This week in labor

Wal-Mart wins ‘Grinch of Year’ title

For the second year in a row, Wal-Mart has won Job with Justice’s “Grinch of the Year” contest. The company is held in contempt by millions of Americans for leading the global race to the bottom through its trademark low wages, insufficient health care and discrimination.

JwJ reported that 13,134 activists took time out of their holiday schedules to cast their votes for top Grinch online, with Wal-Mart receiving 52 percent of the total.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came in second place with 24 percent. The American Federation of Government Employees nominated Rumsfeld after he proposed stripping 600,000 federal employees of their collective bargaining rights.

Verizon Wireless took third place with 16 percent, and President Bush received the bulk of the 8 percent of the votes that went to write in candidates.





Service Employees add 26,000 workers in Washington state

A special convention of an independent union of classified school workers in Washington state voted in mid-December to affiliate with the Service Employees.

The new affiliate, the Public School Employees of Washington, will be SEIU Local 1948. It represents 26,000 classroom para-educators, campus security, computer technicians secretaries, bus drivers, food service, maintenance and other workers in 175 school districts all across Washington state, union President George Dockins, an Eastmont maintenance employee, said. Local 1948’s first priority will be to lobby for more money for K-12 education from the state Legislature in Olympia, the union said.





Ralph’s Grocery indicted

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles issued a 53-count indictment against Ralphs Grocery Co., alleging that during the bitter 2003-2004 lock-out, the company used false names and Social Security members to secretly hire back workers.

In spite of the Department of Justice’s far-reaching factual allegations, the National Labor Relations Board has yet to issue a complaint against Ralphs for its misconduct during that struggle.





And in the next aisle ...

Another Southern California grocery chain, Albertsons, wants to close their unionized stores, get rid of the current workers, and open as part of a new chain which they also own, says the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. The Fed successfully mobilized for passage of the Grocery Worker Retention ordinance in the L.A. City Council. The ordinance requires that new storeowners recognize seniority and that employers be prohibited from firing employees without just cause. The ordinance’s stated purpose is to protect the public’s health and safety by ensuring proper food safety. Its author, council member Alex Padilla, said that safe handling of food products by the new grocery store requires the retention of experienced employees.





USAS winter conference

Students Against Sweatshops has announced its annual winter conference will be held Feb. 9-12 in the San Francisco Bay area. “We will strategize, collaborate, share skills and otherwise get down to tear it up for the spring!” the group promises. Go to www.studentsagainstsweatshops.org for more info.





HR 676 support snowballs in December

Endorsements for HR 676, the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, just keep on coming.

IBEW Local 2222, representing 4,000 Boston-area Verizon telecommunications workers, voted to endorse the legislation at its Dec. 7 membership meeting. “From our experience in the phone company, I know we can’t solve the problems in the health care system through collective bargaining or by just tinkering with incremental reforms,” said Local 2222 steward John Horgan, a telephone lineman and member of Jobs with Justice’s health care action committee.

The following week, Reps. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) all added their names to the bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. to bring the number of co-sponsors up to 63.

Four days later, Wisconsin’s South Central Federation of Labor, representing 35,000 workers, became the seventh central labor council to endorse HR 676.

The legislation would provide for a universal comprehensive single payer health care system to all residents of the U.S.





Washing Angelica’s dirty linen

“It’s wrong that after 27 years of working in this plant I still earn $8.32 an hour,” said Lucia Lopez, one of 300 workers who went on strike at Angelica Corp.’s giant Colton, Calif., laundry facility Dec. 20. The facility provides linen service to major hospitals in Southern California and Nevada. Another issue that enrages the employees is the company’s plan to stop providing uniforms to second and third shift employees. The company says they want first shift employees to have company uniforms because customers who tour the plant will see them.

The workers are members of Unite Here.





Cheney puts the ‘vice’ in VP

“What kind of vice president would fly in from half a world away just to inflict more pain and suffering on poor people, sick people and young people struggling to get a college education?” asked AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in blasting Vice President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate to pass budget legislation cutting Medicare, Medicaid and student loan programs.

This week in labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (rwood@pww.org).