When in Rome?

New Orleans     In the global economy it would be a mistake to believe that there is an operating truce between companies and their unions. Unless there is constant push and pull, everything seems to fall to the lowest common denominator which usually means the least cost or the most that one can get away with wherever you might be.

ACORN and its India partners (www.indiafdiwatch.org) have been seeking to communicate just this message during the debate in India about opening up foreign direct investment (FDI) in large scale retail to pariah companies like Wal-Mart, Metro, and Tesco. The simple message has been that India government and commerce must force the companies to become good corporate citizens as they enter the country and not simply hope they will learn good citizenship once they are piling on the rupees.

A sad case in point is offered now by Tesco as it prepares to enter the lucrative — and highly unionized — retail market in southern California. Despite 100,000 or more union members and reputedly a good rep with its unions in the UK, when in the Rome of southern California, it wants to make sure its union free and busting butts….

    Read and weep and remember we must be ever vigilant!

    MSNBC.com May 26, 2006

    Tesco job ads follow non-union line

    By Jonathan Birchall in New York
    Financial Times

    Tesco, the world’s third largest grocer, has listed
    “maintaining union-free status” and “union avoidance
    activities” among the responsibilities of senior
    managers of its planned new network of stores on the US
    west coast.

    Language in two job descriptions indicates that Tesco –
    which has a close partnership with its UK union – is
    set to follow the non-union example of Wal-Mart, Whole
    Foods, Trader Joe’s and others in the US, adding to the
    pressure on the United Food and Commercial Workers
    (UFCW) in southern California.

    An advert for a new employee relations director, said
    “the incumbent has primary responsibility for
    management of employee relations; maintaining non-union
    status and union avoidance activities”.

    Tesco, which has ambitious plans for stores in LA and
    in Phoenix, claimed it had not yet reached a decision
    on the likely union status of its planned US
    operations.

    On Friday, after being questioned by the FT, it removed
    the non-union language from the two job ads – which
    were first published last month and published again
    this week.

    The tabular content relating to this article is not
    available to view. Apologies in advance for the
    inconvenience caused.

    The retailer is believed by analysts to be planning a
    range of smaller 10-12,000 sq ft stores that will sell
    a range of fresh foods and prepared meals.

    In southern California, Tesco is entering one of the
    most bitterly contested labour relations battlefields
    in the US. Two years ago, the area witnessed a four-
    month supermarket strike, as the UFCW tried to fight
    moves to cut benefits by Kroger, Albertson’s and
    Safeway.

    The UFCW’s Local 770 is campaigning aggressively
    against the expansion of Wal-Mart’s Supercenters in the
    Los Angeles area.

    Nelson Lichtenstein, a labour history professor at the
    University of California, said that Tesco’s small
    format stores could represent an “under the radar
    threat” to the UFCW.

    In the UK, Tesco has operated a partnership with the
    USDAW retail workers union since 1998, and has more
    than 100,000 union members among its staff. It has also
    adopted a human rights policy that includes “the right
    of our staff to join a recognised trade union”.

    “Union avoidance” has become part of the job
    specifications of numerous US non-union employers, and
    would require an awareness of how to combat a union
    organising campaign without breaking the law.

    J Sainsbury, Tesco’s UK rival, had acrimonious dealings
    with the union during its ownership of the Shaw’s
    chain, before selling the stores in 2004.

    H&M, the Swedish fashion retailer, granted union
    recognition to warehouse workers in New Jersey and
    Connecticut in 2004, after an international campaign by
    the Unite Here union that targeted its Swedish
    shareholders.

    Bruce Raynor, general president of Unite Here, said
    that the H&M campaign had been based on the principle
    that European companies should apply the same standards
    to their North American workers as they did at home.
    “My prediction is that the UFCW would contest any
    decision by Tesco to act differently in the US,” he
    said.

    Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights
    reserved.

May 29, 2006

Tesco: Every Poor Worker Helps Us Make More Money
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‘Splainin’ Nagin?

