John Walsh from America's Most Wanted finally gets justice, sons murderer identified

" Fla. police have officially declared that deceased convict Ottis Toole killed 6-year-old Adam Walsh, son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, in 1981. - from YouTube/CBS

For many years John Walsh, the creator and host of America's Most Wanted has been a man I admired. His personal tragedy of his son Adam being murdered and decapitated and no one being convicted led him on a mission. That it should never happen to anyone. Many murderers and other criminals have been brought to justice because of Walsh's campaign.

YouTube Video from CBS

You can read more on the story of Adam Walsh and learn about Otis Toole at the America's Most Wanted site and more on Otis Toole at WikiPedia

How over 20,000 workers at Tribune Co. wound up in limbo

"Importantly, our employees will have a significant stake in the company’s future." - Dennis FitzSimons, former Tribune chairman, president and chief executive officer, speaking on 2007 "privatization".

Joe's quick version: Real estate mogul Sam Zell "privatizes" Tribune Co., using every means other than his own money including the employee's pension plan, finds ways to skirt paying taxes by having them invest directly into the company and then runs the 147 year old company into the ground, screwing with the lives of over 20,000 workers.


More in depth version: by Robert at Broadcast Union News,

Sam Zell Gambles With His Employees Future... And Loses Big Time

Tribune was a public company with eight newspapers, 23 TV stations, the cable super station WGN, Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs, and a 31% share of the Food Network. Each newspaper, TV station, WGN, the baseball team, and the Food Network were individually profitable on their own and together created a successful corperation with a good return for the stockholders.

Along comes Sam Zell, who buys the company for $8.2 billion dollars. He puts up $315 million of his own money in return for the right to purchase a 40% ownership stake for an additional $500 million over 15 years. In other words he eventually gets 40% of the $8.2 billion dollar company for $815 million dollars or just under 20 cents on the dollar. Not a bad deal for Sam.

He borrows the rest of the $13 billion dollars needed to buy out the stockholders from banks and using the employee's pension plan as well as having the employees own the stock of the now private company in an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) to save himself millions in taxes.

This deal requires Tribune to pay out $211 million dollars per quarter to service this debt.
$211 million dollars per quarter before paying one employee, buying one piece of newsprint, paying for a single baseball, or airing one second of programing.

As an analyst at CreditSights explained at the time: "If there is a problem with the company, most of the risk is on the employees, as Zell will not own Tribune shares." He continued: "The cash will come from the sweat equity of the employees of Tribune."

It was Tribune's board that sold the company to Mr. Zell — and allowed him to use the employee's pension plan to do so. Despite early resistance, Dennis J. FitzSimons, then the company's chief executive, backed the plan. He was paid about $17.7 million in severance and other payments. The sale also bought all the shares he owned — $23.8 million worth. The day he left, he said in a note to employees that "completing this 'going private' transaction is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers."

Well, at least for some of them.

At $34 a share, Tribune shareholders did well. Tribune's current bonds traded between 3 and 6 cents on the dollar on Monday.

Dan Neil, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Los Angeles Times, led a lawsuit with other Tribune employees against Mr. Zell and Tribune this fall. The suit contended "through both the structure of his takeover and his subsequent conduct, Zell and his accessories have diminished the value of the employee-owned company to benefit himself and his fellow board members."

Joe's Note: Dec. 8th, 2008: Tribune Co. Files For Bankruptcy

http://img234.imageshack.us/img234/4825/image4655810gdu9.jpgIf the employees win, they will become Tribune creditors — and stand in line with all other creditors in bankruptcy court.

Tribune has 19,000 employees, 70% of whom are union members represented by AFTRA, CWA-NABET, DGA, IATSE, IBEW, Newspaper Guild, and others.

Their jobs are all at risk.

1,300 people have already lost their jobs at various Tribune newspapers and TV stations.

Joe's Note's: Some of Tribunes most notable holdings include, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, NY Newsday, The LA Times, the Spanish newspaper Hoy, WGN-TV, WPIX TV in NY, The Chicago Cubs, etc.

