Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘lockout’

No, NFL Owners Didn’t ‘Lose’ The Lockout Battle With Referees

Friday, September 28th, 2012

There’s an idea floating around the internet today that the National Football League owners “lost” their labor dispute with the NFL Referees Association after the two sides reached a deal last night. The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk said as much in a post today, and others have made similar arguments.

That might be an easy belief to hold, given negotiations got serious as a result of the public relations nightmare that was this week’s Monday Night Football game, when a blown call cost the Green Bay Packers a game. From where I’m sitting, though, that view couldn’t be more wrong.

When the lockout began, the owners had three major asks: they wanted to eliminate the pension benefits current officials receive, add full-time officials, and add a back-up pool of officials. More details will come out, but the deal they reached last night added a group of full-time officials and a back-up pool of officials and grandfathered in pension changes that will eliminate the current defined-benefit retirement program for all officials by 2016. The owners got basically everything they wanted, and somehow they lost?

I’m not seeing it.

If anything, this deal is more evidence of the power corporate interests hold in labor disputes. Laden with cash and able to wait, the NFL spent the offseason moving the NFLRA’s thin red line closer to what the owners wanted, to the point where the reasonable compromise was one that gave the league everything it wanted, if on a slightly slower timeline. That ensured that when fans firmly took a side, the league would still get its way. That power is shared by corporations in lower-profile battles, where companies are locking out workers to pay them less and eliminate pensions and benefits just because they can.

There’s only one loser in this, and it’s the American worker. Another pension is gone, and because the real refs are back on the football field, we’ll all forget about the nonsense and go back to watching the game as if none of this never happened. For a measly $60 million, the owners could have shored up the pensions of employees who make a $9 billion league work. Instead, they ruined three weeks of football to save less than a penny on the dollar, and their reward was to get everything they asked for. And this will keep happening, in sports leagues and factories and workshops across America.

If that’s a “loss,” I’d hate to see what it looks like when they win.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on September 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Locked-Out Crystal Sugar Worker: 'We Didn't Do Anything to Deserve This'

Monday, August 27th, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

Michael Frank headed over to a rally in East Grand Forks, Minn., last night, one of many he’s taken part in over the past year. Frank, along with 1,300 other workers, was locked out of the American Crystal Sugar factory a year ago, and last night’s event was part of the workers’ ongoing efforts to urge the sugar beet processing company return to the bargaining table.

“They don’t want to sit down with us,” said Frank, a 33-year veteran with with company and currently day warehouse foreman. “We didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

The company locked out the workers Aug. 1, 2011, during bargaining talks over a successor contract between American Crystal Sugar and five local unions of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) at various locations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

BCTGM members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s final offer last year, which included significant increases to workers’ health care costs and major changes to job security, including the right to outsource work and seniority language. (Sign a petition calling on American Crystal Sugar CEO Dave Berg to treat workers fairly and return to the bargaining table.)

Before locking out the workers, the company was hugely profitable, with $1.5 billion in fiscal 2011 net earnings, up from $1.2 billion in 2010. In 2011, CEO Dave Berg took in nearly $2.5 million in total compensation.

American Crystal has replaced the workers, bringing in people from around the country and creating tension throughout the once close-knit community. In small farming towns like East Grand Forks, it’s easy to run into someone who just took your job.

As Frank describes it:

We’re basically another middle class getting beat up here in the valley. What used to be family isn’t any more.

It’s also hard to imagine newcomers performing such highly skilled work. Before he became a foreman, Frank’s job involved molasses desurgarization—a new process by which more sugar is extracted than ever before by running molasses through resin beads.

Although clearly frustrated by his many months off the job, Frank, 52, remains solid in his commitment to stick with his co-workers and demand Crystal Sugar give workers a fair shake. A widow who’s caring for his three children, ages 6, 9 and 12. Frank is an active member of his local union’s solidarity committee, a group that reaches out to the Red River Valley community to mobilize participation in events and to fundraise for the families affected by the lockout.

