TrenchNews, Verse 11

TOP STORY

NYT: 7 Unions Ask NLRB to Go Back to Rule Allowing Unions to Bargain Without a Majority of Employees

Back in the 30’s when employers were fighting unions with private armies and using local police forces as strikebreakers, FDR’s National Labor Relations Board allowed – even encouraged and occasionally demanded – employers bargain with unions even though the unions did not yet represent a majority of the company’s workforce.

Today, the methods of intimidation used by employers to prevent unions from organizing employees are less violent and more sophisticated but just as immoral, and seven unions have together decided that it’s time The NLRB went back to the old rules – which are still in force.

Seven labor unions asked the National Labor Relations Board yesterday to order employers to bargain with unions, even when the unions represent only a minority of employees.

This would be a sharp departure from current practices, in which employers are required to bargain with a union only after it shows that a majority of employees at a workplace support it.

The unions hope that such a change will make it easier to unionize workers. Today, 7.4 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions, less than a fourth of the rate in the 1950s.

The unions involved in the bid, including the United Steelworkers and the United Auto Workers, say the labor board should return to a largely forgotten practice, prevalent in the 1930s, in which companies often bargained with unions representing only a minority of workers who had joined them.

“This is what the text of the National Labor Relations Act requires, and there are no decisions to the contrary,” said Charles J. Morris, an emeritus professor of labor law at Southern Methodist University and the foremost champion of this notion.

Union officials acknowledged that the labor board, currently dominated by appointees of President Bush, would probably not adopt a rule so favorable to unions. But union officials said they were petitioning now in the hope that there will be a Democratic president someday who will appoint a board that will look favorably upon their argument.

A pro-labor Labor Board – now there’s a radical idea.

WaPo, Stephen Barr: Pickets at the NLRB (Scroll down to 2nd item)

Speaking of the Labor Board, it’s having labor problems. Seems the Board’s Counsel, an ex-corporate Republican lawyer, has been advising them to break the law.

There are labor woes at the National Labor Relations Board, and some unionized employees are calling for the resignation of the board’s general counsel, Ronald Meisburg.

Members of the National Labor Relations Board Union, which plans to picket at the board’s headquarters today, contend that Meisburg is defying a federal ruling that allowed the union to consolidate four bargaining units into one.

Eric Brooks, the union president, said Meisburg is engaging in the same kind of conduct that he is supposed to stop when it is done in the private sector. “The agency is violating the law,” Brooks said.

Meisburg has declined to bargain with the union over the consolidation because he thinks it would undercut the law that established the NLRB, according to an agency statement. The law set up the position of general counsel as an independent prosecutor, separate from the board, which acts more like a court.

But the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees labor-management practices in the government, rejected Meisburg’s arguments. FLRA officials found that bargaining for the board and the general counsel headquarters units has been conducted jointly for about 30 years and that the board and general counsel operate by consensus so that the NLRB has “a unified agency policy applicable to all employees.”

(emphasis added)

A concept which is both foreign and unknown to Republicans and corporations.

WaPo, Stephen Barr: GSA Chief Doan Expands Bonus Program

Lurita Doan, under heavy fire for violating the Hatch Act and politicizing her agency, has apparently decided to try and buy the loyalty of her subjects employees.

Luirita DoanLurita A. Doan, the head of the GSA, has expanded the number of employees eligible for performance awards, saying that a previous policy “excluded many employees who are vital to GSA’s business success.”

Under the old policy, employees who received the top two ratings in the agency’s performance-recognition system — a 4 or 5 on a five-level scale — were eligible for bonuses. Doan, in a memo to the GSA staff Aug. 7, said she had decided employees given a Level 3 rating also should be eligible.

The new policy is to be implemented by the end of the current rating period, Sept. 30, Doan said. She noted in her memo that implementing the change would hinge on GSA offices updating their employee-evaluation procedures and the outcome of agency discussions with unions on the new policy.

No word yet on exactly which concessions Doan will want from the union in exchange.

AJC: Wal-Mart and Home Depot in Sales Slump

Ignoring horrendous business decisions, piss-poor management and labor practices, and incompetent if shockingly greedy executives, two of the biggest retail giants in the country blamed their recent poor sales on the housing market.

The two companies, the nation’s largest retailers and bellwethers for consumer spending, reported earnings disappointments for the second quarter and predicted an even bumpier year ahead because of higher energy costs and a sagging housing market.The sober forecasts reverberated across Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index down by nearly 2 percent, with the Dow dropping more than 200 points. Shares of both Wal-Mart and Home Depot fell around 5 percent.

Home Depot also said that the proposed sale of its supply business, for $11 billion, could fall through because of trouble in the credit markets, potentially forcing the retailer to shrink a $23 billion stock buyback.

Economists said the sluggish performance of the chains — Wal-Mart missed its profit forecast and Home Depot’s earnings dropped — could signal broader troubles in the economy.

“It’s a red flag,” said Jay Bryson, global economist at Wachovia. “If consumer spending starts to weaken, the overall outlook for economic growth will diminish.”

Yeah, well, cutting wages to the bone and starving consumers of income in order to increase stock prices in the short term might have something to do with it, don’t you think? But don’t let’s interrupt the fantasy.

AJC: Seniors in BushAmerica Work into Their 90’s, Most Because They Have To

Speaking of fantasies, retirement in the Bush Economy is becoming a distant dream.

[There are] a growing number of people for whom retirement age has lost its meaning. They’re staying on the job longer and longer past that point — some for personal satisfaction, others out of necessity.

Some are even working away into their 90s and beyond: In Maryland, Grace Wiles, 97, works about 25 hours per week at a shoe repair store. In Nebraska, 98-year-old Sally Gordon is the legislature’s assistant sergeant at arms.

