I remember when I got my first union card.
I was working at the Uniroyal tire and rubber factory in City of Commerce outside of Los Angeles.
I was a member of the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastics Workers of America.
Peter Bommarito was president of my union from 1966 to 1981 and during his leadership the American tire industry mostly disappeared. Nearly 100,000 tire-making jobs were lost.
My last union membership was with the National Education Association. I retired in 2012. I served as a local president and always seemed to find myself in conflict with the leadership. I wasn’t looking for disagreement. The leadership at the state level in particular seemed clueless when it came to the nature of the members’ working conditions.
43 years from my first union card to my last.
A recent Gallup poll shows high levels of support for unions. And the support is on the rise, thanks in part to Donald Trump.
Still, Americans remain more pessimistic than optimistic about unions’ future. Forty-six percent say they think unions will become weaker than they are today, while 27% say they will be the same and 22% say stronger.
The pessimism is well founded. Industrial unions have gone the way of American industry. Now pubic employee unions are under attack and we can anticipate court rulings taking away agency fees and fair share.
The situation is not helped by a leadership that continues to seem clueless.
Take Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO. He was nearly the last member of Trump’s advisory committee to leave in protest following Charlottesville. Even Wal-Mart got out faster than he did.
National labor leader Richard Trumka said Wednesday that some White House aides “turned out to be racist” and said the Wall Street wing of President Donald Trump’s economic team is growing in influence.
“You had two factions in the White House,” the AFL-CIO president told reporters at a roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor and confirmed in audio provided by Trumka’s office to CNN. “You had one faction that actually had some of the policies that we would have supported on trade and infrastructure but turned out to be racist.”
Trumka continued: “And on the other hand, you had people who weren’t racist, but they were Wall Street. And the Wall Streeters began to dominate the administration and have moved [Trump’s] agenda back to everything he fought against in the election.”
So, Trumka quit because he . . .
Oh never mind.
Enjoy your long weekend.
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What other info do you need, Dick?
Leaders of the New York construction trades encouraged attacks on anti-war protesters following Kent State, 1970.
Naomi Klein has written a column in today’s NY Times calling attention to the disturbing scene of skilled trade union leaders meeting and applauding Trump.
A new administration can always count on many organizations to issue pro forma statements expressing a nonpartisan willingness to work with the new leader. Let’s be clear: This was not that. This was a new alliance. As Terry O’Sullivan, head of Laborers’ International Union of North America, put it on MSNBC: “The president’s a builder. We’re builders.”
I am a long-time admirer of Naomi Klein who wrote the influential book, The Shock Doctrine.
But with all due respect, this is not a new alliance.
There have always been some union leaders who feel more comfortable with the powerful than with those who remain powerless, whose view of the world is almost inseparable from management, bosses and the political elite.
Reading Klein I immediately thought back to what were known as the hard hat riots in New York following the murder of four Kent State students protesting the invasion of Cambodia in 1970.
Peter Brennan was president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. He served as the vice president of the New York City Central Labor Council and the New York State AFL-CIO. Brennan was a registered Democrat but supported Nixon and the Vietnam War.
A few days after Kent State, anti-war protesters announced they would hold a rally near City Hall to commemorate the four dead students. Brennan decided to organize a counter-rally of construction workers to show support for the Nixon administration.
Rioting construction workers violently attacked the protesters. The construction workers then invaded two nearby Pace University buildings, smashing lobby windows with clubs and crowbars and beating up students. More than 70 people were injured, including four policemen. Most of the injured required hospital treatment.
But you don’t have to go back 40 years.
Just last September we saw AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka endorsing the Dakota Pipeline using the same argument or excuse that those supporting Trump used: Jobs.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) came out this week in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the construction of which was delayed last week by an order from the Obama administration—a decision that itself stemmed from months of protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux.
In a statement, Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, said, “We believe that community involvement in decisions about constructing and locating pipelines is important and necessary, particularly in sensitive situations like those involving places of significance to Native Americas.”
As Klein points out, neither the pipeline nor Trump will provide jobs in a vibrant economy needed to improve the lives of union and not-yet union workers.
Union support of the Pipeline and Trump only divides the union movement from those who fight for social justice.
Union leaders like that are nothing new.
We have been here before.
When Antonin Scalia bought the farm, it left the Supreme Court split on the issue of agency fees and Right to Work laws.
Trump’s choice – really any choice he would have made – will end the four/four split on the court unless the Democrats obstruct any Supreme Court appointment for the next four years at least.
Right. That will happen.
What were once called “union shops” have been outlawed in the United States since Congress enacted the Taft-Hartley law in 1947. Nobody is compelled to join a union.
