Friday, February 03, 2006

A clear victory for the union!

Union victories at NYC Union Square Starbucks
By Tomer Malchi
Industrial Worker

On Friday Nov. 18, Starbucks workers at Union Square publicly declared their membership in the Starbucks Workers Union. Throughout the weekend workers showed their strength by refusing to take off union pins in the face of management attempting to enforce a no-pin policy. Our key demands were for guaranteed hours, a group meeting with management, and an end to anti-union discrimination.

District manager Kim Vetrano informed us three days after we went public that we could not wear our pins; although pins have been worn in the past, the policy was suddenly being enforced. Vetrano also insisted there would be no group meeting. We could have one-on-one meetings with managers, but not as a group.

In response to the denial of our demands and constant harassment over our union membership, we formed a picket line on Friday Nov. 25. With over 50 IWW members and supporters picketing throughout the day, we brought one of the busiest days of the year to a standstill. Our presence had a severe economic effect on the store. Managers were forced to give out free samples in order to get rid of all the milk. Store manager Mike Quintero told me that we were directly affecting his bonus.

In the past two months we have had several leaflets and many confrontation on the floor. Management has attempted to break the union, but a solid core of IWW members at Union Square have shown that we are not afraid. We have shown that as a union the company listens and our working lives improve.

On Dec. 15 Starbucks targeted one of our strongest Wobblies. Suley Ayala was told to take off her pentagram necklace, a symbol of her being Wicca. An assistant manager said that religious items can not be worn at work. Meanwhile we were forced to wear Christmas hats and listen to non-stop Christmas music.

Workers were sick and tired of the illegal anti-union activity and religious discrimination. Three union members walked off the floor and confronted our manager in the back room. This was to no avail and managers threatened to send people home. Management did change their reasoning, though. The problem was no longer that the necklace was a pentagram, but rather that it was now too big.

In response workers took direct action. Union members wore their own necklaces and refused to tuck them in or take them off. Still Suley was the only one targeted, and was sent home for wearing her pentagram for violation of Starbucks dress code. Meanwhile other workers were violating the unenforceable dress code in numerous ways without any repercussions.

We began leafleting. A flyer was passed out to customers telling people about the injustice Suley was facing. Aside from the religious discrimination, Suley was not being paid the correct wage. A mother of four and a Starbucks worker for three years, she has received some of the most unjust treatment from the company. When rehired in the beginning of 2005 her wage was brought down from $8.54 to starting pay of $8.25. According to Starbucks policy, if rehired within a year’s time a worker should be rehired at their previous wage rate. There was a clear mistake, and for the past year Suley’s voice was not heard. Leaflets with a picture of Suley and her kids were given to customers to let them know the situation behind the counter. We were spreading the truth about Starbucks and they wanted it to stop.

Our direct action in support of one another forced the company to give Suley back pay for the past year and adjust her wage. A clear victory for the union! In addition, Suley continues to wear her pentagram without any reaction. At Union Square we have been able to secure a minimum amount of hours for members, get better equipment and management is finally addressing the rodent and insect problem at the shop. As a union we have a voice at work.

Overall the IWW drive has forced Starbucks to improve working conditions across NYC. Most recently we have seen a 25-cent across the board raise for all NYC Starbucks workers. Since the union campaign started 18 months ago there have been three separate raises, which have increased starting salary from $7.75 to $8.75. In addition, the union has pressured Starbucks to change its employment practices and move towards an option of guaranteeing hours for Starbucks workers.

IWW Website

Fairly accurate assesment of TWU fight

Underground revolt in TWU
NY Daily News

Nearly two weeks ago, the 33,000 members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 stunned everyone in this town when they rejected a new MTA labor pact by a razor-thin margin of seven votes.

The proposed contract brought a mercifully swift end to the three-day Christmas week strike that was crippling the city. The pact had been hammered out in around-the-clock talks by a state mediator, only to be attacked by Gov. Pataki after the details were announced.

Now we learn that the biggest opposition to the contract, which had the strong backing of union President Roger Toussaint, came from subway conductors and motormen - the very group that catapulted Toussaint to power nearly six years ago.

A majority in eight of 13 transit divisions voted for the pact, including union members who work in buses, repair shops and maintenance, according to full voting results released by TWU leaders Tuesday night. But an overwhelming "no" vote from conductors (1,631 to 676) and motormen (1,705 to 791) sealed its defeat.

"Subways have always been the most militant," one surprised union leader told me yesterday. "They have a history of rejecting contracts - but not by this much."

It was a humiliating setback for Toussaint, who became nationally known by leading the city's first transit strike in 25 years.

The contract proposal he negotiated, while not perfect, clearly preserved union pensions, provided a decent wage package and secured a huge pension refund for 20,000 members. It did, however, give one big concession to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority - 1.5% of wages would go to an improved health plan for retirees.

With the enormous pressures aligned against the union, Toussaint still claims it was the best he could get. From here, I'd have to agree.

The contract rejection, on the other hand, leaves the union's members precisely where they didn't want to be - working without a contract.

Furthermore, it leaves the public exposed to possible wildcat actions or work-to-rule slowdowns by disgruntled groups of union members.

The MTA, in its usual arrogant fashion, has only made things worse by rescinding its original offer and demanding binding arbitration - something it knows the union will never accept.

The longer this drags out, the worse things could get.

That's because the pact's rejection has reignited a long-running, bitter campaign against Toussaint's leadership by an assortment of dissident groups who are already positioning themselves to launch slates to challenge him in the upcoming November union election.


This article dedicated to Jonah, Floyd, Jim and Remy

'Union boss' rhetoric distorts the role of organized labor in California
By Jim Lewis
Capitol Weekly

As a longtime Capitol "denizen"--a term that always brings to mind some giant
sea monster--I can remember the days before it was almost routine to refer to
union leaders as "labor bosses" or to describe them with other unflattering

Thirty years ago, when John Henning headed the California Labor Federation
after a stint as JFK's and LBJ's Undersecretary of Labor, he was known
around the Capitol as a tough but progressive champion of the union
movement--but certainly not a "labor boss."

And when Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers union bused in thousands
of newly organized field hands to Sacramento to demonstrate for humane
treatment for the people who harvest California's produce, Chavez was viewed
by millions as a crusader for human rights, using the nonviolent tactics of
Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

That's not to say that labor-management relations in the Capitol in those
days were smooth as a baby's behind. In the late 1970s, when the late Sens.
Albert Rodda and Ralph Dills, with the support of Gov. Jerry Brown, carried
landmark legislation that gave teachers and state employees collective
bargaining rights, the Capitol got pretty edgy.

