THE United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) returned to leaflet customers of US Phillips Seafood restaurants in support of The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) members at the Phillips Seafood processing plant in Lampung, Indonesia.
The union there is fighting for permanent jobs for workers who have been employed up to 15 years without a permanent contract. Following on from the UFCW’s May 9th action at Phillips’ flagship restaurant in Baltimore, UFCW Vice President Mark Lauritsen (who is also an IUF Vice President) and UFCW Local 27 members and officers leafleted and talked with customers outside two Phillips Seafood Restaurants in Ocean City, Maryland, Phillips Seafood Ocean City Crab House and Ocean City Seafood House.
In local discussions in Indonesia, management of Phillips Seafood has told the union and government officials that only US management has the authority to make the changes the union is demanding.
When a representative of US management visited the factory on June 12, however, he avoided talking with workers and the union and left the factory when workers organised a demonstration! Phillips management in Ocean City, like Phillips Baltimore management previously, called the police in an attempt to prevent the union from explaining the Phillips Indonesia situation to customers. The police allowed the action to proceed.
• Meanwhile another big battle is brewing between President Trump and trade unions — this time over his picks for the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB). On Wednesday, a Senate committee gave the green light to Republicans Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel Trump’s appointees for two vacant spots on the NLRB.
Both lawyers have a proven track record of fighting against unions — and the AFL-CIO has already voiced its opposition to their nominations. If approved by the full Senate, Kaplan and Emanuel will change the five-person NLRB majority from Democrat to Republican.
The Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 along party lines to send Kaplan and Emanuel to the floor for a full vote. Georgia, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson said in a statement after the vote that the NLRB had been too favourable to unions under President Obama.
Isakson said: ‘By returning the composition of the National Labour Relations Board from a partisan operation to one that will look out for both hardworking Americans and job creators, we are taking another step toward helping restore America’s economy.’
Kaplan is now the chief counsel for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Emanuel is an attorney in California with Littler Mendelson, and works on labour and employment matters. He’s represented clients before the NLRB.
He’s also represented business groups that want to change California state law because they say it allows unions to trespass on their property. If approved, Kaplan and Emanuel will join existing NLRB members Philip Miscimarra, a Republican and the chairman, and Democrats Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran.
In coming months the NLRB is expected to weigh-in on several issues of importance to workers and unions — and possibly overturn some key Obama-era decisions. The decisions that could be rolled back include a ruling that gave graduate students at private universities the right to join a union; a ruling that helped small groups of workers form a union within a larger company; a ruling that made it easier to hold companies responsible for labour violations committed by its contractors and a rule that sped-up the timetable for unionisation votes.
Business groups oppose the faster election process, arguing it denies employers time to make their case against joining a union. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka sent a letter to the Senate outlining his objections to having Kaplan and Emanuel on the NLRB. The letter states: ‘After reviewing their records and statements at their confirmation hearing, the AFL-CIO has concluded that we must oppose these nominees and urge the Senate to reject these nominations.’
Neither Kaplan or Emanuel in the past or in their presentations to the Senate committee demonstrated a willingness to uphold the NLRB’s basic mission of protecting workers rights, the AFL-CIO wrote.
The letter cited Emanuel’s track record of only representing employers — and the union-busting history of the law firm where he works — as well as his admission at his confirmation hearing that he has never once taken on the case of a worker or a union. For Kaplan, the letter detailed his lack of labour law experience, noting that his only background is in drafting policies to weaken worker protections in the National Labour Relations Act.
The letter adds: ‘In recent years, some in Congress and in the business community have launched relentless attacks on the NLRB and sought to get key NLRB decisions and actions overturned.
‘Kaplan and Emanuel have been part of these attacks, and they said nothing at the confirmation hearing to distance themselves from these attacks or suggest that they would bring a less hostile, and more pro-worker view to their work.
‘Nor did either nominee make adequate commitments to recuse from cases and issues where there is real concern, based on their prior work and writings, that they have prejudged the issue and would not approach it with an open, unbiased mind,’ it concluded.
• The largest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’s history, and the first in Boston for 31 years is continuing at the Tufts Medical Centre in Boston as there is still no agreement between 1,200 Massachusetts Nurses Association members and management at the hospital.
Barb Tiller, an operating-room nurse who has been working there for 27 years, said: ‘Nurses don’t stand up for ourselves. We stand up for our patients; we stand up for our families when we go home. We stand up for everyone else. But we can’t work under these conditions anymore – like being locked in the operating room with no water, no bathroom break, no meal break, for 12 hours at a time.’
Alyssa Gold, a cardiology nurse whose 16 months at Tufts mirrors the duration of the contract negotiations between the nurses and hospital management, says: ‘I was excited to start working at Tufts because the best learning for nurses happens in Boston hospitals.
‘I am not the one deciding to give us too many patients to give the kind of care we all desire to give – management is, and the strike shows what good nurses we are because we are the ones who are trying to fix the situation.’ The central issue in the Tufts dispute – is that nurses are being asked to work too many hours and there are too few staff, leading to unsafe conditions.
Another issue in the Tufts strike is the gender pay gap, particularly the retirement gender gap where nurses, who are usually women, get paid lower wages than other workers doing similar hours with a comparable amount of training which are more likely to be staffed by men. During 35 separate negotiations sessions that began in April 2016, Tufts management has dug in its heels.