1. Americanized Labor Policy Is Spreading in Europe

    Desperate to restore competitiveness, European nations are dismantling workplace protections that once supported labor and helped minimize income inequality.

  2. OFL Report Shows that American-Style, Anti-Worker Laws Hurt Workers and Economy

    September 3, 2013

    OFL Report Shows that American-Style, Anti-Worker Laws Hurt Workers and Economy

    (TORONTO, ON) – An Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) report on American-style, anti-worker laws demonstrates the devastating impact such legislation would have on the Ontario economy and reveals the hidden agenda of Hudak’s Conservatives, the Fraser Institute and other proponents of a U.S.-style attack on labour rights in Canada.

    “We are releasing our report today to coincide with a Fraser Institute report that calls for limiting workers’ rights and weakening union protection,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “The arguments against labour unions and workers’ rights are ideological, not empirical. American evidence proves that reducing union representation does not lead to a stronger economy. In fact, in the decade following the passage of laws that undermined union representation, 50,000 manufacturing jobs were shed in Oklahoma and over one third were lost in North Carolina.”

    The OFL report, called “Working for Less: The Coming Threat to Union Security in Ontario,” was produced in February as part of a worker education program but is being released publicly today to sound the alarm about the dangers that will befall the Canadian economy and working families if the American model is adopted. The report shows that laws outlawing mandatory union dues and membership, which have been dubiously dubbed “right-to-work” laws in the U.S. and “worker choice reforms” by their corporate Canadian champions, fail to deliver on their promise of job creation or economic growth, while leaving all workers and their families with lower wages, fewer benefits, and more dangerous workplaces. Download the full report and detailed factsheets at:http://ofl.ca/index.php/campaigns/workersrights/

    “Unions aren’t just good for workers, they are an economic driver. Across Canada, union membership delivers an average wage increase of $5.11 more an hour, while in Ontario, the union advantage is $6.19 more an hour. Unions have created Canada’s middle class and they bring economic stability for everyone,” said Ryan. “This is the conclusion of the World Bank, which found that by every meaningful economic indicator, countries with higher rates of unionization have lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity and speedier adjustments to economic shocks.”

    The OFL report goes on to warn of the economic ramifications of anti-union laws that are designed to drive down wages and severely limit the democratic rights of workers. It highlights a University of Notre Dame study that found that in 18 of 22 ‘right-to-work’ states in the U.S. wages were below the national median, and studies from Princeton and the University of Nevada that show wages plummeting in Idaho and Oklahoma respectively, after the introduction of ‘right to work’ laws. The impact of such laws could be even greater in Canada because higher wages leave more room to fall.

    “When Tim Hudak or the Fraser Institute hold up the relocation of London’s Caterpillar plant to Muncie, Indiana as evidence that good wages are a barrier to good business, they are really telling the families of Canadian workers that they deserve to live on less while corporations scour the globe for the greatest profits,” said Ryan. “Anti-worker laws don’t create jobs, they simply force workers to work for less in order to compete with their counterparts across borders and state lines. It sets off a race to the bottom that is driven by corporate greed and can only be kept in check by strong opposition from workers themselves. Unions provide that crucial counter-balance.”

    “If the corporate and conservative backers of the Fraser Institute truly had the welfare of all Canadians in mind, they would recognize that strong unions raise the bar – for all workers – on wages, benefits and working conditions, and that families with decent livelihoods have more money to spend on services and small businesses that help the economy thrive,” said Ryan. “Unfortunately, Canada’s economic welfare isn’t the Fraser Institute’s priority, corporate profit is.”

    The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.


     For further information:

    Joel Duff, Communications Director, OFL: 416-707-0349 (cell)    *FRENCH/ENGLISH*

  3. Foxconn stages union elections: A trap for Chinese workers - World Socialist Web Site

    By John Chan 
    13 February 2013

    In a move that clearly indicates rising class tensions in China, the world’s largest contract electronic manufacturer, Foxconn, has decided to hold trade union “elections” at its gigantic factories, which employ 1.2 million workers. The move—backed by the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime and the Western corporate giants that rely on sweatshops like those of Foxconn—is an attempt to avert a social explosion.

    Foxconn has promised to conduct elections by July, after preparations that would include explaining to workers their supposed legal rights and on how to vote. The first election would be held in Foxconn’s Shenzhen complex that houses 400,000 workers—the largest workplace on the planet.

