Human Rights Day: Dec. 10

Workers from around the world are coming to the U.S. to join tens of thousands of workers in 68 cities on International Human Rights Day. During the week of Dec. 5-10, they will be taking the fight to restore workers’ freedom to form unions to the White House, statehouses and front doors of employers that deny workers’ rights.

In the U.S., 23,000 people are fired or illegally discriminated against each year for trying to organize. “These ongoing workplace human rights violations are the major reasons why so many workers are denied good jobs, good wages and good health care benefits,” said Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the NAACP.

Much of the focus of the week’s activities will be on passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which would allow workers to avoid what Voice at Work calls the National Labor Relations Board election “deathtrap” by forming unions based on a majority of signed authorization cards and increasing penalties for illegal employer anti-union actions.

The EFCA has now garnered its 205th sponsor in the House of Representatives, Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), making it only 13 sponsors away from a majority in that body. In the Senate, with 41 sponsors, it is only 10 votes shy of a majority.

A calendar of Dec. 10 events is available at .

Mr. Grinch, you’re a mean one

Jobs with Justice is giving labor activists some hard choices this holiday season. The question? Who is the greediest, meanest Grinch, that does the most harm to working families? Go to to vote for your favorite greedy Grinch by Dec. 20 and look for the announcement of the 2005 Grinch of the Year in the following days.

Wal-Mart employees association

Speaking of grinches, Wal-Mart, the nation’s biggest employer, is being taken on by a new association founded for its present and former workers. The Wal-Mart Workers of America (WWOA) is not a union, but it has union backing.

WWOA offers a toll-free hotline about workplace issues and will disseminate information about class-action suit from female workers and provide them a confidential way to be a whistleblower. WWOA will also give information about state and federal labor rights, said Paul Blank, Wal-Mart campaign director for the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Solidarity with Australia

Union and community activists rallied outside the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, protesting that government’s newly proposed industrial relations legislation. The legislation, introduced by Prime Minister John Howard, will dramatically reduce the rights of workers to union representation, collective bargaining, minimum employment standards and protection from unfair dismissal, according to the AFL-CIO. The solidarity demonstration, one of many held around the world, was called to show support for the hundreds of thousands in Australia who took to the streets in a Day of Protest in Australia.

Hold the tomato

McDonald’s bears responsibility for the meager wages and abysmal conditions of the farm workers who pick its tomatoes, says the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). So far, McDonald’s is refusing to follow the precedent set by Taco Bell and its parent company, Yum Brands. After an intense nationwide campaign led by CIW, Yum Brands agreed to pay a penny more per pound for the tomatoes it buys from Florida growers. The extra penny, which growers must pass on to field workers, has nearly doubled those farm workers’ sub-poverty wages.

Movement grows to de-privatize health care

The Building and Construction Trades Council of St. Louis has become the first Building Trades Council in the country to endorse HR 676, a bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers to establish a single-payer universal health care program in the United States. The resolution was introduced by Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, representing workers in Missouri and Arkansas.

The movement for universal single-payer healthcare is growing, announced Kentuckians for Single Payer Healthcare. Six new co-sponsors have added their names to HR 676: Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Michael Capuana (D-Mass.). The total number of co-sponsors is now 57.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (rwood at Readers are invited to submit news of their struggles.