Posts Tagged ‘organized labor’

Crystal Sutton sucumbs to cancer at 68

September 13, 2009


Photo of Crystal Sutton, the inspiration for the movie Norma Rae, at the time of a reception in her honor on June 12, 2007 on the ocassion of her donation of her papers to Almanance Community College in Graham, North Carolina (just east of Burlington–for info on the collection email Sheila Street.)

At the age of 33 in 1973, she worked at the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., making $2.65 an hour folding towels, after having been employed by the company since the age of 17. She joined forces with Eli Zivkovich, a union organizer from West Virginia, in an attempt to improve working conditions. After that, she said,

Management and others treated me as if I had leprosy.

She received threats and was finally fired after copying a mill flyer saying blacks would run the union. In one final act of defiance,

I took a piece of cardboard and wrote the word UNION on it in big letters, got up on my work table, and slowly turned it around. The workers started cutting their machines off and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was very quiet…

The police physically removed her from the plant, but The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) won the right to represent the workers at the plant and Sutton became an organizer for the union. In 1977, Sutton was awarded back wages and reinstated on her job by court order. Since she now had other opportunities, she returned for only two daysand continued her organizing work.

By 1988, she decided to decided to join the community college’s Nursing Assistant program. I haven’t yet found what happened to her organizing job that would lead her to train for such a relatively low-paying type of work, after years in the limelight. But her attendance there led her to donate her papers in 2007 to ensure they would be provided for future historians and students.

By that time she was already battling cancer, after a delay of two months caused by her insurance company, which at first would not immediately approve her medical treatment.

The Crystal Lee Sutton Awards, established in her name by the Motion Picture Editors Guild, recognize individuals and organizations whose efforts have contributed to presenting positive images of working people to the American public.

Sutton said in an interview

President Obama, Listen to Bill Moyers.

September 7, 2009

Photo of Billionaires for Wealth Care.

Billionaires for Wealthcare is a grassroots network of health insurance CEOs, industry lobbyists, talk-show hosts, and others profiting off of our broken health care system.

We are not a political, religious or even particularly well-organized group. We’re simple folk, thrilled profiteers pouring out of our corner offices to dance on the grave of “Change.”

We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure another decade where your pain is our gain. After all, when it comes to healthcare, if we ain’t broke, why fix it?

On Friday, September 4, the veteran journalist and former press secretary (to Lyndon Johnson) tried to the President some advice in an essay at the end of his PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal. Referring to the editors of The Economist saying the health care debate had become delirious, he found that charitable and preferred the term “deranged.”

Only in a fantasy capital like Washington could Sunday morning talk shows become the high church of conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to boil down to lower taxes for the rich. Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him. No one’s ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying “pretty please” to the guys trying to cut your throat. Let’s get on with it, Mr. President. We’re up the proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This health care thing could have been the crossing of the Delaware, the turning point in the next American Revolution — the moment we put the mercenaries to rout, as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We could have stamped our victory “Made in the USA.” We could have said to the world, “Look what we did!” And we could have turned to each other and said, “thank you.” As it is, we’re about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company’s share price and profits.

Here’s a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website talkingpointsmemo.com. He’s a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn’t split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He’s offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan; one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you’re 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it’s life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.

Richard Trumka (WaPo profile by Alec MacGillis–email) will be taking over as President of the AFL-CIO. In a speech August 31 at the Center for American Progress he issued a call to arms.

Today, more than ever, we need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies, and challenges those who, well, can’t seem to decide which side they’re on.

I’m talking about the politicians who always want us to turn out our members to vote for them, but who somehow, always seem to forget workers after the votes are counted.

For example, legislators who don’t understand that their job isn’t to make insurance companies happy; it’s to keep Americans healthy!

Legislators who say they’re are all for health care reform, but refuse to stand up for a public system that puts people before profits!

You know, to hear some of them, you’d think the objective isn’t to come up with a health care plan that works; it’s to write a bill Republicans will vote for.

I think they need to understand that that you can have a bill that guarantees quality, affordable health care for every American – or you can have a bill the Republicans will vote for.

But you can’t have both!

Solidarity Divided

September 20, 2008

Cover art from Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice by Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Fernando Gapasin (University of California Press, 2008, 978-0-520-25525-8).

Solidarity Divided examines organized labor’s current decline and provides suggestions for the way forward, offering history and analysis. The authors consider the influences of globalization, the environment, and fallout from the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. (email) is Director of Field Services and Education for the American Federation of Government Employees, Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com and co-founder the Center for Labor Renewal, He served as President of TransAfrica Forum and was formerly the Education Director and then Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO.

