‘Right-to-work’ attacks card check

A right-to-work group is challenging the legality of agreements negotiated by the United Auto Workers union with GM, Ford and Chrysler. The agreements in question allow the employees of the Big Three’s parts suppliers to achieve union recognition through “card check” procedures, avoiding the delays and employer intimidation inherent in the traditional National Labor Relations Board process.

The union wants to enrol members at suppliers to offset job cuts that could number as many as 50,000 under the new four-year contract, according to the Detroit News. But the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a complaint against the UAW April 5, claiming the agreement “coerces” workers into joining the union.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger countered, “If a majority of workers want to organize a union, they have a right to do so, and card check is an accepted way of determining majority status. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation may have a problem with majority rule, but we don’t.”

High-speed rail system promises jobs

Tens of thousands of family-wage manufacturing jobs could be created as a result of the passage of federal legislation providing for a major expansion of a new high-speed rail system, according to an April 7 statement by the United Steelworkers of America.

The measure, which promotes the development and deployment of magnetic levitation (“maglev”) transportations systems, was included in the House bill reauthorizing the nation’s surface transportation system.

USWA President Leo Gerard said the maglev program has the potential to revolutionize transportation in many U.S., markets and presents an unparalleled opportunity to stimulate the domestic steel market for years to come.

Congress established the federal high-speed program in 1998. Maglev projects in several states – including Pennsylvania, Nevada and Maryland – have received funding to cover initial engineering and planning costs. Commercial maglev service began last year in Shanghai, where the 265-mile-per-hour system is the world’s fastest commercial railroad system.

Defending immigrant rights and equality

TOLEDO, Ohio – “We don’t think God discriminates by color, races or cultures,” said Pastor Alberto Martinez of the Good Shepherd Baptist Church at a Farm Labor Organizing Committee press conference here April 7. Martinez spoke for a coalition of labor and religious organizations announcing a Good Friday day of prayer and fasting for the rights of immigrants and immigration reform. Racist anti-immigrant groups are few, but vocal, FLOC Immigrant Rights Director Beatriz Maya told the World. “Churches have joined immigrant workers to make sure people of good faith voices are also heard,” says Martinez.

Bank of America to cut 12,500 jobs

As Bank of America takes over the operations of Boston’s biggest bank, FleetBoston Financial Corp., it plans to cut 12,500 jobs, according to the Boston Globe. CEO Kenneth Lewis said the layoff of 7 percent of the banks’ work force is necessary to keep the bank in good financial health. In recent years, Lewis has boosted B of A’s stock price by aggressively cutting costs – including 35,000 jobs.

Maryland Senate passes living wage

The new minimum wage will be $10.50 an hour for any employee working under a state contract worth $100,000 or more in Maryland after the state Senate passed the nation’s first state living wage bill April 7. The measure would apply to about 600 employers, mostly security and janitorial services who bid on state contracts, according to the Washington Post. Baltimore was the first city in the nation to pass a living wage law 10 years ago. Since then, more than 115 jurisdictions have followed suit.

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