B   M   W   E
News In Brief
Grand Lodge Dues Increase

Based upon the annual statement published by the National Railway Labor Conference, it has been determined that the average straight-time hourly rate-of-pay for maintenance of way employees during 1999 was $16.70. In accordance with Article XX, Section 3, of the Grand Lodge Constitution and Bylaws, one and two-tenths (1.2) of this amount added to the current Grand Lodge dues equals $20.04, which rounded to the nearest 25 cents, results in Grand Lodge dues being increased to $20.00 per month effective January 1, 2001.

Make It Work For All

World leaders must ensure that "globalization works for everyone, not just the powerful and wealthy," Sonny Hall, president of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, told the U.S. Department of Transportation's International Transportation Symposium the first week of October. Hall also criticized multinational corporations for "trampling on the basic rights and freedoms of workers" and warned that "we must not allow trade agreements to become vehicles for lowering standards."

New Logo for Amtrak             

On July 6 Amtrak unveiled their new logo which apparently is intended to be rails sweeping off into the horizon. This replaces the red, white and blue arrow that has been Amtrak's symbol since 1971 and which was often called the pointless arrow because it had tail feathers but no point.

Created by the federal government to take over the nation's intercity passenger rail services, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation or Amtrak initiated operations on May 1, 1971. Today Amtrak has over 24,000 employees and its 2,272 fleet of passenger cars serves 45 states (except Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, South Dakota and Wyoming).

Detroit Newspaper Strike

In May the United Methodist Church put its faith into action when its international conference called for a boycott of Gannett-owned USA Today in support of 600 Detroit newspaper workers. The Free Press, owned by Knight-Ridder and the Detroit News, owned by Gannett, locked out the workers four years ago following a strike.

On July 7 the newspaper workers suffered a significant loss in the federal court of appeals when the court overturned the National Labor Relations Board, which held that the strike was an unfair labor practice strike, the strikers were entitled to their jobs back and the permanent replacements had to go. The court gave the case to a panel of three conservative Republican-appointed judges who gave newspaper owners Gannett and Knight-Ridder a complete victory.

About 300 union members and supporters marched July 13 to mark the fifth anniversary of the newspaper lockout and to protest the ruling. The unions said they planned to appeal the ruling which overturned the 1998 NLRB finding. "It is difficult to have faith in a system that so blindly ignores the facts that the NLRB took months to investigate," said Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO President Donald Boggs.

Also to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the strike, songwriter and locked-out Free Pressreporter Stephen Jones released a 12-track CD of songs inspired by the strike. For more information or to order a CD, contact Jones at 313-331-0798 or Shawn Ellis at 313-961-0800.

"The problem with the National Labor Relations Act is that it is very long on promise, but very short on delivery," said William B. Gould IV, former chairman of the NLRB in the October 1-15 issue of Metro Detroit Labor News. "The machinery for the realization of these rights is quite illusory," said Gould who tried to bring justice to the workers at the Detroit News and Free Pressbefore his term of office ended in August 1998.

In particular, Gould attacked the delays in NLRB adjudications, which he said had grown far more severe in the last 30 years. As for changes for the better, Gould said, "we are never going to have any changes in the current political environment." A critical requirement to advancing labor law, he noted, is to have at least 60 U.S. senators lined up in favor of any bill that would improve things in order to defeat a filibuster.

Asked about the July 7 decision Gould said, "that was an extraordinary decision. It highlighted for me the ability of the human mind to take any set of facts and reshape them and it highlighted the importance of getting a good federal judiciary."

"Bread and Roses"

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the best-known and most prestigious events in the world of cinema. One of the favorites at this year's festival was "Bread and Roses," the story of Los Angeles immigrant workers as seen through eyes of an office cleaner. The film received a 10- minute standing ovation. And on June 15, SEIU and Lion Gate Films hosted a special screening and reception for the director and cast to commemorate Justice for Janitors Day 2000, established to honor the 500 janitors brutally beaten in a June 15, 1990 demonstration that is captured in the film.

Organizing Goals Set by AFL-CIO Executive Council

The AFL-CIO Executive Council approved a statement outlining a new organizing plan that sets a goal of one million new members a year. The other three points of the plan, approved at the Council's August 1-2 meeting in Chicago, ask affiliates to set higher organizing goals; call on the Council's Organizing Committee to regularly assess the new plan's progress; and urge affiliates to monitor, report and share information on their organizing campaigns. BMWE President Mac A. Fleming is a member of the Council.

Steelworkers Go Back to Work at Kaiser

Some 2,900 USWA members are back at work at five Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. plants after a new agreement worked out by an arbitrator. The workers, who were locked out Jan. 14, 1999, returned to the job 613 days later on Sept. 18, making it the longest lockout in the union's history. Under the five-year agreement, workers will receive wage increases of $3.42 an hour, improvements in pensions and retiree health insurance and protections against subcontracting. The NLRB issued a complaint against Kaiser for the lockout and is seeking back pay for workers that could total $337 million.

Merger Creates Powerhouse

With a Sept. 21 vote by convention delegates, the IUE agreed to merge with the Communications Workers of America, creating what is sure to become an industrial organizing powerhouse, reported the AFL-CIO's Work in Progress. "This merger strengthens the ability of both unions to bargain effectively with the large, global corporations that employ our members," said CWA President Morton Bahr. IUE President Ed Fire praised CWA's commitment to strategic organizing and said it would benefit all members of the newly merged union and noted that "when we bargain in the future, CWA will be the 800-pound gorilla right beside us and employers will take note." Fire heads the new CWA Industrial Division after the merger became effective Oct. 1.

A Dangerous Job

In 1999, at least 140 trade unionists were killed, 3,000 were arrested, 1,500 were injured, beaten or tortured and 12,000 lost their jobs for being members of unions, according to a study released in September by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. "Throughout the world, as in the United States, joining a union and standing up for workers' rights remains too difficult, too dangerous and too deadly," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. The report, Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights 2000, is available online at www.icftu.org or by writing ICFTU-ITS Office, 1725 K Street, NW, Suite 425, Washington, DC 20006. The phone number is 202-463-8573.

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