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“A Ferocious Corporate Overlord”: No Surprise; Trump Is A Union Buster At His Own Hotel

Their boss is famous for firing people with merciless gusto. So you can imagine it took just as much chutzpah for the workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas to rally today and demand the right to unionize and to gain respect on the job.

While the Donald seeks election to a new post, roughly 500 workers at the hotel are focusing on a very different vote: They’ve been pushing to form a union for months, and are trying to snatch a bit of Trump’s campaign spotlight this summer to call on him “Make America Great Again” right on his home turf. As a recent ad for the unionization campaign proclaims: “We think that working for Mr. Trump in Las Vegas is a chance to make our lives better…but only if he pays us the same wages and benefits as everyone else working on the Strip.”

Of course, what do they expect from the man who’s built a brand for himself as a ferocious corporate overlord? His attitude on the campaign trail is as ruthless as his management style, laced with racial invective and almost self-caricaturing jingoism. (Not to mention hypocrisy—just ask the many low-wage immigrant laborers he has exploited over the years). But amid the buffoonery, the local hospitality union, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, is pressing serious charges of labor violations and denouncing his operations as a bastion of union busting in an otherwise union town.

In fact, the nearby Las Vegas strip and downtown area have a roughly 95 percent union density. Local 226, a Nevada affiliate of UNITE HERE, recently sealed several multi-year contracts covering tens of thousands of local food-service workers, housekeepers, and other hospitality staff, featuring wages and benefits topping $20 an hour, full health and retirement benefits, and workplace-grievance procedures. Not surprisingly, Trump’s staff is heavily comprised of immigrants whose terms of work lag behind union hospitality workers in benefits, wages, and job security.

About 86 percent of workers in the planned bargaining unit have signed “Union Yes” cards. UNITE HERE is seeking neutrality from the employer and a straight card-check majority vote for unionization, rather than plodding through the NLRB ballot process. Nonetheless, according to the union, the management has run a stealth campaign to persuade hotel staff that organizing is not in their best interest.

According to NLRB charges filed by the union, five hotel workers were “unfairly suspended for exercising their legal right to wear a union button and organize their coworkers” last year (they were eventually reinstated with back pay, along with an agreement to post workers rights publicly and not interfere with future organizing). Last June, the union filed new charges alleging the management “violated the federally protected rights of workers to participate in union activities” including “incidents of alleged physical assault, verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats by management.” The workers charged the managers with blocking organizers from distributing pro-union literature in the workers’ dining room, while stealthily allowing anti-union activists to campaign during work hours.

Sebastian Corcordel, who came to the United States from Romania over a decade ago and has been working as a server at Trump International since it opened in 2008, hopes a union can provide the job security he feels his workplace has long lacked, along with long-overdue raises. The resistance facing the campaign, in his view, underscores how badly the staff needs basic protections and grievance procedures at work.

“I see [this] with myself, and with my coworkers. They try to [apply] pressure: Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t go with the union,” he says of the management, pointing to a flurry of anti-union propaganda flyers and posters. Some coworkers are wary of the organizing drive, he concedes: “Some of them are very very afraid to be a part of the union…[but] It’s their right, and nobody can retaliate against them.” And when others criticize his support for the campaign, the proud naturalized citizen replies, “This is my right. Like the right to vote.”

The Trump workers build on a legacy of social movements on the Strip. In the 1960s, Las Vegas was a battlefield for civil-rights struggles in the push to desegregate casinos. In later years racial conflicts would erupt and intersect periodically with labor strife, as militant black working-class communities formed the backbone of the gambling industry. Under the leadership of former hotel worker turned union chief Hattie Canty, UNITE HERE’s multiethnic coalition staged massive strikes and won contracts that set a remarkably high bar for labor rights in the post-industrial Sunbelt economy. Christopher Johnson on BlackPast.org notes: “By 1996, room maids could earn approximately $9.25 an hour; more than double the average wage for hotel maids in other cities. For Hattie Canty, as with most unionized workers, these wages had enabled a middle class lifestyle.”

But Vegas’s good fortunes are fleeting, The recession hit the low-wage workforce hard, and unemployment spiked among Nevada’s black and Latino populations.