A full list can be found at their website's timeline

I also wrote up about Tribune was a frontier in the extinction of critical journalism way back in Feburary 2007 in the article entitled "As Seen On TV with HBO's The Wire, Tribune Co. drops 120 staff members from NY Newsday."

You can keep up with all media news at Broadcast Union News, a huge thanks to Robert for explaining this to those of us not in the media field.

300 e-mail's sent in solidarity for OTB worker, help out send some more

Over the weekend I wrote up a quick article about the Off-Track Betting announcer in Upstate New York, Greg Giorgio, who after 32 years of service was going to be discharged just 3 years before his retirement matured in retaliation for filing a labor charge against the company over excluding him from participation in collective bargaining.

After contacting Daniel Gross, an organizer for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, I received an update and was told that we can still stand in solidarity with Greg by sending out more e-mail's to OTB. I am asking all my readers to show support. Here's what I know:
"Greg's employment status still remains at risk in his title of staff announcer at Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. -- and whether or not they will continue his employment in another title is uncertain and should be revealed in the next several days."
Good Luck Greg

Original story: ACT NOW - Veteran Wobbly at risk after 32 years on the job!


Republican Senators, Idiots and Asshats

By Bendygirl

Crossposted from Uniongal

Mostly, watch and listen at 4:11.

The UAW worker speaking is from American Axle and the staffers at the table have never heard of American Axle. NEVER HEARD OF IT. Why is that important? An 11 week strike this past winter.

How can we expect the Republican Senators to be able to pull their heads out of their asses if their staffers can't even keep up on an 11 week strike that SHUT DOWN GM plants all over the country, in Mexico and also hit Canadian autoworkers? Are these rely the people who should be making policy about how and if money should be loaned to manufacturing in this country?

Idiots and asshats. Because of them, there's no money out there in the form of a LOAN for the auto industry!!

OTB announcer to be fired, act now!

Sorry I got this out so late

From the IWW site:
ACT NOW - Veteran Wobbly at risk after 32 years on the job!
Submitted by intexile on Thu, 12/11/2008 - 7:27pm.
Fellow Workers:

Many of you know FW Greg Giorgio, a Wobbly with 18 years of dedicated service to our union. Over the years, Greg has done much for and asked little from our labor union - from his stewardship of Wobbly art to participation in countless solidarity actions.

Now Greg needs some solidarity and he needs it urgently. After announcing horse races at an off-track betting site for 32 years, Greg is set to be fired on Friday - only three years before his pension will fully mature. He's being fired in retaliation for filing a labor charge against the company over excluding him from participation in collective bargaining.

Greg and his fellow workers in upstate New York are carrying out a series of actions steps, but they've asked us around the world to participate in an e-mail action at the following link: http://citizenspeak.org/node/1406

Thank you very much for taking a moment now to add your voice for dignity.

In Solidarity,

Don't Fire Greg After 32 Years of Service
Submitted by nywobbly on Wed, 2008-12-10 21:51.
John Signor President & CEO Capital Off-Track Betting Dear Mr. Signor, I write to demand that you rescind the planned termination of long-time IWW member Greg Giorgio. Greg has spent his entire adult life announcing horse races for your company. Now after 32 years of service with Capital and just three years left until his pension fully matures, you seek to throw him out of work. I am very disturbed to learn that Greg is apparently being fired in retaliation for filing a labor charge against Capital over denial of his right to participate in collective bargaining. Firing someone in retaliation for asserting protected rights is both illegal and immoral. How would you feel if you were thrown out of work after diligently doing your job over a lifetime with just three years left for your pension to mature? I expect your immediate attention to this matter.
Take action, show your support for Greg by clicking here and sending an e-mail to OTB's CEO

Music for the tradesman: Tig Wired

Tig Wired, who according to their website is:

