Workplaces

Jun 082013
 

Union calls on Conservatives to disavow private member's Bill.

from the Public Service Alliance of Canada

OTTAWA, June 6, 2013 /CNW/ — On June 5, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins for Wetaskiwin (Alberta) introduced Bill C-525, an Act to change the certification and revocation sections of the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Parliamentary Employees Staff Relations Act.

The purpose of the bill is to remove the possibility of automatic certification of bargaining units, often referred to as "card check."  These proposed changes to existing federal legislation would put in place the highest barriers to unionization in the country.  It is another attack from the Conservatives against the labour rights of hard working Canadians.
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Jun 062013
 
KenGeorgetti_Rally

Ken Georgetti asks Senate to throw out the bill as political bullying.

from the Canadian Labour Congress

OTTAWA, June 6, 2013 — The President of the Canadian Labour Congress says that a government bill claiming to promote financial transparency is actually meant to bully and harass unions and their members, and he is calling upon the Senate of Canada to defeat it.

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Jun 032013
 

Harper government balks at EU's insistence on human rights guarantees.

by Dave Coles

The good news is that CETA negotiations have stalled. The bad news is the reason for the most recent impasse — human rights guarnatees — which is a damning comment on the Harper government's thinking.

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May 302013
 

Merger forms new union with new name and logo.

from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and the Canadian Auto Workers union

TORONTO, May 30, 2013 — The new Canadian union being formed by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) and the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) will be named Unifor.  The name and logo were unveiled today during a packed press conference of 200 local leaders, members, community supporters and allies.

"Today, we are proud to introduce our new union as Unifor, a union that will fight for working people in every sector of the economy and in every community in Canada," said CEP National President Dave Coles. "Unifor will be a union for young workers, those struggling to piece together part-time work and contract jobs, and other precarious working conditions. It will be a union for everyone."

All together, Unifor will be: 800 local unions, 3,000 bargaining units, in more than 20 different sectors, and we’re here to show that we will be a strong voice and a positive force for change for working people across this nation.

"All together, Unifor will be: 800 local unions, 3,000 bargaining units, in more than 20 different sectors, and we're here to show that we will be a strong voice and a positive force for change for working people across this nation," said CAW National President Ken Lewenza.

Unifor Canada was chosen as a name that is expressive, dynamic, and symbolizes the two unions'  aspirations as a new organization: to be united, strong, modern, forward-looking. The name was picked after a process that spanned several months and involved members, union leadership, communications advisers and community allies.

"We have a new union with a new name, and today we will begin to build the next chapter in the future of the labour movement in Canada," said CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gaétan Ménard. "This new union identity — the name and logo — expresses our aspirations for all Canadians, at work and in our communities. This new union will take our movement forward, to a new era of engagement and action."

"This is an historic moment for our two unions, and the Canadian labour movement, another concrete step in the direction of creating Canada's largest private sector union," said CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy. "Collectively, we will represent over 300,000 members and plan to grow to represent many more."

The two unions worked with national communications firm Strategic Communications and Pivot Design Group, in developing the name, logo and new union identity.

More information and graphics on Unifor and the new design are available at: newunionconvention.ca

The Founding Convention of Unifor will take place over Labour Day weekend in Toronto (August 31- September 1). At that time, CEP and CAW delegates will vote to create Unifor as an entity, and then will hold individual vote to merge with the new union.

To see background information please click here

May 272013
 

Millions go for ads, while NRC slashes funds for enforcing environmental regulations.

from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union

OTTAWA, May 27, 2013 /CNW/ — "Canadians should be outraged that the federal government is shoving millions of taxpayer dollars into American advertising to  promote Keystone XL,"  says Dave Coles, President of Canada's largest energy workers' union.  The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada has learned that since 2010-11 Natural Resources Canada has increased its advertising budget by 7000 percent.
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May 272013
 
WalMartPicketers

Workers in six states file 30 charges at US National Labor Relations Board.

from OUR Walmart

WASHINGTON DC,  May 23, 2013 — Today OUR Walmart filed over 30 new counts of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging widespread and egregious attempts by Walmart to silence workers who have been calling for a change of course at the company.

The charges include counts of retaliation against associates in six states — Colorado, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington State. The filings allege among other charges that Walmart unlawfully intimidated and disciplined workers who have spoken out, surveilled workers and organizers, and terminated workers in response to their involvement in protected activity.

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May 202013
 

Workers' co-op leaders came together to discuss their present and future.

from the International Labour Organization

The economic contribution of cooperatives is often undervalued, if not completely ignored. But the reality is that the top 300 cooperatives worldwide have a turnover of more than US$ 1.9 trillion combined, which is more than the GDP of Italy.  Cooperatives have also played a key role in resolving the economic crisis that erupted in 2008. ILO research shows that cooperative enterprises across sectors and regions are proving to be relatively more resilient to the current market shocks than their capital-centred counterparts.

In Quebec, cooperatives are responding to the needs of the labour market by mobilizing both skilled and unskilled workers. In Asia, particularly in India, cooperatives are helping to organize workers in the informal economy. In Africa, trade unions and cooperatives are working together to promote freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

That does not mean that cooperatives are a panacea for workers and the economy as a whole. Depending on the country, cooperatives can face many challenges, one of them being how to attract young workers at a time when global youth unemployment is affecting more than 73 million young women and men, aged 15 to 24.

The ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities and the ILO’s Cooperative Branch recently organized a seminar on the relationship between trade unions and worker cooperatives. Below are some of the participants’ opinions about the current challenges and opportunities for cooperatives in their countries and regions.

 

José Orbaiceita

President of Worker Co-op Federation of Argentina – FECOOTRA

“During the crisis of 2001, our Federation (FECOOTRA) supported workers who wanted to prevent their companies from going bankrupt, by providing them with legal and accounting advice. We helped them mobilize and supported the processes that led to the enactment of expropriation laws by parliament. There was a whole lot of support work going on. A good example is the case of the paper factory in my city, La Plata, which the workers recovered with the help of our federation. The workers bought the bankrupt factory after a few years, and today they are the owners of a company that continues to produce paper. There are hundreds of similar cases. The recovery process didn’t end with the crisis.

In Argentina and in the MERCOSUR trading area (composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) as a whole, worker cooperatives are thriving with the support of governments in the region. In that sense, we are not neutral. For us, it’s not the same thing to have a popular government supporting the cooperative movement or a right-wing government trying to destroy it. Today in Argentina, the cooperatives and mutual societies produce 10 percent of the national GDP, make up 30,000 companies and offer half a million jobs. Our goal is that in 20 years’ time, by 2030, we produce 30 percent of GDP, and that way achieve a more integrated, equitable and fair economy.”

 

Claude Dorion

Director General MCE Conseils-Quebec

“Globally, we have challenges in maintaining the balance between the associative nature of the ownership of the business and its operational efficiency.

Whatever sector we operate in, we will always attempt to bring together the technical expertise required within the cooperative and the resources to finance its development within market conditions.

Another challenge for us in Quebec is that the labour market is divided into two. On the one hand, we have skilled workers with high levels of education who have no difficulty finding jobs. This reduces the availability of skilled workers to create cooperatives, since the private labour market will give them reasonable working conditions. On the other hand, the unskilled workers are very favourable to the creation of cooperatives in order to secure their economic activities and employment opportunities. The challenge is to overcome this dichotomy within the labour market, to make sure that in each cooperative there are both unskilled workers for production operations but also skilled workers with management expertise."

Dr Vrajlal Sapovadia

Director of Shanti Business School-India

“In India, there are 600,000 cooperatives, having 250 million members… The Indian cooperatives boosted India’s economy and provided sustainability at the time of the 2008 crisis. There are around 20 million jobs in the economy which are either directly or indirectly created or supported by cooperatives. For example, in my city Ahmedabad, SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), which has over 1.3 million members, is not just a trade union but also a movement of several types of membership-based organizations, including cooperatives.

SEWA has a strategy of “struggle and development” – the union struggles for workers’ rights while cooperatives and other collective organizations provide opportunities and development for workers. Among other services, it provides support to home-based workers – the majority of them women – in securing better piece rates (the pay given to a subcontracted worker for each item produced, such as home-rolled cigarettes, incense sticks, papadam or embroidery) for their work.”

Roberto Cardinale

International Relations Delegate for Generazioni Emilia-Romagna, branch of Lega cooperative-Italy

“In Europe, cooperatives should be more attractive nowadays, especially if they wish to fulfil the objective of the ‘cooperatives’ decade’, which is to get cooperatives to be the most chosen model of enterprises by 2020 and to attract young workers and entrepreneurs.

In Italy, the case of social cooperatives is well worth noting for other countries that are looking into different models of providing social services. Budget constraints at a national level create a gap between the need and the provision of social services, with the creation of a ‘black market’ filling this gap. For instance, take the case of elderly care. There is a substantive ‘black market’ in the Emilia-Romagna region where over 120,000 workers, mostly migrant domestic workers, are providing elderly care services for individual households. Addressing this need in a sustainable way is possible if cooperatives and trade unions join forces and establish cooperatives of care workers to provide this service.”

Stirling Smith

International programmes manager at the Cooperative College, Manchester

Co-author of How the SYNDICOOP approach has worked in East Africa

“Syndicoop was a useful model. It showed how the trade union and the cooperative movements can collaborate to organize workers in the informal economy. It was based on ILO norms, particularly ILO Recommendation 193, as well as the ILO Core Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining. For example, the motorcycle-taxi drivers in Kigali, Rwanda, developed a unique kind of organization which is a hybrid between a trade union and a cooperative.

This model of organization is a way of bringing people together through solidarity and mutual assistance. It is the essence of trade unionism and cooperation and that’s what the Syndicoop approach tried to develop. More needs to be done. I think it is replicable in other contexts, but more needs to be done, especially at the national levels.”

ILO guidelines to promote cooperatives
ILO Recommendation 193 on the Promotion of Cooperatives (2002) provides guidance on cooperative policy and legislation, stressing the need for a level playing field for cooperatives and other enterprises. Over 70 countries have revised their cooperative legislation since the adoption of the Recommendation ten years ago, in line with its provisions.

All cooperative laws adopted since then have reduced state influence over, and state sponsoring of, cooperatives, increased cooperative autonomy and self-reliance, and cut links that might have existed between cooperatives and political organizations.

May 202013
 

International Labor Rights awards recognize those who work against sweatshops globally.

from International Labor Rights Forum

On Wednesday May 22, ILRF honours US Senator Tom Harkin for his leadership on international labor rights policies and two amazing coalitions of unions and labor rights organizations – one in Thailand and one in the US – for their groundbreaking work to organize workers across sectors and all along global supply chains. Here are the international unions to be honoured.

Video explains what the International Labor Rights Forum does.

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Awardees

  • Senator Tom Harkin has long championed the rights of workers and children at home and around the globe, and made an indelible mark on human rights and social justice initiatives. Senator Harkin’s legacy includes legislative efforts to protect children from abusive working conditions around the world.
  • SERC – State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Federation: When Sawit Kaevwarn, the leader of Thailand’s largest union, met with migrant workers he decided to stand with them, building up strong solidarity between state employees and the struggling migrant workers, effectively incubating the Migrant Workers’ Rights Network.
  • The Burmese-led Migrant Workers Rights Network in Thailand: Kyaw Zaw and Hsein Htay came to Thailand as poor Burmese migrants looking for a better life. What they found was abuse and repression at every turn. Rather than backing down, they decided to work for change by forming the only member-based Burmese migrant workers’ rights group in Thailand. Over the last three years, the Migrant Workers Rights Network has courageously exposed labor rights violations at seafood processing facilities producing for the largest U.S. retailers, welcomed noble peace prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi on her first overseas trip in 24 years to Mahachai, Samutsakorn Province in Thailand, and advocated for major reforms to Thailand’s immigration laws.
  • Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) was founded to win justice for warehouse and logistics workers in Illinois. Founded by the United Electrical Workers (UE) as an independent workers' center, WWJ provides workshops so warehouse workers can educate themselves about workplace rights, unites warehouse workers to defend their rights on the job, builds community support for the struggles of warehouse workers and fights for policy changes to improve the lives of warehouse workers and members of their communities. 
  • The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) was formed after Hurricane Katrina to organize thousands of guestworkers who were forced into labor camps across the Gulf Coast. Today, NGA fights for better working conditions, sensible migration policy, and new protections for all workers. Last year, NGA organized guest workers at a Louisiana crawfish processing plant supplying Walmart after workers reported being subjected to forced labor and threats of violence. With assistance from NGA, guest workers staged a strike at the facility that garnered widespread public support and eventually resulted in the U.S. Department of Labor issuing a citation to the processing plant for serious and willful violations of federal labor law and a fine for over $248,000 in back wages, fines, and penalties. 
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has helped enable Walmart associates to form the group, Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart for short.  After repeated push back by Walmart on efforts to form a union, members of OUR Walmart have pursued a creative advocacy campaign to address workplace grievances.  OUR Walmart now has over 4,000 members. To date, the organization has successfully lobbied Walmart to change its scheduling policy to create more predictable schedules for associates, helped address workplace grievances by individual workers, and led a historic nationwide strike on Black Friday, in which hundreds of Walmart workers walked off the job for the day. 

Source

May 162013
 

Republican challenges to Labor Board could harm workers like shop steward Marcus Hedger.

by David Moberg

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing May 16 about appointments to the National Labor Relations Board may sound like an arcane, inside-the-Beltway event. But it will have very real effects both on major scale — determining the health of the nation’s economy and democracy — and a personal one, as in the case of Marcus Hedger.

In 2010, Hedger worked as a veteran printing pressman at Fort Dearborn Company, a large commercial printer in the Chicago suburbs. He also served his local union as shop steward and a member of the bargaining committee. When the union members voted down a contract that the company had tried to push through quickly, a Fort Dearborn vice-president said he was “sick of this union circus” and threatened to fire Hedger.
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