Article 43

 

American Solidarity

American Solidarity - Time To Stand Up

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book: Strike Back

strikeback.jpg

Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labors Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today

During the 1960s and 1970s, teachers, sanitation workers and many other public employees rose up to demand collective bargaining rights in one of the greatest upsurges in labor history. These workers were able to transform the nature of public employment, winning union recognition for millions and ultimately forcing reluctant politicians to pass laws allowing for collective bargaining and even the right to strike. STRIKE BACK uncovers this history of militancy to provide tactics for a new generation of public employees facing unprecedented attacks on their labor rights.

When I read Joe Burns’ Reviving the Strike I thought that was the definitive book. But Strike Back must be included in the canon. For those of us who are new to the labor movement or who have just forgotten the gains made during the 60s and 70’s, this book puts it all into perspective. From the careful reconstruction of the historical events to his analysis of those events, Joe Burns provides us with a clear roadmap to what type of unionism it will take to get working people engaged with communities and back to real prosperity.
- Karen GJ Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1

Joe BurnsӒ account of the public sector labor breakthroughs in the 1960s and 70s provides a timely reminder of what it will take to defend and extend past union gains that are now greatly endangered. Too many public employee unions have forgotten their own history and/or kept their own members in the dark about it. Strike Back is the perfect cure for such organizational memory loss!Ҕ
- Steve Early, former organizer for the Communications Workers of America and author of Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress

In Strike Back, Joe Burns shows us that labor unions searching for new strategies and tactics to reverse this escalating trend need look no further than the all-but-forgotten labor history of the 1960s and Ӓ70s. This book provides a thought provoking historical look back at how public employee unions took an aggressive and fresh approach to fight back and build support during that tumultuous era. All union members should read this book to learn from our past and build a stronger and more effective labor movement now and in the future.
- Larry Hanley, International President, Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO/CLC

ԓNobody better understands the vital role of the strike or the injustice of anti-strike laws than Joe Burns. If you think that economic inequality is a problem in the United States, read this book.
- James Gray Pope, Professor of Law & Sidney Reitman Scholar, Rutgers University School of Law

Joe Burns is the author of Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America. A veteran union negotiator and labor lawyer, he has negotiated contracts in the airline and health care industries. He has a law degree from New York University, and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Posted by Elvis on 07/20/14 •
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Volkswagen Workers Become UAW Members

REMEMBER those anti-american politicians bad-mouthing unions and scaring people to voting the UAW out even when Volkswagen was begging them not to?

There’s a great ending to the story.

And a great beginning for the union/company partnership.

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UAW charters Local 42 at Volkswagen in Chattanooga

Juny 10. 2014

he UAW today ANNOUNCED the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local union providing representation for employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

Organized by Volkswagen employees, Local 42 offers workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace through the German automakers “works council” approach to employee engagement. Volkswagen’s business model is premised on employee representation, and Local 42 will represent any interested employees who join the local as members. No employees will be required to join.

“Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members,” said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW. “At that time, we said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We’e keeping our promise.”

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, who previously served as director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, emphasized: “Local 42 will be run by, and for, the employees at Volkswagen.”

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company,” Casteel said. “Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members union that represents those employees who join the local. As part of this consensus, the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga.”

UAW officials renewed requests for the State of Tennessee to extend the economic incentives necessary for Volkswagen to add a new product line at the Chattanooga plant, and said the union will continue advocating for increased investment. “State officials have assured the public and the Volkswagen workforce that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga is not related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union,” said Ray Curry, the newly elected director of UAW Region 8. “We are gratified by those assurances, and the state was right to give them.”:

UAW officials reiterated the reasoning for recently withdrawing objections to the February election at the plant, which was tainted by outside interference. ”As Volkswagen’s works council partner, the UAW’s role is to encourage job creation and promote job security so that Volkswagen employees can achieve the American dream and Chattanoogas economy can prosper,” Casteel said. “We withdrew objections to end the controversy and put the focus where it belongs: obtaining the economic incentives necessary to ensure the growth of Volkswagen in Chattanooga and the addition of a new product line.”

Volkswagen employees formally announced Local 42 at an afternoon news conference, and immediately began communicating with fellow team members and with the plants management about next steps in advancing the works council partnership.

“Being part of the creation of an American-style works council is a chance to do something new and different,” said Michael Cantrell, a Volkswagen paint technician. “This is about securing good jobs for the future of the plant and Chattanooga, and building lasting partnerships between management and team members.”

Additionally, Local 42 members pledged to get involved in the community - as UAW members have done in other communities across the country to support charitable causes, youth programs and other local needs. דI see Local 42 as an opportunity to give back to Chattanooga and southeast Tennessee, said Myra Montgomery, a quality inspector in the Volkswagen plant. “As our membership grows, people are going to see us very active in this community.”

Local 42 members declared workforce development to be a top priority, and said they would work with Volkswagen and the UAW to organize job-training opportunities so that employees can continually expand their skills as new technologies emerge and manufacturing processes change.

