May 31, 2005
UFCW Takes New Approach Against Wal-Mart
Today's Washington Post details a new strategy in UFCW's campaign against Wal-Mart. The new strategy is borriwing from the innovative and grassroots efforts employed by the Dean campaign during the 2004 Democrat primary:
Their group is the latest manifestation of the ongoing campaign to change Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest private employer. After years of failed attempts to help Wal-Mart workers organize a union, leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers are trying an Internet-oriented approach developed in recent failed presidential campaigns.
"For a number of years, we were going by the rules," attempting to sign up workers under rights granted by the National Labor Relations Act, said William T. McDonough, head of UFCW's organizing department. "We got very frustrated."
May 30, 2005
The French NO vote
Casino Organizing and Jurisdiction
What do the insurgent unions really stand for? The debate began with a lot of talk on restructuring and building a new vision. With the UFCW and Teamsters joining the insurgents the debate has been turned into who controls the AFL-CIO and how much money can be cut from the AFL-CIO's budget in order to return money to the internationals that make up the AFL-CIO.
One really has to wonder how much of this debate really has to do with uniting to win and building power for working people. As I reported in an earlier post SEIU has recently merged with brewery workers (typically Teamsters jurisdiction) and now we see an effort by the Teamsters, UAW and UFCW to organize an Indian Casino which is unquestionably the jurisidiction of HERE.
I'm not an advocate of unions restructuring along strict industrial lines. I have argued elsewhere on this blog that in my analysis it really doesn't do much for winning stronger contracts or getting more workers to join a union. But when I see large international unions advocate massive restructuring and forced mergers of smaller unions on the logic that jurisidiction is paramount to building workers power and then I see these same unions violate their own rhetoric it makes me wonder what is really going on.
The Price of Labor and Global Competition
I stumbled upon a must read post at Big Brass Blog which serves as an excellent primer on economic/political forces which affect workers. Here is a snippet:
Among the misconceptions set forth by the new Right in this country is that American labor, largely through union activity, priced itself out of competition in a globalized economy. The argument goes that, in a market economy such as that of the United States, it is only rational for employers to seek the lowest cost factors of production, be they raw materials or labor; and if labor is cheaper elsewhere, then that is where profit maximizing companies will go to secure it.
Economics for Dummies: The Neo-Con Reader's Edition
The proposition that American labor is "too expensive" is simplistic, and here's why. Throughout the 1980s, the United States federal government ran ever larger budget deficits, due in no small part to the Reagan Administration's tax cuts in the early years of the Gipper's first term. Federal budget deficits put upward pressure on interest rates. This is because the United States Treasury is entering global capital markets to compete for lendable funds; and because a sovereign nation will pay whatever rate it must to induce lenders to provide the needed money, the result is higher interest rates for all debt, both public and private.
May 28, 2005
Why is the National Association Of Manufacturers Attacking Sweeney for Lack of Organizing?
The National Association of Manufacturers blog has a recent post praising SEIU's success in organizing and attacking Sweeney's record:
Along the way, they wring their hands and talk passionately about holding the labor movement together. But why? Look at Article XX. As long as they can hold it together, they won't have to put up with any wacky upstarts hell-bent on organizing upsetting their apple carts.
Unfortunately, in doing so, they are about to see -- indeed hasten -- the rending of the AFL-CIO. Even if Stern alone leaves, he is such an aggressive (and successful) organizer that he will be out there organizing other AFL unions' members and prospective members, unburdened by the constraints of Article XX. In this world, one man's protection is another man's constraint.
No wonder they speak of unity. Without it, they might actually have to think about spending some time and money on organizing.
My question is - If Sweeney has doen such a bad job at organizing why are they attacking him and attacking the concept of the AFL-CIO spending less money on organizing? Isn't in their best interest to make sure unions don't grow?
I find the amount of time NAM's blog spends on the AFL-CIO crisis interesting.