Fernando Gapasin is President for the Central Oregon Labor Council and currently teaches at the University of Oregon.

Democracy Now featured Fletcher on September 19 talking about what the Wall Street meltdown means for the American worker.

Preface: Revelations in South Africa
Introduction: Change to Win and the Split in the AFL-CIO

PART I. CHALLENGES FACING THE U.S. LABOR MOVEMENT
1. Dukin’ It Out: Building the Labor Movement
2. The New Deal
3. The Cold War on Labor
4. The Civil Rights Movements, the Left, and Labor

PART II. THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED
5. Whose Welfare Matters, Anyway?
6. What’s Left for Us?
7. Organizing to Organize the Unorganized

PART III. SWEENEY’S GRAND GESTURE
8. The New Voice Coalition Takes Office
9. Developing Strategy in Times of Change
10. Globalization: The Biggest Strategic Challenge
11. Could’a, Would’a, Should’a: Central Labor Councils and Missed Opportunities
12. International Affairs, Globalization, and 9/11

PART IV. WHEN SILENCE ISN’T GOLDEN
13. Restlessness in the Ranks
14. Change to Win: A Return to Gompers?
15. Anger, Compromise, and the Paralysis of the Sweeney Coalition
16. Left Behind

PART V. THE WAY FORWARD: SOCIAL JUSTICE UNIONISM
17. The Need for Social Justice Unionism
18. The Need for a Global Outlook
19. Realizing Social Justice Unionism: Strategies for Transformation

Appendix A. A Process for Addressing the Future of U.S. Organized Labor
Appendix B. Using Race, Class, and Gender Analysis to Transform Local Unions: A Case Study
Notes
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index
About the Authors

Labor Unions, Employers and Bush

June 4, 2008

Does the Bush Administration distrust labor unions more than employers? Unions report their financial information directly to the Office of Labor Management Standards(OLMS), while employers keep their records on site, which means that the Wage and Hour Division has to visit each indivual employer in order to enforce the laws it administers. And yet, the regulatory budgets for the two divisions of the Department of Labor appear skewed

Ross Eisenbrey, vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) noted June 4 that President Bush’s proposed FY 2009 budget for the Department of Labor

requested $58 million for Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which oversees 23,000 unions and union locals with 13 million members. He requested only $193 million for the Wage and Hour Division, which oversees 7.4 million employers and protects 150 million employees by enforcing a host of labor standards, including child labor laws, overtime rules, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, among others. In terms of dollars per regulated entity, the OLMS budget is $2,500 per union and union local. The Wage and Hour Division budget is only $26.08 per employer.

 

Cartoonists Bors, Rall: Stewart & Colbert are Scabs

January 17, 2008

United Feature Syndicate cartoonist Matt Bors (email, website. My Space page) released his cartoon “Scab,” and to posted on his blog on “Television and Strikes.”


And above’s Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist Ted Rall ‘s (email, website, bio) cartoon from January 17 and his post.

With news that the Director’s Guild of America has reached a tentative agreement, pressure increases on the Writer’s Guild to settle. But, it was the studios who walked away from the table back in December. The side deals signed by Letterman and smaller film studios will be superseded by the final contract. Here’s a rundown of the tentative pros and cons of the deal from the WGA perspective.

This week, Jonathan Handel, a digital media attorney who at one time worked for the Guild (email) had an op-ed in the LA Times urging the writers to used the directors to help broker a deal. But, as he pointed out earlier at his blog,

The top echelon of movie directors are paid millions and promised a cut of the gross, so new-media residuals don’t amount to much mad money for them. Meanwhile, 40% of DGA members are assistant directors and unit production managers who receive practically no residuals now.

As a result, the Directors Guild likely is more willing to trade off new-media residuals against other issues, such as larger base payments up front. Indeed, the studios would prefer to hike those minimums rather than increase residuals. That’s because the first residuals deal negotiated often becomes a blueprint for the others — it’s called “pattern bargaining” — but upfront minimums don’t work that way. If the directors’ deal were to become the contract template, each dollar of residuals the studios grant multiplies into more than $12 across all the unions’ contracts.

Patrick Walsh described what the writers at Cinematical back in December:

Writers currently make $.04 for each $20 DVD sold. The AMPTP wants to give us the DVD rate (.3% of the gross — roughly half a cent for each $2 iTunes episode download) for the internet downloads, despite the huge amount of money (around $.50 per DVD) that they save on shipping, manufacturing, etc. (Basically, the WGA is asking for 2.5% of internet sales, the AMPTP is offering .3 – .36%…on the network websites you can watch entire episodes of television shows for free. The networks sell ads (that annoying commercial you have to watch before your show begins) and earn lotsa money from running the shows online (an estimated $4.6 billion over the next three years, to be exact). But writers receive NONE of that revenue. Not one cent. How can this be? The studios claim these downloads are “for promotional purposes only.”

