February 25, 2007

State of the Union

Who is protecting the non-union workers? The workers who receive their paychecks late, who are short-changed what's due them, who suffer from employers' bounced checks and those who are responsible for medical bills because mandatory Workers' Compensation Insurance was ignored?

What about company "401K savings plans" that accept paycheck deductions that cannot be withdrawn later because of "special rules" adopted by the company's owner? Who is verifying there aren't illegal deductions on employee paychecks for company expenses like gas, materials and safety equipment?

No one, that's who! Many times workers will be unaware of the creative accounting techniques developed by cheating employers, or the workers may know they are getting screwed but won't complain fearing reprisal or termination.

Believe me, especially in construction, it happens, and it happens often!

December 3, 2006

State of the Union

It's the time of year again when we must decide how to spread Christmas cheer among family and friends. If shopping, an ingrained American custom confused as being a part of the Christmas spirit, is going to be part of your holiday activities, I hope you will think about the people who made those items you will be handing out and their working conditions.

Finding an organization or company that employs workers under fair working conditions should be given preference if we are doing the right thing at Christmas time. The basis for the holiday is to spread goodwill across the world and take care of those in need.

So how can shoppers be oblivious to where their gifts are coming from when the act of giving a gift is supposed to be a gesture of goodwill? Shouldn't funneling your money to an entity that is being responsible to its workers be a gesture of goodwill also?

October 8, 2006

Here we go again. For those colleagues, family and friends who care about the upcoming elections, morality, patriotism and war are the focal points in their debates.

There is no critique, no challenge and no debate about labor issues. The economic security and well-being of our families once again is taking a back seat, as the elected leaders dictate when and how they want to talk about "their" issues.

Potential voters are apathetic, turned off and tired of hearing the same mantras over and over again. We hear about lowering taxes, no new taxes, cutting waste in Washington, protecting the future of our children and having a strong military each and every election.

These are important, but it doesn't change, so please stop it already! Why can't we get down to the issues that matter: jobs, health care, fair pay, decent benefits and a secure retirement?

September 10, 2006

State of the Union

A horrible accident recently occurred that injured five workers at the new Wal-Mart store on the west side of Bloomington. Three suffered burns over the majority of their bodies after a piece of equipment used to pull wires through conduits was thrown into an energized high voltage switch gear and caused an electric arc. When the short circuit exploded, it sent a powerful arc of electrical energy outside the switch gear and burned everything in its path.

Once again, another high price has been paid because billion-dollar Wal-Mart is unyielding in its quest to save on the bottom line. This time it involved people's lives.

Sure, LaSalle General Contractors out of Michigan hired Electromation from Muncie to do the electrical work, but I would think Wal-Mart had enough clout to mandate that the store be built safely using qualified electrical workers. As Electromation's employees were spread too thin constructing other stores and became further and further behind schedule, they hired additional manpower from numerous temporary employment agencies.

August 27, 2006

State of the Union

"One day of revolt — not rest! A day not ordained by the bragging spokesmen of institutions holding the world of labor in bondage.

"A day on which labor makes its own laws and has the power to execute them! All without the consent or approval of those who oppress and rule.

"A day on which in tremendous force the unity of the army of toilers is arrayed against the powers that today hold sway over the destinies of the people of all nations.

"A day of protest against oppression and tyranny, against ignorance and war of any kind.

"A day on which to begin to enjoy eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will."

August 13, 2006

State of the Union

Have you seen the latest full-page ads in the New York Times, USA Today or the Wall Street Journal promoting a new Web site called run by the Center for Union Facts?

For this to come out, unions must be doing something right in advancing workers' rights.

Not that I need to publicize another anti-worker and anti-union group, but the truth needs to be told about the "facts" found within the Web page and the background of its executive director Richard Berman.

July 16, 2006

In 1935, Congress created the National Labor Relations Act ( NLRA ) and the National Labor Relations Board ( NLRB ) to promote industrial peace through collective bargaining.

Faced with workers being trampled on by big business, the economy suffering financial loss during strikes and people being injured and killed over job issues, congressmen and women finally recognized workers' rights.

They had to. Citizens suffering financial ruin during the Depression were on the verge of revolution.

Who would take over? The socialists, the anarchists, the radicals, the communists?

July 2, 2006

State of the Union

In a world filled with transnational corporations, loss of good-paying jobs, and political policies that attack working people, it is more important than ever to stay informed and keep a watchful eye on the decisions our political representatives and business owners are making.

If we want to keep our community strong and vibrant, help support local merchants and keep the money within our community, we need to get the facts.

It is important for you to know that a few weeks ago Sen. Richard Lugar and Sen. Evan Bayh voted to increase the minimum wage. These are the same legislators who have voted multiple times in the past 10 years, since the last minimum wage increase in 1997, for their own pay to increase more than $30,000.

June 18, 2006

State of the Union

Workers aren't just employees of businesses and corporations, but people who want to live and raise their families in safe and healthy communities. Sometimes, however, questions surface about whether job opportunities are more important than the environment.

The debate was put to rest for a short time during the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) demonstrations in Seattle. The alignment between labor and environmentalists, "the teamsters and the turtles," joined together to fight globalization and corporate power.

At that time there was a sense of rejuvenation and hope as they shut down the meeting and proclaimed victory in their battle amid a global class war.

May 21, 2006

State of the Union

I recently came across a Gallup Poll conducted in August 2005 that focused on labor unions. Surprisingly, the results were better than I would have expected.

The wide open question, "Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?" resulted in 58 percent approving, 33 percent disapproving and 9 percent unsure. Considering the next question asked, "Is anyone in your household a member of a labor union?" and only 19 percent said "yes," 58 percent is pretty good number.

When and where do children first learn about unions and their fight to better the working class?

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