Today's Fair Shots - August 8th, 2017

1-UAW Lost an Election in Mississippi, But Showcased Brave Union Advocates

2-Nissan Worker: 'It Ain't Over Yet'

3-Dan Patrick's Amazing Admission: Problem With Some Cities Is They Are Run by Democrats

4-Forbes: Amazon Wages Don't Justify Millions in Incentives for Warehouses

5-Labor Department Grants Available to Help Women Get Apprenticeships 


1) The Texas AFL-CIO and the rest of the labor movement in the South is commiserating with intrepid working people at Nissan in Canton, Mississippi after their effort to speak up together through the United Auto Workers went down in defeat in a union election.

  The margin wasn't really close following an intense, high-dollar campaign against the union by Nissan and a host of outsiders.

  Organizing the South is hard, and that's an understatement. The election at Nissan was an egregious example of absence of democracy as we know it in union elections.

  If the union was the insurgent "candidate" in the Nissan election, think of the uphill climb it faced even after the union had judged that a majority of the workforce wanted to join:

  --Nissan was able to call as many mandatory meetings during work hours at the work site as it chose, during which a toxic mix of anti-union propaganda and threats were fed hour after hour to the "captive audience." The company was not required to air any contrary points or give the union either equal or unequal time. UAW had to do its campaigning outside work hours and, in most cases, individually at homes and other locations outside the plant. Neither opponents nor undecided workers were required to meet with UAW representatives at all;

  --Nissan bosses brought workers into one-on-one (or one-on-several) meetings to gauge how the employee was going to vote and to browbeat those who appeared to support the union. The pressure to tip one's hand was enormous. This undermines any notion that a union election ballot is "secret" in the same sense as a general election;

  -- Nissan blitzed employees and the Canton community with anti-union ads featuring opposition to the union and help from politicians, all the way up to the Governor of Mississippi; and

  --A complaint by a representative of the National Labor Relations Board suggests Nissan cheated, telling employees their jobs might go overseas or otherwise disappear in the event the workers won representation. The union further alleges the company provided faulty lists of workers, making contacts difficult or impossible in some cases. The potential penalty for this and other allegations is light enough to encourage companies to break the law. If UAW proves the charges to the NLRB, it is possible the union can win...wait for it...another election with similar rules.

  (As if this isn't enough, the usual suspects promoting anti-union legislation around the nation are trying at both the federal and state levels to count non-participants in union elections as "no" votes. Also on that agenda: preventing unions and companies from voluntarily entering into a union contract after a majority of workers have signed cards requesting representation.)

  These factors and more conspired to defeat the union in the election. The skewed rules are not going to change any time soon.

  UAW President Dennis Williams posted this statement after the vote:

  "The courageous workers of Nissan, who fought tirelessly for union representation alongside community and civil-rights leaders, should be proud of their efforts to be represented by the UAW. The result of the election was a setback for these workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere, but in no way should it be considered a defeat.

  "Perhaps recognizing they couldn't keep their workers from joining our union based on the facts, Nissan and its anti-worker allies ran a vicious campaign against its own workforce that was comprised of intense scare tactics, misinformation and intimidation.

  "American workers need champions more than ever. The workers of Nissan deserve to have the job security, safe working conditions and collective bargaining power that come only from belonging to a union. The UAW will continue to be on the frontlines of that fight for all workers."

  Read more: https://uaw.org/uaw-president-dennis-williams-statement-on-todays-nissan-vote/

2) Mike Elk's account of the Nissan election in the Guardian points up a brave aftermath:

  Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi, voted against unionizing on Fridayby a margin of 2,244 to 1,307. The vote was a disappointing defeat for those who hoped to open the door for union organizing across the American south.

 "With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard," said Nissan spokesperson Parul Baraj in a statement. "Our expectation is that the [United Automobile Workers] will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family."

  Pro-union workers said they had no intentions of leaving any time soon. Hardball company tactics against the vote have attracted the attention of federal labor authorities, which could call for a new ballot.

