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August 19, 2002

Labor Monday (8-19)

Roundup of labor stories, August 19th

  • New York City Firefighters and Police Officers rallied to protest the pathetic pay they receive, only $31,305 for rookie NYPD officers. They blasted politicians who preened with them for photoops last fall, but now won't allocate the money for the raises and equipment for them to do their job; said firefighter union leader Stephen Cassidy, "We're tired of politicians coming to our funerals and telling our widows how great we were."
  • Similarly, the International Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously last week to boycott a national tribute to firefighters who died on September 11, in an angry response to President Bush's rejection of a bill that included $340 million to fund fire departments.
  • Farmworkers are marching on Sacramento to demand that Gray Davis sign the new bill that mandates binding arbitration when contracts talks stall in the fields. With growers donating over $100,000 in recent weeks, this is an almost pure battle of people power versus dollars.
  • The West Coast Longshoremen have told Bush to piss off in his threats to block a strike, enlisting high profile allies like California Senator Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy. The union points out that if the administration is so worried about port safety, why does it allow non-union "flag of convenience" companies to bring in unregulated cargo to the country? The California legislature is holding hearings to highlight the role of corporate influence in pushing Bush administration intervention in the union dispute.
  • Home health care workers in Washington State voted to create a new union of 25,000 workers who daily help the elderly and disabled in their homes, who themselves currently get paid less than $8 per hour with no health insurance. The vote followed a union-backed statewide iniative approved by voters last year that created a statewide authority empowered to negotiate with the workers.
  • US Airways is seeking to use bankruptcy proceedings to extract concessions from its unions, especially those unions that up to now have refused management demands for givebacks. Similarly, United Airlines is using the threat of bankruptcy to try to extract concessions from its unions.
  • On the political front, Connecticut unions are building a statewide political party called Working Families Party, modeled on the New York party of the same name, which generally endorses Democrats but uses its separate identity to promote more progressive legislation and candidates.
  • This article highlights one signficant political gain out of passage of the "fast track" trade bill: a new health care subsidy of 65% of the cost of coverage and extended unemployment insurance payments for workers losing their jobs due to imports. Since Phil Gramm denounced the health-insurance provisions as "socialism," that's a good sign that they are significant.

    Posted by Nathan at August 19, 2002 06:39 PM

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