Monthly Archives: August 2009


Is the labor movement about to become re-acquainted with the mob? It seems the incoming head of the AFLCIO, Richard Trumka, has himself confused with Don Corleone from The Godfather.

Imagine a business leader openly saying this about politicians: “We need to stand by our friends, punish our enemies and challenges those who, well, can’t seem to decide which side they’re on.”

If a business leader said this, he would be pilloried in the press and likely called in front of Congress and given the third degree…and perhaps more.

Yet, when the unions’ soon-to-be-coronated boss of bosses says: “We need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies and challenges those who, well, can’t seem to decide which side they’re on,” the press reports it as though it is merely another news story on the health care debate.

No reporter questions about the audacity of threatening members of Congress, not even a raised eyebrow, nor a whimper of dissent. No question about the appropriateness of the remarks or the boorishness of the manner in which Trumka views elected officials.

Of course, then again, we’re talking about Richard Trumka, the same union boss who twice pled his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination for the Teamsters money-laundering scandal a decade ago.

Trumka, who is set to take the reins of the AFLCIO (unopposed) in just two weeks, was speaking to the Center for American Progress, a liberal “think tank” that backs nationalizing America’s health care system.

According to a New York Times blog:

Mr. Trumka, who has been the labor federation’s secretary treasurer since 1995, gave examples on the type of lawmakers he had in mind: “Legislators who don’t understand that their job isn’t to make insurance companies happy; it’s to keep Americans healthy. Legislators who say they’re are all for health care reform, but refuse to stand up for a public system that puts people before profits.”

Oh, really? Perhaps Mr. Trumka doesn’t quite understand that putting Americans under the thumb of a federal bureaucracy while further bankrupting the nation is what might have these legislators refusing to stand up to nationalizing health care. And, unfortunately, Mr. Trumka’s thuggish and behavior appears to be going unchecked by the media and the legislators he’s threatening.

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Filed under AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka


In a town known for its uplifting silicone implants and botox injections, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is looking rather droopy these days.

As ballots go out for SAG members to decide on a new president and whether or not to merge with the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Los Angeles Times has published an article on the weakened state of SAG as it goes into its election.

With 125,000 members, the 76-year-old SAG is still the mightiest union in Hollywood. But its clout has been diminished by internal bickering, a divided boardroom and a disastrous power struggle with a smaller union that represents actors as well as broadcast journalists and disc jockeys.


Among the most startling signs of SAG’s weakened state is its grip over primetime television. SAG’s contracts cover only 17% of the new scripted primetime TV shows on the major broadcast networks, down from 86% a year ago. When it appeared SAG might strike last year, the broadcast networks took their business to AFTRA, which now controls 83% of new primetime shows. AFTRA suspended its longtime bargaining partnership with SAG last year after a dispute over turf, freeing the union to negotiate directly with the studios for primetime TV contracts.

Although SAG continues to dominate primetime television, the shift of work to AFTRA is taking a toll, reducing contributions to the actors’ health and pension plans and eroding union dues, which were already depressed because of last year’s production slowdown.

The guild had a nearly $6-million operating deficit in fiscal 2009, which ended April 30, thanks to investment losses, a drop in member dues and excessive expenses. That included funds spent on a fruitless campaign to oppose AFTRA’s contract because SAG’s former negotiators felt it contained too many concessions and undercut their own negotiations.

The guild laid off 35 workers this year to balance its $60-million budget. Although it has $20 million in reserve, SAG has projected a $4-million deficit for fiscal 2010, people familiar with the guild’s finances said.

SAG’s decline comes as actors are having a tougher time finding work. Studios cut back production because of the sagging economics of the business, and networks have replaced more scripted programs with less expensive reality fare, game shows and talk shows. Actors have seen a steady slide in their income from residuals, the extra fees they get from reruns, as fewer shows repeat on the networks or are sold in syndication. Networks increasingly repeat shows on the Internet, where residuals are a fraction of those on network television, or on cable TV, where pay rates are lower.

With all that the actors’ union is facing, perhaps this is one time that silicone implants and botox injections won’t help lift the SAG.

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Filed under AFTRA, SAG, Screen Actors Guild


By the looks of it, striking workers in Terre Haute, Indiana lost a lot of money on an issue of principle and union dues.

Workers represented by the SEIU’s new affiliate Workers United (formerly known as UNITE) ended a 40-day strike with a contract that 1) addressed the union’s need to include seasonal workers into the bargaining unit (more dues), while 2) partially addressing workers’ concerns that they and their families would not be required to take a Health Risk Assessment by the company’s insurance carrier.

According to the Tribune Star:

According to the [union press] release, issued by Eric Sharfstein, a spokesman out of Workers United’s New York office, “the agreement does away with Bemis’ plans to utilize temporary workers. Seasonal employees working for more than five months will become a part of the bargaining unit.”

Union officials noted throughout the strike that the issues of temporary workers and mandated Health Risk Assessments were key to their opposition.Regarding the proposed Health Risk Assessments, which would have required workers and their families to submit to medical testing, the release states “the union now has the right to bargain an alternative health plan that does not mandate Health Risk Assessment testing. In the company’s health care plan, children of workers will not be required to submit to Health Risk Assessments for the term of the contract.”

According to this strike calculator, it’s estimated that each of the workers lost over $2500 during the union strike leaving one to question: Was it worth it? [It sure appears to be worth it to the union.]

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Filed under SEIU, Workers United


After feeling the heat from the soon-to-be-unemployed membership at Mercury Marine, the International Association of Machinists finally relented and made a gesture toward allowing the members to revote on the contract offer they rejected last Sunday.

The problem was, the voting started at 10 p.m. on Saturday night and again at 6 a.m. this morning–a full six hours after the company said its offer would expire.

From JSOnline:

A last-minute decision Saturday to have a second vote on a labor contract at Mercury Marine Inc. was effectively killed early Sunday when the company said it would not accept the results of any ballots cast after midnight.

Late Saturday night, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 1947 announced there would be a second vote on the contract proposal that was scheduled to expire at midnight. Voting began at the union hall in Fond du Lac shortly after 10 p.m., was expected to last until midnight and continue on Sunday until 6 p.m.

But early Sunday morning, union officials said a Mercury Marine executive told them the company would not accept any ballots cast after midnight.

Thus, the polls will not be open Sunday as announced earlier, said Dan Longsine, the union’s chief negotiator.

Ballots cast Saturday night will probably be voided, Longsine said. The union had wanted to continue voting on Sunday, thus giving members adequate opportunity to cast their ballots.

In a statement released at 2:15 a.m. Sunday, Mercury said:

“The IAM conducted a last-minute vote on the original proposal terms and conditions but did not complete the process to a definitive conclusion prior to the expiration of the proposal. As a result, Mercury said it will continue to operate the Fond du Lac facility under the terms and conditions of the existing contract, which expires in 2012. Manufacturing workers in Fond du Lac are represented by the IAM, Local chapter 1947. As previously announced, the company will now begin the transition planning process to its Stillwater, Okla., facility.”

It appears that the union, which knew of the company deadline all week, tried to pull a quick PR stunt in an effort to cast the pall of blame back on the company.

Whether or not the members see through this transparent effort is unknown. What is known, however, is that 850 Machinists’ members will soon be unemployed.

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Filed under International Association of Machinists, Machinists, Mercury Marine


Rules are rules. In this case, however, it sounds as though the Machinists international union rules are so strict that 850 members will be losing their jobs as a result.

Below is another video explaining that the International Association of Machinists won’t let the soon-to-be unemployed members revote on the previously rejected contract.


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Filed under IAM, International Association of Machinists


Teachers laid off from the North Clackamas School District are upset with their union for what sounds like some very good reasons:

A group of teachers in the North Clackamas School District took the initiative Thursday, amid losing their jobs because of budget cuts, by gathering signatures
in an effort to have their voices heard by their union.

The teachers, who gathered outside their union office, said they want a response from the union and put their demands in writing in the form of a petition.

Those speaking out said it shouldn’t have reached this point, and they would have
accepted the district’s offer, favoring a wage freeze to save jobs.

“We took a poll in the spring and they got our opinion and the majority said wage freeze,” said Monica Whiteley, who was laid off. “So I would like them to look at the poll or honor it and have us look at the memo of understanding that is out there.”

They said they feel the union hasn’t been listening or communicating.

“I have felt like my voice has not been heard. I wasn’t asked was I OK with losing my job,” said Jenny Klassen, another laid off teacher.


Teachers said the cuts could mean 45 kids in some classrooms, which could mean squeezing in an additional 17 desks into a classroom.

And the response from the teachers’ union?

Union leaders said they had no choice. They have to do what is best for the students and all of their membership, they said.

Somehow a pay freeze and having more teachers, rather than 45 in the classroom, seems better for the kids than laying off good teachers.

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With time running out before their jobs go away, Machinists union members in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin are asking for a revote on the vote they took last week to either accept or reject their employer’s final offer.

Last Sunday, despite warnings from their employer that a rejection would mean closing their facility, Machinists members rejected the concessionary contract. Within days, members began having second thoughts.

Now, however, it appears as thought their international union is prohibiting the members from taking a revote unless their are changes to the company’s final offer. The company, however, states that its offer will not change. As WBAY reports:

“I think the bylaw thing was a straw man. There’s somebody on the IAM that doesn’t want this to happen, and it’s very unfortunate because they are not representing the interests of the people of this community,” County Executive Allen Buechel expressed.

“The situation at some point may need a hero, and may need a hero making a decision that is outside the box. We’re hoping somebody is going to step forward and make that decision that is going to keep jobs in Fond du Lac,” City Manager Tom Herre said.

It’s a decision that also divides the union.

“I’m afraid there’s going to be some violence. Actually, I’m not sure that wouldn’t happen now if a second vote and the vote went the other direction, because there’s still people who feel strongly on both sides,” Buechel said.

Some ask why the local union doesn’t just ignore national leaders and hold another vote. The county executive tells us they worry if the vote isn’t sanctioned it won’t count at all.

The company’s offer will stand until midnight tonight.

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Filed under International Association of Machinists, Machinists