  "It ain't over yet," union leader Morris Mock told a crowd of dozens Nissan workers. "It ain't over yet. Nissan, all you did was make us mad. We are gonna fight a little harder next time. We are gonna stand a little harder next time. We are gonna shout a little harder next time because next time we are never gonna give up."

  Mock's speech was interrupted by chants of "six months" - the time in which workers hope the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) will grant them a new election.

  "Fight to win, fight to win, fight to win!" cried Hazel Whiting, whose son, Derrick Whiting, died after collapsing on the factory floor in 2015.

  Activists who fought for 14 years for the vote said they were proud that 1,307 people had voted to join a union. Nissan managers held one-on-one sessions with workers to discourage them. The company blitzed local media with anti-union ads.

   "I don't take this as a loss because I have learned so much, so much, during this process," union leader Betty Jones told a crowd of activists shortly after the vote count was announced. "I have made so many friends, family - y'all are my family!"           

  Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/05/mississippi-nissan-workers-vote-against-union

3) As the special session of the Texas Legislature entered its final 10 days, the battle between the state's leadership and its cities over who gets to govern at the local level continues apace.

  Texas Monthly's R.G. Ratcliffe reports Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, speaking on the Fox Business Network, laid bare the true motivation behind the battle is partisanship. It turns out Dan Patrick admits even though most mayoral elections officially do not run along partisan lines, the cities run by "Democrats" need to be slapped down. That is fairly amazing:

  Patrick cast the policy debates between the states and the cities as a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats:

"People are happy with their governments at the state level. They're not with their cities. By the way, Stuart, there's something going on that you really need to focus on. And that is, our cities are still controlled by Democrats. Where do we have all our problems in America? Not at the state level, run by Republicans, but in our cities that are mostly controlled by Democrat mayors and Democrat city councilmen and women. That's where you see liberal policies, that's where you see high taxes, where you see high street crimes. Look at New York, look at Chicago, look at...go around the country. So the only place Democrats have control of is our cities and they're doing a terrible job."

... In the past several election cycles, the only place the Texas Democratic voting strength has been growing is in the major cities. Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio all go Democratic. Last year, Patrick's son Ryan lost his district judge seat in Houston to a Democrat, who is now presiding over the criminal trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican.

Up to this point, the state's Republican leadership has been able to portray all of these actions against the cities as a mere public policy dispute. But in his statements on Fox, Patrick laid bare their intention. It's a partisan fight between the Republicans who control the state and the Democrats who control the cities-and those Republican suburbs might just be collateral damage.

Read more: http://bit.ly/2wB1yoQ

  The Austin American-Statesman posted a response by Austin Mayor Steve Adler:

  "If it's wrong to have lower jobless and crime rates than Texas as a whole, I don't want to be right," Adler posted, touting Austin's metrics. "Certainly not that far right."

Read more: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/steve-adler-blasts-dan-patrick-over-cities-comment/UeSONSGPYIsK31Gq4gbYEP/

4) One might think working people in Fall River, Massachusetts, a relatively poor city, would prosper after the opening of a major Amazon center that delivers hundreds of jobs (so long as automation doesn't take over) in 1.2 million square feet.

 But Forbes Magazine reports the pay in the "downtrodden" old mill location isn't going to do much to take workers above the poverty line, even though the filthy rich company managed to obtain $15 million in tax breaks to open up:

  Back in Fall River, MA, where 19% of the population are foreign born (more than the national average of around 13%), and at least a third of them are on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps, Amazon's hiring spree here won't make a dent in those numbers. So much for the tech world loving immigrants.

  While the Amazon warehouse will help the city collect more taxes (oh wait, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos mananged a cool $15 million in tax breaks), it won't make the locals any richer. At the very least, this is a decent part time gig at a brand named corporation; it's a car payment, or a fullish part-time job at 30 hours a week without benefits for a spouse with a college degree whose partner makes a little bit more.