TIG WIRED is music geared towards the people who work in the industrial service areas, welders, fitters, riggers, brickies, tin bashers, boiler hogs, pipefighters, inspection guys, scaffold gods and the like...you get the picture..you'll get the meaning too!!.
If you like good solid music with a taste for blues, rock, reggae and some new age stuff, then you are gonna love this site....
Gotta Be Safe

Shutdown Blues
Welders weld, and the fitters fit
Riggers rig, that’s the gist of it
Foremen push their motley crews
Boys all wear the coveralls of blue
They rhythms set everybody knows the tune
Here comes the shutdown blues

Come-a-longs and chain falls too
Sparks they fly from the gouging crew,
Flag men calls to swing out the boom

Boys all wear the coveralls of blue,
The rhythms set everybody knows the tune
For the shutdown blues

I got a buddy who can sing the blues
He drives a Hog sports mean tattoos
If we were careful we could spring him loose
And let him take us where there ain’t no dues

Toxic gas and asbestos dust
The long hard hours is killin’ us
Super-heats and the re-heats too
The boys still wear the coveralls of blue
The rhythms set everybody knows the tune
For the shutdown blues

The steam chief grins ‘cause his job’s on time
Gonna see that unit go back online
Turn a profit in a day or two
And all the boys know just what to do
The rhythms set everybody knows the tune
For the shutdown blues

I paid a visit to the house of ruin
Been here before and it ain’t nothin’ new
I caught the sunrise from the room of blues
And headed back to meet my X ray crew
I could get wired I could get black and blue
I could go crazy by the time were through
But I caught the sunrise like I always do
And headed back to do this job for you.

The x ray crew is shootin’ welds all green
Erectors happy with his mean machine
The moneys good the hole watch through
Do you catch the feeling, you get the meaning to?
The rhythms set, everybody knows the tune
For the shut down here comes the shut down
Ohh the shutdown blues

You can catch the band at their website or at:


Buy the Tig Wired CD here

Video: Boston Ironworkers support for the Jimmy Fund

Internal Republican memo shows union-busting as priority number 1 in auto bailout talks

Now it is a fact, there was one reason that Republicans made sure that the bridge loan for the American auto industry failed in the Senate. To slam labor.

Video from YouTube, memo at aprox. 3:20

From John Amato at Crooks and Liars
New GOP Memo entitled Action Alert about the Auto Bail Out makes clear that it's all about "Union Busting"

Countdown obtained a new memo that explains the GOP's strategy for blocking a bridge loan to the auto industry:
Countdown has obtained a memo entitled "Action Alert - Auto Bailout," and sent Wednesday at 9:12am, to Senate Republicans. The names of the sender(s) and recipient(s) have been redacted in the copy Countdown obtained. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was circulated among Senate Republicans. The brief memo outlines internal political strategy on the bailout, including the view that defeating the bailout represents a "first shot against organized labor." Senate Republicans blocked passage of the bailout late Thursday night, over its insistence on an immediate union pay cut.
From: Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:12 AM To: Subject: Action Alert -- Auto Bailout Today at noon, Senators Ensign, Shelby, Coburn and DeMint will hold a press conference in the Senate Radio/TV Gallery. They would appreciate our support through messaging and attending the press conference, if possible. The message they want us to deliver is: 1. This is the democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it. 2. This rush to judgment is the same thing that happened with the TARP. Members did not have an opportunity to read or digest the legislation and therefore could not understand the consequences of it. We should not rush to pass this because Detroit says the sky is falling. The sooner you can have press releases and documents like this in the hands of members and the press, the better. Please contact me if you need additional information. Again, the hardest thing for the democrats to do is get 60 votes. If we can hold the Republicans, we can beat this.
The GOP sent the first shot across the bow of the upcoming Obama administration as they killed the auto rescue plan Thursday night. It never was about trying to help the automakers or the economy, but an effort to crush the working class and punish unions. There are many more people in line to suffer if the Big 3 go out of business, but Shelby and his band of brothers couldn't care less. "Union Busting" is a high priority for these Conservatives fools that have allowed our country to be run into the ground. Can you name anything good that has come out of the eight years of Bush and Conservative dominance? So what is their solution? To take it out on the blue collars of America. If anything this memo should be used as a reminder that the Employee Free Choice Act should be one of Obama's "high priorities" just after he takes office. Check out this video that explains a few things about it.