Still, though, labor leaders were generally recognized as democratically
elected representatives of workers who had organized to give voice and clout
to the needs of many, speaking as one.

But somewhere between then and now--in an era where politicians and news
media representatives can unintentionally end their careers for gaffes in
their references to the sexes, to sexual preferences, to races, ethnicities,
holidays and a host of other items too numerous to mention--it has become de
rigueur to call union officials "labor bosses."

During the recent special election campaign, if I had a dollar for every
time Gov. Schwarzenegger and his forces referred to union leaders as "labor
I'd be able to retire.

I've always thought "labor boss" was odd depiction of the people who brought
American workers the weekend, the eight-hour day, health insurance, pension
plans, workplace safety measures, and overtime.


Maryland Day Laborers

Day laborers rally for safety, fair pay
Professors’ study finds 11 percent of day laborers complain about police treatment and 20 percent have been hurt on job
by Jeffrey K. Lyles
Maryland Gazette

Nearly 150 day laborers participated in a forum on Saturday designed to discuss altercations with Riverdale Park’s police department and to review the findings of a nationwide study on their plight.

The Riverdale Park Day Laborers organized the forum, which was held at St. Bernard’s Church in Riverdale Park.

The study was also geared toward understanding the result of the study that said 11 percent of workers complain about bad treatment from the police and 50 percent about failure by employers to pay them their wages.

‘‘We are victims of prosecution by the local government and individuals who complain and protest the presence of immigrants in this country,” said Riverdale Park day laborer Ricardo Chavez Valle.

Professors Abel Valenzuela of UCLA and Nick Theodore of the University of Illinois conducted their study of the country’s 117,000 day laborers from July to August 2004.

Among other highlights of the study were that one in 20 day laborers have been injured at the work place and that 50 percent of workers have not received just compensation or proper medical care.

‘‘They take advantage of the service of day laborers,” said Pablo Alvarado, coordinator of the National Day Laborer Network headquartered in Los Angeles. ‘‘These workers are not disconnected from society as some would think.”

Kimberley Propeack, advocacy director for CASA of Maryland Inc. in Silver Spring, said the very nature in which day laborers are hired lends itself to dishonest employers taking advantage of them.

‘‘There’s often very limited information on the employer and the day laborer can’t find them later to get the proper wages,” Propeack said. ‘‘One of the requirements we’ve established in Baltimore is to have the employer provide their name and home address.”

CASA has a list of employers who are not allowed to hire workers through its day laborer center because of their unfair compensation policies, Propeack said.


See ya scab

State workers fired for refusing to pay union dues

Cathy Munson's last day on the job after 18 years with the state Department of Agriculture in Grandview is Saturday. This would be unremarkable except that Munson, 56, isn't retiring. She's been fired.

That might not be noteworthy either except the day after she was pink-slipped, Munson received her yearly performance evaluation, and it was glowing.

The state is firing Munson because she refuses to pay union dues or alternative fees as required under a labor agreement between the state and the 40,000-member Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE).

Effective in July, the contract contains a "union security clause," which allows the union to collect dues or fees from employees who become members, as well as those who do not. The phrase often used to describe such situations is "closed shop."

Munson objects to the union security clause because she says it was ratified by a small minority of die-hard union members, leaving large numbers of the rank-and-file in the dark.

She also doesn't think the contract was an arm's-length agreement since it was negotiated by the Democratic administration of former Gov. Gary Locke with an important base of his supporters, Democratic union members.

"At some point I just decided I had to say, 'That's enough.' Otherwise, I'm worthless," Munson said in a recent interview.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sure this is an old chestnut, but at least its completely insane

Social transformation-
or the abolition of society

by Feral Faun

"Society...1. a group of persons who have the same customs, beliefs, etc. or live under a common government and who are thought of as forming a single community... 3. all people, when thought of as forming a community in which each person is partly dependent on all the rest" Webster's New World Dictionary

Nothing we "know" can be assumed to be true- none of our conceptions of the world are sacred and we would do well to question them all. Many anarchists talk about creating a "new" or "free" society. But few question the idea of society itself. The conception of society is amorphous- and so more difficult to deal with than particular aspects of it like government, religion, capitalism or technology. It is so ingrained in us that questioning it feels like questioning our very nature- which makes it all the more necessary to question it. Freeing ourselves from the character armor that represses our desires and passions may very well demand, not merely the transformation of society, but its abolition. The dictionary definitions above show society to be a single entity made up of individuals who are in a condition of (at least potential) dependency upon each other- which is to say, who are not complete in themselves. I see society as a system of relationships between beings who are acting (or being treated) as social roles in order to reproduce the system and themselves as social individuals.

The dependency of social individuals is not the same as the biological dependency of infants. Biological dependency ends once the child achieves adequate mobility and hand-and-eye coordination (in about five years). But in those five years, the social relationships of the family repress children's desires, instill fear of the world into them and so submerge the potential for full, free, creative individuality beneath the layers of armoring which are the social individual, beneath the psychic dependency which makes us cling desperately to each other while we despise each other. All social relationships have their basis in the incompleteness produced by the repression of our passions and desires. Their basis is our need for each other, not our desire for each other. We are using each other. So every social relationship is an employer/employee relationship, which is why they seem always, to one extent or another, to become adversarial- whether through joking put-downs, bickering or full-fledged fighting. How can we help but despise those we use and hate those who use us?

Society cannot exist apart from social roles- this is why the family and education in some form are essential parts of society. The social individual doesn't play only one social role-but melds together many roles which create the character armor which is mistaken for "individuality."

Social roles are ways in which individuals are defined by the whole system of relationships that is society in order to reproduce society. They make individuals useful to society by making them predictable, by defining their activities in terms of the needs of society. Social roles are work- in the broad sense of activity that reproduces the production/consumption cycle. Society is thus the domestication of human beings- the transformation of potentially creative, playful, wild beings who can relate freely in terms of their desires into deformed beings using each other to try to meet desperate needs, but succeeding only at reproducing the need and the system of relationships based on it.

"A pox on all captivity, even should it be in the interest of the universal good, even in Montezuma's garden of precious stones." Andre Breton


Time to invade another country in the middle-east

W.Va. Gov. seeks coal mine safety checks
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Most of West Virginia's 544 coal mines are expected to follow a request from Gov. Joe Manchin to conduct safety checks before continuing operations, after two mine workers were killed in separate accidents on the same day.

An industry group that represents 80 percent of the state's coal producers said its members would comply.

"They were interrupting the shifts if they were in a working shift,"
said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association.

Spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said Manchin does not have the authority to shut down mines that do not heed the safety check request, but she was unaware of any companies refusing to do so.

Both of Wednesday's accidents occurred in Boone County, about 50 miles south of the state capital. State mine safety officials said a bulldozer operator was killed at the Black Castle Surface Mine operated by Massey Energy Co. subsidiary Elk Run Coal Co. in Uneeda. An underground miner died after a wall support failed at Long Branch Energy's No. 18 Tunnel Mine in Wharton, officials said.

The accidents brought to 16 the number of mining-related deaths in West Virginia since Jan. 2, and the first at a surface operation. Only three mining-related fatalities occurred in 2005, a record low for the state.


Kolkata gets ready to rumble

Central govt staff plan massive strike on March 1
Mohammed Safi Shamsi

Represented by 13 unions, 28 lakh employees working in four Central government departments— railways, defence, postal and income-tax — have threatened to go on an indefinite national strike from March 1.

The proposed strike could disrupt passenger and freight services across the country as railway unions have joined the strike. Post offices and production units in defence sector will also be affected.

In the city, the underground rail services may also be hampered as both the Metro Railway Workers’ Congress and Metro Railway Men’s Union have agreed to join the strike.

Represented under the umbrella organisation, the National Joint Council of Action (NJCA), the unions have demanded that the Central government fill vacant posts and stop outsourcing of jobs to private hands.


South African Privatization Struggle

Who Will Blink First?
Business Day (Johannesburg)

THIS week's strike by the main four trade unions at Transnet is a new and important test for the relationship between government and labour. Critically, it will show just how firm government is prepared to stand on its new economic strategy in the face of intense trade union opposition.

Tension between government and labour over Transnet is nothing new. It's been going on for more than a decade, ever since government first decided to pursue a privatisation strategy, to which labour vehemently objected. These objections were based on a wide range of issues, both ideological and practical, but at the heart of the matter they were about jobs. International experience showed privatisation of a big state asset inevitably led to job losses as new private operators sought to streamline operations and improve profitability.


Here's a real surprise...

Layoffs hit Black auto workers hardest
By: Chris Nisan
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

“I don’t see Ford going under, but they are sure going to be small,” said auto worker Azariah of Ford Motor Company’s future in the aftermath of the company’s recent announcement of massive layoffs and plant closures in an interview with the Spokesman-Recorder. Azariah, who goes by the single name, is a 20-year member of the United Auto Workers union at Ford Motor Company’s Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul.

The local facility is under consideration for closure by the auto manufacturing giant, along with a number of other plants across the country. “There is a wide range of opinion among workers,” said Azariah, “but the common denominator is that no one wants to see it close.”

Ford announced several weeks ago that it would slash up to 30,000 jobs within the next four years and shut down 14 factories. Last week, the automaker made public the first plant closures that included facilities in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Wixom, Michigan. In total, the proposed cuts amount to 25 percent of its North American payroll.

The Twin Cities plant was on the original short list of factories to be closed, but it dodged the bullet in this first round of shutdowns.

Crisis in the auto industry

Confronted with steadily declining sales and profits, the two other U.S. auto manufacturers, General Motors (GM) and Daimler-Chrysler, have taken similar actions to confront the profit crunch and intensifying competition.

GM announced several months ago its intent to cut 30,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, cuts that amount to 17 percent of its labor force. Last week, Daimler-Chrysler said that it would eliminate 6,000 white-collar jobs, 20 percent of its administrative work force around the world.

In all, the so-called Big Three U.S. auto companies have cut or declared plans to cut almost 140,000 jobs since 2000. That is about one-third of the entire North American payroll. “This may not be the end, but it is certainly the beginning of the end of the automobile industry as we knew it,” said Gary N. Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in an article in the New York Times.

The source of the problem for the “Big Three” is the worldwide crisis of overproduction in the manufacture and sale of automobiles. The result of this has been intensifying competition and declining profit rates.

As this competition has intensified, Ford and GM in particular have lost a significant portion of the U.S. market. At the same time, automotive manufacturing monopolies based in Asia have increased their share of the U.S. market to 31 percent last year.

All together, the share of the market owned by U.S. auto companies dropped to 58.7 percent last year, according to Autodata Corp. Chrysler — which is majority-owned by German automaker Daimler — is the only U.S.-based auto manufacturing company that increased its share of the market last year, with a four-percent gain.

Azariah explained the impact this has had on production in Ford’s Twin Cities plant: “With a line speed of 50 jobs per hour and a 40-hour work week, we produce 8,000 trucks a month per shift. We have two shifts, which equal 16,000 trucks per month. Over the last two months, Ford has only sold in the area of 8,000 trucks.”


New Anarchist Publication! 'Cause McAnarchyism Wasn't Embarrasing Enough.

The Warrior Wind
Against a Society of Confinement: “Blow, wild wind, blow!”
Issue Number One. February, 2006. Free.

On the Recent Wave of Repression On December 7th, 2005, one of the largest roundups of environmental and animal liberation activists in American history began. That day the FBI arrested six people in four different states and issued Grand Jury subpoenas to others not then taken into custody. While details became clearer about federal law enforcement’s “Operation Backfire” against the environmental movement, the Bush administration was busy dealing with scandals regarding its newly revealed, and widespread, domestic spying programs through the National Security Agency and other entities. In this context, the revelation that “antiterrorist” spying is conducted against environmental and animal activists ought to surprise no one. Furthermore, the latest attacks on our movements should be described as what they really are, counter-insurgency operations, not “neutral” policing-as-usual.

The State has always used surveillance and repression against those it considers threats or competition. For the past decade, earth and animal liberationists have faced an escalation of such surveillance and repression. When Jeff “Free” Luers was sentenced in 2001 to over 22 years for vandalizing SUVs, many felt his sentence was an exception or anomaly. Now almost all eco-prisoners are facing similar sentences (Earth Liberation Front prisoner Chris McIntosh was facing a 30 year minimum before taking a plea deal for eight years), and the sentences prisoners face are only climbing higher. To give one example: activists with Arizona Earth First!, recently convicted merely of charges relating to interference with a mountain-lion hunt, are being threatened with sentences of over seven years at their March hearing!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mexico is heating up...

The Other Campaign is Growing in Oaxaca
Mexico’s Majority Indigenous State on the Verge of Subcomandante Marcos’ Arrival

By James Daria, Nick LaPoint, Daniela Lima and Dul Santamaria
The Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade, Reporting for Narco News

We are the Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade bringing you coverage of the first steps of “The Other Campaign” here in the state of Oaxaca. We are Mexican, Gringo, Brazilian, and French reporting in up to four languages.

We have chosen the name Ricardo Flores Magón in memory of the Oaxacan journalist and revolutionary who became one of the main ideologues of the Mexican Revolution. Through the publication of “Regeneración” and other newspapers, Magón carried out a journalism of combat that attacked the corrupt and repressive regime of Porfírio Diaz and propagandized the struggle for land and liberty. Forced into exile to the USA by the Porfirian regime, Magón led a revolutionary struggle, as much national as international, which sought to build a classless, stateless society from the bottom up. Born in the community of San Antonio Eloxochitlán in 1873, Magon died under suspicious circumstances in 1922 in Leavenworth Prison, Kansas, USA. His radical critique of electoral politics has much in common with the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle and “The Other Campaign” being built in Mexico today.

Based in the capital, Oaxaca City (Valles Centrales Region), we are documenting the emergence of “The Other Campaign” in the weekly regional and statewide assemblies being held in preparation for the arrival of Delegate Zero and the Sixth Commission.

One of the poorest states in the country, Oaxaca is home to the largest number of ethnic groups and indigenous languages in the Mexican Republic. Ethnicity, land, education and repression are the foundational issues of the Oaxacan struggle. The Zapatistas, as well as the legacy of the Oaxacan Ricardo Flores Magón and other revolutionary figures, have been a key reference point for pueblos, organizations and individuals alike who struggle here to create alternatives to the existing social order.

From the indigenous and mestizo communities that still govern without political parties through their “usos y costumbres” to the queer “mux’e” communities of the isthmus, Oaxacan social movements have created varied forms of social struggle. It will be our attempt to relate to the readers how these forms of social, cultural and political organization contribute to and grow with “The Other Campaign.”


Radical Librarians

FBI Agents Back Down When Librarian Refuses to Let Them Seize 30 Computers Without a Warrant
The Chronical of Higher Education

An e-mail threat that prompted the evacuation of more than a dozen Brandeis University buildings on January 18 led to an unusual standoff in a public library in Newton, Mass., a few miles from the Brandeis campus.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents tried to seize 30 of the library's computers without a warrant, saying someone had used the library's Internet connection to send the threat to Brandeis. But the library director, Kathy Glick-Weil, told the agents they could not take the machines unless they got a warrant first. Newton's mayor, David Cohen, backed Ms. Glick-Weil up.

After a brief standoff, FBI officials relented and sought a warrant from a judge. Meanwhile, Ms. Glick-Weil allowed an FBI computer-forensics examiner to work with information-technology specialists at the library to narrow down which computers might have been used to send the threatening message. They determined that three computers were implicated in the alleged crime.

Late that evening, the FBI received a warrant to cart away the three computers. According to Mayor Cohen, the warrant allows the FBI to view only the threatening e-mail message and the messages sent immediately before and after that message.

Mr. Cohen said in an interview on Monday that he and Ms. Glick-Weil demanded the warrant because the FBI agents did not indicate that anyone at Brandeis faced a "clear and present danger." If there had been such a danger, Mr. Cohen added, agents probably would have seized the computers without even asking for them.

"We were able to both protect public safety and also protect the rights of people, the sense of privacy of many, many innocent users of the computers," he said. "Had we given them the computers, they would have gotten to see e-mails from ordinary citizens doing ordinary things and would not have preserved privacy."


SEIU Rules MoFos

State of the Union
How the SEIU’s expanding its ranks in the South -- and fighting for better immigration policy.
By Nelson Harvey
American Prospect

In San Antonio, organizers for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are gathering commitment cards from city and county employees. In Houston, union negotiators are preparing to bargain on behalf of some 5,300 janitors. And in Washington last week, Eliseo Medina was smiling.

That’s because Medina, the executive vice president of SEIU, is at the helm of the nation’s largest labor union, which in recent months has launched aggressive recruitment and bargaining campaigns in ten southern and southwestern states. The campaigns, which stretch from Nevada to the Florida panhandle, are part of a larger effort to revitalize the labor movement in regions that have been historically hostile to organized labor.

"We live in a country right now where workers feel like they're under siege,"
said Medina, who met with reporters in the Capitol last week to outline the union's long-term strategy for affecting change on labor and immigration issues. The key, according to Medina, lies in 17 states that at first glance seem like unlikely targets for a resurgence of labor.

"These are the growing states, in terms of population," he said. "They are all 'right to work' states. And all but Nevada has a union membership of two to four percent."




“Today America has lost a civil rights pioneer with the passing of Coretta Scott King, but her legacy will live on.

“The widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. turned grief into action by continuing to help ensure that her husband’s dream of peace and equality would one day be realized.

“The Kings had a strong commitment to improving the lives of working people through their civil rights activism. Days after her husband’s death, Coretta Scott King filled in for him at a march in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, and prior to her own passing she stood up for hotel workers in San Francisco by honoring a picket line and canceling an awards ceremony in her name.”

”Coretta Scott King worked tirelessly to make racial and economic justice a reality for all Americans and made sure the movement her husband gave his life for was never forgotten. The 1.8 million members of SEIU proudly carry on that legacy as they work daily to create a fair society for all working families.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Industry Association Wields Hidden Influence over Key U.S., International Health Safeguards
Corporate Accountability International

The U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and 17 other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are petitioning the World Health Organization (WHO) to cut its official ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), an association of major industries they say is exerting improper and undue influence over important health policies. The WHO Executive Board is scheduled to reconsider ILSI's status at a January 23 to 28 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

WHO is an agency of the United Nations that develops international policy and programs for improving global health. Its guidelines governing its relationship with NGOs requires that specific NGOs "be free from concerns which are primarily of a commercial or profit-making nature."

ILSI does not meet that standard. Despite its innocuously sounding name, ILSI's members are large multinational corporations with major financial stakes in WHO decisions--decisions that influence health and environmental policies in the United States and around the globe.

"WHO and other public health agencies risk their scientific credibility and may be compromising public health by partnering with ILSI," the coalition of 18 health, environmental and labor organizations wrote in a December 22, 2005, letter to the WHO Executive Board. "We therefore recommend that WHO sever formal ties with ILS1." (A WHO Executive Board staff member replied to NRDC via email and said that she would not distribute the letter to the board).

At best, ILSI's participation in WHO's decision-making process represents a blatant conflict of interest, according to NRDC. At worst, its participation has biased WHO policies and jeopardized public health in dozens of countries.

ILSI represents several hundred corporations in the chemical, processed food, agro-chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Its membership includes Atofina Chemicals, Bayer CropScience, Coca Cola, Dow Agrosciences/Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, General Mills, Glaxo Smith Kline, Hershey Foods, Kellogg, Kraft, McDonald's, Merck & Co. Monsanto, Nestle, Novartis, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, and Syngenta. (For a complete list, go to

Over the years, ILSI has participated in WHO activities despite its members' obvious special interest in the outcome.