“Having access to the UAW’s expertise and support will keep the plant competitive and will keep our workforce on the cutting edge of productivity and quality,” said Jonathan Walden, who works in the Volkswagen plant’s paint department. “The members of Local 42 are ready to roll up our sleeves and focus on the future.”

United Automobile Workers (UAW) has more than 390,000 members and more than 750 local unions across America. Since its founding in 1935, the UAW has developed partnerships with employers and supported industry-leading wages and benefits for its members.

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Posted by Elvis on 07/13/14 •
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Sad Day For American Solidarity

I may hate the CWA and SOME OTHER UNIONS for their expressions of CORPORATE UNIONISM and SCREWING ME and a bunch of other AT&T technicians ten years ago, but I strongly SUPPORT the NEED FOR UNIONS and solidarity.

So, why did the VW autoworkers In Tennessee just vote down the UAW?

I think their reasons are a little different than mine.

Here’s a HINT:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-What Else?) told workers “I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.”

The pervasiveness of a fearing, fragmented, selfish society is driving even into the shared interests of working class Americans to the ground.

Even the owners want a union.

Detriot Free Press TELLS US:

Volkswagen has said it favors the creation of a German-style works council, which gives workers a voice on a variety of product and other decisions. Under U.S. law, a union must represent employees for a company to form a works council.

“VW has shown that they can have a great relationship with unions. They do it all over the world,”

One leader of the Republican-controlled Tennessee state Senate threatened this week to block any incentives for future Volkswagen investment in Chattanooga if a majority of workers voted for the union.

Robert Reich REMINDS US:

the community was solidly behind us - that is, until Bridgestone-Firestone threatened to close the plant if we didn’t back down.

A smaller share of working-age Americans hold jobs today than at any time in more than three decades.

People are so desperate for jobs they don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want rules and regulations enforced that might cost them their livelihoods. For them, a job is precious sometimes even more precious than a safe workplace or safe drinking water.

The best bulwark against corporate irresponsibility is a strong and growing middle class. But in order to summon the political will to achieve it, we have to overcome the timidity that flows from economic desperation.

This is especially true in poorer regions of the country like West Virginia and through much of the South and rural America - so-called “red states” where the old working class has been voting Republican. Guns, abortion, and race are part of the explanation. But don’t overlook economic anxieties that translate into a willingness to vote for whatever it is that industry wants.

This may explain why Republican officials who have been casting their votes against unions, against expanding Medicaid, against raising the minimum wage, against extended unemployment insurance, and against jobs bills that would put people to work, continue to be elected and re-elected.

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UAW’s Critical Southern Drive Falters After Historic Vote At VW Plant In Tennessee

By Dan Bigman
Forbes
February 15, 2014

The United Auto Workers suffered their most CRUSHING defeat in a generation Friday night when workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted against unionizing their shop. The vote was seen as a critical test of the UAWs ability to organize in the South, which is fast becoming America’s new manufacturing center of gravity.

Employees rejected the UAW 712 to 626, the culmination of a months-long battle that pit the union against local politicians, including Governor Bill Haslam and the states Republican legislature, who feared that unionization threatened Tennessee’s ability to compete for business against rival states.

But with the Volkswagen plant, based in Chattanooga, the union saw an opening in the traditional anti-union bastion of the south. VW works hand-in-hand with labor in plants worldwide through works councils in which management and workers both participate in setting policy for running the factories. VW was hoping to create a similar arrangement in Tennessee, and, while not backing the unionization drive, did not stand in its way, either. The company had urged third parties not to interfere with the vote.

Nonetheless, workers seemed to feel they didn’t need the UAW, and many told reporters present at the vote that they blamed the collapse of Detroit’s automakers on the predominance of the union there.

It was a particularly stinging defeat for UAW president Bob King, who has been focused on the South as they lynchpin of future union growth thanks to a boom in auto manufacturing there. Since the late 1970s, UAW membership has been more than cut in half to under 400,000 members as U.S. automakers reeled.

Meanwhile, a host of foreign automakers from VW to Daimler to Toyota and Hyundai have set up shop in the largely anti-union South, with brand new facilities, some of which are among the most advanced factories in the world, leading a to renaissance in the U.S. auto industryand capturing 30% of all U.S. auto sales. Competitive labor costs, access to capital and a host of incentives from Southern states eager to attract manufacturing have fueled the boom.

To keep the union relevant long-term, the UAW needs to make inroads into these plants, and the VW vote was critical to that effort. דWere obviously deeply disappointed,Ҕ King told reporters at a news conference after the vote.

Local officials, who fought the vote, had a different take, obviously. Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future,Ӕ said U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga who helped attract the $1 billion plant to his town the first place.