In Illinois if a teacher doesn’t want to join the IFT or the IEA they don’t have to. But they have to pay the share of dues that go to fair representation and bargaining.
These are agency fees, fair share or security agreements.
The next Supreme Court will outlaw all that.
And they might not have to if the Republican controlled Congress passes national right to work legislation which they have promised to do. Trump will sign it.
Some observers expect a full repeal of the National Labor Relations Act.
I’m not taking any time here to defend agency fees. The TrumpTrolls that read this blog won’t be convinced. But workers and union members understand that people benefiting from a free ride is essentially unfair.
The existence of organized labor in the United States is threatened.
Union leadership needs to fight like our lives depended on it.
Past practice being the best predictor of future performance, I am not optimistic.
Others may have to step up.
This is not a head fake.
A circuit court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) issued Dec. 6 will halt the Rauner administration’s attempts to unilaterally impose its contract terms on state employees for now.
AFSCME requested the TRO because Governor Rauner was moving to impose his demands even before the Labor Board had issued a formal, written finding of impasse between the parties.
Although the Board’s written decision was issued while the TRO request was pending, the judge found that “by implementing new terms and conditions of employment without notice to and the agreement of the union”, the Rauner administration “has violated that Tolling Agreement” that extends the terms of the current contract.
Under the TRO, the administration must honor the tolling agreement and rescind any changes it has made, at least until a hearing now set for January 13 (possibly sooner).
“Although temporary, this order sends a message to Governor Rauner that he is not above the law,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “Instead of sparking further conflict in the courts and at state worksites, Governor Rauner should return to bargaining and work with us to find common ground.”
Rauner’s demands include a 100% increase in employee costs for health care, a four-year pay freeze, and a blank check to outsource public services for private profit. The governor has refused to negotiate with AFSCME ever since the administration broke off talks and walked away back in January.
The Rauner-appointed Labor Board’s impasse decision threw out the recommendations of the administrative law judge who presided over two months of hearings in the case. The ALJ had found no impasse on major issues such as wages and health care, and had said Rauner should be ordered to return to bargaining.
AFSCME has appealed the Labor Board decision in Cook County appellate court. The union will request a stay to prevent Rauner from imposing his terms during the appeal process.
In his continuing attempts at destroying public employee collective bargaining in Illinois Governor Rauner, announced that negotiations between him and the union representing state employees, AFSCME, had reached an impasse following his last and final offer of a four year wage freeze.
AFSCME filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County circuit court seeking an injunction to block Rauner from imposing the contract on state workers.
A ruling from the judge had been expected Monday afternoon. It was expected the judge would rule in favor of state workers.
Suddenly, early yesterday, the Rauner-friendly Illinois Labor Relations Board issued a ruling favoring the Governor.
The governor’s office argued that the ILRB ruling made any court ruling moot.
(AFSCME’s Anders)Lindall said the union found it “more than coincidental” that the labor board “suddenly” issued its written decision about the time a circuit court was “set to block the Rauner administration from illegally moving forward” on implementation of contract provisions.
Melissa Mlynski, executive director of the labor relations board, said the board’s timing had nothing to do with the St. Clair County case, and it was “absolutely” a coincidence that the written decision came on a day an order was expected from that southern Illinois court.
Do you believe in coincidences? Magic?
The silent AFL CIO President Richard Trumka.
This is the corporate scam we have seen time and again. A corporation employing hundreds or thousands of people threatens to move to another state – usually one with right-to-work-for-nothing laws – or to Mexico or China and local state government throws every tax break they got at them to get them to stay.
Often, a year later they close anyway. Or cut wages. Or go after the union.
With Trump’s announcement that he saved Carrier production in Indiana, we see the practice expanding as a national economic policy.
Despite the cheers Mr. Trump received as he walked around the factory floor, where the lines continued to run and he had to shout at times to be heard, another 1,000 workers for the company in Indiana will be losing their jobs.
This includes 700 at a United Technologies factory in nearby Huntington, as well as several hundred here. The 800 or so jobs that are being preserved are mostly on the lines that build medium- and high-efficiency gas furnaces.
In essence, United Technologies took Trump hostage and won. And that should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.
Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren’t thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be reevaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America?
The working class of America.
Apparently the shock waves didn’t find their way to AFl-CIO headquarters where President Richard Trumka has yet to comment.
Trumka was quick to side with those building the pipeline at Standing Rock, but has lost his voice on this corporate black mail.
