THE WORLD OF LABOR — February 24, 2006

By Harry Kelber

Pay of U.S. Union Presidents Averaged $230,106 in 2004

Presidents of the 20 largest international unions earned an average of $239,106 per year during the unions’ 2004 fiscal years, according to a review by the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) of Labor Department’s financial records. Terence O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union, had the highest gross salary of the group of 20, receiving $405, 620. The lowest annual salary to a labor chief executive went to Leo Gerard, president of the Steelworkers, who was paid $136,613 in base salary.

Second in the top ranking was Douglas McCarron, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, with annual pay of $348,023, followed by Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), who received $316,916 in gross salary. In fourth place was Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, with $296,011. Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) earned $230,537.

On the low end of the pay range of the chief union executives with salaries under $200,000 were William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union ($140,615); Ron Gittelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers ($146,466); Morton Bahr, president of the Communications Workers of America ($156,539) and William Young, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers ($173,325). In addition to their salary, these labor officials receive allowances, as well as official and personal reimbursements.

After Three Deaths, Indian Tea Company Ends Lockout

Three alleged starvation deaths weighing heavily on its conscience, the management of Roopacherra tea estate in south Assam has agreed to lift the lockout in its tea garden Feb. 24, much to the relief of its starving 1,400 work force. The decision to end the lockout, which began Jan.19, was arrived at between the company and the Cachar Cha Sramik Union. Both sides have agreed to discuss all contentious issues in detail after the estate reopens.

The reasons for the lockout, the company said, were absenteeism and the failure of the workers to meet leaf-plucking targets, resulting in a sharp decline in profits. The lockout began to take its toll on the work force after over a fortnight had elapsed without any sign of reconciliation, Three persons, including a minor, allegedly died of hunger, while many others were reported to be suffering from various ailments.

Last week, workers of the tea estate had decided to defy the lockout and start plucking and selling leaf to nearby gardens for their survival.

Chinese Unions to Help Female Migrant Workers

Union leaders in China are stepping up efforts to prevent female migrant workers from being overworked, and suffering from occupational diseases and sexual harassment. “Female workers from rural regions are the priority protection targets as their situation in cities are still giving cause for concern,” said Huang Yanrong, co-chair of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).

About 10 million of the 140 million migrant workers belong to unions. Huang’s federation has vowed to organize six million by the end of the year. Chinese laws stipulate that employers must sign labor contracts with employees and their pay to be decided on the basis of negotiations However, surveys in different cities have shown that most employers do not obey the regulations when hiring rural women.

Trade unions in Northeast China’s Heilongiiang Province found that 60 percent of female migrants who were questioned did not sign labor contracts with their employers last year. The survey also showed that 62 percent of them suffered wage defaults.

Amsterdam Celebrates Its Strike to Rescue Jews from Nazis

Every year, a gathering is held at the statue of a dockworker in Amsterdam’s Jonas Daniel Meijerplein to commemorate the general strike of Feb. 25. 1941. Unlike other strikes, this one was not for higher pay or world revolution. Instead, for the first time in the occupied Netherlands, a city revolted against the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.

In the face of mounting attacks and raids on Dutch Jews, council workers in Amsterdam held a meeting on Feb. 24, 1941 in the Noordermarkt district and decided to strike. That night, the illegal Communist Party delivered a manifesto to all parts of the city, calling on the population to “strike, strike, strike!”

Tram drivers, dock and metal workers, civil servants and factory workers of all persuasions — Christians, Liberals, Social Democrats and Communists — answered the call and brought the city to a standstill. The German authorities were taken by surprise as nothing similar had happened in the other countries they occupied in the early part of World War II.

The Nazis responded with arrests, bullets and grenades. The strike was called off after two days. Nine people were dead, 50 injured and another 200 were arrested, some of whom were to die in the concentration camps.

Swiss Workers May End Metal Factory Strike

Employees of the Swissmetal foundry in Reconviller, who have been on a month-long strike, may return to work, depending on the conditions that are worked out between the company and their trade union, Unia, in talks under a government-appointed mediator. The strike, a relatively rare occurrence in Switzerland, was called to protest against plans to close the foundry with the possible loss of 120 jobs.

However, the fate of 21 managers at the Reconviller plant, who were dismissed last week for failing to turn up at company headquarters, remains unclear. Martin Hellweg, Swissmetal’s chief executive, said that their duties had already been redistributed within the Swissmetal group. Unia condemned the company’s action against the managers and said the subject of their future would be included in the negotiations.

Strikers have accused Swissmetal of reneging on an agreement reached last November over the company¹s restructuring plans. The workers and staff at the factory staged a major 10-day strike in 2004 in a bid to force the company to keep the foundry open. In all, 350 people are employed by Swissmetal in Reconviller, a village in the French-speaking Jura region.

Koreans to Be Compensated for Forced Labor Under Japan

South Korea decided Feb. 22 to compensate Koreans forced to work for the Japanese military or companies during Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Up to 100,000 South Koreans will be eligible for the individual compensation, government sources said. If those eligible have already died, their bereaved families will receive the payments.

The South Korean government will not ask Japan to cover those expenses. Instead, it will it will seek Tokyo’s cooperation in confirming the names of those qualified for compensation through lists of wartime laborers kept by Japanese companies.

When Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, they agreed that Japan would provide economic assistance worth $300 million in grants and $200 million in loans. In exchange, South Korea agreed to abandon the rights to claim compensation from Japan. Seoul has used just 10 percent of the $300 million in grants paid by Japan to help the former forced laborers.

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