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Working In These Times

Saturday, Feb 11, 2012, 10:00 am

Weekly Workers’ Round-Up: AFA ‘OccuFLIES,’ Labor at CPAC, and Another Greek Strike

BY Patrick Glennon

Every weekend, Working In These Times highlights a few labor struggles and protests that contributors weren't able to cover during the preceding week.

Flight Attendants “OccufFLY” LAX

Members from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) publicly denounced Congress last Monday, reappropriating Occupy language to decry plans to establish new rules on union elections. Protesters expressed discontent over what they perceive as an attack on their collective bargaining rights, as Congress debates revising the Railway Act—one of the oldest labor laws in the books.

According to organizers, new legislation would complicate the election process through which workers decide to unionize, allowing employers to stall elections indefinitely. AFA president Veda Shook discussed the rationale behind the “OccuFLY” protest:

This controversial labor provision is nothing less than an attack by the 1 percent against the 99 percent. We saw it in Wisconsin and Ohio, now we see it for airline and rail workers who are simply seeking the benefits of collective bargaining or fighting to hold on to collective bargaining rights.

Ameircan Airlines workers in particular are embroiled in a struggle to hold on to what they have, as AA looks to cut its workforce and shed pension obligations through bankruptcy proceedings.

Labor Joins Occupy DC to Protest CPAC’s Anti-Union Agenda

Labor activists from a handful of unions—including SEIU, the AFL-CIO, National Nurses United and the Metro Labor Council—gathered in D.C. this week as the annual Conservative Political action Conference (CPAC) commenced on Thursday.

This year’s three-day CPAC features current contenders for the GOP presidential nomination New Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, as well as recent dropouts from the race, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.

Other conservative notables appearing include Ann Coulter, Grover Norquist and Scott Walker.

If you’re in the D.C. area, keep your eyes peeled for the hashtag #OccupyCPAC, as actions will be circulating on Twitter throughout Saturday.

Brazilian Police Strike Over Low Wages

Police and firefighters in Rio de Janeiro went on strike Friday, railing against low wages and work conditions.

Carnival—a huge attraction for tourists, and the crime that typically accompanies tourists—is set to kick off next week. The government has deployed military personnel to fill the void.

The strike comes in the wake of failed contract negotiations in which workers received merely half of the wage increase that they originally sought. Additionally, the pay increase will be staggered over the next several years.

Helio Oliveira, a major in the Rio state police and leader of the union organizing the strike, said that “We want dignity at work,” commenting further that the strike was not intended to “affront the government or harm society.”

Also at issue is poor field equipment. Outdated and ineffective bullet-resistant vests are a threat to police, union organizers say. Police also complain about antiquated weaponry that endangers lives.

Salary levels are a hot-button topic within the Brazilian security apparatus, as many blame the rampant corruption of police and military officials on chronically low wages.

Greek Labor Begin 48-Hour Strike Against EU, IMF-Imposed Austerity Measures

Greece’s two largest labor unions kicked off a 48-hour strike on Friday to protest government concessions offered in return for bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The unions, the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) and the private sector’s General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) together represent over half of Greece’s workforce.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos—who was not elected, but rather appointed following the departure of previous PM George Papandeou—must cut an additional €130 million from the state budget by Wednesday in order to secure the bailouts.

According to labor activists, these cuts constitute the “tombstone of Greek Society,” throwing workers under the bus in order to appease powerful Northern European nations that favor austerity for the EU's most debt-ridden countries.

Provisions in the government’s plan include the elimination of 15,000 public-sector job and a decrease of the minimum wage by more than 20 percent.

Patrick Glennon is a writer and musician living in Chicago. He received his B.A. in History from Skidmore College and currently works as Communications Manager for the Michael Forti for Cook County Court campaign and as the web intern at In These Times.

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