American Crystal Sugar is a big player on Capitol Hill, giving more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions to members of both parties since 2011, according to opensecrets.org. The company is a beneficiary of a government policy that restricts imports of sugar from overseas, writes Minnesota Public Radio News.

This week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to 177 members of Congress who have accepted campaign contributions from Crystal Sugar this year and urged them to send the company’s money back. In it, Trumka writes:

Rather than negotiate with BCTGM to provide a fair share of the earnings to the workers who were instrumental in generating them, this company and its management have embarked upon a path designed to break the union itself. David Berg, the current CEO, has likened the workers and their contract to a “cancerous tumor.” I am sure you do not approve of this blatant disregard for working families and their communities.

Many unions have contributed to the strike fund, and the workers have received support from throughout their communities. Rep. Keith
Ellison (D-Minn.) called on the company to return to the bargaining table and pointed out that the workers “stood shoulder to
shoulder with the company to fight for a better sugar program in the farm bill just because that’s how dedicated they are.” Yet,

What have they got in return? They’ve gotten locked out.

(Watch a video of Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinksi calling Crystal Sugar CEO Berg—and you can do the same: 218-236-4400.)

Members of the unions’ “road warriors” group travels throughout the country to get out their message and build support. In May, two-dozen locked-out workers traveled from Drayton, N.D., for a seven-day, 200-mile journey to Moorhead, Minn., headquarters of American Crystal Sugar. Earlier this year, workers from American Crystal joined locked out workers from Cooper Tire in a 1,000-mile Journey for Justice from
Fargo, N.D., to Findlay, Ohio. The journey highlighted the corporate greed behind the lockouts, and the growing drive by corporate CEOs to drive down wages and benefits to pad their own pockets.

Speaking at last night’s rally, Anthony, 15, son of a locked-out worker, said Crystal Sugar would learn that

When you pick a fight with one working family, you are picking a fight with all working families.

Contribute to the strike relief fund.
Sign a petition calling on American Crystal Sugar CEO Dave Berg to treat workers fairly and return to the bargaining table.
Get the latest updates on the Crystal Sugar lockout.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 24, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

NFL Lockout Could Cost $160 Million, 115,000 Jobs

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Image: James ParksIf the National Football League owners lock out the players next season, not only will millions of fans not have games to watch on Sunday afternoon, but more than 115,000 jobs could be lost, according to a new study.

The 32 NFL teams employ on average 3,739 people each, including players, concession workers and office staff. If the lockout lasts a long time, layoffs are likely and many of those jobs would not come back, said Jesse David, senior vice president of the economic consulting firm Edgeworth Economics, who conducted a study of the impact of a lockout for the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). Check out a summary of the study here.

Not only are the players affected, but the jobs of more than 25,000 concession workers at stadiums across the country are threatened by the lockout. (See video above.)

In a telephone press conference this morning, David and NFLPA official George Atallah said each NFL home game generates on average $20 million for the team and the community. A lockout could cost each of the 32 NFL cities. as much as $160 million, they said.

“A lockout would have an impact beyond the players,” Atallah said.

We want to raise public consciousness of the effect [on communities] if the owners lock out the players.

The NFLPA has joined with the other workers in the stadiums and the rest of the union movement to fight management’s greed. Last month, the NFLPA announced that its members will fully affiliate with all AFL-CIO state federations and the central labor councils where their NFL teams are based.

The owners terminated the collective bargaining agreement two years ago because, they say, it isn’t working for them. But they refuse to provide audited financial information to explain what is wrong in a business that generated $9 billion in 2009 during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The owners are demanding that the players give back $1 billion, although not one team has lost money. They also want players to pay for team travel and the cost of running practice facilities.

On top of that, the owners have threatened to make the players pay for their own health care in case of a lockout. As it is, management provides only five years of health care coverage after players retire. Players’ NFL careers average only 3.4 years and many retire with a range of serious health problems. Not many people would argue that facing a 325-pound lineman running at full speed over and over could be dangerous to your health

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

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