Posts Tagged ‘unions’

Protesters from the Communist-affiliated trade union PAME shout slogans as they march towards the parliament during a general labour strike in Athens

Greek labor unions staged a nationwide strike today to protest against austerity policies imposed on the country by the current government and its foreign creditors, including Germany.

Schools and pharmacies were shut, ships remained docked at ports, hospitals operated on emergency staff, and transport in Athens was disrupted due to the 24-hour strike called by private sector union GSEE and its public sector counterpart ADEDY.

More than 20,000 workers, pensioners, students and the unemployed marched peacefully through the streets of the Greek capital chanting “EU, IMF take the bailout and get out of here!”

Unions said their anti-austerity message was also aimed at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to meet Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens on Friday. Germany has insisted on painful spending cuts and tax hikes in return for international loans.

“It’s time to save people not banks,” said 59-year old economist Eleni Prokou. “Merkel and the troika should stop sticking their nose in our business.”

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The United Auto Workers narrowly lost the union election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With 89 percent participation, 712 workers voted no, and 626 voted yes.

many of the plant’s workers are themselves conservatives — and have started to wonder why the politicians who represent them oppose their right to organize. John Wright, 43, is a test driver at the plant and identifies as a right-leaning independent. He says he makes between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, and supports a wife and three young daughters. When [Republican Senator Bob] Corker  – who takes more money from the securities and investment industry than any other — came back to Nashville to voice his opposition to the UAW, Wright was puzzled.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why the Republicans and big money are coming against us so bad. To me, they’re attacking the average worker,” Wright said, in the hours before the election results were announced. “To have politicians think that there’s nothing more important than coming down and picking on the little guy because he wants a union, there’s a national debt we’ve got to control, we have foreign policy things that we elect them to go up there to do, but you have to fly home for an emergency meeting because I want a union?”

Only in America

Posted: 14 February 2014 in Uncategorized
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Today is the third and final day of voting on union representation at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga plant [ht: sm].

Republican Senator Bob Corker told Reuters on Thursday that he is “very certain that if the UAW is voted down,” the automaker will announce new investment in the plant “in the next couple weeks.”

Corker’s latest remarks contradicted an earlier statement by Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW Chattanooga, that there was “no connection” between the vote at its three-year-old Tennessee plant and a looming decision on whether VW will build a new crossover vehicle there.

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Volkswagen has accepted the United Auto Workers’ attempt to unionize its Chattanooga, Tennessee manufacturing plants.

Scott Wilson, a VW spokesman, said: “Volkswagen values the rights of its employees in all locations to representation of their interests.  In the United States, it is only possible to realize this in conjunction with a union.  This is a decision that ultimately lies in the hands of the employees. For this reason, we have begun a dialogue with the U.A.W.”

But Republican politicians, local businesses, and outside right-wing groups are attempting to derail the drive.

Two of Tennessee’s most prominent Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, have repeatedly voiced concerns that a U.A.W. victory would hurt the plant’s competitiveness and the state’s business climate.

A business-backed group put up a billboard declaring, “Auto Unions Ate Detroit. Next Meal: Chattanooga,” while a prominent anti-union group, the National Right to Work Committee, has brought legal challenges against the U.A.W.’s effort, asserting that VW officials improperly pressured workers to back a union.

In addition, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, has set up a group, the Center for Worker Freedom, that has fought the U.A.W. on several fronts, partly to prevent the election of labor’s Democratic allies who might increase government spending.

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No, as Steven Rattner explains, there hasn’t been any great renaissance of manufacturing in the United States in the last few years.

And what little onshoring of manufacturing that has taken place has depended on low wages, desperate union concessions, and generous subsidies.

When Volkswagen opened a plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2011, the company was hailed for bringing around 2,000 fresh auto jobs to America. Little attention was paid to the fact that the beginning wage for assembly line workers was $14.50 per hour, about half of what traditional, unionized workers employed by General Motors or Ford received.

With benefits added in, those workers cost Volkswagen $27 per hour. Consider, though, that in Germany, the average autoworker earns $67 per hour. In effect, even factoring in future pay increases for the Chattanooga employees, Volkswagen has moved production from a high-wage country (Germany) to a low-wage country (the United States). . .

Low wages are not the only price that America pays for its manufacturing “renaissance.” Hefty subsidies from federal, state and local government agencies often are required. Tennessee provided an estimated $577 million for Volkswagen — $288,500 per position! To get 1,000 Airbus jobs, Alabama assembled a benefits package of $158 million.

Now Boeing has just used the threat of moving to a nonunion, low-wage state to win both a record subsidy package — $8.7 billion from Washington State — and labor concessions.

Over objections from their local leadership, union workers approved a new contract that would freeze pensions in favor of less generous 401(k) plans, reduce health care benefits and provide for raises totaling just 4 percent over the eight-year term. (Boeing’s stock price rose by over 80 percent last year.)

As for me, I have no particular nostalgia for industry in the hinterlands.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [pdf], in 2013, the union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 11.3 percent, the same as in 2012.

In 2013, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $950, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of only $750.

Nine states had union membership rates below 5 percent in 2013, with North Carolina having the lowest rate (3.0 percent). The next lowest rates were recorded in Arkansas (3.5 percent), Mississippi and South Carolina (3.7 percent each), and Utah (3.9 percent). All of them are Right to Work states.

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From Edward Lambert, who writes:

Richard Wolff is on fire here. He is explaining the cooperative model and why it will save the US. I have never seen a better video on the subject. This video should be required listening for all economists. The ideas presented should be reflected upon and understood.