LaborNet logo

Labor Newsline logo


Work in Progress, March 27, 2000

New members reported in this week's WIP: 2,022

New members reported in WIP, year to date: 36,135

RWDSU DOESN'T PLAY CHICKEN --Some 850 workers at Charoen Pokphand USA Inc.'s poultry plant in Eufaula, Ala., gained a voice at work through the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a Food and Commercial Workers affiliate, after a successful card-check, in which an employer agrees to recognize a union when a majority of workers sign union cards. They now have a contract with improved benefits, vacation time and health insurance after workers ratified their first union contract Feb. 22.

ENGINEERING GROWTH --The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace/IFPTE Local 2001 gained more than a fair contract during its 40-day strike at Boeing. During the strike, 734 engineers decided to join the union.

APWU DELIVERS -- After a five-month campaign, 365 workers at Alan Ritchey Inc. in Chicopee, Mass., voted March 17 for Postal Workers Local 497. The company contracts with the U.S. Postal Service to maintain Mail Transport Equipment Centers at six sites. "We are showing the Postal Service that we will follow the work. Management plans to contract-out will only result in the APWU organizing the workers no matter where they send it," said Ken Fitzpatrick, president of the local.

BUILDING THE UNION -- Plasterers Local 200 in Pomona, Calif., welcomed 73 new members through a pre-hire agreement with Superior Wall Systems Inc. The pre-hire agreement--which governs labor-management relations on future building projects, including hiring--covers a dozen southern California counties.

ONE STEP CLOSER -- Strawberry pickers at Coastal Berry Co. in Ventura, Calif., are one step closer to joining the Farm Workers. The employees there voted for UFW last year, but their votes were combined with another unit in Watsonville, Calif., where the union did not prevail. This month, a state labor judge ruled that the Ventura County workers should be considered a separate unit. The case now goes to the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

COMPANY IN CHAOS -- After weeks of unsuccessful negotiations and three years without a contract, the Flight Attendants March 25 reached a tentative agreement with US Airways, hours after the expiration of a federally mandated 30-day cooling-off period. AFA US Airways Master Executive Council President Lynn Lenosky said members achieved a fair contract because they "displayed extraordinary solidarity and patience throughout four long years without a pay raise." Faced with AFA's CHAOS strategy ("Create Havoc Around Our System") for unannounced work disruptions, the airline had threatened to shut down operations and lock out its workers. The five-year pact awaits approval by the union council and ratification by the membership. Some 40 members of the UAW, Theatrical Stage Employees, Fire Fighters and Steelworkers held a vigil supporting AFA members at the Charlotte, N.C., airport from 7 p.m. Friday night until the 3:30 a.m. Saturday settlement announcement.

PORT AUTHORITY -- Hundreds of truck drivers from New Jersey to Virginia who haul containers from ports to warehouses and railheads rolled a convoy through Washington, D.C., March 22 to rally for lower diesel fuel prices, a port drivers' bill of rights and an end to steamship line antitrust exemptions. The rally followed a meeting of drivers and Teamsters officials to develop strategies for organizing the 50,000 port drivers. IBT Port Division Director George Cashman told demonstrators that port drivers are subject to "the whims of managers who require work without pay, refuse to provide basic benefits and force the handling of toxic materials."

FOR A FAIR WORLD ECONOMY -- Working families and their unions will come together for a series of actions in April to spread the message that the global economy should support people, not profits. On April 9, trade unionists from across the country will join students, people of faith and human rights activists for the Jubilee 2000/USA rally and form a human chain to call on Congress to cancel the crushing debt of the world's poorest countries, which locks their citizens in poverty and erodes living standards and workers' and human rights everywhere. On April 12, more than 10,000 working men and women will lobby their members of Congress to demand "No Blank Check for China!" and urge Congress to refuse to grant China permanent Normal Trade Relations status, discarding annual reviews of that country's trade and human rights practices. They will break at noon for a rally outside the Capitol. During the April congressional recess, unions and their allies will sponsor rallies and other events in the districts of members of Congress to speak out against permanent NTR for China. For more information, visit

STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS -- The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of Asian Pacific American organizations, applauded the AFL-CIO Executive Council's decision to mobilize to ensure the full protection of workplace rights for immigrants. "We support the AFL-CIO's call for an end to the current employer verification system, which leads to discrimination in the hiring of people of color," said Daphne Kwok, NCAPA chair and executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans. The union movement is mobilizing to protect the rights of immigrant workers, beginning with a series of four forums on the issues these workers face. The first forum will take place April 1, when Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson will join other union leaders, immigrant workers, community leaders and civil-rights advocates at SEIU Local 32B-32J in New York City. For more information, call the AFL-CIO Northeast Region Office at 212-661-1555, ext. 15.

UNIONS RALLY FOR FARMERS -- Union members and rural and community activists joined more than 1,000 farmers*many of whom are members of the National Farmers Union*to rally against legislation that favors big agribusiness over family farmers. The 1996 Republican-backed Omnibus Farm Bill "has been a massive failure," said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. "Our current farm policy has been driven entirely by giant agribusiness conglomerates that have about as much relation to family farms as Microsoft does to the corner lemonade stand," he told the gathering. For more information, visit the NFU website at

TAKING STOCK -- Underwriters from Goldman Sachs thought they could readily pitch the initial public offering of stock in PetroChina, a Chinese government-controlled company that is linked to human rights abuses. That was before human rights and workers' rights activists opened giant yellow umbrellas that read "Goldman Sachs: Shame" on a picket line at New York's St. Regis Hotel March 22, forcing the Wall Streeters to switch their briefing to another location. Inside the St. Regis, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Chinese workers' rights advocate Harry Wu briefed pension fund trustees, institutional investors and the media on the moral and financial dangers of investing in Chinese state-owned enterprises. The next day, demonstrators armed with "Shame" umbrellas disrupted Goldman Sachs' next road show event in a Boston hotel. To date, pension managers with more than $1 trillion in assets have said they would not participate in the PetroChina stock offering. Since the campaign began, Goldman Sachs has lowered the IPO from $7.5 billion to $3 billion.

BRING GOOD RIGHTS TO LIFE -- AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called on General Electric to stop investing in China until the world's most populous nation adopts basic workers' rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, and prohibits discrimination and child and forced labor. Meeting March 22 with union members who traveled to Washington, D.C., from GE plants around the world, Sweeney noted that GE already has 30 joint ventures in China worth $1.5 billion. The worldwide meeting of GE unions was to help coordinate the unions' efforts to enforce a code of corporate conduct and to provide support for U.S. contract talks, which begin May 30.

KENNEDY RAISES WAGE BILL -- Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced a straightforward minimum-wage bill March 23 to raise the $5.15 an hour wage by $1 over two years. "It is time for Republican senators to abandon their misguided and unfair attempt to dilute the increase by spreading it over three years," Kennedy said. In February, the Senate passed a three-year, $1 minimum-wage increase coupled with $75 billion in tax breaks for businesses as part of a bankruptcy bill. In March, the House passed a $1-an-hour increase over two years, but attached it to a $122 billion tax cut, aimed mostly at the wealthy, and also included repeal of some worker protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

NOT A RUSH --"I think it's clear that OSHA's proposed rule making is not a rush to judgment. It is long overdue," said Peg Seminario, director of the AFL-CIO Department of Safety and Health, as she kicked off the federation's testimony on the proposed new ergonomic standard March 23. The AFL-CIO suggested changes to strengthen the proposed rule, including expanding its protections to cover construction, maritime, agriculture and other workers; better workplace training; and quicker "triggers" for employers to act on hazards. Representatives of the Letter Carriers and Postal Workers also testified March 23, and AFT testified March 24. For more information on the hearing schedules, witnesses and AFL-CIO testimony, visit

MORE STAFF=BETTER CARE -- After a year of lobbying by SEIU District 1199ED with help from the SEIU Maryland State Council, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill designating $20 million to improve staffing levels in the state's nursing homes. The funds will be matched by the federal government. Last year, the union successfully pressed for a legislative task force to examine the impact of poor staffing levels on the quality of care at the facilities.

STRIKING DECISION -- By overwhelming margins, the 10,000 members of the Association of Graduate Student Employees at eight University of California campuses voted to authorize a strike, if necessary, over UC's unfair labor practices in first contract talks. The union, a UAW affiliate formed in 1999, filed more than 40 complaints with the NLRB against the schools. For more information, visit

LIVING WAGE GETS RELIGION -- The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which represents 13 national and 122 local Jewish community relations agencies nationwide, passed a resolution Feb. 29 supporting living-wage legislation under consideration in many cities and counties. Many religious groups across the country have come together with unions to support living-wage proposals. "The passage of this resolution demonstrates the commitment of the Jewish community in this country to a more fair and more just society," said Morton Bahr, president of the Jewish Labor Committee and CWA.

CHAVEZ HOLIDAY APPROVED -- After a five-year effort by union activists and their supporters, Arizona soon will honor the late César Chávez, founder of the UFW, with a holiday. Both houses of the state legislature passed bills designating March 31 as an unpaid state holiday in honor of the union leader; Gov. Jane Hull (R) has indicated she will sign it.

         # # #


Online communications for a democratic labor movement.
This page is maintained by
Copyright 1999 LaborNet