SOURCE

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UAW rejected in organizing vote at VW plant in Tenn.
2-year old bid falls short by 87 votes

By Gabe Nelson
Automotive News
February 14, 2014

Workers at Volkswagen AG’s plant here voted to reject UAW representation, dealing a devastating loss to a union that saw the Tennessee factory as its best chance to gain a toehold at a foreign-owned assembly plant in the South.

Results of the vote—712 opposed to the UAW and 626 in favor—were released late Friday by retired Tennessee Circuit Court Judge Sam Payne after three days of voting at the plant, where the company builds the Passat sedan.

Volkswagen said 89 percent of approximately 1,500 workers eligible to vote participated in the election.

“While we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement.

The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the voting, must still certify the results.

Volkswagen did not resist the two-year organizing drive, which made it unusually easy for the UAW to win workers’ support for a vote.

Still, the election attracted widespread national attention from third-party union supporters and opponents, and they spent the past few weeks trying to sway the outcome with billboards, radio spots and other messages.

Some elected officials in Tennessee opposed to the unionization drive also worried that a UAW win would undermine the state’s ability to attract future private investment and jobs. In some cases, they threatened to withhold future incentives for VW if the union was successful.

UAW leaders said they appear to have lost some of their support this week when some Republican leaders in the state suggested a union victory might hurt chances for an expansion at the plant.

“We started to see some movement when the governor made his comments [indicating the union could hurt economic development],” Dennis Williams, secretary treasurer for the UAW, said after the vote. “Then Sen. (Bob) Corker who said he was not going to get involved came back [to Chattanooga] and had a press conference. We had a feeling that something was happening.”

Outraged

Williams and other UAW leaders were outraged that politicians and outside special interest groups “interfered with the basic legal right of workers to form a union.

“We’re proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside,” Williams, who directs the union’s transnational program, said. “We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers’ right to organize.”

King told reporters after the results were released that the union will decide in the next few days whether to appeal the vote on grounds it was influenced by outside parties.

“What I hope the American public understands is that those people who attacked us were attacking labor-management cooperation. They don’t believe in workers and management working together. We believe in that. And we believe the workers here will ultimately prevail,” King said.

“It’s never happened in this country before that a U.S. senator, a governor, a leader of the House, a leader of the Legislature here, would threaten the company with no incentives, threaten workers with a loss of product. We think that’s outrageous,” King added. “We’ll look at all of our options in the next few days.”

Some workers who voted no also cited the two-tier wage contracts at Detroit 3 factories and noted that some VW workers in Chattanooga make more than new U.S. hires at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler plants.

Other workers singled out a clause in a UAW-VW neutrality agreement signed in January as part of the organizing drive. In the event of a union win, the clause called for “maintaining and where possible enhancing the cost advantages and other competitive advantages that [VW Chattanooga] enjoys relative to its competitors in the United States and North America.”

For some employees, that meant wages and benefits could be prevented from getting too high compared to other U.S. auto plants, including those operated by the unionized Detroit 3.

“The difference in the vote ... was people hunting down the information to make an intelligence decision, not just listening to your buddy,” King said. “Of course, if you don’t win, you review your strategy.”

Long odds grow

The UAW, whose membership has dwindled from 1.5 million in 1979 to about 400,000 today, now faces even longer odds in its decades-long quest to organize workers at auto factories that foreign companies including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have opened across the South since the 1980s.

If results of the vote withstand legal challenges, the outcome also will diminish the legacy of King, who took the union’s helm in 2010, a year after General Motors and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy.

King vowed to ingrain the union with a more collaborative culture than the one that he conceded had played a role in the Detroit auto industry’s decline.

A key test of that vow was the union’s ability to branch out from GM, Ford and Chrysler factories—a traditional stronghold—and recruit workers at plants operated by foreign automakers such as VW, the world’s second-largest automaker after Toyota.

In the months before the vote, King personally made inroads with labor leaders in Germany and reached an accord with top Volkswagen AG officials under which the UAW agreed to help form a “works council” at the Chattanooga factory.

The council, a collaboration between management and workers, would have been similar to ones at other VW plants worldwide.

UAW organizers on the ground here went into the election confident after securing signed union cards of support from a majority of the Chattanooga plant’s workers.

But when workers cast their secret ballots, a slight majority—53 percent of those voting—decided to keep the plant running as it does now, without the UAW.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, which opposed the organizing bid, claimed the union and Volkswagen’s German management “colluded for over two years to stack the deck against the workers” and allow a rapid-fire election.

“If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so stacked in their favor, perhaps they should reevaluate the product they are selling to workers,” Mix said in a statement.

After the tally was announced, a hundred or so dejected union supporters milled around the IBEW hall that had been the UAW’s organizing center, consoling one another about the outcome.

Rapid expansion

The vote at VW is another stinging setback for the UAW, which was rebuffed by a 2-to-1 ratio in its last secret-ballot election at a foreign automaker’s U.S. assembly plant—Nissan’s factory in Smyrna, Tenn., in 2001.

And the UAW’s ongoing attempt to recruit workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., and a Nissan factory in Canton, Miss.—it faces management opposition at both sites—now appears harder to achieve.

“While far from a death knell, this latest defeat suggests a turbulent future for an organization that has steadily lost membership and influence over the past four decades,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “We may never know what impact a union would have on future Volkswagen plant operations in Chattanooga, or other foreign plants in the region, but we do know the rapid expansion of southern auto manufacturing has occurred without union representation.”

Volkswagen AG started construction of the Chattanooga plant in 2008 as a cornerstone of its plan to push the VW brand into the top tier of car marques in the United States.

Since the plant opened in 2011, the productivity of the workforce and quality of the cars produced there have impressed top VW executives.

Crossover on table

Though weaker U.S. sales of the Passat in 2013 forced the company to cancel shifts, lay off 500 contract workers and dial back production from a high of 152,400 vehicles in 2012.

VW is also studying whether to build a crossover at the plant, a move that would likely boost capacity utilization.

Yet the plant has remained an outlier in VW’s far-flung global network of assembly plants, nearly all of which are unionized, and nearly all of which use German-style works councils to give workers a say in key business decisions.

Some legal experts say such councils run afoul of U.S. prohibitions on company-controlled unions unless workers join a third-party union first.

Before this week’s vote, VW and the UAW signed a 20-page agreement, dated Jan. 27, saying that if the majority of workers were to vote for UAW representation, the union would agree to hand over many of the functions that it usually oversees to a new works council.

“Our works councils are key to our success and productivity,” Frank Fischer, CEO of the Chattanooga plant, said in a statement before the vote. “It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world. Our plant in Chattanooga has the opportunity to create a uniquely American works council, in which the company would be able to work cooperatively with our employees and ultimately their union representatives, if the employees decide they wish to be represented by a union.”

Works council still a goal

By rejecting the UAW, despite VW executives’ stated desire to set up a works council and their willingness to negotiate with the UAW, the workers in Chattanooga made clear how difficult it is to organize workers at automotive plants in the South.

Despite the vote, VW officials are not giving up on the idea of creating a worker-management group that would oversee some daily operations at the plant.

“Our employees have not made a decision that they are against a works council. Throughout this process, we found great enthusiasm for the idea of an American-style works council both inside and outside our plant,” Fischer said in a statement. “Our goal continues to be to determine the best method for establishing a works council in accordance with the requirements of U.S. labor law to meet VW America’s production needs and serve our employees’ interests.”

With a victory, the union would have negotiated wages and benefits for plant workers, leaving overtime rules, quality initiatives, health and safety guidelines and other daily operations to the works council.

Tennessee is one of 24 U.S. states with right-to-work laws, so a union victory would have still allowed workers to opt out of the union and avoid paying dues.

Union membership in Tennessee grew by 25 percent in 2013, the most of any state, with 31,000 new members over 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Even so, only 6.1 percent of the state’s workforce was unionized in 2013 compared with 11.3 percent nationally.

“It’s unfortunate that there was some outside influence exerted onto this process,” said Gary Casteel, director of the UAW’s region 8, where the VW plant is located. “These workers have stated their position and we respect that, so we’ll move forward from here and look forward to maybe someday in the future working with VW to establish a works council.”

Mike Burton, a paint shop employee and one of the leaders of the anti-UAW movement inside the plant, said he and his co-workers want to see how a works council might be set up without involvement of an outside union—despite assertions by VW that it wouldn’t pass legal muster.

He said that whether workers voted for or against the UAW, they want worker representation in the plant’s daily operations.

“We’re just not willing to pay $600 a year to have most of that money go out of our community,” Burton said.

“What they want and what we want are pretty much the same thing,” he added. “If they’re loyal to the UAW, they’re going to have to go someplace else. If they just want employee representation with the management here at Volkswagen, we will come up with a solution—and we will all benefit from it.”

David Phillips contributed to this report.

SOURCE

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Loss at Volkswagen plant upends union’s plan for U.S. South

By Bernie Woodall
Reuters
February 15, 2014

In a stinging defeat that could accelerate the decades-long decline of the United Auto Workers, Volkswagen AG workers voted against union representation at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, which had been seen as organized labor’s best chance to expand in the U.S. South.

The loss, 712 to 626, capped a sprint finish to a long race and was particularly surprising for UAW supporters, because Volkswagen had allowed the union access to the factory and officially stayed neutral on the vote, while other manufacturers have been hostile to organized labor.

UAW spent more than two years organizing and then called a snap election in an agreement with VW. German union IG Metall worked with the UAW to pressure VW to open its doors to organizers, but anti-union forces dropped a bombshell after the first of three days of voting.

Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga who helped win the VW plant, said on Wednesday after the first day of voting that VW would expand the factory if the union was rejected.

“Needless to say, I am thrilled,” Corker said in a statement after the results were disclosed.

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix hailed the outcome: “If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so stacked in their favor, perhaps they should re-evaluate the product they are selling to workers.”