    The managed nature of the “election” is clear from official announcements. The Xinhua news agency described it as “more like a revamp of existing mechanisms than a landmark reform.” Gu Cheng, an official of the state-controlled General Federation of Trade Unions in Shenzhen City (GFTUSC), said that Foxconn would be able to establish a “detailed” election process under the federation’s instruction. “Every process, from candidate election and public notification to the final vote, has been clearly regulated subject to Chinese laws and regulations,” he said.

    Foxconn simply declared that union elections had been in place since 2008 and there was no fundamental change to the process. In that year, the “Foxconn Federation of Labour Unions” was created as the CCP regime sought to extend the policing role of its state-controlled unions into the private sector, which employs the vast majority of the country’s workforce.

    The only change, according to Xinhua, which obtained “exclusive” information from Foxconn, is that at least three frontline workers would be selected in each of the 12 manufacturing sections in the Shenzhen complex. Clearly, the purpose is to give the state-run union affiliates a facelift, designed to present them as representative of workers.

    The official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) controls all enterprise unions throughout the country. Chinese workers widely regard them as “scab” or “yellow unions”— similar to those operated by Chiang Kai-shek’s regime before the 1949 revolution. That is because these agencies openly side with the employers and the CCP regime against the workers they supposedly represent. In Foxconn, as in other enterprises, senior company managers, often CCP branch secretaries, run the unions.

    The bid to establish a more credible union mechanism to control restive Foxconn workers arose after Apple, the company’s key client, became concerned about potential damage to its image through association with Foxconn’s sweatshops which assemble iPads and iPhones. In 2010, the suicide of more than a dozen young employees exposed the military-barrack conditions inside Foxconn’s huge factories. Last year, protests, strikes and riots broke out at Foxconn as it tried to meet production targets for Apple’s iPhone 5.

    The real role of the Foxconn union election was made absolutely clear by one of the premier mouthpieces of global finance capital, the London-basedFinancial Times, in an editorial on February 4 entitled: “Foxconn’s unions: Free Vote will help preserve stability and party’s power.” The comment reads like an indictment of those who argue that the oppression of workers in countries like China can be alleviated through “independent” trade unions.

    The Financial Times openly welcomed the Foxconn’s union elections because “workers need a more effective voice on the factory floor if they are to be kept away from the street.” In other words, what had to be avoided at all costs was the entry of Chinese workers onto the streets in a political movement that threatened the CCP regime on which global corporations depend to safeguard their profits.

    The editorial reassured its readership that the changes would not undermine their interests by giving a voice to workers to press for improved wages and conditions. It bluntly declared: “Free elections are not about empowering workers. They are about releasing pressures that might spark an explosion of discontent that authorities could find difficult to contain.”

    Here we have, from the horse’s mouth so to speak, the function of “independent” trade unions spelled out. Amid mounting signs of social unrest in China, under conditions of deepening global economic turmoil, union elections like the one at Foxconn are needed as a safety valve to defuse a dangerous political confrontation with the CCP regime.

    Using almost the same words, this is precisely the perspective championed by exiled “labour leader” Han Dongfan and his Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin. Han, who once led workers’ protests in the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement, before it was crushed by tanks, has been promoted by Western corporate circles and trade union bureaucracies, from the AFL-CIO in the US to the ACTU in Australia.

    In 2010, when a Honda autoworkers’ stoppage in southern China sparked a wave of strikes across the country, Han told the Financial Times : “I am trying my best to depoliticise the labour movement in China.” In other words, the workers’ movement must not mount a political challenge against the government and its capitalist policies, but must be steered into the dead end of appealing to the authorities for concessions.

    In 2011, Han wrote a column in the British-based Guardian, explaining that his goal was to “reform” the state-controlled ACFTU affiliates into “real trade unions,” so that Chinese workers would not be “left with little option but to take to the streets.” In the same year, Han made an appeal to the US corporate elite, via a Wall Street Journal article, to recognise that unions in China would be “good for business”.

    Last December, China Labour Bulletin urged the CCP regime to act before labour unrest got out of control. Despite reprisals, arrests and dismissals, strikes had again surged. “As such, it is surely in the interests of the government and the business community to give the workers the tools they need to bargain effectively and thereby ensure stable labour relations,” theBulletin advised.

    Foxconn, the CCP and the Financial Times have heard the message. By incorporating handfuls of “frontline” workers into the unions, workers are being trapped into supporting a mechanism that will enforce corporate demands for higher productivity and stricter discipline. Increasingly, China has to compete with other cheap labour platforms like Vietnam or India, as well as advanced capitalist countries, where workers’ wages have been dramatically lowered since the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008.

    Like workers around the world, Chinese workers cannot defend even their most basic rights through the trade unions. New forms of organisation, such as rank-and-file committees, are required to mobilise and unite the working class in a political struggle for power. Above all, workers need to build a political party based on socialist internationalism to lead the revolutionary struggles ahead, because abolishing the sweatshop conditions requires nothing less than the overthrow of the CCP regime and the establishment of a genuine workers’ state.

  4. The Hindu : News / National : Trade unions call all-India strike for Feb 20, 21

    The Hindu: Special Correspondant

    As many as 11 central trade unions have called an all-India general strike for February 20 and 21 to protest the “anti-people” policies of the UPA government that include price rise and poor implementation of labour laws, and disinvestment in public sector units/increased FDI in various sectors.

    CPI MP and All-India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta told The Hindu here that the Indian National Trade Union Congress and the Labour Progressive Front — trade union wings of the ruling Congress and its ally DMK — would join hands with the others.

    The unions are demanding fixing of statutory minimum wages at Rs. 10,000 a month, stopping of contract labour, bringing 37 crore unorganised sector workers under the EPF/ESI Acts and raising minimum pension to Rs. 3,000.

    The functioning of the power and transport sectors, oil industries, the RBI and other banks, insurance firms, posts and telecommunications, and information technology firms would be affected during the strike by the unions, which include the BMS, CITU, HMS, AICCTU, AIUTUC, UTUC and SEWA, Mr. Dasgupta claimed.

  5. Robert Greenwald’s “Koch Brothers Exposed” (Full) (by Anti Koch)

    Published on Aug 23, 2012

    Koch Brothers Exposed is a hard-hitting investigation of the 1% at its very worst. This full-length documentary film on Charles and David Koch—two of the world’s richest and most powerful men—is the latest from acclaimed director Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed, Rethink Afghanistan). The billionaire brothers bankroll a vast network of organizations that work to undermine the interests of the 99% on issues ranging from Social Security to the environment to civil rights. This film uncovers the Kochs’ corruption—and points the way to how Americans can reclaim their democracy.

  6. Labor Unions Take Another Hit

    By Matthew Cunningham-Cook.

    On January 25, labor unions in the United States were dealt a major blow. The D.C. Circuit Appeals Court — the second most powerful court in the country and one closely aligned with the Supreme Court — handed down a decision declaring President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board invalid, which will likely nullify the rules and decisions of the NLRB in the past two years. Because the Senate is unlikely to approve any appointments in the next two years, labor unions are left with effectively no legal recourse against employers for the foreseeable future.

    Unions spent hundreds of millions of dollars on both the 2008 and 2012 elections, and securing a functional National Labor Relations Board was one of the main reasons. The board, established in 1935 to mediate and arbitrate labor disputes, is the central federal agency that enforces laws related to unions, with its stated goal being to promote collective bargaining. Over the past few years, the NLRB has taken some significant actions, most notably preventing Boeing from punishing its workers by shifting work from Washington state to South Carolina, where laws are less amenable to organized labor.

    It also announced a new rule requiring employers to have a poster in every workplace that informs workers of their rights to collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act, just as they are required to inform employees of their rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now these gains are in jeopardy.

    Read More: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/guns/unions-lose-their-gamble-beltway-politics#

  7. The compensation penalty of “right-to-work” laws

    Recent proposals to advance so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) laws are being suggested in states as a way to boost economic growth. In this economic climate, something called right-to-work legislation sounds positive, but the name is misleading: these laws do not guarantee a job for anyone. In fact, they make it illegal for a group of unionized workers to negotiate a contract that requires each employee who enjoys the benefits of the contract terms to pay his or her share of costs for negotiating and policing the contract. This provision directly limits the financial viability of unions, reducing their strength and ability to negotiate favorable contracts, higher wages, and better benefits. Similarly, by diminishing union resources, an RTW law makes it more difficult for unions to provide a workers’ voice on policy issues ranging from unemployment insurance to workers compensation, minimum wages, and other areas. The simple reality is that RTW laws undermine the resources that help workers bargain for better wages and benefits.

