Apple workers talk union

An organization called the Apple Retail Workers Union is trying to enlist support among Apple retail workers to unionize.

While the campaign has not gone public yet, things are at the stage, in the Pacific Northwest at least, where workers “are now talking among themselves about doing this,” according to a person connected with the effort who wishes to remain anonymous.

Workers at Apple stores say they are suffering from low wages and unfair treatment, among other problems. The complaints match up with complaints common among workers in many other retail businesses.

“This campaign is by and for the workers of Apple’s retail stores in the United States,” said a flyer that was distributed to workers and shoppers during May. “We deserve better. Our time has come.”

Wisconsin workers win bronze shoe

Members of public employee unions and students in Wisconsin have worn their shoes thin in months of protests and marches against right-wing attacks on workers’ rights.

In honor of their efforts, they now have a big bronze shoe.

They are the first recipients of a new award: The first annual Muntadhr award, sponsored by Prospero’s Books in Kansas City, Mo.

The prize, which comes in the form of a bronze shoe, is named for the Iraqi joiurnalist Muntadhr al-Zaidi, who became world famous after throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush during a press conference in Iraq.

“Americans appreciate the underdog,” said Will Leatham, Prospero’s co-owner. “American underdogs have been taking it on the chin – their jobs shipped overseas and sacrificed to partisan politics, their homes foreclosed on as big banks get tax breaks. And I think it’s high time we celebrated the unrecognized efforts of the little people who, like Davis, face down the Goliaths of institutional power in out culture.”

Judy Ancel, director of the University of Missouri Kansas City Institute of Labor Studies, received the award for fighting back right-wing attacks on her personally and on other academics at the school. “Being organized is how everyday people can speak with a voice loud enough to get the attention of power centers, be it governments, big money or institutions.”

Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks were also honored for risking imprisonment to make available to the public information unedited by governments, corporations and other institutions.

In a statement, Al-Zaidi thanked everyone for honoring him: “I hope the peoples of the whole world live in peace and that everyone shows the level of responsibility and does not stand silent on injustice.”

Unions warn that “sneak attack” is coming in New Hampshire

New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, a Republican, couldn’t pull off a sneak attack or garner enough votes to override Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a right-to work-for-less bill last week, so he adjourned the House until June 22. But with no legal limit setting a veto override deadline, O’Brien can bring up the measure anytime this year, without notice. O’Brien has vowed to do just that.

In response, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has launched a twitter petition urging O’Brien to give 48 hours notice before bringing the override to the floor.

Last week O’Brien refused to cancel Wednesday’s session to allow people to attend the funeral for former Gov. Walter Peterson, hoping it would draw enough lawmakers opposed to the veto override so he could hold the vote. The maneuver failed and the governor’s veto still stands.

Unions and teens partner in Pa.

The Lehigh Valley Labor Council is reporting that, for 12 years now, the local labor movement has been helping teenagers and pre-teens develop leadership, teamwork and planning skills through Teenworks.

In the 12 years of its existence, says AFL-CIO Community Services Director Will Fischer, Teenworks has allocated more than $324,000 for 324 community service projects.

Half of the members of the group’s board of directors are local union members, while the other half are local teenagers and preteens as young as 11 years of age. They participate as equals and discuss the merits of the various community service projects that get funded.

Gregg Potter, president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council, said, “the Teenworks Program builds character and leadership in our youth while supporting the philanthropic efforts beginning at a young age. Through the grant process we are educating both teens and adults how unions are the driving force behind community service.”

Groups that present projects must purchase products for their projects that are union-made in the United States.

One of the projects funded was a Girl Scout proposal to landscape a food bank in Northampton. The youth and union members agreed that since the food bank is feeding more than 500 families per month, the project fit all the requirements.

Pawlenty hits labor board for ‘Soviet’ tacticshas

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has joined the many in his party who are attacking the National Labor Relations Board for suing Boeing for its illegal decision to open a second non-union assembly line at an airline production plant in South Carolina.

“This is not the Soviet Union circa 1960’s or ’50’s,” said Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor. “The idea that we have a federal agency telling an American business in a supposedly free market that it can’t start a business in another state is one of the most outrageous things I have seen.”

Boeing opened its second assembly line at a plant in South Carolina this weekend in violation of U.S. labor law. It moved the assembly line to the plant in that non-union state in retaliation against workers who support their union and have, over the years, gone on strike in Washington state. The action by Boeing violates U.S. labor in effect since the 1930’s.

The NLRB suit points out that the company’s move is “in retaliation for past strike activity and to chill future strike activity by its union employees.”

Since the NLRB filed the suit against Boeing it has seen its officials’ nominations threatened, its funding targeted and its internal documents requested by anti-union lawmakers.

“I think that you finally have a board that is interested in protecting workers’ rights and making sure the national labor relations process works,” Rep. George Miller, D,Calif., told the press. “If they can’t get rid of the board, they are seeking to intimidate the board, and perhaps even going so far to tamper with the judicial proceedings as a result of the board’s actions.”

“The NLRB has become the new battleground for the attacks against working people as lawmakers go after the agencies and the officials meant to protect them,” said Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work.


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, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. 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.