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New York State Comptroller Intervenes In FairPoint Labor Dispute

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Calls on Major Hedge Fund Owner and FairPoint Investor to Ensure Fair Treatment of Workers

Augusta, ME—On September 3rd, Thomas DiNapoli, Comptroller of the State of New York, wrote to John Angelo, CEO of Angelo, Gordon & Co.—owner of almost 20 percent of FairPoint stock—to express his concern about reports that FairPoint has violated federal law in bargaining with representatives of almost 2,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in northern New England.

  • DiNapoli is sole Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the nation’s third largest public pension fund, which invests the assets of more than one million members, retirees, and beneficiaries of the retirement system in New York State.
  • The CRF is an investor in the AG Super Fund, a hedge fund managed by Angelo, Gordon & Co.
  • In addition to owning almost 20 percent of FairPoint stock, Angelo, Gordon & Co. has a designee on FairPoint’s Board of Directors.

According to Mr. DiNapoli’s letter, “In our experience as a long-term institutional investor, where a company has a constructive relationship with its workers and provides sustainable retirement benefits, the company becomes a stronger, more profitable, and more enduring enterprise.”

He went on to say that, “We are, therefore, concerned by publicly reported allegations that FairPoint has not acted in good faith and has violated federal law; specifically, assertions that FairPoint improperly declared an impasse in collective bargaining and unlawfully imposed” the terms of its final contract proposals.

Union leaders welcomed Mr. DiNapoli’s intervention. “Angelo, Gordon is the largest FairPoint stockholder and has tremendous influence over management’s decisions. We hope that Mr. Angelo takes seriously this intervention by Mr. DiNapoli, who represents one of the largest pension funds in the US,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 and chair of the unions’ bargaining committee.

The Chairman of FairPoint’s Board of Directors, Edward Horowitz, recently informed an advisor to union leaders that members of the Board have been briefed on the company’s bargaining position and that the Board fully endorses that position.

“It is disappointing to hear that members of FairPoint’s Board of Directors support the company’s attacks on working families across northern New England,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “We believe that our members are the reason this company emerged from bankruptcy and has begun to recover after its truly ill-advised purchase of Verizon. We will continue to educate investors like the CRF about this company’s decision to put short-term profits above the long-term interests of its workers, customers, and their communities.”

View the letter here.

‘Women of Steel’ Presents Reconnecting McDowell with $5,000 for 4-H Camp

Reconnecting-McDowellWASHINGTON—Scores of kids from McDowell County, West Virgina will attend week-long 4-H summer camp programs this summer, thanks to a $5,000 donation to Reconnecting McDowell by United Steelworkers’ “Women of Steel” committees.

The 4-H camp in McDowell, run by the West Virginia University Extension Service, has a day program for children ages 5-12 and residential program for children ages 9-18. The theme for this summer’s camp is “Green Brick Road,” which focuses on the 4-H tradition of courage, heart, head and home. Activities include learning new skills such as archery, cooking and photography. Older campers have the opportunity to discuss teen issues, including drug abuse, relationships, money management and planning their futures. Healthy lifestyle classes and STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) also are offered.

The Women of Steel program started more than 20 years ago to motivate and educate women within the steelworkers union to become more active in their union and communities. Women of Steel leaders in West Virginia—Karen Shipley and Heather Anderson—said the $5,000 will allow at least 50 McDowell kids to attend 4-H camp who otherwise would not have been able to participate.

“This $5,000 contribution will make summer a fun and constructive time for so many kids. This type of community partnership exemplifies the work of Reconnecting McDowell to improve the lives of children and families in McDowell County,” said Christine Campbell, president of AFT-West Virginia.

Reconnecting McDowell is a public-private partnership launched in December 2011 to reinvigorate the schools and communities in McDowell County. Visit www.ReconnectingMcDowell.org.

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All around America, labor unions sponsor charitable programs in their communities.  For a small sample of those efforts, read “This Thanksgiving (and every Thanksgiving) Unions Are Giving Back” here.

 

“Race to the Bottom”: This is what the Bottom looks like.

Blue Nike US N98 Men's Soccer Track Jacket rear.  Photo by BrokenSphere (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsFrom the Guardian (a British newspaper):

At least 23 workers were hurt in Cambodia on Monday when police using stun batons moved in to end a protest over pay at a factory that makes clothing for Nike, a trade union representative said.

Police with riot gear were deployed to move about 3,000 mostly female workers who had blocked a road outside their factory… They want the US sportswear firm, which employs more than 5,000 people at the plant, to give them $14 a month to help pay for transport, rent and healthcare costs on top of their $74 minimum wage. (Read the full story here.)

Read that again. These are “minimum wage” workers, earning $74 a month. They are looking for a $14 a month raise.

But in America these days, those types of facts don’t really matter. It’s all about spin – and Nike’s been spinning this story since the beginning of the month.

  • Read the Business Insider’s “How Nike Solved its Sweatshop Problem” here.
  • Read the Portland Business Journal’s “For Nike, 25 years from sweatshops to reform” here.

Sure, they’ve got their “sweatshop problem” fixed. If not by their corporate PR department, then by the worldwide decline in industry standards.

Can’t help but notice:

So it’s really no surprise: Nike’s profits are up – a whopping $866 million in their latest fiscal quarter. Read the Wall Street Journal’s “Nike’s Profit Leaps 55%” here. Pay particular attention to this line: “Nike’s gross margin expanded to 44.2%.”

That’s how the math works, in this “Race to the Bottom”.

The corporation’s investors make a 44% profit… while workers are beaten for seeking a $14 a month raise.

This Thanksgiving (and every Thanksgiving) Unions Are Giving Back

The “union-avoidance” industry isn’t taking the election results lying down.  The Andrew Breitbarts of the world are already busy spinning the Hostess Brands liquidation and Wednesday’s planned protest in Los Angeles.  (If you’re wondering: there may be delays on surface streets around LAX – but the protest is not expected to impact any air travel.)

In these days leading up to Thanksgiving, you’re probably going to hear a lot of other anti-union stories in the media.  (The union-busters have a lot of money to spend on PR.)

What you’re probably not going to hear is how union members nationwide are celebrating the holiday.  A quick sampling:

  • In Palm Beach, Florida, labor unions are part of “The Big Heart Brigade”.  Last Thanksgiving, the Brigade fed 100,000 people – and they are hoping to feed even more, this year.   “Several local unions have already donated time and funds to help, including Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) Local 630, Ironworkers Local 402, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 728, Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3181 and Machinists (IAM) Local 971.”
  • Feed The Community Day

    Near Los Angeles, ILWU Local 13 is holding their 15th annual “Feed the Community Day”.  They will be distributing 1,500 turkey baskets with all the trimmings to help feed low-income families in surrounding communities.

  • Throughout the country, IAFF Locals are giving coats to kids through “Operation Warm”. IAFF Local 157 is distributing more than 2,000 coats to needy children in Oklahoma City, OK.  IAFF Local 215 is giving away almost 1,000 coats in Milwaukee, WI.  In New Jersey, IAFF Local 2657 is donating 350 coats.  In Pennsylvania, IAFF Local 10 plans to give a new coat to every single child who attends George Washington Elementary School, after firefighters noticed that most students didn’t have anything warmer than a hooded sweatshirt (87% of the school’s families live at or below the poverty line).
  • And of course, Hurricane Sandy relief efforts will continue through the holiday.  Nationwide, union members are contributing to various Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds.  Union members in the hardest-hit areas will continue to do what they have been doing for weeks: cleaning up, fixing up, and taking care of the people around them.

This Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our union brothers and sisters.  Our union family is not just standing behind us in our workplaces – unions are giving back to our communities, making things better for families in need.

 

 

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