I posted this on Union Review over the weekend and thought to share some of these thoughts with Joe and his readers, Richard/ UR
I was at a holiday party where I hardly knew anyone. Conversations were going on all throughout the day, some were better than others. There was, however, one thing that was painfully similar about them all; and this is what came to mind: Not many people outside of the union movement have any clue as to what is taking place at our unions; clearly this not one of those profound utterances, just a matter of fact observation/nugget.
At some point or another I mentioned a number of campaigns that either I am directly or indirectly involved with –or simply know just enough about to share. In the back corners of my mind I thought: This is what we all need to be doing - educating people wherever we are and have the opportunity. I also thought … there is no day off or resting from this mission.
Here is a small capsule of issues I talked about, alluded to or brushed upon at one point or another:
1. FedEx Express workers have a pension freeze that went into affect earlier this year; they are looking at losing tons of money over the course of their careers. While they are working on organizing with the Teamsters, their campaign is one that is long and strenuous. While pension issues are enough to lose sleep over, many of these workers are seeing, in this horrible economy, their work being shipped overseas. The outsourcing at FedEx Express is as bad, if not worse, than its wonderful Independent Contractor policies at another division of that company. To go see what is happening with this campaign, check out http://www.fedxmx.com or http://www.fedexwatch.com. You can sign up for a user name and password at FedXMx to comment on the blog or participate in the forum – and if you do, show your solidarity online as though you walked passed them on a picket line; I believe it goes a long way out here on the Web.
2. School Bus Workers around the United States are NOT experiencing issues with outsourcing, like their brothers and sisters at FedEx Express. Instead, the drivers, mechanics, aides and monitors are dealing with very low, if not sub-standard wages, work rules that are ever changing, and no respect or say at their job. With all that can be said to be wrong about the union movement in the United States (and both members and nonmembers are endlessly finding what is wrong with the union movement in this country) – there is also, undoubtedly a lot that is good; this is one of those campaigns. What started two years ago with a group of First Student workers in Iowa and Baltimore has become multinational worker movement. You can (and should) learn about this campaign at http://www.schoolbusworkersunited.org. Like the FedEx campaign site, get a username and password; show your solidarity with these incredible workers.
3. The Colombian Free Trade Agreements cannot and should not pass through while Bush is leaving office – and be aware that he is /was/has been working on doing just that. While there is much on the Colombian Free Trade Agreement on Union Review – and infused in our daily and national publications, there is nothing that simply comes out and says why this is a bad deal for trade unionists. Today there was a great piece on the AFL-CIO Blog; http://www.aflcionow.org; it said, “Despite the Bush administration's repeated attempts to push through Congress a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) this year, the reality is that Colombia has not stemmed the violence against trade unionists or brought those responsible to justice.
In short, Colombia has a long way to go before a free trade pact should be considered.
The head of Human Rights Watch recently wrote three top House leaders urging them to remain steadfast in insisting that Colombia clean up its act before approving any new trade deal."
4. Finally, I think that every union supporter will agree that the Big Three loans should not be contingent on UAW workers giving concessions. I read a lot of back and forth on this issue everyday of the week, and for the record, let me write that I think it is BS when business reporters suggest that the reasons the Big Three automakers are in the trouble they are in because of the UAW workers’ wages. I have not yet heard a reporter mention anything about the executive office salaries, and how absurdly huge that salary is; and perhaps they should take a cut to keep their business afloat. What annoys me the most about “this” discussion is that when the government was bailing out Wall Street, AIG and the others … there was never any mention of how much these people at the top were earning, you deal with one unionized industry and sector and suddenly the conversation is about worker wages – come on! There is so much opinion about this – the last one I read hit UnionReview earlier today here: http://unionreview.com/why-uaw-should-not-have-make-any-concessions-big-three-get-loan-congress.
While these are just four items that seemed to come up for me in the last couple days, there are countless others. There are victories to feel proud of and defeats to look back on and re-organize around. Needless to say, we have a ton of work to do … even if we are at parties with a group of people we just met hours ago.