Shop Talk: Bucking bosses and closing unsafe mines

Piedmont workers go union

Despite a vicious anti-union campaign by hired guns known as the Labor Relations Institute, more than 3,000 fleet and passenger service agents at Piedmont Airlines voted this week by a two to one margin (1,170 – 638) to join the Communications Workers of America. Workers had been forced to attend captive audience meetings, supervisors tore up union materials in front of them. LRI, the union-busting firm, promised management results “or your money back.”  Workers are celebrating and management got both its money back and results – just not the results it wanted.

IBEW fights climate change

When Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn decided to put solar panels on the roof of the governor’s mansion in Springfield, the state turned to the Electrical Workers to handle the job. The project kicked off Oct. 10 as part of the 10/10/10 Global Work Party. The party, a day of action to fight climate change, includes more than 7,000 events in 183 different countries to help find solutions to climate change. The one kilowatt solar array on the governor’s house will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 tons of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years, the equivalent to about 100,000 car miles or the planting of 1,100 trees.

MSHA seeks to shut mine

A Massey Energy Company-owned mine in Kentucky, which has earned 2,000 safety citations since June, 2008, is “one accident away from tragedy” and needs to be shut down, say federal mine safety officials. No coal mine has ever been shut down for a pattern of safety violations, but the Mine Safety and Health Administration asked a federal court yesterday to do just that – to Freedom Energy’s Mine No. 1 in Pike County, Kentucky.  “Freedom Energy has demonstrated time and again that it cannot be trusted to follow basic safety rules when a MSHA inspector is not at the mine,” said MSHA administrator Joe Main. “If the court does not step in, someone may be seriously injured or die.” MSHA says that workers are being exposed to massive amounts of methane gas from the coal seam with which the mine operates. Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith says, “Although this is the first time the department has utilized this legal remedy, it will not be the last.”

Global unions pressure South Korea

When the leaders of the world’s top 20 economies, also known as the G-20, meet Nov. 11-12 in Seoul, South Korea, the global union movement will shine a light on the Korean government’s repeated violation of workers’ rights. In a letter to Korean President Lee Myung-bak, AFL-CIO Presdent Richard Trumka demanded that South Korea respect labor rights. Union activists there are routinely harassed, arrested, subjected to physical violence and given severe prison sentences. The International Trade Union Confederation says criminal sanctions against “obstruction of business” are routinely used to stop union organizing.

Anti-union measures pass

A corporate front group called “Save Our Secret Ballot” slipped in constitutional amendments in four states on Election Day – Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah – in an attempt to preempt the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give allow workers to more easily form a union. All four measures were similar to the one in Arizona. That measure, known as Proposition 113, “guarantees” the right to vote by secret ballot in “elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation.” Save Our Secret Ballot, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, has a national advisory board stacked with former Republican members of Congress, Republican state elected officials, and representatives of various conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and the Goldwater Institute.

Quote of the week

From Joe Hansen, UFCW President and Change to Win Chair

“The election will be remembered because the results were fueled not by hope, but by anger, frustration and fear. Empty and inflammatory rhetoric that derides health reform as ‘Obamacare’ and demonizes leaders as socialists will not right the imbalance in our economy or help working people to make ends meet.”

Image: The militant South Korean trade union movement is under assault by a conservative government  Jey Hwang // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.