CP convention endorses Employee Free Choice Act

CHICAGO — Delegates to the Communist Party’s 28th Convention, held here over the Fourth of July weekend, voted unanimously with a storm of applause to endorse the Employee Free Choice Act, now before Congress. One delegate, Alicia, explained that her enthusiastic support is more than academic. She is a health care professional at one of the eight local hospitals in the Resurrection Health Care system, and an activist in the drive by AFSCME Council 31 to organize the chain’s 8,000 workers.

The EFCA would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation. It would also authorize stronger penalties when employers violate the law by harassing and firing union supporters.

For Alicia, the convention resolution in support of EFCA was right on time. She said she hoped it would spur those in attendance into increased action in support of the bill. “Currently Resurrection management is harassing union supporters left and right,” she charged, citing examples ranging from denials of vacation requests to threats to immigrants. “They even had the nerve to tell people what to do in their own homes,” she related, warning them not to open their doors when a union organizer knocks. “When I heard about that, my blood pressure went through the roof,” she said.

What difference would passage of the EFCA make?

“Are you kidding?” she shot back. “That would make a big difference. People would feel they could make a choice.”

Motown mayor’s DoWop proposal out of harmony

DETROIT — Protesting unpaid days off (known as DOWOP — Days Off With Out Pay), impending layoffs and cuts in health care benefits, 150 city of Detroit workers picketed the municipal center here July 9. The cut in health care benefits would amount to a 10 percent wage cut, protesters said.

The rally, called by a coalition of city unions including AFSCME Locals 2920 and 207, Operating Engineers 547 and UAW Local 2342, also protested the drastic cut in city services that will result from the cutbacks. “I don’t see how our government can spend $85 billion on the war in Iraq instead of on schools, medical care and city services,” one angry worker told the World.

AFL-CIO proposes Industry Coordinating Councils

The establishment of Industry Coordinating Councils within the AFL-CIO could address one longstanding obstacle to the success of union organizing campaigns, lack of inter-union cooperation, according to the federation’s officers who will bring a set of proposals to establish the new bodies before its convention later this month.

The ICCs will be “a new, powerful tool” to take on corporate America, said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

AFL-CIO spokesperson Lane Windham added, “In today’s economy, with super-mega corporations, it’s important for unions to organize industry-wide, not just employer by employer.”

A coordinating council for a given industry, such as airlines or health care, would be formed to develop a strategic organizing plan for that industry at the request of a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The plan could include political and legislative components. An important part of the plan would be the establishment of contract standards.

In the past, in return for short-term membership gains, some unscrupulous unions have allowed themselves to be used by employers to thwart industry-wide campaigns of other unions. By signing “sweetheart” contracts they have undercut the interests of the workers.

Under the new proposals, Articles 20 and 21 of the AFL-CIO constitution would be amended to impose strong sanctions for such unethical actions, including removing their protection from “raiding” by other unions.

The proposals are a result of many months of discussion within the federation of ideas to strengthen the labor movement, said Windham. She added that the industry coordination and contract standards issues were a major concern of the Change to Win group. Change to Win is a grouping of five unions within the AFL-CIO, some of which have threatened to break away if their demands for structural change are not met. They say these changes are needed for membership growth.

“Articles 20 and 21 are the only real power the federation has over its affiliates,” Windham said. “To make changes here means these are really huge changes.”

Labor Update is compiled by Roberta Wood (rwood@pww.org). Jim Gallo contributed to this week’s update.