As a core immigrant job sector, the hospitality industry has actually managed to rebound somewhat, compared to another major industry for low-wage immigrants, construction, making the Vegas hotels that much more vital to the Latino community’s long-term economic recovery. Still, both industries are rife with occupational hazards, abuse and discrimination. Embattled unions like Local 226 are holding the line in Vegas against the brand of neoliberal hegemony Trump champions.

Trump’s election platform promises the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants and sealing the borders, supposedly to protect American workers. But Corcordel scoffs at the notion of immigrant workers’ somehow taking more than they give to the economy—particularly the chunk of it controlled by Trump himself:

The entire hotel is immigrants.… So I don’t know why he’s against immigrants, because we do our job very fairly and we help him too to grow [the business].… how you gonna have the hotel without workers to work?

While Trump trumpets his plan to make the country “great again” and “improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans,” the new Americans who make his businesses run each day hope their boss comes around to letting them finally improve their own jobs, wages, and security—by forming their own more perfect union.

 

By: Michelle Chen, The Nation, August 21, 2015

 

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrant Laborers, Unions | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Tsunami Of Anti-Union Legislation”: The GOP’s State And National Assault On Labor Rights

The past 15 months have seen a remarkable assault by the GOP on federal labor rights.

Republicans have introduced numerous bills designed to undermine the National Labor Relations Act, all with wonderfully deceptive names suggesting they would strengthen the rights of ordinary workers: Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, Employee Rights Act, Jobs Protection Act, Employee Workplace Freedom Act, Secret Ballot Protection Act, National Right to Work Act, Truth in Employment Act, National Labor Relations Reorganization Act, and others.

Republicans on the federal level have also attempted to defund and abolish the National Labor Relations Board, subjected its Democratic members to repeated subpoenas and requests for information, protested President Obama’s recess appointments to the board, joined lawsuits by corporate and anti-union organizations and threatened Congressional Review Acts – which could happen within weeks – to block the implementation of new board rules streamlining union certification elections and requiring notice posting on federal labor rights.

Rarely, if ever, has the board, and the rights it enforces, been subjected to such relentless attacks. And the attacks continue. While impressive, this assault on federal labor rights pales in comparison to what has been happening – occasionally in full view, but mostly with little notice – at the state level. Almost everyone knows about the 2011 legislation stripping public sector workers of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio, and Indiana’s 2012 “right-to-work” (RTW) legislation, which outlaws union security agreements.

However, the sheer number of anti-union bills supported by GOP-controlled legislatures demonstrates the breadth and depth of the party’s anti-unionism. So what is happening in the states?

In addition to Indiana, at least 18 other states have considered RTW measures. South Carolina and Tennessee passed bills strengthening RTW legislation that has been on the books for six decades, while another RTW state, Virginia, attempted to write RTW into its constitution. And last week, the New Hampshire House passed a RTW bill identical to one vetoed last year by the state’s Democratic governor. Other states that may act on RTW this year — sometimes over the wishes of the GOP establishment — through legislation or ballot initiatives include Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.

In addition to high-profile bills in Wisconsin and Ohio, at least 13 other states have considered legislation that would eliminate or restrict public sector collective bargaining. New Jersey eliminated public sector bargaining over health benefits, Oklahoma outlawed collective bargaining for municipal employees, and Tennessee replaced bargaining for public school teachers with “collaborative conferencing.” And at least 14 states have considered legislation that would ban public employers from deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks, thereby making it difficult for unions to finance their basic activities. Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a measure prohibiting public schools from deducting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees.

Many Republican legislatures have promoted bills that, while not directly attacking labor rights, are clearly intended to weaken unions, including unions in the building trades and public schools. 14 states have introduced legislation restricting Project Labor Agreements, and 11 have bills attacking prevailing wage laws, both of which protect building trades standards.

At least 28 states have considered charter school and voucher bills that would weaken public school unions, and others have bills privatizing most schools services, along with bills privatizing transportation, water supply, port authorities, airport security, liquor distribution, prisons and prison medical services, Medicaid delivery, state park vendors, kindergarten development and evaluation, and every municipal service imaginable.

