Where Unions Are Imperative

Its been a long time since I've been on MyDD, but its good to be back.  

The talk of the town these days seems to be unions, and Wisconsin is center stage.  Thats old news of course, just judging by the sheer amount of times the word "union" is mentioned on a single page alone here at MyDD.  Unfortunately, when the talk involves unions you will have those who want to throw them under the bus.  Many label union-members as "lazy" and "thuggish."  Sadly, this totally misrepresents the vast vast majority of them (there's a bad apple in every bunch, lets be honest).

Nothing gets under my skin quite as much as when the GOP brings up the subject of unions.  This may be a bit of a generalization, but I'll take the heat if any comes.  I'm biased and can't help it.  My family has been supported by a union for my entire life (21 years) and much longer.  It runs in our blood.

Naturally, I understand that with everything there are setbacks.  Unions have their drawbacks, theres no doubt.  At the end of the day however, we need collective bargaining for workers in this country.  Its a fundamental RIGHT that may not be explicitly stated in plain English for Republicans to read and comprehend, but its true.  

To better understand the situation, I  would like to offer a bit of a unique perspective to the importance of unions.  In case anyone has forgotten (or never knew in the first place), I am from West Virginia and have lived here my entire life.  The coal-mining industry is still thriving and powerful as ever (despite the departure of Don Blankenship).  

Take a look back to April of last year, when 29 miners lost their lives in a horrible explosion.  The mine was run by Massey Energy, a company notorious for not allowing unions or labor organization at all.  In fact, the CEO at the Time (Blankenship) was famous for union-busting.  

In the last five years, fatal accidents at three non-union West Virginia coal mines have resulted in 43 fatalities.

These deaths are causing some to question the safety records of mines where workers are not in the miner’s union.

"I think the obvious evidence in the last few years is that currently it’s more dangerous to work in non-union mines than union mines," he said.

Source: WV Pubcast

When workers aren't allowed to organize and collectively bargain, they lose any clout they have against a big corporation (in this case Massey) and are unable to refuse work because of poor working conditions.  Unions provide that kind of safety net.  They allow the laborers of this country to proudly stand together and not just be a number for a corporation, they are given a voice in a place where they would otherwise have none.

In the words of United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts (Paraphrased), the miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine should have had the right to say kiss my ass, I'm not working in these terrible conditions.

This is just one of many examples detailing just how important labor unions are.  We need them in this country.



Photo credit: USW (Left), robertodevido (Right)

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has been called a lot of names. Here's another one for him: cheater.

It's not surprising Steele and the Republicans are embarrassed about their party. But Steele has hit a new low (insert Munch's "Scream" here): He's set up an RNC fundraising page on Facebook made to look like it's the United Steelworkers union.

The "United STEELE Workers Union" page even features a hard hat with an American flag sticker front and center.

Just curious, Michael: Doesn't a white hard hat clash with your designer suits?

There's more...

Harold Johnson Knows the Connection Between Politics and Organizing

Cross Post from AFL-CIO NOW: http://blog.aflcio.org/2007/10/24/harold -johnson-knows-the-connection-between-po litics-and-organizing/

Bernard Pollack, AFL-CIO field coordinator, is working on the union movement's campaign to elect a working family-friendly governor in Kentucky. Last week, he joined AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff and 153 union members and allies in a labor luncheon with workers at Ohio Valley Aluminum Co. who are seeking to form a union with the United Steelworkers. Nurses on strike at Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals also took part.

There's more...

Elvis, Weather, and Kentucky Elections

Kentucky rain keeps pourin' down, and up ahead's another town, that I'll go walkin' thru, with the rain in my shoes...searchin' for you, in the cold Kentucky rain.

So sang Elvis Presley about the harsh weather that, unfortunately for the first few stops of the Bluegrass Express union-member mobilization tour, Kentucky occasionally experiences.

Last night's worksite leaflet stop at the Commonwealth Aluminum plant in Hawesville and this morning's stop at the massive Century Aluminum plant in Lewisport would have been rained out if it weren't for the absolute dedication of the volunteers who spent hours handing out leaflets to steelworkers leaving and arriving at the plants.

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan, Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council President Jeff Wiggins, UAW Local 2370 President Tim Smith, AFL-CIO field representative Don Slaiman, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9443 President Richard Hass and yours truly stood outside the plant gates in the dark, amidst the wind and rain, rain and even more rain, to distribute information on incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher's disastrous history of hurting working families.

All told, the leaflets were a success. We distributed hundreds of fliers, and almost all the workers we spoke to were receptive and friendly. But, ironically, many of them remarked on our dedication to stand out in the rain. The subtext to their comments seemed to be an unanswered question: "Why go through so much bother?"

An answer came easily to Smith. A big grin on his face, he said:

I love doing this! The reason we're out here is to reach out to our members.  Reach out to our members and let them know how important it is to get out and vote November the 6.  

To Tim Smith, it's just that simple. Communication among members is the only way unions can effect positive change in the political arena.  If we want the government's policies to address our concerns--health care, good jobs, retirement security and the dozens of others--then we have to make sure that union members are informed and elect good candidates to positions of power. And if it takes a sopping-wet leaflet or two, or 200,000, that's no trouble at all.


Paid for by AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Treasury Fund.

There's more...

Boundary-pushing organizing drives

There are a number of interesting union initiatives going on these days which are, I think very commendably, pushing back against some very stiff boundaries in an effort to expand the power of working people.  I've included the full details below the fold, but here's a quick synopsis:

A coalition of seven unions, anchored by the United Steel Workers and United Auto Workers, is asking the NLRB to issue a ruling that employers must negotiate with minority unions;

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance is fighting intrusive measures by the licensing commission; the workers are banding together for mutual aid, despite the fact that they're legally independent contractors;

Despite a history of stiff opposition to unions in the South, and particularly in Japanese-owned auto plants in the South, the UAW drive to unionize the Georgetown, KY plant is picking up steam.

update I just saw this come across the wire, and I don't know if it counts as a union initiative exactly, but it sure is good news: Governor Spitzer signed an Executive Order aimed at battling misclassification of workers as independent contractors. Misclassification is a key union-busting tactic, since independent contractors cannot unionize under NLRA. Three cheers!

More details over the flip!

There's more...


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