12 Recent Victories for Workers in Raising Wages and Collective Bargaining

While it certainly seems that far-right extremists are waging an all-out war on working families and their rights, workers aren’t just defending themselves; they are fighting to expand their rights and achieving some significant gains. Here are 12 recent victories we should celebrate while continuing to push for even more wins.

1. AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

2. Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German carmaker’s U.S. facility. UAW organizers continue to gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

3. California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join UNITE HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

4. Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers, citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

5. Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Md., announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers among their reasons to affiliate with the national union.

6. Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, N.J., voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, cosmetics and fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

7. Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on forming a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

8. New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, East, citing low wages, long work schedules and no health care.

9.  Fast-Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchisees for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

10. Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego and Eugene, Ore., have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

11. Student-Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengtheningfinancial security measures for student-athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

12. San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike; Portland, Maine, Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, municipalities across the country have taken action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, Maine, Minimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase that would take effect in 2015.

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UAW Files Appeal with NLRB on Outside Interference During Chattanooga Volkswagen UAW Election

UAW Files Appeal with NLRB on Outside Interference During Chattanooga Volkswagen UAW Election

It’s hard enough to form a union without politicians and special interest groups interfering and using scare tactics. Which is exactly what happened in Chattanooga, Tenn., when Volkswagen workers narrowly voted against representation with UAW by 44 votes.

The UAW filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Friday related to the interference by politicians and outside special interest groups in that election.

A firestorm of interference from politicians and special interest groups threatened the economic future of the plant just before and during three days of voting in an election supervised by the NLRB. The objections detail a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union.

“It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”

The campaign also included threats by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) related to promises of a new product line awarded to the plant if workers voted against UAW representation.

The objections state, “Sen. Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen.…The clear message of the campaign was that voting for the union would result in stagnation for the Chattanooga plant, with no new product, no job security and withholding of state support for its expansion.”

For more information, visit www.uaw.org/uawvw.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka: ‘Right-Wing Zealotry’ Played Role in VW Vote

After unprecedented interference from politicians and out-of-state extremists like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant voted 712–626 against representation by theUAW that would have led to the establishment of a works council, the first such model of labor-management relations in the United States.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the workers stood up to “enormous odds to try to form their own union and to create an historic new model of workplace governance.” He adds:

Unconscionably, what should have been a local workplace decision by workers and management was turned into an experiment in new forms of right-wing zealotry over issues having nothing to do with how stakeholders decided for themselves the best way to build automobiles and create a strong Chattanooga community.

While Volkswagen had agreed to remain neutral, Republican lawmakers and right-wing groups mounted a large-scale anti-union attack. UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s southern organizing, says:

Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee.

Says UAW President Bob King:

While we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union.

Trumka says:

But, make no mistake, the closeness of the results and the courage and tenacity of union supporters prove that this election is a minor setback, and not a permanent defeat.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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GOP Denies Workers’ Rights to Unionize

The following is a guest post from Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers. It originally appeared on The Huffington Post

The GOP is all about freedom—for corporations, that is. Republicans believe, for example, that business should be free from the kind of government regulation that would prevent chemical companies from spewing poison into West Virginia drinking water.

When it comes to freedom for workers, though, the GOP is all about squelching that. Republicans believe workers should not be free to form labor unions, that they should not enjoy freedom of association, that they should be denied their right to collective action.

Usually, the GOP explains this as picking sides. In one corner, the corporation sits whining that it doesn’t want unions pressuring executives to more equitably share the fruits of workers’ labor. In the other corner, workers assert they have the right to organize and demand better pay and treatment. In this match up, Republicans always bet on the deep-pocketed corporation. When there’s no fight, when both executives and workers want a union, Republicans still oppose workers’ rights. That’s because organized labor has always stood for everything the GOP hates: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and the 40-hour workweek. Republicans denounce workers exercising their right to concerted action, at the workplace and in Washington.

Volkswagen is the perfect example. Republicans are blasting VW (actually criticizing a corporation!) because VW is [not opposing] an attempt by the UAW to organize the German automaker’s Chattanooga, Tenn., assembly plant.

VW wants to establish works councils at its Chattanooga plant, similar to those it has in Germany. In Europe, these groups of white- and blue-collar workers collaborate on issues such as plant rules, work hours and vacations. In VW’s experience, cooperating with employees through these councils increases productivity and profitability.

Because the councils discuss labor issues such as work hours, VW and the UAW have determined that to legally establish them in Chattanooga, the plant must be unionized.

This is intolerable to the GOP. Two of Tennessee’s most powerful Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, insist they know how to run an auto company better than VW. Despite this successful international auto company’s actual business experience with works councils, these GOP politicians say that they know what’s best, that they just know unionization won’t be good for VW.

A union-hating group, the National Right to Work (For Less) Committee, traveled to Chattanooga from its headquarters near Washington, D.C., with a carpetbag full of cash for legal challenges to the unionization effort. And GOP crank Grover Norquist sent his Washington, D.C.-based organized labor-hating group, Center for Worker Freedom (To Work For Less), to Tennessee to thwart the Chattanooga workers’ right to unionize.