An announcement of whether a new seven-passenger crossover vehicle will be produced in Chattanooga or in Mexico could come as early as next week, VW sources told Reuters.

Despite the indignation of pro-union forces, legal experts earlier had said that any challenge of the outcome, based on Corker’s comments, would be difficult, given broad free speech protection for U.S. Senators.

The UAW said it would “evaluate” the conduct in the vote, where 89 percent of eligible workers cast ballots.

“We are outraged at the outside interference in this election. It’s never happened in this country before that a U.S. senator, a governor, a leader of the house, a leader of the legislature here threatened the company with those incentives, threatened workers with the loss of product,” Bob King, the UAW president who has staked his legacy on expanding into the south, said.

UAW membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at just under 400,000.

The Tennessee decision is likely to reinforce the widely held notion that the UAW cannot make significant inroads in a region that historically has been steadfastly against organized labor and where all foreign-owned vehicle assembly plants employ nonunion workers.

Before the results were announced, King had said in an interview with Reuters that his group and the German union were already at work organizing a Daimler AG factory in Alabama.

“We will continue our efforts at Daimler. It’s not new. We’re there. We have a campaign. We have a plan. We are also very involved globally with Nissan, so that will continue,” he said. He did not mention the other plants when speaking to reporters late in the evening.

Dennis Cuneo, a partner at Fisher & Phillips, a national labor law firm that represents management, said earlier in the day that a loss would be a big setback for the union movement in the South, showing the UAW was unable to convince rank-and-file workers even with management’s cooperation.

Such a loss “makes the UAW’s quest to organize southern auto plants all the more difficult,” he said.

Local anti-union organizers had protested the UAW from the start, reflecting deep concerns among many workers that a union would strain cordial relations with the company, which pays well by local and U.S. auto industry standards.

Mike Burton, one of the anti-union leaders, cheered the results. “Not on our watch,” he exulted, adding, as did VW management, that plans to find a way for a workers council to help set rules for the factory would continue.

Many labor experts have said that a workers council, which is used in Germany, would not be possible at a U.S. VW factory without a union.

“We felt like we were already being treated very well by Volkswagen in terms of pay and benefits and bonuses,” said Sean Moss, who voted against the UAW. “We also looked at the track record of the UAW. Why buy a ticket on the Titanic?” he added.

Many workers believed that the union had hurt operations at plants run by General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, now a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he said

For VW, the stakes also were high. The German automaker invested $1 billion in the Chattanooga plant, which began building Passat mid-size sedans in April 2011, after being awarded more than $577 million in state and local incentives.

VW executives have said the new crossover vehicle, due in 2016 and known internally as CrossBlue, could be built at either the Chattanooga plant or in Mexico, but Tennessee facility was built with the expectation of a second vehicle line.

The vote has received global attention, and even President Barack Obama waded into the discussion early on Friday, accusing Republican politicians of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers.

The vote must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

(Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills)

SOURCE

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VW workers may block southern U.S. deals if no unions: labor chief

By Andreas Cremer
Reuters
February 19, 2014

olkswagen’s top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.

Workers at VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last Friday voted against representation by the United Auto Workers union (UAW), rejecting efforts by VW representatives to set up a German-style works council at the plant.

German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined “co-determination” principle which is anathema to many politicians in the U.S. who see organized labor as a threat to profits and job growth.

Chattanooga is VW’s only factory in the U.S. and one of the company’s few in the world without a works council.

“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council.

“If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.

The 20-member panel - evenly split between labor and management - has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones.

Osterloh’s comments were published on Wednesday in German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. A spokesman at the Wolfsburg-based works council confirmed the remarks.

“The conservatives stirred up massive, anti-union sentiments,” Osterloh said. “It’s possible that the conclusion will be drawn that this interference amounted to unfair labor praxis.”

Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a staunch opponent of unionization, said last Wednesday after the first day of voting that VW would award the factory another model if the UAW was rejected.

The comments even prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene, accusing Republicans of trying to block the Chattanooga workforce’s efforts.

Undeterred by last Friday’s vote, VW’s works council has said it will press on with efforts to set up labor representation at Chattanooga which builds the Passat sedan.

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Posted by Elvis on 02/15/14 •
Section American Solidarity • Section Dying America
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jobs For All

union-workers.jpg

Another Dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Mathew Forstater, Director, Center for Full Employment and Price Stability, University of Missouri-Kansas City
National Jobs For All Coalition

The 1963 “March on Washington” was officially named the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” a detail that often gets lost amid the important celebration of the general achievement and highlights such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration. Indeed, the theme of job creation runs though Dr. King’s writings. Perhaps no single policy could have as great a social and economic impact on the African American community (and the entire country) as federally funded job assurance for every person ready and willing to work. This is a policy approach that was explicitly supported by Dr. King, and that is currently receiving attention in economic and policy circles.

In an article in Look published just after his assassination (King, 1968), Dr. King wrote that: “We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people, and poor people generally, are confronting.” Thirty-three years later, at the peak of a peacetime economic expansion heralded as the longest and strongest in recent history, not only is the African American unemployment rate stuck at twice that of whites, but at around 8% that figure remains at a rate that would be considered evidence of a deep recession were it to hold for society as a whole:

There is a literal depression in the Negro community. When you have mass unemployment in the Negro community, it’s called a social problem; when you have mass unemployment in the white community, it’s called a depression. The fact is, there is a major depression in the Negro community. The unemployment rate is extremely high, and among Negro youth, it goes up as high as forty percent in some cities. (King, 1968)

Yet another generation has had to witness the inability of a ‘booming’ economy to provide gainful employment for every person willing and able to work, a point well understood by Dr. King:

Economic expansion alone cannot do the job of improving the employment situation of Negroes. It provides the base for improvement but other things must be constructed upon it, especially if the tragic situation of youth is to be solved. In a booming economy Negro youth are afflicted with unemployment as though in an economic crisis. They are the explosive outsiders of the American expansion. (King, 1967)

As politicians and media figures laud the relatively lower aggregate unemployment rates and the ‘success’ of ‘welfare reform’, more careful observers note the hidden unemployment official numbers do not account for and caution the optimists that the real test of the ‘Personal Responsibility Act’ will be as the economy goes into recession. Official unemployment figures go down not only when the unemployed find work, but when ‘discouraged workers’ drop out of the labor force, a process with harsh consequences:

[T]he expansion of private employment and nonprofessional opportunities cannot, however, provide full employment for Negroes. Many youths are not listed as unemployed because in despair they have left the labor market completely. They are psychologically disabled and cannot be rescued by conventional employment. (King, 1967)

Those in prison are also disproportionately young, black, and male and are also not included in official unemployment figures. Combined with other recent developments such as the exploding homicide rates for young, Black men (itself linked to the war on drugs) and the return of the death penalty (with a disproportionately young, Black, male death row), this explains the decline in marriageable-age Black men--unlike ‘welfare incentives’ a factor with some explanatory power in understanding the decline of the two-parent family among African Americans (see Darity and Myers, 1994). As Dr. King well-understood, what emerges is a system that excludes many young African American women and men from participating, and creative policy measures are required to respond effectively and fairly to this challenge:

There are also some Negro youth who have faced so many closed doors and so many crippling defeats that they have lost motivation. For those youth who are alienated from the routines of work, there should be...work situations which permit flexibility...until they can manage the demands of the typical workplace. (King, 1967, p. 126)

The private sector, even in the “best of times” is unable to provide jobs for all. Moreover, racial wage and employment gaps are not fully explained by human capital, i.e. differences in skill and education levels. Dr. King’s alternative explanation points to the functional role of racial economic inequality in modern capitalism:

Depressed living standards for Negroes are not simply the consequence of neglect. Nor can they be explained by the myth of the Negro’s innate incapacities, or by more sophisticated rationalization of his acquired infirmities (family disorganization, poor education, etc.). They are a structural part of the economic system in the United States Certain industries are based on a supply of low-paid, under-skilled and immobile nonwhite labor. (King, 1967, p. 7)

Now we realize that economic dislocations in the market operations of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. Today the poor are less often dismissed, I hope, from our consciences by being branded as inferior or incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands, it does not eliminate all poverty. (King, 1972 [1968])

Unfortunately, Dr. King’s hope has not been realized, as ‘culture of poverty’ and even bio-genetic theories continue to rear their ugly heads. The resurrection of these frameworks by authors such as Dinesh D’Souza, Thomas Sowell, and Charles Murray is in part a response to the failure of human capital theory. But their reemergence is also part of the trend toward greater discrimination as the racial education and skills gaps are closed--evidence further supporting the functional theory of racial economic inequality (Darity and Hamilton, 2001). Speaking of Black men, but of a process also relevant to the African American female experience, Dr. King wrote that:

The quest of the Negro male for employment was always frustrating. If he lacked skill, he was only occasionally wanted because such employment as he could find had little regularity and even less remuneration. If he had a skill, he also had his black skin, and discrimination locked doors against him. In the competition for scarce jobs he was a loser because he was born that way. (King, 1967, pp. 106-07)

In addressing these tremendous challenges, Dr. King’s writings have a laser-like focus on job creation as addressing multiple concerns and carrying multiple benefits:

The nation will also have to find the answer to full employment, including a more imaginative approach than has yet been conceived for neutralizing the perils of automation. Today, as the skilled and semiskilled Negro attempts to mount the ladder of economic security, he finds himself in competition with the white working man at the very time when automation is scrapping forty thousand jobs a week. Though this is perhaps the inevitable product of social and economic upheaval, it is an intolerable situation, and Negroes will not long permit themselves to be pitted against white workers for an ever-decreasing supply of jobs. The energetic and creative expansion of work opportunities, in both the public and private sectors of our economy, is an imperative worthy of the richest nation on earth, whose abundance is an embarrassment as long as millions of poor are imprisoned and constantly self-renewed within an expanding population. (King, 1963)

Dr. King reiterated over and over again his proposal that “government… become an employer of last resort” (King, 1971 [1963): “We need an economic bill of rights. This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work. It would mean creating certain public-service jobs” (King, 1968):

We must develop a federal program of public works, retraining, and jobs for all--so that none, white or black, will have cause to feel threatened. At the present time, thousands of jobs a week are disappearing in the wake of automation and other production efficiency techniques. (King, 1965)

Dr. King’s proposal was that anyone ready and willing to work would be assured a public service job. His vision thus extended to all those left behind, including unemployed and poor whites:

While Negroes form the vast majority of America’s disadvantaged, there are millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill. The moral justification for special measures for Negroes is rooted in the robberies inherent in the institution of slavery. Many poor whites, however, were the derivative victims of slavery. As long as labor was cheapened by the involuntary servitude of the black man, the freedom of white labor, especially in the South, was little more than a myth. It was free only to bargain from the depressed base imposed by slavery upon the whole of the labor market. Nor did this derivative bondage end when formal slavery gave way to the de-facto slavery of discrimination. To this day the white poor also suffer deprivation and the humiliation of poverty if not of color. They are chained by the weight of discrimination, though its badge of degradation does not mark them. It corrupts their lives, frustrates their opportunities and withers their education. In one sense it is more evil for them, because it has confused so many by prejudice that they have supported their own oppressors. (King, 1963)

Black and white, we will all be harmed unless something grand and imaginative is done. The unemployed, poverty-stricken white man must be made to realize that he is in the very same boat with the Negro. Together, they could exert massive pressure on the government to get jobs for all. Together they could form a grand alliance. Together, they could merge all people for the good of all. (King, 1965)

Dr. King clearly distinguished Public Service Job Assurance from ‘training programs’. Too often, he wrote, “‘[t]raining’ becomes a way of avoiding the issue of unemployment” (King, 1967):

The orientation...should be “Jobs First, Training Later.” Unfortunately, the job policy of the federal programs has largely been the reverse, with the result that people are being trained for nonexistent jobs. (King, 1967)

While the development of skills and support of educational experiences are important characteristics of Public Service Job Assurance, “The jobs should nevertheless be jobs and understood as such, not given the false label of ‘training’.” (King, 1967, pp. 196-199)

Referring to the historical and structural socioeconomic experience of some of the young and long-time discouraged, Dr. King envisioned Public Service Jobs as providing them with “special work places where their irregularity as workers can be accepted until they have restored their habits of discipline” (1967). At the same time, he insisted that “we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted” (King, 1967). For Dr. King, Public Service Job Assurance is capable of reconciling these various requirements, as it is conceived around the idea that “New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available” (King, 1967).

In Where do We Go From Here? (1967), Dr. King elaborated his vision of Public Service Job Assurance. First, development of skills and education are outcomes, not prerequisites, of the program. Second, the jobs are producing community and public services that are in short supply and that benefit the neediest communities. Third, the program generates incomes for individuals and families that have unmet needs. Fourth, there are numerous social-psychological benefits for individuals, families, communities, and the nation:

The big, new, attractive thrust of Negro employment is in the nonprofessional services. A high percentage of these jobs is in public employment. The human services (medical attention, social services, neighborhood amenities of various kinds) are in scarce supply in this country, especially in localitiesof poverty. The traditional way of providing manpower for these jobs ‘degree-granting programs’ cannot fill all the niches that are opening up. The traditional job requirements are a barrier to attaining an adequate supply of personnel, especially if the number of jobs expands to meet existing need.

The expansion of the human services can be the missing industry that will soak up the unemployment that persists in the United States. [It can be the] the missing industry that would change the employment scene in America. The expansion of human services is that industry--it is labor intensive, requiring manpower immediately rather than heavy capital investment as in construction or other fields; it fills a great need not met by private enterprise; it involves labor that can be trained and developed on the job.

The growth of the human services should be rapid. It should be developed in a manner insuring that the jobs that will be generated will not primarily be for professionals with college and postgraduate diplomas but for people from the neighborhoods who can perform important functions for their neighbors. As with private enterprise, rigid credentials have monopolized the entry routes into human services employment. But...less educated people can do many of the tasks now performed by the highly educated as well as many other new and necessary tasks. (King, 1967, original emphasis, pp. 197-98)

Public Service Job Assurance provides the framework for income maintenance, skill development, and community service provisioning. Dr. King also believed that it could support goals in other areas, such as housing and education:

Work of this sort could be enormously increased, and we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished. The poor transformed into purchasers will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay. (King, 1972 [1968])

Health and childcare are other areas where Public Service Job Assurance may serve as the vehicle for progressive social policies. If the Public Service wage-benefits package included medical coverage and childcare, not only would this guarantee Public Service workers and their families coverage, but it also could pressure firms in the private sector to match such benefits. Failure to do so could leave firms unable to attract workers to their places of employment.

Individuals develop skills and work habits and provide community service, with the effects reverberating throughout the social fabric of society. The benefits of Job Assurance are potentially widespread and all-pervasive:

Beyond these advantages, a host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts...will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on a scale of dollars is eliminated. (King, 1972 [1968])

I am positive, moreover, that the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through the spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils. (King, 1965)

Of course, Dr. King recognized that Public Service Job Assurance could not take the place of all social programs. He therefore supported comprehensive legislation that would:

guarantee an income to all who are not able to work. Some people are too young, some are too old, some are physically disabled, and yet in order to live, they need an income. (King, 1968)

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. supported Public Service Job Assurance throughout his life. It was a concrete part of his Dream, but he did not view it as utopian or overly-idealistic: “This country has the resources to solve any problem once that problem is accepted as national policy” (King, 1965). By supporting the provision of community services, “it raises the possibility of rebuilding America so that private affluence is not accompanied by public squalor of slums and distress” (King, 1968). In 1963, he wrote: “I would challenge skeptics to give such a bold new approach a test for the next decade” (King, 1963). We know that unfortunately we did not take up his challenge at that time, but it is not too late to take up that challenge now, as we enter the new millennium.

What better way to celebrate the Dream and the Vision of Dr. King?

Bibliography of Work Cited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King, Jr., Martin Luther, 1963, Why We Can’t Wait, New York: New American Library.

Interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965, Playboy, January, 117ff.

King, Jr. Martin Luther, 1967, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, New York: Harper & Row.

King, Jr., Martin Luther, 1968, “Showdown for Nonviolence,” Look, Vol. 32, April 16, pp. 23-25.

Dr. King’s last letter requesting support for his March on Washington, quoted in Robert Goodman, 1971, After the Planners, New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 32.

King, Jr., Martin Luther, 1972 [1968], “New Sense of Direction,” Worldview, 15, April.

Other Works Cited

Carlson, Ellen, and William F. Mitchell (eds.), 2000, The Path to Full Employment and Equity, ELRR: Economic and Labour Relations Review, Supplement to Volume 11.

Darity, Jr., William A. and Samuel L. Myers, Jr. (with Emmett D. Carson and William Sabol), 1994, The Black Underclass: Critical Essays on Race and Unwantedness, New York: Garland.

Darity, Jr., William A. and Darrick Hamilton, 2001, “A Test of the Functionality of Discrimination,” presented at Allied Social Science Annual Meetings, New Orleans, January.

Warner, Aaron, Mathew Forstater, and Sumner Rosen (eds.), 2000, Commitment to Full Employment, Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe.

Wray, L. Randall, 1998, Understanding Modern Money: The Key To Full Employment and Price Stability, Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar.

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Posted by Elvis on 01/14/14 •
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Sysadmins Unite

spying.jpg

WikiLeaks Assange: Sysadmins of the World, Unite!

By John Borland
Wired
December 29, 2013

Faced with increasing encroachments on privacy and free speech, high-tech workers around the world should identify as a class and fight power together, said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Sunday.

In a video speech to the Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) here, Assange drew parallels between the labor movements of the industrial age and the technology workers of today. As workers joined into unions to fight for better working conditions, technology workers should unite to fight government encroachments on Internet and speech freedoms, he said.

System administrators, who have access to confidential government or corporate documents, have particular ability to play a role in what he painted as a new class war, he said.

“We can see that in the case of WikiLeaks, or the Snowden revelations, it’s possible for even a single system administrator to have very significant constructive effect,” he said. “This is not merely wrecking or disabling, not going on strikes, but rather shifting information from an information apartheid system from those with extraordinary power to the digital commons.”

Joined at this CCC talk by WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, who helped Edward Snowden in his flight from Hong Kong to Russia earlier this year, and by digital activist Jacob Appelbaum, Assange painted a picture of the coming years in near-apocalyptic colors.

“This is the last free generation,” he said. “The coming together of the systems of government and the information apartheid is such that none of us will be able to escape it in just a decade.”

Fighting this system by leaking information, where possible, or otherwise working for the cause of transparency - was the only way to shape government systems in a positive way, he said.

“We are all becoming part of this state whether we like it or not,” he said. “Our only hope is to help determine what kind of state we will be a part of.”

Connecting to the conference over an often-broken Skype connection, Assange was speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder has been accused of sexual assault in Sweden, and Britain has approved his extradition. He has been granted political asylum by Ecuador, which cited fears of his otherwise being extradited to the United States, but has not been granted safe passage out of the country by the United Kingdom.

Hackers and technologists should accept jobs at intelligence and other institutions, in order to bring out more documents, Assange said in his video speech.

“Go into the CIA,” he said. “Go into the ball park and bring the ball out.”

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Posted by Elvis on 12/30/13 •
Section American Solidarity
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