RNs threaten strike for union rights

Thirty thousand members of the California Nurses Association have signed strike pledges putting employers in all CNA-represented facilities on notice that RN’s will strike any employer who seeks to exploit a recent ruling by the NLRB that many nurses are “supervisors” and thus ineligible for labor law protection. The Board’s decision “provides employers a road map to exclude hundreds of thousands of RNs from their rights,” said CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. “It forces RNs to choose between protecting their patients and keeping their job.”

CNA held protests on Oct. 5 in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Ky., and Bangor, Maine.

Dues up – sign of determination

In spite of a non-stop series of attacks to workers’ rights from the Bush administration’s Department of Labor and NLRB, the nation’s labor movement is showing no inclination to back down. On the contrary, in a development that has received little attention, unions are systematically moving more resources into organizing than ever.

Unions are planning to put an additional $150 million a year into staffing, research and support for workers’ efforts to organize, according to Lane Windham, a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO.

At this summer and fall’s regular union conventions delegates have voted to dig deep into their pockets to fund growth efforts. The UAW voted to put $60 million more into organizing, and CWA members voted for industry specific dues increases to the tune of $25 million. The AFT had their largest dues increase ever for organizing, and AFSCME, IBEW and the Ironworkers all voted to put more resources toward organizing. In fact, AFSCME set a goal of organizing 70,000 new members a year.

The grousing and grumbling that often accompanies dues increase proposals were noticeably absent. When workers feel their unions are out there fighting for them, they’re happy to support them, one rank and file activist noted.

$1 billion in red tape

AFL-CIO staff spent nearly 100 hours shifting technical data reporting phone connection charges and other employee travel expenses from one set of forms to another federation President John Sweeney reported. The extra work was required to satisfy the Department of Labor’s insistence that otherwise the federation would be “misrepresenting” its expenses, he explained.

Sweeney was describing a year-long audit of union spending by the DOL. The results uncovered “no questions whatsoever concerning the federation’s expenditure of funds on behalf of workers,” Sweeney said, but reported that the cost of compliance by all labor groups would total up to $1 billion.

It was the first audit carried out using the new LM2 union spending forms that Bush’s Labor Department imposed on all union bodies last year. The forms require disclosure of all spending over $5,000 whether on payroll or paper clips, as well as specific time spent on each program by every staff member.

Ship this, FedEx

After President Bush used a Fed Ex facility as the backdrop for a speech on the economy, Teamsters President James Hoffa slammed the corporation for its “cutthroat” business model.

FedEx exploits thousands of its drivers through an “independent contractor” model which shifts costs for trucks, uniforms and even digital scanners on to the drivers, said Hoffa. “This model allows FedEx to avoid paying unemployment insurance premiums and worker compensation contributions while dodging labor laws” like the Family Medical Leave Act and equal employment opportunity regulations, he continued.

FedEx CEO Fred Smith will collect over $10 million in compensation and dividend income this year, says a Teamster statement.

Sleaze disease

In July, this column reported on a demonstration by leaders of the labor movement in South Carolina protesting the dropping of charges against a member of the state’s Legislature. Republican Rep. Wallace Scarborough had been arrested and charged with assault with intent to kill after shooting at a pair of IBEW linemen, employees of South Carolina Electric & Gas, who were in the yard of Scarborough’s parents’ home checking power lines after a storm.

A South Carolina reader sent an update to This Week in Labor from the Charleston City Paper website. The Paper’s columnist Will Moredock speculates that Scarborough shot at the lineman because he thought they were investigators who had caught him “sharing the house” that night with his clandestine paramour and fellow Republican legislator Rep. Catherine Ceips. Affadavits filed by Scarborough’s wife in divorce proceedings show he was having a long-term affair with Ceips, who was also married.

Both Scarborough, who has two young sons, and Ceips are big promoters in the Legislature of the “defense of marriage” amendment to South Carolina’s constitution. The amendment would ban gay marriage in an effort to keep the institution of marriage sacred.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (rwood@pww.org). Press Associates, Inc. contributed.