- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Strike threats from airline-industry workers, Boston janitors and West Coast dockworkers demonstrated the unrest in the workplace that marked Labor Day this year.
West Coast ports are bracing for a labor slowdown this week after union negotiators walked out of contract talks between shipping companies and longshoremen Sunday.
Yesterday, the Teamsters union held rallies at some of the 29 West Coast ports to drum up support for the 10,500 longshoremen threatening to walk off the job.
The ports handle $300 billion in goods annually, which is more than half of all U.S. foreign trade.
Any job action would be felt in Washington and on the rest of the East Coast, which is the destination for many Asian imports shipped by rail from the West.
Yesterday, President Bush attended a picnic in Pittsburgh organized by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America to make amends with the types of union members who nearly gave the last election to his Democratic opponent.
The president's speech at Neville Island, Pa., was a first stop in a nine-week campaign to rally support for Republican members of Congress on the Nov. 5 ballot.
"Congress needs to get moving," Mr. Bush said during a speech outside a union hall. He urged quick legislative action on terrorism insurance, energy policy, retirement protection and tax cuts, saying Americans are hurting more than economic indicators show.
"I know the statistics and all that business, but what I worry about is when I hear stories about people who can't find work," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush's courting of unions coincides with organized labor's increasing emphasis on mobilizing its members to vote for pro-union candidates. The AFL-CIO plans to spend about $33 million in this two-year election cycle, most of it to support Democrats.
Politicians seeking union support have plenty of labor grievances they can address.
Flight attendants for Midwest Express are among union members using threats to express their dissatisfaction. They said they will strike or engage in sporadic work stoppages unless new contract negotiations can resolve their wage dispute soon.
Pilots at United Airlines and mechanics at US Airways are scoffing at attempts by management to cut their salaries as the airlines struggle to regain financial solvency.
About 25,000 machinists for aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. appear close to striking. They are holding off on any job action as mediators try to put together a new deal from the remnants of what management called its last, best contract offer. The machinists union rejected it.
Major League Baseball players narrowly averted a strike Friday, when they reached a final-hours agreement with team owners.
In Boston, 10,000 janitors represented by the Service Employees International Union voted Friday to strike. Unless an agreement on wage and health insurance is reached, the janitors, who clean about 1,000 Boston-area buildings, plan to walk off the job as soon as today.
Support for organized labor grows in opinion polls as corporate scandals damage confidence in business leaders.
An Employment Law Alliance survey found that 53 percent of Americans have little or no faith in the ability of top business executives to solve the problems of working families. The same poll said 59 percent of Americans said unions could be a good way of guarding against breaches of corporate trust.
A recent Peter Hart Research survey reported that half of nonunion workers would prefer to join a union, which is up from 42 percent a year ago.
"Trust in corporations has plummeted right along with retirement accounts and college savings," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, in a Labor Day statement. "Americans' growing loss of faith in corporations has fueled their interest in forming unions."


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