Presenting National and International Labor News, February 9, 2013…………
From Auburn, Washington……
A 2 month long strike at the Auburn, Washington United Natural Foods (UNFI) Distribution Center is over. Members of Teamsters Local 117 voted to end a 2 month strike and will be back at work on February 11, 2013. The strike originated over the low wages paid by UNFI and their disregard for workplace regulations. UNFI is currently being investigated by the National Labor Regulations Board for 45 federal labor law violations. The wage paid at the UNFI Distribution Center is 25% less than the pay received by unionized labor performing similar work in the area. Workers voted to ratify the new contract which includes wage increases and a reinstatement of 72 workers who had previously been replaced.
Note: I worked for a very long time as labor in a grocery distribution warehouse. This is a very physically demanding labor intensive job. The company I worked for used prison labor to reduce their costs. Congratulations to Local 117.
From Los Angeles, California……
In a labor victory that has real long-term ramifications for workers in both the port and the trucking industries, members of Teamsters Local 848 have ratified a new multi-year contract that includes significant pay and worker protection provisions. This was a particularly significant labor victory for two reasons; 1. This is the first new port truck driver union formed in over 30 years at the L.A. port, 2. This victory has the potential to spread to other port workers in L.A. and across the country. The new contract includes a 6 dollar an hour raise and most importantly, a pension plan. Remember pension plans?
From South Africa…….
South Africa has the highest Gini (the Gini score measures a country’s income inequality) score on the planet. The workers of South Africa are still fighting to overcome the effects of the country’s apartheid policies. Workers in the agriculture industry have won a 50 percent increase in the minimum wage for farm workers. The new wage will take effect on March 1, 2013. Industry is saying the new wage will lead to job losses and increased food prices. This is the same argument that is routinely put forth in America to justify the pitiful wages paid to American agriculture laborers.
Greece has an official unemployment rate of 26%. Austerity measures have had a devastating impact on the country. Unions from both the public and private sector are calling for a National Strike on February 20th to protest the austerity policies. Americans should look to Spain and Greece to see the real world implications that austerity measures have on people.