Shop Talk – Hollywood, jobs and jail

Stubborn joblessness persists

Businesses reported they created 159,000 jobs in September, the government said, but it wasn’t enough to lower the unemployment rate from 9.6 percent, which it hit the third straight month in a row.

While the gains were the biggest in five months, they were in low-paying positions including temps (up 35,000), health care (up 24,000), big box department stores (up 28,000) and fast food places and bars (up 24,000). Factories lost 7,000 jobs in September and in construction, the unemployment rate is at 17.3 percent.

Government shed workers: Local governments fired 14,000 and the federal government dropped the last 564,000 temporary census takers in September.


Piedmont goes union

In one of the first union wins under new federal rules that make it easier for unions to be recognized at airlines, the Communication Workers of America won the right on Nov. 5 to represent 2,867 fleet and passenger service agents at Piedmont Airlines.

The union won 1,107 votes out of 1,808 ballots cast, with 638 votes for no union, 40 for the Machinists, two for the Teamsters and 21 for other unions. The new federal rules require just a simple majority of ballots cast, not a majority of all eligible voters.

“Piedmont used every anti-union trick in the book. Management held forced captive audience meetings, and had supervisors tear up union materials,” according to CWA President Larry Cohen.


AFSCME Prez to retire

Gerald McEntee, who as president of AFSCME heads one of the nation’s most politically active and powerful unions, has announced he will retire at the union’s next convention, in a year and a half.

“My term is over in – what is it? A year and a half? I don’t intend to run again,” he said. “I think at 74, that’s long enough. I’ve been in unions – how long? – 52 years.”


Iranian bus drivers jailed

The Iranian government broke a promise to release Mansour Osanloo, the jailed president of Tehran’s bus drivers union. Instead it arrested other bus drivers and union activists and is holding them without charges, people in contact with the union report. The International Transport Workers Federation has filed protests with the Iranian government.

Osanloo was jailed three years ago when he refused to cede control of the union to leaders hand picked by the government. In brief comments smuggled out of Iran electronically, he said this week: “I didn’t do anything wrong. And I don’t want to be a puppet.”


Stop stringing us along!

Earlier this week, members of Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate, delivered thousands of job applications and signatures on jobs petitions – tied with long pieces of string – to incoming House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) district office in Troy, urging him to back extension of jobless benefits during November’s lame duck session of Congress.

The strings are reminders of the distance between what politicians like Boehner have promised and what they actually propose – job destroying measures like tax cuts for the rich that take money from local communities and transfer it into the pockets of the wealthy.

“We need politicians to stop stringing us along,” said Ohio Working America member Marvin Bohn. “Unemployment benefits paid for the gas I needed to look for work when I was laid off, and they put money into our communities that supports businesses and creates jobs.”


Hyatt housekeepers sue in 12 cities

Customers appreciate the clean rooms and nicely made beds they find when they check into a luxury hotel. Getting the room that way, however, requires back-breaking and dangerous work say workers at Hyatt hotels.

On Nov. 9 housekeepers at 12 Hyatt hotels across the U.S., with help from the union, Unite Here, filed injury complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Workers are asking OSHA to direct hotels to use fitted sheets to reduce the number of times they must lift 100-pound mattresses to tuck in sheets, provide long-handled mops and dusters, so workers do not have to get down on their hands and knees to clean the floors or climb bathtubs to reach high surfaces and to set reasonable room quotas, so workers no longer have to rush to finish rooms, often slipping on wet bathroom floors and tripping over furniture.

In a press conference call on Nov. 9 housekeepers reported being required to clean as many as 30 rooms a day. “After surgery and months of physical therapy, I am still in pain,” said Maria Carmen Dominquez, who worked at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio as a room attendant before injuring a tendon and permanently debilitating her shoulder. “I am in pain any time I lift my arm, even just to get dressed or brush my daughter’s hair.”


A win for dealers at Wynn Casino

Three years after voting to join a union, dealers at the casino in Wynn Las Vegas last week ratified a collective bargaining agreement, the first-ever union contract for dealers in Las Vegas.

With the contract, the 600 Wynn dealers, who are members of Transport Workers Local 721, now have voice on the job. They are no longer “at-will” employees who can be fired at any time, and management no longer has the ability to make arbitrary decisions and alter work policies on a whim.


AFTRA, SAG reach agreements

On Nov. 8 the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild reached a tentative agreement with motion picture and TV producers on new television and feature film contracts.

The workers’ top priority was an increase in pension and health care benefits. The tentative deal includes a 10 percent increase in the current employer contributions paid to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds and Screen Actors Guild Pension and Health Plans. This represents the largest dollar value increase to the plans under these contracts, since the plans were founded, and is the largest percentage increase to the plans in more than two decades.


Paul names anti-union big-wig

In another sign that the new Republicans going to Washington intend to take aim at unions, Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky has appointed Doug Stafford, vice president of the cleverly-named National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, as his chief of staff.

American Rights at Work describes the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation as part of “the country’s oldest organization dedicated solely to destroying unions.”


Photo: House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner of Ohio, turns his back on workers and their families. Alex Brandon/AP



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de 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.