Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Reading for Union Members

Mother Jones said it best: "Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts."

Feeling crunched, squeezed, squandered and screwed by the outright barbarous? Build your summer reading list around these must-reads from The Union Shop—and gear up for the political change we must make to turn around America. These titles offer plenty of food for thought.

Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It, by Thom Hartmann.
Air America Radio host Hartmann writes that our middle class has been dismantled over the past 25 years and replaced by a system to line the pockets of the super-rich and big corporations. He details the weakening of the safety nets for working people and argues that an empowered, educated middle class is crucial to a functioning democracy. $22.95
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Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries), by Jared Bernstein.
As Bernstein says, "economics has been hijacked by the rich and powerful, and it has been forged into a tool that is being used against the rest of us." Bernstein, senior economist and director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., offers lay people tangible insight into what it takes to ensure that those who make it work also share its rewards. $26.95
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The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, by Steven Greenhouse.
America's workers are being squeezed by declining wages, rising health care costs, evaporating pensions, job insecurity and globalization, according to Greenhouse, who covers workplace issues for The New York Times. The book takes a probing—and often shocking—look at why, in the world's most affluent nation, so many corporations are intent on squeezing their workers dry. $25.95
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The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences, by Louis Uchitelle.
An eye-opening account of the devastating impact of layoffs on individuals at all income levels, this book traces the rise of job security in the United States to its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s and the factors that caused a U-turn beginning in the 1970s. Uchitelle gives specific recommendations for policies that encourage companies to restrict layoffs and create jobs. $25.95
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Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign, by Michael K. Honey. The author combines labor history with civil rights history in a moving and meticulous account of the sanitation workers' strike that brought Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis in early 1968. Honey painstakingly recreates the explosive situation into which King stepped after 1,300 sanitation workers, almost all of them African American, went on strike, including marches and sermons, King's assassination and its violent aftermath. $17.95 paperback. Find Out More and Order Today

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lioneld Jordan Honored by OMNI

Local 965 member Lioneld Jordan was recognized as a Nominee at OMNI's 2008 Peace & Justice Heroes Awards Banquet at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on June14th. In announcing the awards, OMNI spokesperson Gladys Tiffany said, "The second Nominee doesn’t need much introduction to Northwest Arkansas people. Lioneld Jordan has been a public servant in Fayetteville for many years, advancing the fundamental values of peace, justice, and ecology in our community.

"During his eight years on the City Council, Lioneld has supported the preservation of Mt. Sequoyah Woods and the Brooks-Hummell Natural Area, as well as the hillside development ordinance. As chair of the Street Committee, he took the leadership in advocating road impact fees to address the effects of sprawl, has supported bikeway and trails as alternative systems, and led the efforts to designate Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

"Lioneld has been a strong voice for social and economic justice. He has been a member of the advisory board of the Seven Hills Homeless Shelter and has worked to assure affordable housing in the city. As president of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council, he has instituted the Citizen Leadership Academy to train advocates and give a voice to those less fortunate, and as former president of his local union, he initiated the monthly food drive, the campus-city street trash pickup project, the community service awards, and the Christmas toy drive, while fighting for workers’ rights and job security.

"Thank you Lioneld for your years of service in Northwest Arkansas."

Friday, June 13, 2008

General Clark Stands with AFSCME

Retired General Wesley Clark is the latest of a growing group of speakers to take a stand in support of AFSCME members and cancel their scheduled appearance at UCLA’s commencement ceremonies this weekend unless 20,000 UC workers receive of a fair contract. Former President Bill Clinton confirmed his cancellation on Tuesday and was joined by Congresswoman Hilda Solis and Congressman Henry Waxman who were also scheduled at UCLA this weekend. Students, workers and community supporters are planning to picket at commencement ceremonies across the state this weekend.

"I am disappointed that I will not be able to be a commencement speaker, but I won't cross the picket line. The students who are graduating, along with their parents who support them should be congratulated on their achievement. My hope is this dispute will come to a resolution very soon," Clark said.

The 20,000 patient care and service workers do everything from assisting in surgeries to cleaning dorm rooms in the
University of California’s ten campus/five hospital system. They have been negotiating for a fair contract since August, 2007, and 96% of UC service workers are low-income eligible for at least one of the following public assistance programs: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch. Many work 2-3 jobs to meet their families’ basic needs. This is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps which can affect patient care as extra time is needed to train the constant flow of new staff.

Graduations at other UC campuses have also been affected by this show of solidarity with UC workers, including Speaker Emeritus of the California Assembly Fabian Núñez’s cancellation on Wednesday at UC Davis. Robert Kennedy Jr., Assemblyman John Laird, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Angela Davis and many notable professors have also pledged to cancel unless the contract is settled. This represents speakers at nearly all UC campuses where graduations are scheduled.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Clinton Cancels UCLA Commencement Address; Refuses to Cross Picket Line

Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday canceled a commencement speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, because of the lingering labor dispute in which UCLA administrators have refused to guarantee decent wages to staff employees represented by Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The 20,000 workers involved in the wage dispute range from technicians at UC medical facilities to janitors and landscapers.

"While I'm honored to be invited and was really looking forward to speaking at UCLA's commencement ceremonies, I can't cross the picket line," Clinton said. The former president was scheduled to address 4,000 graduating seniors this Friday, but his office said he would not appear. "Due to the ongoing labor dispute, he regrets that he will be unable to participate in commencement this year and he wishes the UCLA graduates the best of luck," Clinton's office said a statement.

Though AFSCME and the university are currently in mediation to negotiate better wages, Union president Lakesha Harrison said that the problem lies with the UC’s priorities, not a lack of resources. The UC administrators admitted that they have the money, but it “would be irresponsible to spend it on the workers,” Harrison said.

Harrison said that massive executive raises and bonuses take the priority away from the workers, many of whom qualify for government aid. “They’re not making the workers a priority. ... They’re not making the patients a priority, and they’re not making the students a priority; they’re making the executives a priority.”

About 20 students and workers began a three-day fast at UCLA today to call for a new contract for UC health care and service workers, and the group presented 1,000 petition signatures supporting former President Bill Clinton's refusal to cross a picket line to speak at the university's commencement ceremony. "I am participating in this three-day fast because I feel that the University of California is creating poverty in our communities," graduating senior David Chavez said. "Costs go up, wages remain the same and these families have to make hard choices on how to survive."

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez also canceled a commencement speech at UC Davis scheduled for today because of the labor dispute.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

This Date in Arkansas Labor History

June 4, 1962. Arkansas Supreme Court rules that union "hiring halls" are illegal under Amendment 34 and Act 101 of 1947, and, therefore, IBEW Local 295 pickets advocating such can be enjoined.

June 4, 1940. Strike by Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2590 sawmill workers at Crossett Lumber Company, lasts 58 days.

June 4, 1996. In race for Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, State Senator Luther Hardin charged that Attorney General Winston Bryant was tool of "big labor bosses", and Bryant replied Hardin was "controlled by big timber, big utilities and big poultry." Bryant subsequently won nomination; Hardin switched to GOP and joined cabinet of Governor Mike Huckabee.