Republican Politicians Violated VW Workers’ Rights

UAW President Bob King

UAW President Bob King

What happened in Chattanooga is starting to become much clearer, thanks to some excellent investigative journalism by Phil Williams of WTVF-TV in Nashville. And what happened could have far-reaching implications beyond Chattanooga.

Williams reported on Monday that he obtained confidential documents that show how far Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam and GOP state lawmakers were willing to go to make sure workers would not have their right to union representation.

Haslam, according to the documents, essentially offered Volkswagen $300 million in taxpayer dollars for plant expansion — but only if the plant remained union-free.

Before the vote, Haslam both implied and denied that the economic incentives were tied to whether the plant had UAW representation. But, as the report shows, the incentives were “subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being conducted to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.”

Even before Williams made public the secret documents, Haslam and other Tennessee officials made no secret of their disdain for the UAW or the right of Volkswagen workers to freely choose representation. But the coercion of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives for expansion of their plant sealed the deal.

Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner put it best: “Looks like to me they put a gun to their head and said, ‘Look, this is what we are going to give you if you do it our way and we are going to jerk it away if you don’t.’ ”

The state, by the way, took the incentives off the table just before votes were being cast.

Volkswagen workers have the right under federal law to make a choice on union representation without intimidation, fear or coercion. That Haslam and other Tennessee officials used the power of their elected office to intimidate workers into voting against representation isn’t surprising. They receive millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the same anti-union groups associated with the Koch Brothers and Grover Norquist.

These groups will stop at nothing to ensure that working Americans hang on by just a thread, grateful merely to have a job, with no real opportunity to improve wages, benefits or health and safety.

But where does this “my way or the highway” approach to using our tax dollars stop? Would a governor such as Haslam offer taxpayer-funded incentives to a business, but only with the condition that it doesn’t implement certain environmental measures because the Koch Brothers oppose them? Would a state official offer incentives to a business to relocate, but only if it agrees to hire only people from a certain ethnic group or a certain gender?

Seem far-fetched?

Many thought it was far-fetched to imagine elected officials threatening one of the world’s largest automakers. Most would have thought it far-fetched to imagine state officials demanding that one of the state’s best job creators change its entire business model in order to do business in the state.

But that’s really what happened in February in Chattanooga.

This opinion piece originally appeared in the April 3rd edition of the Detriot News.

Also worth reading: Emails Show Sen. Corker’s Chief of Staff Coordinated with Network of Anti-UAW Union Busters.

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Carr Review – “A Party Political Stunt”

Bruce Carr QC

Bruce Carr QC

The Government’s review into ‘industrial relations’, led by Bruce Carr QC is a political stunt with a narrow remit which excludes any review of employers behaviour in disputes and omits any review of issues such as ‘blacklisting’.

The review, which has been delayed for months and was due to report by the end of this month will supposedly look into allegations of “extreme tactics” as the Government  continues to stoke up anti-union propaganda in the run up to the General Election – as always aided and abetted by the right wing media.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This review may have been announced with great fanfare by the Prime Minister, but the delay in setting it up, the limited terms of reference and the exclusion of the promised consideration of employer behaviour, such as blacklisting, confirms that it was never anything more than a headline grabbing party-political stunt.”

The CBI have steered well clear of getting involved. The FT reported that they saw the review as “too transparently political”.

Bruce Carr will now lead the review on his own, supported by Whitehall officials, who will provide what the FT describes (according to insiders in Whitehall) “little more than legal advice”.

Carr’s review is expected to take six months and he will report to Vince Cable and the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude who limply said: “This Government’s long-term economic plan is building a stronger, more competitive economy’.

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS  (Public and Commercial Services union) said: “This is far from an independent review, it’s a political stunt to try to undermine trade unions and our ability to campaign against rogue employers.

“Carr is one of the bosses’ QCs of choice who has carved out a career arguing against workers’ rights.”

Unite have described the review as a “cynical Tory attempt to divert attention from the cost-of-living crisis and the gross inequalities they have created – something strong trade unionism is needed to redress.

