam. "You pick up a rock, and then a lady's handbag," one said.

Even when city officials announce they have enough volunteers for the moment, the laborers look for ways to help. John Haseman, 45, an operating engineer, and his son John Jr., a 24-year-old laborer, drove in from in Patchogue, Long Island, to sign up for shifts but were turned away. So they donated boxes of gear: hundreds of pairs of leather gloves, goggles, masks, hard hats. Also, fresh shirts.

Domingo Luciano, 27, a Bronx furniture repairman, went to a Kmart and bought $40 worth of new white socks. He stood on West Street and Canal, handing them out from a shopping bag to the weary, grime-streaked men who marched by.

Three ironworkers stamped along the Hudson River, asking strangers where they might find a place to park their truck. They had just driven 12 hours and 750 miles from Indianapolis to volunteer. Rob Jones, 31, Gary Renick, 50, and Randy Martin, 42, members of the Ironworkers Local 22, arrived in Manhattan at 9 a.m. Thursday. They signed in at a volunteer center and by lunchtime were sent into the smoldering heap of wreckage. They found the going slow. There weren't enough blowtorches -- "Only had two on our side of the pile," Renick said.

The instability of the surrounding buildings caused periodic evacuations. Three sharp blasts from a horn meant they should run, the men were instructed. "It's dangerous," Renick said. "You can't just start banging and cutting and slopping things around." After a while, they were relieved and set off to find a place to park their truck and to sleep. They were worried about being towed. A city official told them they could park at Shea Stadium and take a bus back in. They set off wearily. "We intend to stay the week if they'll put us to work," Renick said.

Levern Floyd, a 48-year-old construction worker, showed his membership card for Building, Concrete, Excavating, Laborers Union, Local 731, and it was enough to get him in. He took a spot on the debris pile, passing buckets and pieces of twisted metal.

His usual job is with Perini Corp. Thirty people from the company went to the collapse site to volunteer. "There are so many people who are down there dead. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't go," he explained. "I wanted to help someone. I am an American, and I feel what was did was wrong."

Nearby, a group of volunteers posed for a picture taken by a fellow worker. One in the group said to several passersby who stopped to watch: "You didn't see any day laborers down there. It was all union men." Then he added, his voice rising, "It was the kind of people the media says is paid too much."

In the financial district adjacent to the World Trade Center, men in coveralls move through the street with hoses and brooms and giant vacuum trucks, cleaning New York, washing its windows, sweeping its streets, and vacuuming the ash and papers from the sewers. They are fatigued, brave, angry and endlessly capable. They are the ones who can do the job. Carpenter Tom Killacky, of Hardyston, N.J., said, "We're going to build it back again, too. Watch." The financial markets will reopen Monday. Buy stock in men.

Staff writer David Brown contributed to this report.

86-Count Complaint Against Verizon

Employee Advocate - - September 11, 2001

A press release by the Communications Workers of America tells of the problems employees have been facing at Verizon. The National Labor Relations Board is preparing a complaint against Verizon, addressing 86 alleged violations of the federal labor laws.

A list of abuses include: physical assault by supervision and varied threats of retaliation.

CWA President Morton Bahr said: ``These allegations amount to the most widespread and egregious anti-union campaign we have every encountered in the telecommunications industry. What we have documented, and what the NLRB investigators are finding, is a company-wide conspiracy to intimidate these employees into rescinding their union cards signed under our negotiated neutrality and card-check organizing agreement.''

Verizon has attempted to ride roughshod over the employees for some time. The tide may be turning.

Utility Employees Win Over Drug Test

Duke Energy Employee Advocate - - September 10, 2001

“FindLaw” provides a report on the case of Southern California Gas Company’s terminating two unionized utility employees because of a drug test. As it turns out, the medical review officer was arrested for impersonating a licensed physician!

The union pressed for the employees to be reinstated. The company refused. The matter was thrown into arbitration because the union had a collective bargaining agreement with the company.

The arbitrator ruled in the employee’s favor and ordered that they be reinstated. The company was unwilling to abide by the arbitrator’s decision and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court. The court refused to overturn the arbitrator’s decision.

Judge Melvin Brunetti reminded the company that: “The parties agreed that arbitration ‘shall be the exclusive means of settling such disputes.’"

Have you ever known a company to make an agreement with employees and then try to weasel out of it? These employees won because they were union members, the union contested the company’s actions, and the court forced the company to live up to its end of the agreement.

Labor Unions - Page One