Thursday, September 30, 2010

New round-up: Union vote at Delta, Teamsters try to shake up Fed-Ex, and a rally cry for immigrants in Mississippi

Here is the latest round-up of some of the key labor activity in the South

A Unionized Delta Airlines in Atlanta?

Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson believes the "culture" developed over 80 years at his Atlanta-based company precludes unions, and that's why he's urging some 20,000 attendants--including 7,000 who were union members at now-merged Northwest Airlines--to vote "No" in elections beginning this week, the first in a series between now and early November that will also include 14,000 baggage handlers and more than 16,000 other workers.

Two previous union votes at Delta were unsuccessful. However, the addition of the Northwest attendants changes the landscape and could pave the way for a major labor victory in the Deep South.

Union officials are encouraged by new rules put in place by the National Mediation Board, which oversees transportation, that state that a majority of votes constitutes victory. Under the old rules, a majority of all employees--whether voting or not--was required before victory could be declared.

Teamsters trying to stir up Fed-Ex in Memphis

Over in Memphis, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters tried unsuccessfully again to get Federal Express stockholders to approve changes allowing for an independent board chairman at the company as it prepares for the eventual retirement of CEO/founder Fred Smith. Stockholders voted down the proposal by a 2-1 margin at their annual meeting at the company's headquarters.

Fed-Ex and the Teamsters have been squaring off for some time now with the union supporting efforts to have the company operate under the same labor rules that apply to its major competitor, UPS. Legislation is pending before Congress to effect such a change, which would give the Teamsters a golden opportunity to organize Fed-Ex drivers. Fred Smith has fought this legislation with tooth and nail and threatened to nullify huge Boeing contracts with the company if it is passed.

Mississippi organizer calls immigrant rights human rights

Here, closer to home, Lily Axelrod, North Mississippi organizer with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, this week encouraged students and faculty at the University of Mississippi to become engaged in the effort to secure human rights for immigrant workers.

"We need drastic reform of our immigration system that will emphasize human rights," said Axelrod, herself a descendant of Polish immigrants. "Unfortunately none of the bills being tossed about Congress right now do that. If the government would just enforce existing (labor and human rights) laws, things would be better.

"We're working from the ground up here in Mississippi, using the same kind of tactics that civil rights groups used."

MIRA is now combating proposed legislation before the Mississippi Legislature that would mimic the draconian, anti-immigrant law recently adopted in Arizona, a law that allows law enforcement to stop and question anyone suspected of lacking immigrant documentation. Critics say the law is a blank check to law enforcement for the harassment of any immigrant, whether legal or not.

Hearings on the proposed legislation in Mississippi were held this week.

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