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Labor in the Headlines

Dec. 17, 2012
A brief review of significant labor events in 2012
  • Workers at a Caterpillar plant in Joliet, Ill., returned to work in August, concluding a bitter three-and-a-half-month strike. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers approved the six-year deal by a narrow margin. 
  • Hostess Brands permanently shut down operations in late November, blaming in large part the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which launched a national strike after failing to reach a new labor contract with the maker of such brands as Twinkies. The company, mired in a reorganization plan, said an "inflated cost structure" put it at a competitive disadvantage, with collective bargaining agreements covering 15,000 of its 18,500 employees as the largest components of its costs. While Hostess said it had obtained support from its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Hostess said it could not say the same about the bakers union. "The BCTGM leadership chose not to negotiate a new labor contract and instead, when presented with a final offer, launched a campaign to cripple the company's operations and force it to liquidate,” Hostess stated.

See Also: Organized Labor's Uncertain Future

On Nov. 23, Black Friday, hundreds of non-union Walmart workers staged labor protests across the nation, demanding better pay and working conditions.
The percentage of workers in manufacturing who are in unions has been steadily dropping since the 1970s, when well over 34% of workers belonged to a union. This decade has shown no reversal of those fortunes.
  • In December, clerical workers, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, ended an eight-day strike and returned to work at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, cutting short a conflict that could have had significant ramifications for manufacturers. 
  • In Mississippi, the United Auto Workers is trying to organize Nissan's Canton plant, a seemingly uphill battle in a right-to-work state.  
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