Fatcat Saves World

Quebecor Workers, Teamsters Unite to Shut Down Plant in Brazil
The Teamsters

Shift Stoppage on Global Day of Action Wins Concessions From Quebecor World

Workers at the Quebecor World (QW), Inc.) facility in Recife, Brazil, shut down the plant's morning shift today, winning an agreement by the company to negotiate on the union's demands by Feb. 21, including recognizing the workers' union and addressing longstanding health and safety problems that resulted in severe injuries to three workers this month and left one hospitalized.

The second-largest commercial printing company in the world, QW prints one of Brazil's highest-circulation magazines, Veja, at the Recife site. As a result of the strike, plant management agreed to recognize the graphical workers' union, Sindicato dos Trabalhadores nas Industrias Graficas do Estado de Pernambuco (SINDGRAF), and to release union dues the company had been illegally withholding for months. Managers agreed to meet with SINDGRAF regarding the reinstatement of two union leaders fired by plant management last fall.

Nearly 100 protesting union workers at the Recife plant were supported by a 20-member international delegation of union leaders, including a high-level Teamster official and staff. The delegation also was comprised of graphical union leaders from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Canada and the Union Network International (UNI), the global labor federation that represents QW workers in 16 countries. Also in the delegation were officials and workers from union locals at QW plants in the United States and Chile, and at Quebecor World's plant in Montreal, the company's headquarters city.

"Today's overwhelmingly successful protest showed that worker solidarity is priceless," said Iraquitan da Silva, General Secretary of SINDGRAF's Pernambuco union local, which represents the Recife QW workers. "When we travel together, we're on the road to victory."


Anarchist Pontification from the Ivory Tower

Neutrality or opinion?
It is extremely difficult to examine one's beliefs if they are never called into question.
By Crispin Sartwell

I was talking to a student of mine yesterday about one of my fellow political science professors: "I've taken three classes with him," she said, "and I still don't know any of his political positions."

She can hardly say the same of me, I believe. During a given lecture, I might say something like this: "This semester we'll be building a catapult big enough to free Dick Cheney from the Earth's atmosphere and release him into the void."

There is something to be said for both of these approaches. Maintaining a studied neutrality allows students to come to their own conclusions. But then again, so does frankly avowing your opinions, as long as you do not require agreement. I try to provoke people, and get frustrated only when my students just sit there, staring blankly. If they start attacking me, I've already done what I wanted to do: make them think.

In any case, my opinions are all over the op-ed page and on the Internet, and it would be silly to simulate neutrality. A frankly avowed opinion is far more easily resisted than slightly skewed but apparently objective recitation of the facts.

At UCLA, the right-wing Bruin Alumni Association offered bounties of $100 to students to inform on their professors, in order to expose their allegedly extreme and anti-American pronouncements.

Look. If you want to sit in on my class, just ask. If you want to tape me, ask me, and I will say yes. And I promise to be just as opinionated on tape. But if you're paying someone to inform on me, you're undermining my classroom, turning it into a war zone.

Indeed, so nasty has this little ideological war become that some state legislatures - including that of Pennsylvania, where I live and teach - have passed laws setting up committees to monitor the anti-American speech of the professoriate. With a Stalinist flair, these are called "academic freedom" committees. A friend of mine who teaches in a public university has been threatened with this totalitarian idiocy, after suggesting to his class that all Americans are implicated in the war in Iraq by virtue of paying their taxes.

Well, I argued that position for a solid week last semester, in the context of teaching Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," which makes precisely the same point with regard to the Mexican-American War. One might teach "Civil Disobedience" without any contemporary applications, simply as a historical text. But first of all, Thoreau didn't mean it to address only a certain moment. And second, if I taught the thing that way, I would put my students to sleep. I want to embody the passion that Thoreau expressed.

It is, however, worth acknowledging that the motivations of these conservatives are comprehensible. There is a leftist consensus in academia, amounting at certain institutions and in certain disciplines to something near unanimity. I cannot name a single professor at my college who I believe voted for George Bush. This, I would say, has unfortunate results.

It is extremely difficult to examine the foundations of one's beliefs critically where these foundations are never called into question by anyone else. Thus, consensus breeds delusion.


Identity Politics Ala Mode

On Organization and oppressive social relationships
by Joaquin Cienfuegos - SCAF-LA

Building a Revolutionary Movement

A revolutionary movement is needed and must be built in order for us to free ourselves and we need to build solidarity with each other and oppressed people everywhere -- with that being said, we also need revolutionary organization.

On Organization

I think we need to change the oppressive social relationships while we're building a revolutionary organization and a revolutionary movement.

Some anarchists do focus only on the organization and not on the actual politics, revolutionary vision, or challenging capitalist social relations.

They take on an obscure anti-statist position, without looking at imperialism and the specific conditions that have devoloped because of capitalism. For example, in the US, one cannot just take on the issue of class, with out discussing issues of culture, race, gender -- because this is how capitalism has developed -- on the backs of racially, culturally, and all oppressed people and with a white heterosexual male supremacist ideology.

These are the specific conditions to the US.

The solution to these problems and strategy should be always a topic and priority in revolutionary organizing. The overall strategy should come from our actual experience in collective experience in struggle -- not from sitting in a room theorizing. Theory is complimentary to our actual experience in struggle. Organization I think is necessary to actually carry out the revolutionary process -- otherwise we will not be successful in defeating imperialism.

At the same time we cannot become who we are trying to defeat in the process, we should not take on the oppressive social relationships that exist and we should not be a reflection of the capitalists. We should build the structures and relationships that we would like to replace capitalism with. This should not be confused with building more national bureaucracies that reflect the state or building a network that is too incoherent to be effective in anything besides within the activist subculture.

The issue of land and regional autonomy is important and I think in different parts of the world where feudal neocolonial conditions exist -- the question of land is key to revolution. The struggle for self-determination is part of the struggle of human liberation in general. In the US and other imperialist countries (there is a difference with countries like the US, Britain, France and other imperialist countries who exploit the people and the resources of the "Third World" through military force) the question of land is different -- because they do not have a peasantry who's livelihood is rooted in land (there's more industrialized agricultural regions in imperialist societies). There are however communities and regions that have develped historically and historically oppressed regions and communities. There is also unevenness between regions and communities -- where there is a lack of resources and great deal of state repression. Those communities are usually working class and people of color communities. Autonomy will give oppressed people, regions, and communities the opportunity to develop their way of life and culture that has been stolen and suppressed because of colonialism.

