Boss Shoots Worker For Demanding Back Pay, Brazilian Metalworkers Win & Pilots Dump Union Prez

Mike Elk

Every week­end, Work­ing In These Times round up the labor news of the week that we missed. Feel free to email sto­ries to mike@​inthesetimes.​com.

A Texas con­struc­tion work­er was shot by his boss this week after demand­ing back pay. From The Austin Amer­i­can States­man:

Miguel Angel Oso­rio-Tor­res, 33, has been charged with aggra­vat­ed assault with a dead­ly weapon, a sec­ond-degree felony, accord­ing to an arrest war­rant affi­davit. He has an immi­gra­tion hold and remains behind bars in lieu of $250,000 bail, accord­ing to Travis Coun­ty Jail records.

A con­struc­tion work­er told police he went look­ing for Oso­rio-Tor­res because he had not been com­pen­sat­ed for his work at a job site on Elmont Street in South­east Austin, the affi­davit said. The man found the fore­man at the site, and Oso­rio-Tor­res invit­ed him to a park for a drink and to talk, records said.

When the con­struc­tion work­er brought up the pay­ment, Oso­rio-Tor­res threat­ened the man and then shot at him as he began to walk away, hit­ting him in the low­er back and left arm, records said.

The board of the Allied Pilots Asso­ci­a­tion has forced union pres­i­dent Kevin Bates out of office, after 60 per­cent of union mem­bers reject­ed a con­ces­sion­ary deal that Bates sup­port­ed. From the Asso­ci­at­ed Press:

Many pilots har­bor long-stand­ing ani­mos­i­ty toward man­age­ment at Amer­i­can and favor a merg­er that would result in US Air­ways exec­u­tives run­ning a larg­er, com­bined airline.

Skep­tics among the pilots believed that approv­ing Amer­i­can’s con­tract offer would have strength­ened Amer­i­can’s cur­rent man­age­ment and made a merg­er less like­ly. Oppo­nents also object­ed to what they con­sid­ered a new two-tier pay scale with low­er pay for fly­ing small­er planes, and to the agree­men­t’s long life — the prospect of work­ing for six years under a con­tract ham­mered out dur­ing the bank­rupt­cy process.

The pilots’ vote — and espe­cial­ly the lop­sided mar­gin against the agree­ment — caught many peo­ple by sur­prise. On the sur­face, the pilots got a bet­ter deal in some ways than did mechan­ics and oth­er ground work­ers, who rat­i­fied con­tract offers from Amer­i­can, and flight attendants.

While the pilots would have owned 13.5 per­cent of the com­pa­ny after bank­rupt­cy, flight atten­dants would get only 3 per­cent. The com­pa­ny said Thurs­day that it’s still work­ing on details about stock for the Trans­port Work­ers Union, but the pilots’ union said it will be much less than 13.5 percent.

As work­ers at frozen-piz­za man­u­fac­tur­er Palmero con­tin­ue their strike in favor of union recog­ni­tion, the AFL-CIO is call­ing on Cost­co to put pro-union pres­sure on Paler­mo, one of its sup­pli­ers. From the AFL-CIO Blog:

Work­ers at Paler­mo’s Piz­za in Mil­wau­kee, Wis., have been on strike for near­ly two months in a strug­gle for jus­tice with one of the largest frozen piz­za man­u­fac­tur­ers in the nation.

Paler­mo’s Piz­za work­ers are demand­ing safe work­ing con­di­tions and recog­ni­tion for their union. They are also seek­ing rein­state­ment of work­ers who they say were ter­mi­nat­ed for orga­niz­ing. The Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board is inves­ti­gat­ing the company’s con­duct. The work­ers also say Paler­mo’s is con­tin­u­ing with its intim­i­da­tion campaign.

You can help the work­ers — like Lau­ra Tor­res, a sin­gle moth­er of six who has worked at the Paler­mo’s plant for 10 years — by ask­ing Cost­co, Palermo’s biggest cus­tomer, to urge the piz­za mak­er to respect work­ers and improve work­ing con­di­tions at the plant.

The work­ers are focused on Cost­co because the whole­sale ware­house chain has built a rep­u­ta­tion as the anti- Wal­mart with a com­mit­ment to a strong Sup­pli­ers Code of Con­duct.” A major part of that is a con­tin­u­ing com­mit­ment to the pro­tec­tion and improve­ment of employ­ees’ rights.” Cost­co can audit its sup­pli­ers, like Palermo’s, to make sure they are in com­pli­ance with the code.

2,000 mem­bers of Brazil­ian Met­al­work­ers Union occu­pied a key high­way in Brazil last week, and as a result GM agreed to can­cel planned lay­offs. From Labor Notes:

Ear­ly on August 2 near São Paulo, the union mem­bers blocked the Pres­i­dente Dutra High­way. Burn­ing tires and ban­ners helped stop traf­fic, which was backed up for 13 kilo­me­ters. The high­way was blocked for an hour and ten minutes.

After the high­way occu­pa­tion, the work­ers whose jobs were imme­di­ate­ly threat­ened, returned to their plant to stand out­side in protest. There they were joined on strike by oth­er GM work­ers who make the new­ly launched Chevro­let S10 pick­up. The work­ers vot­ed to stay on strike for 24 hours while con­tin­u­ing to meet in a gen­er­al assembly.

Behind the threat of 1,840 job loss­es lurks the threat to close com­plete­ly the 7,200-worker São José dos Cam­pos plant, the largest GM com­plex in Brazil. Work­ers there occa­sion­al­ly walk off the job for shift ral­lies at the gate.

Dur­ing the action, ban­ners called on Pres­i­dent Dil­ma Rouss­eff to Shut Man­te­ga up and pro­hib­it the lay­offs,” a ref­er­ence to Brazil­ian finance min­is­ter Gui­do Man­te­ga, who had said he would not inter­fere in GM’s deci­sions. Man­te­ga had argued that GM hadn’t bro­ken its agree­ment to main­tain jobs.

The pres­i­dent had promised she would take away tax ben­e­fits from com­pa­nies that fired work­ers. In a let­ter to the pres­i­dent, the union said, It is unbear­able for two thou­sand bread­win­ners who run the risk of los­ing their jobs to be treat­ed by the min­is­ter sim­ply as statistics.”

The high­way occu­pa­tion pro­ject­ed polit­i­cal as well as eco­nom­ic pres­sure. This route con­nect­ing Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is more cru­cial to Brazil than any sin­gle inter­state is in the U.S.

A new study from MIT says that retail­ers would be wise to treat their work­ers bet­ter, because cus­tomers would buy more stuff. From Demos:

New research by the MIT pro­fes­sor Zeynep Ton deserves atten­tion. Ton has spent 10 years study­ing retail jobs and, in par­tic­u­lar, explor­ing how some retail­ers are pro­vid­ing much bet­ter jobs than oth­ers and reap­ing ben­e­fits from treat­ing their work­ers better.

Ton explains that while retail man­agers have many short-term incen­tives for keep­ing labor costs as low as pos­si­ble, stores that invest more in employ­ees can achieve long-term gains in sales that more than cov­er their high­er labor costs.

Ton con­trasts low-road retail­ers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart with chains that pay and train their work­ers bet­ter, like Trad­er Joe’s and Cost­co. What she finds is that low-road employ­ers have much high­er turnover, which in turn means their work­ers are less well-trained … Stores like Wal-Mart also cre­ate hav­oc in the lives of their employ­ees with just-in-time sched­ul­ing, a prac­tice that con­stant­ly changes work­ers’ sched­ules to reflect the ebbs and flows of cus­tomers with the aim of keep­ing labor costs as low as pos­si­ble. (Demos crit­i­cized this prac­tice in a 2011 report.)

All these prac­tices, Ton says, are pen­ny wise but pound fool­ish for retail­ers who are fill­ing their stores with work­ers who hate their jobs, will quit at a momen­t’s notice, and aren’t moti­vat­ed to exe­cute the basic mis­sion of retail: Get cus­tomers to buy more stuff.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Work­ing In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is cur­rent­ly a labor reporter at Politico.
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