DOL promotes union busters

The Bush administration’s Department of Labor is playing an active role in disseminating anti-union propaganda and has developed relationships with anti-union organizations, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). On June 22, CREW released 108 pages of documents it had forced the DOL to make public. The records reveal “a close and supportive relationship” between DOL and the so-called Center for Union Facts (CUF), a new web site established to attack the labor movement.

In March this year, CREW made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all DOL records related to the CUF and its director, Richard Berman. After DOL refused to comply with the request, CREW sued DOL for the records, compelling the department to provide them.

E-mails sent out by DOL employees include an opinion piece drafted by Berman as well as anti-union blogs and news releases. A message to DOL employees promoted CUF’s web site as “dedicated to providing information on labor unions and their expenditures.”

“It is disgraceful that the very department designed to focus on improving the lives of American laborers is disseminating anti-union propaganda,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW.

Paper workers take strike vote

Workers at three paper mills owned by South Africa-based Sappi Fine Paper voted to authorize a strike June 19. The USW locals in Westbrook, Maine, Cloquet, Minn., and Muskegon, Mich., took the vote at their union meetings, while employees at Sappi’s Skowhegan, Maine, plant voted to hold off for now on strike authorization until further negotiations are pursued. USW Vice President Richard La Cosse said the strike votes represented growing dissatisfaction at the company’s “second-rate wages, benefits and working conditions.”

A tour last month of South African unionists representing that country’s paper workers resulted in a solidarity agreement pledging “strong mutual support” between the USW and the South African Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers union.

Support for global Wal-Mart campaign

“Let us know what we can do in support of your struggle,” said Change To Win Chair Anna Burger in a letter to the membership of GMB, “Britain’s General Union,” in support of their upcoming strike against Wal-Mart’s U.K. subsidiary Asda. GMB members at 20 distributions centers last week voted to strike in order to gain bargaining rights to improve pay and working conditions.

Burger accused Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott of seeking “to remake Asda and the world in its image as a low-wage and anti-union employer that squeezes working families to keep the profits climbing.” Burger pointed out that Scott’s $18 million pay last year was 1,000 times the wage of the average U.S. Wal-Mart worker.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (