Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Support the Employee Free Choice Act!

This Thursday the House of Representatives will vote on one of the most important Bills for workers rights in decades. The Employee Free Choice Act. Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) The Employee Free Choice Act American Rights at Work: Employee Free Choice Act This will give workers a chance to become union by signing an authorization card for union representation and bypass the illegal electioneering by corporations to thwart organizing drives. Our own Congressman Mike Thompson is a co-sponsor of this Bill. I applaud his efforts to help the working class.

In 2001 I tried to initiate amendments to a legislative bill asking the 107th Congress to return the National Labor Relations Act to it’s original intent, defending workers right to organize. The Right to Organize Act of 2000 (Introduced in the House) was reintroduced by Mr. Jesse Jackson Jr. and I thought the timing was good.

I had a meet with Liz Murguia who is the Field Representative for Mike Thompson. I outlined my gripes about the shortcomings of union organizing to Liz and asked for direction. She was more than helpful in walking me through steps we would need to take. She suggested the reforms or amendments to the “Acts” needed to be non-threatening to both political parties.

These were the following changes I wanted to see!

Amend the Landrum Griffin Act to include true financial disclosure for companies (plant locations) upon proof of 30% authorization cards by the National Labor Relations Board. (Within 7 days after filing a petition for an NLRB election.)

Amend the Act to protect all workers petitioned for through an election period, including disputed workers bargained or lost in election stipulation process.

Amend the Act to establish set criteria of no more than 45 days from petition filing to election, without deviation by any NLRB representatives.

Amend the Act to include all written briefs and appeals as part of and not including the 45-day election period.

For numerous reasons, mostly the loss of the majority in the House, the Bill was not successful.

This time the Employee Free Choice Act has momentum. I hope this time we will see a victory for the people!

Please contact your local Congressman and other local politico's to spread the word!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nancy Flemming is Rio Dell City Manager!

The other Richard (Mostranski) called me tonight to let me know it is official. Nancy is the new city manager for Rio Dell. You can bet there will be some lively activity down that way. She knows city processes, and that should help in the long run. Her political and media ties will bring to the forefront Rio Dell issues. I wish her well. Richard is heading up the city of Loleta as manager. All eyes heading south for the next few years!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Becoming a union is hard in today's time.

Interesting reading in the Eureka Reporter an article by Robyn Blumner concerning union busting. I could not find the link in the ER so I went elsewhere. News: Norma Rae, why's it so hard? Companies can get away with just about anything during an union organizing campaign with little repercussion. As an organizer, it is so frustrating to watch companies spend millions of dollars to stop a unions attempt at helping workers. I tried to organize a paper cup plant in Bakersfield called Dopaco and we estimated that the company spent over 1.5 million dollars to keep 160 workers from going union! They could have paid them $10,000 each, but instead put on a long campaign using tactics I will share at a later date. In the end, the workers lost.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Where is the Headwaters money for Palco workers?

The Northcoast Journal recently had a LTE from our own past 1st District Assembly Member Virginia Strom Martin, asking for the accountability of the Headwaters money. North Coast Journal February 8, 2007 : THE TOWN DANDY : Armistice Day In 1997 Virginia advocated for 20 million dollars to be set aside for "jobs and economic development." Palco fought Virginia's efforts threw the media, but Virginia prevailed and flew up with then Governor Pete Wilson to present the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors with a 13 million dollar check with the inscription, "for jobs and economic development." For several years this fund sat untapped collecting interest. Is that money helping the displaced workers at Palco in any way now?

I do know that I tried unsuccessfully to solicit money from the Headwaters fund for a feasibility study for the workers at the Samoa Pulp Mill to purchase the Pulp Mill through a Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP). I had little help and many roadblocks in my effort to guide the workers. And we were talking of hundreds of living wage jobs in balance at that time. Humboldt County was just fortunate that Lee and Mann from China purchased the Pulp Mill at very little investment.

I do need to thank Micheal Twombly for helping me through the process in helping the workers efforts to purchase the mill. In hind site it would have been great idea. Evergreen Pulp has been very successful.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Presidents misbehaving Redux. Lyndon Johnson vs. Bush.

