Election Dispute Leads to Impasse for Teachers Union


Published: NYT, July 2, 2004

CHICAGO, July 1 – A dispute over the results of a recent election has thrown the Chicago Teachers Union into turmoil. On Thursday the challenger reported for what she took to be her first day of work at the union’s offices and found that the locks had been changed.

The incumbent, Deborah Lynch, faced Marilyn Stewart in a runoff on June 11 and lost by more than 560 votes out of more than 22,000 cast. But a union committee assigned to investigate the election said it had been fraudulent and declared the results null and void.

Ms. Stewart has asked the American Federation of Teachers, an umbrella group providing services and guidelines to more than 3,000 teachers’ unions, to conduct its own investigation.

Ms. Lynch says she is not leaving office until the union, which represents more than 35,000 people, holds another election.

Howard L. Heath, a vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said: “According to our constitution, the last duly elected person is in charge until there is a certified election that changes that. Our committee invalidated the previous elections. Lynch is staying in power.”

Mr. Heath said Ms. Lynch had changed the locks because people from Ms. Stewart’s camp had gone to the office days earlier handing out letters of termination to more than a dozen of Ms. Lynch’s employees.

“Our members have spoken,” The Associated Press quoted Ms. Stewart as saying. “They have chosen someone else. And she needs to leave.”

Alex Wohl, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers, said his organization did not have a protocol for a situation like this. “It’s not something that happens that frequently, so we don’t have standard operating procedures on that,” Mr. Wohl said. “Tempers are high.”

When States Empower Workers, It’s an “Accident”

Published: NYT, July 2, 2004

RICHMOND, Va., July 1 – On Saturdays and Sundays, rain or shine, locals and visitors fill the restaurants, boutiques, bookstores and coffee shops of Carytown, a popular residential and commercial district here. At night, restaurants bustle, and the line for the second-run movie theater wraps around the block. But thanks to an unnoticed clerical error in a new state law, some here fear that could all change.

Even after the bill’s sponsor, Senator Frederick M. Quayle, a Republican from Chesapeake, said unequivocally that the bill was in error, the mistake has Virginia’s business community reeling back to colonial times, when working on Sunday was a crime. Under the state’s new “day of rest” law, employees in the private sector can refuse to work on Sunday or their chosen Sabbath, leaving Virginia employers to wonder how they will continue to do business on weekends. The ensuing brouhaha has the governor and attorney general at loggerheads as to who should solve the problem, and how.

Meanwhile, in the midst of vacation season, frenzied Virginia employers are flooding government offices with phone calls, trying to determine just what their rights are. No one seems to have answers.

Employer mindset: “If we can’t force them to work when we say, we’ll go out of business.” Notice they are all “flooding government” with frantic phone calls demanding the return of their power to coerce but no one is saying, “Well, we’ll just offer to pay them double-time like we used to on Sundays.” What I find disturbing is the attitude that coersion is a necessary business tool and that they refuse even to think about alternate strategies like, say, raising the poverty-level wages they pay to a reasonable level for one lousy day a week.

This is the business mindset that’s been fostered over the past quarter-century by Republican governments that are wholly-owned subsidiaries of corporate interests: workers are slaves; what’ll we do if you free them, even a little tiny bit, one day a week?

Well, you’ve got chance to find out. Use it.

Hotel Workers Reject Management’s Offer

By Nancy Cleeland, LA Times Staff Writer

Union hotel workers Thursday overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offer from nine prominent Los Angeles-area hotels, labor sources said, setting the stage for a new level of maneuvering in the seemingly intractable dispute.

Union leaders said they would announce the vote tally and outline their next steps this morning.

Hotel managers said the rejection of their offer would trigger changes in company health insurance that will require employees to contribute for the first time, at $40 a month. The announcement of the co-pay, made last week, has incited anger and anxiety among workers.

Both sides appeared inflexible on the core issue that separates them: the contract’s duration. The union wants a two-year contract that ends in 2006, part of a strategy to line up expiration dates in 10 major U.S. cities that year, giving the union the power to call a national strike.

Hotel negotiators, who are pushing for a five-year contract, have said they would never agree to a two-year deal. Last week, they declared that talks were at an impasse unless the union changed its position. “If we got the length of the contract out of the way, we’d be talking about issues,” Tim Loughman, general director of the Westin Century Plaza and St. Regis hotels, said before the votes were tallied.

Loughman added that if the offer was rejected, the hotels, bargaining jointly as the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council, would consider going back to the table. But he said the hotels would not budge from their demand of a five-year pact.

The hotels’ contract with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, known as HERE, was due to expire in mid-April but was extended until June 1, when the employers terminated the accord.

Maria Elena Durazo, president of Local 11 of the union, said that she discussed the issue of contract length with workers throughout the daylong vote and that they solidly supported the union strategy. Employers should respect that, she said.

“If they’re serious about listening to the workers, they will take that into account,” Durazo said, “and then we won’t have to take actions and do things like picket lines, marches, contacting customers.”

(Click the title to read the rest)

U.S. Payroll Growth Slows Sharply in June

Contrary to the Bush Administration’s election-year fantasies projections, our Bushian economy–an economy that has created more jobs in debt collection agencies than in the whole of the manufacturing sector combined–may be topping out.

Firms add 112,000 jobs, far fewer than expected, keeping the jobless rate at 5.6%. Analysts differ on whether the recovery is weakening or pausing.

By Peter G. Gosselin, LA Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers sent a shiver through the political and financial worlds by adding only 112,000 net jobs in June, less than half what had been expected and too few to budge the nation’s 5.6% unemployment rate.

The Labor Department’s announcement Friday of the weak jobs showing left President Bush seeking to put a positive spin on the news before a gala White House gathering called to showcase what aides and economists had thought would be closer to a net gain of 250,000 jobs.

Coming only two days after the Federal Reserve started nudging short-term interest rates higher to protect against economic overheating, the employment report convinced some investors that the economy might not be all that strong after all. They reacted by pushing long-term interest rates, which are set by the marketplace, to two-month lows, betting that the disappointing numbers might relieve the Fed of having to push interest rates up quickly. Stock prices, meanwhile, generally fell.

Economists, however, appeared split on whether the economy was slowing, or just taking a break in an otherwise solid growth path.

“This shows we may have a weaker-than-you-think economy,” said Jose Rasco, senior economist at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. “Consumers are going into headwinds, and businesses are reacting by holding off on investment and hiring.”

Bush administration officials from the president on down sought to put the best face on the report. Bush told a gathering of small-business owners in the East Room of the White House: “Our economy is strong and getting stronger…. We’re witnessing steady growth.”Treasury Secretary John W. Snow backed up his boss, saying, “The economy doesn’t move in a straight line up. It zigs and zags some.”

Meanwhile, Bush’s presumptive Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, used the kickoff of a Fourth of July weekend bus tour to blast the president’s economic record.

“This administration says to you that is the best economy of our lifetime,” Kerry told a crowd in Cloquet, Minn. “They say that this is the best we can do. They’ve even called us pessimists.

“Well, I say to them: The most pessimistic thing that you can say is that America can’t do better than we’re doing today,” Kerry declared.

And once agin, as is becoming common with this Administration, the rosy numbers from last month have had to be “corrected”–downwards.

The June jobs report included evidence of several kinds of economic weakness and crystallized a sense that rising gasoline prices, higher interest rates and a trailing off of the Bush-engineered tax cuts may finally be taking an economic toll.

The report showed that job gains in April and May totaled 581,000 — 35,000 lower than previously reported. It suggested that manufacturing’s comeback from nearly four years of job losses stalled last month, as factory payrolls unexpectedly slid an additional 11,000.

The report also showed that the average workweek slipped from 33.8 hours to 33.6 while the manufacturing workweek fell from 41.1 hours to 40.8. Average hourly earnings increased by only 2 cents to $15.65. Over the last year, average hourly earnings have risen only 2%, or about in tandem with inflation.

“What these numbers mean is that we’re not out of the woods as far as the labor market is concerned,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “There’s still enough slack in the economy that employers don’t feel the need to bid up wages.

(emphasis added)

After destroying a thriving economy by bad-mouthing it, crippling it with deficits, and using tax policy to skew income distribution so far toward the rich that their income has almost doubled while ours has been held to the 2% level of inflation, Bush is trying to tell us “We’re stronger.” What he must mean by “we” is him and his rich friends/contributors because the rest of us are struggling.