New Orleans      Ray Nagin was re-elected as Mayor of New Orleans by a solid 52-48 margin over Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu.  Many have asked how this was possible.

Here are the facts and then we will look at the theories.  

* Almost 25% of the vote was through absentee and satellite voting — basically the diaspora.  This was essentially a “push” with Nagin winning by less than 200 votes out of this set.

* Only 38% of the eligible voters cast ballots.

* Endorsements did not move core preferences.  Both candidates won where they had won before.  In precincts that had been taken by other major white candidates in the primary (Foreman or Couhig on the conservative, republican, and wealthy side), Landrieu won by 80% majorities.

* Race trumped everything else and the percentage of the African-American vote in the runoff was close to 55% compared to 52% in the primary.

* Nagin expanded doubled his white vote from 9% in the primary to close to 20% in the runoff, while Landrieu when down from 25% black vote to closer to 20% in the final.

Here are my opinions on what made the difference at the end of the day:

* Race.  Landrieu assumed a black crossover, but he failed to make a clear and convincing case, especially on the symbolic issues (footprint, diaspora, etc) that sent the message to these voters that he would really save their houses, jobs, and hopes.  Nagin was able to send the message that there was a gang-up to get rid of him — which was true — and black voters rallied to save one of their own and maintain control of the office as they had for a generation.  Voters essentially said, “you can take my house and job, but this is one thing I’m not letting you have!”

* Incumbency.  No matter the challenges faced by the incumbent, you have to take a seat away from someone as the challenger, rather than operate as if it is yours.  Landrieu made the classic error after the primary of assuming he had already won because of the first reason above.  It had been 60 years since a mayor failed to win a 2nd term in New Orleans after all.

* Crazy man for crazy times.  Nagin was able to convince the voters that he was just as crazy and Katrina beset as all of them were and his style fit the times.  Nagin was simply a much better politician than Mitch, and it came across.  Mitch was the nice guy.  Nagin was the mad man who might embarrass us, but might stumble on to a solution as well.

* Hard-core Republicans. Couhig could not deliver his hardcore, white, conservative Republican base which gave him 10,000 votes in the 1st for a 4th place showing, but his endorsement of Nagin but to the real loyalist who knew that voting for Nagin would help them beat Mary Landrieu in the Senate and give them another fighting chance at retaking the governor’s seat in 07 against Blanco, this was good for a couple of thousand votes, and could have been the real margin in the white crossover for Nagin.

Who is up and who is down now as we try and rebuild the city?

* The Times-Picayune (www.nola.com) had nothing but egg everywhere.  Endorsed first Foreman, then Landrieu but only begrudgingly at the last minute on Wednesday.  Pretty much every position it insisted had to be debated was ignored and it’s recommendations meant nothing to most people even in the city.

* A generation of black political machines were left without a base or patrons and ignored by Nagin as well.

* Joe Canizaro, Boysie Bollinger, and the big Republican fundraisers came back to Ray at the end of the run, but there’s no love any more and they were reduced to begging to be heard on the front page of the paper yesterday hoping that Nagin would listen to business again.  Not!

* Unions have some friends on the council but not many and backed the loser from the first day.

* Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) ends up as another bunch of goo-goo’s howling at the wind.  Nagin resented the fact that his scandal free run got him nada from the white silk stocking crowd.

To be determined….

* ACORN took no position in the Mayor’s race concentrating instead on election protection, GOTV, and commitments from both candidates to the rebuilding effort.  There’s no happiness in the middle of the road, but it may allow ACORN to be a voice on both sides of the huge divide now splitting the city.

We will have to see what emerges in the coming days.  We have not been huge Nagin fans, but now we have to somehow figure out a way to get him to work with all of us and rebuild New Orleans.

….at least for the next couple of years, because Ray will have to be thinking about bailing to run for Congress in Bill Jefferson’s seat now that Bill is hanging on by his fingernails against a mountain of pending indictments, cold cash, hot video, and search and seizures.

May 24, 2006

Ray Nagin, incumbent winner of the New Orleans Mayoral Election
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