Ralph Nader comment on auto bailout

Even the Republicans' sense of political self-interest seems dimmed by their anti-union zealotry. Senate Republicans may think they gain political points by standing against assistance to a major industry, but they will suffer political damage lasting generations if they permit the U.S. auto industry to collapse. - Ralph Nader

From PRNewswire (12/12/08):
Nader Comment on Auto Bailout

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement from consumer advocate Ralph Nader and Robert Weissman, director of the advocacy group Essential Action:

In an effort to break the United Auto Workers -- a union that historically has been responsible for raising wages and benefits not just for unionized auto workers but for all working Americans -- Senate Republicans are apparently willing to permit the collapse of the U.S. auto industry.

Unionized auto workers have made steady concessions over the last quarter century, including in the 2007 contract, which will have many new workers start jobs at $14 an hour. These employees will be making about half of what their co-workers earn.

It is both an outrage and illogical for the Senate Republicans to suggest UAW worker wages and benefits should be driven down to the levels at non-unionized Japanese plants in the United States. It is an outrage because it disrespects the hard and dangerous work done by auto workers, explicitly aims to undermine the benefits of workers joining together to exercise their right to bargain collectively, and accelerates the United States' trajectory to ever-descending wages and benefits. It is illogical, too. Although the Japanese plants keep wages close to UAW rates as an anti-union strategy, they can always lower their wages further, on a unilateral basis, in a never-ending race-to-the-bottom.

The action by the Senate Republicans is extraordinarily reckless, challenging the most important institution for advancing working peoples' living standards -- unions -- and threatening to worsen drastically an already severe recession.

Even the Republicans' sense of political self-interest seems dimmed by their anti-union zealotry. Senate Republicans may think they gain political points by standing against assistance to a major industry, but they will suffer political damage lasting generations if they permit the U.S. auto industry to collapse.


Mr. Block gets news only from the bosses' paper

some things never change

So who is Mr.Block (from Wikipedia)?

Mr. Block is a United States comic strip character commemorated in a song written by Joe Hill.

Mr. Block, who has no first name, was born 7 November 1912 to Ernest Riebe, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Block appeared that day in the Spokane newspaper Industrial Worker, smoking a cigar and wearing a checkered suit with top hat. Subsequently, Mr. Block lost the fancy clothes but always kept a hat, ten sizes too small, perched on one corner of his wooden blockhead.

"Mr. Block is legion," wrote Walker C. Smith in 1913. "He is representative of that host of slaves who think in terms of their masters. Mr. Block owns nothing, yet he speaks from the standpoint of the millionaire; he is patriotic without patrimony; he is a law-abiding outlaw .. [who] licks the hand that smites him and kisses the boot that kicks him .. the personification of all that a worker should not be."

Former Teamster President Ron Carey dead at 72

Ron Carey, the first Democratically elect President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has passed


The first democratically elected leader of the Teamsters died yesterday at age 72 in New York City.

Ron Carey was first elected to head the Teamsters in 1991 on a vow to end mob control. In his re-election bid in 1996, he narrowly defeated James Hoffa, Jr. However, in 1998, a court-appointed review board expelled Carey from the Teamsters, concluding, according to the New York Times, he “breached his fiduciary duty by failing to stop an illegal scheme that siphoned more than $750,000 in union money into his 1996 re-election campaign.”

In 2001, Carey was charged with perjury related to the scandal. He was later acquitted on all charges.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and five children.

What people are saying

From "Republican Senator Admits Opposition to Auto Bill is All About Union Busting" comment at DU
Unions "appear to be an antiquated concept in today’s economy"?
If anything is true it's the exact opposite. Unions are more important now then ever before as it has become painfully clear the corporate executives have no interest in seeing American workers prosper. For them it's all about getting what you can for as little as possible. Fucking disgusting.
From "Somebody Has to Respond" comment at Truthout
Thirty years of anti-labor propaganda has taken its toll, but us working stiffs have to stick together or we are going to keep getting screwed. It's not a coincidence that, once the interests of the wealthy are threatened, $750 billion materializes instantly. This is after all that preaching about fiscal responsibility to those of us lower on the food chain.
From "Stuff Made In China"
Another gross example of this is from years ago. I had a roommate that worked at an Old Navy. For those of you that don't know, Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic are all the same company. The blue jeans at Old Navy cost around $20, at the Gap $40, and at Banana Republic $60. I don't recall exactly, but I want to say all were made in Indonesia. Undoubted they were produced at the same factory. Really I don' know, maybe the 12 year old sewing the Old Navy jeans got like $8 a month and the one sewing the Banana Republic jeans received $12 a month. However, I seriously doubt it.
Moral is: If you have to buy Chinese made crap, please buy it as cheaply as possible. You should realize those $90 Polo Jeans are probably $7 at Marshalls.

New York construction union shows solidarity with sit-in workers

“In many ways,” said Jessie Jackson, their action “is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence.”

When the Republic Windows and Doors workers were left shafted without warning they took action, according to the AFL-CIO blog yesterday Dec.11th:
...workers at Republic Windows & Doors who made justice happen. After a six-day sit-in at the plant, workers at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago voted to accept a settlement late last night.

Somewhere along the line a little thing happened, solidarity. Many of us have heard about the demonstrations across the nation, the support from President-Elect Barack Obama and Jessie Jackson standing in solidarity with the workers, but here's something that you may not have heard.

According to a friend of mine who on December 9th, was at the meeting of New York's own Metallic Lathers Union LU 46, in front of a standing room only crowd of members Business Manager Bob Ledwith made a motion that Local 46 show support for the striking UE workers in Chicago by sending them a gift of $1,000 to help defray their costs and hardship.

The members, all of whom are anticipating a rough ride themselves in the near future voted unanimously to approve the motion.

According to the history of the Metallic Lathers in New York:
All through the years Local 46 has been outstanding in its help to the labor movement and has always aided and endeavored to help others secure their own rights.
I hope that showing of solidarity can rub off on other workers across this great nation. I recall the sentence I used to use to practice typing when I was a kid:

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. (of course, and women too)

Here's more on the struggle and victory of the Republic workers from the UE site:
A bid for fairness that inspired the world.

On Friday, December 5, 2008, an new chapter in labor history was written by about 260 Chicago workers at Republic Windows and Doors.

Three days earlier, they learned the plant was closing. Bank of America, although flush with U.S. government bailout cash, had refused to extend Republic's line of credit and had also refused to allow Republic to pay out what they were owed.

United — as a union of co-workers — they stood together and said "No!"

For the next five days they occupied their plant — something rarely seen in the U.S. since the 1930's The worldwide reaction was stunning.

A World of Support

People organized demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country, from New York to San Francisco, from icy Buffalo to sunny Florida. Solidarity messages poured in from around the world. Their common theme was, "We're behind you — and proud of you! Keep up the fight!"

The UE Local 1110 members had no way of knowing how deeply their courageous action would resonate. But it soon became clear that their action articulated the anger and frustration millions of ordinary people in this worsening economic crisis. of

A World of Hope

They inspired people fed up by the excesses of banks, corporations and the powerful who have led us into the worst economic crisis since the 1930s — and then got the government to bail them out with our money.

They gave hope to people who face the prospect of losing jobs, homes, healthcare, retirement, and for many, the hope for their kids to get a good college education.

A Movement to 'Resist Economic Violence'

Rev. Jesse Jackson expressed it well when he said that, like Rosa Parks 50 years ago, the Republic workers stood up for justice by sitting down. “In many ways,” said Jackson, their action “is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence.”

Now, it's up to all of us to make sure this moment is a real turning point, when we begin to stand together as working people to demand an economy and government policies that put our needs first.

So what is the latest on these workers?

