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NEXT UPDATE -- by Noon on Tuesday, July 5

Links to press stories are functional at the date of posting.  In some cases, free registration is required at newspapers' sites.  Links sometimes "expire" when the source would like to begin charging for old news. WSLC Reports Today  links to all stories of interest to organized labor; some positive, some negative. The intention is to inform. The creation of a link does not constitute an endorsement of that story's content.


 

FRIDAY, JULY 1 ■  Labor at a Crossroads: WSLC Convention is Aug. 4-6 in Spokane

CAFTA news:  ■  In today's Seattle Times -- Senate approves CAFTA; Murray, Cantwell vote "yes" -- But Rep. Jay Inslee announces his opposition to the Central American trade deal, boosting chances of blocking the measure in the House. Only Rep. McMorris remains "undecided." Take action!
■ 
In today’s Bellingham Herald -- Senators say free trade deal would benefit states -- Sen. Patty Murray says CAFTA will "help Washington state to compete globally."
■  In today’s NY Times -- Bush's DOL quashed report criticizing labor standards in Central America

Local news:  ■  Today at WFSE.org -- WFSE moves to block contracting out at Employment Security
■ 
In today's Olympian -- Employment Security cuts jobs; timing of state workers' layoffs riles union
■ 
In today's Seattle P-I -- In stunning setback for Seattle monorail, city council kills financing plan
■  In today’s Bellingham Herald -- BPA decision threatens Alcoa Intalco Works 
■ 
In today's Yakima H-R -- BPA offers Golden NW Aluminum enough power to start one smelter line
■  Today from AP -- State Supreme Court ruling threatens future of Seattle P-I
■  In today's Olympian -- State employees to pay more for parking
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- Seattle schools district ordered to pay fees, apologize in labor case
■  In today’s Seattle Times -- Keep the region moving (op-ed by Bellevue business leaders) -- We have taken a big step in the right direction with the 2005 statewide transportation funding package. No one likes new taxes, but enhancing mobility will cost money, and delays only drive costs higher.
■  In yesterday's Columbian -- Evergreen teachers approve contract boosting incentive pay
■  In today's Salem S-J -- SEIU state employees in Oregon rally for a new contract
■  Today from AP -- Rossi focusing on family, not foes -- But Washington's sorest loser can't resist  another swipe at the state Supreme Court, again suggesting justices would have decided his case based on politics rather than the rule of law: "I don't pull back from any of that (criticism).''

Boeing news: ■  In today's Seattle P-I -- New Boeing chief says 787 is No. 1 priority
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- Boeing veterans like choice of outsider -- IAM 751 declines comment.
■  In today's Seattle Times -- Expectations sky-high for new leader -- SPEEA offers cautious welcome.
■  In today's Everett Herald -- JAL deal gives 767 new life, Boeing delays decision to close line

National news:  ■  Today from AP -- Sandra Day O'Connor announces retirement from Supreme Court
■  In today's Washington Post -- House approves pay raise for federal employees --
The House OKs a 3.1% pay raise for 1.8 million federal civilian employees, exceeding Bush's proposal of 2.3%.
■  In today's NY Times -- Fired officer is suing Wal-Mart -- A former exec responsible for inspecting apparel factories says he was fired for being too aggressive about finding workplace violations.
■  Today from AP -- Minnesota government shuts down; 9,000 jobless in budget stalemate
■  In today's Washington Post -- United Airlines flight attendants threaten strike

"Last Throes" news: ■  In today's SF Chronicle -- Why victory in Iraq is not a matter of U.S. troops
■  In today's NY Times -- America held hostage (Krugman column) -- It's time to face up to three realities. First, the war is helping, not hurting, the terrorists. Second, the kind of clear victory the hawks promised is no longer possible, if it ever was. Third, a time limit on our commitment will do more good than harm...
The presence of American forces in Iraq is making our country less safe. So it's time to start winding down the war.
■  In today's Seattle Times (editorial) -- Sen. Murray's war for U.S. veterans (editorial) -- Murray did a superlative job this week in holding Bush accountable for all of the expenses of the war in Iraq.


 

THURSDAY, JUNE 30   Labor splits open (op-ed in The Nation)
■  In today’s NY Times -- A more perfect union (op-ed by UCLA sociologist) -- The proposed consolidation of the AFL-CIO's 58 affiliates threatens vested interests, including officials at smaller unions.
But SEIU's track record is the best case for taking its proposal seriously: it has tripled in size over the past quarter-century, as membership in most other unions plunged.

CAFTA news: ■  In today's LA Times -- Senate committee OKs CAFTA -- Senate passage predicted today or tomorrow, but the big battle will come when the House takes it up.  Take action!
■  Today from AP -- DOL blocked release of Central American labor studies -- The Labor Department worked for more than a year to maintain secrecy for studies critical of working conditions in Central America, the region the Bush administration wants in a new trade pact.
■  In today's NY Times -- Trade pacts to the South losing appeal -- Increasingly, Latin Americans view free trade with the United States with suspicion, as the region has in recent years shifted to the left and become increasingly wary of Washington's economic prescriptions.

Boeing news■  In today’s Seattle P-I -- 3M's McNerney named Boeing CEO -- Mullaly: "That sucks."
Today at BusinessWeek.com --
3M CEO lands at Boeing (news analysis) -- He faces a challenging task at Boeing. He'll inherit two high-risk aerospace programs still in their early stages: the new fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner airplane and the Future Combat Systems, a vast and complex information network for the U.S. Army. And he'll have to win back the trust of skeptical U.S. senators and Pentagon officials infuriated by Boeing's aggressiveness and ethical violations.
■ 
In today's Seattle Times -- San Antonio to gain 4,200 WaMu jobs -- The company never considered Washington because it wanted to locate in the Central time zone. Sound familiar? When Boeing moved it's HQ for geographical reasons, conservatives created the myth that Washington's "unfriendly" business climate was to blame. Tune in to talk radio today, and hear the spin begin.

Other local news: ■  In today's News tribune -- Tacoma firefighters secure new contract
■  In today's Spokesman-Review -- Kaiser files bankruptcy reorganization plan -- Anticipated for many months, it calls for conducting business with a fresh balance sheet and new labor agreements.
■ 
In today’s Seattle Times -- Staunch allies of Seattle monorail warn agency: Change or fail
■  In today's Oregonian -- Health care for poor lacking in Clark County, report says
■  In yesterday’s Aberdeen Daily World -- Area legislators assess outcome of session
■  In today's King County Journal -- David Irons says poll (he paid for) shows dead heat with Ron Sims

National news:  ■  In today's Washington Post -- House GOP plans vote on Social Security
■  In today’s NY Times -- U.S. plans rackets lawsuit over dockworkers' union -- A civil racketeering lawsuit will be filed against the International Longshoremen's Association in the government's most aggressive attempt ever to wrest the nation's Atlantic and Gulf Coast docks and the union that represents their workers from what prosecutors say is a half-century of mob control.
■  In today's Washington Post -- Immigration plan may have gone awry -- Bush's guest worker plan has actually helped fuel illegal immigration because some believed he is offering amnesty.

"Last Throes" update:  ■  In today's NY Times -- The true cost of war (editorial) -- There is no excuse for treating the needs of wounded and damaged warriors as a budgetary afterthought.
■  In today's Washington Post -- Bush's words reflect public opinion -- The president's full-speed-ahead message reflects a purposeful strategy based on extensive study of public opinion about how to maintain support for a costly and problem-plagued military mission.
■  In today's NY Times -- Dangerous incompetence (Herbert column) -- On July 2, 2003, Bush said, "There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us (in Iraq). My answer is, Bring 'em on." It was an immature display of street-corner machismo that appalled people familiar with the agonizing ordeals of combat. After 1,730 U.S. troops' deaths, it is clear Bush's incompetence has undermined the troops who have fought honorably and bravely in Iraq.


