Stories I pay attention to

October 21, 2008
The City Life

Regulating the 99-Cent Store

 

 

There’s greed on Main Street, too. Along Knickerbocker Avenue, the teeming, low-income shopping drag in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, the news is that two top executives at a local supermarket were arrested on felony charges that they had cheated their immigrant workers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary.

The executives deny the charges. But prosecutors allege that they forced grocery baggers to work 11-hour days for $20 or so in customer tips — and no wages. Other workers, they say, were paid nearly $3 per hour less than the state’s minimum wage for 70-hour weeks. Along the avenue, where workers have been routinely short-waged for decades, the idea that someone was finally arrested was a source of amazement — as if the government had decided to regulate Wall Street.

It took years of work by community organizers — remember all of the guffawing about that title at the G.O.P. convention? — at Make the Road New York to finally grab the attention of state investigators.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/opinion/21tue4.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

The laid-off bankers

10 a.m. They still feel the hurt. They have been let go, moved aside, pushed out, dumped, sent off and don’t smile much. But they don’t grump either. They hold their words the way they held onto their careers – tightly. They are old-timers and newcomers with 10 years at the place that sent them packing with a few weeks severance and not much more.

One big place ate a smaller one.

The old-timers are grey-haired and quiet with wrinkled skin, tired eyes, and no mention, no discussion, no looking back at how 25, 30, 38 years went by. Not here. Not today. They are trying to turn their heads forward though they must be constantly going in the other direction.

They were replaced, they say, by younger people or people who said they had bigger ideas who did not appreciate what they did when their company was smaller. They don’t like these people who came in with the new company from all over the country. They say they are too brash, too ambitious, too different from those who worked besides them before. And none of them say they want to go to work again for a big company or corporate America. Not these bankers swept aside in waves reaching deeper and farther today.

Sitting at the table at the outplacement company meeting here in Chicago, sitting with pads and paper and blank faces, sitting waiting to learn all about starting new careers as entrepreneurs, sitting and listen but not talking much, there’s not much passion in them about the future. Only their passion about what they left behind and how they left. And their fears of how they will get by and whether they will get by at all.

I am struck. I’ve heard this so often from blue-collar workers grousing angrily at a bar down from the factory at a picnic or sadly reminiscing at a union hall made empty by layoffs. But it’s a loss like any another. Isn’t it? Yet it’s a wave of losses like never before in my life. I wonder where and how they’ll wind up.

So do they, I bet.

But they don’t say much.

No work, Long lines- Las largas filas de los desempleados

11:18 a.m. Only one man is shoveling the paperwork as the unemployment office line keeps growing. About 30 are ahead of me. Another guy comes over to help out. “New claims,” he hollers. A group hustle up to him. One,  an elderly Chinese man, seems confused. The second guy shakes his head and shoos him away. “We’re overwhelmed and understaffed,” he says. “The extension has us swamped.” The elderly man wanders among the desks and someone finally helps him.

At my turn, the guy behind the counter says I’m in the system but it’s backed up. Too many people. Oh well. No check this week.

Is this what’s happening in places where the numbers of jobless are high? Who are these people in line, waiting to sign up for more benefits? Why couldn’t they find a job before? And why do so many seem not to qualify? How many exactly?

Here’s one story that touches on this, but doesn’t take us there.

Down and out in Southwest Florida: Unemployment rates make a dramatic jump to historic highs

By Daily News staff and Associated Press reports

Originally published 10:27 a.m., August 15, 2008
Updated 10:07 p.m., August 15, 2008

— Out of work?

You’re not alone.

In July, jobless rates spiked again in Southwest Florida.

In Collier County, the unemployment rate jumped to 7.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent a month earlier and 5.3 percent a year ago, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.

In Lee County, it’s more bleak. The unemployment rate climbed to 8.4 percent last month, up from 7.6 percent in June and 5.1 percent a year ago.

Southwest Florida has been hit particularly hard because so many of its jobs were in construction, which has slowed to a crawl with a housing slump.

