Dec 13, 2007

'Tis the season to vote for the Grinch of the Year

Not only is it the season for Christmas trees, holiday decorations and TV Christmas specials, it’s also the season when all the major awards shows from the Oscars to the Golden Globes begin announcing their nominees for the coveted awards.

But a more seasonally appropriate awards program is also on tap: the Seventh Annual Online Grinch of the Year poll sponsored by Jobs with Justice (JWJ) to determine the national figure who does the most harm to working families. Anyone with an email address can vote simply by going online. The nominations have been taken from all over the country. Those nominated this year are Smithfield Chairman Joseph Luter III; Verizion Business VP for Human Resources Bob Toohey; Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers President J. Nicholas Counter III; Burger King CEO John W. Chidsey, and American Airlines President and CEO Gerard Arpey. Votes are being taken now online.

JWJ was founded in 1987 to help improve the standard of living for working families, fight for job security and protect working Americans' right to organize. It is an independent pro-labor, non-profit educational organization.

SMITHFIELD Chairman Joseph Luter III
Smithfield, which operates the largest pork slaughterhouse in the world, was a nominee last year. The plant, located in southeastern North Carolina, employs 5,000 workers and kills and dismembers over 32,000 hogs each day. According to Jobs with Justice, Smithfield’s Tar Heel plant remains one of the most dangerous work sites in the United States, where workers who have not been adequately trained are forced to work at exceedingly fast line speeds while making repetitive hand motions in processing the pork. Jobs with Justice also says that workers are injured, harassed, intimidated and threatened by Smithfield management and that Smithfield maintains an environment of fear and intimidation. For more than 10 years now, workers at the Tar Heel plant have fought relentlessly for a voice on the job. In 1994 and 1997, workers tried to hold a union election but "were met with the company’s coercive fist," according to Jobs with Justice. After the vote count at the 1997 election, one union supporter and one union organizer were allegedly dragged out of the plant, beaten, insulted with racial epithets and arrested.

VERIZON BUSINESS VP for Human Resources Bob Toohey
Verizon is also a past nominee, and it has distinguished itself as one of the Grinchiest companies on Earth, squashing efforts by workers in its wireless divisions to unite in unions, attempting to abandon rural and less profitable communities in New England and threatening the health care and retirement security of its unionized workers, according to Jobs with Justice.

But management’s behavior at its large accounts division -- Verizon Business (VZB) -- really stands out. In particular, vice president for human resources Bob Toohey, has shown exceptionally bad behavior by stepping on the democratic rights of VZB workers, Jobs with Justice says. It all started earlier this year, when a majority of VZB technicians in the northeast signed cards to form a union. In response, Toohey (and friends) launched an anti-union campaign, allegedly spreading misinformation about unions and holding "captive-audience" meetings. Jobs with Justice says workers filed unfair labor practice charges at the National Labor Relations Board because Verizon Business illegally interfered with their freedom to form a union. In two separate cases, the NLRB issued formal complaints against VZB for violating federal labor laws by spying on workers, suppressing free speech in the workplace and issuing illegal warnings to union supporters.

The Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) represents the six major media conglomerates in contract negotiations with the Writer’s Guild of America. Jobs for Justice says Counter forced 12,000 members out on strike, putting tens of thousands of people out of work just before Christmas. Oddly, he can’t count. He says the writers can’t get a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars the conglomerates are making over the Internet because the media conglomerates can’t count the money coming in.

Farm workers who pick tomatoes for Burger King's sandwiches earn 40 to 50 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick, a rate that has not risen significantly in nearly 30 years. Workers who toil from dawn to dusk must pick two tons of tomatoes to earn $50 in one day. Burger King -- the second-largest hamburger chain in the world -- has so far refused to work with farm workers and heed the call to improve wages and working conditions for those who pick their tomatoes, Jobs with Justice says.

AMERICAN AIRLINES President and CEO Gerard Arpey
Arpey asked employees to "Pull Together, Win Together,” and they did. Approximately 95,000 workers at American Airlines agreed to deep wage and benefit concessions in 2003 in order to save the company from bankruptcy. Now that the company is making money again, how are the workers being repaid for their sacrifices? Arpey awarded millions of dollars in bonuses to more than 800 of the top-paid executives at American this year. Lining the pockets of the top-paid executives while workers suffer is true Grinch behavior. The 95,000 workers got coal in their stockings for their Christmas bonus.

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