DuPont workers find catalyst for worldwide solidarity

Cross-border bonds linking the 60,000 workers employed by DuPont Corp. were strengthened with the launch of the Global DuPont Trade Union Network in Brussels, Belgium, last week. Union representatives from that country and Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. came together under the auspices of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions to “establish efficient cooperation and practical international solidarity.”

Outsourcing of jobs was an issue of common concern. Chemical workers also raised worries about safety issues and worker and community exposure to PFOA, a Teflon-related chemical. DuPont’s support of union- busting in the U.S. was also on the table. “It bitterly fights against union representation,” said Steelworkers spokesperson Joe Drexler. The USW is the new network’s major U.S. affiliate.

DuPont is based in Wilmington, Del., and operates in over 70 countries.

FLOC victory for guest workers

The settlement of a class action suit against growers in North Carolina will prevent these employers from foisting exorbitant charges for transportation, recruiting and visa fees on the state’s temporary agricultural workers. The suit was spearheaded by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, which represents 10,000 farm workers in the Midwest and North Carolina. The suit was based on both the federal minimum wage law and the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act. It sought to force growers to pay for all visa and transportation costs for temporary workers under the H-2A guest worker program. The March 17 settlement establishes a $1.4 million fund to compensate the workers for illegal wage deductions.

North Carolina farm workers won a union in 2004 after a five-year boycott of Mt. Olive pickles. Their collective bargaining agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association marked the first time guest workers in the U.S have achieved union recognition.

FLOC received a national charter from the AFL-CIO during the federation’s executive council meeting last month.

Umpires plan strike

Minor league umpires plan to strike when the season starts next month and filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, writes Ronald Blum of The Associated Press.

The Association of Minor League Umpires, which represents about 220 umps in 16 leagues, said it filed the charge in the NRLB’s Florida region, alleging the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. threatened to fire employees who went on strike and asked several of the unionized umps to work as replacements during any strike.

Minor league umpires unionized in 2000.

Umps say their salaries average $15,000 at Triple-A, $12,000 at Double-A, $10,000 in full-season A-ball and $5,500 in rookie leagues. George Yund, management’s lawyer, earlier this month likened minor league umpiring to an educational program rather than a lifetime career.

The union said it would not supply replacement umps to the major leagues during a strike. Minor league umps routinely fill in for major league umpires who are injured or on vacation.

USLAW video

Voices from labor in Iraq and the U.S. are heard loud and clear in a new documentary released this week by the Center for Study of Working Class Life. The 27-minute video follows the tour of six Iraqi labor leaders to 25 U.S. cities in June 2005. The tour was sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War.

“Every worker in America needs to see this film,” says Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.). More info:

Shot in the arm for nurses

Organizing is the top priority for United American Nurses according to a March 15 resolution of its sixth annual Labor Assembly, BNA reports. The nurses approved a bi-weekly dues increase of $1.16 per member to fund an ambitious organizing campaign. Nearly 2 million registered nurses are unorganized in the U.S.

The dues increase will allow the union to train UAN staff nurse leaders in organizing, bargaining and leadership skills and to triple its organizing staff.

With 100,000 members, UAN is the largest of eight AFL-CIO unions representing 200,000 registered nurses which banded together last month to create a new alliance called RNs Working Together to coordinate organizing and bargaining activities. Their goals include improving patient care.

NLRB: ‘Management tool’

Union nurses have their eyes on the National Labor Relations Board. President Bush has recently filled two NLRB vacancies. The restoration of the board’s full complement has heightened expectations for decisions in a number of important pending cases. In three combined cases pending before the board, union-busting health care employers are seeking to have nurses who hold even a minimum amount of responsibility in the workplace designated as “supervisors.”

Under the National Labor Relations Act, supervisors do not have the legal protections available to other workers and can be disciplined or fired for supporting the union. With the ongoing transformation of the NLRB into an out-and-out tool of management, the board’s actions on this and other cases could create a huge obstacle to organizing nurses.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (