Thursday, June 11, 2009

[olympiaworkers] 2009 Annual Survey of Trade Union Violations

As you open this year's Annual Survey of Trade Union Violations, you may
be thinking of the terrifying impact of the global financial and economic
crisis which hit millions of working women and men around the world in
both industrialised and developing countries in 2008.

The crisis emphasises the need to develop a global economy based on decent
jobs and social justice and it underlines the need for a better
distribution of wealth. Instead workers everywhere have begun to feel the
full impact of surging unemployment on their lives and that of their
families and communities as decent work and decent jobs disappear. They
have also begun to see the growing impact on their rights at work.

Trade union rights are universally-recognised human rights at work. Two
key International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions which define and
guarantee them (conventions 87 and 98) have been ratified by 149 and 159
Member States of the ILO, respectively, out of a total of 182 worldwide.

Despite this formal recognition by governments, the ITUC is, this year
again, documenting the continuous and often massive and harsh violations
of fundamental trade union rights. This Survey is one of the ITUC's means
to expose and denounce those violations through its overview of the trade
union rights situation in the world in 2008.

Countries where widespread and grave anti-union practices have
unfortunately continued include: Colombia, Burma, Belarus, Sudan,
Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Iran, Pakistan and the Philippines. Countries such as
Honduras and Guatemala should this year be added to this list. In many
other countries, where violations are not as outrageous, there is an
overall growing tendency to undermine workers' rights. Interference in
trade union activities has been reported in Iraq, Kuwait, Latvia,
Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Venezuela, among others.
Despite some legislative proposals or measures in some Middle East
countries and Gulf States, migrant workers are still denied trade union
rights in many countries. In addition to that, companies continued to take
advantage of poor legislation and weak implementation to undermine
workers' rights.

Worldwide in 2008, at least 76 labour activists were killed as a result of
their actions for workers' rights. Latin America remains the deadliest
continent for trade unionists with over 66 murdered in 2008. 49 Colombian
trade unionists lost their lives (including 16 union leaders, 4 of whom
were women), a 25% increase over 2007. Trade unionists were also killed in
Guatemala (9), Honduras (3) and Venezuela (4) among others. In Asia, at
least 6 murders were reported (Nepal and the Philippines), as well as 3 in
Africa (Nigeria, Tunisia and Zimbabwe) and 1 in the Middle East (Iraq).

In countries in every region, trade unions continue to be banned, or their
establishment restricted. China still bans independent trade unions. Those
attempting to unionise groups of workers or organise protests are often
arrested, with some given prison sentences and others condemned to
're-education through work'.

Certain categories of workers also continue to be excluded. This includes
public servants, agricultural workers, migrant and domestic workers, etc.
The right to strike is often unduly limited, with lists of public services
in which strike action is restricted going far beyond the ILO definition.

Again this year, several thousand trade unionists and workers were
dismissed for participating in strike actions or protests; thousands more
were harassed or discriminated against and hundreds arrested. The
situation of domestic workers, mostly women and migrant workers in the
Middle East and the Gulf States as well as some African and Asian
countries, is also disturbing. Outright denial and other violations of
labour and trade union rights were common in export processing zones, for
example in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Swaziland,
Bangladesh, Kenya, Mauritius and Pakistan.

Furthermore, the ongoing globalisation of the world economy coupled with
the global financial and economic crisis put inordinate pressure on labour
markets, working conditions and workers' rights everywhere. Workers
continue to be threatened by employers with relocation, outsourcing and
downsizing, with inevitable negative consequences for the effective
exercise of their trade union rights.

New forms of employment relationships are also affecting fundamental
rights. The use of bogus self-employment as well as subcontractors or
labour agencies is increasing in industrialised and developing countries.
This report documents cases in Korea, Croatia, Poland, Montenegro,
Georgia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam,
South Africa, Chad and Morocco, amongst others. Sadly, we can only fear
that next year's Survey will paint a worsening picture.

This Survey, covering 143 countries, is also intended as a tool. It
highlights wasted opportunities to promote better industrial relations,
improve working conditions and productivity and to build or consolidate
democratic institutions. It also illustrates good practice in cases where
improvements are recorded. For instance, new legislation recognizing and
enabling trade union organising has been adopted in Burkina Faso, Kenya,
Mozambique and Australia.

You will find the full text of ILO core conventions 87 and 98 in the
annexes as well as an overview of ILO decisions on key issues concerning
trade union rights, which are often insufficiently known and understood.

Legislative frameworks and effective institutions should provide adequate
protection and guarantees on freedom of association and collective
bargaining. Unfortunately, in too many parts of the world, including Asia,
the Middle East and the Gulf States, freedom of association is still not
guaranteed by constitutions or labour laws.

