An American solider holding a packaged meal (Flickr/nukeit1)
During a 13-month tour in Iraq with her National Guard unit, Amber Hicks ate her share of the military rations known as "meals ready to eat," or MREs. Then, as chance would have it, she returned to her hometown of Cincinnati and found a job in the Wornick Company's factory -- making those familiar MREs.
Ada Iglesias relies on her job as a cafeteria worker at Paramus High School in New Jersey to put food on the table for three hungry, preteen children. It's not easy. She makes $8 an hour, works only 24 hours a week, and while out of work over the school's summer recess, does not qualify for unemployment compensation. Her construction-worker husband, out of work for more than six months, also draws no unemployment insurance.
When labor union leaders in countries like Guatemala and Colombia face death squads and draconian legal restrictions on workers' rights, they often turn to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization of the United Nations for help.
So it was a sign of real frustration, even desperation, that in mid-October the AFL-CIO protested to the ILO that a "sustained assault on workers' rights in the United States" was occurring at the hands of the very agency mandated to enforce this nation's labor laws--the National Labor Relations Board.
General Motors retiree Junior Baker stands at a GM plant entrance in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Sept. 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
In 1970, in the midst of the last national General Motors strike (which lasted for a significant 67 days), UAW president Leonard Woodcock urged American businesses to become actively involved in a fight for national health insurance and halt their rising, uncontrolled health care costs. "American management now has the opportunity to help make each American's right to better health a reality -- and at less cost" he said.
His union's mission, says Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers of America's international president, is "saving these damn plants for our members, retirees and the next generation of workers" -- not for corporate executives or nonunion subcontractors. With temporary import protections now providing a little stability for the battered American steel business, United Steelworkers is actively encouraging the reorganization of the fragmented, mainly bankrupt industry into fewer, stronger companies.