The state lost 79,200 construction jobs over the year.

“A lot of the retail stores have cut back hours and cut back on staff. Construction is still winding down more and more. We are definitely having a slowdown,” said Naples investment manager and financial advisor Robert Matheson.

Florida’s unemployment rate hit a 13-year high of 6.1 percent in July, up from 5.5 percent a month earlier and 4.1 percent a year ago. It was higher than the national rate of 5.7 percent.

Hendry County posted the highest unemployment rate in

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2008/aug/15/floridas-unemployment-rate-hits-13-year-high/?printer=1/

from the LA Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-outthere16-2009jan16,0,5368211.story?page=2

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/business/economy/20columbia.html?th&emc=th

La vida sin esperanza por los carwasheros

Some workers are invisible. They serve. They do the jobs we want. And we don’t notice, don’t ask, don’t wonder. In New York and L.A. officials have been wondering about the working conditions of car washers. The A.P. had a story about such. But an earlier story in the L.A. Times went further, though it could have done more to explain who they are – these carwasheros – and why the steelworkers are helping to organize them. It could have been a day in the life of cheapening suds.

Here’s the LA Times piece, and yeah, don’t forget to tip after they dry the car.

Inspectors find dirt on books at area carwashes

Owners frequently violate labor and immigration laws with little risk of penalty, officials say. Many workers are loath to complain, but some have formally accused their bosses of underpaying them.

A team of state inspectors strode into the Blue Wave Car Wash in West Los Angeles, past latte-sipping customers in electric massage chairs and into the gritty carwash tunnel.

¿Cuánto gana usted?” the inspectors asked worker after worker, about 20 of them, most Latino immigrants. “How much do you make?” Each carwashero responded that he earned minimum wage or more – just as the owner of the Blue Wave, one of the region’s busiest carwashes, had told the inspectors.

Looking over payroll records, however, the regulators became suspicious. Employees who said they were full time were listed as working just 10 or 15 hours a week.

Inspector Martha Mendoza ushered Juan Cruz Santiago, a small man with salt-and-pepper hair, away from the others. During gentle questioning under a ficus tree, he admitted that most days, he and his 66-year-old father worked for tips only. So did nearly half the other employees, he said. It had been that way for at least six years.

Immigration from morning to night – Inmigración – desde la mañana hasta la noche

women at the guatemala-mexico border

click on headline above for stories –

Here’s an outline of stories for foreign reporters-and reporters around the globe.

When a union is really a union

When governments grant unions the right to exist that doesn’t mean they really do their jobs. This has been a problem across the globe, and a story in the Jakarta Post makes this point. It would become an even stronger and helpful story if they follow it up and show the differences that the experts talk about:

here’s the link:

http://old.thejakartapost.com/detailnational.asp?fileid=20080815.H01&irec=0

Freedom leads labor unions to division: Seminar

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The freedom of association that Indonesian workers have enjoyed since the start of the reform movement in 1998 is now set to backfire on them, a seminar heard Thursday.

 

Like the wind, work circles the globe

Global companies shrunk and grow across the globe. That is sometimes forgotten in the rush to explain the fate of one company in one country. The auto industry is shriveling and growing at the same time. New players are staking out their turf and older players are cutting jobs, and workers. Here is a story from a newspaper in Puebla, Mexico about layoffs at the Johnson Controls parts plant there. It doesn’t explain what’s happening to the company and the industry; it doesn’t step back and explain the terrific burden placed on Mexico as a front-line producer threatened by a bunch of cheaper producers. It also raises issues of abuse, but it doesn’t tell us what is the history and the bigger picture for these kinds of plants and workers.

Denuncian acoso
Advierten más despidos en Johnson Controls

Trabajadores despedidos no descartan que se presente otro recorte de
personal, con el argumento de que la firma está haciendo ajustes en sus
líneas de producción.

