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Thread: Workers of America: Wake up! We all need a union!

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Workers of America: Wake up! We all need a union!

    Workers of America: Wake Up! We All Need a Union!

    by Dave Lindorff

    We workers of America, white collar, pink collar, blue collar, and no collar at all, have just gotten a wonderful example of the power of having a union. It's an example that should have every unorganized employee in America looking for a union organizer.

    With the recession deepening, it's clear that major layoffs are in store, and that employers are going to be putting the squeeze on employees, even if they don't drop them. Individually, workers have little leverage in such a situation.

    Look what happened to the workers at Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors. The company was losing business, and according to some of its employees, had been in recent weeks secretly moving some heavy equipment out of the plant, possibly in preparation for relocation to some lower-wage location. Then its bank, Bank of America, one of the nation's largest financial institutions, and a recent recipient of $25 billion in federal bailout funds from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank, informed the company that it would not supply credit for the firm to meet payroll. The workers were told by management that the plant would be shut down in three days.

    At many companies across America, such news would be met by groans and tears, but by little else. What can an employee do when the boss says the company is closing its doors? Well, Republic's workers, members of the United Electrical Workers union, didn't take the news lying down. They took it sitting down on the factory floor.

    The company's 300 workers quickly organized a round-the-clock sit-in occupation of the plant, vowing to stay until they got the 60 days notice that the law requires in the event of relocations. They also demanded that they be paid accrued vacation pay, which the company had said would be lost.

    Bank of America was initially unmoved, but the workers began a national publicity campaign that was leading to protests at B of A offices across the country (one was planned for tomorrow here in Philadelphia). Boycotts were also being organized of the bank.

    Then this afternoon, Bank of America folded, announcing that in the face of all the protests and the bad publicity, which focused much on the fact that the bank that was refusing to lend to a troubled American manufacturing firm had just received $25 billion from taxpayers that was intended to "unfreeze" credit at the banks, it would after all extend credit to Republic Windows and Doors.

    This is a happy ending story for the workers at Republic, who will at least get paychecks through the holidays, even if the future of their company remains iffy.

    But more importantly, it is a powerful message to America's workers: united we can win. Divided and unorganized, we are going to be trampled.

    There is a second message here too. Americans across the nation need to contact their congressional representatives and senators, and President-Elect Barack Obama (who backed the workers at Republic), and demand that as one of the first acts of the new Congress, they pass into law the Employee Free Choice Act, a labor law reform that would end the ability of employers to stall off union elections for years, and to refuse to bargain a first contract with a new union. The act, which Obama, during his campaign, vowed to support, as did nearly all Democratic candidates for Congress, would require employers to accept the certification of a union whenever a majority of workers at a workplace signed cards saying they want a union, and would require them to negotiate and reach a first contract within 90 days.

    Such an act would finally restore some semblance of fairness into the union organizing process, which has been skewed over the last 40-50 years to be almost impossibly in management's favor. Little wonder that union membership in the private sector has fallen to below 9% (from over 30% back in the early 1950s), even as polls repeatedly show that a majority of Americans would want to have a union at their job if they could get one.

    The Republic Windows and Doors victory is a victory for all workers in America, and is a clarion call for more unions everywhere.

    Let's get to work and organize.

    Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). His work is available at This Can't Be Happening! | This Can't Be Happening!

    Workers of America: Wake Up! We All Need a Union! | CommonDreams.org

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    OMG. This isn't 1950. We can all speak for ourselves and use that union dues money.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Elite Member nana55's Avatar
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    agreed. The union did great work, but they now are bullying companies and help putting them out of business. I know it's not all the union fault, there is greed and waste and incopetence all around, but the benefits and pensions they pay are not helping them now.
    If I can't be a good example, then let me be a horrible warning.

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    In principle I think unions are great. My mom was in one a long time ago. Anyone that's seen the movie "Hoffa" can agree with me that the original intent of unions was noble.

    But in its present state I am wary of unions, or my company ever becoming union organized. To me it just seems like a pain trying to deal with endless regulations and union laws just to do your job. Firing a s**tbag worker I heard is pretty hard, and the slackers seem to get by. And while generous benefits are a great thing, do all unions pay their workers for not working when laid off? The corruption seems bad too not that CEO's of non union corporations are saints.

    Maybe someone who has union experience can set things straight.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Unions are good, for the most part. Because employees do need to be protected when management believes that they're above the law and can do whatever they want.

    However, where unions have become a problem is that employees who really aren't that good at their job and should be fired not only are protected by the union but they also get raises they don't deserve.

    So, while unions are needed, they need to be restructured so that the pay scale and benefits that they get are in line with what companies can afford to pay. (At the same time companies have to learn to keep the executive salaries and benefits in line with what the company can afford, too) And the union has to learn to police itself when it comes to employees who are dead weight to the company and to the union itself.

