Labor Roundup | July 2019

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is campaigning to build labor support beyond the five unions that backed him in the 2016 presidential race, proposing workers take ownership of individual plants and businesses, out of the hands of the bosses and financiers who back them.

“We can move to an economy where workers feel they’re not just a cog in the machine — one where they have power over their jobs and can make decisions,” Sanders told The Washington Post. “Democracy isn’t just the opportunity to vote. What democracy really means is having control over your life.”

Sanders would create “worker wealth funds” that corporations would be required to contribute to, accounts that would pay dividends to workers and buy shares in those firms to give workers ultimate voting control.

In a related proposal, Sanders would mandate workers sit on corporate boards in all circumstances – regardless of how much stock they hold, as workers by law do in Germany.

Another contender, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., unveiled a similar idea last year.

Germans have had workers on corporate boards since 1952 as a result of the post-World War II constitution drafted with U.S. help. The pro-worker section is supposed to prevent a rerun of corporate chieftains having unbridled leeway to support another Hitler with war production.

Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando wants Congress to end the USPS deficit it created more than a decade ago, criticizing Postmaster General Megan Brennan’s latest USPS report showing “losses” of $2.1 billion from Jan. 1 through March 31.

Rolando said that deficit wouldn’t exist if the GOP-run Congress and GOP President George W. Bush in 2006 had not saddled USPS with a $5 billion yearly pre-payment of future retirees’ health care costs for the next 75 years.

The payments accounted for 90 percent of USPS red ink in the last decade, and all of it in the last six years.

“Congress should address the pre-funding burden it imposed in 2006, which requires USPS – alone among all public and private entities in the country – to pre-fund future retiree healthcare benefits,” he said. “Fixing external financial burdens … will put postal finances on a stable footing and allow USPS – which is based in the Constitution, funds itself through earned revenue, and enjoys broad public and political support – to continue providing Americans and their businesses with the industrial world’s most-affordable delivery network.”

Volkswagen’s bosses convinced the National Labor Relations Board to delay a vote at its Chattanooga plant despite claiming they’re neutral in the United Auto Workers’ organizing drive there.

However, the union has dropped its Unfair Labor Practice charges against VW in a dispute over whether the company must recognize UAW’s recognition win by Local 42 in the small unit of 160 unionized VW skilled trades workers, which should open the way for a vote among all 1,700 Chattanooga workers, the union told the NLRB last month. The Board, now dominated by Trump-named members, has yet to agree.

On May 3, by a 2-1 party-line vote, the NLRB sided with VW and delayed the vote.

The maneuvering marks UAW’s second attempt to organize all the Chattanooga workers in one of only two VW non-union plants worldwide. The other is in China.

UAW’s first drive to unionize the whole Chattanooga plant ended in a narrow election loss on Valentine’s Day, 2014, after a multi-million-dollar campaign by Right-wing outside lobbies, aided by GOP politicians including former Gov. Phil Bredesen and then-Sen. Bob Corker.

“Free, democratic elections are a cornerstone of American life, whether it’s the PTA or president of the United States,” the union said. “After all these years, why in the world is it OK to deny Chattanooga workers their vote of yes or no?”

Key NLRB staffers dealt two more blows to workers’ rights in May, following the anti-worker lead of rulings by the GOP Trump-named board majority. One cuts down on money that unions can use for lobbying, and the other deprives Uber drivers nationwide of the right to unionize by declaring them “independent contractors.”

NLRB General Counsel Peter Bobb said unions in non-Right-To-Work states cannot include lobbying expenses as regular activities.

The anti-worker Uber ruling came from Jayme Sophir, associate general counsel in the NLRB’s Division of Advice, who said the tens of thousands of Uber drivers nationwide are “independent contractors” based on a January ruling about Super Shuttle drivers at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

More than 20,000 Oregon public school teachers statewide walked out of classes in May to demand more state funds to fix crumbling schools and provide up-to-date textbooks.

Tens of thousands of students and parents joined the teachers, with 25,000 people marching in Portland alone. The Oregon Education Association organized the walkout, and NEA national President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia said teachers are “standing up, marching on, walking in, using their teacher voice — megaphone optional — to demand that our schools have everything they need, so our students can be everything they want to be.”

“Educators have marched in the heat, rallied in the rain, knocked on doors, walked with students and parents, made really creative signs, and talked to anyone and everyone, all in an effort to ensure students have the opportunity and schools they deserve,” she continued.

For more than a year, a wave of teacher walkouts, joined – often led – by parents and students, has demanded lawmakers devote more money to fix schools, replace outdated books and, especially in red states, raise teachers’ pay.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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