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Bush the Union BusterMiami Daily Business Review – by Dan Christensen – June 30, 2002
(7/1/02) - President Bush's push to create a huge new Department of Homeland Security is causing insecurity among many federal employees -- nowhere more than in South Florida.
On grounds of national security, Bush has iced a nascent union for federal prosecutors being aggressively organized at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.
And he's dissolved a handful of existing unions that represented about 500 Justice Department employees around the nation -- including the 45-member Miami Local 512 of the American Federation of Government Employees. Local 512 had represented support personnel at the U.S. Attorney's Office, including paralegals, clerks and secretaries, since the 1980s.
Bush based his actions on an exemption in the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act which presupposes that unionized federal workers are an impediment to effective national security. That's why labor leaders fear that what happened in Miami is the prelude to broader union busting by the White House once the homeland security reorganization of federal agencies is complete.
Their principal concern is that thousands of unionized workers transferred to the Department of Homeland Security will be stripped of their right to organize and collectively bargain. That includes 12,000 U.S. Customs Service employees now represented by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
"They are using homeland security as an excuse to eliminate the rights of employees," says NTEU president Colleen Kelley, whose 64-year-old union represents 150,000 workers in 25 federal agencies. "These Customs Service employees have done this work guarding our borders for decades and this has never been an issue."
The White House did not return phone calls seeking comment before deadline.
The right of federal employees to organize is guaranteed under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute, commonly known as the Civil Service Reform Act. But the law also allows the president to exclude certain employees from that protection if the "primary function" of their agency is "intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative or national security work."
Employees of the FBI, CIA, portions of the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals Service and other investigative and intelligence agencies have long been prohibited under civil service law from joining a union. But the homeland security shuffle -- the "most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s," according to Bush -- offered the Republican administration an opportunity to expand the exemption in the statutory right to join a union.
Labor unions, including the NTEU, heavily backed Democrat Al Gore in his race against Bush.
Along with the Customs Service, some of the agencies that have been mentioned for inclusion in the massive new federal security agency are the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Transportation Security Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
ORGANIZING CAUGHT FIRE
The union organizing of federal prosecutors in Miami began in the spring of 2001. NTEU flyers identify the key issues as the need for flex time when prosecutors are not actually in court, compensatory time for overtime work, fair performance evaluation standards, objective standards for promotions, a uniform contract, a negotiated grievance procedure and the right to a union attorney at all disciplinary proceedings.
The idea "caught fire" in Miami, says NTEU national counsel Jeff Friday. "Our plan was for the Miami U.S. Attorney's Office to be the first [unionized office] in the country," he says.
In a matter of months, Kelley says, about three-quarters of the 225 Assistant U.S. Attorneys, or AUSAs, wanted to join NTEU.
The Department of Justice quickly opposed the unionizing efforts. Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft's staff asserted that the nation's AUSAs were exempt from unionizing for national security reasons.
On Jan. 7, President Bush ended the debate when, without fanfare, he issued Executive Order 13252. The order cited national security in specifically denying the right to union representation to all employees in each of the nation's 93 U.S. Attorney Offices and to several other parts of the Justice Department, including the criminal division.
On the day Bush signed his order, union activists were at a hearing before the Federal Labor Relations Authority in Miami to present testimony from attorneys in the office opposing the Justice Department's blanket assertion of the national security exemption. They were prepared to testify that there were plenty of AUSAs whose work had nothing to do with terrorism or national security, Kelley says.
"Our position was there were certainly a handful of people in terrorism work involving classified information about groups like al-Qaida," Friday says. "But we had people there to testify about what they did every day -- to show they did not meet the exclusion."
ASKED BUSH TO WITHDRAW ORDER
Several members of Congress, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, quickly urged Bush to withdraw his order. In a letter, Leahy and three other senators said the order "suggests that workers who belong to unions are somehow less reliable and trustworthy when it comes to matters of national security."
Bitterness was apparent in the NTEU flyer sent to notify Miami activists about Bush's order. "Evidently, the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys [in the Justice Department] was so concerned about NTEU prevailing that they sought this order from George Bush. The president has unreviewable discretion to issue these types of executive orders," wrote Friday and co-national counsel Bill Harness.
"NTEU must withdraw its petition seeking to represent you. We find it ironic that a president that is alleged by many to have stolen his own election, has now stolen yours," Friday and Harness wrote.
Sylvia Acosta, a paralegal assistant in the health care fraud unit who was president of AFGE Local 512 until the presidential order was issued, says she felt "blindsided. We were in the middle of negotiating a new contract and this hit us hard. Our grievance procedures were swept away."
"Don't look for my vote next [election], Mr. Bush," Acosta says. "Hey, that's the bottom line, isn't it?"
U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis' office sought to take a conciliatory position toward the union in the wake of Bush's order, specifically praising Acosta and her union for having developed "an extraordinarily good relationship."
"The attacks of Sept. 11 redefined the mission of the Department of Justice," Lewis' office administrator Helen Grill wrote in a memo to staff a day after the order was issued. "Our first and overriding priority is now defending our nation and the citizens of America against terrorist attacks. President Bush's executive order recognized the department's role in matters of national security."
Given what's already happened, union officials are worried about what's next. The NTEU represents about 100,000 Internal Revenue Service workers who, as of now, are unaffected by the president's partial ban on union membership among federal employees.
"If they can eliminate the rights of these federal employees in a new federal department, who will be next that they decide shouldn't have those rights?" NTEU president Kelley asks.
N. C. Continues to Suppress Labor UnionsThe Charlotte Observer – by Michelle Crouch – June 17, 2002
(6/16/02) – Firefighters and police officers across the Carolinas are squaring off with city officials over a controversial federal proposal to strengthen the negotiating power of public safety workers.
The bill would give those unions collective bargaining rights. Cities and counties would be required to recognize police and firefighter unions for negotiations on wages, benefits and workplace conditions. The legislation -- introduced in both the House and Senate -- prohibits strikes and walkouts.
If enacted, it would pre-empt an N.C. law -- in place more than 40 years -- that forbids local officials from making any contract or agreement with a labor union. North Carolina is one of only a few states with such a law. South Carolina does not have one.
Mayors, at the urging of the N.C. and S.C. leagues of municipalities, have started a letter-writing and telephone campaign to protest the measure. They say it intrudes on the power of local governments and imposes extra costs.
"The federal government shouldn't have the right to tell us how to do our business," said Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican. "The unions are trying to bypass state laws by basically blackmailing cities into negotiating with them."
Local firefighters and police officers also are lobbying hard, traveling to Washington to meet with local delegates and firing off their own letters and faxes. They say they need collective bargaining because they are paid too little and work under difficult conditions.
"I would go all the way to Washington to speak on it," said Don Rock, an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police. "Police officers' rights are being stepped on left and right. Why is it fair for states north, south, east and west of us to have collective bargaining and us not to?"
The issue has taken on extra relevance in Charlotte this year as the City Council considers whether to help balance its budget by eliminating the 5 percent step raises promised to police officers and firefighters.
"If we had collective bargaining, we wouldn't be dealing with these wage issues right now because there would be a written contract, and cuts wouldn't be an option," said Mike Spath, president of the Charlotte chapter of the International Association of Firefighters.
Currently, the city invites union representatives to the table for discussion but does not negotiate with them as bargaining agents, Spath said.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina and the N.C. League of Municipalities sent memos to every city manager and clerk in recent weeks, urging them to ask their local members of Congress to oppose the bill.
"The bill is an unwarranted intrusion into the sovereignty of the State of North Carolina," the N.C. memo reads. "It violates every principle of federalism and may well be unconstitutional."
The bill has been proposed several times over the past few years, but gained momentum in the past month as 223 House members have signed on as sponsors, enough to guarantee passage. The House is likely to vote on the bill in the next few months, a congressional staffer said.
In the Senate, a similar bill that has 23 sponsors has been referred out of committee but has not been scheduled for a floor vote.
Of the Charlotte area's congressional representatives, Sen. John Edwards and Rep. Mel Watt, both Democrats, support the proposal. Sens. Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond and Reps. Sue Myrick and Robin Hayes, all Republicans, oppose it.
Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., leans against it and Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., has not made up his mind, their staffers said.
Former Enron Workers Win a BattleAFL-CIO – Press Release – June 12, 2002
(6/11/02) - Former Enron workers and the court-appointed Employee Committee, supported by the AFL-CIO and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition today announced an historic agreement on severance with Enron Corporation and its Creditors’ Committee. The agreement provides severance payments of more than what employees have already received with the possibility of tens of millions more to 4,200 Enron workers who were laid-off as a result of the company’s collapse. This means that the efforts of the workers and their supporters will have resulted in at least $34 million more in severance.
The agreement gives Enron workers who wish to accept the settlement their entire severance owed under the Enron severance plan up to a cap of $13,500. Former Enron workers who do not want to accept this deal can opt out and pursue their own claim individually. Before the workers’ campaign began severance had been capped at $4,500. The Enron severance plan entitled individual workers to payments based on their length of employment and their salary. The agreement will be filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court of Southern New York today.
In addition, the agreement gives the court-appointed Employee Committee the right to claw back more than $80 million in so-called retention bonuses paid to Enron executives on the eve of bankruptcy. Any money recaptured will go to workers whose severance and other benefits were frozen when Enron declared bankruptcy.
“This is an important milestone for former Enron workers,” commented former Enron employee Dennis Vegas. “Many families have had a difficult time meeting their financial obligations and if the agreement is approved, it will provide much needed relief. The process has not been easy and we owe a great deal of gratitude to many for reaching this accord, but in particular, the AFL CIO for their leadership and willingness to cover the legal fees.”
“The AFL-CIO is pleased the former Enron workers have emerged victorious in a difficult and lengthy fight to win severance payments,” said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, which represents 13 million American working men and women and their unions.
The AFL-CIO spearheaded a campaign among union members to push for a fair severance package for the workers and hired attorneys to represent the former workers at no cost to them. In February, the laid-off workers received a $5 million emergency severance payment. Today’s settlement brings the total severance amount to three times the level it was at when the campaign began in February.
“Unions exist to improve the lives of working families,” said Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. “When we learned that Enron workers lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in their retirement savings, we knew we could help.”
As a part of the severance campaign, the AFL-CIO engaged its membership nationwide. Union members leafleted creditor committee banks in cities across the country and sent more than 55,000 faxes and phone calls to members of the creditors committee and Enron executives to support a fair severance package for the former employees.
Corporate abuse and mismanagement of workers’ retirement savings have affected working families across the nation. To push for change, the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council passed a resolution that called on the Bush administration and federal regulators “to enact and enforce broad, specific reforms to strengthen and protect workers’ retirement security to hold corporate executives and directors to higher standards in governing corporations’ affairs, and to make them accountable for their malfeasance and breach of trust.”
Increased Retirement Benefits at AT&TCWA – Press Release – June 2, 2002
(5/17/02) - The Communications Workers of America announced today that CWA members, by an 84 percent vote, ratified an 18-month agreement with AT&T. The contract covers about 28,000 workers nationwide.
The contract maintains quality health care coverage for active workers and retirees without shifting costs to workers, a key bargaining issue for union members, said Ralph Maly, CWA vice president for communications and technologies.
The agreement provides a six percent wage increase over the 18-month term in two percent intervals, effective May 12 and November 10, 2002 and May 11, 2003. Upon ratification, workers also will receive a $250 signing bonus.
Workers won improvements in retirement security, with an eight percent increase in both the traditional pension plan bands and the cash balance credits.
The contract also creates new procedures and committees to expand and develop work opportunities for operators, increase bargaining unit work and resolve subcontracting issues.
In separate votes, contracts covering workers at LNS (Local Network Service) operations in Mesa, Ariz., Independence, Ohio, and Maryland Heights, Mo., also were ratified as was the AT&T contract in Puerto Rico.
NLRB Recommends New Onan ElectionWorkdayMinnesota.org – by Michael Kuchta – May 18, 2002
(5/13/02) - FRIDLEY, Minn. — For the second time, management at the Onan Corp. in Fridley unlawfully interfered with a union election, an NLRB hearing officer has ruled.
The hearing officer, Theresa Dowling, is calling for a new election for the roughly 765 eligible workers at the plant. If her recommendation is accepted by the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, it would be the third election at the plant in the last two years.
The United Auto Workers lost both previous elections, in November 2000 and September 2001. But both times, just days before workers cast ballots on whether or not to join the union, Onan announced breakthroughs toward settling class-action pension litigation. Active and retired employees filed the lawsuit in 1997, before the union’s organizing drive began.
Too much information
In the most recent election, Dowling concluded that the timing and nature of the company’s litigation announcement left little doubt that Onan “used the settlement agreement to attempt to influence voters seven days before the election.”
The pension settlement gives nearly $27 million in lump-sum benefit payments to active and retired employees, increases the rate of pension benefit accrual, and eliminates a profit-sharing “offset” in calculating pension credits. Dowling said the settlement affects about half the current workforce. In lump-sum payments alone, those workers stand to gain an average of more than $13,500, she said.
As evidence that the company used the pension issue to influence the union election, Dowling pointed out that the court order approving the pension settlement required the employee plaintiffs – not the company – to notify other workers. In addition, notice was not required until five days after the election. Instead, Dowling said, beginning 10 days before the election, Onan management held informational meetings with employees on company time about the settlement, made copies of settlement documents available to employees, and posted settlement highlights and the court order in the plant.
Further, Dowling said, Onan mailed settlement highlights to active employees – but not to retirees. Such behavior, she ruled, “would have a tendency to interfere with the employees’ free and uncoerced choice in the election” and qualify as “an ill-timed offer of benefit.”
Onan has appealed Dowling’s ruling to the full NLRB.
Tyco Rehires Almost All Laid OffThe Charlotte Observer – by Ted Reed – May 13, 2002
(5/10/02) - Tyco Electronics said Thursday it has finished rehiring nearly all of the approximately 100 workers it laid off from its Rock Hill plants in December and January.
"We have brought back nearly everyone, most to their previous jobs," said Jane Leipold, vice president of human resources for Tyco Electronics, which is based in Harrisburg, Pa. "We did it as a result of increased customer demand recently, which was unexpected and unpredictable."
Weeks after laying the workers off in December and January, Tyco hired dozens of temporary workers at about half the pay of the laid-off workers. The move prompted an outcry by the laid-off workers and area union leaders, who helped set up protests that attracted widespread attention.
Susan Smart, who returned to work this week as an electrical components inspector after being laid off Dec. 6, said she was called back "because of pressure from labor, the community and our legislators."
"I think it's wonderful," Smart added.
Leipold said 88 workers were rehired over the past month after being contacted by letter; the last group is scheduled to return next week. Of the dozen workers who were not rehired, nearly all failed to respond to the contact letter, she said.
Tyco spokeswoman Maryanne Kane said the plants now employ about 400 workers, including about 150 temporary workers.
The workers' protests included a review of whether Tyco has met the terms of a county and state incentive package that attracted AMP Inc. to locate in York County in 1995. Tyco, a Bermuda-based conglomerate operating out of New Hampshire, acquired AMP in 1999. Tyco's Rock Hill plants assemble electronic components and are part of the company's Harrisburg-based electronics division.
Smart, who had worked three years before being laid off, said she must wait 30 days for her insurance to resume, but her new salary of $13.65 hourly includes a 2.5 percent increase awarded to Tyco workers after the layoffs.
She said that in February, laid-off workers began getting phone calls from Denver resident and union member Dan Martin, who offered his help. "He wanted to see how many people would be interested in fighting back," Smart said.
Martin, a Freightliner truck assembler who is a member of the United Auto Workers and co-chairman of the Charlotte Labor Day Committee, said Thursday he simply wanted to help workers. He said he learned of the Tyco situation from friends employed at the plant, and he called the laid-off workers.
"I couldn't say they would get their jobs back, but we could give it a shot," Martin said. "I had been trained through union activities to fight for workers, to honor workers, and I felt `How can you honor workers if you let something like this go?' "
He said he was not concerned that the Tyco workers are not unionized. It's unclear how the recalls will affect the organizing drive that union officials at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers say they have initiated at Tyco.
Martin's efforts began to bear fruit Feb. 22, when about 40 workers and a dozen labor leaders gathered at the Rock Hill library for a meeting heavily covered by local media. Later, county officials met with executives to discuss whether Tyco had met terms of the incentive package, including benchmarks for employment and capital expenditures.
In April, Tyco said it would add about 50 jobs in Rock Hill, with hiring preference for laid-off workers. "Since then, business has continued to stabilize at higher business levels than expected," the company said in a letter sent to customers Thursday. The letter said Tyco continues to try to fill jobs for high-skilled machine setup and repair positions.
Mike Short, chairman of the York County Council, said Tyco is meeting the terms of the county and state incentive package.
"We of course listened to what the (workers) had to say, but I'm not sure how much the county involvement had to do with the (rehiring)," Short said. "I think it was probably as much a matter of business conditions as anything else."
Pressure on TycoThe Charlotte Observer – by T. Reed, J. Talhelm – April 5, 2002
(4/4/02) - Tyco Electronics in Rock Hill, under pressure from labor and government leaders since it laid off 90 workers a few months ago, now says it will hire 50 permanent workers.
In letters that laid-off workers received this week, the Harrisburg, Pa.-based subsidiary of Tyco said improvement in the electronics market made the hiring possible.
The company said it prefers to rehire former employees, although they will have to re-apply through the S.C. Employment Security Commission.
Weeks after laying off 90 workers in December and January, Tyco hired dozens of temporary workers at about half the pay of the laid-off workers. The move prompted an outcry by the laid-off workers and area union leaders, who helped set up protests.
The protests included a review of whether Tyco has met the terms of an incentive package that attracted AMP Inc. to locate in York County in 1995. Tyco, a Bermuda-based conglomerate operating out of New Hampshire, acquired AMP in 1999.
Susan Smart, one of the laid-off workers, called the rehiring "a good sign" and said, "Tyco is trying to straighten their act up."
But she noted that in failing to rehire all 90 workers, Tyco may be "trying to divide the forces." Smart said only about two dozen workers participated in a demonstration outside a Tyco plant on Wednesday because news of the hiring kept away others who had planned to attend.
Labor leaders active in organizing the protests said they were pleased that their efforts seem to have gotten results.
But Dan Martin, chairman of the Charlotte Labor Day Committee, noted: "When a company does something like this, it makes you wonder: Are they doing it because they know they should, or because they want to look good?"
Tyco spokeswoman Maryanne Kane reiterated that economic improvements, not protests, prompted the rehiring.
She said rehired workers would retain their seniority and previous salaries.
Tyco will employ about 400 in York County, she said, even though its previous total of 180 temporary workers has been reduced by a few dozen.
Kane said the company hopes to recall the 40 remaining laid-off workers if conditions permit.
Mike Short, chairman of the York County Council, said it was "entirely appropriate" that Tyco hire back some of the workers. He said Tyco is moving toward meeting the obligations of the incentive package within the required period of time.
Freightliner Accused of Using Illicit TacticsThe Charlotte Observer – by Sharon E. White – March 25, 2002
(3/22/02) - GASTONIA - The United Auto Workers has accused Freightliner LLC of trying to intimidate workers before Wednesday's disputed union vote at the company's Gastonia parts manufacturing plant.
Union officials said workers complained that Freightliner's top management met with them as late as 24 hours before Wednesday's vote and used threats of job loss to intimidate them in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
Third-shift worker Donna Fuquay said she was among workers who met with Roger Nielson, the company's chief operating officer, at midnight Tuesday -- 30 hours before voting started.
"The first thing he started off with is, `This is not a union meeting,' " Fuquay said. "Basically he said that if we got a union in and we started negotiating a contract, we would start with nothing."
While Fuquay said the meeting didn't change her pro-union stance, she thinks it intimidated others.
"I feel like all in all they were trying to sway some of those who were on the fence, maybe as a scare tactic," she said. "I think it worked because we had a lot on the second shift that we knew were on the fence, and I think that put a little fear in them."
The UAW said Gastonia plant workers complained that Nielson "compelled workers to attend meetings on company time and company premises at which he threatened workers with loss of pay, benefits and jobs if the union were to be voted in."
The unofficial vote tally was 322 in favor of union representation and 346 against. There were 42 challenged votes -- some disputed by union leaders, some by the company -- that did not count.
The outcome of a National Labor Relations Board examination of the challenged votes could turn the election either way. The voting eligibility of some of the plant's laid-off workers is a point of contention, some laid-off workers have said.
In a sharply worded statement dated Wednesday, UAW officials accused Freightliner's top management of 11th-hour election maneuvering.
"The company's conduct in the final 48 hours before the vote not only violated both the law and neutrality protections," said Bob King, who heads the UAW's organizing department.
The UAW further stated that workers said "intimidation sessions were held less than 24 hours before voting was to begin, a flagrant violation of the National Labor Relations Act."
Freightliner spokesman Chris Brandt declined comment on any of the UAW's allegations.
Willie Clark, regional director of the NLRB's Winston-Salem office, said a meeting that employees are compelled to attend 24 hours before the vote "would be improper."
Meantime, Clark said the NLRB will contact both sides to see whether either will file any objections to the election. If objections are filed, the 42 challenged votes and objections would be investigated simultaneously, he said. A hearing is possible if no resolution is reached, he said.
Wednesday's union vote was the first at the Gastonia Freightliner plant. Freightliner's Mount Holly truck assembly plant voted for UAW representation in 1990. Since then, there have been periodic efforts to form a union at the 24-year-old Gastonia plant.
Concerns about a recent 5 percent pay cut, health-care benefit reductions and rumors that the Gastonia plant might be sold gave union organizers the push they needed to call for a vote.
On Thursday, Brandt said the plant hasn't been sold but again would not comment on whether it's on the selling block. He also reiterated that Freightliner has challenged the plant's workers to "make the operation more efficient and competitive."
Dissidents Win in Boeing VoteAssociated Press – March 17, 2002
Dissidents have won election to two of the top three offices in the engineering union at Boeing as it prepares for contract talks covering more than 19,000 workers.
In voting by members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), Tom Day, 48, an optical-measurement engineer in Auburn, ousted two-term president Craig Buckham in a five-way race. Day had 1,758 votes, 35 percent, to 1,586 for Buckham.
Mike Dunn, an engineer at Kent, was elected treasurer with 3,058 votes, and Jennifer Mackay, an engineer in Spokane, edged Jeff Stone for the secretary job by six votes, 2,107 to 2,101.
Day, Dunn and Stone ran together as the Dedicated Unionist slate, criticizing raises and benefits the Buckham-led executive board granted to SPEEA staff members, including a Dodge Durango for Charles Bofferding, executive director and former president, to use on the job.
Day, a former high-school teacher, promised to "stand toe-to-toe with Boeing" and "demand accountability" while working to get more members involved in the union.
The winners serve two-year terms and join the union's executive board. Union officials said 19,175 members — engineers and technical workers — were eligible to vote.
Mailed-in ballots were tallied Wednesday and a recount in the secretary race was completed Thursday.
Buckham was elected president in 1999 and helped lead the union in its first full-blown strike, a 40-day walkout in 2000, and was re-elected to a special one-year term last year.
This year, contract negotiators plan to start meeting in September, and formal contract negotiations are scheduled to begin Oct. 29.
Freightliner Union VoteThe Charlotte Observer – by Sharon E. White – March 15, 2002
(3/14/02) - GASTONIA - Smarting from a recent pay cut and concerned about rumors that the business will be sold, workers at Freightliner LLC's Gastonia parts plant will vote Wednesday on whether to unionize.
The United Auto Workers has filed a petition to represent all the hourly paid production, maintenance, materials and quality assurance employees at the plant, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed.
While efforts to unionize the plant have gone on for years, workers say the rumors of pay cuts and a possible sale prompted the vote.
Plant employees, along with other nonunion Freightliner plants, took a 5 percent pay cut in January as part of parent company DaimlerChrysler's corporate turnaround plan.
That plan includes a planned closing this summer of a parts plant in Portland, Ore..
Freightliner spokesman Chris Brandt said the company wants to improve the Gastonia parts plant's efficiency. He said Freightliner has "challenged workers to make the operation more competitive," but wouldn't discuss local reports that the plant is on the market.
The Gastonia plant, which laid off 123 workers in August, now employs about 650.
While the Carolinas are the least unionized states in the country, the results of recent union elections in the two states have been mixed. In the first half of 2000, for instance, workers in the two states voted for union representation in 27 elections, according to the Bureau of National Affairs, which tracks union membership.
In North Carolina, just 3.6 of workers are unionized, while 4 percent of South Carolina workers are union members, the bureau said. The national average is 13.5 percent.
One laid-off Freightliner worker said he's not sure whether he'll vote for the union. He is eligible to vote because he could be recalled to work.
"I'm a Southerner and we're still not used to unions," said the worker, who didn't want to be named. Still, he doesn't think Freightliner would have been as generous with unemployment benefits had there not been a union nearby at the Mount Holly assembly plant.
"When I was laid off, I got six months' insurance benefits," he said. "It wasn't out of the goodness of Freightliner's heart."
Opened in 1978, the Tulip Drive plant makes truck parts for Freightliner's assembly plants in Mount Holly and Cleveland, in Rowan County, and its regional parts distribution centers. Parts include components used in truck cabs and chassis.
The Mount Holly plant, where workers voted for UAW representation in 1990, is Freightliner's only Carolinas union plant.
Represented by UAW Local 5285, its employees were not subject to the 5 percent pay cut of other Freightliner plants, although workers in a union plant in Portland were. But like other Freightliner plants, it has seen layoffs. In 2001, the plant cut almost 600 jobs, and now employs about 1,000 workers. In mid-June, the plant will start producing Freightliner's new Business Class M2 vocational trucks, but the company hasn't said yet whether any laid-off workers will be recalled.
Support for Tyco WorkersThe Charlotte Observer – by Jennifer Talhelm – March 9, 2002
(3/8/02) - ROCK HILL - As Tyco Electronics officials answered questions from federal and local officials Thursday about their labor practices and their investment in York County, local labor leaders told recently terminated workers to stay strong and fight for their rights.
At a gathering under a picnic shelter in Cherry Park, labor leaders told about 40 former Tyco workers to keep pressuring politicians to hold Tyco accountable for its actions.
"You're doing a very good job of raising awareness so it doesn't happen again," said Donna Dewitt, president of the S.C. AFL-CIO.
The workers claim Tyco unfairly terminated about 90 employees from its Rock Hill electronics assembly plant and soon afterward hired temporary workers at about half the pay. Former workers were upset that some of the temporary employees were Latino immigrants.
Tyco's predecessor company, AMP Inc., received state and local benefits to move to York County.
Tyco Electronics is a division of Tyco International, a Bermuda-based conglomerate facing questions about its accounting practices.
On Thursday, York County administrators met with Tyco officials to talk about whether the company will meet AMP's $226 million incentive package. County officials are concerned because Tyco's investment so far is well below the required $50 million.
Tyco officials also met with people from U.S. Rep. John Spratt's office.
AMP moved to York County in 1995. As an incentive, the county issued $225 million in bonds for construction, which AMP was to pay back, and $1.4 million in special-source revenue bonds to buy the property and develop sewer service.
AMP also pays a fee in lieu of taxes under the deal, which could amount to about a 40 percent tax break over 20 years, county finance officials said.
In return, AMP was to invest $50 million and create 300 new full-time jobs by Dec. 31, 2003. But the county calculates that Tyco has invested only about $24 million.
Tyco employs about 400 workers in the Rock Hill area. County officials also worry that Tyco, which acquired AMP in 1999, has not yet sought the county council's approval to take over the incentive agreement.
After meeting Thursday with the county, Tyco spokeswoman Maryanne Kane said the company was pleased. "We look forward to working with county officials on this matter."
County officials could not be reached for comment.
Former workers had contacted Spratt for help, and he agreed to check on the status of complaints that the temporary Latino workers were illegal immigrants.
On Thursday, Tyco officials met with people from Spratt's office. Spratt said they explained they hired temporary workers because the market they supply products to is unpredictable, and they needed the short-term help to fill unexpected orders.
Spratt's office also is investigating whether Tyco broke federal law by not giving the workers notice they would be let go and whether the workers may be due more severance benefits. Spratt said he may have an answer for the workers today or early next week.
Tyco denies it violated any laws.
"We follow the law," Kane said. She said the company remains dedicated to rehiring its skilled former employees if the market improves.
But former Tyco employees think the company treated them unfairly to get government incentives. Labor leaders told former workers they should keep pushing politicians to look out for the workers.
"Then maybe we can stop some of these abuses," Dewitt said.
The meeting was held to help former employees. But it turned into a rally in which workers agreed to continue to meet and organize.
Labor leaders have said they also are talking to workers still at the Tyco plant.
"Are we mad?" yelled Susan Smart, a former employee, telling workers, "well yell if you're mad."
"We all need to stay on this bandwagon," Smart said. "It's not just our problem. It's everybody in the United States' problem."
Tyco Union ActivityThe Charlotte Observer – by J. Talhelm, T. Reed – March 8, 2002
(3/7/02) - ROCK HILL - Tyco Electronics faces mounting pressure in York County, where union officials are gearing up for an organizing drive even as county officials review whether the company has met the terms of a 1996 incentive package.
County officials said Wednesday it's unlikely Tyco has met all the conditions of the $226 million package awarded to AMP Inc., which Tyco acquired in 1999.
The county says Tyco has until Dec. 31, 2003, to employ 300 people and invest $50 million. If it doesn't meet those requirements, the company may have to reimburse the county.
Tyco Electronics in Rock Hill is a division of Tyco International, a Bermuda-based conglomerate facing questions about its accounting practices and other business decisions.
The Rock Hill electronics assembly plant recently generated controversy when it laid off 90 employees and soon afterward hired temporary workers at about half the pay. Workers were upset that some of the temporary employees were Latino immigrants.
Tyco spokeswoman Maryanne Kane said in a statement the company had assumed the obligations of AMP's incentive agreement.
"We are currently engaged in the process of clarifying the specifics of the obligations with local authorities in a mutually agreeable manner," Kane said.
County economic development director Mark Farris said the county has several questions to resolve with Tyco. County officials will meet today with company representatives.
AMP received $225 million in bonds for construction, which the company was to pay back, and $1.4 million in special-source revenue bonds to buy the property and develop sewer service. The company also got a property tax break for 20 years.
County officials have been aware for a couple of years that Tyco had not made its $50 million investment, said former County Council Chairman Carl Gullick. In a routine check of all the county's incentive agreements, the county found that Tyco's investment was less than the required amount, said Gullick, who was on the council when the AMP agreement was signed.
County Treasurer Anne Bunton said she has not audited Tyco, but she calculated that, based on figures from the state Department of Revenue, Tyco's investment is worth only $24 million.
Farris also said county attorneys are checking to see whether Tyco needed authorization from the County Council to take over AMP's incentive package. Despite reminders from the county, Tyco has not sought and received approval.
But County Manager Al Greene said the county isn't concerned it will lose money on its deal with Tyco or any other company that got county incentives.
"We feel comfortable that the county's investment is protected and safeguards are in place in any fee agreement ... for companies that don't meet investment levels ... that would allow us to recoup or discontinue any reductions in taxes or fees in lieu of taxes that they would have paid," Greene said. Meanwhile, laid-off workers question whether the company used them to get government incentives, said Shirley Berry of Rock Hill.
"I feel like I was betrayed," said Berry, who recently was laid off. "The government should know they were betrayed as well. (Tyco) didn't live up to their end of the bargain."
Former workers also say they would not have been quickly replaced by temporary workers if they were unionized.
A veteran organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said he is moving toward an organizing campaign at Tyco, which assembles electronic components for the computer, electronics and telecommunications industries.
Workers will meet today at Cherry Park in Rock Hill, and York County Council member Curwood Chappell will be among those attending. He said he supports the union effort.
"Whatever it takes to break the camel's back," Chappell said. "The only chance they're going to have is if they form a union.
Billy Atkinson, assistant business manager of IBEW Local 379 in Concord, said union leaders are talking to workers in the Tyco plant. "We need to get an organizing committee in place before we start to do anything, and it has to be made up of people you can depend on," he said.
Atkinson estimated an organizing campaign could take six months or more. Such a campaign would end with an election among the plants' workers, who would vote on whether they wanted to be represented. Atkinson said the union is committed to organizing the workers, "so that a man can feel good about himself."
Tyco spokeswoman Kane said the company has union representation at some plants, but added: "Tyco Electronics has created good jobs, good benefits and opportunities in Rock Hill for many years by being able to work directly with our employees."
Laid-Off Workers Fight TycoThe Charlotte Observer – by Ted Reed – February 23, 2002
(2/22/02) - ROCK HILL - While thousands of Carolinas workers have lost their jobs in the past year, the 90 recently laid off from Tyco Electronics in Rock Hill are among the few making an effort to fight back.
The Tyco workers are irate that within weeks after most of them were gone, the plant hired dozens of temporary workers at about half the pay of the laid-off workers.
Although the workers are not unionized, their plight has drawn the attention of Carolinas labor leaders. On Thursday, about 40 workers and a dozen labor leaders gathered in Rock Hill to discuss a response, which could include an effort to organize the plant's remaining workers.
Labor leaders also question whether Tyco satisfied all the terms of the incentive package given to AMP Inc. when it agreed to move to York County in 1995. Tyco, a Bermuda-based conglomerate operating out of New Hampshire, acquired AMP in 1999.
Shirley Berry, a 41-year-old Rock Hill resident who worked three years at the electronics assembly plant, said she and most co-workers earned about $13 an hour, while the temporary workers earn about $7 an hour.
"I left a real good job for Tyco because they were paying more," said Berry. "If I had ever thought that Tyco was going to lay us off and throw us in a ditch, I never would have done it."
Susan Smart, 33, of Sharon, S.C., also worked three years at the plant. Like most of the laid-off workers, she said she is upset that the vast majority of the temporary workers are Hispanic immigrants.
"It's not right," she said. "You're supposed to take care of your people at home first."
Smart said long-term workers like her actually trained the first wave of temporary workers. "We trained them, and then Tyco booted us out the door," she said.
Tyco employs about 400 workers at three plants in the Rock Hill area after laying off 90 in December, said Tyco spokeswoman Maryanne Kane. The workers assemble electronic components for the computer, electronics and telecommunications industries.
About 180 of the workers are temporary, contracted for Tyco by Atlanta-based Imprax Performance Resources. Kane said they were hired to fill temporary jobs created by a sudden spike in orders, not to replace permanent workers. The laid-off workers received benefits including two to three weeks' pay.
"This area is very volatile and unpredictable," Kane said. "But when the company sees that permanent openings are justified by business demand, its intention is to hire back the previously employed workers. They are trained and have demonstrated quality service and skills."
Labor leaders weren't buying it. They urged the Tyco workers to organize into a committee to approach government officials about the incentives, and later to help organize the plant itself.