This though will require organization, and you cannot build revolutionary communities in isolation. These communities can connect, communicate, share resources, unite in tactics and develop a clear vision and strategy (program) to take on the capitalist and imperialist system through a federation. They can connect and build in solidarity with other regions nationally and internationally. A federation will also allow specific regions with specific histories and conditions, for example the South West and the history of the oppression of indigenous people, Chicanos and Mexicanos, the South and the oppression of Black people. Although people of color, women, queer people, working class people, immigrants, are oppressed everywhere there are specific histories and conditions in different communities.

Organizations that are built anywhere in the world should strategize around their own specific conditions -- there won't be one formula for the revolution internationally.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Korean Public Workers

Implementation of the Public Officials' Union Act and Trends of Labor Movement in the Public Service Sector

The implementation of the Public Officials' Union Act is significant as it enables Korea to shed its bad name as the only state among OECD members not to allow public officials' unions, and to meet international labor standards. Legalization of public officials' unions will presumably determine future characteristics of the Korean labor movement, as the focus of the movement moves from the private manufacturing industry to the public sector.

In Korea, where industrialization took place at a slower pace than in the West, establishment of the concept "worker" also has a shorter history. Attributed to strong Confucian traditions, as seen in the old saying "a king, teacher and parents should be treated with equal respect", a noble "teacher" could not be equivalent to an oil-stained "worker", nor could a "public servant of the state" be considered as a worker. Moreover, a prolonged military dictatorship that placed ultimate value on economic development at the expense of the so-called "pillars of industry" made it hard for equations such as "teacher = worker" or "government employee = worker" to be socially accepted.

At the end of such hardship, however, a new horizon has emerged in the labor movement and public service community of Korea. From January 28, 2006, the new "Act on the Establishment and Operation, etc. of Unions by Public Officials" (Public Officials' Union Act, hereafter) was implemented, according to which regular public servants will be provided with statutory basic labor rights.

This article will examine the history and significance of the process through which public officials came to be recognized legally as "workers", prospects of future industrial relations for public servants, and issues of concern as the relations in the sector are set on a new course.

1. Prior to the enactment of the public officials' Union Act

Although the basic framework of the early legal system, which was put in place at the time of foundation of the Republic of Korea Government in 1948, had provided for the basic labor rights of public officials in principle, such framework was fundamentally changed as the government began to consider economic growth as the priority task of the nation. Amendments of the National Public Officials' Act in 1961 and 1962 put bans on labor movement by all public officials, except for "those engaged in manual labor."

Such laws, which strictly limited the basic labor rights of public officials, eventually faced great change with the advent of "democratization" in the 1980s. The basic labor rights of public officials met an important turning point in 1987, as an amendment of the National Constitution recognized such rights "in principle." Furthermore, in 1989, a bill to revise the labor law so that rights to organize and collectively bargain would be guaranteed for public officials in positions not exceeding grade 6 was formulated. Though the bill was trashed due to a presidential veto, discussions on whether or not to allow the basic labor rights of public officials continued.

Amidst the strong current of democratization, opinions from various levels that the excessive restrictions on the basic labor rights of public and private school teachers as well as public servants should be mitigated began to be heard. However, the attempts to revise the related laws ended in failure, which led to criticism from international organizations such as the ILO and OECD, and other domestic and overseas labor-related organizations.

A new turning point was created in February 1998. The Korea Tripartite Commission, which was established in January 1998, shortly after the foreign currency crisis in late 1997, succeed in reaching a social agreement on allowing the basic labor rights of government workers by stages in February 6, 1998, starting new prospects for the public service labor rights issue. The agreement included allowing works councils for government workers as a first stage (implemented from 1999); and allowing trade unions, while specific time of implementation would be decided in consideration of public opinion and revision of the concerned laws and regulations, in the second stage.

Difficulties continued even after the agreement until the Special Act on Public Officials' Unions was enacted. In October 2002, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs submitted a bill on public officials' unions to the National Assembly, however, the labor movement strongly opposed this bill, which did not allow the use of the term "trade union." Finally in December 2002, presidential candidate Roh Mu-Hyun of the Democratic Party during the 16th Presidential Election promised to guarantee basic labor rights of public officials at a similar level as the teachers' union if he was elected. As he was elected as President, the bill previously submitted to the National Assembly by the government was withdrawn and a new bill was to be compiled under the supervision of the Minister of Labor. It was through such toilsome process that the term "Public Officials' Trade Union" was decided to be used, and the Public Officials' Trade Union Act, which provided for partial rights to organize and collectively bargain for public officials in the 6th grade or lower was passed by the National Assembly on December 31, 2004, and came into force on January 28, 2006.


ICFTU Wants to Play With Us Morons

Strengthened trade union movement ready to face challenges in the Americas

“We have to look ahead, to look for new alternatives for the Americas. We have to make alliances, to fight with our brothers and sisters in the Americas for another continent - one where our people are no longer the servants of the economy but the economy the servant of the people,” said Víctor Baéz, General Secretary of the ICFTU’s regional organisation for the Americas, ORIT, when he initiated the second Trade Union Forum of the Americas in Caracas, 25 January 2006. He continued: “Free trade alone will not do any good for our people. Decent work will not be delivered by the present, reigning neo-liberal system. Children and women are the most vulnerable under the present form of globalisation, constantly left exploited by it. How can we overcome these curses? By being a strong, united trade union movement sharing strategies and dreams from Canada to Argentina.”

With these words he captured the ambitions of the trade union forum, which had attracted more than 500 people mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean. There were so many participants that the chairs ran out, and many had to stand to hear the passionate speeches. For the next two days the forum – a central part of the World Social Forum in Caracas – covered issues such as how to curb the negative aspects of globalisation and free trade, how gender parity and decent work can be advanced in the global economy, what kind of regional integration in the Americas would benefit workers and what the continent’s labour movement could do to strengthen its position.

Over the two days of the forum, one problem and one solution was repeated again and again: social injustice is plaguing the American continent, with workers as the constant losers. Only a united trade union movement, respecting differences and diversities within it, will empower workers to change this.


Tehran Bus Drivers Attacked

Condemn the attack on our strike

Issue date: 28/1/2006

To workers, all trade unions and progressive organisations of the world

Condemn the attack on our strike

On behalf of the 17,000 workers and employees of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company, we would like to inform you, the labour organisations of the world and all those who are distressed by the violation of the most evident rights of people, that today, 28th January, our all-out strike met the unprecedented assault of the security forces of the Islamic Republic.

They raided our homes from the night before; they even took our young kids to prison. They arrested a large number of people - the exact figure for which we still don’t have, but certainly over several hundred. They forced some of our colleagues to drive the buses, by beating them up and threatening them. They enlisted the help of drivers from the armed forces, and set upon us thousands of police and security officers – both uniformed and plain clothed – in order to smash our strike. This is the situation we are in.