From Change To Wins Blog:
Republic Workers Win! (For Real This Time)

This time it’s official:

After the conclusion of negotiations Wednesday evening, the membership of Local 1110, more than 200 workers, met in the plant cafeteria to hear and consider the tentative settlement that had been worked out by UE negotiators over the past three days.

The settlement was approved by a unanimous vote…

The settlement totals $1.75 million. It will provide the workers with:

  • Eight weeks of pay they are owed under the federal WARN Act,
  • Two months of continued health coverage and,
  • Pay for all accrued and unused vacation.

JPMorgan Chase will provide $400,000 of the settlement, with the balance coming from Bank of America.

Although the money will be provided as a loan to Republic Windows and Doors, it will go directly into a third-party fund whose sole purpose is to pay the workers what is owed them.

As the Local 1110 leaders characterized the settlement, “We fought to make them pay what they owe us, and we won.”

Hooray! Congratulations!

UPDATE (1:35PM): Great discussion of the victory at Daily Kos, kicked off by Friend of CtW Connect TomP.

Pyramid of the capitalist system redux

They Rule You, They Fool You, They Shoot At You and They Eat For You

That idealization has been around for quite some time, it was on the cover of The Industrial Worker, the newspaper of The Industrial Workers Of The World(The IWW) way back in 1911, the title of the work is Pyramid of the Capitalist System.

Pyramid of the Capitalist System

So what has changed in the almost 100 years since this masterpiece has been created, the masses fought through the Great Depression gotten some advantage through the 50's and the corporatist have found better ways to fool us.

They have opened our borders to a servitude class, while diverting our pension into mutual funds that invest against our own interests, they have made loopholes for those at the top and given corporations carte blanche over our lives and have taken our constitutional rights while we sat in blind patriotism. They have their media telling us what we need to know about nothing, while constricting the free speech from dissenting views. They have us thinking that labor laws will protect us, while cutting staff and regulations to the bone.

They have used racism, religion, language, and fear to pit us against one another, and have beaten us with the sense that there is nothing any one of us can do about it.

Here is an updated version of the great illustration of 1911, is it so far off the mark.

I wish I were more creative I'd make my own, maybe show the Wal-Mart door crushing out a human life so some scums could save a few dollars on their foreign made crap, maybe add the Haitian bread winner feeding his children dirt sandwiches to stave off the hunger pains after a hard days work making clothes for companies which used to make it here for a living wage.

They sold our future down the drain while you watched American Idol.

Unfortunately I don't know where the image is from


Autoworker bailout fails Senate!

You motherfuckers, you toss trillions at killing in war, a trillion to your cohorts in banking and when it comes to one of the last American industries which is manned by American workers, union American workers who have agreed to give concessions, who's new hires only make $14 at the highest wage and whose companies have asked for a loan of a mere $15 billion, you turn your backs.

Make no mistake about it, this bill was killed by Republican Senators, they are your enemy, and for all of those working in the deep south in the Foreign auto manufacturing, which does not have any legacy costs for retirees yet, be prepared, if the big 3 are gone, your pay is gonna drop like an anchor.

With 1 in 10 US jobs attached to the big three you have tossed our country into a tailspin, the dollar has dropped overnight and how much longer before we have another 3,000,000 unemployed, while you close your eyes and leave the border open and let all help the corporations continue to force undocumented workers into servitude to feed you.

The people have shown that they are getting tired of it at the Republic window and door factory in Chicago, unfortunately it's like alcoholics anonymous, we might all have to hit the bottom before we look for change.

How long will you all bury your head in the sand before you realize that there is a war against the American worker? That's ALL American workers, they will continue to pick us off one at a time..


Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The dollar slumped below 90 yen for the first time in 13 years after the U.S. Senate rejected a $14 billion bailout for the nation’s automakers.

The U.S. currency headed for a sixth week of declines versus the yen as General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC failed to obtain the funds they need to survive until next year. Japan isn’t considering intervening in currency markets now, Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa told reporters in Tokyo today.