Milenio, 6 agosto 2008

Los 15 trabajadores que el viernes pasado fueron despedidos de manera
“injustificada” en la empresa Johnson Controls, proveedora de autopartes
de Volkswagen de México, ayer denunciaron que algunas de sus
compañeras han sido víctimas de acoso sexual dentro de la fábrica.

En rueda de prensa, una de las víctimas -quien prefirió omitir su
nombre- relató que sus agresores fueron solapados tanto por la dirigencia
sindical como por los propios directivos. En cambio, ella fue
despedida de manera injustificada la semana pasada.

El grupo de personas no descartó que en los próximos días se
presente otro recorte de personal, con el argumento de que la firma está
haciendo ajustes en sus líneas de producción.

Sin embargo, aclararon que los ceses se deben a que desde hace dos
años los trabajadores conformaron una “coalición”, con la intención de
formar un sindicato independiente, debido a que la agrupación gremial
que actualmente ostenta el Contrato Colectivo de Trabajo, adherido a la
organización priista CROM, está coludido con la parte patronal.

Los agraviados, encabezados por Laura Morales y Jorge Aguilar, están
siendo asesorados por el Centro de Apoyo al Trabajador (CAT), a fin de
que en las próximas horas presenten sus respectivas denuncias por
despido injustificado ante la Junta Federal de Conciliación y Arbitraje.

Johnson Controls es una empresa de origen estadounidense. La planta de
Puebla está ubicada en el Parque Industrial Bralemex y cuenta con 800
trabajadores, quienes se dedican a la fabricación de asientos y
respaldos para VW, Nissan, Ford y Mercedes Benz.

Puebla . Aarón Martínez

He works with the people Él trabaja con la gente

 

 

 

 I don’t remember ever encountering a union leader who worked from sun up to sun down besides the people he led. But Baldemar Velasquez is different. One time in North Carolina, I was with him when we encountered a farmer angry that he was visiting his workers. He took a look at Baldemar, a small, muscular man with a friendly Texas accent, and figured he was just one of the folks broiling in the sun. He didn’t realize for a while that Baldemar was the head of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

And that’s why Baldemar’s recent days in the tobacco fields of North Carolina are so unique.  Farm work is brutual. It kills every sense when you are straining from the chilled morning to boiling hot afternoon, always moving, always grabbing to fill the bucket in front you.
This is a fine story from the Toledo Blade about his recent effort, and it includes his daily diary, which is worth reading. If only the reporter would have stepped back and put his effort into a bigger context, then the payoff would be greater. The bigger story is the number of workers who die from heat, and the latest figures are available from state and federal officials on the numbers who have given their lives this way.
Here’s the story:
Toledo-based farm labor leader tackles tobacco in North Carolina
‘My feeling is that if I’m going to represent somebody, I better do the work that they’re doing to know what they’re going through,’ says Baldemar Velásquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee of his work in North Carolina.
( PHOTO BY CHRISTIANA VELÁSQUEZ )

 

 

 

 

The sun was up and already beating strong when Baldemar Velásquez awakened inside the concrete block building to a stinging sunburn and tingling numbness in his hands and fingers.
With no air-conditioning in the farm labor camp, there would again be little escape this day from the unrelenting summer heat. Before long, his entire body felt drenched in sweat.

 

The children of no hope los hijos de no espero

Not too long ago a Mexican newspaper had a photo of a very young worker, struggling to lift a heavy chunk of cement for a glitzy new hotel in Cancun. The story was accompanied by a survey of workers that said many of the child-laborers were indigenous, were barely educated, and were barely surviving. This is what good labor reporting does. Put stories in context and the context reaches beyond the convinced few.

With wealth virtually dropping from skies in some parts of the world, children are working harder today across the globe so some may have more than every before. The Associated Press offered a very worthwhile look at what’s happening in the gold mines of Africa. Here’s their story:

TENKOTO, Senegal: A reef of gold buried beneath this vast, parched grassland arcs across some of the world’s poorest countries. Where the ore is rich, industrial mines carve it out. Where it is not, the poor sift the earth.