(Pittsburgh) — The United Steelworkers (USW) today said it is pleased that Carrier Corp. has decided to retain nearly 1,000 of the 1,400 manufacturing jobs that it planned to move from Indianapolis to Mexico beginning in 2017. The union looks forward to learning the details of the proposed deal, whose jobs will be saved and how much production will remain in Indiana.
“The dedicated USW members in Indianapolis who build quality heating equipment for Carrier deserve credit for bringing the union’s fight to save their jobs to the attention of the nation during the 2016 presidential campaign,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.
“The details are yet to be known, but America needs good-paying, family-sustaining jobs. We thank President-elect Trump for listening to our members and following through on his campaign pledge to persuade Carrier to keep production of quality heating equipment in Indianapolis.”
“We also appreciate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ efforts in keeping this issue on the front burner,” said USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap.
During the campaign, the president-elect spoke out vigorously for the need to bring jobs back home, to invest in domestic manufacturing, take a hard line with trading partners and reform our nation’s failed trade practices. The USW shares those goals.
The USW has long fought, and will keep fighting in both Republican and Democratic administrations, for government policies to promote and support domestic manufacturing and the interests of working people.
“America’s manufacturing sector was once the path to middle class prosperity and has been the envy of the world. But, for too long, it has had to compete against unfair trade practices and flawed trade policies that have promoted outsourcing and offshoring,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway.
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries, including metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, mining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.
“Never say ‘impasse’,” our IEA Uniserv Director always warned us when we bargained with our school board.
He said it so often that we would joke about it.
During breaks, mostly after hours and hours of bargaining, acting goofy from too much pizza, candy bars and bad coffee, someone might silently mouth the word. Or say, “in pass,” or “imp ass.”
Our UD didn’t find it funny.
But it’s not really funny. That is because the way collective bargaining rules are set up – a way that not surprisingly favors management – the bosses can make a “last, best and final offer.” Then bargaining ends and the union can take it or leave it.
That is an impasse.
Last year Governor Rauner vetoed a bill that would have essentially prevented him from creating an impasse in his negotiations with AFSCME which represents state workers.
Madigan’s Democrats could not organize their members, which should have been a veto proof majority, to override the veto.
Yesterday the Illinois Labor Relations Board ruled that an impasse exists. AFSCME, concerned about both their members and the citizens of Illinois who they serve, want to continue to bargain and not strike.
Rauner’s last, best and final offer to the 38,000 state workers includes a four-year wage freeze and a 100 percent increase in employee health insurance costs.
The ruling rejects recommendations by an administrative law judge in September who said an impasse existed on some contract issues – including privatization – but not on the issues of a pay increase or health insurance benefits. She recommended the two sides return to the bargaining table on those. She found the administration did not provide information to the union, such as savings from changes to health care, that the union needed for bargaining.
“If the state were able to implement its entire last, best and final offer, the implications and impact would be so enormous that, when applied to this case, it would be destructive of the collective bargaining process and not serve the statutory mission of the board,” Sarah Kerley wrote in her recommendation to the labor board.
The ruling fires a bullet into the heart of collective bargaining.
AFSCME says they will appeal the ruling.
My cartoon from June, 2014.
When Chuy Garcia challenged Rahm Emanuel for the Mayor’s job the Chicago union movement was split. Although SEIU 73 did not officially endorse Emanuel, they contributed money to his campaign and undermined union support for the progressive Chuy Garcia.
When Rahm was looking to cut a deal to cut pension benefits to city employees, SEIU 73 was willing to cut that deal. It was a deal that the Illinois Supreme Court quickly ruled unconstitutional.
SEIU 73 has been more than willing to collaborate and get along with the Mayor, to the detriment of its members.
Its leadership – President Christine Boardman and Secretary-Treasurer Matt Brandon – have had an on again-off again relationship over who had the power.
Yesterday SEIU had to step in on behalf of the membership and have removed both Boardman and Brandon from their positions, replaced by trustees.
In December of 2014 I wrote:
When city unions filed suit against Rahm’s pension cuts, Rahm said the cuts were good because he bargained them with city unions.
Those unions included Bricklayers District Council, Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW 134, Iron Workers District Council, IUOE 150, IUOE 399, Laborers’ District Council, Pipefitters 597, Plumbers 130, Sprinkle Fitters 281 and Christine Boardman’s SEIU 73.
The unions suing Rahm because he has violated the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution are the Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME Council 31, IFT-AFT, Teamsters Local 700 and the Illinois Nurses Association.
That closely represents the progressive divide among unions in Chicago.
The fight between Boardman and Brandon has not been about which side of the divide SEIU 73 should be on or who best represents the interest of the rank-and-file.
Now, with the trustee take-over, perhaps SEIU 73 can move in the direction of representing its members.