Fast Food Workers In L.A. & N.Y.C Win Pay Deals

TN_Memphis_BLM_12-300x300US Fast Food workers have won two important victories in their fight for better wages as both Los Angeles County and New York State voted to raise minimum wages says the Global union, the International Food Workers.

On July 22nd the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, allowing more than half the countywide workforce to earn a base income more than 60% higher than the current state-mandated $9  an hour.748c474e-9637-46a8-aa23-97e86ae1d304

The next day, the Fast Food Wage Board voted unanimously to raise minimum the wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 in the rest of the state.

These are important steps for the Fight For 15 campaign for better wages and the right to join a union for US fast food workers.

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‘March of the Makers’ goes into reverse

imagesBy David Bailey

Whatever happened to the ‘March of the Makers’ and the much heralded rebalancing the British economy?

This year has so far been pretty dire for UK manufacturing. The sector’s growth was only a meagre 0.1 per cent in the first three months of the year.

And when the figures come in, we’ll probably see that manufacturing declined in the second quarter.

I say that as manufacturing output actually fell in April and May as the strength of sterling – now at a seven-year high – began to bite. Production was down 0.6% in May compared with the previous month, following a 0.3% fall in April.

Looking ahead, Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) – a forward-looking measure of confidence – fell to 51.4 in June. This was its weakest level for two years and down from the figure of 51.9 recorded in May.

This is still in positive territory (i.e. above 50) but well below expectations that it would come in over 52.

With manufacturing starting to act as a drag on the economy, growth is increasingly dependent once again on the UK’s dominant services sector, which accounts for as much as 80% of UK output.

So after all the talk of rebalancing, the UK economy – nationally at least – will depend on consumer spending to keep the economy moving.

Sterling, which on a trade-weighted basis is now at its strongest level since 2008, is increasingly being viewed by manufacturers as a big drag factor, according to surveys.

Only last month, of course, the Goodyear closure decision highlighted the strength of sterling.

The big competitiveness gains that we saw arising from the 2008/9 depreciation in sterling are now being unwound, making exports more expensive.

It also raises a question as to how much more steam there is in the re-shoring phenomenon.

The reshoring trend has seen one in six Midlands manufacturing firms bringing back activity to the region.

Reshoring, in part, reflected trends like the need for quick turnaround times and a desire to improve supply chain resilience and quality but a significant driver has also been a competitive exchange rate.

For several years now, UK manufacturing exports and output have been affected by ongoing economic weakness in Europe.

The recent Greek crisis aside, some green shoots are in fact now being felt in the Eurozone but ironically sterling’s strength against the euro increasingly seems to be constraining the ability of UK manufacturers to capitalise on the situation.

More positively, domestic demand for manufactured goods should be supported by rising real wages and increasing business investment.

But, while the Chancellor had pinned hopes on an export led recovery, that is not materialising and the strength of sterling and uncertainty in Europe isn’t likely to change that soon.

As I’ve been saying for some time, manufacturing had a good 2014, but the ‘March of Makers’ stalled at the back end of last year. Since then, it has gone into reverse.

There had anyway been doubts over the durability of the UK manufacturing recovery, centred on fragility in key export markets, low levels of investment spending, concerns over the impact of high energy costs across the sector (on which the fall in oil prices earlier this years did help) and issues of skills and access to finance down the supply chain.

Add to this list of woes the strength of sterling. Little wonder that manufacturing has still not got back to 2008 levels of output.

Does this matter? Yes.

There is a renewed recognition internationally that manufacturing is important.

Those European economies with larger manufacturing sectors as a proportion of the economy weathered the 2008/9 global financial crisis and aftermath in better shape than others.

And manufacturing accounts for 80 per cent of exports, 80 per cent of R&D spend and acts as a key driver of productivity growth.

Indeed, some economists blame the lack of a vibrant manufacturing sector as a reason for the UK’s recent disappointing productivity performance.

It’s widely recognised that, in the run up to the global financial crisis, the UK economy had become unbalanced, relying too much on financial services and a buoyant housing market to drive growth.

Rebalancing was meant to address that so as to provide a more resilient economy.

Sadly, the last coalition government assumed simply that the exchange rate depreciation seen back in 2008/9 would deliver the manufacturing rebound that would rebalance the economy.

The danger was that this depreciation could anyway soon be unwound, as we are now seeing, and was anyway not enough.

As I’ve stressed repeatedly in blogs, we need much more than that.

For starters, we need a serious industrial policy that, for example, backs new technological ‘platforms’ which can stimulate other areas of the economy, provides accessible finance for small firms, backs high growth firms, supports investment and supports modern advanced manufacturing.

