March 2, 2011 12:11:00 PM
Unions are having it tough all over. We''ve seen the battles in Wisconsin and other states over public employee unions and collective bargaining rights, which allow workers to sit at the table and negotiate wages and benefits.
In Ohio, an effort is also under way to strip bargaining rights from state workers.
In Mississippi, state workers don''t have bargaining rights -- they have to take what they get from the Legislature, which has ratcheted up health care costs workers must pay.
Wisconsin and Ohio are political minefields we''d rather not wade into. In the so-called "right to work" state of Mississippi, union jobs, and the higher benefits and wages that go along with them, are few and far between.
In Columbus, Omnova Solutions workers are still on strike, and have been so since May, after the union, United Steelworkers Local 748-L, voted 168-2 to reject the company''s new contract. Neither side will reveal specifics, but the union says the contract eliminates seniority rights, vacation, shift and job preference, and ended an incentives-based work program. The union offered to retain the same contract, with no pay raises, an offer the company rejected.
Since last May, with workers still striking, the company has hired temporary workers and production of specialty fabrics at the plant goes on.
But the strikers are facing a deadline. This May, after the strike turns 1 year old, workers can vote to dissolve the union.
Which brings us to action in front of the Lowndes Board of Supervisors and Columbus City Council this week. Union workers asked the board and council to write a letter urging that the company return to talks with the union.
On Monday, the supervisors declined to support such a letter. So did the City Council on Tuesday.
We agree with their decision. The strike is crippling, on both the union and company sides. Union workers have obviously given up their wages during the protracted strike. The company has also lost millions during the walkout.
As we continue to struggle through the recession, the future of the plant is in question, which would be the case with or without a strike.
We respect the strikers'' right to bargain for a decent contract -- a right that few workers in this area have, and a right that seems to be falling by the wayside as companies and public bodies look to trim their budgets.
We also respect the company''s right to run a profitable business.
This is a matter left up to the workers and the company, however. Council members and supervisors can make their own individual pleas for talks to move forward. But taking sides, as a public body, is a minefield they''re right to stay out of.
frank commented at 3/2/2011 1:16:00 PM:
"But taking sides, as a public body, is a minefield they're right to stay out of."
This is a good editorial Birney.
zenreaper commented at 3/2/2011 6:26:00 PM:
100 years ago, unions were a GREAT thing. They assured workers of proper treatment by management, fair wages, etc. Today, let's be honest, the only thing unions do is keep the lazy workers on the job using loopholes in the contract. Management, in most cases, realizes that they need the worker, and the worker needs the company. OSHA takes care of jobs safety and the National Labor Relations Board tales care of employment rights.
To compare virtually ANY strike in the country to the kerfuffle in Wisconsin is disingenuous. These people protesting in Madison have had a SWEETHEART deal for YEARS. The belts are tightening, and they need to join in. Come on, .2% of their retirement, 5% of healthcare premiums? Anyone else here got that kind of deal? And the reason collective bargaining needs to go is because ANY savings the increased costs create will be negated when they re-negotiate the next contract.
As for Omnova, with an unemployment rate of close to if not over 10%, they picked a BAD time to go on strike. Americans need to start looking at their jobs like the commodity they are. You job is only worth what someone is willing to pay you to do it, nothing more, nothing less.
hope commented at 3/4/2011 8:17:00 AM:
@zenreaper:With 1% of people owning 50% of the wealth and 10% of the people owning 90%, how would you suggest that we close the gap between the rich and the poor, or should we just let it go and repeat the 20's and 30's all over again.
hope commented at 3/4/2011 4:36:00 PM:
@zenreaper;Come on,.2% on retirement and 5% on healthcare premiums.
They have agreed to pay more on healthcare and pensions, which amount to 8% pay cut. The sticking point is collective bargaining only.
How about our politicians. Do you know how much they contribute to their pension and healthcare, both active and inactive?
zenreaper commented at 3/6/2011 8:20:00 AM:
I am gonna address both posts at the same time:
"With 1% of people owning 50% of the wealth and 10% of the people owning 90%, how would you suggest that we close the gap between the rich and the poor"
"WE" don't do anything, because it is not the government's job to redistibute the wealth in this country. ALL of the wealth in this country is tied to manufacturing. If the people have no money, nothing gets bought, so nothing needs to be manufactured.
"should we just let it go and repeat the 20's and 30's all over again"
Actually, it was experiments with socialization that CAUSED the problems of the 20's and 30's. Well, that and the stock market crash, which cannot happen again.
"They have agreed to pay more on healthcare and pensions, which amount to 8% pay cut. The sticking point is collective bargaining only."
Yep, they agreed to it only AFTER they disagreed with it and REFUSED to bargain. Then, when they saw that it would be passed anyway, and that the public opinion was shifting, all of a sudden they wanted to negotiate. The reason the collective bargaining needs to go is that ANY savings realized from the increased premiums will be negated during the next negotiation for pay. You DO realize that Wisconsin teachers are about the highest paid teachers in the COUNTRY, right? And that they are FORCED to pay union dues (the new law would make it voluntary), right?
"How about our politicians. Do you know how much they contribute to their pension and healthcare, both active and inactive?"
Yes, I do, the question is, do YOU? They pay in the SAME that ANY person who works for the Federal government pays. But PLEASE repeat the old mantra that they get a full retirement after ONE term, cause that is SO easy to disprove, its ridiculous.
hope commented at 3/7/2011 10:05:00 AM:
@zenreaper:Your job is only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it. So, all manufacturers, lets move our operations to Communist China, to heck with the American workers. We can pay workers over there pennies on the hour compared to what our workers in America make. Besides they can draw unemployment and still have money to buy our products that we send back to America for them to buy.
So, the American worker says let's buy only products made in America, and they will have to come back here to make those products before they can sell them. That'll work!
The consumer will be the ones to bring us out of this depression, not the $B &$M. If they don't have the money to spend, then it won't happen. They certainly won't have it by laying them off.
You say we can't have a depression like the 30's, had it not been for the taxpayers, we would have had one in 2008. If a Republican President is elected in 2012, we will have another one because of their idiotic stand against the working people of America.(GUARANTEED)
Just a reminder, unionization was encouraged in the "30,s in order for the consumers to have more dollars to spend. Everybody was pulling their money out of banks, when they could, and putting under their mattresses, similar to what the rich are doing today by putting it in off/shore bank accounts or just plain hoarding it.
Socialism had nothing to do with the depression. It's being used today because the Republicans don't have any ideas any better, and that's their way to get back against President Obama and the Democrats. It's called "BRAINWASHING."
1. Lisa McLeod: One horrible thing wrong with schools NATIONAL COLUMNS
2. Voice of the people: Don Newman LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. Slimantics: Our greatest unofficial national holiday LOCAL COLUMNS
5. Lynn Spruill: A watershed moment LOCAL COLUMNS