    This briefing paper directly examines the impact of RTW on the wages and benefits received by workers, both union and nonunion. It does this by examining differences in the wages and benefits workers receive in RTW and non-RTW states. In a regression framework, we analyze the relationship between RTW status and wages and benefits after controlling for the demographic and job characteristics of workers, in addition to state-level economic conditions and cost-of-living differences across states. We find the following:

    • Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.
    • The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states, using the full complement of control variables in our regression model. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.
    • This briefing paper provides the most comprehensive study to date of the relationship between RTW status and compensation. Using a full set of explanatory variables, including state-level controls, it is clear that our analysis stands apart as being more rigorous than others of this type.

    Read Briefing Paper

  8. Georgetown CCAS

    Labor, Unions, and the Arab Spring

    The rights of workers and workers’ organizations lie at the heart of key issues for the region’s development, including democratic governance, job creation, and economic and social justice. In the aftermath of several revolutions sweeping the Middle East early last year, the question of how labor, labor unions, and democratic progress relate to each other has become more pertinent. On September 12, 2012, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Solidarity Center brought three distinct Arab trade leaders together to discuss the changes unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa. This panel discussion, “Labor, Unions, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” featured speakers Karim Radhi, Nassira Ghozlane, Kamal Abou Aita as they examined how the conditions of labor and labor unions have either impeded or accelerated the movement toward democracy in their respective countries of Bahrain, Algeria, and Egypt. What role have workers played in protests across the region? What is the condition of unions in the Egypt and Tunisia after the revolutions in these countries? What role has labor played in the uprising in Bahrain? And how are unions in Algeria, seemingly untouched by the “Arab Spring,” working to improve the lives of working men and women?

    Karim Radhi is a member of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union.

    Nassira Ghozlane is the General Secretary of the Algerian Syndicat Autonome National des Personnels del’Administration (SNAPAP).

    Kamal Abou Aita is the President of Egyptian Federal of Independent Trade Unions.

  9. Marchers responding to trade union calls join marches against Irish austerity


    DUBLIN — Trade unionists marched in Ireland’s capital Saturday to protest the continuing high cost of the country’s crippling bank bailout program.

    The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, representing a third of Ireland’s 2 million-strong workforce, called for “Lift the Burden” protests in Dublin and other cities, hoping to draw tens of thousands of people on to the streets.

    DUBLIN — Trade unionists marched in Ireland’s capital Saturday to protest the continuing high cost of the country’s crippling bank bailout program.

    The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, representing a third of Ireland’s 2 million-strong workforce, called for “Lift the Burden” protests in Dublin and other cities, hoping to draw tens of thousands of people on to the streets.

    Read More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/marchers-responding-to-trade-union-calls-join-marches-against-irish-austerity/2013/02/09/84d490b8-72ca-11e2-b3f3-b263d708ca37_story.html

  10. Company behind B.C. mine asks union to drop legal case over Chinese workers

    FEBRUARY 7, 2013

    VANCOUVER - The company behind a plan to use Chinese miners at a proposed underground coal mine in northern British Columbia is pleading with a pair of unions to drop their legal challenge of the project’s temporary foreign worker permits and instead sit down to talk.

    HD Mining issued an open letter to the unions on Thursday as the company continues to defend its use of temporary workers and insist its long-term plan is to hire Canadians whenever possible. The letter says the company is committed to consulting with the unions on the quickest way to train and hire Canadian workers but insists the Chinese miners are necessary in the short term.

    The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union immediately rejected the request to drop their court case.

    HD Mining plans to use 201 Chinese miners at its proposed Murray River underground coal mine near Tumbler Ridge. The unions have asked the Federal Court to throw out the temporary foreign worker permits, arguing HD Mining didn’t take adequate steps to hire Canadians.

    The company insists it needs to use foreign workers because Canadian miners aren’t trained on the specialized form of underground mining that will be used at the mine, while pointing to its own plans to hire and train Canadians eventually.

    "There are strongly held views on all sides and the matter has received a great deal of media attention, but the dispute has not created a single job and it is causing considerable strain on our proposed Murray River Project," says the letter, signed by company chair Penggui Yan.

    "We are prepared to engage in a dialogue with the unions if there is a mutual interest in doing so."

    The letter says the unions should drop the lawsuit and allow the company to use temporary foreign workers for its exploration work.

    If the project proceeds, the letter says, the company is prepared to work with the unions to develop a curriculum for a new program at a local college and review the company’s own training and transition plan. The letter also says the company will consult with the unions before making additional temporary foreign worker permit applications to ensure any future applications “could be done with the full support of the unions.”