May 27, 2005
Canadian Auto Negotiations
Canadian Auto Workers have a competitive advantage over those in the United States. Since Canada has national health insurance the Canadian worker is estimated to be 4$ an hour cheaper than their US counterpart. But an article in today's NY Times points to difficulties in upcoming Canadian Auto negotiations. As the number of foreign owned auto plants in the US increases Canadian unionized auto is comparing themselves to these non-unionized new comers rather than UAW's contract with the big three. A few interesting snippets from the article:
Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, is unmoved and says the financial woes of G.M. and Ford have less to do with labor costs and more to do with a trade policy too favorable to Asian automakers. He said he would like his workers to get even more time off and richer pension benefits.
Jim Stanford, the economist for the Canadian union, said much of the shift since the last contract was simply due to the strengthening of the Canadian dollar, which has moved from about 63 cents on the American dollar in 2002 to 80 cents now. "In a way," he said, "they should be telling this to the Bank of Canada."
Last year, Ontario passed Michigan for the first time to become the largest auto producing state or province in North America, though much of the increase has come from nonunionized plants producing brands like Honda. Still, the Canadian union covers 39,000 active workers, a fraction of the roughly 280,000 workers covered by the United Auto Workers union, which negotiated a separate four-year contract in 2003. Both unions pick out one of the three companies, negotiate a contract with it and use that as the pattern for the others. The talks open in mid-July.
Washington Post on AFL-CIO election
Today's Washington Post features an article on the debates leading up to the July AFL-CIO convention:
John J. Sweeney, the embattled chief of the AFL-CIO, yesterday was virtually assured of election to a fifth term, after a key labor leader threw his support to Sweeney and undermined a long-festering challenge by labor dissidents.
Leaders of the four other anti-Sweeney unions -- Unite Here, the Laborers, the Teamsters, and the Food and Commercial Workers -- are actively considering joining SEIU to form a separate organization as hostilities have steadily intensified over the past year and a half.
May 26, 2005
Southern California Grocery Battle Continues
A Federal Judge is allowing an anti-trust suit against three major grocery companies to proceed. The grocery chains entered into a revenue sharing pact in order to thwart the effects of a labor dispute initiated by said companies in an attempt to force grocery workers to take significant cuts in pay and benefits.
Read the full article HERE:
A federal judge yesterday refused to block an antitrust case against Southern California's three major grocery chains over a revenue-sharing agreement they forged during a months-long labor dispute.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued the three grocery chains – Albertsons; Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs; and Safeway, owner of Vons – in February 2004, after learning that the chains secretly agreed to share revenue before the United Food and Commercial Workers union struck Vons on Oct. 11, 2003, and Ralphs and Albertsons locked out their workers a day later.
Latest on the AFL-CIO
- The UAW has endorsed incumbent John Sweeney to remain president of the AFL-CIO. The UAW press release can be read HERE and an analysis of the endorsement can be read on Jonathan Tasini's blog HERE.
- Jonathan Tasini also presents some 'inside' information that Ed McElroy of the AFT will not be seeking to run for the AFL-CIO top spot
- The UFCW has endorsed the Restoring the American Dream document which appears to be the main platform of the insurgents going in to the AFL-CIO convention in July. (The document was released by SEIU, UNITE-HERE, the Laborers and the Teamsters and was not immediately endorsed by the UFCW)
- The "insurgent" unions have prepared a comparison of the AFL-CIO Sweeney platform and the Restoring the American Dream document.
May 25, 2005
An Alternative View on the Difference In Hours Worked in Europe and the US
From Marginal Revolution:
...you ask why we Americans work more hours than do Europeans. But perhaps we don’t. While the data do show that Americans work more hours AT FORMAL JOBS, it doesn’t follow that Americans work more hours in total. The reason is that, compared to Europeans, Americans have more time-saving household appliances, as well as greater access to other time-saving amenities such as prepared foods, child care, and housecleaning services. As a result, we Americans work fewer hours taking care of our households and, hence, can work more hours earning income. Don Boudreaux