At least 10 states have introduced so-called “paycheck protection” measures, which are designed to place strict limits on the use of union dues money for political purposes, while placing few, if any, restrictions on corporate political spending. Alabama, Arizona and North Carolina passed paycheck measures in 2011 – though all three bills have been challenged in the courts – while California and New Jersey have upcoming paycheck ballot initiatives.

Deception dominates in the messaging on state bills. California’s paycheck ballot initiative is ludicrously misnamed “Stop Special Interest Money Now.” Backers of the bill, the ultra-conservative Lincoln Club of Orange County, co-produced “Hillary: The Movie,” which led to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The Lincoln Club welcomed Citizens United as a “victory for free speech,” but now claims that its measure is a balanced effort to remove all special interest money from state elections, to the extent allowed by federal law. In reality, it would undermine the ability of unions to engage in core political activities but have almost no impact on corporate political spending.

This type of obfuscation is central to Republicans’ anti-union strategy. If the party were unable to hide behind deceptive messaging, it would be exposed as a front for the American Legislative Exchange Council and other extreme organizations.

And finally: not one new job has been created by this tsunami of anti-union legislation.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Labor, State Legislatures | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Did Evan Bayh Begin Job Negotiations To Lobby For Big Business?

The son of a famous senator, Evan Bayh (D-IN) was born into a life of privilege. After spending nearly two decades in public service, first as governor, then as a senator from Indiana, Bayh is returning to a life of wealth and luxury. Earlier this year, he announced that he would be joining a corporate law/lobbying firm, McGuireWoods LLP, as well as Apollo Global Management, a multi-billion dollar private equity firm.

Now, Peter Stone is reporting that Bayh will be joining the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, perhaps the most influential lobbying group for multinational corporations and big businesses with a far right lobbying agenda.  (View ThinkProgress’ history of the Chamber, including its decades-long opposition to women’s rights, labor rights, and even its refusal to support a war against Nazi Germany.)

Bayh will be joining former Bush administration official Andy Card in a Chamber-led lobbying campaign designed to weaken regulations on corporations across the board, and make it more difficult to enact new regulations. The REINS Act, which Bayh will be helping to pass, will severely undercut (and effectively repeal) significant portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, health and financial reform, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, among many other laws.

It is not clear how much Bayh is being paid by the Chamber, or by his new gigs at Apollo Global Management or McGuireWoods. During the period of 2009-2010, when Bayh was still in office, he appeared to be auditioning for a job in the private sector as a lobbyist:

Killing Labor Reform: Despite past support for the labor rights legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, Bayh eventually wavered on support the bill once it had a real chance of passing when President Obama came into office. Killing the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have given workers a fair chance to form a union, was the Chamber’s biggest legislative priority other than passing the bank bailouts of 2008.

Killing Climate Change And Clean Energy Jobs Legislation: Bayh positioned himself to the right of some members of the GOP in opposing a renewable energy standard. He later railed against clean energy reform, which died in the Senate because of obstruction from Bayh and several other conservative senators.

Supporting Pro-Corporate Senate Obstruction: Bayh even formed a coalition of conservative senators — including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) — to slow and kill major reforms proposed by President Obama. As ThinkProgress’ Matthew Yglesias has noted, Bayh and his cohorts appeared to be “hoping to soak up special interest cash in exchange for blocking the progressive agenda.”

One must wonder: when did Bayh begin negotiations with the Chamber for his current job as a lobbyist? Did the expectation that he would leave Congress and join the private sector as a lobbyist impact his votes and actions while in the Senate? If he had been a staunch advocate for the workers and families of Indiana, and had fought for labor reforms, would he have been welcome for what is probably an extremely highly paid job at the Chamber? The same type of questions could and should be asked of former Reps. David Obey (D-WI), John Tanner (D-TN), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Bart Gordon (D-TN), and many other recently retired members of Congress who have joined corporate lobbying firms.

By: Lee Fang, Think Progress, June 7, 2011

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Class Warfare, Congress, Corporations, Environment, Health Reform, Lobbyists, Regulations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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