September 30, 2005
Open Labor Markets In Ireland: The Effects
From The Financial Times (subscription required)
Irish Continental Group (ICG), owner of Irish Ferries, has set a deadline of Sunday for 540 of its Irish workers to accept a redundancy offer, enabling the company to replace them with cheaper east European labour on a contract basis.Ireland, the UK and Sweden were the only European Union member countries to provide immediate access to their labour markets for workers from central and eastern European states following enlargement in June 2004.
David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, described as "deeply obscene" ICG's plans to "dump 543 workers and replace them with people on around €3 per hour".
He told a conference: "This should serve as a wake-up call for legislators at a national and EU level."
Mr Ahern told the Dáil on Wednesday he would "not defend for one second" the manner in which the company has acted. He added: "The jobs will be filled by non-nationals from God knows where, and on conditions that nobody knows."
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Blue Collar White Collar
Today's WSJ has an article discussing the founding of the Change to Win Federation and organizing white collar workers:
What Color is Your Collar (WSJ Subscription required)
This week several unions broke away from the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win Federation. Disappointed with decades of dwindling union power, Change's leaders are targeting oppressed stockboys at Home Depot and those quick-footed Federal Express guys zooming through neighborhoods.
Change to Win, which sounds too much like Eat to Win, Play to Win, Born to Win and all those other self-help books at Borders, is shopping in the wrong place. They may have a better chance signing up white-collar recruits. Today's fastest-growing and most powerful unions include members who generally drive SUVs to air-conditioned government offices or suburban schools. Indeed, on Tuesday this newspaper described worried and grouchy engineers, hypnotists and podiatrists organizing, presumably against "the Man."
Wait a minute, isn't the whole purposes of unions to protect workers who are too poor or uneducated to protect themselves? Not necessarily. Globalization and technology have made the workplace less secure for everybody and fuzzed up the line separating white and blue collars.
My father encouraged his children to study a profession. Why? "Because, no matter the job market, you'll always be able to hang up a shingle," he assured us. But in today's market, the shingle is no guarantee. And besides, most doctors and lawyers don't have the physical skill to actually hang something on a wall without bludgeoning their fingers. White-collar workers, like aardvarks, often lack opposable thumbs.
In my youth, future white-collar wearers took college-prep courses while other kids were lumped into vocational programs, where they welded and drilled. We learned how to solve those pesky word problems involving cars speeding away from Cleveland at 62 miles an hour with half-tanks of gas. They actually learned how to make those cars go.
Forget revenge of the nerds. These days it's revenge of the electrician, the mechanic and the plumber: Blue collars aren't what they used to be. General Motors may advertise Mr. Goodwrench, but a good mechanic must master computer diagnostics. Go over to the waiting room at the Mercedes dealer and you'll see white-collar America at the mercy of blue-collar. I might be able to forecast the future path of the euro-to-yen ratio, but you think I can replace the catalytic converter under the hood of my car? Say, where'd they hide the hood latch, anyway?....(click above link for rest of article)
New Strategy for Organizing Wal-Mart
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's not a union, but some Wal-Mart workers say it might be the next best thing.Searching for a voice in their work lives, employees of some central Florida Wal-Mart stores have formed a workers group to collectively air complaints about what they claim is shoddy treatment by the retail giant. About 250 employees and former employees from 40 central Florida stores have joined the fledgling Wal-Mart Workers Association, spurred by what they say is a reduction of hours and schedule changes recently that may jeopardize health care benefits for some. Organizers say the word-of-mouth campaign is attracting 15 to 20 new members every week. (click above for full article)
September 28, 2005
Change to Win Federation
Here are links to two articles on the founding of the CTW Federation. I have been at the meetings and will post some of my own thoughts later.
September 27, 2005
There is an interesting discussion on Union Decline happening here.
White Collar Unionism
Here are some excerpts from the first article mentioned above:
Mr. Davis represents one of the few bright spots for the struggling U.S. labor movement: Despite a blue-collar image, many of the fastest growing unions in the U.S. represent white-collar professionals, including physicians, nuclear engineers, psychologists and judges.
The growth of white-collar unions says much about the precarious nature of jobs of all types in the current economy. Decaying job security and benefits and the effects of global trade on labor costs all have begun to reach into the ranks of professional workers.
"Professionals join unions because they feel that their work is being devalued. Many of these workers had good pensions and good benefits, and they don't anymore," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Professionals, she adds, may fear being replaced by independent contractors or seeing their jobs outsourced.
Business Press on Union Dissidents
BusinessWeek magazine is featuring an article on the dissident unions which left the AFL-CIO and are holding their founding conference today in St Louis. Here is a link:
September 26, 2005
Dissident Unions Meet This Week
Jonathan Tasini at Working Life will be blogging this week from the dissident unions' founding convention.
Here is a link to a mainstream news account of the upcoming convention:
Dissident Unions Get Organized (ChicagoSunTimes-Free)
September 23, 2005
Struck Hospital Uses Katrina Victims as Scabs
As Nathan Newman states on the House of Labor blog this is just unbelievable:
Katrina Victims Replace Strikers (San Fransisco Chronicle -free)
.."It's such an extraordinary irony,'' said Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU United Health Care Workers West.
"SEIU is sending nurses and psych techs to New Orleans to care for people there. We're engaging the government to establish training programs there for workers who are unemployed."...
September 22, 2005
Vietnamese Unions Adapt to Globalization
Are labor unions in "third-world" countries winners or losers in the latest incarnation of the global economy?
Unions Face Changes With Vietnam's Imminent WTO Membership (Thanh Nien News - free)