Flight attendants for American Airlines are back at the bargaining table with the company with the threat of a possible strike being floated by the President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. The two sides are in the middle of a lockdown negotiation and President Laura Glading told members on Monday that if an agreement can’t be reached the union will go to the National Mediation board and ask for a release. If either side declines to go into binding arbitration the union would seek the power to call a strike from members.
Belgium may soon be facing a beer drought if a blockade by workers for Anheuser-Busch InBev continues at three breweries in the country. The workers began the blockade after the company proposed cutting 10 percent of western European workforce. The plants produce popular brands such as Stella Artois and the workers are currently preventing trucks from leaving so they can restock warehouses which are reportedly running dry. The blockade follows a situation last week where 10 brewery managers were held hostage for half of a day.
On Wednesday, the United Steelworkers union filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board against Brazilian mining company Vale. The union alleges in the complaint that the company has refused to return to the negotiation table and end a strike that began in July of 2009. Vale announced last week that it would restart the Sudbury, Ontario smelter with the use of nonunion labor. One of a number issues between the two sides is a “nickel bonus” for workers.
As of the end of the day Wednesday nearly 150 United Nations workers were still missing in Haiti. One hundred workers were known to be trapped in the collapsed UN Headquarters in the nation’s capitol city. The head of the UN mission in Haiti was also missing as of yesterday. He was holding a meeting in the Christopher Hotel at the time of the quake.
Workday Minnesota editor Barb Kucera reports on the latest victory for transportation security officers (TSOs) who are fighting to win a union voice and collective bargaining rights at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). For more information on their campaign, visit AFGE’s TSA website here.
Transportation security officers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have formed AFGE Local 899 while they await federal action enabling them to unionize.
Their organizing efforts got a boost from a solidarity event Monday with a national AFGE official, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and leaders of unions representing other airport and airline workers.
“The union is coming!” AFGE chief of staff Brian DeWyngaert told security workers and supporters assembled on the mezzanine above the airport’s ticketing level. His comments were met with cheers and workers waving signs that read, “Give us freedom to bargain for the American dream.”
At Monday’s solidarity event, Ellison, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 5th District, praised the efforts of TSA workers and condemned Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) statements that allowing TSOs to unionize threatens national security and encourages terrorism.
I fly through this airport twice a week. TSO agents are doing a good job every single day. Public safety depends upon workers who are feeling healthy, satisfied, protected, safe. Collective bargaining rights don’t hurt our safety, they help our safety because they make for a stronger workforce.
Click here to read Barb’s full article.
Here’s a look at some of the latest news across the country on health care reform:
Following his address to the National Press Club on the nation’s jobs and economic crisis, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other union leaders met with President Obama at the White House to discus how the final health care reform legislation should be shaped, especially the tax on working families’ health benefits that is part of the Senate-passed bill.
The New York Times reports that during the hourlong meeting, Obama repeated his support for some form a health care benefits tax, but “used Monday’s session to search for a sort of compromise.” In a statement following the meeting, Trumka said it was “frank and productive meeting between friends on moving forward on health care reform.”
• Allan Sloan, senior editor at Fortune magazine (hardly a pro-union, left-leaning, tax-the-rich journal), writes in a Washington Post op-ed today that despite claims that the tax on “Cadillac” health care plans would finance health care reform, more than 80 percent of the money to finance the plan would come from individuals paying higher income, Social Security and Medicare taxes—and the biggest portion of that money would come from people who make less than $200,000. Sloan adds:
The impact on people in the $1 million-plus range—most of whom probably really are rich—is relatively trivial.
• Several studies show the tax on workers’ health benefits impacts regular folks with basic “Chevy” plans and likely won’t result in employers returning the tax to workers in the form of higher wages. Studies also show that no one really knows if the benefits tax would reduce overall health care costs.
• While pundits have been pontificating about the mostly cons of the tax on workers’ health care, everyday folks have more down-to-earth descriptions. Check out the comments’ section following Art Levine’s recent Truthout post about the possible political fallout if the tax lives. Real anger there.
• Who really spawned this awful idea to tax working families on their health benefits? PaulVA at Daily Kos reveals it was the gleam in the eye of the Heritage Foundation in 1973 and was given birth by Ronald Reagan when he proposed it in 1985. However Reagan, showing his political savvy,
dropped this tax like a hot potato once he found out it was so unpopular.
The nation’s biggest health insurers have been funneling money quietly to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to air lie-filled, scare-mongering commercials about health care reform.