 

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29 Now that it's before Congress, take action against CAFTA
■  In today’s NY Times -- Sugar prices are barrier to CAFTA passage -- President Bush ran into new problems with his trade agenda on Tuesday, as attempts to entice support from the sugar industry for his Central American trade agreement veered toward collapse.
■ 
In today’s Oregonian -- Angry sugar producers stymie Central American trade deal

Local news: ■  In today's Tri-City Herald -- Hanford vitrification plant put on hold -- DOE plans to stop construction on key parts of the plant as part of a plan to address problems there.
■  Also in today's Tri-City-Herald --
Program to pay injured Hanford workers is working, officials say
■  In today's Seattle Times -- Monorail backers launch offensive to ease rising anxiety about project
■ 
In today's Olympian --
Capitol chat with WPEA/UFCW Director Leslie Liddle (transcript)
■  In today's News Tribune -- Police oversight passes -- A divided Tacoma City Council establishes citizen oversight despite objections from police labor unions and Chief Don Ramsdell.
■  In today's KCJ --
Cooperation needed for our economic future (editorial on Prosperity Partnership)
■  Today from AP --
Eyman initiative on audits heads toward vote
■  In today's Oregonian -- Union (AWPPW) rejects contract offer at Blue Heron plant in Oregon City

"Last Throes" update:  ■  In today's LA Times -- Bush defends Iraq policy -- Facing eroding support, he says the war is a crucial front in fighting terrorism. He indicates no change in strategy.
■  Also in today's LA Times -- As war shifts, so does the message (analysis) -- Bush has retooled his original argument for the Iraq war (again). Now he is justifying the U.S. military presence there as the solution to a problem that critics say the war itself caused.
■  In today's Washington Post -- Bush on Iraq (editorial) -- Once again, President Bush has missed an opportunity to fully level with Americans.
■  In the NY Times --
Bush on Iraq (editorial) -- His
speech only answered questions no one is asking.
■  In today's News Tribune -- Angry Sen. Murray blasts VA funding shortfall -- Money for veterans’ health care could come up $2.5 billion short, VA Secretary now says, just three months after he assured Congress his department had enough money.

Other national news:  ■  In today’s Wichita Herald -- SPEEA ponders Onex contract proposal
■  In today's NY Times -- Union (Writers Guild) plans to file suit for reality TV workers
■  In today's SF Chronicle -- Only 39% of Californians say they'd vote for Schwarzenegger again


 

TUESDAY, JUNE 28 ■  Volunteers needed to oppose I-912 during final petition push

Local news ■  In today’s Olympian -- Corrections probation, parole officers vote to retain WFSE
■  In today’s Seattle Times -- Majority of Seattle City Council now troubled by monorail project
■  Today from AP -- Hanford safety panel to be created; it will hear workers' health concerns
■  In today's Tri-City Herald -- Bechtel postpones construction layoffs -- About 350 workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation's vitrification plant get a 30-day reprieve.
■  In today’s PSBJ -- Change to truckers' tax going into effect; installments no longer an option

Political news: ■  In today's Seattle Times -- GOP pays $15,000 to end election suit -- Republicans pay state Democratic Party to cover some court costs associated with Desperate Dino's unsuccessful lawsuit. GOP's check-cutting Boss Vance says, "It's a business decision."
■  In today's Spokesman-Review -- Jim West appealing recall to Supreme Court (paid subscription req'd)
■  Also in today's S-R -- Recall based on false accusations (Jim West op-ed) -- I am not a crook.

Boeing news:  ■  Today from Bloomberg -- Boeing to buy back 20 million shares -- Stock up 19% in '05.
■  In Sunday's Wichita Eagle -- IAM overwhelmingly OKs Mid-Western Aircraft (Onex) contract -- About 4,400 former Boeing workers accept 5-year deal similar to the one rejected last month.
■  In today's Wichita Eagle -- SPEEA: Wage cut not on table in talks with Mid-Western

National news:  ■  In today’s Seattle P-I -- Family leave: Cry us a river (editorial) -- When resisting regulation, business groups and the Bush administration love to talk about the value of flexibility. Workers should have flexibility to take care of themselves and their families.
■  Today from AP -- Union leaders endorse Sweeney, but Carpenters join AFL-CIO's critics
■  In today's Seattle P-I -- U.S. Trade Rep uses CAFTA threat to help drug companies (op-ed)

