November 19, 2002

Union pickets say SBC favoring contractorsSAN ANTONIO -- Waving placards and chanting "We'll be back," more than 100 unionized SBC Communications workers picketed Monday outside the local phone giant's offices, claiming SBC continues to hire cheaper contract workers even as it lays off thousands of well-paid company employees.

SBC officials countered that contract positions were also being cut as the company struggled through an economic slowdown that may bring more layoffs in 2003.

The Communications Workers of America said Monday's protesters came from around Texas, as well as neighboring states, and that the rally was not a one-time occasion.

SBC announced in September that it plans to cut 9,000 positions in the fourth quarter and 2,000 more in the first quarter of 2003. Those come in addition to 10,000 job cuts dating to October 2001. The company has more than 185,000 employees, according to its Web site.

 Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

  Nov. 21, 2002, 8:58PM

Unions protest at Wal-Mart stores

Organizers present demands for work conditions cross-country

Reuters News

Service Labor unions led a nationwide protest against Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday afternoon, demanding that the world's biggest retailer provide better pay and health benefits, and clear the way for unions to organize its nearly 1 million workers. The protests in 40 U.S. cities from New York to Hawaii were aimed at calling attention to labor issues at Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. employer behind the government, and reaching out to workers whom organizers say have been discouraged from joining a union. Protesters carrying placards gathered in Wal-Mart's massive parking lots, while others clad in union-logo attire went into stores to deliver a list of demands to managers, organizers said. "People are going to try to engage Wal-Mart workers as much as possible," said Jill Cashen, spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers, which helped organize the protests along with the AFL-CIO labor federation, the National Organization for Women, and other groups. "We know that workers are frightened of being perceived as being union supporters because of Wal-Mart's heavy-handed tactics. Every time workers have stood up to have a voice at Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart has suppressed them through illegal activity," Cashen said. Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, which operates more than 3,200 stores in the United States and recorded more than $200 billion in sales last year, denied hindering union efforts to organize its workers. "These rallies are just a continuation of a campaign that the union has been waging against Wal-Mart for a number of years," spokesman Bill Wertz said. "Their efforts to organize our associates have been unsuccessful. They seem now to be shifting to a strategy of trying to discredit our company." Just 4.5 percent of U.S. retail workers belonged to unions last year, compared with 9.1 percent of the total U.S. working population, according to the Employment Policy Foundation, a Washington-based research group. Retail provided full-time and part-time employment for more than 13.4 million people in 2001, making the sector the U.S. economy's largest employer, the research group said.

  Nov. 21, 2002, 10:32PM

AFL-CIO questions comment by analyst

Reuters News Service

NEW YORK -- The AFL-CIO, which represents $400 billion in investable assets, said a report by a Morgan Stanley stock market strategist that warned investors away from unionized companies was contradictory and inflammatory, according to a letter obtained Thursday by Reuters. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney cited in the letter to Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Philip Purcell a report by strategist Steve Galbraith, in which he cautioned clients against investing in heavily unionized firms in the near term. In a Nov. 11 report titled "Look for the Union Label," Galbraith said, "In the face of a difficult economic outlook, investors do not want to own businesses with high fixed costs, pension funding issues, spiraling post-retirement health care obligations and potential labor strife." Sweeney questioned Galbraith's motives and is concerned Morgan Stanley doesn't believe in union principles such as employee health care and pension plans. "The report is contradictory, has -- even its authors admit -- a weak empirical foundation and appears to have been written more to inflame its readers than to inform them," Sweeney wrote in his Nov. 18 letter. "In short, this research report appears to be an improperly motivated attack on all union members, their employers and their benefit funds." In a statement Thursday, Morgan Stanley said, "Recent responses to a research report for North American clients mischaracterizes as Morgan Stanley policy one of its research analyst's opinion on the investment attractiveness of unionized companies."