So far we’ve seen little sign – the auto industry excepted – of any serious industrial policy from either the last coalition government or the new Conservative one.

That, sadly, has been a key shortcoming in economic policy.

Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School

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Speech At The CSEU On The Trade Union Bill

mungos-_637Union members from across shipbuilding and engineering today (July 15th) slammed the government’s Trade Union Bill, as unjust and in favour of employers.

Moving an emergency motion, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said, the Bill was a pernicious, all-out attack on trade unions. Unions were facing, “the full onslaught of anti-trade union and anti-worker rights in the coming months.

“Their proposals in the Trade Union Bill are nothing to do to make work fairer, they have nothing to do with re-balancing the economy – make no mistake they are an all-out attack on trade unions, our structures and our right to exist.”

He said the Tories’ proposals to change the rules for industrial action ballots were aimed at making industrial action harder for workers – notably in the ‘essential services’.

Tony explained that at least 40 per cent of workers entitled to vote taking part in a ballot for industrial action will now be required to vote with over 50 per cent voting in favour to take action.


“We know the Tories are hypocrites of the worst order – many of their own MPs didn’t achieve anywhere near that at the General Election – but no amount of saying so is going to change their minds.

“They don’t care – this is an attempt to begin to wipe us out.”

No one was safe. He warned, “If they get away with this, the clamour will be to move these rules into private industry.”

 The way forward for ballot participation was to have access to electronic balloting. Tony explained, “Unions have pressed the government to look at introducing electronic balloting, as many people do in all walks of life, day to day – including the Conservative Party itself!

“So it’s ok for the Tories – but it’s not ok for working people and unions who have to use a costly and postal ballot which is one step removed from sending a message by Morse Code!”

The Bill would also create a ‘scab’s charter’ – by allowing employment agencies to supply agency workers during an industrial dispute. Tony said this would “inevitably lead to increased tension in disputes where agency workers are used as scabs.”

But the attacks on trade union rights are also designed to damage the Labour Party too. “We know the government will launch an attack on Labour’s biggest source of funding by announcing plans to force all of union members to opt in to their political funds.

“The changes take us back to 1927 and the impact of the funding reforms, which will hit all existing members of Labour affiliated unions, will be far reaching revolving around a so-called “transparent opt-in process” for the political fund element of trade union subscriptions.”

He said these “proposals amount to nothing more than a shamelessly partisan attack on the funding of the Labour Party.

“Political funds are already subject to approval being given in regular ballots by unions.

Tory hedge fund and multi-millionaire donors will face no similar restrictions, leaving boardrooms free to write hefty and blank cheques backing the Tory Party.”

Tony concluded by warning of reports that the government plans to attack EU employment rights – including the working time regulations and agency workers directive.

“We cannot sit back and watch this happen. Sitting back and thinking it won’t happen to me or my workplace is pointless.

 As Len McCluskey said recently “Our rights come before your unjust laws – and we will never bend the knee.”

From a blog posted on UniteLive!

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USW Toronto :Crown Packaging Workers Have “Tentative” Deal

120 USW members at Crown Holdings Inc.’s Toronto plant have been on strike since September 6th, 2013, after voting almost unanimously to reject a two-tiered collective agreement. The strikers are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9176, and many of them have been working at Crown Holdings for over two decades.

During the strike representatives of the Local and USW Officials have toured the globe including visiting the UK seeking support for their dispute. This has involved demonstrations backed by Unite in London and in Southampton and articles in the press including the UKs Morning Star.

“I commend the members of Steelworkers Local 9176 and their negotiating committee for the incredible solidarity and character they exhibited throughout this prolonged struggle,” said United Steelworkers Ontario Director Marty Warren in a press release.

In March, Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn ordered an industrial inquiry to investigate the dispute. That intervention initiated a mediation process as well as an inquiry which was led by experienced mediator-arbitrator Morton Mitchnik.

Mitchnick submitted his report to the Ministry of Labour late last month, and according the union, the investigator agreed with the union that Crown Holdings’ illegal behaviour had prolonged the strike.

In September of 2014, the union filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the company over 34 workers that had been fired without just cause. Whether or not these workers were to be re-hired remained the main issue of contention between the company and the union.

Replacement workers have been running production in the plant since the beginning of the strike which is why the Steelworkers and their supporters in the labour movement have been calling on Canadians to boycott canned beer and other products made by the US-owned Crown Holdings Inc.

With about 140 plants in 40 countries, Crown Holdings Inc. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of food and beverage cans. One out of every five cans in North America is made by Crown Holdings employees, of whom only roughly half are unionized.