■  In today's SF Chronicle -- As war support ebbs, Bush will try to rally nation tonight (analysis)
■  In today's NY Times -- The speech the president should give (John Kerry op-ed) -- If Bush fails to take these steps, we will stumble along, our troops at greater risk, casualties rising, costs rising, the patience of the American people wearing thin, and the specter of quagmire staring us in the face. Our troops deserve better: they deserve leadership equal to their sacrifice.
■  In today's Washington Post -- Right-wing sucker punch (Cohen column) -- The new book, "The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President," insinuates epic mendacities, sapphic sex, fiscal improprieties and marital rape -- all without documentation. It is so beyond belief and good taste that the very fact his book is selling like proverbial hotcakes starkly exposes the anti-Clinton people as the village idiots of our time.
It takes one to buy this book.


 

MONDAY, JUNE 27
■  At WFSE.org -- Jim Cline guild fails to decertify WFSE at Community Corrections
■  In today's Olympian -- State unions gain size, influence -- Starting Friday, state worker unions will grow -- a lot. The largest, the Washington Federation of State Employees, will almost double.
■  In today's Olympian -- More than a year of hard work comes to fruition with signing of contracts

AFL-CIO news:  ■  Today from AP -- Carpenters join unions challenging AFL-CIO
■  In Sunday's LA Times --
Can rebels revive the labor movement? (op-ed) -- It is hard to see what Stern and Co. can do outside of the AFL-CIO that they could not do equally well by remaining within. But if these erstwhile rebels do manage to shake up the status quo, reviving some of the values that once enthused CIO partisans, then their gambit might just pay off.
■  In the Everett Herald --
Don't bet the farm on AFL-CIO or EU (McCusker column) -- The significance of the EU and AFL-CIO situations isn't at all clear. From our economy's standpoint, should we be cheering or booing, smiling or weeping?

Initiative 912 news:  ■  In the Tri-City Herald -- Sparks fly as I-912 petition deadline nears
■  In today's Seattle Times --
Quarrel escalates as gas-tax foes and backers file lawsuits
■  In the King Co. Journal --
Don't tie up gas-tax issue in courts (editorial) --
Waiting to make the necessary road improvements only means higher costs later and even more traffic gridlock. Our economic future depends on dealing with the mess now. Gas-tax opponents should back off.
■  In the News Tribune --
State's transportation woes require raising the gas tax (Richard Davis column)

Other local news:  ■  In today's News Tribune -- CAFTA: Good for state, nation, Central America (editorial) -- Unions have legitimate grievances against the Bush Administration, but CAFTA should not be held hostage to those complaints.
■  In last week's News Tribune --
Fix is still in for Longshore jobs (editorial) -- It is called nepotism and favoritism. It’s an old way of passing out plum jobs, on the waterfront and elsewhere, but it’s not how you go about hiring if your overriding goal is to recruit the best possible employees.
■ ...and a response --
What about "nepotism" enjoyed by the power elite? (letter by Roofers' Martinez)
■  In the PSBJ --
State policymakers wary of ruling on tax incentives -- Ohio case could affect the  incentive package for Boeing and the state's ability to offer other tax incentives to businesses.
■  In Saturday's Aberdeen Daily World --
Local truckers may park their rigs in protest over fees
■  In The Stranger --
King County Labor Council assails anti-gay tenant at Lake Washington school
■  In the Oregonian --
Oregon task force will consider changes in state prevailing wage law
■  In the Oregonian --
Developer not bound by prevailing wage law at Portland Meier & Frank project
■  In today's Seattle Times --
Fellow workers... (op-ed) -- The Wobblies imagined a world where any wage-earning worker had a right to belong to the "one big union," and where "an injury to one would be an injury to all." The principles they fought for promoted worker health and safety, gender and race equality, the protection of children, and global worker solidarity.