“The government is also worried because Unite is starting to use leverage campaign techniques to halt the sell-off of hospitals and other NHS facilities, and exposing the sleazy links between Tory MPs and private health care companies.

“Unite will shortly step up this campaign regardless, in order to save our NHS.

“The inquiry is to be headed by a lawyer with anti-union form going back years – Carr has publicly argued in favour of draconian laws against unions. No-one can place any trust in his objectivity. His only role is to rubber-stamp George Osborne’s campaign messages.”

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Workers Uniting Calls For Higher Labor Standards In US-EU Trade Agreement

WUWorkers Uniting the global union created in 2008 by Unite in the UK and Ireland and the United Steelworkers in the USA and Canada say they will oppose the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal if Labour standards in the deal are not strengthened and other concerns about the deal are not addressed.

The three million member trans-Atlantic union at its board meeting in London on March 24th issued a call to European Union and U.S. trade negotiators to strengthen social and labour protections in the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

“We view TTIP as a threat to the rights of workers in Europe,” said Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union in the UK and Ireland. “We can’t afford to import America’s low labour rights standards.”

“American and European workers deserve a better deal,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents workers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. “Our governments’ narrow focus on greater protections for companies must be transformed to include expanded rights and protections for workers.”

In its statement, Workers Uniting calls for the TTIP to include a tax on financial transactions to support social programmes – a measure already endorsed by 11 European countries.

The statement also demands that the European Works Council directive, chemical safety standards, and other European social legislation be expanded to include American workers.

The Workers Uniting statement also demands that existing procurement regimes be left intact and that public services be excluded from TTIP.

The statement rejects the proposed Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement, noting that Germany and France oppose this provision as well.

Workers Uniting joins a chorus of opposition from trade unions, including the powerful German metalworkers union, IG Metall to the current TTIP negotiations.

Worker rights and social protections must be placed at the center of any agreement.

Click on the links or the Workers Uniting logo to read the full  statement.

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Unite NHS Demo – National Officer Rachael Maskell

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EU Faces ‘Lost Decade’

imagesEuro unions: Falling wages casts doubt on recovery,

Austerity is not working, and a new path for Europe is urgently needed, the European TUC has warned warned at an unprecedented union summit in Brussels today.

“Real wages have fallen over the last five years in most EU countries” said Bernadette Ségol, Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

Real wages (wages adjusted with inflation, and not taking into account increased direct taxes) have gone down in 18 out of 28 member states countries since 2009 – 23% down in Greece, 12% in Hungary, over 6% in Spain and Portugal, over 4% in the Netherlands and UK.

“Austerity is not working” said Ségol “Europe needs a new path. It needs investment to create jobs.” 

The ETUC estimates that €250bn over 10 years could create 11m new jobs, and that such an investment represents just a quarter of what was spent to save the banks, and a quarter of what is lost annually through  tax evasion and fraud.

The ETUC points to the fact that

  • Over 26 million Europeans are not working – 10 million more than in 2008.
  •  7.5 million young people are neither in work, nor in education, nor training

Ségol told the trade union summit “Tomorrow the European Council will discuss economic, industrial and energy policy. These policies could create growth. But they will not – because the industrial policy does not have the instruments to generate jobs, the energy policies lack ambition and the economic policies are based on austerity and deregulation: they are the wrong economic policies.” 

She warned ‘With current EU austerity policies “Europe faces a lost decade, a lost generation – lost to unemployment, migration, and lost hope.”

This message will be delivered in person by ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol and other union leaders to the Presidents of the European Commission, European Council and Council Presidency who they will meet tomorrow morning at the Tri Partite Social Summit just ahead of the meeting of the European Council.

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Budget 2014: The government is sitting on its hands instead of supporting British industry

imagesYou could be forgiven that because of George Osborne’s ‘march of the makers’ we are well on the way to manufacturing nirvana.

Yet it’s only the automotive sector that seems to have the mileage.

In the budget on Wednesday the chancellor will no doubt try to take credit for the 1.5 million cars rolling off UK production lines each year. He will hail a resurgent motor industry and a manufacturing renaissance, to which we have to doff our caps to him.

But to do so would be wrong and overlooks the role of the workforce and my union in working with employers to secure the future of the car industry. It would also fail to recognise that the UK’s manufacturing base is still weak; manufacturing output is still around nine per cent behind its pre-recession peak.

Unbalanced and lopsided, the ‘recovery’ is dominated by the service sector and an explosion of underemployment and low paid and low skilled jobs. Manufacturing accounts for just a tenth of the UK’s economic output, with business secretary Vince Cable’s aim to raise this share ‘to the mid-teens’ over the next five to 10 years looking like a pipe dream.

Even with the car industry motoring ahead in investment and creating jobs, manufacturing employment is barely higher than three years previously. The ‘march of the makers’ is ringing hollower with every step. Investment across the sector remains stagnant and the UK’s capacity for growth deteriorates as Osborne cuts rather than invests in growth.

The whim of the market will not rebalance the UK to a nation that makes things rather than consumes things. We need to unlock the £500 billion cash hoard that big corporations are sat on and release the skills of tomorrow by investing in apprenticeships and young people.

The ministerial rhetoric also needs to be backed up with action. Why not take a leaf out of Germany and France’s book, support British industry and pursue a policy of ‘made in Britain, bought by Britain’? Or how about create a British industrial investment bank like our friends on the continent with the financial clout to invest in industry and infrastructure?

£200 billion is spent by the government and public sector agencies each year on everything from planes and trains, to police cars, ambulances and fire engines, not to mention the beds and instruments used by the NHS. A recent Unite survey found that 72 per cent of all police vehicles were built outside the UK, a situation that would not be allowed to happen in France or Germany.

This massive amount, more than the GDP of the Czech Republic, should be harnessed by the government and used strategically to create a balanced economy and boost growth,  jobs and increase tax revenues.

Yet the government sits on its hands and makes short-term decisions. Excusing the farce of the Bombardier Thameslink contract on a selective interpretation of European Union directives, it ignores its ability to ‘buy social’ and looks only for the cheapest option.

The blog also appeared on Left Foot Forward.

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Unite’s Len McCluskey On Manufacturing, German Engineering, Europe, Collective Bargaining, Labour and Liverpool FC

mccluskey_house_2Republished from The House Magazine; Words: Paul Waugh; Photos: Paul Heartfield.

The Reds are back, and Len McCluskey is delighted. In fact, by May 2015 they could come out on top. “If Liverpool could sort their defence out, perhaps next season we could be genuine prospects…” he says, smiling.

The Liverpudlian General Secretary of Unite is, of course, talking about his beloved football club and their recent renaissance. But as the general election countdown continues apace, it’s his other team, Labour, that he wants to bounce back from years of underachievement to deliver a “level playing field” for his members.

Yet with the May elections and Scottish independence referendum looming, it’s clear that the man dubbed ‘Red Len’ by the media is worried that Ed Miliband’s party are not red enough, radical enough or in touch enough with the working class voters it needs for victory.

And although Unite has just cut £1.5m from its affiliation fees to Labour, Britain’s biggest union remains a crucial donor and McCluskey has been given authority to pump in cash should it need it for the 2015 campaign.

In his office in Holborn, McCluskey’s other passion outside politics is rapidly obvious as a giant chess set sits proudly on his coffee table (“a Christmas present, a family gift, my children clubbed together”). With UKIP on the rise and the SNP a real force, he’s already assessing the political tactics and strategy needed for the next 14 months.

Today, his immediate focus is on the Budget. Apart from urging the Chancellor to ‘stop the cuts’, Unite would call for a new British Investment Bank, a big expansion of housebuilding, a new general anti-avoidance rule on tax and an increase of the minimum wage of £1.50 an hour, taking it close to the Living Wage. Just as importantly, he wants British workers’ rights to be restored to match those of the rest of Europe.

