Labor Briefing for September 2017

By BILL ONASCH

A vote to reject—In recent years the threat of a veto by a Democratic governor stalled right-wing plans to pass a so-called “Right-to-Work” law in Missouri, as was passed in several other new states. That last obstacle was breached when the 2016 elections not only gave the Republicans a veto-proof majority in the legislature—they got a Trumpite governor to boot. To their credit, the Missouri labor movement didn’t accept the Open Shop with good grace. They skillfully used a section of the state constitution to delay implementation of the law until a voter referendum next year. This required a petition signed by 100,000 registered voters before the Aug. 28 effective date of the legislation. The unions turned in 310,000 notarized signatures to be on the safe side.

This will be the second time that RtW will be on the ballot in Missouri. If today’s unions use the lessons of the 1978 defeat of the Open Shop they should get the same results. A future article in this paper will review that labor victory.

Trans-Atlantic Labor Day—The once common Labor Day parades and picnics have grown fewer every year. But strikes by fast-food workers demanding 15 Dollars and a Union took place in about 300 locations across the USA this Labor Day. They were backed by support demonstrations by Faculty Forward, an arm of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organizing low wage adjunct college professors, as well as other unions, worker centers, and local coalitions. And for the first time, they were joined in solidarity by MacDonald’s workers in Britain fighting for 10£ and a Union.

Sept. 2017 350 for $15

Members of 350 Connecticut in Hartford joined the Labor Day picket for a $15 minimum wage. Photo: Socialist Action.

Fed up with Mickey Mouse unionism—About half of the 9000 members of Orlando-based Teamsters Local 385 are employed at Disney World. Starting wages there are only $10 an hour for jobs such as greeters roaming the area dressed like Mickey Mouse. The local, along with five other unions representing 70,000 Disney workers, will soon be opening contract negotiations. But the ranks have many complaints about the local officers. The union’s Independent Review Board is investigating possible corruption, and for the first time in many years an opposition slate is challenging the Old Guard in leadership elections.

Services may be withdrawn—At our deadline, two SEIU Locals representing San Diego and Riverside Counties in Southern California had set strike deadlines after each employer threatened to impose “final offer” new contracts. Thousands of workers in each county rallied as leaders submitted the strike notices to their respective bosses. Local 221 bargains for 10,000 San Diego workers; there are 7000 in the Riverside Local 721. Their ranks include nurses, librarians, appraisers, social workers, and clerical staff.

Free speech” for free riders—Earlier this year a short-handed Supreme Court deadlocked on a California suit contrived by the boss-funded National Right to Work Committee known as Friedrichs. They had argued that requiring public-sector workers declining to join the union to pay a service fee to cover contract negotiation and enforcement expenses, which also benefit those not paying union dues, was a denial of their free speech rights. Now that the confirmation of right-wing Neil Gorsuch seems to assure a solid all male, anti-labor SCOTUS majority, the NRWC is back for another bite of the same apple—this time for a free rider wannabe in Illinois.

Blimp not included—A new five-year Steelworkers master contract covering Goodyear plants in Akron, Topeka, Danville, Virginia, Gadsden, Alabama, and Fayetteville, N.C., was ratified by big margins. News reports did not include any details.

Better late than never—On Aug. 19, more than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service workers covered by the terms of the National Association of Letter Carriers contract finally received a 1.2 percent retroactive raise, effective November 2016, and two backdated annual cost-of-living adjustments of $21 and $333 lump sums. They will receive a third COLA effective Sept. 2 worth $270. The Obama administration had held back this money until a new contract was ratified. That finally happened on Aug. 7—approved by a 94% vote. Over the life of the agreement, which runs until September 2019, there will be only one more raise of 1.3 percent along with four additional COLAs. USPS is allowed to reduce their contribution to health insurance 3% during the contract. Postal worker strikes are illegal.

Headed the right direction—A Labor Day Gallup poll showed: “In the U.S., 61% of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65% approval recorded in 2003. The current labor union approval is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009.”

New ground won at Philly airport—Philly.com reported: “Airline contractors at Philadelphia International Airport have agreed to bargain collectively with the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ a contract for about 1400 passenger service workers, after four years and numerous protests. The workers voted overwhelmingly in April to join the SEIU, but their employers, subcontractors hired by various airlines, had refused to negotiate. The bag handlers, wheelchair attendants, aircraft cabin cleaners, and sky caps threatened a walkout last month, when American Airlines stepped in to smooth the way.”

If you have a story suitable for Labor Briefing please contact billonasch@kclabor.org