Labor Notes: January 2012

The drop in the national unemployment rate from 9 to 8.6 percent in November was hailed by many as a welcome bit of good news. A closer look at the numbers, however, shows little reason to cheer. For one, many of the new jobs added in November were seasonal, temporary positions. For another, as Business Week noted, “In November about two-thirds of the improvement in the jobless rate came from people dropping out of the labor force and thus out of the calculation of the unemployed. Only one-third was because of actual job creation.” We still have a long way to go.

Unions fought Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 collective bargaining reform law because they suspected it would devastate their membership. Turns out they were right: The Racine, Wisconsin Journal Times reports: “Two area teachers’ unions have disbanded in relation to Gov. Scott Walker’s legislative changes to public union rules. The North Cape School District teachers’ union last week did not get a majority of members to vote for recertification, something now required annually because of Walker’s changes, which also essentially eliminated collective bargaining for teachers’ unions. The Yorkville School District teachers’ union did not hold a recertification vote, instead voting earlier this fall to simply disband.”

A Big Win for Big Labor: The union shakedown of Boeing over the company’s decision to locate some of its airline production in right-to-work South Carolina has been a resounding success. The National Labor Relations Board, which sided with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in the dispute, has agreed to drop its suit against Boeing – after, note the editors of the Washington Examiner, “the company agreed to keep production of a new version of its familiar 737 jet with the unionized workers in the Seattle area.” Suspiciously, the deal also included “substantial raises for the union workers and increased job security for them.”

On December 12th, Occupy Movement forces moved to disrupt port activity up and down the West Coast, from California to Oregon to Vancouver. To their credit, some unions distanced themselves from these antics; the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Building Trades Council have condemned the protests. Unfortunately, however, as the LA Times noted, “the Oakland Education Association, which represents teachers, is backing the protest and encouraging members to participate on their own time. The union has participated in Occupy events since the movement’s inception, contributing to sanitation at the Oakland City Hall plaza encampment before it was razed.”


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