These hard-working miners include many thousands of children. They work long hours at often dangerous jobs in hundreds of primitive mines scattered through the West African bush. Some are as young as 4 years old.

In a yearlong investigation, The Associated Press visited six of these bush mines in three West African countries and interviewed more than 150 child miners. The agency’s journalists watched as gold mined by children was bought by itinerant traders. And through interviews and customs documents, they tracked gold from these mines on a 4,800-kilometer, or 3,000-mile, journey to Mali’s capital city and then on to Switzerland, where it entered the world market.

Most bush mines are little more than holes in the ground, but there are thousands of them “

dia de los trabajadores, 1 Mayo

 

CHICAGO

LABOR

RECLAIMS

MAY

DAY

On Thursday, May 1, 2008, Chicago’s labor community will celebrate May Day as International Workers Day with a ceremony at the Haymarket Monument. Organized labor will call for fairness and justice in the workplace, including the right to organize and the Employee Free Choice Act, access to health care, fair trade agreements, and the right to earn a living wage

 

.

May Day Commemoration Ceremony

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Haymarket Monument

DesPlaines Ave. between

Lake St. and Randolph St.

10:00 a.m.

 

Illinois LaborHistory Society

dying on the job

see the afl-cio report below

Chairman Miller Statement on Revised Workplace Fatalities Statistics

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, issued a statement today on the release of revised statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on workplace fatalities in 2006:

 

“We must not forget that these are not just numbers – we’re talking about real people, and for every workplace death in this country, there is a family somewhere that is grieving. The fact that things are going in the wrong direction is deeply disturbing. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor need to do a better job of enforcing our nation’s health and safety laws. There is no substitute for strong enforcement of the law, especially if we want to protect those workers who perform the most dangerous jobs and those workers who are the most vulnerable to exploitation.”

 

The BLS found that the number of workplace deaths jumped by more than 2 percent between 2005 and 2006. Fatalities for Hispanic workers also rose – from 923 to 990 – to a rate of 4.9 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2006 from a rate of 4.7 in 2005. Preliminary BLS numbers issued last August on 2006 deaths initially showed that the number and rate of all workplace fatalities had decreased, including declining rates among Hispanic workers.

and here’s the government’s release:

Revisions to the 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file
The final count of fatal work injuries in the U.S. in 2006 was revised upward to 5,840, from the preliminary
count of 5,703. The overall 2006 fatality rate for the U.S. was revised upward from 3.9 per 100,000
employed workers to 4.0 per 100,000 employed workers.
The final numbers reflect updates to the 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made after
the release of preliminary results in August 2007. Revisions and additions to the 2006 CFOI counts result
from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received
after the release of preliminary results.
A table summarizing the results of the update process appears on the next page. Among the important
changes resulting from the updates:
• The revised fatality total for 2006 represents a 2 percent increase over the final 2005 total. The
preliminary results released in August 2007 showed a decline in the number of cases. The higher
fatality rate resulting from the revision indicates that the fatal work injury rate in 2006 was
unchanged from the 2005 fatality rate.
• Fatal work injuries incurred by Hispanic or Latino workers rose by 53 cases from the preliminary
figure, bringing the total number for that worker group to 990 fatal work injuries. The higher
number of fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers also pushed the rate of fatal
injury for that worker group to 5.0 per 100,000 employed workers, up from the previouslyreported
rate of 4.7 per 100,000 employed workers for 2006. In 2005, 923 Hispanic workers were
fatally injured on the job and the rate of fatal injury among Hispanic workers in 2005 was 4.9 per
100,000 employed workers.
• The number of fatal work injuries involving foreign-born workers increased from 997 cases to
1,046 cases as a result of the updates. Of the 1,046 cases involving foreign-born workers, 667
involved Hispanic or Latino workers. Both the foreign-born total and the Hispanic or Latino
foreign-born total were new highs for the series.
• Fatal occupational injuries in California increased by 89 cases from the preliminary figure. As a
result of the increase, California surpassed Texas as the State with the highest number of fatal
work injuries in 2006. The totals for Oregon (up by 15), Georgia (9), and Florida (5) also
increased. Overall, 15 States revised the counts upward as a result of the update process.
• In terms of occupations, the largest revision in fatalities was in transportation and material moving
occupations (up by 38 fatalities), followed by construction and extraction occupations (15
fatalities).
• The industry sectors reporting the largest increases in fatal work injuries due to updates were
transportation and warehousing (28 new cases), government (19), construction (13), and
accommodation and food services (12).
The CFOI Program has compiled a count of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. since 1992 by
using diverse data sources to identify, verify, and profile fatal work injuries. For more information, see
chapter 9 of the BLS Handbook of Methods, available online at http://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/homch9_a1.htm.
The revised data can be accessed using the following tools: Most Requested Statistics, Create
Customized Tables (One Screen), and Create Customized Tables (Multiple Screens). The original
August 2007 press release with the preliminary results can be found here: National Census of Fatal
Occupational Injuries in 2006. Additional tables and charts can be found on Current and Revised Data
and on the CFOI State page.

