By Harry Kelber | The World of Labor | December 22, 2012

Michigan Becomes the 24th ‘Right-to-Work’ State

Organized Labor suffered a stunning defeat in Michigan, when its governor, Rick Snyder, made a last-minute switch to endorse and sign a "Right-to-Work" bill. It was the 24th state to adopt the anti-union statute, represented mainly by midwestern and southern state affiliates of the AFL-CIO.

What was surprising to many union officials and legislators was that the measure was approved in the home state of the powerful United Auto Workers and long-considered as the birthplace of the modern labor movement.

The allure of "Right to Work" was that members did not have to pay dues or assessments as a condition for working in a plant. It was an ideal contract for "free-loaders," who could enjoy the benefits of union conditions without having to pay their fair share.

For unions trying to organize, RTW was a trap. Without revenue from dues payments, they lacked the money to engage in organizing campaigns.

Union members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on Right-to-Work legislation Dec. 11, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan. (BILL PUGLIANO / GETTY IMAGES)

EU Parliament Votes in Favor of a Financial Transaction Tax

Eleven European countries have given their support to the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), which was approved overwhelmingly at a EU meeting last week. Together, those 11 unions account for 90 percent of Eurozone’s GDP,

If FTT is adopted, it is expected to produce about 30 Billion British pounds a year. The benefits of the tax would go well beyond the revenue it would raise. The tax would hit high volume, high speed trading the hardest, and would tend to discourage short-term speculation in financial markets.

A similar proposal in the United States by Sen, Tom Harkin (Dem-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (Dem-Oregon) would place a tax of 3 cents for every $100 in Wall Street trades and would raise hundreds of billions of dollars over a 10-year period.

ScotRail Workers to Strike on Christmas Eve

Workers on ScotRail will strike on Dec. 22 and on Christmas Eve in a dispute over the sacking of an employee, the RMT’ union said. The proposal to strike during the festive holiday was approved overwhelming at a meeting of the employees in November.

The union said that the action was in support of Scott Lewis, who had been dismissed for "trying to help a member of the public buy the correct ticket." The union added that the strike would cause "massive disturbances" to services.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "ScotRail are completely abdicating their own duty of care to their staff, who are out there, working for the company under difficult conditions. "The union offered to have talks with representatives of the company.

ScotRail insisted that RMT members had been misled by the union, which, it said, had declared in a leaflet that management had refused to produce evidence to back up the company’s reasons for dismissing Lewis.

French Unions Vow Fight Against Mittal Steelworks Deal

French trade unions accused President Francois Hollande of betraying them after the government backed away from a threat to nationalize ArcelorMittal’s Florange steelworks.

The Socialist government said it had won promises from ArtcelorMittal todevelop the Florange plant. Hollande came to office promising to create jobs and keep open the two furnaces at the site in northern France, which the company says are not viable in a European steel sector suffering overcapacity.

ArcelorMittal confirmed the details of a deal on Saturday, saying it would negotiate a voluntary redundancy deal with the unions. Workers are angry that the furnaces will remain idle rather than reopened. France has lost as many as 750,000 industrial jobs in the past decade. The French unions feel it is time to call a halt.

Brazilians March in Solidarity with European Workers

The Gerdau Workers’ World Council , one of the most active networks of IndustriALL affiliates, met this week in Sorocaba Sao Paolo, Brazil. The representatives of the Gerdau workers in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, United States, Peru, Colombia and Chile discussed the current situation in their countries and prepared for continued coordination to improve working conditions throughout the global operations of steel multinational Gerdau.

They addressed the social and financial crisis in Europe. The participants understood that the European governments were surrendering their sovereignty to banks and large corporations. They decided to support the struggle of European workers pushing for a more equal society.

The Gerdau World Council representatives marched with the seven Brazilian labor contingents to the Spanish Consulate to demonstrate their support for the workers’ demands. It was on Nov. 14, a day to be long remembered.

Zimbabwe, After 30 Years under Mugabe

The fortunes of Zimbabwe have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, who wrested control of the country from a small white community to become the nation’s first black leader. Zimbabwe is home to Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. The stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe are remnants of a past empire.

For years, Zimbabwe was a major tobacco producer and a potential bread-basket for surrounding countries. But the forced seizure of almost all white -owned commercial farms with the aim of benefiting landless black Zimbabweans led to sharp drops in production and precipitated a collapse in the agriculture-based economy.

Because of extreme poverty and an inflation rate that is probably the highest in the world, many Zimbabweans survive on grain handouts, Others have voted with their feet finding it impossible to live here. Aid agencies and critics partly blame food shortages on Mugabe’s land reform program.

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