They’re all younger than Waldo McBurney, a 104-year-old beekeeper from Kansas who was recently declared America’s oldest worker.

About 6.4 percent of Americans 75 or older, or slightly more than 1 million, were working last year. That’s up from 4.7 percent, or 634,000, a decade earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

About 3.4 percent of Americans 80 or older, or 318,000, were in the work force last year, up from 2.7 percent or 188,000 a decade earlier, officials said.

Trust corporate America to put the best possible spin on this travesty.

“For the first time in history, four generations are working together,” said Melanie Holmes, vice president of corporate affairs for Manpower Inc., an employment services company.

Isn’t that darling? Seniors are continuing to work as a form of togetherness. And of course, their participation helps companies pining for workers as the labor market…shrinks???

With the first wave of Baby Boomers reaching the traditional retirement age, Manpower has urged companies to start thinking about ways to retain and recruit older workers, through flexible scheduling for example. This will help them fill positions as the labor pool shrinks.

(emphasis added)

Millions out of work, millions more in part-time jobs because that’s all they can find, but in CorporateAmerica FantasyLand, the “labor pool is shrinking”.

What they mean of course is that the pool of laborers who have to take low-wage jobs to survive is shrinking a bit – although with the collapse of the housing market and the flight of frightened investors, that situation isn’t likely to last much longer.

NYT: Democratic Operatives Join WakeUpWalMart

Speaking of Wal-mart, WakeUpWalMart, probably the strongest of the groups opposing WM’s indecent labor practices, just hired a raft of Democratic activists for its staff.

WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-backed group that has waged an aggressive campaign against Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, will today name several Democratic political strategists as its new leaders and introduce a fresh round of ads.

The group, which has attacked the wages, health benefits and labor practices of the nonunionized Wal-Mart, is expected to appoint Meghan Scott, who worked on John Edwards’s presidential campaign, as its deputy campaign manager, giving her day-to-day control. Ms. Scott previously oversaw communications for the American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

She will be advised by Nick Baldick, Jeremy Van Ess and Richie Ross. Mr. Baldick was the national campaign manager for Mr. Edwards’s presidential campaign in 2003 and early 2004. Mr. Van Ess worked on the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Mr. Edwards and was chief speechwriter for Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. Mr. Ross ran the 2005 California gubernatorial campaign of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

WakeUpWalMart, started in 2005 by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, lost its founding leaders months ago when they left to work on Mr. Edwards’s latest presidential campaign. But Ms. Scott pledged that the group was “not backing off.”

“We are going to fight to ensure that Wal-Mart becomes a responsible organization,” she said.

Yeah, well, good luck with that right off the bat.

NYT: Editorial Urges Law to Promote Mine Safety

It is beyond belief that in this Information Age, when new technologies can eavesdrop on any conversation and track people around the globe, rescue teams have no way to communicate with the six miners trapped underground in the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. Instead they are drilling holes in the ground to where they guess the miners might be.

It needn’t be so. For too long, the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress allowed mine operators to put off making needed investments to ensure their workers’ safety. And last year when a string of coal-mining disasters — that killed 48 miners — forced Congress to enact new safety legislation, it still gave companies far too much time to install communications systems that might have helped find the Utah miners.

There is technology available today that combines cable and wireless systems to link miners far below the surface and teams above. This technology does not guarantee perfect communications in the case of a cave-in or other accident, but it is certainly much better than nothing.

Rather than requiring that such systems be installed immediately, the mining legislation passed last year gave mine operators — many of whom resisted all new safety standards — until 2009 to develop and install more sophisticated two-way wireless communications systems that could resist cave-ins and penetrate through the layers of rock and coal. The bleak outlook for the six miners in Utah, who have been trapped underground for more than a week, underscores how urgent it is to have some way, even if imperfect, to track and communicate with miners in case of another disaster.

This might not be too much for our corporate Democrats to handle but I ain’t holding my breath.

AJC: AirTran pilots to vote on leaders, contract

After 2 years of stalled negotiations on their new contract, AirTran pilots are going to vote on whether or not to replace the union leaders doing the negotiating.

In twin ballots spawned by continued troubles getting a new labor contract, the pilots union at AirTran Airways will vote this month on whether to recall its top leaders and whether to accept the airline’s latest offer.

Union leaders decided last week to authorize a vote on whether to recall President Allen Philpot and Vice President Michael Surapine. The leaders also set a ratification vote on a revised tentative agreement based on the company’s recent final offer, but recommended a “no” vote.

“There’s not much confidence right now in the leadership,” said David Sabby, an AirTran captain who organized the recall effort. Sabby, who plans to run for vice president of the union, said members were unhappy about a “horrible concessionary” tentative agreement that the union’s leaders initially supported.

“They didn’t like the [earlier agreement] and they were out for blood, and I’m an easier target than the company,” said Philpot, who has headed the union almost three years. “I think it’s a bad time to be replacing leadership when you’re in the middle of negotiations and the middle of a merger.”

Indeed, the latest chapter after more than two years of contract talks with the National Pilots Association comes as AirTran is also pursuing a buyout bid for Midwest Airlines.

Steve Kolski, AirTran’s vice president of operations, fears negotiations will continue to drag out if pilots vote down the company’s latest offer.

“We’re disappointed that it’s turned out this way,” said Kolski. “We managed to resolve about 90 percent of the issues.”

AirTran thought it had cinched a pilot deal almost three months ago. Union leaders partly endorsed an agreement, then shelved it in June when they concluded that it wouldn’t be ratified. AirTran and the union resumed talks under the National Mediation Board’s supervision.

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