The proposed contract will be presented to striking workers and submitted to a ratification vote during the weekend of July 18th-19t, so details of the agreement will not be released before the ratification vote.

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The Ross Pritchard Annual Essay Competition

11539655_10205571271855892_7852032934583791563_nThe Ross Pritchard Annual Essay Competition, is open to all trade unionists.

First prize £750, closing date Saturday 26th September.

The RPMF was established to commemorate the life of one of the Graphical, Paper & Media Union’s best known rank and file members, Ross Pritchard.

The Trustees of the Fund invite entries to the annual essay competition on a subject dear to Ross’s heart, this year:

“How should we build the public struggle in defence of the NHS?”

Essays – 1,000 words maximum – should be submitted to by 26th September 2015 and you must include your name, postal address and trade union (including your Branch or Region).

Feel free to paste this onto your own Facebook pages, Blogsites and Tweet.

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Orgreave: Media Conference & OTJC Statement

640x-1Following today’s (12th June) announcement by the IPCC the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and the national Union of Mineworkers will be hosting an open press conference at 12.00 noon in the NUM main hall at 2 Huddersfield Road, Barnsley S70 2LS.

Press and public all welcome. Light refreshments available. Members of the audience will include miners present at Orgreave on 18th June 1984. They will be available to answer press questions afterwards.

Priority will be given to questions from members of the media and press, who should identify themselves to Mark Metcalf (07952 801783) by signing the press entrance form that will be available at the entry to the main hall.

Statements will be made by Chris Skidmore – Yorkshire Area NUM president , who was present at Orgreave in June 1984; Granville Williams – OTJC; Arthur Critchelow – Orgreave veteran

The conference will be chaired by OTJC chair Joe Rollin.

There will be regular updates on twitter at @orgreavejustice

There will also be photographs of the event on the OTJC Facebook page

In advance of the press conference the OTJC has issued the following statement:

“Whilst disappointed, OTJC members are not surprised that the IPCC will not be conducting a full investigation into policing at Orgreave on 18th June 1984. It was back in November 2012 that South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC, which ever since has acted slowly and conducted little independent work in assembling and collating information.

The fact that the IPCC, described – rightly in our view – by many prominent individuals as ‘not fit for purpose’, is stepping aside on Orgreave affairs will not therefore be deterring the OTJC from continuing its campaign. OTJC notes that the IPCC itself recognises in its report the limitations of what the organisation can do and that only a Hillsborough style public inquiry can eventually get to the truth.

The OTJC continues to gather increasing support from organisations and individuals for a full public inquiry into why it was that on 18th June 1984, 95 miners were arrested at Orgreave after thousands of police officers – many in riot gear, with others on horseback – brutally assaulted miners participating in a strike aimed at defending jobs and mining communities.

An inquiry will help reveal exactly why, when the subsequent court cases took place, all of the charges, including riot were abandoned. It must inevitably lead to two things. Some officers being charged with a series of offences – assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office. Secondly, a paper trail that would indicate that the actions of the police at Orgreave were influenced by political pressure from within the highest ranks of the Government of the day”.


Press enquires to Mark Metcalf: 07952 801783 @markmetcalf07

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Global union network formed to fight back at Huhtamäki

huhtamaki_1Unions from paper products plants owned by the Finnish multi-national Huhtamäki met in Helsinki recently to establish a global trade union network. They also slammed the behaviour of the company Vice-President, Sami Pauni, who refused to answer questions from US workers and walked out of the meeting with union reps from across the globe.

There are currently a number of disputes between at Huhtamäki’s packinging operations, in countries including India, Turkey, and the United States.

Participants at the global network meeting spoke about bad relations between management and unions within the company. Union representatives have no right even to enter the factory, and in many countries health and safety rights are violated frequently.

Workers at the Commerce, California plant faced harsh working conditions with temperatures often reaching above 40 degrees Celsius. When they decided to organise  the company refused to meet with them and brought in anti-union consultants who held mandatory meetings urging workers not to unionize.

In 2014, the company spent US$430,000 on anti-union consultants.

Huhtamäki’s Code of Conduct and Code of Conduct for Group Suppliers recognize all fundamental ILO Principles, including the right of employees to associate.

However Huhtamäki’s Vice-President, Sami Pauni, told union representatives that in countries that have not ratified ILO Conventions the company follows national law, even if it is weaker than the Conventions. In fact, more than 75 per cent of Huhtamäki’s workforce is found in countries that have not ratified ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association.

Pauni gave a brief presentation on the company situation. However, after a question on why Huhtamäki spends a lot of money to fight the unions instead of establishing social dialogue with them, he became annoyed and left the meeting.