He wants to see the procurement rules changed in particular. “It’s so frustrating and annoying. Over £200bn a year our Government spends on services and what we would like to see is British companies given the inside track…Everything the German and French governments do gives their companies an inside track.”

In the UK, ambulances, police vehicles and even ministerial cars are all non-British makes. “All at the moment are foreign, it’s an outrage. You go to Germany of course and they will all be Mercedes.”

McCluskey says there is a wider problem with a lack of investment in British manfacturing. And the way unions are treated. “In Germany, 90% of German workers are covered by collective bargaining. In this country it used to be as high as 80%, it’s now down to 22%. What that means is workers are exposed to the abuses that come from bad employers.”

But what should a Government do to change that? “It can introduce statutory collective bargaining rights so it effectively enforces employers together. Good employers would welcome it, because they’re the ones that don’t particularly like getting caught up in a race to the bottom but very often find themselves sucked into that.”

He points to an example in the car industry. “In one day, I visited the Goodwood factory that makes the Rolls Royce car down on the south coast and then I drove up to Cowley [in Oxford] where they make the Mini. You couldn’t get two more iconic British cars, the Mini and the Rolls Royce – both owned of course by BMW.  I asked the managing directors in both of the companies, who were both German, ‘tell me the difference between Germany and the UK?’ And they both looked at me slightly hesitantly and said ‘well, we wouldn’t want to be offensive but you don’t seem to take manufacturing seriously in the UK’.

“I was on the shop floor and the managing director said to me ‘here’s an iconic British car made by British workers in a British plant and yet look here’. And he pointed to a huge big warehouse with 600 robots working away. He said ‘all of those robots are made in Germany. I can’t get them made here. If I could there would be 600 British robots.’

One reason for the Germans’ engineering success is their strong links between schools, colleges, universities and industry, he adds. McCluskey points to the example of his own son. “He was going into university and I asked him had he considered going into manufacturing. He looked at me as though I’d landed from planet Mars,” he says. “I asked him about engineering and design and he was more interested in finance and advertising and the sexy stuff.”

Continue reading

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Maduro Is Calling for Peace and Dialogue – It’s Opposition Extremists That Want Violence

332245032_640By ; Charge d’Affaires a.i. at the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the UK and Ireland

Once again Venezuelans face violent and unconstitutional attempts to destabilize the country and oust the elected government.

Sadly, this fits a pattern witnessed time and again since Hugo Chavez first came to power in a landslide victory in 1998. An extremist minority has demonstrated constant disregard for the numerous electoral results reaffirming the majority support for the government through undemocratic attempts to oust first President Hugo Chavez and now President Nicolas Maduro.

Most infamously this includes the failed coup d’etat in 2002. Then, members of the opposition hired snipers to fire on government and opposition marches and the deliberate media misrepresentation and exploitation of this by international opponents of Venezuela’s elected Government was used to create the conditions to justify a military coup.

When this failed, a business lockout with the stated aim of forcing the government out was launched in 2002-2003 caused huge economic damage and human suffering during.

Later, in 2004, a wave of “guarimbas” – violent protests and roadblocks closely echoing the current events – sought “anarchistic chaos on the national level” to prompt the military ousting of the government which saw at least nine people lose their lives and hundreds injured.

More recently came the killing of 11 Venezuelans in April 2013 after the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, called on his followers to “discharge their rage” after Nicolas Maduro defeated him in a free and fair election.

The pattern of opposition political violence is clear. But what explains the latest wave?

The narrative being pushed by politicians from the right-wing opposition coalition that this is a popular rising against a failing government omits some basic facts.

Firstly, the current protests are highly unpopular. A poll conducted by the Venezuelan company ICS shows 86% of Venezuelans disagree with the violent protests. Secondly, it is estimated that fewer than 2000 people out of 30 million are taking part in the violent protests”. Thirdly, the government won a national set of elections just two months ago with a margin of 10%. The right-wing opposition coalition had labelled those elections a referendum on the government.

This meant a total of four electoral defeats for the opposition in the past 18 months, two of which have been under President Maduro. Following yet another electoral defeat, minority elements in the opposition coalition appears to have lost patience, having initially thought that, with the death of Hugo Chavez, they would soon sweep back into office.

This triggered a switch of tactics with extreme right-wing leaders of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, declaring a strategy for the ousting – “La Salida”- of President Maduro and his government. They are explicit that their aim is regime change which will come about by “getting the people into the streets“.

The subsequent wave of violence has left 20 dead and 260 injured so far. The stepping up of opposition violence unleashed on 12 February clearly appears pre-planned. A leaked recording of Ivan Carratu Molina, a former Vice Admiral and Fernando Gerbasi, former Venezuelan Ambassador to Colombia discusses how events the next day would be “very similar to April 11th [2002 coup]“.

The picture on the ground is far from the simple media narrative of state forces targeting peaceful protesters in a wave of government sanctioned killings.The government has condemned the minority of the deaths, 4 of the 20, resulting from opposition supporter clashes with security forces. It has taken tough action including sacking the head of the military police and ensuring the arrest of officers involved. But the death toll also includes government supporters being shot dead and at least eight people killed at deliberately dangerous opposition barricades including police officers and civilians fatally shot whilst trying to remove these barriers.

There is no hierarchy of victims and each of these deaths is a tragedy for Venezuela. The critical task for all supporters of democracy is to support the calls President Maduro has made time and again for peace and dialogue. A National Peace Conference on 26 February, attended by opposition politicians, private business leaders, religious and civil society groups, underlined Maduro’s push for a solution. Another important regional peace conferences is currently underway.

In contrast opposition leaders backing “La Salida” have not taken up this invitation nor condemned the violence protests. In fact they demand more “protests“.

As we seek to find solutions, it’s clear that United States’ official funding to these opposition leaders and its recent interventions into Venezuelan politics, do not encourage extremists to move towards a process of peace. In contrast, President Maduro’s call for peace and dialogue has had strong regional backing including from the United Nations of South America (UNASUR).

Such a process is essential to isolating a violent minority and ensuring that the democratic will of the Venezuelan people is respected once again.

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Visteon Pensioners Demo!


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UPDATED: Mark Lyon Tribunal: Ineos’ case was “chaotic and contradictory”

Unite Convenor Mark Lyon

Unite Convenor Mark Lyon

Presiding judge Stewart Watt says: “There was no material evidence that Mr. Lyon had been guilty of any wrong doing”.

Ineos’ case “chaotic and contradictory” says Unite legal team.

Ineos needs to start treating its workforce with respect and ensure no trade union officials are victimised said Unite, as an interim employment tribunal ruled today (Friday 7th March) in favour of the Grangemouth convenor Mark Lyon.

In a blow to the petro-chemical company, the tribunal ruled that it was ‘likely’ that Mr Lyon will win his case for unfair dismissal when it goes to a full tribunal and ordered Ineos to pay his wages until the full hearing in a number of months.

The convenor, with 25 years of service to the company, was tried and dismissed in his absence by Ineos managers for not stopping the union commenting on media reports about fears of job losses at the plant.

The tribunal was asked to make an interim finding in Mr Lyon’s favour in order to avoid the financial hardship he will face between now and the final hearing over his unfair dismissal for trade union activity.

Commenting, Unite legal director Howard Beckett said: “We welcome this interim finding which gives Mr Lyon some financial security until the full tribunal where all the evidence will be heard.

“It is a shot in the arm for workers across the country and sends out a clear message that they can be a member of trade union and represent other workers without fear of victimisation.

“Ineos needs to drop its hostility to the workforce and ensure there is no victimisation of workplace representatives before the brain drain of skills at the site becomes a flood that threatens the site’s survival. 

“Ineos should be in no doubt that we will continue to fight for our members at Grangemouth and pay heed to the interim finding by starting to work with the representatives the workforce has chosen.”

Congratulations to Mark, you deserve this win and all our support.

Read all the press cuttings here – feel free to email on to your contacts. 

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