"Maybe we can save some jobs," said Dan Martin, chairman of the Charlotte Labor Day Parade committee.
"Maybe we can put pressure on Tyco. Maybe the people working there now won't lose their jobs."
Martin said that if Tyco workers had union representation, they still might have been laid off, but they would not have been quickly replaced by temporary workers.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers wants to find out if the remaining Tyco workers want to be organized, said IBEW organizer Billy Atkinson. A union could come in, even if the plant is staffed largely by temporary workers, he said: "They want benefits too."
The union faces an uphill battle. Unions represent 13.5 percent of U.S. workers, but just 3.6 percent of N.C. workers and 4 percent of S.C. workers, the two lowest rates in the country. Southern right-to-work laws, entitling workers at a unionized site to union benefits even if they don't join, limit organizing.
Two Tyco workers who asked not to named said morale at the plants is low even though remaining workers got a companywide 2.5 percent raise after the layoffs. "People are bitter," said one.
Donna DeWitt, president of the S.C. AFL-CIO, urged workers to investigate any use of tax dollars by Tyco. "If they use tax dollars, there is some recourse," she said, because such money comes with conditions.
The county issued $225 million worth of bonds for construction, which the company was to pay back, as well as $1.4 million in special source revenue bonds to buy the property and develop sewer service. AMP also got reduced property taxes for 20 years. Carl Gullick, the former York County Council chairman who negotiated the deal, said that if the company failed to meet investment and employment targets, it would have to repay the county.
If that occurs, Gullick said, "That's the best of all worlds for incentives. You still have a major employer but the county hasn't paid anything."
Tyco's Kane said the company has met its obligations, which included having at least 250 workers employed at the plant and a level of capital investment that she did not specify. Employment peaked at about 490 workers in the late 1990s, she said.
Officials in the S.C. Department of Revenue are reviewing whether Tyco has met AMP's obligations, department spokesman Danny Brazell said Thursday.
In 2001, the Carolinas lost 78,400 manufacturing jobs, a rate of nearly 7,000 a month. But instances of workers making a formal protest against their employers' actions are rare.
Last month, four Burlington Industries employees wrote a letter to a bankruptcy court to protest the company's plan to award bonuses to top executives who are steering Burlington through bankruptcy proceedings. A judge later allowed the bonuses.
Curwood Chappell, a York County Council member, said it is unlikely the incentives will be rescinded, but he is troubled by Tyco's actions.
"I don't know what we could do, but I am upset that we allow them to take advantage of a reduction in taxes and then put our original workforce out of a job and replace them with newcomers," he said. "But when somebody can capitalize on getting the same work for less pay, that's something corporate America sometimes does."
Staff writer Tony Mecia contributed to this article
IBEW Letter to Duke EmployeesEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – February 11, 2002
Lindsay Nelson, IBEW Organizer, has sent letters to Duke Energy employees at the three nuclear sites. The IBEW may not have a complete mailing list, as not all employees have received the letter. The letter is reproduced below for the employees who have not received it. The links are live, so no post card (from the Stone Age) is required.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
January 31, 2002
Duke Power Nuclear Workers
Dear Duke Workers:
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers wants to take this opportunity to wish each of you a Happy and prosperous New Year. In addition, we would like to provide you with some information Pertaining to the organized sector of the Nuclear Power Industry. Pleas find enclosed our brochure Containing news articles and some of our latest developments.
Our purpose for sending your this material is to maintain contact with nuclear workers here in the two Carolinas in an effort to keep you informed on how the IBEW continues to have a positive influence on the Nuclear Industry and on the members we represent.
Last year, the workers at SCE&G’s V. C. Summer Nuclear Plant organized and are nearing completion of Negotiations on tier first contract. If you would like to track their progress, the Volunteer Organization Committee has established a website at  http://vcs_voc.tripod.com. (Don’t use www!) You may also ask questions about what advantages and power they now have that they didn’t have before. For example, one of their Reactor Operators recently attended the IBEW Nuclear Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada where he received the most current detail on the industry. He also had an opportunity to share Information with other nuclear workers from not only the USA, but those from Canada as well.
On average, the IBEW negotiated wage increases of 5.57% across the board at our represented nuclear plants in 2001. This does not include increases in bonuses and other benefits. At the Crystal River site in Florida, the SRO’s received an 11% increase. This may not seem that impressive at first glance but one must consider that this was after CP&L, a non-Union company, bought out Florida Power Corporation which is represented by the IBEW. No bargaining unit workers lost their jobs after their restructuring while a couple hundred non-represented engineers and managers did.
The IBEW has enjoyed working with many of you over the past several years. We look forward to continuing that relationship by providing you with the tools needed to organize each of your plants and negotiate the best contracts to protect your rights and provide for you and your family’s future.
For more information on the IBEW, you can find us on the Web at  www.ibew.org. You may contact me at (888) 401-7173 (VM-PGR) or vie e-mail at LKNelson48@aol.com. We are also enclosing a postcard for your convenience to return requesting more information on a variety of subjects relation to Union representation. The IBEW is eager to assist your in any way possible.
Lindsay K. Nelson
Employee Advocate note: The address for the IBEW 10th District is: