"more pro-labor news than a year of the L.A. Times"


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



* Bargaining clock stopped at AT&T

* Korean workers fight the phone company.

* Blue Cross kicks out union janitors.

* Protest targets hospital closing.

* The L.A. Times discovers labor.

* Merger mania.

* AFL-CIO endorses Holden, Romero.

* Kirkland update.

* Horcher loss.

* 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

June 1, 1995 * #4



AT&T has begun serious bargaining with representatives of 110,000 employees, four days after their contracts expired.

The company was preparing to make a comprehensive proposal, Wednesday night, on all outstanding issues except retiree medical benefits.

AT&T wants to make recent retirees pay for much of the medical premiums. That issue has been wrangled over for the past several days and was put aside, for now, by mutual agreement.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), representing 90,000 workers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), with 20,000 members are in their third round of joint bargaining.

Other issues on the table include contracting out, wages and employee medical payments.

AT&T had previously made what Jeff Miller, CWA Information Officer, described as a "token offer of 7 percent over three years. We expect to get a better one tonight," he said.

Both unions have received overwhelming authorization to strike but have continued bargaining beyond the May 27 contract expiration.

Union members have been collecting "carrier change" cards which authorize the union to temporarily change a subscriber's long distance carrier.

"We may have to dig in and go to mobilization tactics in a big way," says Miller.

Copies of the carrier change cards can be obtained from CWA District 9 at 213/385-7555.




by Young-jae Park

Since early May, union leaders have been calling for negotiations with management regarding plans by the Korean government to privatize the telecommunications industry, for wage increases and for the renewal of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The 53,000-member union is actively against the privatization scheme, which includes plans to immediately dismiss thousands of workers. On four occasions planned meetings between the union and management have not brought satisfactory results. The president of the company has either not appeared, or has been unwilling to genuinely discuss these matters with the union.

On May 16, Korea Telecom declared its intention to dismiss the union chairman Yoo and fourteen others, and meted out punitive measures against 49 other unionists for what it described as illicit unionism. This action triggered a protest sit-in by union members. The same day about 5,000 workers attended a meeting calling for the company to withdraw these plans, to stop its policy of oppressing union activities and calling for it to enter into genuine negotiations with the union.

President Kim, Young-Sam has termed the union activities as "national-security threatening" and said the government will deal sternly with the workers.

The union proposed to the government and to Korea Telecom management that the three parties have a 10-day cooling off period, to enable genuine negotiations to take place. However this offer was rejected, and on the next day arrest warrants were issued for 20 workers.

In late May seven union members began an indefinite hunger strike at Chogye-sa Buddhist temple in central Seoul, They are demanding that charges be dropped against core union members and that the riot police be withdrawn from the company headquarters and its branches.

Please send a protest fax to the government at follow list, demanding that the oppressive labour policy of the government be immediately lifted, and for the arrested workers to be released.

* President Kim Young-Sam:

Fax number 82-2-770 0253 or 733 6362

* Minister of Justice: 82-2-504 3337

* Minister of Labour: 82-2-503 7171

* Korea Telecom: 82-2-750 3033

Please send a copy of your fax or faxes to L.A. Labor News (fax: 310/399-7352) for transmittal to Korean Journalist Young-jae Park or contact him directly by e-mail at progress@nuri.net




Blue Cross, a "non-profit" provider of health care has become the only company to balk at unionized janitors after last April's historic L.A.-wide Justice for Janitors contract settlement.

The "Blues" switched from ISS, a unionized janitorial company, to non-union Able Building Maintenance. Fourteen union members working at 21115 Oxnard St. in Warner Center lost their jobs. They would have gone from their current hourly wage of $4.25 to $6.80 over the life of the contract.

SEIU Local 399, which represents the janitors, has been conducting regular picketing and leafleting at the building.

Blue Cross, a non-profit organization owns 80 percent of Wellpoint, a for-profit company which just merged with Health Systems International. The resulting company gives Blue Cross $5.4 billion in assets and 4.4 million members, second only to Kaiser.

Ironically, Blue Cross has recently been targeting the Latino market in search of more members.



Hundred of patients and SEIU 660 members are expected to caravan from Antelope Valley to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, June 1 for a 9:30 a.m. demonstration against the projected closing of the only public hospital in Antelope Valley.




It's not often that the Los Angeles Times stoops to take notice of working people and their unions. Until two weeks ago, the multi-billion dollar corporation had probably never devoted anywhere near 20,000 words to the subject.

Beginning on May 14, a five-part Column One series, "Cat On Strike, The Waning Power of Unions," shined a spotlight on one particularly bitter strike and drew conclusions on the fate of the labor movement.

The Times handed the job to Barry Bearak, a New York-based reporter whose specialty is in-depth Column One stories or series about a variety of social issues, none of which have previously included labor.

Part one set the tone for the series. Entitled, "After a Long Tug of War, Labor Slips," it included comments by the writer, such as: "It may have been easy to get dewy-eyed about it in the '30s. But what was Labor today if not tired and mulish and out-of-step."

Bearak follows the familiar format of many conservative politicians, academics and "think-piece" writers in setting the stage for the series. He spends about 40 to 50 column inches of type explaining that unions were once needed by workers against rapacious capitalists. Unions have done their work so well, Bearak tells us, that workers live in the suburbs and consider themselves middle class. Unions were not "an avenging force for the exploited and downtrodden."

Much of Bearak's argument would be agreed with by many labor union activists. By building on arguments that are even voiced by some international union presidents, The Times is able to drive home its thesis that unions are hopelessly outclassed by corporations. Anyone reading "The Waning Power of Unions," who had no other information about unions, would have to be crazy to get mixed up with these organizations.

Bearak paints a picture of a world where innocent workers are torn between the power plays of big corporations and big unions. Little attention is given to the initial contract proposals from Caterpillar, which once made, were set in concrete. Almost anyone who has been at a private sector bargaining table during the past ten years has seen a variation of Caterpillar's take-it-or-leave-it style of bargaining.

When a company fails to bargain in good faith and the NLRB doesn't enforce the law, unions are often left with only two options. The first, which the UAW chose, is to engage in a war of attrition, which may include strikes, boycotts, corporate campaigns, community pressure and militant in-plant tactics. The alternative is to cave in to the company's demands. If management is smart, there will be a sizable percentage of workers who won't be hurt too badly, at least in the short run. The problem with option two is that repeated defeats demoralize workers and lead to a organization that is too weak to fight against further attacks by the company.

Unfortunately the Caterpillar scenario gets played out all too often. But by focusing just on this strike, the series gives the impression that there is no other face of labor. Equal time should have been given to struggles like Justice for Janitors, in which the union is, in fact, "an avenging force for the exploited and downtrodden."

By far the shortest article of the series was the last one. It had been touted as "The Future of Unions," which may have caused some readers to think it would discuss exciting developments like massive civil disobedience and industry-wide organizing campaigns. Those readers clearly weren't paying attention. The future of unions, to which the past four articles had been building, is simply further decline.

The world is changing, says the article sub-text, and unions can no longer provide security. Fay Vogelsang ("who sticks with the strike despite doubts") says "It seems like no one's job is safe anymore." In case you didn't know it, "Labor is like a half-dead tree, taking nourishment from those few roots that remain hearty," says Bearak, the gardener, who has planted more than a few seeds of his own in this series.

In fairness, Bearak does touch upon a couple of options for labor. "Labor-management cooperation" is given three paragraphs in the rush to end the story. "Team work" is not an option many union activists would choose to save labor.

On the other hand, "Maybe the only next step is to unionize the world," say Vogelsang (who seems to have recovered from her doubts). After trivializing the concept, California AFL-CIO leader Jack Henning is quoted on the need for global solidarity. But Bearak then disposes of international cooperation by asking, "Would Fay Vogelsang risk her comfortable home and Plymouth Voyager to help aggrieved Caterpillar workers in Indonesia?"

After a couple of paragraphs devoted to the need for organizing and one on the "vision thing," we get back to the theme of how Caterpillar is bulldozing labor to oblivion.

The series could be made into a nice booklet by a union buster working in opposition to a union organizing campaign. Company supervisors could then distribute it to employees with a hand-written note (always a nice touch): "Bill, Take a look at this objective reporting piece about unions by the Los Angeles Times. It really opened my eyes! Your pal and super, Chuck."

Did top management at The Times conspire together to come up with a sophisticated hatchet job on labor. No, it's the way they think all the time. Louis and Richard Perry wrote about the role of The Times in the preface to their 1963 book, "A History of The Los Angeles Labor Movement," as follows: "In the forefront of the open-shop forces was the Los Angeles Times, first under the leadership of General Harrison Gray Otis and later under his son-in-law, Harry Chandler.

What really made The Times mad was the 1910 bombing of its building, done perhaps because of its anti-labor viewpoint. For all of its history, the Los Angeles Times has been proudly non-union. Once, in 1964, the Pressmen's union was able to win an election. It was decertified two years later after management gave raises to non-union departments and promised them to the pressmen if they would get rid of the union.

In recent years, blatant anti-unionism has been replaced by a softer sell. The change of tone has paralleled the conversion of a family-owned newspaper into a Fortune 500 corporate giant. In spite of the vast media empire Times Mirror has become, the Chandler family has been able to hold on to more than 50 percent of the stock.

The Times showed it still has a few tricks up its sleeves two years ago when reporters tried to form a union. After years of a family atmosphere, veteran writers began sensing something was wrong as many of them were suddenly transferred to suburban bureaus or given unpleasant assignments.

In-house newsletters from then-publisher David Laventhol and still-editor Shelby Coffey talked about the need for cutbacks. In fact, organizers found the Times had cut 1,382 of 8,625 jobs since 1989. With an eye on declining stock prices, hints were made that the annual CRI (Company Rate Increase) raise would be ended.

Probably most disturbing for the journalists was worry about less management concern for journalistic standards. Not only was the newsroom staff being cut back but no one new was being hired. Instead,

The Times expanded the use of independent contractors. This category of free agent workers, historically used only to deliver the paper each morning, was now writing the copy. The beauty for management was that independent-contractor reporters earned half the salary normally paid. They had no benefits, not even workers compensation insurance. Best of all, they could be fired at will, since they really didn't work for The Times at all. No wonder experienced reporters were no longer valued.

A series of meetings in employees' homes and restaurants led to an invitation to the Newspaper Guild to help with an organizing drive. Almost immediately, assurances were made by management that the CRI would be paid after all. Laventhol and Coffey began holding coffee-break meetings with their new friends, the staff. Rumors went around that management secretly knew the names of everyone on the Guild committee.

In the end, The Times simply bought everyone out. Buyout offers were so generous that even the most committed to a unionized Times succumbed. Top writers, editors, critics, columnists and cartoonists left in droves. One reporter admitted to walking off with nearly $400,000, including his cashed-out pension. For a corporation that made $126.2 million in profits last year, it was chicken-feed to keep the union out.

In a city that once supported five downtown daily newspapers, the Los Angeles Times enjoys a near monopoly on the delivery of the news in printed form. Competition no longer drives the newspaper to treat its best workers as part of the family.

Still chiseled in granite at the front entrance to Times Mirror Square are the words "True Industrial Freedom," which Gen. Otis explained 80 years ago as simply, "no unions." Today's attitude seems to say, if some of our employees want a union, we'll just get rid of them and get a new crew. Gen. Otis would have been proud.



Where six unions existed, there will soon be only three, but with more strength and resources than before.

The United Rubber Workers will become a division of the United Steel Workers of America; The Newspaper Guild will become a sector of the Communications Workers of America; and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union with combine to form UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

Steve Nutter, ILGWU vice-president says the new merged union, UNITE, will start with a $10 million pot for organizing.

"Both unions are rich in talent and experience and workers being exploited more than they have in years," says Nutter. "The soil is fertile for organizing by UNITE."

Three conventions will be held in Miami Beach. ILGWU meets June 23-27, followed by ACTWU on June 28. If both approve the merger, UNITE will meet June 29-30.

The United Rubber Workers union will merge with the much larger Steel Workers union at a special convention. The Rubber Workers just ended a painful 10-month strike against Firestone/Bridgestone with an unconditional offer to return to work.