What was the strike for? It was for the release of Mr Ossanlou and the other leaders of the Syndicate, thrown into jail for no reason at all by bullying. It was for the introduction of collective bargaining, for the recognition of the union, for a pay increase, and so on. Can you believe it that for such demands they would launch such a brutal and massive war on us bus workers?

This is what the Islamic Republic did, and we have no choice but to continue our struggle with even greater resolve and unity. We ask you our colleagues and fellow workers throughout the world, you who can have your own unions and organisations, to condemn this action of the Iranian state. We trust that you will call for the immediate and unconditional release of all the detainees, for the recognition of our union and for the meeting of our demands. We expect that you will condemn the assault on our strike and demand the prosecution and punishment of all those who stormed workers’ picket lines.

We hereby thank all those trade unions and organisations who have supported our struggles. We have a hard and long battle ahead of us and urge you to continue your support.


Syndicate of Workers and Employees of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company

Slavery Beneath the Golden Arches?

Slavery Beneath the Golden Arches?
By Jordan Buckley and Katie Shepherd

In light of recent revelations that McDonald's buys tomatoes through at least one convicted slaver, a farmworkers' group is urging the company to change its ways.

Exactly 50 years ago this weekend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. answered a startling phone call from Minneapolis Tribune journalist Carl T. Rowan. Rowan had come across a wire report that the Montgomery bus boycott -- then entering its sixth week -- had been resolved by city officials and local black ministers.

The announcement would, of course, prove to be a fabrication of local authorities, and the boycott would endure another 11 months, resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Alabama's bus segregation laws.

Today -- in the face of a recent revelation that McDonald's appears to buy its tomatoes through at least one convicted slaver -- the fast food giant has resorted to a similarly shameful tactic: taking token measures to avoid confronting the severe human rights abuses that may be hidden within its supply chain.

Since 1997, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) -- a community group from Southern Florida representing thousands of farmworkers -- has uncovered, investigated and helped to prosecute six separate slavery cases. In 2003, three CIW members were awarded the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for their work in liberating over 1,100 individuals involuntarily held in agricultural work camps along the East Coast.

Last November, CIW called upon McDonald's to partner with them in confronting the violence and subpoverty wages of modern-day farm labor. McDonald's complicity in farmworker misery is not only emblematic of the industry as a whole, but its substantial clout as a fast-food monolith qualifies it as an apt candidate for working to end the extreme injustice.

Farm labor contractor Abel Cuello is just one of the slavers brought to justice by the CIW. In 1999, he was sentenced to only 33 months in prison for enslaving 27 people in trailers on his property. Due to a loophole in Florida law, a contractor is entitled to return to work just five years after being convicted for violating worker-protection laws. Accordingly, in October, Cuello legally returned to the fields.

In his contractor license application dated Oct. 8, 2004, Cuello stated that his job is to "recruit, supervise, [and] transport farm workers for Ag-Mart Farms." Although Ag-Mart claimed that Cuello has been banned from the company's premises, it employs E&B Harvesting and Trucking Inc., the company that Cuello launched just months after release from prison, and that his wife, Yolanda, presently serves as the sole owner.

Gregory Schell, an attorney with the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project in Lake Worth, Fla., who has spoken with scores of Ag-Mart farmworkers, insists that Cuello -- and not Yolanda -- works as E&B Harvesting's crew boss for Ag-Mart. "His wife has never been seen in the fields by the crew. He [Cuello] runs the operation," Schell said.

So who buys tomatoes from a man convicted of human enslavement? The answer seems to lie beneath the Golden Arches.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Profiles of Legendary Anarchists #3

Profiles of Legendary Anarchists #3
Profiles of Legendary Anarchists is a recurring feature of P-CRAC's News and Information Blog

Peter Lamborn Wilson aka Hakim Bey
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Peter Lamborn Wilson (b. New York, 1945) is an American political writer, essayist, and poet, perhaps best known for first proposing the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), based on a historical review of pirate utopias. He sometimes writes under the name Hakim Bey. (The pseudonym may or may not have been a name-of-convenience used by other radical writers since the 1970s, and is a combination of the Arabic word for 'wise man' and a last name common in the Moorish Science Temple. Bey is a generic word for a gentleman in Turkish generally used after a name and Hakim means "Judge.")

He spent two years in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and seven years in Iran (where he was affiliated with the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy), leaving during the Islamic Revolution. In the 1980s, his ideas evolved from a kind of Guénonist neo-tradionalism to a synthesis of anarchism and Situationist ideas with heterodox Sufism and Neopaganism, describing his ideas as "anarchist ontology" or "immediatism". In the past he has worked with the not-for-profit publishing project Autonomedia, in Brooklyn, New York.

In addition to his writings on anarchism and Temporary Autonomous Zones, Wilson has written essays on such diverse topics as Tong traditions, the utopian Charles Fourier, the proto-national anarchist Gabriele D'Annunzio, the connections between Sufism and ancient Celtic culture, sacred pederasty in the Sufi tradition, technology and Luddism, and Amanita muscaria use in ancient Ireland.

Bey's poetic 'texts' and poems have appeared in: P.A.N.; Panthology One, Two, and Three; Ganymede; Exquisite Corpse; NAMBLA Bulletin; the various Acolyte Reader paperbacks. Many of these poems, including the 'Sandburg' series, are collected in the as-yet unpublished DogStar volume. Currently his works can be found regularly in publications like Fifth Estate and the NYC-based First of the Month.

Bey's translations include a volume of the poems of Abu Nuwas, O Tribe That Loves Boys. He has also published at least one novel, The Chronicles of Qamar: Crowstone (a sword and sorcery boy-love tale) (Coltsfoot Press, 1983).

Wilson is a controversial figure within the anarchist milieu. Many social anarchists denounce his ideas as "lifestyle anarchism", seeing his ideas as a kind of extreme individualist anarchism that is ultimately apolitical. Many atheist and materialist anarchists dislike the tendency toward mysticism, occultism, and irrationalism in his work. He is also reviled by some anarchists for his defense of spiritual pederasty.


Oh, What The Hell?

