Anti-immigrant ads pollute airwaves

It’s fertile conditions when economic times are bad to have someone to blame besides your rotten employer, said Iowa AFL-CIO president Mark Smith about anti-immigrant political ads that have been appearing on Iowa TV and radio stations. According to the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, the ads try to pit workers against workers in an attempt to change presidential candidates’ positions on immigrant workers in the U.S. before the state’s caucuses.

In the ads, the narrator talks about foreign workers dragging down wages and taking jobs away from Iowans, illustrated by an image of a fist hitting a punching bag, printed with a human face. The ads are financed by “Coalition for the Future American Worker,” the creation of the nation’s two largest anti-immigrant organizations, Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, and Americans for Immigration Control.

Smith has called on the stations to pull the ads. “Racism is always a nifty tool for people who have money, for people who find it advantageous to have workers at each others throats,” he told the World. “These ads play to some poor guy who has lost his job, he said or bunches who are afraid they will lose theirs. It takes the onus off the government for their crappy trade treaties.”

Workers cross Borders,win union contract

Workers at Borders Books flagship store in Ann Arbor, Mich., ratified a two-year contract by a vote of 20-12 after a hard-fought strike. The contract provides wage increases of 25 cents an hour, a minimum three percent annual raise and removal of wage caps for long-time employees as well as a grievance procedure and an end to the workers’ “at will” status. The bookstore employees voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 876 on Dec. 6, 2002, by a resounding 51-4 vote.

According to the Borders Books Employees’ website, the Borders Union campaign is “an employee-driven grass-roots movement, facilitated in ground-breaking ways by the Internet.” Thirteen stores across the country have had union votes, and a dozen others have had “serious” union drives, but all have been countered by an aggressive anti-union campaign, leaving only the Ann Arbor store and the Minneapolis Borders with union representation.

Nissan workers seek union

Pro-union Nissan workers in Smyrna, Tenn., filed hundreds of cards gathered from among their 4,000 fellow workers asking for a National Labor Relations Board-supervised union representation election. They seek representation from the United Auto Workers at their plant here. The NLRB is expected to take at least six weeks to process the request, with appeals likely to drag out the process for months. Nissan, like other foreign-owned “transplants,” has been a tough nut for union workers to crack. A representation election was lost in 1989, and drives in 1997 and 2003 did not come to votes. Workplace safety seems to be a driving issue this time. Nissan rank-and-file worker Tracy Shadix told the Car Connection, “I’ve seen too many workers injured and too many injured workers mistreated. We need a union.”

Labor Secretary offers tips to bosses

As if to prove labor’s contention that the U.S. Labor Secretary is not much of a friend of labor, Elaine Chao is taking the initiative to suggest to employers ways they can take full advantage of her department’s new overtime regulations to keep down the wages of low-paid workers, according to a report from Associated Press.

In one ploy suggested by the Department of Labor, employers who regularly work their employees long hours can cut their hourly rate and add the overtime to equal the original salary. Another suggested gambit is to raise the employee’s salary just over the $22,100 threshold, making him or her a potential member of management and thus ineligible for overtime pay.

Striking grocery workers salute Dr. King

A “Grocery Worker Support Rally” has been called by a grouping of activists and churches in South Los Angeles to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on the celebration of his birthday, Jan. 19. The rally will be held at the Albertsons store at the corner of MLK and Crenshaw in Los Angeles.

This Week in Labor was compiled by Roberta Wood (