THIS WEEK IN LABOR: Oct. 13

A big fat rat

If you check in at an airport, don’t be surprised if you are greeted by a giant inflatable rat holding bags of money.

United Airlines’ unionized pilots are using the rodent to represent United’s CEO. He hiked his own salary from $800,000 a year to $39 million a year while he slashed the salaries of airline employees more than 30 percent.





Cheers for a living wage

As 100 labor and community activists applauded, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County commissioners pledged support for a $10 an hour living wage for all county employees and contractors. The wage would meet the federal poverty standard for a family of four.

Tim Hagan, chair of the three-member Board of Commissioners, said the plan could be enacted by late October provided county prosecutor Bill Mason certifies the absence of conflict with state law.





Teachers endorse Obama, Clinton

Barack Obama picked up a major labor endorsement Oct. 3 as members of the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates (AFT Local 1) voted to endorse his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

On the same day Local 1’s parent union, the million-plus-member American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Hillary Clinton for that nomination.





Coalition of Labor Union Women convenes

The Coalition of Labor Union Women held its 14th biennial convention Oct. 10–13 in Las Vegas.

CLUW is the national women’s organization within the AFL-CIO and the labor movement as a whole.

At the convention, delegates took up a range of issues, including support for the Employee Free Choice Act, pay equity, the extension and expansion of the Family Leave Act, national health care, fair trade policies and an end to the war in Iraq.





Union members casting e-ballots

Starting Oct. 1 and up until Nov. 9, the 700,000 members of the Communication Workers of America can go online to indicate their choice for U.S. president in a first-ever Internet poll of union members. The site is www.cwavotes.org.





Home Depot targeted by Steelworkers

The United Steelworkers (USW) on Oct. 1 sponsored a “North American Day of Action” at Home Depot stores in 150 cities to support more than 7,000 British Columbia forestry workers on strike against 30 companies, including two that Home Depot buys from, Western Forest Products and Interfor. Workers are striking because 65 workers have died from hazardous conditions on the job since January 2005.

Thousands of USW members, leaders, community activists and their families distributed information about the labor dispute at Home Depot stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.





Another anti-labor move

Once again “Labor’s Watchdog” has shown itself in need of plenty of watching itself. The National Labor Relations Board has made it easier for anti-union workers to file decertification (union ouster) petitions in cases where firms recognized the unions by card check, i.e. where the majority of workers signed authorization forms for union representation.

In its ruling involving two firms the UAW organized by card check, the Bush majority on the NLRB said it was making decertification easier “in order to achieve a finer balance of interests that better protects employees’ free choice.”





The fightback at Wal-Mart

Researchers have uncovered 14.6 million violations of both Minnesota law and company policy at the state’s Wal-Mart stores, violations that have cost the workers $27 million in wages. Some 56,000 Wal-Mart workers have filed a class action suit against the company in the Dakota County, Minn., District Court.

According to the suit, Wal-Mart failed to pay workers when they missed their breaks and lunch periods, routinely required employees to work off the clock for no pay before and after shifts, falsified time sheets to show that breaks were taken when they were not and engaged in a “one-minute punch practice,” punching workers out right after they clocked in to deny them a day’s pay.





Union/nonunion contrast in the mines

The stark contrast between conditions in union and nonunion mines showed up on Capitol Hill in Oct. 3 testimony on the fatal Utah mine disasters in August.

The witnesses, led by relatives of the dead miners and United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, painted a picture of “retreat mining” that the nonunion firm should never have submitted for approval and that the Mine Safety and Health Administration should never have approved — and of workers afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.

Witnesses testified that union coal miners have avenues to raise safety questions before they go underground, and protection when they do.

This Week in Labor is compiled by John Wojcik (jwojcik @pww.org). Press Associates Inc. and Rick Nagin contributed.