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.





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







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
• 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.