Delphi strike looms

The growing disgust against corporate greed amongst workers in auto took another leap as the Delphi Corp. announced its plan in bankruptcy court on March 31 to void union contracts and close 25 of its 33 plants, eliminate 23,000 union jobs (plus 8,500 salaried) and end retiree health benefits.

Reacting to Delphi’s latest shocker, the UAW issued a statement accusing the company of misusing the bankruptcy procedure to “circumvent the collective bargaining process and slash jobs and wages and drastically reduce health care, retirement and other hard-won benefits or eliminate them altogether. It called Delphi’s action “a travesty and a concern for every American.”

The union went on to say that Delphi’s proposal goes far beyond cutting wages and benefits for active and retired workers as it would slash the company’s UAW-represented hourly workforce by approximately 75 percent, devastating Delphi workers, their families and their communities.

If the court rejects the UAW-Delphi contract and Delphi imposes the terms of its last proposal, the UAW has said a long strike is inevitable.

Students sit-in for janitors

“It was nerve-wrecking because we thought we were going to be arrested or even expelled,” said Alyssa Cundari, a University of Miami freshman. Cundari spoke after a 12-hour sit-in March 28 at the office of university president Donna Shalala.

The sit-in ended when Shalala agreed to release a statement from the school supporting the rights of campus janitors to organize. Shalala also agreed to mediate a negotiation session between campus janitors and their employer, UNICCO. The university has contracted with building services giant UNICCO for janitorial services.

The Miami sit-in was linked to demonstrations at over 200 universities nationwide last week focusing on corporate interests on campus. The annual Student-Labor Week of Action was organized by Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), a joint project of Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association.

Teachers give F to testing obsession

Drilling for tests takes more than five hours per week, “the equivalent of an instructional day,” according to a survey of New York City elementary teachers.

In a March 27 letter to The New York Times, the president of the city’s United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, cited the UFT’s recent study and blasted the narrowing of schools’ curriculum due to “the fixation on high-stakes testing to the exclusion of everything else.”

Weingarten noted that the same study revealed that more than 80 percent of teachers said they spent less than two hours per week teaching science and less than two hours on social studies. “There is also a woeful lack of art and music in the schools,” she added and no comprehensive plan for sports and physical education. “Our kids are losing out on the kind of well-rounded education that represents true learning.”

Teachers not bombs

The amount spent by the U.S. on the Iraq war could have paid for almost 4 million new public school teachers for one year, reads a resolution passed March 26 by the convention of the California Federation of Teachers. The resolution calls for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces, bases and operations from Iraq and calls for the government to meet the physical, psychological and economic needs of veterans including full health benefits.

According to U.S. Labor Against the War, with which the CFT is affiliated, “the overwhelming antiwar sentiment among the hundreds of delegates from across California was reflected in numerous floor speeches characterizing the war as the ‘overriding’ issue affecting the conditions of teachers and students and the erosion of financial support for education.”

‘Criminally negligent’

Firefighters, EMTs and other first responders go to work every day without the proper equipment, training or staffing to guarantee our safety or even their own, said a statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in support of legislation to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Sweeney singled out support for the recommendation calling for 100 percent screening of cargo.

“The administration’s failure to address these problems approaches the criminally negligent,” he said.

Bus drivers get on board for HR 676

Local 825 of the Amalgamated Transit Union issued a “wholehearted endorsement” of single payer health care legislation sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). The local represents bus drivers, mechanics and other employees of N.J. Transit Co.

Also last week, two big statewide locals in Michigan and Washington threw their support to the legislation. Seattle-based Local 17 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers endorsed the bill along with UAW Local 6000, based in Lansing, Mich.

The union representing 170,000 current and retired New York City employees, AFSCME District Council 37 added its support as did central labor councils in Henderson, Ky., and Bangor, Maine. Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minn., over 500 Steelworker delegates voted unanimously to support the National Health Insurance Act in a resolution calling itself “a mandate and an action plan.”

The bill, HR 676, would cover every person in the U.S. for all necessary medical care, including drugs, dental care, mental health, vision care and long-term care.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (rwood@pww.org).

John Rummel contributed.

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