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Working In These Times

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012, 9:00 am

American Airlines Flights Canceled; Riot at Foxconn Factory; Daley Critiques Rahm

BY Mike Elk

(Simon_sees / Flickr / Creative Commons)  

Every week, In These Times rounds up the labor stories that we missed the week before. Send story ideas to mike@inthesetimes.com.

In response to concessions being forced on pilots at American Airlines, large numbers of pilots are calling in sick in protest, as well as stopping flights with safety checks. From CBS MoneyWatch:

The bankrupt carrier says it has had to cancel hundreds of flights because of an increase in the number of pilots calling in sick. The pilots, angry over a contract imposed on them cutting their pay and benefits, also appear to be causing problems when they do show up. In the last month, four times as many flights as usual have been cancelled for maintenance issues resulting from last-minute plane inspections ordered by pilots.

Ray Neidl, an analyst with Maxim Group, wrote in a report that the pilots were the most important labor group at American, and that a deal with them was crucial. He said:

We were surprised that the membership voted down the contract offer since it included a large equity offering. As a result of this disagreement AMR has had to cancel a number of flights in the past week due to what appears to be individual pilot actions of calling in sick or increasing reports of maintenance deficiencies forcing flight delays or cancellations.

As a result, almost half of American's flights were delayed on Monday and Tuesday.

A riot of several thousand workers at a Foxconn plant in China, sparked when a security guard beat a worker, shut down production for 24 hours. From Reuters:

Details of the melee remain sketchy as police and company officials investigate, but employees interviewed by Reuters said tension between workers and security guards boiled over on Sunday evening after a worker was severely beaten.

That led to thousands joining the fracas and about 40 people were injured, according to Foxconn and Chinese media, while thousands of police were deployed to quell the unrest.

A 19-year-old worker in hospital with back and hand injuries said he was angered by the rough security guards and a culture of managers cursing workers.

"It doesn't matter who you are, you shouldn't curse people like that," said the worker surnamed Liu. "They do it all the time. If it happens over a long time, it builds up and of course it makes people angry and they go crazy like that."

International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) President Robert McEllrath was found guilty of a misdemeanor for his role in a peaceful protest against the opening of a non-union port in Longview, Wa. last year. From the ILWU:

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath was convicted today of a misdemeanor offense in Longview, WA for “obstructing a train.” The sentence was one day in jail and a $500 fine.

“Fighting for good jobs in America shouldnt be a crime,” said McEllrath immediately following his arrest.  Before sentencing, McEllrath told the court he had “no regrets about leading men and women against corporate greed and helping them fight to protect middle class jobs in America.”

On September 7, 2011 ... union members and supporters gathered to protest a train carrying grain destined for the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview which was refusing to honor ILWU jurisdiction.   Several months after the protest, the company agreed to settle the dispute and signed a contract with the ILWU in early February.

The Mexican government is reviewing an SEIU complaint alleging that Alabama’s anti-undocumented immigrant law violates NAFTA. From the AP:

The Mexican government is reviewing a labor union's complaint that Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigrants violates an international trade agreement.

An official with Mexico's labor department confirmed the review in a letter released Thursday by the group that filed the complaint, the Service Employees International Union.

The labor organization and a Mexican attorneys group filed a complaint in April. They contend Alabama's law targeting illegal immigrants violates protections guaranteed to migrant workers under a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

The Mexican government, in the letter, said it had asked the United States to begin talks allowed under the agreement.

Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley critiqued his successor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. From NBC 5 Chicago:

Daley, who is now a fellow at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy, implied Mayor Rahm Emanuel played the blame game with teachers.

"Don't blame the teachers. Let's all work together to make it a better education system for all," said Daley.

Daley brought the school system under the control of the mayor's office in 1995. He avoided a strike during his more than two decades in office.

Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at mike@inthesetimes.com.

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