    Spokesmen for the unions hadn’t seen the letter until contacted by a reporter, but they said the lawsuit will continue.

    "The court case is not ending — the company has shown no good faith at any part of this proceeding, so it’s not about to go away," Mark Olsen, of the Construction and Specialized Workers Union, said in an interview.

    "If that’s an open invitation to meet with the company, that’s good news, but not at the expense of the legal proceeding."

    Olsen said the Federal Court case will raise important questions about the temporary foreign worker program that need to be answered regardless of whether the HD Mining project proceeds as planned.

    Brian Cochrane, the business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers, dismissed the letter as little more than a public relations exercise. He questioned why his union learned of the letter from the media, not the company.

    "I think it’s outrageous that they would try and negotiate such a position via a press release and not by contacting us directly to have a conversation," said Cochrane.

    Read More: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/b-c/company-behind-b-c-mine-asks-union-to-drop-legal-case-over-chinese-workers-1.68836

  11. Maybe he should affiliate with the violin tuners, together they could make a real social statement.
    High Res

    Maybe he should affiliate with the violin tuners, together they could make a real social statement.

  12. Ry Cooder HOW CAN A POOR MAN STAND SUCH TIMES AND LIVE London 5th June 1982 (by BabyBollox)

  13. Corporate Rule Has ‘Infected’ AFL-CIO Leadership, Labor Activist Contends - Truthdig

    By Thomas Hedges, Center for Study of Responsive Law

    Longtime labor activist Harry Kelber will oppose incumbent Richard Trumka for the presidency of the AFL-CIO at the group’s convention in Los Angeles in September. Kelber feels an obligation to challenge a president who, he says, is pursuing wealth and prestige rather than the true ideals of labor activism.

    Kelber contends that under Trumka’s leadership, the AFL-CIO has failed to address the mounting threat against labor in the United States from the loss of bargaining rights to the refusal to adjust minimum wage standards to the push against implementing the “card check” union organizing system.

    The federation of labor unions is afraid of backlash, Kelber says. It supported Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections without pressing him on issues that, according to Kelber, should have been at the top of its list such as the Employee Free Choice Act to make union formation easier and single-payer health care.

    Members “think there’s no chance of any improvement and so they’re not fighting,” Kelber explains. “In the ’30s they fought. They got Social Security, labor laws, the CIO. Now they’re getting nothing.”

    Kelber was at the forefront of the 1930s labor movement, editing two worker weeklies, organizing with the CIO and supporting the Newspaper Guild strike against management in New York City, which caused a 114-day shutdown of papers there.

    Now 98, Kelber is frustrated with a movement that, he says, cannot accomplish a fraction of what it did 80 years ago.

    “Today,” he laments, “union members are passive.”

    The corporate structure now is so severe that workers have a lot more to lose, he claims. In the ’30s corporations were nascent, allowing for the passage of sweeping measures such as Social Security and Glass-Steagall that Kelber says would now have a much harder time getting approved.

    The intensity of corporate rule has infected the leadership at the AFL-CIO, Kelber asserts.

    “Trumka’s forces have hijacked the labor movement,” he says. On the local level, “they’re OK, but they won’t challenge the national leadership, and if you don’t challenge the national leadership, you don’t go places.

    “There’s no labor activist stepping forward to say these people are crooks,” Kelber continues. “They’re stealing the labor movement.”

    Despite making remarks in the past that were critical of excessive executive pay, Trumka has seen a $90,000 increase in his yearly salary, which is now up to $272,000. His salary is guaranteed, which, Kelber argues, alleviates the incentive Trumka has to push key issues in Washington or make increasing membership a priority.

    The nation’s unions lost 400,000 members last year, as the percentage of U.S. workers represented by a union fell to 11.3 percent, down from a peak of 35 percent in the mid-1950s. There is little impetus or pressure compelling Trumka to pay attention to these figures, Kelber points out.

    The federation’s leaders have lost themselves in the glow of Washington, he contends. Obama “invites them for dinner at the White House and they love it,” Kelber notes. “That’s their reward.

    “I’m 98 years old,” Kelber says. “I’m not the kind of leader that they’re looking for. But no one else is coming up. I’m raising questions that have never been raised before.”

    Despite his age, Kelber writes three columns a week and speaks with undiminished clarity.

    “There are times that you have to go into battle and know that you are going to lose,” he concludes. “But you have to lay a foundation down for the future.”

    This article was made possible by the Center for Study of Responsive Law.