Monday, August 16, 2010

Labor News Update: On the Picket Line

On the picket line

By Sue Davis
Published Aug 15, 2010 10:36 PM

No scabs, shout Mott’s strikers

Appealing to 66,000 unemployed workers in the Rochester-Syracuse area of upstate New York, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group has been hiring strikebreakers since the beginning of July at $9 an hour to try to keep production going at its Mott’s plant in Williamson. But the 305 applesauce workers, who walked off the job on May 23 rather than accept a pay cut of $1.50 an hour and loss of their pensions, are standing strong as they daily denounce the scabs.

Why did DPS create this standoff? Even though DPS banked $555 million in profits in 2009 and its CEO collected $6.5 million, and even though the Mott’s plant is highly profitable, DPS is trying to “take advantage of the economic misery of upstate New York” and crush the workers’ union, according to Local 220 of the Department Store union, a division of the Food and Commercial Workers union (RWDSU-UFCW). (

DPS says the Mott’s workers are “overpaid” at $21 an hour when compared with Rochester workers, who average $14 an hour. (, July 27) But that’s greedy-boss logic. Trying to cut workers’ wages is just another of the bosses’ age-old tactics to bolster their already bulging bottom line.

By holding their picket line, the RWDSU-UFCW workers, who process more than half the apples grown in New York state, are standing up for workers everywhere. They deserve the support of the entire labor movement, organized and unorganized.

Domestic workers recognized

After many years of hard-fought struggle, the Domestic Workers Union won recognition of their rights as workers when New York Gov. David Paterson signed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in July.

The law establishes an eight-hour workday; overtime at time and a half after 40 hours for live-out domestic workers and 44 hours for live-in domestic workers; one day of rest in each calendar week; workplace protection against discrimination, sexual harassment and other forms of abuse; workers’ compensation; and the completion of a study by November about collective bargaining.

What a victory! About 4,500 independent home-care providers in Maryland, who are members of Council 67 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, signed their first contract in July. The three-year agreement increases provider rates, sets up a committee to address health and safety concerns, and offers professional development.

A provider Bill of Rights is included in the contract, which spells out such things as the need to be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect, and timely reimbursement for services.

Students get Nike to pay Honduran workers

Already this year United Students Against Sweatshops has scored two big wins for garment workers in Honduras. On July 26 Nike agreed to pay $1.45 million in severance to 1,800 workers whom it had planned to stiff when it closed two factories in 2009.

How did USAS turn Nike around? It started the same kind of pro-worker education campaign that exposed Russell Athletics’ union-busting activities in 2009. That was so persuasive 89 universities cancelled contracts with Russell, which compelled the company to reopen its only unionized plant in Honduras earlier this year.

Aware of USAS’s success, Nike folded after only one contract was terminated by the University of Wisconsin — Madison and another at Cornell was threatened. USAS knows how to school major corporations in the need to respect workers’ rights in the only way the bosses understand — how it affects their bottom line.

That living example of how to combat capitalist greed and show international solidarity at the same time far surpasses mere textbook learning.

Calif. Labor nixes SB 1070

At the 28th biennial convention of the California Labor Federation, delegates passed a resolution on July 14 condemning Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant SB 1070 law as “racist, impractical, unenforceable and wasteful.”

The resolution called on the Secretary of Homeland Security and the U.S. attorney general to “take all necessary steps to prevent racial profiling, including blocking implementation of SB 1070,” and it called on Congress and President Barack Obama “ to pass a fair immigration reform bill that will fix the immigration system once and for all.”

Also on July 14 delegates passed a resolution denouncing U.S. Postal Service plans “to eliminate one or more days of delivery; contract out letter carrier routes, mail processing and retail outlets; close post offices; reduce the benefits available to postal workers; and replace career full-time employees with part-time or casual workers.”

The CLF agreed to work with five unions representing postal workers “to develop a variety of strategies to Save Six Day Delivery of the mail, oppose contracting out and post office closures, and fight reduction of hours and benefits.”
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