Postal workers protest service cuts

Bundled up in winter coats and hats, Postal Workers and supporters marched outside the downtown Minneapolis post office on Nov. 2 to protest plans to close several facilities and reduce service. The demonstration was one of several nationwide as details of Postal Service consolidation proposals became public.

Closures are driven by demands from large corporate mailers who presort their ads. They want lower rates at the expense of residential and small businesses customers, Jerry Sirois, Postal Workers’ Minneapolis local president said.

If the plan is implemented, it would gut and consolidate nearly 140 postal facilities across the country, said Sirois, moving operations far from the communities they serve — in some cases more than 100 miles.

With the main post offices of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Mankato closed, operations would be consolidated at one facility in suburban Eagan, the American Postal Workers Union said. The results nationwide, APWU adds, would be delays in service, with mail that used to be delivered in two or three days taking five or six days.

— Barbara Kucera, Workday Minnesota

Raytheon machinists on strike

Raytheon demands that workers shoulder more of their health care costs and that new workers not get traditional guaranteed pensions forced 1,900 workers, represented by Machinists Local Lodge 933, to strike the firm’s Tucson, Ariz., missile systems plant Nov. 6.

The strike, approved in a mass meeting that drew more than 1,000 workers, came after the profitable munitions maker refused to budge in lengthy talks with the union.

IAM noted that, thanks to government defense contracts, Raytheon’s second-quarter profits rose by 54 percent in 2006 compared to 2005. Raytheon announced a 41 percent increase in earnings per share.

“We are disappointed that Raytheon would choose to reap huge profits from the war effort, and then attack their workers,” said Bobby Martinez, Local 933’s directing business representative. “Many of our members haven’t had a raise in six years.”

Minnesota Legislature goes union

At the opening session of the Minnesota Legislature next year, one of every six lawmakers will be unionists.

The new DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) unionist lawmakers in the State Capitol in St. Paul include 20 teachers, members of Education Minnesota, the joint AFT-NEA affiliate in the state.

Those teachers are joined by, among others, Erin Murphy, director of the Minnesota Nurses Association and Tom Anzelc, former legislative lobbyist for the Laborers.

And new U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (DFL), a high school teacher and Education Minnesota member from Mankato, beat incumbent Gil Gutknecht (R) in the 1st District that stretches across the state’s southern tier of agricultural counties.

Unionists from both AFL-CIO and Change to Win locals “placed more than 1 million phone calls, distributed over a half-million work site flyers and knocked on thousands of doors to help take back the Minnesota House and the U.S. House,” state AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron said.

“Our challenge will be to make sure these new majorities produce gains for working families on the issues we care about: jobs, education, health care and transportation.”

SEIU kicks off 2008 campaign

No sooner was the 2006 election over and done with than the Service Employees, with more than 1.4 million members, said they would start organizing for 2008’s presidential race.

“This campaign will be our largest effort ever to elect a president who puts working families first,” said Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. She said her union’s members would educate voters about working family issues — and which candidates stand up for them.

Burger also set goals of surpassing SEIU’s 2004 effort, when it was still in the AFL-CIO. That year, its members made 7 million phone calls, knocked on 10 million doors and distributed 6 million worksite fliers, she said. That year, SEIU first backed former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) after interviewing him in a series of worker forums. Burger said SEIU would host similar forums leading up to the 2008 race.

Steelworkers file NAFTA complaint against Mexico

The government of Mexico violated the NAFTA labor side agreement when it removed the leader of the National Mineworkers Union from office, the United Steelworkers charged Nov. 8. The USW has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, accusing Mexican labor authorities of violating both Mexican and international law when they withdrew legal recognition from Mexican union leader Napoleon Gomez Urrutia last February.

The USW signed a solidarity pact with Mexico’s Mineworkers in 2004. In 2005 the Mexican union supported a strike by Arizona copper miners against Grupo Minero Mexico, a Mexican multinational corporation.

USW President Leo Gerard vowed that the Steelworkers and the international labor movement would continue to put pressure on Mexico’s incoming president Felipe Calderon to respect international labor law and end interference in the Mineworkers union.

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