(Sipa via AP Images) Sodexo President Pierre Bellon speaks with company CEO Michel Landel at the company's general meeting of shareholders.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the country's largest unions, recently announced that it was ending a publicity campaign intended to pressure Sodexo, one of the world's largest food-service companies, to make it easier for workers to unionize. Starting in 2009, SEIU's "Clean Up Sodexo" campaign took the company to task by criticizing its food-safety record and opposing its attempts to win new food-service contracts. But the union dropped its campaign in order to settle a lawsuit Sodexo filed against it under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Ted Olson, the lead counsel of the American Foundation for Equal Rights' lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8, California's 2008 initiative amending the state's constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying, was at the podium. State Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin asked, "If the governor and attorney general do not defend, then no one can defend it?"
After hedging and then getting some pushback from elsewhere on the bench, Olson replied, "Yes."
The raft of recent pro-union decisions from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) garnered praise from workers' rights advocates, including the Prospect's Harold Meyerson. But don't expect the board's pro-union streak to last long enough to undo years of Bush-era rulings making it risky for workers to organize.
Last week also marked the end of Chair Wilma Liebman's tenure, bringing the board, which typically comprises five members but currently has a vacancy, down to three members. In January, another Democratic appointee, Craig Becker, will step down, leaving a deadlocked board that can't do much of anything anyway (according to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, New Process Steel v. NLRB, a two-member NLRB can't make decisions even if both members agree).
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Darrell Issa, the head of the House's main investigating committee, has accused the White House of pressuring the National Labor Relations Board to issue pro-union rulings.
It wasn't the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would have enabled workers to join unions without fear of losing their jobs -- a bill that died in that graveyard of progressive legislation, the Senate, back in 2010. Rather, it was the more incremental and procedural group of reforms that the National Labor Relations Board adopted in the past couple of weeks that will provide some modest help to workers seeking to form or keep a union in the work place.
Today, voters in six districts in Wisconsin will try to flip the state Senate from Republican to Democrat in response to Governor Scott Walker's successful bid to strip public workers of collective-bargaining rights. Throughout the day, the Prospect will be aggregating get-out-the-vote efforts. We've also included recaps of the six elections -- including polling numbers -- below. For live coverage of the events and results as the votes start to be tallied, Follow @theprospect
(AP Photo/The Green Bay Press-Gazette, H. Marc Larson)
Monday night in Madison, Wisconsin, Sheila Ellis, a union member who works as an office assistant for the state, went knocking on her co-workers' doors. During each visit, Ellis holds up a copy of their union contract. "This no longer exists," she says before asking the worker to "recommit to the union."
(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Housekeeping staff from New York hotels protest outside the Manhattan courthouse.
Early this morning, as Dominique Strauss-Kahn was being arraigned at the state courthouse in lower Manhattan for allegedly assaulting a 32-year-old room attendant at the Sofitel near Times Square, some 200 housekeepers from more than a dozen large New York hotels gathered outside to show quiet support for their colleague. They didn't just show up randomly. The rally was organized by The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, whose heart is Local 6 of Unite-Here, the national union of hotel and restaurant workers.
In response to Jim Grossfeld's profile of new president of the United Auto Workers Bob King ("A New Union Contract"), Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, writes to us about King's support of a new U.S.-Korea trade agreement: "The unions representing workers in the auto supply chain all oppose the pact, as does the AFL-CIO. Senior Michigan Democrats also oppose it. Their opposition is not 'knee jerk,' as Grossfeld suggests, but rather, represents the grim reality that this deal would result in the loss of many U.S. manufacturing jobs.
United Auto Workers President Bob King (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Last August, just two months after he became president of the United Auto Workers, Bob King drove upstate to a conference that the Center for Automotive Research was hosting in Traverse City, Michigan, and proposed to redefine the role that American unions play in the economy.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was only speaking truth when he called Scott Walker, Wisconsin's Republican governor, the labor movement's "Mobilizer of the Year." The backlash against Walker's successful (for now) drive to end collective bargaining for Wisconsin's public employees has been stunning in its scope, intensity, and (ongoing) duration.
The big political question is how far and how deep that backlash will go. My first guess is that it has produced a shift in public opinion that will help America's unions, though it will take a lot more than public sympathy to rebuild labor's power. My second guess is that it will help the Democratic Party across the industrial Midwest.
The burned-out remains of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York's Greenwich Village, 1911 (AP)
March 25 marks the 100th anniversary of the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that trapped and killed 146 workers, most of them young immigrant women, on the upper floors of a New York City sweatshop. It's a time to honor and mourn the Triangle's victims, commemorate the tragedy's importance as a turning point in the history of the American labor movement, and reaffirm the crucial role of unions and regulatory bodies in advancing worker rights.
A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love With Rebellion in Postwar America, Grace Elizabeth Hale, Oxford University Press, 386 pages, $29.95
Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, John McMillian Oxford University Press, 277 pages, $27.95
Around 1950, Americans began to see signs of a new kind of discontent. A generation of young rebels started popping up in fiction and films -- Holden Caulfield, the characters played by Marlon Brando and James Dean -- who were fleeing from or revolting against the phoniness of American life and white middle-class adulthood.
Shane Tawr doesn't remember exactly why he first decided to try his hand at chicken farming. Tawr had a government job in Milwaukee but wanted relief from the city's bustle. He decided in 2004 to head down to the Ozarks, buy a chicken farm, and work for himself, just as many of his Hmong ancestors had done in Laos.
Students sleep outside the state Capitol this week after Wisconsin Department of Administration officials shut the building's doors. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
After weeks of pitched battle that has clogged the state Capitol with protests and gummed up legislative works, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hinted in an interview yesterday with the Wisconsin State Journal that he might be willing to make a deal with the public-sector unions.