I hate war and “military actions.” My father James Marks was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed, and served in Korea. He retired an Army Major after he passed the bar and became a lawyer. All three of my older brothers served in the Army. Two were in Vietnam. My family is and has been affected by that Vietnam “military action” even to this day. The draft lurked ominously over us teenagers back in the 60’s and 70’s. I was set to serve my country if called upon, but I was none too happy about and was not going to volunteer to kill people. I watched my older brothers’ reactions to Nam and it was not good.

Why were we even in Nam? That is kind of ironic. President Lyndon B. Johnson convinced the US public through media manipulation that the US destroyer Maddox was previously attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin off the Vietnam coast. North Vietnam insisted that this did not happen. No matter, Johnson ordered retaliation. Then Congress created the The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave Lyndon B. Johnson approval, without a formal declaration of war, “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.” The Johnson administration took full advantage of the this Carte Blanche of war without name and 40,000 American Soldiers paid the price along with 4 million other humans living in Southeast Asia.

You would think that something like this could never happen again. Surprise, along comes George Bush and Iraq. Here we are in another “Military Action” without the declaration of war saving us citizens from ghosts called terrorists. I have seen many good young men and women and National Guard people not so young, having their lives changed and irreversibly interrupted. Over 3,000 will not be coming home alive.

History seems to repeat itself over and over. When does it stop? I wish I knew.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Suicide and Hate in the County.

I have been reading the series in the Eureka Reporter on suicide kind of like you would drive by an accident. You don't really want to know, but you look anyways. The Eureka Reporter - Article I have lost a few friends who have taken this route. I just can not understand why this happens. A few years ago Rick Collins worked for me as basketball ref and a softball umpire. We had a good working relationship and I have missed him since that day he took his life. I read recently that his wife Kathy was so upset at him that she wanted to strangle him for what he did. In this latest article the wife left behind said the same thing. It must be a terrible thing for the spouse to live with. I wish I could have talked to Rick before he made that decision myself. Too late.

What is going on locally in Humboldt County? Today I was at Coopers Gulch hitting softballs with the guys. I noticed this little red car cruising the parking lot a few times. They finally stopped and this young girl got out and was arguing with this driver who ran toward the woods. A young guy came running out of the woods with no shirt to meet him. They started cussing at each other and the girl went to the guy that was in the car and smacked him a good one and made the comment, "It was only a sweater for God's sake!" The guy did not listen and the two went blows. I have learned the hard way to stay out of this type of threesome. All sorts of their buddies came out of the woods from playing Frisbee Golf and rooted their favorite on. There were probably over 20 or so witnesses. They broke up after the girl got between them, but then she left enough room for them to go back at it. I do not know how many people there were filming it on their cell phones. After they had enough of one another, they were given an ovation from the young witnesses. I hope this does not escalate further. Times just seem to be getting crazier as the years go by.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tired and cranky on the Peninsula

I am getting tired. At work I am on a string of 11 12 hour shifts in 13 days. I may work a few 16 hour shifts since I am stuck there. They are still hiring.
I have been on this weight lifting "thingy" for over a month now. You have to get creative and do new things to try to "trick" your muscles. I read about this new push-up exercise using a Swedish fitness ball CNHI News Service Get on the ball by placing your hands on the ball and doing a push up where your chest touches the ball. I have done many push-ups and figured that was an easy one to pull off. Wrong! It is hard to keep stable. You end up putting all sorts of muscles to work. Been a challenge, but I am starting to get better. My wife Robin had already read about this. I am always amazed at how much she knows about a wide variety of stuff. I call her the "Queen of Useless information." Oh, I say it lovingly. She reads more than your average type though.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back on the HCDCC.

My wife Robin and I are new members of the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee. HCDCC I had made some comments about how they were doing business, and I received enough feedback to quit whining and get back involved. I was nominated last meeting to be a member of the Committee in the form of a 4th District Representative. This meeting I spoke of my past history as member of the committee back in the 90's. I was then grilled for my past endorsement of Virginia Bass for mayor, and was asked point blank if I would support only Democratic candidates in the future. I could not commit to that and I reminded others in the room that they endorsed a Republican over me during the election for Supervisor in June but I was over that. Chair Patrick Riggs said that he personally did not back me in the primaries but was willing to support me on the HCDCC and let bygones be bygones. I appreciated that, and was voted (Not unanimously mind you) to be a member. Times-Standard Online - Humboldt Democrats focus on becom ing effective locally My wife Robin was unanimously voted on as an associate member. She may run for a political office this next year. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Most important election I ever ran. Happy Valentine's Day!

I was so fortunate to be able to be the lead organizer on a union organizing attempt in Corona, California at a cup and food utensil manufacturing plant called Dart. Dart - Quality Single-Use Foodservice Packaging ProductsThey are the largest styrofoam cup manufacture in the world.

The effort took nearly a year, so I stayed in Southern California for the majority of time. Yes, the weather is awesome, yes the highways (especially 91) are a pain to maneuver. If you have ever watched Norma Rae Norma Rae that is what an union organizing drive is like. I met a wonderful group of people who were very motivated to become part of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) AWPPW. There were nearly 700 workers and I asked that 70 people commit to being a part of the In Plant Committee (IPC). I was pleasantly surprised to have around 100 people step forward to help lead workers from the inside. The IPC really drove this campaign and I basically just navigated through an misinformation storm the company would drag them through. Dart management threatened to move the facility to Arizona, harassed workers, held long captive audience meetings and basically misrepresented the truth about unions. We were able to thwart their tactics through earlier experiences on other organizing drives with the help of fellow AWPPW organizers David Herrera and Ken Parsons. We had set a goal of 400 authorization cards signed by Dart workers to be filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to insure we would have enough support to win an NLRB election. We reached that number in about 9 months. Some of the IPC traveled with me to the NLRB office near the Staples center in Los Angeles to witness the filing for a union election.

The IPC made a tactical decision to have an NLRB election on February 14, Valentines Day, and use that as a celebratory theme. Usually the company will drive the date for an election and the union will most of the time agree just to push the election forward. One time I had to agree to a May 5th election for a predominately Latino election in Bakersfield. The Cinco de Mayo date worked against the union and we lost. The workers at Dart were different in that they set the pace and this election was held on Valentines Day 2003.

On the day of the election I was able to demonstrate to the Dart workers of the power of the union. The NLRB allowed Dart to set up a special election spot in a break room area they partitioned off with boxes of Dart product. Dart had many union busting attorneys on hand who were on hand as I adamantly demanded all labels with Dart symbols to be covered. Even the NLRB agent said, “We just passed thousands of these symbols on the way here!” I held my ground and Dart was forced to cover up all their logos much to the glee of the workers. Most were just shocked to see David, Ken and I being allowed in the facility.

I had written on the blackboard before the election that we would have 306 yes votes. The vote was 320 to 185 in favor of the union. This represented the largest successful manufacturing organizing drive in the nation in years.

Dart Container employees vote to join union
Labor and company officials insist that they will negotiate a contact in good faith.
CORONA-Employees at Dart Container Corp's manufacturing facility in Corona decided last week to join an Oregon-based union by a vote of more than 63 percent, a federal official said Tuesday.

Production, warehouse and maintenance workers voted 320-185 to join the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, said John Hatem, field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board. The results of the Feb. 14th vote will become official Friday if no challenges are filed, Hatem said.

Workers will have to elect a committee to bargain with the company, which manufactures foam cups and plates, plastic cup lids and other disposable food items. Union organizer Richard Marks said he hopes the contract negotiations will go smoothly."This is a time to heal, "Marks said. "We want no adversarial conditions with Dart. It was the workers democratic choice to join the union, and now that they have, we don't want a confrontational relationship."

I kept a diary of this drive to inform all people involved in this campaign. Some of this information went international, as George Hagglund, professor emeritus of Wisconsin University's School of Labor printed and distributed my Dart diary to the professor's on staff at the school of labor in New Zealand and they used it in their daily lectures. I have also been in the ongoing process of having this organizing drive published with the help of the University of Oregon in the future.

