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Labor Notes

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1. Thirteen unions are boycotting the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte because North Carolina is a “right to work” state. These are mostly the building trades, for whom using union labor has traditionally meant a lot more for than most of the other unions. It perhaps seems a bit petty or poor strategy, but it’s also a reminder that labor is a complete afterthought when it comes to the Democratic Party except as a GOTV apparatus and fundraising machine.

2. One of the nation’s most intense labor battles is occurring almost completely without media coverage in Longview, Washington, where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are fighting a big multinational named EGW that built an enormous grain terminal in Longview without union labor and is now attempting to operate it without nonunion labor, which is a violation of its lease. It’s gotten pretty intense:

On July 11, up to 100 members and supporters of Longview’s 202-member ILWU Local 21 were arrested after demonstrators knocked down a chainlink fence and entered the terminal; arrestees included the presidents of ILWU locals in Vancouver and Portland. Then, after midnight on July 14, as many as 600 demonstrators gathered, and about 200 occupied train tracks to block a mile-long Burlington Northern Santa Fe train from delivering grain to the terminal. That prompted the railroad to say it would suspend deliveries while the dispute continued.

This might seem like small potatoes to a lot of progressives, who would rather talk about the 2012 Republican primaries or the debt ceiling, but it is these small battles that create the larger war. EGT has the most anti-union lease in Longview, which is a major port, and it portends the decline of union labor and the benefits that come with it if the corporation is not stopped. This is important stuff.

Note as well that I only heard about this because of a reader. So if you have a labor issue you’d like to see covered, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

3. The Verizon strike continues. The strikers are making themselves felt throughout the Northeast. I see them at 2-3 locations per day. There are lots of people honking horns in support and spirits seem pretty high. The strikers have done a good job of making people wary of going to Verizon stores, presumably hurting business. Verizon has unfortunately won a lot of injunctions around specific union actions, which makes me wonder if there’s a pro-labor judge left out there. The workers are also doing a good job at harassing scabs, who definitely deserve to be harassed.

4. Finally, IBEW workers at the Nine Mile Point nuclear plants in Oswego, New York successfully completed an 18 day strike recently after the company tried to give the workers a large pay raise but decimate their benefits, in an attempt to fool them into taking an overall worse contact. The IBEW workers struck and won a contract that helps protect pensions for younger workers while older workers take a small pension hit and all workers get small pay increases.

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