  Starting pay at the Amazon warehouse, carved out of a large lot with a new road called Innovation Way designed for Amazon-bound trucks, is at $12.75, no degree required. For inventory managers with warehousing experience, the pay is $14.70 an hour and requires a bachelor's degree.

Hopefully, those hires do not have any student loans, or they will have to choose between rent, health insurance, a car, or Sallie Mae.

  Some of the jobs are temporary hires through Integrity Staffing. The job description for one of the $12.75 an hour gigs includes the ability to stand for 10 to 12 hours straight in a fulfillment center where the temperature will occasionally exceed 90 degrees.

  In some ways, this is almost like the 1920s, minus the child labor: a retail bigwig, in this case, Bezos and not R.H. Macy, has found a low skilled labor pool in need of money. If you can teach them how to sew a hem on a pair of slacks, you can teach them how to operate a fork lift and punch numbers into a computer.

  But seen another way, it is not those days of industrial expansion. Because the Amazon hiring that is part of today's job numbers is not indicative of the boom times in that city, when clothiers like Anderson Little (long out of business) made three-piece suits for Manhattan city slickers. The people working at Amazon won't make median income in one of the 10 poorest cities in Massachusetts. It is not much different from the typical retail job, the same ones in the ubiquitous American shopping mall now being replaced by e-commerce.

  Here's the math: a 30 hour work week at $15 an hour is $450 per week gross, or $1,800 a month. That comes out to less than $22,000 a year. At 40 hours, Amazon warehouse full timers are earning $28,800 before taxes.

  Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/08/04/china-like-wages-now-part-of-u-s-employment-boom/

5) The Department of Labor is calling attention to a grant program that aims to increase the number of women in apprenticeships. Unions would seem to be a natural fit for these grants, proposals for which are due by Wednesday, Aug. 23.

  Here is the posting:

  Department of Labor's Women Bureau Announces Funding Opportunity with Goal of Providing Technical Assistance to Employers and Labor Unions to Encourage Employment of Women in Apprenticeable Occupations and Nontraditional Occupations

  The Department of Labor's Women's Bureau has announced the availability of approximately $1.294 million in grant funds authorized by the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations ("WANTO") Act of 1992.

  This program is intended to provide technical assistance to employers and labor unions to encourage employment of women in apprenticeable occupations and nontraditional occupations ("A/NTO"), specifically by: 

  *       Developing (establishing, expanding or enhancing) pre-apprenticeship or nontraditional skills training programs designed to prepare women for careers in A/NTO; 

  *       Providing ongoing orientations for employers, unions, and workers on creating a successful environment for women in A/NTO; and/or

  *       Setting up support groups and facilitating networks for women in A/NTO, to improve their retention.

  Applicants may propose to provide technical assistance to support women's participation and success in the full range of industries in which women are traditionally underrepresented or disproportionately concentrated in the lower-wage occupations. Such industries include but are not limited to: advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, information technology, and transportation.

  To be eligible for funds under this grant program, an applicant must be a community-based organization ("CBO"). In awarding grants, the Department will give priority to applications that (the application requirements for this grant can be found in Section IV.B):

  *       Demonstrate experience preparing women to gain employment in A/NTO;

  *       Demonstrate experience working with the business community to prepare them to place women in A/NTO;

  *       Have tradeswomen or women in nontraditional occupations as active members of the organization, as either employed staff or board members; and

  *       Have experience delivering TA.

  Up to four (4) grants of $250,000 to $500,000 each will be awarded. Selection of grantees will be determined based on the strength of the proposal and on other factors as set forth in the evaluation criteria in Section V.A. 

  The Department is committed to producing strong evidence on the effectiveness of its grant programs, and full participation (by grantee and any sub-grantees or sub-contractors) in any evaluation initiated by the Department is a condition of all grant awards.

  Proposals are due by August 23, 2017.

  For full details, go to www.grants.gov and enter the code  FOA-WB-17-01 into the upper right box where it says, "Enter Keyword."