North American labor solidarity

Labor organizations in Mexico, Canada and the United States are joining together to file a formal charge against the U.S. under the North American Agreement for Labor Cooperation. NAALC is the labor side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Over 25 labor groups in the three countries are signing on to the complaint which will be formally filed in Mexico on Oct. 17 by that country’s Frente Autentico del Trabajo.

The U.S. and the state of North Carolina are violating NAALC and international law by denying the right to engage in collective bargaining to 650,000 public employees in that state, the groups charge.

Steelworkers spokesman Dan Kovalik said a strike by Raleigh, N.C., sanitation workers on Sept. 13-14 dramatized the workers’ frustration with the lack of collective bargaining, which is prohibited for state and local government employees by the state’s General Statute 95-98. The NAALC, signed by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, lists freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining among its core principles. These rights are also required by the conventions of the International Labor Organization, the labor arm of the United Nations.

Union voter rights patrols

The AFL-CIO will be deploying poll monitors in 28 communities in eight states to help prevent the kind of voting rights violations that took place during the 2000 presidential election, the federation announced last week. AFL-CIO unions and constituency groups will be joining with community organizations and local lawyers in Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin to train poll monitors who will be available on Election Day to answer voters’ questions about their rights. They will be backed up by a network of lawyers available to handle problems that require legal action, said Esmeralda Aguilar, a spokesperson for the federation.

‘Domestic goddess’ to host minimum wage event

Actress Roseanne Barr will host a video blog featuring interviews with seven workers describing what life is like at the federal minimum wage, Oct. 23-30, the AFL-CIO announced.

Barr, a member of both the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as well as ACORN, said she campaigned in Florida in 2004 to increase that state’s minimum hourly wage by $1. The current federal minimum is $5.15, unchanged in 10 years.

A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 88 percent of the general public approves of minimum-wage hikes, including 72 percent of Republicans.

The AFL-CIO and ACORN are co-sponsoring the event in support of Nov. 7 minimum wage ballot initiatives in six states — Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio. According to the AFL-CIO, the efforts of union members and their allies have already resulted in legislation boosting the minimum wage in 11 states. Access the blog at and at beginning Oct. 23.

Eight years without a break

A jury in Philadelphia has awarded at least $78 million to 187,000 Wal-Mart workers who have been working unpaid overtime and with no rest breaks since 1998. It’s the third such big overtime pay verdict in the last several months against the retailer. Lead plaintiff Dolores Hummel said she had to work in a Sam’s Club bakery in Reading through breaks and quitting time to meet Wal-Mart’s demands. She averaged 8-12 unpaid hours a month. Her court papers said Wal-Mart enhanced its $10 billion profits through unpaid off-the-clock work.

Three more state federations for single payer

Florida, Wisconsin and West Virginia have brought to 13 the number of state labor federations on record in support of HR 676, Rep. John Conyers’ bill to institute a universal single-payer health care system for the U.S.

Kenneth Perdue, president of the West Virginia state federation, said, “Health care is the most critical problem with our economy and this country, and we believe that it is about time we take control of the issue and drive the discussion.”

HR 676 would cover every person in the U.S. for all necessary medical care, including prescriptions, hospital, outpatient, preventive care, dental, mental, rehab, substance abuse, vision care and long-term care, and would end deductibles and co-payments, according to the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care – HR 676. For a sample resolution, e-mail

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