The WGA wanted the amount a writer earns from a DVD sale to go up from $.04 cents per sale to $.08 cents per sale….The AMPTP offered considerably less, and the WGA took the doubling proposal off the table. The writers also want internet showings to pay the same amount as television showings…. But the AMPTP claims that the internet is still “too new” a medium to set a reasonable percentage.

But with the exception of some of the blogs, the media’s coverage of Leno, et. al returning to work has speculated on content, but failed to question them for undercutting the strike. At least until today, when Bors and Rall (see cartoons above) paired up to issue a press release and the above cartoons confronting political humorists Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” for returning to their Comedy Central shows without writers during the Writers Guild of America strike.

the stakes are too high, the issues too important, the hypocrisy too hypocritical for us to just put down our pens and tune in to their union-busting, albeit highly amusing, programs.

The pair added that they will not appear on either show while the strike remains in effect.

We’d rather fight in Bush’s wars than cross a picket line.

Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor and Publisher passed along the news release, although he said he didn’t agree. Readers at his blog seemed to take this a signal to attack the cartoonists.

UPDATE of 1/18/07: Hollywood Reporter‘s Ray Richmond had a piece this morning questioning why the guild isn’t going after high profile members who have returned to television, “WGA stance on struck work seems more like a write-off.”

Jeff Hermanson, the WGA’s assistant executive director, makes the point that the guild doesn’t comment on alleged strike rules compliance violations until a determination is made and possible disciplinary action taken. He declined to say whether there had been any complaints lodged against Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel or Maher, or if indeed anything they have done since returning constitutes a breach.

“With regard to Leno, we clarified that he isn’t supposed to be writing a monologue,” Hermanson said this week. “Clearly, he had a misunderstanding of the rule.” So why has the WGA allowed Leno to continue penning a nightly monologue on “Tonight” without making an issue of it? And just whose misunderstanding was this: Leno’s or the guild’s? Hermanson replies that the WGA isn’t taking a position on that at present.

We might surmise from this that the guild has taken to having a sliding scale when it comes to perceived scab writing and enforcement. If you’re a high-profile talk-show host on a struck production, it appears to be OK to use your words as long as you don’t make it too terribly obvious. And even if you do, just don’t rub anyone’s nose in it, and nobody gets hurt.

Cartoonists Bors, Rall: Stewart & Colbert are Scabs

January 17, 2008

United Feature Syndicate cartoonist Matt Bors (email, website. My Space page) released his cartoon “Scab,” and to posted on his blog on “Television and Strikes.”


And above’s Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist Ted Rall ‘s (email, website, bio) cartoon from January 17 and his post.

With news that the Director’s Guild of America has reached a tentative agreement, pressure increases on the Writer’s Guild to settle. But, it was the studios who walked away from the table back in December. The side deals signed by Letterman and smaller film studios will be superseded by the final contract. Here’s a rundown of the tentative pros and cons of the deal from the WGA perspective.

This week, Jonathan Handel, a digital media attorney who at one time worked for the Guild (email) had an op-ed in the LA Times urging the writers to used the directors to help broker a deal. But, as he pointed out earlier at his blog,

The top echelon of movie directors are paid millions and promised a cut of the gross, so new-media residuals don’t amount to much mad money for them. Meanwhile, 40% of DGA members are assistant directors and unit production managers who receive practically no residuals now.

As a result, the Directors Guild likely is more willing to trade off new-media residuals against other issues, such as larger base payments up front. Indeed, the studios would prefer to hike those minimums rather than increase residuals. That’s because the first residuals deal negotiated often becomes a blueprint for the others — it’s called “pattern bargaining” — but upfront minimums don’t work that way. If the directors’ deal were to become the contract template, each dollar of residuals the studios grant multiplies into more than $12 across all the unions’ contracts.

Patrick Walsh described what the writers at Cinematical back in December:

Writers currently make $.04 for each $20 DVD sold. The AMPTP wants to give us the DVD rate (.3% of the gross — roughly half a cent for each $2 iTunes episode download) for the internet downloads, despite the huge amount of money (around $.50 per DVD) that they save on shipping, manufacturing, etc. (Basically, the WGA is asking for 2.5% of internet sales, the AMPTP is offering .3 – .36%…on the network websites you can watch entire episodes of television shows for free. The networks sell ads (that annoying commercial you have to watch before your show begins) and earn lotsa money from running the shows online (an estimated $4.6 billion over the next three years, to be exact). But writers receive NONE of that revenue. Not one cent. How can this be? The studios claim these downloads are “for promotional purposes only.”

The WGA wanted the amount a writer earns from a DVD sale to go up from $.04 cents per sale to $.08 cents per sale….The AMPTP offered considerably less, and the WGA took the doubling proposal off the table. The writers also want internet showings to pay the same amount as television showings…. But the AMPTP claims that the internet is still “too new” a medium to set a reasonable percentage.

But with the exception of some of the blogs, the media’s coverage of Leno, et. al returning to work has speculated on content, but failed to question them for undercutting the strike. At least until today, when Bors and Rall (see cartoons above) paired up to issue a press release and the above cartoons confronting political humorists Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” for returning to their Comedy Central shows without writers during the Writers Guild of America strike.

the stakes are too high, the issues too important, the hypocrisy too hypocritical for us to just put down our pens and tune in to their union-busting, albeit highly amusing, programs.

The pair added that they will not appear on either show while the strike remains in effect.

We’d rather fight in Bush’s wars than cross a picket line.

Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor and Publisher passed along the news release, although he said he didn’t agree. Readers at his blog seemed to take this a signal to attack the cartoonists.

UPDATE of 1/18/07: Hollywood Reporter‘s Ray Richmond had a piece this morning questioning why the guild isn’t going after high profile members who have returned to television, “WGA stance on struck work seems more like a write-off.”

Jeff Hermanson, the WGA’s assistant executive director, makes the point that the guild doesn’t comment on alleged strike rules compliance violations until a determination is made and possible disciplinary action taken. He declined to say whether there had been any complaints lodged against Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel or Maher, or if indeed anything they have done since returning constitutes a breach.

“With regard to Leno, we clarified that he isn’t supposed to be writing a monologue,” Hermanson said this week. “Clearly, he had a misunderstanding of the rule.” So why has the WGA allowed Leno to continue penning a nightly monologue on “Tonight” without making an issue of it? And just whose misunderstanding was this: Leno’s or the guild’s? Hermanson replies that the WGA isn’t taking a position on that at present.

We might surmise from this that the guild has taken to having a sliding scale when it comes to perceived scab writing and enforcement. If you’re a high-profile talk-show host on a struck production, it appears to be OK to use your words as long as you don’t make it too terribly obvious. And even if you do, just don’t rub anyone’s nose in it, and nobody gets hurt.

UMWA Issues Own Report on Sago

March 20, 2007

March 16, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) released its own Report on the Sago Mine Disaster of January 2, 2006.

The Union believes that there is absolutely no clear evidence to support the theory that lightning was the cause of the explosion. Further, there is no evidence that lightning striking the ground near a mining operation has ever traveled into the underground area of a mine, without the presence of a conduit from the surface into the mine, and then caused an ignition or explosion of gas or dust.

The Union has determined that the most likely cause of the explosion was conditions contained solely within the sealed area of the mine where the explosion
occurred. The lightning strike theory is based entirely on circumstantial evidence and is so remote as to be practically impossible.

The UMWA concludes that the most likely cause of the explosion was frictional activity from the roof, roof support or support material which ignited the methane-air mixture. The union firmly believes that 12 men are dead today who should not be. The UMWA believes that if the mine’s operating company, the International
Coal Group (ICG) had put safety ahead of profit and if the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) had followed the mandates established
by Congress in the 1969 Coal Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, all 12 of the trapped miners would have survived and given the circumstances it is likely all 13 would be alive today.

The Agency’s decisions over the past several decades to promulgate regulations, grant petitions for modification and create policies that contradict the intent of Congress by reducing or eliminating the legislated protections played a major role in the tragic events of January 2, 2006.

Likewise, decisions Sago mine management made in operating the mine, including ventilation plans, roof control plans and its extremely rare practice of second mining created conditions in the mine that were inherently risky. The Union believes that the company’s flawed plans and mining practices contributed to the devastating events of January 2, 2006.

Knowing the cause of the explosion is important so that steps can be taken to prevent a similar situation from happening again. However, regardless of the cause of the explosion in this instance, had MSHA followed the mandates of Congress, and had ICG operated the mine with an eye firmly focused on miners’ safety, there is every reason to believe that every person underground that day would have survived.

The company issued a news release March 15 that quoted its president and chief executive officer Ben Hatfield as saying,

The UMWA’s report is nothing more than political grandstanding. The report is wholly unreliable as an investigatory finding and is designed solely to further the union’s political and organizing agenda.

See also, the first interim staff report to the House Committee on Education and Labor, Implementation of the MINER Act Is Proceeding Too Slowly (2/27/07). George Miller, (D-CA) proposed more stringent legislation last year, H.R. 5389.