“The dollar is dropping like a rock,” said Masahiro Sato, joint general manager of the treasury division in Tokyo at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co., a unit of Japan’s second-largest publicly listed lender. “This is a big blow to confidence in the U.S. economy. Bankruptcy protection for U.S. automakers may be the only option left.”

More info from Google


Chicago Workers Take A Stand

A good friend and fellow labor activist wrote this piece for UnionReview.com. I asked her if we can cross-post her article to Joe's site, and she said, "Of course," enjoy!

They say that those who aren’t angry simply aren’t paying attention. When it comes to anger over the country’s financial meltdown, however, not paying attention is becoming less of an option, thanks, in part, to a group of renegade workers from Chicago who have taken matters into their own hands.

In the midst of a financial crisis and government-backed bail outs to save Wall Street, big business and fat-cat CEOs, workers in Chicago are taking a stand.

As reported by CNN.com, 200 members from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America have joined together in a peaceful protest that is making headlines and causing some of the country’s most powerful to take notice.

The group of 200 were employees at Republic Windows and Doors until just days ago, when the company announced massive layoffs, giving employees only three days notice. The layoffs, Republic Windows and Doors claims, are a result of Bank of America cutting off credit to the company.

Now, the workers are staging a sit-in, saying they won’t leave until they get what is rightfully theirs: severance packages and accrued vacation pay.

Among those to show support for the group include the Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama and Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who recently issued an order for the state government to suspend doing business with Bank of America.

“We are going to do everything possible here in Illinois to side with these workers,” Blagojevich said. “And it isn't just lending them moral support, but it's putting pressure on financial institutions like the Bank of America.”

Earlier in the year, Bank of America received a $25 billion tax-payer bailout package which corporate CEOs claimed would save the jobs of working men and women; it’s more and more clear, however, who the bailout really bailed out—and the employees of Republic Windows and Doors are making it harder and harder to forget.

Talking to People About the Union Movement.

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.

California workers express concerns about Rite Aid management at special shareholder meeting in NY

This is a piece that came to UnionReview.com by way of Rand Wilson of the AFL-CIO, I thought to cross-post it here while Joe is dealing with day-to-day stuff. -Richard /UR

Over 600 workers employed at Rite Aid's giant distribution center in Lancaster, California, sent a representative to attend the company's special shareholder meeting in New York City on Tuesday, December 2.

With the company's stock price hovering at less than 50 cents, and problems plaguing Rite Aid's supply chain serving hundreds of stores in the southwest, workers expressed "serious concerns about the focus and execution of Rite Aid's top management team."

Rite Aid management is blaming its troubles on the economy, but employees offered a different perspective.

"When you work inside a critical point in the supply chain, you can tell if management is really focused on running things efficiently and motivating everyone to work together as a team. Right now, that's not happening at Rite Aid from what we can see." said Carlos "Chico" Rubio who works at Rite Aid's modern million-square-foot distribution center in Lancaster where container-loads of products arrive each day from the Port of Los Angeles and are quickly distributed with just-in-time precision to more than 500 Rite Aid retail stores throughout the southwest.

"The good news is that we've got talented employees who want to be part of a successful solution. But we're missing that opportunity now because management can't seem to focus on solving problems and working together with us as a team," explained Mr. Rubio, who offered three suggestions at the shareholder meeting:

* Rubio invited CEO Mary Sammons to visit the Rite Aid's distribution center in Lancaster to meet with employees, explain the company's goals, and encourage problem-solving.
* Rite Aid executives should consider limiting their compensation to reasonable multiples of what workers earn, and keep executive pay more in line with performance.
* Rite Aid management should abandon its anti-union "we know what's best for you" philosophy, and focus instead on building cooperative relations with its employees' unions.

Morale among Rite Aid workers nationwide has suffered because top management has been taking huge compensation packages despite a 95 percent decline in share value since June 2007. Top executives took over $18.2 million in total compensation in FY 2008, including more than $3.5 million in cash bonuses related to the acquisition of the Brooks and Eckerd drug store chains, a decision some analysts consider to have been a costly mistake.

