Negotiations have come to an end for Safeway workers in Colorado. The workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 ratified the company’s “last, best, and final” offer. The negotiations were heated during the nearly year long process with threats of strikes and lockouts hanging in the air. King Soopers had agreed to lockout its employees if the Safeway employees called a strike. This new contract will expire in 2013.
It wasn’t a mirage when a caravan extending for miles came to offer support to the workers at a Borax mine in California. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
Millions of workers in America are being mis-classified by their employers as independent contractors. The Department of Labor estimates as many as 30 percent of companies are mis-classifying workers. Chris Sloan is Government Affairs Director for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
[Chris Sloan]: “An employer who is looking to evade paying the proper taxes in terms of social security, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation and other payroll taxes will mis-classify or re-classify their employees as independent contractors.”
IUE-CWA Local 808 today filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Whirlpool, alleging the company interfered with workers’ rights by threatening employees if they participate in a rally tomorrow to protest a plant closing.
Whirlpool announced it is closing the Evansville, Ind., refrigerator plant, laying off 1,100 workers and sending jobs to Mexico.
The charge stems from a memo by Paul Coburn, vice president for Whirlpool’s Evansville Division, warning workers not to participate in a march and rally tomorrow to save their jobs. Coburn’s memo, contained in an internal company newsletter, said employers in the future might not be willing to hire workers who participate.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who will speak at the rally tomorrow, said:
Whirlpool has taken the war against American workers to a new level by threatening to blacklist people who speak up. They don’t just want your job, they want your first amendment rights, too.
Show solidarity with the Whirlpool workers, 900 of whom are members of Local 808, by signing an online petition urging Whirlpool to reverse its decision and Keep It Made in America: Save Our Jobs. Click here to add your name to the more than 50,000 who already have signed.
Whirlpool executive Paul Coburn’s memo warning Whirlpool workers not to participate in a rally tomorrow to save their jobs has only made the workers more determined than ever to fight the company’s decision to lay off 1,100 workers and send jobs to Mexico when U.S. unemployment is at its highest level in decades.
The reaction to his “open letter,” contained in an internal newsletter, has been quick and strong. It also has put a national spotlight on the practice of many employers to cut costs and raise profits by moving jobs offshore without regard for the communities and workers they leave behind.
Show solidarity with the Whirlpool workers, 900 of whom are members of IUE-CWA Local 808, by signing an online petition urging Whirlpool to reverse its decision and Keep It Made in America: Save Our Jobs. Click here to add your name to the nearly 40,000 who already have signed the petition.
More than 630 people commented on the story about Coburn’s letter on the Huffington Post, many condemning Coburn for trying to stifle dissent and for moving good jobs out of the country. Many cited the $20 million in federal economic recovery money Whirlpool received and the boost in sales from the government’s push for energy-efficient appliances.
Coburn’s action has not intimidated workers but has strengthened their resolve, Whirlpool employee Barbara Reich told Evansville’s Fox 7 News:
I believe this little paper unified the workers. You’re helping us every day you put out this foolishness.
IUE-CWA representative Gary Gardner told WFIE-TV:
We are full on, full court press to reverse this decision. It’s un-American to tell people they can’t assemble or that they shouldn’t assemble or to threaten them should they assemble. If they really cared about whether or not employees were working, then they shouldn’t close this plant. They should keep the people working here.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join Whirlpool workers at the Evansville plant Feb. 26 to deliver the petitions. The workers then will march from the plant to the IUE-CWA Local 808 union hall for a rally, where Trumka, workers and union and community leaders will speak.
The plant closing will severely hurt the community. On the AFL-CIO’s Good Jobs Now website, Tom Vinnedge, the owner of a restaurant in nearby Winslow, Ind., writes:
More unemployed neighbors mean less customers who can afford to enjoy a meal out, plain and simple. At the same time, the one aspect of my business that is sure to increase as a result of the closure is our Thanksgiving free meal program for needy families. It’s just madness that Whirlpool is abandoning our community like this, and nobody has the courage to stand up to them and other greedy corporations and say it’s got to stop.
In a letter to the Evansville Courier & Press, the Rev. Phil Hoy, a lifelong resident of Evansville, minister and former state legislator, summed the situation up this way:
I am appalled by Whirlpool’s disregard for the community that has done so much for it throughout the years, and by the apathy and disdain that many politicians show toward our nation’s working families.
This community deserves better. On Friday, we will be rallying to hold Whirlpool accountable.
Several hundred Southern California union members rallied at a Dodger Stadium parking lot yesterday before sending off a caravan carrying more than $30,000 worth of food and other supplies for locked-out borax miners at Rio Tinto’s Boron, Calif., mine. The mine is about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
The caravan was organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to support the nearly 600 members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 30 who are fighting the international mining conglomerate’s move to outsource jobs, convert full-time jobs to part-time temporary work, slash retirement benefits and gut grievance protections and other workplace rules.
Last month the workers rejected the contract offer and Rio Tinto locked them out Jan. 31.
Locked-out miner Randy Laursen told the rally:
You know we got big corporations trying to push all the laborers out, make nothing….This is America. We all have a right to make a decent living.
ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees says the small high desert town of 2,000 is rallying around the workers.
People here are tough and willing to see this through to the end. It’s not just about Rio Tinto but all the companies doing this to people across the country. In this little town, people are drawing the line.
According to the ILWU, in 2009, Rio Tinto made nearly $5 billion in profits, despite a worldwide recession. The London-based company operates mines on five continents and has a long record of union-busting actions, according to the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Union (ICEM).
In a letter to Rio Tinto’s CEO Tom Albanese condemning the Boron lockout, ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda writes:
It has been a decade since Rio Tinto became the target of an ICEM global trade union campaign over your union-busting actions in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere….Rio Tinto has undertaken actions that are beyond reasonable disagreements that trade unions and employers may have. Your lockout and effort to starve workers into submission and bring in replacement workers to steal their jobs is reprehensible.
In the middle of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, more than 90 dedicated professional educators find themselves put out into the street. On Feb. 23, the Central Falls, R.I., school trustees fired the entire teaching staff of Central Falls High School, supposedly because of declining test scores at the school, which is located in Rhode Island’s smallest and poorest city.
In all, 93 persons were put in the street—74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists, guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the school psychologist, the principal and three assistant principals. Negotiations over ways to improve the school between teachers and the school superintendent broke down when school officials insisted that teachers add new duties, some without any extra pay at all.
In a rally before the trustees meeting, some 500 union members and community supporters called on the board to reconsider its decision. Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee told the crowd:
This is immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible, disgraceful and disrespectful. What is happening here tonight is the wrong thing and we’re not going to put up with it.
Busloads of teachers from across the state came to show solidarity with the Central Falls teachers. Julie Boyle, an English teacher at another high school, told the Providence Journal:
I think the real goal is to bust the unions. Sometimes a teacher is the only touchstone in a student’s life. I’m sad for the students who will lose their touchstones.
AFT President Randi Weingarten criticized Central Falls Superintendent Frances Gallo, who has been at the helm for three years, for not accepting any responsibility for the situation at the school. She said in “their rush to make judgments and cast blame,” school officials ignored positive steps toward improvement that have been made, such as a rise in reading scores of 21 percent. Read Weingarten’s statement here.
Central Falls High School faces tremendous academic and economic challenges, but firing all of the teachers is a failed approach and will not result in the kinds of changes necessary to improve instruction and learning.
The Central Falls debacle is another example of attacks on public services and public employees across the country. AFSCME members are lobbying their state legislators to raise more revenue to save vital public services at a time when they are needed most.