 

For a copy of the AFL-CIO Death on the Job report, go to http://www.aflcio.org/issues/safety/memorial/.

Something’s going on

from the SEIU

WASHINGTON, DC – On the heels of a protest led by Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) hospital employees at a Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, SEIU members and eyewitnesses are renewing their call on the California Nurses Association (CNA) and major labor leaders to address the deplorable tactics that sabotaged a union election for more than 8,000 caregivers in Ohio and other hospitals around the country.

 “John Sweeney has the power to solve this problem,” SEIU President Andy Stern said in response to a statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney released earlier today. “He should stop making excuses and protect workers.”

 As details unfold about the events of last week-end, clear and compelling evidence is emerging to contradict the CNA’s account of what happened in Dearborn. To those seated inside the banquet hall, what appeared to be happening near the door was only a minor tussle. Outside, however, a scuffle occurred between protestors trying to enter and conference organizers trying to keep them out. Contrary to the CNA’s description of what happened, however, many of the protestors were being pushed, shoved, and even assaulted by conference participants. In fact, photos on the CNA and Labor Notes websites offered as “evidence” of violence by protestors actually depict the peaceful protestors under attack by conference security. The following are some of the reported and eyewitness accounts that contradict the CNA’s portrayal of the event:

from the CNA

SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION ATTACKS LABOR GATHERING CONFERENCE-GOERS ASSAULTED Dearborn, MI—The Service Employees International Union turned their dispute with the California Nurses Association violent by attacking a labor conference April 12, injuring several and sending an American Axle striker to the hospital.

 

A recently retired member of United Auto Workers Local 235, Dianne Feeley, suffered a head wound after being knocked to the ground by SEIU International staff and local members.

 

Other conference-goers—members of the Teamsters, UAW, UNITE HERE, International Longshoremen’s Association, and SEIU itself—were punched, kicked, shoved, and pushed to the floor.

Dearborn police responded and evicted the three bus loads of SEIU International staff and members of local and regional health care unions.

No arrests were made.

 

The assault took place at the Labor Notes conference, a biennial gathering of 1,100 union members and leaders who met to discuss strategies to rebuild the labor movement.

 

David Cohen, an international representative of the United Electrical Workers, asked protestors why they came. He said one responded, “they told us just to get on the bus.”

 

Labor Day, Chicago

from the Chicago Federation of Labor:

On May 1, 2008, organized labor will once again reclaim May Day in Chicago.  Around the world May Day is widely celebrated International Labor Day, except here in the United States where it was founded.  This year the Chicago Federation of Labor and Illinois Labor History Society, together with other labor and community organizations, have organized a ceremony at the Haymarket monument, located on Des Plaines Avenue between Lake and Randolph Streets in Chicago, at 10:00am. 

 A plaque dedicated by the Chicago Federation of Labor to the Haymarket monument will be unveiled at the ceremony. This plaque represents an important landmark for all working people in the Chicago area since it will be embedded in one of the most important labor monuments in the world.

Later that afternoon, with the participation of a number of labor organizations, a march will pass through downtown Chicago from Union Park to Federal Plaza, to call for better rights for immigrant workers and for ALL workers in the U.S.

 

The real price of your flowers El precio autentico de sus flores

11 a.m.  Going city to city across the U.S., Dora Acero, 35, flower worker in a small village near Bogota, Colombia for the last 17 years, earning $215 a month for a 48-hour week, the minimum pay, tells of workers, nearly of them women and most of them young, who complain about not having enough water to drink in the flower houses, about how hard it is to work when you are pregnant, about when you have to work in the flower houses freshly cleansed with pesticides, about not being allowed to go to the bathroom if your production is low, about how the company doesn’t talk to the independent union that she is an official with and about how she wishes her message would make a difference.  Think mother’s day.

 

So what’s so different about the news media?

April 13, 2008 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Newsrooms shrink; minority percentage increases slightly
The number of full-time journalists working at America’s daily newspapers shrank by 4.4 percent in the past year, the largest decrease in the past 30 years according to the annual census conducted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The percent of minority journalists working at daily newspapers grew minimally to 13.52 percent from 13.43 percent of all journalists, according to ASNE. ASNE marks the 30th anniversary of the survey in 2008. The annual survey was a direct outgrowth of the March 1, 1968, findings of the Kerner Commission report. The commission, created to study the causes of devastating riots in Newark and Detroit, was highly critical of the lack of coverage of black communities and the lack of minority journalists at mainstream newspapers and broadcast stations. The commission said that newspapers and TV stations shared some of the responsibility for the civil unrest because of their failure to adequately and fairly cover black communities over the years. ASNE created the annual Newsroom Employment Census in 1978 as a tool to measure the industry’s success toward its goal of having the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population. 
The 1978 census found an estimated 43,000 full-time journalists working as editors,
reporters, copy editors and photographers of which 3.95 percent were minorities. The 2008
census found 52,600 full-time journalists of which 13.52 are minorities. ASNE President Gilbert Bailon said, “The numbers represent a dual reality: It’s mildly encouraging that the minority percentage held steady despite difficult economic times that are causing many cutbacks. On the other hand, the total number of minority journalists employed at daily newspapers declined by nearly 300 people, which follows the pattern for the overall newsroom workforce. Such a trend will not help newspapers in their quest to reach parity with the minority population by 2025.”

All boats sink together

6:04 p.m. Here in the heartland there’s a very tiny advantage to the disappearance of good middle class jobs and a lot else with it. The rich are not that much better off than the poor. The latest study of income inequality in the states by the two Washington-based think tanks makes this point. Not one Midwest state was among those with the greatest gaps between the rich and poor.

Here’s the study:

http://www.cbpp.org/4-9-08sfp-pr.pdf

 

Solidarity Undone

5:49 p.m. So, the SEIU, the fastest growth force in organized labor in the U.S. has hit a speed bump. A bump set up by its own. Union members, upset by President Andy Stern’s decisions, have taken the union court. And the union leadership isn’t thrilled with their doings. Bet that the San Juan convention won’t be a snooze.

here’s the dissdents’ words:

HEALTHCARE WORKERS SUE SEIU FOR INFRINGING ON FREE SPEECH RIGHTS
Suit filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO – Five healthcare workers and members of United Healthcare Workers-West have sued their Washington-based parent organization, Service Employees International Union, alleging violations of their federal rights to speak freely and to participate in union activities.  
 
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, alleges SEIU President Andy Stern and other SEIU officials violated the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which expressly gives “every member of any labor organization” the “right to meet and assemble freely with other members; and to express any views, arguments, or opinions.”
 