At Rite Aid's distribution center in Lancaster, workers have struggled with other examples of bad management that surfaced soon after employees expressed interest in joining the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The ILWU already represents dockworkers at the ports who handle Rite Aid shipping containers that are offloaded from ships and then transported to distribution centers, including Lancaster. In March 2008, the distribution center workers voted to form a union, overcoming an expensive and vicious anti-union campaign waged by Rite Aid management. The company engaged in a host of illegal labor activities, including disciplining, harassing, and firing union supporters. The company's behavior was so egregious that the National Labor Relations Board prepared to try Rite Aid on 49 violations of federal labor law. Rite Aid executives chose to settle the charges rather than defend their costly and illegal campaign against employees having a voice at work.

Management's aggressive interference did not end after the Lancaster workers voted to form their union. Rite Aid has continued a costly and intense anti-union campaign that has included harassing workers, issuing warnings and suspensions to union supporters, and firing at least six union supporters on flimsy pretexts. Charges alleging new unfair labor practices, related to the company's failure to bargain in good faith, are pending.

"Rite Aid is wasting precious time and money on their anti-union campaign when all of us should be focused on getting this company back on the right track," said Mr. Rubio. "Management should be working with us, instead of against us, to help this company succeed."

Prior to attending the shareholder meeting, Mr. Rubio met with the AFL-CIO and other unions representing workers at Rite Aid. At the meeting, an AFL-CIO representative announced that a special briefing was being organized for industry analysts and investors in early 2009.

Trustees of union health and welfare funds, which have an important say over lucrative contracts with pharmacies including Rite Aid, are expressing concern about the company's poor labor relations record. At a recent Employee Benefits Conference in San Antonio, hundreds of union plan representatives received detailed information about Rite Aid's ongoing labor dispute in Lancaster.

In addition to financial and labor problems, Rite Aid has been entangled in a number of consumer fraud cases. The company has defended itself against a slew of consumer fraud allegations during the past decade, and is now in litigation with the New York Attorney General. Last summer an investigation by the Attorney General found that 112 Rite Aid stores had carried or sold expired products. The announcement of the New York allegations came as Rite Aid was settling a similar case with Attorney General of New Jersey.

A more detailed report documenting Rite Aid's mismanagement and attempts to suppress workers' rights may be obtained by contacting Rand Wilson at the above number or by email at rand@mindspring.org.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union unites more than 45,000 workers in over 60 local unions in the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii.

Related links:

Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of Women Workers

A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) documents a large wage and benefit advantage for women workers in unions relative to their non-union counterparts.

The report, "Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers," found that unionized women workers earned, on average, 11.2 percent more than their non-union peers. In addition, women in unions were much more likely to have health insurance benefits and a pension plan.

"For women, joining a union makes as much sense as going to college," said John Schmitt, a Senior Economist at CEPR and the author of the study. "All else equal, joining a union raises a woman's wage as much as a full-year of college, and a union raises the chances a woman has health insurance by more than earning a four-year college degree."

The report , which analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS), found that unionization raises the pay of women workers by almost $2.00 per hour. According to the report, women workers in unions were also 19 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, all the more significant, since women pay higher premium rates individually than men. Women workers were also 26 percentage points more likely to have an employer-provided pension plan than women workers who were not in unions.

The study also shows that unionization strongly benefited women workers in otherwise low-wage occupations. Among women workers in the 15 lowest-paying occupations, union members earned 14 percent more than those workers who were not in unions. In the same low-wage occupations, unionized women were 26 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 23 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan than their non-union counterparts.


Stuff to work on, recent reading, sites and stuff to write about

Here's all sorts of stuff I'm either gonna re-read, write about, study or promote. Some are sites that link to me, some are new blogs I found, some are from a few months back, but all are interesting and important in their own way, I regard this batch of bookmarks as my sandbox of data which I haven't had a chance to write about. There's more, but here's a sample.

Joe's Sandbox