VW objected to the interference. CEO of VW Chattanooga Frank Fischer asked the outside agitators to stop, saying, “Volkswagen is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”

They ignored him—disregarding a CEO, a figure before whom Republicans typically grovel! That is how much Republicans hate unions.

They refuse to believe what VW is saying, that works councils are valuable management tools, despite evidence that the model already succeeds in the United States.

Just last month, the Jobs with Justice Education Fund released a study titled, “Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity.” The research shows that government saved millions and improved service when it established collaborative working relationships with unionized public workers.

For example, the report says, such collaboration helped the Federal Aviation Administration save millions when it installed new technology at air traffic control centers. A division of the Navy that designs and builds ships used labor-management councils to improve productivity and quality.

Similarly, Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast and blog, wrote in The New York Times last week about a cooperative relationship between Harley-Davidson and the two unions that represent workers at its York, Pa., assembly plant. They are the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and my union, the United Steelworkers (USW).

Before Wall Street crashed the economy, inefficiency was part of the all-American motorcycle company’s charm, Davidson wrote. But during the great recession, high costs and slow turnaround threatened to bankrupt the icon. Harley rejected the paths of too many predecessor manufacturers—robots, union-busting and off-shoring. Instead, it chose to actively cooperate with its highly paid, exceedingly skilled and deeply devoted workers and redesign its plant to increase productivity. Workers accepted layoffs and pay freezes to save the company.

On the day Davidson visited the plant, one worker solved several production problems, saving Harley millions of dollars. Millions. The turnaround earned Harley an Industry Week Best Plants award last year. Davidson noted that while fewer than 10 percent of American manufacturing workers are unionized, more than 30 percent of the finalists for the Industry Week award are.

The Jobs with Justice report says the cooperative examples it uncovered demonstrated “the power of partnerships that, if adopted by comparable agencies and unions, will help transform antagonistic, outmoded and inefficient labor relations models.”

But Republicans Norquist, Haslam and Corker are doing their darndest to make sure that can’t happen at VW in Chattanooga.

There, Matt Patterson, who heads a Norquist puppet group opposing the UAW, explained to The New York Times the real reason the Republicans are fighting the UAW: “Unions are very political, the UAW is one of the most political. If they help elect politicians who pass huge government programs, that requires taxes.”

There it is. The truth about the GOP’s opposition to unions. Republicans hate that unions are organizations of workers who traditionally have fought to ensure that their government serves workers with programs like Social Security and Medicare, programs that Americans love and that they’re willing to pay taxes to support.

This week, 1,600 VW assembly workers will vote on whether to be represented by the UAW. They have the right to self-determination without GOP carpetbagger interference.

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Despite Millions Spent in Opposition, Date Set for High Profile Union Election in Chattanooga

After months of organizing, fighting, advocating, and waiting, the NLRB has set a date for a secret-ballot union election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee for February 12, to 14.

Chattanooga has the only major Volkswagen plant in the United States, employing 1,600 workers. And it’s unique: At all other VW plants worldwide, workers have the opportunity to join German-style “works councils”–committees of blue collar workers, white collar employees, and representatives from management who discuss plant conditions.

The Chattanooga plant has been the site of a high-dollar proxy battle, drawing the United Auto Workers and national anti-union giants like Grover Norquist, who set up an organization called the Center for Worker Freedom to oppose the organizing effort.

But unlike most other union fights, Volkswagen management does not oppose the UAW’s organizing:

Scott Wilson, a VW spokesman, said: “Volkswagen values the rights of its employees in all locations to representation of their interests.  In the United States, it is only possible to realize this in conjunction with a union.  This is a decision that ultimately lies in the hands of the employees. For this reason, we have begun a dialogue with the U.A.W.”

That puts the outside forces in the odd position of criticizing both the union organizers and the Volkswagen management. Don Jackson, who until 2012 headed up American manufacturing for Volkswagen, has become an outspoken opponent of what his former employer is doing in Chattanooga. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said it was “beyond belief,” VW would allow a union election, saying they would become a “laughingstock” if the UAW succeeded.

AFL-CIO President Trumka dismissed the rantings from Corker and others. “Claims that union representation would make Tennessee a ‘laughingstock in the business world,’ or deter other companies from moving South are nothing more than attempts to hold on to a polarizing, unproductive ‘us vs. them’ status quo,” Trumka wrote in the Detoit News, “Volkswagen’s willingness to work collaboratively is a strong part of its success.”

It’s clear that this fight isn’t just about one plant. “It seems that both the business community and labor are seeing what’s happening at VW as a pivotal moment in the Southern automotive business and labor history,” says Vanderbilt University labor expert Daniel B. Cornfield.

Luckily, the decision will ultimately be in the hands of the 1,600 workers who punch in every day at the Chattanooga plans. “For me to have a voice at the workplace would tremendously increase my chances of staying here,” said Seth Landis, an Electrical Rework Line Team Member at Chattanooga.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” said Paint Finish Team Member Tammy Flint. “I just can’t wait for this to get started, I’m ready for it.”

Voting begins February 12.

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