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    Gold Member ymeman's Avatar
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    I think people get myopic when talking about unions, it's like, in what way are unions worse than working part-time at Walmart for $8 an hour, if you can get that instead of fast food. And all the things that Washington complains about re-unions are true as well about itself, and the corporatocracy that runs this country, exponentially.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Seems like a whole lot of people go from in a union to-zap-company out of business & out on thhe streets. Unions seem like just an unnecessary extra bill to pay. Dues don't seem cheap. In this day,if you think you are mistreated-sue.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McJag View Post
    Seems like a whole lot of people go from in a union to-zap-company out of business & out on thhe streets. Unions seem like just an unnecessary extra bill to pay. Dues don't seem cheap. In this day,if you think you are mistreated-sue.
    It's not always that easy to sue. These days the courts are making it harder for employees to sue employers. Unless it's something really blunt and obvious they'll try to chalk it up to 'Oh, you just had a bad boss. Nothing illegal about that.'

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    It's not always that easy to sue. These days the courts are making it harder for employees to sue employers. Unless it's something really blunt and obvious they'll try to chalk it up to 'Oh, you just had a bad boss. Nothing illegal about that.'
    Seems too easy from what I read!
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McJag View Post
    Seems too easy from what I read!
    It's easy to sue employers, but it's not easy to win.

    Here's an example a lawyer told me. He had a case where this black chemist was constantly being told by his supervisor, in front of the entire department, 'we need to hold a Klan rally tonight.' The guy put up with it for a long time, and decided to sue. The lawyer figured it should be an open & shut case. A black judge threw the case out because he didn't think there was any discrimination involved. But they won on appeal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by celeb_2006 View Post
    In principle I think unions are great. My mom was in one a long time ago. Anyone that's seen the movie "Hoffa" can agree with me that the original intent of unions was noble.

    But in its present state I am wary of unions, or my company ever becoming union organized. To me it just seems like a pain trying to deal with endless regulations and union laws just to do your job. Firing a s**tbag worker I heard is pretty hard, and the slackers seem to get by. And while generous benefits are a great thing, do all unions pay their workers for not working when laid off? The corruption seems bad too not that CEO's of non union corporations are saints.

    Maybe someone who has union experience can set things straight.
    There are good and bad things about unions. My husband is in a union although he didn't really want to be in it. You are sort of pressured to join at his company who is very well known. Anyway, they do step in when a company tries to screw their people over. You can file grievances and if the company violated the terms of the contract then they have to adhere to it. That being said, my husband has some of the sorriest excuses for coworkers I have ever seen. The company has paid for rehab for a couple of them more than once. Some screw up over and over but because they are union when the company tries to fire them, the union gets their job back. If my husband would get laid off then he can collect unemployment for a little while and then nothing. The Detroit auto worker unions are out of hand in my opinion. Collecting 85% of your pay to sit at home? $80 an hour? I am in a teachers union and it is a joke. The only good thing I can say about it is if I would hit or fondle a kid, they will provide me with legal council which if I ever did either they should fire my ass period.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ya-ya_sister View Post
    The Detroit auto worker unions are out of hand in my opinion. Collecting 85% of your pay to sit at home? $80 an hour?
    Last I heard on the news, UAW was going to be stopping that provision shortly, but I don't think it was at $80 an hour though.

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    Elite Member B.C.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffy View Post
    Last I heard on the news, UAW was going to be stopping that provision shortly, but I don't think it was at $80 an hour though.
    It is going to be stopped and you're right it isn't $80. an hour. I've read other places where people are complaining about the "jobs bank" and I wonder if anyone realizes why it was put in place. There is a reason for it besides lining pocket but I doubt it would be justifiable to most of the public that is so down on the American autoworkers and unions. Toyota (I believe) pays it's workers 100% when their unit numbers are down.
    Last edited by B.C.; December 14th, 2008 at 02:40 AM.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I've never belonged to a union but I think they have a place, particularly when it comes to blue collar work. Remember, unions started partly in response to the railroad barons and their lovely company store setup. sure, there are problems with the unions but I think they're less glaring than the problems with the owners/boards of most companies. the money stolen or sidelined by the executive suites of most companies could more than make up any extra costs implemented by unions. And don't buy that unions are breaking the companies. That's propoganda put out by the repugs and other union-busting types.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    I've never belonged to a union but I think they have a place, particularly when it comes to blue collar work. Remember, unions started partly in response to the railroad barons and their lovely company store setup. sure, there are problems with the unions but I think they're less glaring than the problems with the owners/boards of most companies. the money stolen or sidelined by the executive suites of most companies could more than make up any extra costs implemented by unions. And don't buy that unions are breaking the companies. That's propoganda put out by the repugs and other union-busting types.
    Not all of it-not by a long shot. No one can deny they keep dead beat workers going,at the expense of the hard working. Furthermore,I object to the initiation fee (or what ever its called) PLUS the dues they take out of an already small paycheck. It's like owing another credit card bill or something. You also have no choice at most union companies. You are pretty much forced to join. I am not speaking from personal experience,mind. Just complaints from various friends over the years and backed up by the same things said right on here.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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