Neither union is new to the merger game. The Rubber Workers official name is United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum & Plastic Workers of America. Some of the Steel Workers past partners have been the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers; the Aluminum Workers of America; the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers; the United Stone and Allied Product Workers, Allied and Technical Workers; and the Upholsterers International Union.

The Newspaper Guild will vote at a June convention and in a membership referendum this fall to join the half-million member CWA.



The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor endorsed three Committee On Political Education (COPE) recommendations and reversed another, say delegates to the May 15 meeting.

Delegates approved an "open" endorsement in two races to be decided in the June 6 runoff election. They are the 5th L.A. City Council District contested by Mike Feuer and Barbara Yaroslavsky and the 5th L.A. Board of Education District in which David Tokofsky and Lucia Rivera are vying for election.

Tokofsky had received $30,000 from the United Teachers of Los Angeles during the primary while Rivera had received strong support from the Service Employees and other unions.

The delegates also acceded to the request to endorse Nate Holden over Stan Sanders in the 10th City Council District.

However, a recommendation to endorse David Kessler, for Community College Board of Trustees, did not receive the two-thirds vote needed. A motion for an open endorsement was also defeated. A final motion to endorse Gloria Romero received the exact number of votes needed to pass, according to delegates.

In the primary election, Romero, a college professor and union activist, finished first among six candidates. If elected, Romero would become the second Latino of seven Trustees governing a student population that is 40 percent Latino.

Rivera and Tokofsky are competing in a district running from the east San Fernando Valley to East Los Angeles in which 87 percent of the students are Latino.

Romero reportedly received a $1,000 campaign contribution from COPE as a result of the AFL-CIO endorsement.



International union presidents controlling a majority of the votes at this October's AFL-CIO convention have announced in opposition to another term by incumbent president Lane Kirkland.

The commitee, which has not yet named itself, found candidates or developed a platform announced May 23 that 21 union presidents representing 7.3 million members &endash; 56 percent of the federation's reported 13,018,550 members &endash; have joined.

"This isn't about personalities. Lane Kirkland has served long and well. Now we need to move on," said Gerald McEntee, AFSCME president and spokesperson of the group.

The group's public relations officer, Bob Harman, told L.A. Labor News that position papers discussing a platform are circulating among the member presidents.

This week's rumored candidates include Arthur Coia (Laborers); Rich Trumka (Miners); John Sweeney (Service Employees); George Kourpias (Machinists); and Bill Lucy (AFSCME).

Another hot rumor is that if Sweeney becomes AFL-CIO president, AFSCME and SEIU will merge, forming a mega-union of more than two-million members.




A June 6 vote election for Assembly Speaker may show just how important one representative can be.

Despite Labor's best efforts, Paul Horcher was recalled from his Diamond Bar Assembly seat by slightly less than a 2-1 margin.

Horcher's vote has made the difference in committee on several key bills, including blocking one that would eliminate overtime after an 8-hour day.





A Conference Sponsored By LaborNet-Institute For Global Communications, San Francisco State University Labor Studies Department, Labor Video Project, Holt Labor Library

Saturday July 1, 1995 - $45.00; $25.00 For Students & Seniors.

San Francisco State University Multi-Media Center, Market & Fremont St.,San Francisco.

The information and technological revolution is having profound effects for all workers in the world economy. It is time that labor get in gear to use this information revolution.

Presenters will be from locals, international unions and activists in the labor movement.


*World Wide Web Pages & The San Francisco Newspaper Strike

*CD Roms & Labor Education and History

*Labor Computer Industry Conferences and How To Build Them

*New Technology For Disabled Workers

*Electronic Mail and Using The Internet For Research

*NAFTA, GATT, EU & International Labor Networking

*Organizing Strategies on the Internet: How To Make the Most of the Technology

Reservations will be required by June 10, 1995.

For Further Information:


c/o LaborNet@IGC (415)442-0220 x128



Working . . . The Musical

with new material from Studs Terkel's The Great Divide. 8 p.m., Saturday, June 3 and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West (near Universal Studios). $15. A fundraiser for West Side COPE. For more information call Carole Sickler 213/381-5611.


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

May 10, 1995 * #3