Weather Underground, Redone in Pomo, Rises from the Ashes
by Jesse Lemisch

I attended part of a January 20 "day workshop of interventions" -- aka "a day of dialogic interventions" -- at Columbia University on "Radical Politics and the Ethics of Life" (see below for program). The event aimed "to bring to light... the political aporias [sic] erected by the praxis of urban guerrilla groups in Europe and the United States from the 1960s to the 1980s." (See below for the postmodernist context indicated by the language.) Hosted by Columbia's Anthropology Department, workshop speakers included Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground, historian Jeremy Varon, poststructuralist theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and a dozen others. The panel I sat through was just awful.[1]

What seems to be happening is that veterans of Weather are on a drive to rehabilitate, cleanse and perhaps revive it. (Consider, too, Bill Ayers's 2001 book, Fugitive Days; also the 2002 film, "The Weather Underground," which while well intended seems to offer the viewer a Hobson's Choice between Weather and Todd Gitlin. I didn't know whether to shit, or go blind!) Despite the substandard product that Weather veterans are peddling, a sympathetic response to a bowdlerized Weather may not be so hard to achieve in the present frustrated mood of the left. In addition, many undergraduates, graduate students and faculty have been infected by postmodernism in this, its terminal phase, and therefore have little concern for concrete reality. Weather can be discussed in appealing-sounding abstractions, without reference to the destructive inanities of their role at the June 1969 Chicago convention of Students for a Democratic Society, the October 1969 Days of Rage, the bombings, the bombing fuck-ups, etc. (Nobody wants to talk about Bill Ayers's classic September 11, 2001 New York Times interview lauding Weather violence, published under the headline, "No Regrets for a Love of Explosives.")

Bernardine Dohrn served up all the hoary platitudes about the everyday violence of the standing order -- all true -- leading inevitably to a justification of violent response by a minority substituting itself for a mass movement; at the same time, she offered a rhetorical parenthesis rejecting armed struggle. Neither the efficacy nor morality of Weather tactics were scrutinized, nor any inquiry made into how you construct a majority radical democratic movement by denouncing and writing off the majority. Dohrn's defense of Weather included the remark that in the face of terrible oppressions and injustices, it is necessary "to do something about it, it almost doesn't matter what." But it does matter, if we are interested in building rather than tearing apart a new left. Clearly, almost forty years after the Weather disaster, she hasn't gotten it. Indeed, she says that the actions of the Weather Underground "made people smile."

Weather killed and buried Students for a Democratic Society -- a catastrophe for the left. Dohrn passes lightly over this, saying that SDS wasn't worth saving by the time Weather came on the scene. An anarchist in the audience made the important point that how you make the revolution will affect the kind of revolution that you get. Partly agreeing, Dohrn insisted that, while underground, Weatherpeople not only practiced participatory democracy, but also got closer to the working class and to various minorities.


Always Read The Boss' News People

Union Boss Says Hotels Can Avoid Strike
by Howard Stutz
Casino City Times

UNITED STATES -- A nationwide labor dispute involving 60,000 hotel workers in major North American cities could be averted if the hotel industry were to adopt some of the policies major casino companies use, the national union chief for lodging and food service workers said Thursday.

In a conference call sponsored by Wall Street investment house Bear Stearns, UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm told stock analysts and portfolio managers who follow the hotel industry that a nationwide strike by hotel workers could wipe out all the financial gains lodging companies have achieved in the past few years.

Labor contracts at almost 200 hotels in six cities, operated by such national companies as Hilton Hotels Corp., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Marriott International and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, will expire this year. Wilhelm said not much has happened yet in the way of negotiations.

Wilhelm said the union -- the parent organization of Culinary Local 226, which represents 60,000 Las Vegas hotel, casino and restaurant workers -- has worked closely with the gaming industry to create programs and structure contracts that benefit both management and workers.

He named the Culinary Training Academy, which prepares workers for casino industry jobs, as one way the union and the casinos have worked together.

"I understand there are some differences between the hotel industry and the gaming industry," Wilhelm said. "Why the gaming industry has embraced that approach toward value-added opportunities and the hotel industry hasn't is a mystery to me. There is no reason we can't move forward."


P-CRAC Prediction: Arbitration Will Screw TWU

To Arbitrate or Not to Arbitrate: That is the Question
by Beth Fertig

NEW YORK, NY, January 27, 2006 — Now that transit workers have rejected their contract with the MTA, the two sides are waiting to find out if they’ll go back to the table OR have an outside party settle their dispute. The MTA has asked the state to appoint an arbitration panel which could impose a settlement. WNYC’s Beth Fertig has more on what’s next.

REPORTER: Larry Sortino is typical of those who voted no on the contract. He rejected the deal because didn’t want to pay 1 point five percent of his salary for healthcare.

SORTINO: I never paid into the medical for 22 years, 22 years in March it will be for me and I don’t want to pay now.

REPORTER: Sortino is a train operator. During a lunch break at a diner near the Coney Island station, he acknowledged he didn’t think too much about what would happen if the contract failed. Arbitration was a distant concept. He presumed the two sides would just make a better deal, with a wage increase higher than almost 11 percent over 3 years.

SORTINO: I thought that we would get more money, figuring it would be 5, 5, and 5. Or 17% like sanitation got or the teachers.

REPORTER: So how do you feel about them going to binding arbitration now? That’s a real possibility, did you understand that that could happen when you voted no?

SORTINO: No they didn’t explain it to us about the binding arbitration.

REPORTER: Sortino says he doesn’t regret his vote because he believes he made a statement. But he does worry about what’s next. And that’s the one thing uniting more than 33 thousand members of a union so sharply divided that they rejected their contract by only seven votes.

On a platform at the Coney Island station, Cleo Tucker, a cleaner, wears a button that says “Stand together for a Strong Local 100.” It’s a message from Union President Roger Toussaint’s Unity Team. But, Tucker says,

TUCKER: That button’s not how I feel today.

REPORTER: Tucker voted yes.

TUCKER: If it goes to binding arbitration we’re going to get the short end of the stick.


ILWU Still More Progressive Than Everyone

Labor Lends Its Clout to Port Pollution Battle
Dockworkers union says it will pressure shipowners to cut diesel fumes at all West Coast facilities. Emissions have been linked to asthma.
By Deborah Schoch
LA Times

The powerful union representing 60,000 West Coast dockworkers is stepping publicly into the port air pollution arena for the first time, saying it will pressure seaports and shipowners to slash emissions.

Leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Monday will join Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Long Beach to announce a campaign to reduce pollution in seaports from Seattle to San Diego. The union is expected to focus on ships because they are the single biggest source of port pollution but are largely immune from U.S. environmental laws.

West Coast seaports handle most Asian exports entering the country and are integral engines for the U.S. economy.

But mounting pollution from diesel-burning ships, trucks and trains is heightening health concerns in cities such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle. Diesel fumes, a carcinogen, have also been linked to asthma, other respiratory problems and heart disease.

Those concerns have triggered emotional battles in Los Angeles and Long Beach over the last three years, as residents opposed port expansion plans and business leaders worried that the regional economy could suffer.

Now, dockworkers union leaders say they have become so concerned about the potential for related health problems — among their members and in the community — that they are making clean air a priority.

Because of the union's size and clout, its efforts could significantly speed up clean air initiatives, union and business officials said Friday.