SEIU officials repeatedly have asked for the removal of a Web site, http://www.seiuvoice.org, a popular forum for nursing home, hospital and homecare workers to share information about their union and its members with each other and the public.
 
The suit alleges this and other conduct by SEIU officials is designed to “limit, inhibit and chill the exercise of their rights of free speech and equal participation as active members and advocates for democratic policies within their union.”
 
“I have been a supporter of this union for more than 30 years. This is the first time in all those years that I’ve felt threatened or intimidated because of my union activities,” said Rosie Byers, a plaintiff in the suit and a San Francisco-based home healthcare provider. “I can’t believe SEIU is trying to take away my voice, to silence me. This simply must stop.”
 
The suit alleges SEIU officials have coordinated these attacks against UHW members as part of a larger effort to silence any dissention at their June 2008 convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
 
“During the time I’ve been involved with this union, I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind,” said plaintiff Michael Torres, a respiratory therapist at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles. “It’s utterly ridiculous that we’re now forced to sue to ensure that we have a say in the future direction of UHW.”  
 
The 150,000-member SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the largest and fastest-growing hospital and healthcare union in the western United States and represents every type of healthcare worker, including nurses, professional, technical and service classifications. Our mission is to achieve high-quality healthcare for all. 
 

Gimme Space and Voice too

9 a.m. Unions are shrinking and some of it is internally. Some say there’s no choice. And some worry about the loss of voices and history. Here’s a good reporting take on the issue:

Labor’s merger painsHow a small SF union lost its independence — and can’t get it back

By JB Powell

ð jesse@sfbg.com

Part one of a series on the emerging problems with labor mergers

For well over 100 years, San Francisco hod carriers ‹ workers who assist stone, brick, and plaster masons ‹ have gathered at the Local 36 hiring hall to find work. Though not as large and bustling as it was in its heyday, the hall, now situated in Daly City, still serves as an important social as well as professional gathering place for San Francisco and San Mateo County “hoddies.”

But on Monday, March 10 and Tuesday the 11th, when the union’s members arrived to put in for jobs, they found the entrance shuttered and a paper sign taped to the door.

“This Office Will be Temporarily Closed Due to the Transition of the Separation between Local Unions,” the sign read. Several South Bay phone numbers were listed below ‹ one for the dispatch office at Local 270, a much larger South Bay chapter of the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA), and one for Carlos Lujan, 270’s business manager. When the workers tried to call the numbers to secure work, they claim officials at 270 told them they couldn’t help them.

Meanwhile, several told the Guardian they could hear the phone ringing through the hiring hall door as calls from contractors came into the office. Every phone call most likely meant a job that would not be filled by one of the willing workers left outside.

“I felt abandoned,” 25-year union member Jerrold ‘JJ’ Jones told the Guardian. Jones told us he waited for nearly three hours for the hall to open on March 11, only to give up in frustration. “Here I pay dues six months in advance and because that hall is closed, I didn’t have the opportunity to go out for a job that day.”
A LESS THAN PERFECT UNION

I dreamt I saw Joe Hill last night, reading a book

7:12 p.m Says I to Joe, whaddya’ reading Joe, and he says to me, “The Big Squeeze, Tough Times for the American Worker,” by Steven Greenhouse, Knopf, the esteemed labor writer for the New York Times, who has written a book about work as compelling as any, and then Joe, he says to me, “so, what’s different today?”

Hungrier Today than Yesterday

4:20 p.m. Niles. Ohio.  There’s no potatoes, no onions, no fresh vegetables, and half as many boxes of eggs as the families expected to come by the Second Harvest food pantry ran by the Pleasant Valley Church. But nobody waiting to pick up their food complains. Not the grandparents rising their children’s childen. Not the $10 an hour workers who can’t remember when they earned more. Not those poor so long they don’t expect more. Volunteer worker Sharon Ryzner, standing in the church kitchen, watches the food dwindle. “The bread’s almost gone,” she says.