Commerce worker Levi Ross, who participated in the global network meeting on his holiday time, said on the incident: “I came all the way to Finland hoping to have a serious dialogue with the company, but I feel like they turned their back on me and the workers in Commerce”.

Jon Geenan International Vice President at the United Steelworkers in the US said: “Huhtamaki, shame on you for sending a senior company official to a meeting who would show such blatant disrespect for American workers by his stated refusal to take questions from Americans. The same Americans who buy your products when they buy Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, who use your products when they eat at Chipolte, use the cup and food carriers at McDonalds, use Chinet plates etc. and in this case, the same Americans who are your employees who make the products.

“Your demonstrated willingness to adopt the customs and laws, no matter how exploitative, in the nations where you operate when it comes to workers rights to organize brings great shame on the historic legacy of the Huhtamaki family and tradition.

“Yet we remain committed to a dialogue, a real dialogue, to discuss the right of free association, and hear your justification for the enormous expenditures that Huhtamaki is making to prevent workers from organizing. This human right we cannot back away from, because it doesn’t only affect organizing in America-it affects workers in most nations where Huhtamaki does business. Some in which slave labour is still perfectly acceptable.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina said: “This meeting was only the first step in the fight to restore the rights of the workers and trade unions at Huhtamäki plants. The struggle will continue as long as the owners of the company will not agree to respect the workers’ rights and start a serious dialogue with their unions.

The global trade union network meeting was held on the initiative of IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union and attended by workers’ representatives from Huhtamäki plants in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, UK and USA.

The participants of Huhtamäki Global network meeting adopted a statement, proposing steps to improve conditions for Huhtamäki workers and establishing a dialogue with management.

Hash tag: ‪#‎shameonHuhtamaki‬

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UK union membership ‘broadly unchanged’ – but it pays to be in a union.

images-1The latest trade union membership figures and statistics published by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) in its statistical bulletin shows union membership for 2014 in the UK is ‘broadly unchanged’ on the figures for 2013.

The report shows that 6.4 million employees in the UK are union members. “The level of overall union members was broadly unchanged from 2013, with a non-statistically significant reduction of only 40,000 over the year (a 0.6% decline)” says the bulletin.

The report shows that the numbers of UK employees increased between 2013 and 2014 so the proportion of employees who were union members fell slightly to 25.0% in 2014, from 25.6% in 2013.

One interesting statistic is that female employees are more likely to be union members with the proportion of female employees who are union members standing at 28% compared with 22% for male employees.

Another interesting statistic is that union membership in the private sector fell from 3.4 million in 1995 to 2.5 million in 2010, but the new 2014 data continued to show a reversal of this trend, with union membership levels in the private sector rising for the fourth consecutive year.

The report describes the increase of 38,000 in 2013 to 2.7 million as “non-statistically significant”.

A worrying trend is that older workers account for a larger proportion of union members than younger workers. 38% of trade union members were aged over 50 but just 28% of employees are in this age group, which shows that unions are still failing to reach out younger workers and the proportion of union members aged below 50 has fallen since 1995, whilst the proportion aged above 50 has increased.

Employees in ‘professional occupations’ are also more likely to be union members than other employees. Employees in the professional occupations account for 36% of union members, but only 20% of employees in the UK worked in these occupations.

The bulletin highlights the fact that middle-income earners are more likely to be trade union members, that employees in professional occupations are more likely to be trade union members.

Among the detailed analysis the BIS bulletin shows a number of other facts: UK born and black ethnic employees are more likely to be union members; “highly educated employees” are more likely to be union members and not surprisingly the bulletin says that “larger workplaces are more likely to negotiate pay through collective bargaining”.

Equally, employees in permanent jobs and full-time work are more likely to be union members.

The bulletin also states that employees with disabilities are more likely to be union members and that employees in the devolved countries and in the north of England more likely to be trade union members.

The trade union premium known as “trade union wage gap”, (defined as the percentage difference in average gross hourly earnings of union members compared with non-members), is 21.6% in the public sector and 8.1% in the private sector. This is an increase of 1.7 and 0.9 percentage points respectively when compared with 2013.

Which shows it pays to be in a union.

 Read the full report by clicking here 

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Support Phil Turner NUJ FoC Rotherham Advertiser

nujlogo_burgundyPhil Turner NUJ Father of the Chapel for 30 years at the Rotherham Advertiser needs your support. He was made for “compulsory redundant”. Phil is a well-respected and hard-working union rep, elected by his NUJ members to represent their interests at his company. He is active outside his workplace in the wider trade union and labour movement consistently standing up for justice and fairness on a range of national, local and international issues.

The Sheffield Trade Union Council is calling for your support.

On Wednesday 27th May, the Sheffield Trade Union Council added its voice to the growing number of protests at the singling out of NUJ FoC, Phil Turner at the Rotherham Advertiser for “compulsory redundancy”.

Phil Turner has been the NUJ FoC for nearly 30 years, has been sacked after the company was taken over and hit with redundancies. This is clearly an attack on the NUJ and trade unionism at the newspaper.

Martin Mayer, Sheffield TUC Secretary, said: “We roundly condemn the management at Rotherham Advertiser for singling out their leading trade unionist Phil Turner in the company for compulsory redundancy. In anti-union Tory Britain can it really be fair game to  single out the senior trade union rep for sacking at the first opportunity? We call on Rotherham Advertiser’s management to take note of the protests and reverse this appalling decision without delay”.

Tweet Your support with the following: 

Or send an email of support to Rotherham Advertiser

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Unions Furious As Obama Gets Approval For ‘Fast Track’

tpp-not-againPresident Obama may have got his way on ‘fast track’, the legislation he needs to drive through approval of a new generation of free trade agreements but US unions have vowed to continue to fight on against the deals.

‘Fast track’ will allow Obama to drive through the Transatlantic Trade Agreement known as TPP between the USA and twelve Pacific Rim countries and also the controversial proposed agreement between the EU and the USA, TTIP, by limiting debate in the US legislatures on the controversial process.

The US Senate voted 62-37 on May 22nd to cut short debate on ‘Fast Track’ allowing him to drive through new trade deals without line-by-line scrutiny by US lawmakers a victory for Obama and Republicans in Congress.

The vote marked a defeat for Democrat senator Elizabeth Warren who had clashed with Obama in recent weeks criticising the secrecy of trade negotiations as well as the lack of guaranteed labour rights in the trade deals.

US unions are furious. Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers said: “Senators who voted to stifle debate and approve fast track so quickly have undermined rights of working Americans. With less than one full day of debate, and refusing to consider hundreds of important amendments, the Senate essentially took a big step to provide this and future presidents with the authority to negotiate trade agreements any way they choose. In addition, Congress abdicated its responsibility to fully engage in the process.

“Republicans in so many areas have criticised the President but, when it comes to trade, the majority of them are beholden to corporate backers who are salivating at the prospect of increased profits at the expense of workers here in America and around the globe.

“Trade deals like NAFTA (the previous North American Treaty) have constricted economic growth, contributing to stagnating and declining wages, while fueling off shoring and outsourcing of production. All of this contributes to our country’s rising income inequality. But, rather than fully debate those issues and provide effective measures to reform and update our trade policies, the Republican-led Senate shoved fast track through the Senate.

“Unfortunately, a handful of Democrats joined with Republicans in this effort. The majority of their Democratic colleagues voted on behalf of U.S. workers. Those who voted for cloture and for final passage fully share the blame.

“The approach taken by the Senate will damage U.S. production and jobs. No one voting for fast track should laud this bill. More than 150 objectives were included in fast track, but the administration has already said that they do not intend to pursue all of them. Senators who voted yes may try and take cover behind the lofty rhetoric, but the substance gives them nowhere to hide. Workers want good jobs and wages, not more false promises”.

1tppfasttrack-620xauto-1Jimmy Hoffa President of the Teamasters union described the vote as a “legislative setback”, and that “The war is far from over. We will continue this battle in the House of Representatives, where we know opposition to fast track is strong. A bipartisan collection of lawmakers in the House understand it makes no sense to give a quick up-or-down vote to bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will only ship jobs overseas and lower wages in the U.S.”

The Communications Workers Union (CWA) said: “The limited discussion just this week in the Senate showed the serious concerns that surround Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Senators should not give away their right to amend a trade deal that has been negotiated in secrecy and is virtually complete.”

“There is strong opposition in the House to moving forward on Fast Track. Currently, the Democratic opposition in the House is overwhelming, and rejection there remains a real possibility.”

US and European unions (including the German trade union confederation the DGB and the powerful metalworkers union IG Metall, along with the British TUC and unions such as Unite, Unison, GMB and others) argue the new generation of trade agreements such as TTIP, CETA (the EU deal with Canada) and TPP will benefit multi-national corporations and the expense of working people, undermine employment rights, and allow for the take over of public assets by multi-national corporations, without any possibility of them being returned to public ownership.

Download the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom notes on all things TTIP, TPP, CETA & Fast Track by clicking here.

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