Today in Labor History: August 12
Teamsters official William Grami is kidnapped, bound and beaten near Sebastopol, Calif. He was leading a drive to organize apple plant workers in the area – 1955
(From Blackjacks to Briefcases is the first book to document the systematic and extensive use by American corporations of professional unionbusters, an ugly profession that surfaced after the Civil War and has grown bolder and more sophisticated with the passage of time. Since the 1980s, hundreds of firms—including the Detroit News, Caterpillar and Pittston Coal, to name but three—have paid out millions of dollars to hired thugs. Some have been in uniforms and carried nightsticks and guns, others have worn three-piece suits and carried attaché cases, but all had one simple mission: to break the backs of workers struggling for decency and fair treatment on the job.)
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Member Tip: The Business Closings Law
The 1989 federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) applies to most businesses with 100 or more employees, requiring that they give sixty days’ advance notice before closing a facility or conducting a mass layoff. This law is supposed to give workers and their families some transition time to adjust to the loss of employment, including obtaining retraining to make it easier to find a new job. Your union contract probably has provisions that will come into play if there’s a shutdown or layoff. These contractual rights go far beyond what the law provides for employees who don’t have a union. The WARN law won’t stop a company from making business decisions based on its economic condition. But this law is still a valuable one. As a practical matter, the sixty-day “heads up” to a union can provide the time needed to organize community opposition to the company’s decision or to apply some other form of pressure to turn it around.
—Adapted from The Union Member’s Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer