The success at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, TN, at least in terms of talks of an election, has fueled the Auto Workers decade-long drive to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the US. Nissan has made its way onto the hit list as UAW makes some highly strategic moves on them at home and abroad. To organize Nissan’s plant in Canton, MS is a long shot, but if UAW can bring Nissan’s partner, Renault, in via the powerful French unions in Paris, they will undoubtedly increase the pressure. Whether they will be successful or not remains to be seen. Reaching out to foreign entities to bring pressure on U.S. companies is on the increase, and we can expect to see more organizing drives on foreign-owned companies in the United States.
It’s been six months since labor talks began between Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and unions, Service Employees International and Amalgamated Transit. Since then, BART has proposed an annual 3 percent raise over four years on salaries that already average $71,000 as a base and $11,000 in overtime; an additional worker requirement to contribute 4 percent toward their pensions and 9.5 percent toward medical benefits – a combined proposal value of $57 million. Rather than allow the workers to vote on those terms, the unions organized a strike this morning that placed 400,000 San Francisco commuters without transportation. How long this work stoppage will last is unknown, but BART management is hoping that union leaders will let their members vote on the current offer by Oct. 27.
This is the second strike on BART since talks began in April; the preceding one lasted a total of four days.
Ryan Williams, a Worker Center Watch advisor, highlighted quite an interesting point in his recent Washington Times article that addressed the negative effects of a higher minimum wage. He focused on the recent protest against McDonald’s USA President, Jeff Stratton. While the Fight for 15 crowd stood outside shouting versions of, “we can’t support our families on minimum wage,” Stratton was inside – utterly aware of what it means to be a minimum wage worker. Stratton began his career with McDonald’s behind the counter working for $1.60 an hour. He knows better than most what it means to be in an entry-level position and have to work one’s way up through the ranks. That is the point Williams makes in his article. Most service industry jobs are meant to be a starting point, not a lifelong career. Furthermore, he reports on how such a large raise in the minimum
Continue reading The Irony of Fight for 15
This may come as a surprise to the United Auto Workers organizers and Volkswagen executives, but there appears to be a third party with an opinion about whether or not the Chattanooga plant should be organized – the workers themselves. As of last week, the anti-union voice via a circulating petition in the plant reached a total of 602 signatures; bringing it valiantly close to half of the production and skilled maintenance workers at the plant.
Gary Casteel, a UAW regional director, stated that he doesn’t expect the anti-Auto Workers petitions “will have any bearing on the discussions with VW.” That’s interesting and hopefully something VW employees are listening to closely. Not surprisingly the opinions of VW employees don’t matter a heck of a lot to the UAW brass.
The debate over whether or not to inaugurate a German-style works council system at the Volkswagon plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee is about more than creating a positive employee work environment – it is about a conflict of national identities.
Mr. Osterloh, head of VW’s works council in Germany, believes that the Tennessee political leaders and VW employees who are opposed to the installation of such a council are only opposed to it because they do not “know what a works council is.” While that is a rather condescending argument, a counterpoint could be that Mr. Osterloh does not understand that this discussion is about more than his works council program. According to American labor laws, before employees in a company can participate in such a program, they must already be organized under a labor union.
As American autoworkers view the UAW through the lens of the hollowed-out shell of Detroit,
Continue reading Labor Discussions Hit Home at VW’s Chattanooga Plant
Union officials claim that the difficulty they are having with organizing Nissan’s Canton plant comes from “outrageous violations” by company management of the workers rights to organize. Perhaps…or perhaps it is because the base wage for most of the plant’s employees is amongst the most highly paid of blue-collar workers in Mississippi. Thus, many of those workers don’t feel the need to pay dues to UAW to interfere in an already agreeable workplace environment.
The fight will continue and there are certainly supporters of both sides.
Here is a helpful post re: the ramifications of the shutdown related to business with the NLRB, from the law firm Epstein Becker Green:
On Monday October 1, 2013, the Board published a Notice in the Federal Register to the NLRB’s website that supplements the effects of the Contingency Plan that we examined at outset of the government shutdown and NLRB furlough. Significantly, the Notice answers some of the important practical questions confronting employers, unions and employees with business before the Board.
With respect to time limits for filings with the agency, according to the Notice, the Board has unilaterally granted an extension of the time to file or serve most documents (with some exceptions) equal to the number of days (including partial days) that the shutdown lasts. With regards to representation elections and hearings scheduled for October 1 – 11, they
Continue reading NLRB Shutdown Update
The scene at the Volkswagen Chattanooga, Tennessee plant intensified over the last week as Bernd Osterloh, head of VW AG’s general works council, announced his plan for a visit on location. While some might speculate that a drop in of this sort means progress for the UAW and German-owned manufacturer, others believe it could mean only one thing – UAW is worried. And they should be.
A recent Anti-United Auto Workers petition has been circulating around the plant, and so far has gathered signatures from approximately 30 percent of the workers. UAW was probably hoping that a visit from Osterloh would have a counteracting effect. It very well could have – had it not been postponed due to plane trouble. Nonetheless, one
Continue reading Tug-of-War in Tennessee
Click on the picture above to download the PDF
With the possibility looming of a government shutdown, how will the activities of the NLRB be impacted? Take a moment to peruse at least the first few pages of NLRB Contingency Plan. Long story short – 1600 of 1611 employees would be furloughed, until funding appropriations are reestablished.
A new development has emerged in a story from our latest issue of INK.
The Service Employees International Union has its hands full as the investigation into whether or not they laundered money in Michigan’s 2012 statewide ballot initiative heats up. Rumor has it that they were the sole contributor of the Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care’s $9.3 million donation in support of Proposal 4, which would have allowed health care workers to organize.
Since “intentionally concealing the source of donations is a misdemeanor,” SEIU could potentially be “fined up to $1,000 or the amount of an undisclosed contribution.” In this particular case, that would amount to $9.3 million.
FYI: Proposal 4 never passed.