Social Security news:  ■  In today's LA Times -- Bush's plan hits the shoals -- After six months of presidential speeches, town meetings and maneuvering, Republicans are coming to grips with an unpleasant reality: The central pillars of President Bush's proposal have crumbled on Capitol Hill.
■  In today's Everett Herald --
Privatization is the wrong answer for Social Security (Raspberry column)
■  In Sunday's Everett Herald --
Democrats need to get off sideline on Social Security (Broder column)

Other national news: ■  From Bloomberg -- Business groups urge Bush to soften Family Leave Act
■  In today's NY Times --
Reading, writing and retailing (op-ed by Dave Eggers, et al) -- Most teachers love teaching, but teaching is often not so easy to love.
■  In today's Wash. Post -- Rich rewards for corporate elite -- 
More than ever, is pays to be at the top.
■  Also in today's Wash. Post -- And on top of it all, gigantic pensions

 


Previous weeks' news: June 13-17 -- June 6-10 -- May 31-June 3

FRIDAY, JULY 1
Labor at a Crossroads: WSLC Convention Aug. 4-6 in Spokane

The 2005 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO will begin Thursday, August 4 at 9 a.m. at the WestCoast Ridpath Hotel in Spokane. Convention business is expected to be completed by early Saturday afternoon.

Under the theme, "Labor at a Crossroads," the convention will include a report from WSLC President Rick Bender regarding the latest developments following the national AFL-CIO Convention in July, the restructuring of the labor federation, and how it impacts the mission and operations of the WSLC and AFL-CIO central labor councils. Delegates will also have an opportunity to weigh in on these historic developments by participating in a special three-hour workshop discussion of the future of the AFL-CIO and the American labor movement.

The annual WSLC Convention is an opportunity for union officers, staff and rank-and-file delegates to hear from distinguished union and government leaders, attend informative workshops, develop relationships with other unions -- and have some fun. "The Tournament in ‘05," the annual golf fund raiser to benefit community service agencies, will be Wednesday, August 3, the day before convention, with a 1:15 p.m. shotgun start. For registration information, contact Nancy or Julie at the Puget Sound Labor Agency at 206-448-9277. 

The Employment and Training Conference, jointly sponsored by the Employment Security Department and the Washington State Labor Council, which was to be held on Wednesday, August 3 in Spokane before the WSLC Convention HAS BEEN POSTPONED at the request of the Employment Security Department.

Among the convention speakers scheduled to appear are Gov. Christine Gregoire, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, MEBA National President Ron Davis, State Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald, Department of Labor and Industries Director Gary Weeks, Employment Security Department Director Karen Lee, Health Care Authority Director Steve Hill, Brown & Cole Stores CEO Craig Cole, and several other distinguished speakers. Friday night’s convention banquet speaker will be comedian Will Durst.

Issues to be addressed by panels and speakers include "What's Next for Health Care in Washington," the state's union organizing campaigns, the UFCW Wal-Mart campaign, Social Security, the state initiative on medical malpractice, transportation, and other issues. Workshops are planned on union organizing, the Project Help workers' compensation program, community and technical colleges, economic development, the National Labor College, family leave issues, tax fairness, political action, and more.

But the main business of the convention is to debate and establish the WSLC's positions or policies on issues, programs and candidates by voting on motions and resolutions, although this year is a non-Constitutional convention. Any credentialed delegate representing their WSLC-affiliated union may introduce motions to the convention, and any affiliated union may submit resolutions to the convention. (See the 2004 Resolutions adopted at last year's convention.)  Proposed resolutions should be submitted as soon as possible to facilitate distribution to the delegates.

WSLC-affiliated unions and councils have already received their official convention calls, including notification of how many voting delegates to which they are entitled, registration forms and hotel information. All delegates from affiliated councils must be members of a local union affiliated with that council and the WSLC. Delegates must be members of the organization they represent.

For more information, contact Karen White at (206) 281-8901.

THURSDAY, JUNE 30
Labor splits open

The following opinion column by labor journalist David Moberg appeared in the July 11 edition of The Nation:

After the 1952 election, union leaders were worried. Republicans were in power. Labor rights had been weakened. Southern organizing had failed. Unions were raiding one another. There were bitter personal and federation rivalries. One big union threatened to disaffiliate from its federation. In 1955, hoping to strengthen the labor movement, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merged.

Fast-forward fifty years. There are echoes of those old issues, but now the AFL-CIO is on the brink of a major breakup. Partly that is because the original merger created a weak federation, not a strong, unified labor movement. It marked labor's apogee and the beginning of its decline.