Like Capt. Renault, who discovered there was gambling going on at Rick’s Café Américain in Casablanca, we are: “Shocked, shocked….” Yeah, right.
Most observers of the health care reform fight suspected the major insurers that make up the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) were helping to foot the bill for the latest round of ads by two “business coalitions” subsidized by the Chamber. But it wasn’t until Peter Stone at the National Journal connected the dots that we had proof.
Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, says the report confirms
one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets—which is big insurance companies are fighting tooth and nail to kill health reform that will wrest power from their hands and give it to American families.
The big AHIP members have long tried to maintain a positive public posture of supporting some type of health care reform—just so long as reform proposals wouldn’t do anything to end their strangle hold on health care coverage and never ending, always soaring profits.
That money, between $10 million and $20 million, came from Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint, according to two health care lobbyists familiar with the transactions. The companies are all members of the powerful trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans.
The ads sharply criticized the high costs of the separate bills, especially the House version. The commercials warned the legislation would raise taxes for Americans and hurt the economy as it tries to recover from the recession. And some chamber-financed commercials attacked setting up a government-run plan to compete with private insurers—a special sore point for the insurance industry—which is part of the House measure.
Click here to read Stone’s entire piece.
After the story broke yesterday, Kaiser said it provided funds to AHIP for advertising with the stipulation it not be used for negative ads and AHIP assured Kaiser none was sent to the Chamber for the current campaign. Read more from Ben Smith at Politico.
On her blog, The Gavel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi writes:
These big insurance companies appear to have gotten caught secretly bankrolling the effort to kill health insurance reform for millions of Americans, despite their disingenuous claims of support for the legislation. This duplicity is not surprising coming from an industry that has used every method to try to kill health insurance reform that would save lives, save money, save jobs, and save Medicare.
What about the commercials themselves that have been airing in dozens of media markets around the country? Media Matters takes apart the claims of the Chamber ad lie by stinking lie here.
The death toll from yesterday’s devastating earthquake in Haiti reportedly is reaching into the hundreds of thousands, and union members continue to respond to the crisis as they did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the recent tsunamis.
Search and rescue teams from Fairfax County, Va., and Los Angeles County, Calif., made up of members of Fire Fighters (IAFF) locals 2068 and 1014, are preparing to head to Haiti to aid in the rescue efforts. Other teams are likely to follow.
You can help workers in distress by donating to the Solidarity Center’s Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers’ Campaign. Click here to make a donation and here to learn more about how the center is working to help Haitian workers.
The TransAfrica Forum, a longtime ally of the union movement, also suggests donations to two organizations already providing aid on the ground in Haiti: Partners in Health (click here to donate) and Doctors Without Borders (click here).
Last night, National Nurses United (NNU) issued an urgent call through its nationwide disaster relief network to recruit nurse volunteers to assist the earthquake survivors. Details are still being worked out, but nurses can sign up at the NNU website, www.nationalnursesunited.org. NNU also will provide follow-up information at www.twitter.com/nationalnurses for details and plans.
Nurses at Rockville General Hospital overcame intimidation by hospital management in an unsuccessful May election and in December voted to join AFT Connecticut.
Sandy Lambert, a nurse at Rockville for 22 years, told the Hartford Courant that during the earlier campaign, she wore a pro-union button to work and was warned by a manager that the company was keeping a list of button-wearers among the 140 nurses.
The nurses filed an objection to the election with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which ordered the second election.
Sharon Thompson, an RN in The Birthplace, the hospital maternity department, says it is not unusual to work a double shift (3 p.m. to 7 a.m.) because the maternity department frequently does not have staff to cover overnight.
Me for 16 hours is not as good as me for eight hours and someone else fresh for eight hours.
We want to partner with the hospital to help reduce cost, and as the front line we know places where we could save the hospital money, without cutting patient care staff or hours and putting patients at risk. Our union will give us the power to improve care for our patients and improve working conditions for our nurses.
In Elgin, Ill., 40 bakers, fryers, drivers and other workers at a Dunkin’ Donuts bakery that supplies about 35 stores in the Chicago suburbs voted to join OPEIU Local 2009. According to the local, the workers decided to form a union after having suffered
years of wage cuts…working for an employer who routinely refused to pay out workers compensation claims, and seeing a number of their co-workers fired for calling OSHA [Occupational a Safety and Health Administration] to report health hazards.
The employer mounted an anti-union campaign and tried to exploit the language and cultural differences among the workers, says Christian Hainds, Local 2009 council coordinator. But the workers stood together.
They knew that coming together with their co-workers to organize a union with Local 2009 was the only way that guaranteed any hope for change.