Effective implementation of international conventions or even national
labour laws and respect for trade union rights continues to fall far short
of workers' rightful expectations. This year again, the ITUC is reporting
assassinations, abductions, arrests and imprisonments, as well as death
threats, dismissals, harassments, acts of discrimination and intimidation
against trade unionists.

Yet, millions of trade unionists and labour activists around the world
continue to fight for workers' solidarity, sometimes at the risk of losing
their own lives or livelihoods. Prominent examples in 2008 included trade
union leaders in Zimbabwe, Colombia, Guinea, Guatemala, the Philippines,
Iraq and Iran.

I want to thank our affiliates, the Global Union Federations and all the
persons who contributed to making this Survey possible, and to pay tribute
to all those whose dedication to justice, equity and fairness at work has
achieved so much for so many working people.

The ITUC remains the international voice and ally of trade unionists
worldwide, especially when they can not rely on fair national legal
systems to protect their fundamental trade union rights.

More than ever, the ITUC's mission is to stand side by side with workers
in their struggle for justice and the defence of trade union rights
worldwide because "An Injury to One is an Injury to All!"

Population: 301,000,000 / Capital: Washington
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 105 - 182

The National Labor Relations Act restricts union rights in violation with
minimum international labour standards. In most enterprises there are no
constructive labour relations or social dialogue since employers use every
means to stop or undermine trade unions and to harass trade union
activists. Union busting is a 4 billion dollar industry in the USA.
Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is the
private sector federal labour law in the United States, and is binding on
the states. The NLRA guarantees the right of freedom of association, the
right to bargain collectively and the right to join trade unions.

However, in addition to excluding public sector workers, the statute
excludes many categories of private sector employees from its scope,
including agricultural and domestic workers, supervisors and independent
contractors. In 2002, the U.S. General Accounting Office found that some
25 million private civilian workers, as well as 6.9 million federal, state
and local government employees, did not have the right under any law to
negotiate their wages, hours or employment terms. Since then, even more
workers have been denied coverage.

Private sector: In the private sector, the law requires proof of majority
status in order for a union to become the exclusive representative of
employees within a bargaining unit. The National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB), the administrative agency that enforces the NLRA, will only
certify a union that obtains a majority vote during a Board-supervised
election although, as discussed below, voluntary recognition agreements
are also legal.

Employers allowed to hold anti-union meetings: Employers have a statutory
right under the NLRA to express their views during a union campaign, so
long as they do not interfere with their employees' free choice. In
practice, however, employers have a legal right to engage in a wide range
of anti-union tactics that discourage the exercise of freedom of
association. For example, employers have the right to hold "captive
audience" meetings, which they use to make anti-union presentations, (see
below). Under the law, it is perfectly legal for employers to discipline
or even fire workers for failing to attend these meetings. The law also
allows employers to "predict" (though not "threaten") that a workplace
will shut down if workers vote for the union.

Public sector – collective bargaining denied to many…

… at the federal level: In the public sector, approximately 40% of all
workers are still denied basic collective bargaining rights. While the
Federal Labor Relations Act covers over two million employees of the
federal government, the statute outlaws strikes, proscribes collective
bargaining over hours, wages, economic benefits, and imposes extensive
management rights that further limit the scope of collective bargaining.

…and the state level: Collective bargaining for state employees varies
from state to state. Only a little more than half of the states allow for
collective bargaining in the public sector; several more allow it only for
narrow categories of workers. Even where public sector workers have the
right to bargain, they generally do not have the right to strike, and the
terms and conditions of employment subject to collective bargaining may be
restricted by law. In North Carolina, all public employees are denied
collective bargaining rights, a situation that in 2007 the ILO has
determined violates workers' fundamental rights (Case No. 2460).

"War on Terrorism" used as pretext to restrict rights: The ongoing "War on
Terrorism" has been used as a pretext to significantly roll back labour
rights for employees of the U.S. government. In 2003, Congress authorised
two Departments, Defense and Homeland Security, to create a new system for
resolving labour-management disputes for the next six years. Both
departments created new labour relations systems that virtually eliminated
collective bargaining. The unions representing the employees of these
federal agencies challenged the systems in court. In 2007, the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a lower court and held
that under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, the Department of
Defense was authorised to curtail collective bargaining rights until 2009
for its civilian employees. Earlier, another panel of the same court
struck down portions of the rules applying to employees of the Department
of Homeland Security that abrogated certain collective bargaining
agreements and limited the scope of collective bargaining.

The approximately 56,000 airport screeners who work for the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) have no rights of freedom of association or
collective bargaining by virtue of a federal government order stating that
they "shall not, as a term or condition of their employment, be entitled
to engage in collective bargaining or be represented for the purpose of
engaging in such bargaining by any representative or organization."
Pursuant to a complaint filed by the AFL-CIO and the American Federation
of Government Employees (AFGE) about the government's violation of the
rights of airport screeners, the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association
in 2006 expressed "concern" with "the use of an ever-enlarged definition
of work connected to national security to exclude" from collective
bargaining employees that are further and further away from the type of
employee considered to be "engaged in the administration of the State."
(Case No. 2292, 794). Accordingly, the Committee recommended that the U.S.
government "engage in collective bargaining . . . with the screeners'
freely chosen representative" in matters "which are not directly related
to national security issues." (798). To date, the screeners have not
regained their rights of representation or collective bargaining.

Restrictions on collective action: The NLRA and judicial decisions
interpreting the law place limitations on the ability of workers to engage
in "concerted activity", such as intermittent strikes, secondary boycotts
and other forms of mutual aid and protection. The law also allows
employers to replace striking workers permanently. Permanent replacement
workers can vote in a decertification election to eliminate union

Undocumented workers: The NLRA, anti-discrimination laws, and wage and
hour standards apply to employees regardless of their immigration status.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that undocumented workers
are not entitled to back pay as a remedy for unfair labour practices under
the NLRA, and they are not entitled to reinstatement. These restrictions
have made it difficult to enforce trade union rights on behalf of the
millions of undocumented workers in the United States. The ILO's Committee
on Freedom of Association recommended, in November 2003, that the
government should amend the legislation to bring it into line with
freedom-of-association principles, but the United States has not done so.

Employee Free Choice Act: The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) passed by
the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 and gained a majority support in
the U.S. Senate before it was blocked by a Republican filibuster. The
Employee Free Choice Act helps to level the playing field between workers
and corporations by making it harder for employers to violate the law. The
proposed Act would provide statutory protection for employees' right to
choose freely whether to join unions and engage in collective bargaining
by signing cards authorising union representation. The Act would also
provide mediation and arbitration for first contract disputes and would
establish stronger penalties for violations of employee rights when
workers seek to form a union and during first contract negotiations. It
will be reintroduced in 2009.
Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: In November 2008, Illinois Democratic Senator Barrack Obama
was elected President of the United States.

Anti-Worker National Labor Relations Board: John Sweeney, President of the
AFL-CIO, has stated: "The function of the Labor Board is protecting
workers rights and ensuring their freedom to form unions and bargain
collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Like so
much else in the Bush Administration, this Labor Board has become nothing
more than a shill for corporate special interests and it's time for it to
be closed for renovation."

Union-busting consultants: A US$4 billion union-busting industry exists in
the United States to defeat union organising drives through coercion and
intimidation. Consultants employ a wide range of tactics, including many
that skirt the law.

Anti-union terminations, meetings and threats: A 2005 survey, carried out
by the University of Illinois and commissioned by American Rights at Work,
shows that 91% of employers, when faced with employees who want to join
together in a union, force employees to attend closed-door meetings to
hear anti-union propaganda. In 70% of organising campaigns in the
manufacturing sector, employers threaten to move the plant if the union
wins. Thirty percent of employers fire pro-union workers. Unions
frequently establish initial majority support among a workforce, only to
see it erode under employer threats, harassment and coercion. According to
the survey, in 91% of the union recognition petitions filed with the NLRB
as a prerequisite to an election, a majority of employees indicated they
wanted a union. However, unions were victorious in only 31% of these
campaigns. In addition, employers often challenge the results of union
elections, which can delay union representation and contract negotiations
for several years.

Bad-faith bargaining: Even after a union becomes certified as the
exclusive representative of the workers, many employers engage in
bad-faith bargaining in order to prevent the union from winning a first
contract. Under current law, if no contract is reached for 12 months, the
union's status as bargaining representative can be challenged. As a
result, 44% of all attempts at winning a first contract fail. Only one in
seven organising efforts in which a petition is filed with the NLRB
achieve a first contract.

Justice ineffective: Remedies for intimidation and coercion, such as the
illegal firing of workers who seek to form unions and bargain
collectively, are both limited and ineffective. Many employers who violate
labour laws are never punished. Even when they are, the penalties are too
weak to deter them from doing it again.

CLEAN car-wash campaign seeks to clean up dirty industry: In March 2008,
Los Angeles area car-wash workers began publicly organising with the
Carwash Workers Organizing Committee (CWOC) of the United Steelworkers.
Since then, the owners of one area carwash where workers have been
actively organising have fired three union supporters who advocated
publicly for better working conditions. The NLRB filed almost a dozen
complaints against the owners for their retaliatory behaviour in fall
2008. A trial was scheduled for February 2009, but there have already been
delays. The United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO joined a coalition of
organisations known as the Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network
(CLEAN), to support the car-wash workers. A report released by CLEAN found
that exploitation of car-wash workers in the largely underground industry
is rampant. Violations include underpaying workers, hiring minors,
operating without workers' compensation insurance, and denying workers
meal and rest breaks.

Verizon business workers win union recognition and first contract: Several
hundred technicians at Verizon Business have united in the Communications
Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers (IBEW) throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the

In early 2007, the techs achieved support from a majority of their
co-workers. They received strong support from their elected officials and
the rest of the labour movement. Most significantly, they built unity with
Verizon "core company" union members whose contract with Verizon East
expired on 2 August 2008.

Core company workers and their union leaders made it a major issue while
bargaining for a new contract. With an arbitration case pending charging
that Verizon Business was doing bargaining-unit work covered by contract,
the company agreed to recognise the techs and negotiate a new contract.
Their new agreement went into effect on 28 December. About 600 techs are
covered by the new contract.

There are thousands of Verizon Business workers throughout the rest of the
country. Efforts are underway now by the newly organised Verizon Business
techs to reach out to their co-workers about the benefits of uniting in a

Resurrection Health Care: Resurrection Health Care (RHC), the largest
Catholic health care system in Illinois, and the second-largest health
care system in the Chicago area, has undergone a systematic program of
corporatisation leading to deteriorated working conditions and patient
care. In 2002, RHC employees began exercising their right of freedom of
association by seeking representation by the American Federation of State,
County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME). In response, RHC began a campaign
of intimidation and harassment, including retaining the services of a
union-busting law firm, questioning employees about their support for the
union in closed-door sessions, and holding mandatory meetings in which
management spoke against the union and refused to allow union supporters
to speak.

During 2008, workers steadfastly continued their fight for union
representation. The six-year-long struggle at Resurrection has become a
prime example of the need for EFCA and labour law reform.

Construction workers in the Southwest escalate their effort to win union
recognition: The Sheet Metal Workers and the International Union of
Painters and Allied Trades, with the full support of the AFL-CIO, are
waging the Building Justice campaign to raise working standards in the
residential construction industry, particularly in the southwest region of
the US. The Sheet Metal Workers have focused on Chas Roberts Air
Conditioning in Arizona, the largest residential heating and air
conditioning contractor in the state. After a 50-year collective
bargaining relationship with the union, the company abrogated the
agreement and hired union-busting lawyers. The NLRB issued a complaint
over the company's failure to honour the agreement and its harassment of
workers. In addition, the workers have had to go to court to receive owed
overtime pay.

Immigrant painters in the Phoenix Valley and Las Vegas area are attempting
to organise at a number of companies. Federal wage and hour lawsuits have
been filed against several of these contractors. Workers have also rallied
and done outreach to politicians in an effort to secure a safer working

In addition to the subcontractors, the campaign is also focused on a major
home developer, Pulte Homes. Pulte has been involved in more than one
incident where striking workers were targeted by industrial water trucks
on the company's housing tracts and repeatedly doused with high-pressure
water. Moreover, its employees often harass union supporters who do
informational leafleting at Pulte developments and seek to deny them their
democratic right to freedom of speech.

Drugstore warehouse workers frustrated by Rite-Aid's refusal to bargain in
good faith: A majority of workers at Rite-Aid's Lancaster CA distribution
centre voted in March 2008 to form a union with the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The company conducted an anti-union
campaign that included harassment, threats and unjust firings. Prior to
the election, the NLRB issued a complaint alleging 49 violations of the
NLRA. A settlement of the charges resulted in the March election.

Since the union victory in March, Rite-Aid has fired about 50 employees at
the Lancaster distribution centre. Management has cut back on permanent
workers' hours, while keeping temporary and contracted workers on the

On 6 August 2008, the union charged that Rite-Aid has unilaterally changed
the terms and conditions of employment of employees by terminating their
employment or imposing discipline short of termination without providing
the union with notice and opportunity to bargain in advance of making
these unilateral changes.

On 3 December 2008, the union also charged that Rite-Aid has unilaterally
changed the terms and conditions of employment of employees by reducing
the hours of full time employees below 40 hours per week, laying employees
off and reassigning other employees to perform the jobs of laid-off
employees while retaining supervisors and temporary employees to perform
the same work.

The ILWU has requested injunctive relief for both charges under Section
10(j) of the NLRA. A decision from the NLRB on the charges is pending.

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