"more labor news than a month of the L.A. Times"


L.A. Labor News * Editor: Jim Smith * April 4, 1995 * #1



* Justice for Janitors wins contract.

* L.A. Labor News hits the internet.

* Anti-labor bills in California.

* County workers battle layoffs.

* L.A. maritime workers fight foreign flagging.

* Henning retiring.

* Calendar.


Copyright 1995 L.A. Labor News. To reach L.A. Labor News:

FAX: 310/399-7352 * Voice: 310/399-8685

E-mail: LALabor@aol.com

Postal: P.O. Box 644, Venice, CA 90294

April 4, 1995 * #1



Justice for Janitors took their campaign to the streets &endash; and won!

A tentative agreement for a master contract with 20 janitorial firms was reached at 5 a.m. Monday, April 3, just two hours before janitors were planning to seize the Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles.

"We won this battle in the streets," SEIU Local 399 Vice-President Dave Stilwell told cheering janitors in front of the union hall.

Janitors, 95 percent of whom are Latino, showed the employers they were willing to put their bodies on the line. Fifty janitors and supporters were arrested, March 29, in the heart of Beverly Hills where they had taken over the intersection of Wilshire and Rodeo Drive for two and a half hours.

Shopping at Tiffany's, Christian Dior, Cartier and other toney establishments ground to a halt as shoppers gawked at 2,000 demonstrators blowing whistles, chanting "No contract, no peace," and "Si se Puede."

Thirty women janitors went to jail on March 8, International Women's Day, for a sit-in on Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood. Smaller demonstrations around the city have occurred regularly since the Dec. 10 campaign kickoff.

The tentative 5-year contract includes phased-in fully paid family health care, wage parity throughout the city, protection against staffing reductions and improved seniority language. Janitors will receive immediate raises of between four and 14 percent depending on their current salary.

SEIU Local 399 now represents 8,500 janitors, 70 percent of those who clean large commercial buildings, up from 1,500 in 1987.



This is the first edition of the first on-line newsletter covering the labor movement of greater Los Angeles.

It will also be sent to off-line subscribers via Fax machines, until everyone gets plugged into the internet. It will not be printed.

The purpose of this newsletter is to provide union news that the mass media chooses not to cover. Active union members may be well versed on the activities of their own local, but we often have a need for more information about what's going on throughout our movement.

Union subscribers may reprint articles in their local newsletters if full credit is given.

E-mail subscribers on America Online will receive a color issue formatted in helvetica. Subscriptions via the internet or other services will come as standard e-mail, for the time being.

Your help is needed in order to make this newsletter a valuable tool for labor activists. Please let us know of anything newsworthy taking place in your union. Our numbers and addresses are listed on every page.



Legislation that would outlaw the union shop will come to a vote in the Assembly Labor Committee, April 5. California AFL-CIO legislative/research director Tom Rankin believes there are enough votes to defeat AB 549, a so-called "right-to-work" bill.

Another Republican-sponsored bill, AB 398, that would take away overtime after eight hours will also be heard, and probably defeated, at the same time.

"We have the votes to defeat these anti-labor votes, but the margin is razor thin," says Rankin. A single defection, Sen. Diane Watson (D-L.A.) was enough to allow the anti-residential picketing bill, SB 85, to slip through the Criminal Procedure Committee. Residential picketing of major stockholders and corporate officials has been used by several unions to bring pressure on anti-union companies.

Also on the Republican agenda are a host of bills attacking affirmative action. The state federation is working hard to defeat them, says Rankin.



"This is not Orange County," chanted hundreds of county workers outside the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Inside, former liberal city council member Zev Yaroslavsky, now the newest Supervisor and fiscal conservative, argued that L.A. was very much like Orange County and layoffs of permanent county workers were appropriate.

Demonstrations and intensive lobbying by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 660 were instrumental in reducing the number of county workers hitting the unemployment line from a proposed layoff of 1200 in February to 304 on March 21. At press time, continued union pressure had further reduced the number of hospital workers actually getting layoff notices to 107.

County Administrative Officer Sally Reed and the emerging conservative majority on the Board of Supervisors were successful in getting authorization for the biggest county layoff in more than two decades. All of the layoffs are targeted for county hospitals which Supervisors Gloria Molina and Yvonne Burke, and the union, say are grossly understaffed already. In addition, 189 employees working on temporary contracts will be let go.

Local 660 General Manager Gilbert Cedillo said "Reed was playing on fears of an Orange County-like bankruptcy . . . to advance a conservative political agenda." County officials acknowledge that the layoffs will save only $3.6 million of a $300 million shortfall in its budget caused by the federal government's refusal to reimburse medi-Cal expenses.

Molina said part of the county's budget problem was caused by the 13 percent of its patients who have jobs but no health insurance. "We're giving a $300 million subsidy to employers," she exclaimed.

The union scored a major victory says Local 660 President Alejandro Stephens in getting Board agreement to reduce the practice of hiring temporary agency workers who he estimates may total ten percent of the county work force. "Temporary agency workers are treated like slaves," says Stephens. "They have no rights or benefits."

Local 660 is seeking an injunction to stop the layoffs. The temporary restraining order (TRO) request also asks the court to make the County end its abuse of workers, such as Kim Contreras, a "temporary," who has worked for the County as a computer operator at Olive View Medical Center for nearly four years.

The County is also trying to layoff 76 workers at the Registrar-Recorder's office in Norwalk. Several months ago, the Board of Supervisors approved a 3 percent reduction in the department's budget. County administrators interpreted this as authorization to begin layoffs on April 1. Local 660 obtained an injunction stopping the terminations until a hearing can be held in Superior Court, April 10.



Maritime unions are demonstrating and suing to protest an American shipping company taking a U.S. Government subsidy and then sending its work out of the country.

Nearly 300 union members and supporters turned out in front of the American Presidents Line (APL) dock in Wilmington, last month, to condemn the company for its announcement that six new ships will fly the Marshall Islands flag, not the stars and stripes.

"Foreign-flagging" of U.S. ships has decimated the U.S. merchant marine, says Cecil McIntyre, Branch Agent of the harbor's Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (MEBA). "We had 2,000 ships in the '60s, now were down to 490."

What particularly galls union members about the American Presidents Line action is that the company will continue to receive a handout from the government, supposedly for operating U.S.-flagged vessels. In response, five unions have filed suit against APL, Transportation Secretary Francisco Pena and the U.S. Maritime Administration. MEBA, Masters Mates and Pilots (MMP), Seafarers International Union, Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Marine Firemen claim that a government waiver given APL to foreign-flag the ships violates the Merchant Marine Act. APL officials were unavailable for comment.

MMP Port Agent Tom Kirker says the new ships were not even built in the United States. Three of the ships were built in Korea and three in Germany. APL even went to a Cyprus-based ship management company to dig up foreign crews for the new ships.

Bill Smith, First Engineer on the President Lincoln (all of APL's U.S.-flagged ships are named for presidents), says that while his job is secure, he fears that many of his co-workers with less seniority will lose their jobs as older U.S.-flagged ships are retired from service and new ships go to foreign flags. "Maybe we'll be seeing ships called the President Marcos or the General Manuel Noreiga," joked Smith.

Panama, Liberia, the Philippines and now the Marshall Islands are the flags of convenience for much of the world's shipping. "Foreign flagging allows the shippers to skip out on U.S. taxes, safety regulations and a unionized workforce," says McIntyre. "Instead they pay only a small annual registration fee to the foreign country."

The new ships would give the tiny Marshall Islands a total of 35 world-class vessels. While nominally independent, the Pacific Ocean republic and site of former U.S. hydrogen bomb testing receives $40 million of its $55 million annual budget from U.S. foreign aid.

The maritime unions may be able to count on the support of the powerful International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union. Its international executive board passed a resolution pledging "the full cooperation, support and strength of the ILWU. We stand by them (the maritime unions) &endash; as we have for generations and as they have for us &endash; in their struggle to preserve justice, jobs and their way of life."




Jack Henning, the executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation for the past 25 years, has announced his retirement.

No matter who takes Henning's place, he will be a tough act to follow. The plumber's son and former ambassador to New Zealand (appointed by Lyndon Johnson) is known for stirring anti-capitalist rhetoric. Kirk West, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said in 1993, "When he gave that speech, even though he was denouncing the 'captains of industry,' I had to keep myself from clapping because he was really talking about us."

Beginning in 1949, Henning worked as research director of the state federation for 10 years. Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown appointed him Director of the state Department of Industrial Relations in 1959.

At 79, Henning can still fire up a crowd, as he did in an address to a Labor Party Advocates meeting, Jan. 14 in Hayward, California. Denouncing Democrats as the "party of compromise," Henning called for the "political liberation" of labor.



Don't Become Roadkill On the Info Superhighway!

Labor Communicators will hold a training session on LaborNet, the AFL-CIO on-line connection. 9:30 a.m. April 5 * L.A. County Federation of Labor, 2130 W. 9th St., L.A. 213/381-5611.

Physicians for Social Responsibility/Liberty Hill sponsored workshop on the internet.

9 a.m. - Noon, April 18. Pre-register, $50. 310/458-1450.


L.A. County Federation of Labor

Delegates meeting (labor guests welcome). 7 p.m. April 17 * Musicians Hall,

817 N. Vine St., Hollywood. 213/381-5611.


Labor Party Advocates

L.A. chapter meeting. 7 p.m. April 19 * OCAW Local 1-547,

4637 Manhattan Beach Blvd (Exit 405 at Hawthorne).


New Directions for the UFW

Speaker: Dolores Huerta. Food, music. 6 p.m. social hour; 8 p.m. program, April 22 Unitarian Church, 1260 18th St., Santa Monica. $10 with dinner, $5 without.


Labor Notes Conference

Biennial rank-and-file "convention." April 28-30 * Westin Hotel, Detroit. 313/842-6262.


Workers' Memorial Day

Save the Occupational SAfety and Health Act. April 28 * Location to be announced. 213/381-5611.


The Wobbles

A film and program about the Industrial Workers of the World. 1 p.m. April 29 * Library for Social Studies and Research, 6120 S. Vermont Ave. 213/759-6063.


Copyright 1995 L.A. Labor News.

To reach L.A. Labor News:

FAX: 310/399-7352 * Voice: 310/399-8685

E-mail: LALabor@aol.com

Postal: P.O. Box 644, Venice, CA 90294

April 4, 1995 * #1