Labor Watch: Are Unions on the Rise? And What Does the Referee Dispute Tells Us About Unions and Gov. Walker?

By Minyanville Staff  SEP 28, 2012 5:05 PM

Plus, American Airlines pilots are furious, and Canadian auto workers head back to the plants.


Here we present the most useful and interesting news about labor action from across the Web.

Washington Post (Blog )
What the NFL's Referee Dispute Tells Us About Labor Unions
"When it comes to pro football, the usual rules of politics apparently take a time-out.

"After a controversial call by a replacement referee led to a Green Bay Packers loss on Monday night, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R ) called for the return of the NFL’s regular unionized officials, who have been locked out by the league’s owners.

"'After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs,' Walker wrote on Twitter early Tuesday.

"The statement raised more than a few eyebrows because Walker made national headlines last year when he pushed to strip Wisconsin’s public employees of their collective bargaining rights. But he sounded less enthusiastic about the outcome of the NFL’s hard-line stance against its unionized workers."

Chicago Tribune
Link: There's Something Happening Here
"'There's something happening here. What it is, ain't exactly clear,' wrote Stephen Stills in a 1968 song that came to symbolize the 1960s as a decade of social movements and rapid change.

"The same words aptly describe labor relations in the United States today. It seems, as 1960s icon Bob Dylan sang in 1964, 'The times they are a-changin'.

"In February 2011 we witnessed the Wisconsin workers' uprising. When Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature passed unprecedented anti-union legislation that also deeply cut social services, hundreds of thousands of people came to the state capital to protest, and several thousand occupied the Capitol for two weeks.

"That movement ended with the governor beating a recall effort. Similar legislation in Ohio, though, was overturned when, instead of a recall, organizers turned to a referendum and won 61% of the vote in support of workers' rights.

"Then in September 2011 the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted and rapidly spread to hundreds of cities across the country. Tens of thousands of previously uninvolved young people took to the streets — and tents—– to protest the Great Recession and income inequality, and made '1 percent' and 'the 99 percent' part of our national discourse. That movement dissipated as winter weather hit and police tore town tent cities."

Link: Canadian Auto Workers Back Labor Pact With General Motors
"Unionized workers at General Motors Corp's Canadian operations have voted in favor of a four-year labor agreement with the company, the Canadian Auto Workers union said on Thursday.

"Some 73% of the GM workers who voted backed the deal, the CAW said in a statement.

"The GM agreement includes a $3,000 quality and productivity bonus for workers upon ratification as well as cost of living lump sum payments of $2,000 in each of 2013, 2014 and 2015. It offers protection of current pension benefits for existing workers, as well as investment and employment commitments in all locations.

"The GM ratification is the second deal to be finalized with a Detroit Three automaker in Canada after unionized workers at Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) last Sunday voted in favor of a similar agreement with Ford.

American Airlines Union: Company's Letter, Threats Further Enrage Pilots
"An American Airlines (PINK:AAMRQ) executive's threats to discipline pilots over delays and file legal action against its pilots union may poison already heated contract negotiations, a union spokesman said Thursday.

"Earlier this week, American's management contacted the union to ask for talks on a new labor deal, according to the Allied Pilots Association. Then, on Wednesday, executive Denise Lynn wrote a letter to union leaders voicing concern about what she called 'mounting evidence that certain pilots are engaging in an unlawful, concerted effort to damage the company.'"

Link: Rise of the Lockout: Another Sign of Labor's Slide
"Last night, three days after a blown call that had even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pleading to “#Returntherealrefs,” football’s union referees were back on the field. Just before midnight, management announced a deal had been reached on a new contract, ending a lockout marked by questionable calls and — worse – unsafe but unpunished hits. As the “replacement” refs depart the field, talk of lockouts will fade from the news — but they’ll remain a growing trend in labor struggles across the country.

"The refs’ lockout was not a strike. In a lockout, union members are out of work not because they’ve walked off the job, but because management has refused to let them work. (Of course, plenty of bona fide strikes are intentionally provoked by management.) This distinction was lost on most national media outlets this week, as demonstrated by a string of corrections on articles that had originally referred to 'striking' referees. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta even asked Mitt Romney what he would 'do about those referees,' and whether he would 'order them back to work.' Under US labor law, when union contract negotiations break down, management can lock workers out until they reach an agreement. In other words, if you won’t give up as much as your boss wants at the bargaining table, he can put you out of work until you come around.

"As workers lose ground to management, strikes are losing ground to lockouts. In the 1990s, just 4.1% of work stoppages were lockouts, according to Robert Combs of Bloomberg BNA; in the first quarter of this decade, 8.3% were. In the same period, the number of strikes has plummeted.  In fact, as the New York Times reported in January, the ratio of lockouts to strikes hit an all-time high last year."
Link: Labor Unions Work to Turn Out Votes for Elizabeth Warren
"At an AFL-CIO rally Monday, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made clear who brought him to Massachusetts: Senate candidate and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren.

“Elizabeth Warren will fight for (Project Labor Agreements), she’ll fight to revive American manufacturing, she’ll fight for education and smart investment,” Trumka said, riling up the crowd as hundreds of union members applauded. “She’ll fight for Davis-Bacon, she’ll fight for funding our infrastructure, and she won’t do it once in awhile -- she will do it every single day.”

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