Last year the Service Employees (SEIU) proposed changes that, they argued, would strengthen the labor movement, including merging unions, getting them to focus their organizing efforts strategically in their core industries, cutting AFL-CIO staff and giving big unions more direct control over the federation. In recent months SEIU and like-minded unions have ratcheted up the pressure by making specific proposals to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. One from the Teamsters, for an AFL-CIO dues rebate aimed at rewarding unions that invest in strategic organizing, garnered support from unions representing nearly 40 percent of federation members. Still, Sweeney has managed to consolidate support both for his re-election at the late July convention and for his program--which moves in the dissidents' direction without fully embracing their ideas--calling for a bigger, year-round political operation, cutting one-fourth of federation staff and modestly increasing organizing expenditures.

The debate has been muddied by personality issues. Union presidents representing 63 percent of federation members back Sweeney, partly because they like him (or dislike SEIU president Andy Stern's style), but there are divisions within each camp.

The dissidents--SEIU, Teamsters, UNITE HERE (apparel and hotel workers), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Laborers--remain a large minority with no presidential candidate. Three unions--SEIU, UNITE HERE and UFCW--have authorized their executive boards to leave the federation (a decision the Laborers aren't considering). In June they launched the Change to Win Coalition to coordinate the work of willing unions inside or outside the AFL-CIO, a formation that could become the nucleus of a new federation. Having first stressed policies, many dissidents now argue that Sweeney is the problem. "I hate to say it, but John Sweeney is not supporting real change in the labor movement," says SEIU secretary-treasurer Anna Burger, who managed Sweeney's 1995 election. "I can't see how we can support a president who is not committed to real change." Sweeney supporters emphasize how much his proposals resemble the dissidents' ideas; his opponents insist he offers only rhetorical change and is unwilling to push reluctant affiliates to reform.

The biggest difference is over incentives to organize: Sweeney offers much smaller rebates if unions devote 30 percent of resources to organizing. But he claims that will generate $2.5 billion over five years, compared with $1 billion claimed for the Teamsters plan. Both figures are inflated, since rebates will reward unions already meeting the targets, and neither rebate may be enough to spur any major transformations. But many dissidents also see their rebate as a way to shrink the AFL-CIO further and to push smaller unions to merge with big ones.

Sweeney has won widest approval for beefing up labor's political work, but his critics claim that organizing is short-changed and labor is too subservient to Democrats (although only a few, like UNITE HERE hospitality president John Wilhelm, advocate primary challenges to Democrats in addition to wooing Republicans). Sweeney has tried to make the historically balkanized labor movement more influential and coherent by building up the federation's operations to represent the movement as a whole. This has frustrated union presidents, who want to make decisions, not have them made by AFL-CIO staff with minimal consultation. The Change to Win unions want a smaller, centralized bureaucracy and more emphasis on coordinated action among big unions calling the shots.

It seems almost certain that SEIU will leave the federation, perhaps even before the convention. But it's still unclear whether others will leave and whether Change to Win will become an alternative federation. Ongoing negotiations could bear fruit; for instance, Sweeney might still offer a bigger organizing rebate. There are also discussions under way about creating committees of unions by industry (like the airlines) and redefining federation rules and standards for organizing in a particular industry.

Maybe there's still room for agreement. The idea that well-conceived strategic campaigns in core industries should receive incentives "is not a controversial issue at all," argues Wilhelm. "It's been distorted into the idea that nobody could organize outside their core jurisdiction. If that issue were joined with the president of the AFL-CIO supporting it, it would pass. It's a no-brainer." But the dissidents remain ready to play hardball. "We're prepared to go to the convention and fight it out on resolutions," says UFCW president Joe Hansen. "The status quo will not stand, and we have to be prepared for other possibilities."

Sweeney insists labor unity is critical with hostile Republicans in power. "We try very hard to understand why they would split the labor movement during this time when there is such a need for a strong labor movement," he says. "Anyone who leaves the labor movement is on a path of cynicism, divisiveness and destruction. It sounds like some may be interested in a power struggle." Wilhelm says leaving would be "gut-wrenching," but labor's crisis--such as destruction of airline pensions--demands drastic action. "If the AFL-CIO is going to be a status quo organization, it won't survive in the long run, and there has to be an alternative labor center," he argues. "It's too bad 13 million AFL-CIO members don't get to vote. No question there would be dramatic change."

So far the debate has engaged mainly union presidents, not members or even intermediate-level leaders. But unionists trying to build state and local labor movements are worried (not only for the financial loss if SEIU departs, taking 10 percent of the national budget, and more in many localities). "Mostly we feel like we're children of some great parents who are getting divorced at the worst time of our lives," says Cleveland central labor council leader John Ryan. Recently Sweeney sent out notices that unions leaving the AFL-CIO, such as the Carpenters or potentially SEIU, can't participate in its local or state organizations. But enforcing this longstanding rule could intensify conflict within the labor movement. State and local leaders already are trying to figure out ways to follow the rules but maintain labor unity.

Whether a federation breakup precipitates a dreaded labor civil war depends largely on how Sweeney and others deal with groups like Change to Win or local efforts to cooperate after the convention. "So in the end, John runs, and John wins," observes Laborers president Terry O'Sullivan. "What he wins is a divided labor movement. If that's reality, how do we manage it? Do we go on attack against those who are out? Do those who are out go on attack on those who are in?" The labor movement has survived with unions operating outside the AFL-CIO, but a major split would weaken labor in the short run and could make the founding of a new movement even more difficult than reforming the old.

Workers would gain from a unified labor movement that resolved many of the AFL-CIO's inherited weaknesses, at a minimum demanding that unions implement some clear strategic approach to grow and gain power for workers. Besides expanding accountability to members, labor needs ways to hold individual unions accountable to one another for action on fundamental decisions. Unions need both to better coordinate and to act as a movement beyond narrow interests, such as by launching new unions in unorganized sectors. Whatever happens at the convention, the battle over rebuilding a labor movement that overcomes the shortcomings of a half-century merger will continue, with an outcome that is far from certain.

Now that it's before Congress, take action against CAFTA

Where they stand

The positions of Washington's congressional delegation on CAFTA, as of Friday, July 1:

REPRESENTATIVES 
Inslee (D-1st) -- OPPOSES
Larsen (D-2nd) -- OPPOSES
Baird (D-3rd) -- OPPOSES
Hastings (R-4th) -- SUPPORTS  
McMorris (R-5th) -- not announced
Dicks (D-6th) -- SUPPORTS
McDermott (D-7th) -- OPPOSES
Reichert (R-8th) -- SUPPORTS
Smith (D-9th) -- OPPOSES

SENATORS
Murray (D-WA) -- Voted "Yes"
Cantwell (D-WA) -- Voted "Yes"

Although the Central American Free Trade Agreement was signed more than a year ago, it had not been introduced to Congress until this week, due to lack of support. 

The Bush administration has decided to go for broke and push for committee votes on CAFTA this week. On Thursday, it passed the Senate 54-45, with both Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell voting "yes."

But observers say the real battle is in the House, where Rep. Jay Inslee this week joined Reps. Rick Larsen, Brian Baird, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith in announcing opposition to CAFTA. Only Rep. McMorris remains "undecided" on the issue.

The Fast Track "clock" is ticking and a House floor vote must happen within 15 session days of when it was introduced, with limited debate and no amendments allowed. So the next three weeks are critical for organized labor, environmental groups and the many others opposed to this expansion of NAFTA.

CALL TO ACTION:  Even if you have contacted your U.S. Representatives before on this issue, and even if they have already expressed support or opposition to CAFTA, PLEASE CALL 1-866-340-9281 (a toll-free number provided by the United Steelworkers of America), and give the Capitol Switchboard operator your zip code to be connected to your Representative's office. Tell the office you want your Representative to vote "NO" on CAFTA (and thank them if they have expressed opposition to CAFTA).  Then ask for a response letter or email stating his or her position.

