NY concrete drivers walk, Peterbuilt workers locked out, USW massive Vegas solidarity with Taxi driver demonstration, LIUNA "Build America" petition

The two sides engaged in intense bargaining until 12:30 a.m. Tuesday at Local 282’s headquarters in Lake Success, N.Y., but then the union informed the concrete companies that it was walking out. The contract expired at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“Teamsters Local 282 regrets that it was unable to reach an agreement,” Bruce Levine, the lead lawyer for the union, said in a statement. “Local 282 is particularly disappointed because in the past month, it has succeeded in reaching innovative, far-reaching and fair agreements with hundreds of employers” that handle demolition as well as lumber, steel and other non-concrete building materials.

Construction is continuing at nonunion projects, which are generally smaller than the unionized sites affected by the strike. Work continued at some unionized sites where all the concrete had been poured, allowing laborers to do interior work or work on heating and air-conditioning.

Mr. Greco, who is also the secretary-treasurer of the Greco Brothers Concrete Corporation, said that under the expired contract, drivers earned $33.11 an hour, rising to $59.01 when health insurance, pension contributions and other benefits are included.

He said the union earlier this week demanded raises of $5 an hour in the overall compensation package each year for three years, although the union did not specify how much would go to wages and how much to benefits..

Mr. Greco said that during Monday’s bargaining, Gary La Barbera, Local 282’s president, reduced that demand to $3.50 an hour.

“They didn’t give us a chance to answer the $3.50 package before they walked out,” Mr. Greco said.

That $3.50 would represent a 6 percent increase in the drivers’ $59-an-hour compensation package.

“That is absolutely not a correct number or a correct version of events,” said a member of the union’s bargaining team, who insisted on anonymity because union officials said they would not negotiate in the news media. “And I’m surprised that a member of management’s bargaining team would be saying these things in public.”

Local 282 had long been notorious because the Gambino crime family controlled it for decades. But government officials placed it into trusteeship, and Mr. La Barbera was brought in to help root out corruption. Government officials say the cleanup has been quite successful.
More at the link above, article by Steven Greenhouse, Picture by Rob Bennett

A lockout of United Auto Worker members continues at a Peterbilt plant in Madison, Tennessee. The workers have been locked out since last Monday. Their contract expiring on Friday, June 20. The two sides have been unable to reach an agreement. The local representing the workers has expressed that it would like to sit down and continue negotiations, but no new discussions have been set. The company is asking workers to pay 25 percent of health insurance premiums, a move that could triple premiums for some workers. The company has offered to pay each worker a $1,200 bonus when the new contract is ratified, in exchange for a wage freeze until 2010. The contract would also institute a two-tier wage structure where new hires would start at much lower rate than predecessors.

Today, conservatives argue that the Social Security Trust Fund is a fiction. They are correct. The money was spent. They helped spend it.

To this debate about Social Security -- which, once one understands what has been happening, is actually quite absorbing -- the public has largely been an indifferent spectator. A surprising 2001 Pew study found that just 19% of Americans understand that the United States ever ran a surplus at all, however defined, in the 1990s or 2000's. And only 50% of Americans, according to an Annenberg study in 2004, understand that President Bush favors privatizing Social Security. Polls indicate that people are scared that the system is going bust, no doubt thanks in part to Bush's gloom-and-doom prognostications. But they haven't the faintest idea what going bust means. And in fact, the system can be kept going without fundamental change simply by raising the cap on taxed income and pushing back the retirement age a few years.
Rick Shenkman, Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter, New York Times bestselling author, and associate professor of history at George Mason University, is the founder and editor of History News Network, a website that features articles by historians on current events. This essay is adapted from chapter two of his new book, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (Basic Books, 2008). His observations about the 2008 election can be followed on his blog, "How Stupid?" His recent appearance on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" can be viewed by clicking here.

Thousands of USW members chanting “No Justice, No Peace” lined Las Vegas Boulevard outside the union’s convention hall this morning to support union taxi cab drivers who have been working without a labor contract.

USW members waving yellow placards lined the boulevard to show their support for the 5,000 member Las Vegas Alliance for Taxi and Limousine Drivers and to raise the heat in stalled contract negotiations.
The alliance is a partnership of the USW and the Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union (ITPE) local, an affiliate of the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

Bridge Collapse

It's no secret that America's infrastructure is crumbling. But, you may wonder, is anyone doing anything about it? And is there any way you can help?

Someone is, and you can. The Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has launched a new campaign called "Build America So America Works" that's calling for the Federal government to finally do something about our crumbling infrastructure. And to promote awareness of the campaign, they've just launched this new TV spot

According to a press release sent out by the Justice at Smithfield campaign:

Washington, DC Councilmembers Phil Mendelson, Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Harry Thomas, Marion Barry, Kwame Brown, Jim Graham and Tommy Wells will introduce a Sense of the Council resolution on Smithfield Foods today that asks area supermarkets, corner stores and other establishments to stop stocking Smithfield pork and other meat products.

Washington, DC is one of the largest markets for products from the Smithfield Tar Heel, North Carolina plant--which has been implicated in abuse of its workers. The DC council members and supports first pledged to help on June 20th, after a kickoff rally on the 19th for the boycott and ad campaign. As the Washington Post reported then:

"Our work here is to make Smithfield uncomfortable," council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said in an interview.

Here's one of the television ads the campaign has created:

You can find out more about the abuses at Smithfield, Tar Heel, and sign up to help at http://www.smithfieldjustice.com/.

Also take a look at "Pic- Links for the hell of it" - for more recent labor headlines

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