Labor Roundup

Labor-backed Chicago bank using sale proceeds to expand services to workers. The Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, one of the few labor-backed U.S. financial institutions, will use the $35 million it just gained from the sale of its old headquarters to help expand its services for workers, its chairman says.

The bank, founded by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (ACW) in 1922, last month sold its Loop building. Its 192 workers — 185 downtown and seven in suburban Warrenville — are members of Workers United, a Service Employees sector that grew from the ACW.

Unions own almost 20 percent of the privately held bank’s stock. Half of its board, including representatives of the Building Trades and Teachers, are union members.

“Our union base is very important to us,” said Amalgamated chairman Rob Wrobel. “As a privately held institution, going into the capital markets is very costly” when the bank wants to help labor, union members and small businesses that borrow while using union labor. From the building sale, “We can lend them more dollars and continue to serve them,” he added.

“We say ‘Build labor, bank labor,’” he said.

The Chicago bank, like those other institutions, funds projects that employ union workers, benefit union workers or both. The bank has $795 million in assets and its trust department administers $11 billion in Taft-Hartley and multi-employer funds.

Illinoisans, workers suffering from Rauner’s budget standoff. The budget standoff between Right-wing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the pro-worker Democratic-run state legislature continues, and bad results range from the state withholding Motor Fuel Tax payments to local governments and not paying winnings to lottery winners to plans to refuse payments to people with state health insurance and worse, according to a St. Louis Labor Tribune analysis.

Other casualties of Rauner’s war on Illinoisans include child care services, closed museums, disabilities service providers, Meals on Wheels for seniors, home services and rural transportation.

NAFTA fallout: Oreos to be made in Mexico. Starting soon, as a result of Mondelez’s drive for higher profits and lower wages, Oreo cookies will be made in Mexico, not Chicago, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers president David Durkee said about 600 workers would lose their jobs. Some other product lines for Mondelez, which used to be Kraft Foods, would stay at the Chicago plant.

Durkee said Mondelez demanded $46 million in annual concessions from workers. It could demand the cuts and move to Mexico, Durkee said, thanks to NAFTA, the 20-year-old controversial U.S.-Canada-Mexico “free trade” pact.

NAFTA and succeeding trade pacts – including the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership – trash U.S. workers, said Durkee, who added that Mondelez is a profitable $35 billion worldwide firm whose CEO received $21 million in total compensation last year.

‘Labor law must catch up’: AFL-CIO officials. U.S. labor law is outdated in today’s global economy and needs strengthening, two top AFL-CIO officials say.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and federation General Counsel Craig Becker make that argument in their analysis, “The Future of Work: Labor Law Must Catch Up,” a report posted on Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences web site.

Trumka and Becker recount failed attempts to rewrite U.S. labor law in 1977 and in 2009. Corporate lobbying and congressional Republican filibusters stopped both efforts.

A rewrite would have little chance in the GOP-run Congress, but Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley all promise to push for strong reforms if elected. President Barack Obama promised to sign the Employee Free Choice Act, but didn’t push it.

“Labor law must be reconstructed to recognize changes in work and the employment relationship and to once again effectively permit workers to organize and designate representatives to bargain with their employers,” Becker and Trumka said.

“Otherwise, workers will not share the increased income generated by their productivity, ultimately threatening economic growth,” they continued. “According to sources as diverse as the International Monetary Fund, Standard & Poor’s, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the resulting inequality is threatening economic growth.”

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper


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