Like NAFTA before it, CAFTA does not include protections for workers’ right to form a union or safe work conditions. It is the first bilateral or regional agreement the Bush administration has pushed since fierce opposition from workers in North and South America and their community allies stymied trade ministers in November 2003 from consolidating the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Just as Congress begins considering CAFTA, a new AFL-CIO study refutes claims by CAFTA’s supporters that it will create new jobs. The legacy of NAFTA shows jobs would be lost in the United States and in Central America, according to CAFTA: A Two-Way Street to Job Loss in the Americas. Instead of creating jobs, the study says, CAFTA will give more incentives to U.S. employers to ship jobs overseas and displace many subsistence farmers in Central America, creating widespread job loss.

News reports indicate CAFTA may fall short of the votes needed to pass it in the U.S. House, because many moderate Democrats who supported free-trade agreements in the past -- including some members of Washington state's delegation (see "Where They Stand" above) -- are now saying "no" to CAFTA. Since the end of the Clinton-era economic boom, the costs of trade, in the form of lost manufacturing jobs, have become more important to many voters than the benefits.

In 2002, when the House passed "Fast Track" trade negotiating authority for President Bush on a 215-212 vote, Republicans picked up 25 Democrats -- including Reps. Larsen and Smith -- while losing 27 GOP colleagues. The CAFTA agreement is going to be a hard sell for Republicans from textile areas and particularly from areas that grow sugar beets or cane. The sugar industry strongly opposes the small increase in sugar imports from CAFTA countries under the agreement.

"I support free trade and have voted for past trade agreements because trade is an important spoke on the wheel of U.S. economic policy," said Rep. Larsen. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has ignored the rest of the economic policy wheel."

Learn more.

TUESDAY, JUNE 28
Volunteers needed to oppose I-912 during final petition push

Supporters of the job-killing Initiative 912, which would repeal the gas tax funding for the 2005 investment in Washington's transportation infrastructure, have only 10 more days to collect signatures. 

Volunteers are needed -- especially at large public events over the July 4 holiday weekend -- to distribute educational materials on why the 2005 transportation investment is so important and why people should "Think Before You Ink I-912."  Download a Volunteer Sign-Up Sheet that you can circulate at your office or workplace. Those who sign up will be contacted by organizers about when and where they are available to help distribute literature. 

At stake are more than 270 highway, bridge, ferry and transit projects -- in every part of the state -- that are focused on fixing our most dangerous roads and worst congestion points. Download a comprehensive statewide list of projects (a 22-page PDF file) or a county-by-county list (a 53-page PDF file) to see which projects will be happening in your area.

The Washington State Labor Council, the rest of organized labor, the state's business community, Democrats and Republicans are all united in opposing Initiative 912. The measure's sponsors have until July 8 to submit the 225,000-plus valid petition signatures necessary to qualify for this fall's ballot, and they say they've raised more than $150,000 to help buy the necessary signatures.

We need to inform the public that our state can't afford another job-killing tax-cut initiative that further postpones -- and makes more expensive -- these inevitable safety improvements on our crumbling roads and bridges.

For more information, check out What Union Members Should Know About I-912

TUESDAY, JUNE 28
Family leave: Cry us a river

The following editorial appears in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Most Americans consider family to be their top priority. It turns out, their employers agree, in a way.

Relaxing the Family and Medical Leave Act's burdens on companies has become a key goal for business groups. As a Bloomberg News story in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, firms argue that the law can interfere with work schedules and mask other problems with employees' performance.

The 1993 act is one of the few recent advances for workers. Its modest provisions allow many workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for children, spouses or parents and to recover from serious health conditions.

Preserving or expanding the act's rights is critical when lagging pay, long hours and job insecurity have all put pressures on numerous families. If there are abuses, management has options, including better management. It's hard to weep for firms that can't figure out a way other than reducing everyone's rights to deal with workers who regularly take sick leave at inconvenient times, such as Friday afternoons. Spare us the fretting about global competition. As a Harvard expert told Bloomberg, other nations regularly do better on such related issues as maternity leave and sick days, usually with pay.

When resisting regulation, business groups and the Bush administration love to talk about the value of flexibility. Workers should have flexibility to take care of themselves and their families.

 

If you have news items regarding unions or workplace issues in Washington state that you would like to see posted here, please submit them via e-mail to David Groves or via fax to 206-285-5805.

Copyright © 2005   Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO