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Work in Progress, May 1, 2000


New members reported in this week's WiP: 8,339
New members reported in WiP, year to date: 57,220

AFT CORRALS TEXAS WIN--AFT won consultation rights for 7,664 teachers and support personnel in the El Paso school district. Texas law does not provide for public employee collective bargaining, but does allow school staff members to choose a single "coordinating organization" for representation purposes. The April 26 election was the fifth "consultation" win in Texas for AFT, with previous victories in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin.

RIDING THE BUS WITH AFSCME--The overwhelming majority of 285 bus drivers and aides who work for Ryder Student Transportation Services in Park City, Ill., overcame an aggressive anti-union campaign and voted April 20 for a voice on the job with AFSCME Council 31. Meanwhile, the 92 employees of Renville County, Minn., decided that a union was the answer to a lot of problems that arose during the transition to a county administrator form of government. Two bargaining units, one for courthouse and public health workers, another for human services employees, now represent all county employees.

ELECTRIFYING WIN--The 211 workers at American Electric Power Co.'s Southern Regional Service Organization in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia voted April 26 for Mine Workers representation. The mechanics, welders and control technicians at the six affected plants sought better work rules and dignity and respect, the UMWA said. "Today, we feel a lot more secure about our jobs," said Kenny Davis, a mechanic at the Gavin plant in Cheshire, Ohio.

WINNING WAYS--Eighty-seven employees at New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home in New Bedford, Mass., voted for Food and Commercial Workers Local 328 April 20.

BERRY GOOD NEWS--California's Agricultural Labor Relations Board upheld a court decision enabling the strawberry workers at Coastal Berry Co. in Ventura County to enjoy Farm Workers representation. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez called for speedy resolution of remaining legal issues so that bargaining may begin for the workers, who chose the union in a June 1999 state-conducted election.

WORKERS MEMORIAL DAY--On Workers Memorial Day, union members, worker safety advocates and historians dedicated a monument near Bloomington, Ill., to more than 50 Irish rail workers who died while building the Alton and Sangamon Railroad in the 1850s and who were buried, unidentified, in a mass grave. In Dearborn, Mich., trade unionists dedicated a memorial to Francis "Butch"  Kidd, a 22-year Boilermakers member who was killed on the job in 1999 at the New Rogue Powerhouse. Those were just two of the more than 100 ceremonies around the country observing April 28 as Workers Memorial Day. The events honored workers killed and injured on the job while workers mobilized for safer jobs and stronger job safety laws, such as OSHA's proposed ergonomic standard to reduce the nearly 2 million repetitive stress injuries workers suffer annually.

DEFINITELY LATER--Tell your great, great grandchildren the OSHA inspector is on the way. It would take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about 107  years to inspect every job site under its jurisdiction, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO Safety and Health Department. Released April 25, the 9th edition of the annual report says it would take more than 150 years in eight states--Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. The report, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect--A State-by-State Profile of Worker Safety and Health in the United States, also notes the average penalty for a serious violation of federal job safety standards is $776; in states that carry out the enforcement themselves, the penalty is about $600. The report calls for increased funding for more inspectors and enforcement of job safety laws. OSHA's current $382 million budget breaks down to about $3.64 per worker in the private sector. The report is available online at safety/infodth.htm.

'NO BLANK CHECK' FOLLOWS CONGRESS HOME--Working families across the country marched, rallied and spoke out against granting China permanent Normal Trade Relations as the AFL- CIO's "No Blank Check for China" mobilization followed lawmakers home during the just-completed spring congressional recess. In a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., rally April 25, more than 100 union members, human rights activists, students and environmentalists urged Reps. Peter Deutsch (D) and Carrie Meek (D) to maintain Congress' annual review of China's human and workers' rights record. If Congress approves permanent NTR, "You would lose the best tool in restraining China's human rights abuses. And you could extend China's lawlessness into other countries," former Chinese political prisoner Wei Jingsheng said through an interpreter. A four-day "Free Trade Caravan" rolled through Texas last week, with stops for rallies in front of lawmakers' offices in Dallas, Austin and McAllen and at the Chinese Consulate in Houston. Along with the working family mobilizations, the AFL-CIO aired a series of television ads featuring Wei telling viewers about his 18 years in prison for speaking out for workers' rights. For more information on the AFL-CIO's "No Blank Check for China" campaign and to send a message to your members of Congress, visit

HOLY TOLEDO, WHAT A MARCH--Some 2,000 Toledo building trades and other union members marched on a downtown hotel to let the Associated Building Contractors, an anti-union group of construction companies, know that Toledo is a union town. The April 28 march and rally was organized by the Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council and the Toledo Area AFL-CIO Council after it was learned the ABC was meeting to explore ways to break into the area's construction market, the majority of which is unionized, said Ronald Coughenour, Toledo AFL-CIO executive secretary-treasurer. "We don't need them in this town," he said.

STAYING HERE--Seven of eight undocumented workers who were turned in to immigration officials by management after they helped form a union at the Holiday Inn Express in Minneapolis last October will remain in the country under a decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service announced April 25. Three federal agencies ruled in January that the workers had been discriminated against and illegally discharged. Hundreds of union members and immigrant supporters crowded the Bloomington courtroom where the agreement was announced. The AFL-CIO and the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees had urged the government not to deport the workers because they had helped the agencies investigate charges of race bias, retaliation and document abuse. "I just want to go back to work so I can support my family," said Norma Del Toro, one of the workers.

FIRST FRUITS IN PUERTO RICO FOR AFT--The union campaign to bring Puerto Rico's public employees a voice on the job has borne its first fruit: Members of the AFT affiliate, Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, have ratified their first contract. It includes a grievance procedure with binding arbitration, paid preparation time for all elementary and secondary teachers, strong language on availability of adequate supplies and equipment and provisions on health and safety conditions. The contract is a product of the first part of the Puerto Rico public-sector bargaining process on noneconomic issues; bargaining on economic issues begins in January. Puerto Rico's governor   and commissioner of education, as well as AFT President Sandra Feldman, are scheduled to attend today's signing ceremony.

SUPER WINS--UFCW's campaign to organize superstores scored two more wins. Meat cutters at the Super Kmart in Oakland, Calif., ratified April 26 what the union says is the first- ever union agreement at a Kmart retail, outlet almost four years after workers voted for UFCW Local 120. The new contract "opens the door for workers in all the 'big box' stores," said Local 120 President Tom Hamman. In Jacksonville, Texas, the NLRB upheld the vote by meat cutters at the Wal-Mart superstore to join UFCW. "Wal-Mart fears a united workforce*and the company would do or say anything to deceive and divide workers," said UFCW Local 540 President John Rodriguez. The Jacksonville workers "remain rock solid in their fight for a voice and workers across the country are joining in to support them."

KAISER TALKS TO RESUME--One day after the NLRB said it would charge Kaiser Aluminum with an illegal lockout of more than 2,900 workers, the company agreed to resume contract talks with the Steelworkers, beginning May 10 in Houston. The remedy for Kaiser's unlawful action is full back pay and benefits retroactive to Jan. 14, 1999, when the company illegally locked out its employees. USWA members struck Kaiser on Sept. 30, 1998, after the company's unfair labor practices and substandard contract offer, and offered to return to work on Jan. 13, 1999.

A 'PRACTICE' STRIKE--Graduate student employees at Philadelphia's Temple University said they were "just practicing" when they set up a picket line in front of the school's administration building April 27. The 1,100 teaching and research assistants have been trying to organize a union with AFT since last year. "We're just practicing at this point," said sociology teaching assistant Liz DiNenno. "Down the road, we may find it necessary to stop working, not submit students' grades and have a real strike if the university continues to deny our right to representation."

UNITE-D AGAINST NIKE--Nearly 100 union, religious and student activists inside the company's New York City store unfurled a banner that read, "Nike Sweatshops: Just Don't Do It," April 25 as 500 more rallied outside. The activists from UNITE, United Students Against Sweatshops, People of Faith Network and the National Labor Committee were protesting the abusive conditions under which Nike workers in Asia make the popular footwear, as detailed in a UNITE report issued the same day, Sweatshops Behind the Swoosh.The report is available at report.html.

PENSION VOTE--A stockholder resolution that would have restored to IBM employees pension and retiree medical benefits they had before IBM substituted an inferior plan gained enough votes at the company's annual meeting April 25 to be placed on the ballot  for next year's meeting as well. More than 300 workers came to the meeting  to campaign for the change, which garnered 28 percent of the vote. The resolution is sponsored by Alliance@IBM, a group of employees working with the Electrical Workers and Communications Workers to gain a voice at work.

GLOBAL EDUCATION--More than 300 union and university educators and activists from around the world came to this year's annual labor education conference, "Unions and the Global Economy: Labor Education at the Crossroads." Co- sponsored by the AFL-CIO Education Department and the University and College Labor Education Association (UCLEA), the conference was held April 13-15 in Milwaukee. Participants discussed union strategies to build worker power across borders, teaching global solidarity and the impact of globalization and trade policies on unions and communities. The gathering also was the founding meeting of the Union Association for Labor Education, formed by the merger of the college-based educators of UCLEA and independent educators of Workers' Education Local 189/CWA.

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