I was blessed to have the support of Len Roberts, past president of the AWPPW and past organizers David Herrera and Ken Parsons. Other people from the AWPPW that helped were Bob Crane, Gerald Cawvey, Martin Perez, Ralph Garcia, Misty Dyson Ivy, Tony Moreno, Mac Blumanglag, Stephanie Garcia, Jeannie Shell, Larry Adams, Javier Reynoso, Greg Jones, John (You know who you are) and Dave Smith. My family was very patient.

I would like to thank all the workers from Dart who put up with me, welcomed me into their homes, fed me and left an everlasting impression on my life; Rita Dominguez, Dave Witt, Chuck Willbanks, Roy Camp, Roy Garcia, Virginia Defreese, Lorenzo Torres, Jason Blanton, Carolyn, Big Mama Grande, Carol Johnson, Debbie and Dorothy Escalara, Al Frazier, Roberto, Alfredo, the Eddies, Hiram Avila, Romero and many many more.........I miss you all.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I have a LTE printed in Washington! (The State)

I wrote a letter to the editor to the Daily World in Washington concerning the new owners of the Cosmopolis Pulp Mill. The Daily World This was in response to an earlier article that pretty much outlined the new owners feelings about union workers. The Daily World People and corporations who disregard or marginalize a quality work force just irks me.

I just finished another 16 hour shift doing clean up and met a new hire from Palco. He started last week at Evergreen. He is owed thousands by Palco and has been told there little chance for financial recovery. But Fortuna Mayor John Campbell is listed as a front line collector on $400,000 for past service. John, do you disregard that young man's 12 years of actually doing physical work for Palco over your few years of advice in a company doing illegal business and ripping off workers in Humboldt County and doing poor environmental practices? Makes me sick!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

First Softball of the year!

I went and played softball in the rain at Redding Big League Dreams this weekend. Visit Redding - Big League Dreams Sports Park

It has not rained for how many weekends? Boy, let me tell you, it rained big time this weekend in Redding. We were scheduled to play the NSA Tournament at 9am and played shorthanded because some of our players did not show up in time. It was wet, wet wet but we were ahead of the team we played from Mt. Shasta late in the game. Our Short Stop Justin Moore broke his hand fielding a short hop and it was just a downer all the way. The final score was 17-11. We were put in the loser bracket and had to face the Misfits from Lake County. We beat them 19-1 in 4 innings and moved on to play a team from Oroville. We were leading late in the game but they came back to take the lead. I came up with the bases loaded and 1 out and our team down by one. The other team moved their infield in for a Double Play possibility on this old man. I knew I only needed to hit the ball to the outfield to score the tie run. I accidentally hit a ball over the fence and against the light pole nearly 300 ft away. It caused a huge controversy on whether the pole was in fair play. It was determined that it was in fair play and we were over our Home run limit, so instead of 4 runs, it was an out. My team was shocked that I could hit a ball that far, but we lost the game and I was bummed. Damn me! We drove home without a trophy.

You think we were crazy to be playing? Over 20 teams from all over California and their fans were there to have fun. The weather just did not cooperate. We will try again soon.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Railroad news. Todays Port Development meeting.

Timber Heritage Association (THA) The Timber Heritage Association President Marcus Brown spoke at today's Port Development meeting at the Samoa Cookhouse. (Noodles and shortribs. Lots of bread, soup and salad also. I'll give today's lunch a B score.) His group raised over $30,000 in a recent fundraiser to help defray costs of moving a workable train to the Round House in Samoa. A call out was made for local service groups to consider adopting the THA project. They are in need of help in the near future for renovations of the Redwood built Round House. I am sure they would appreciate monetary funds, but for those who are willing to put in some elbow grease to the project, they are need of that also. Marcus also talked of hope of running a short portion of the rail line in Samoa by this summer. Further in the future, the hope is to run train from Samoa to Eureka, and then perhaps the Madaket trip back to Samoa. That would make a great day excursion for tourists.

Bill Bertain also spoke at the meeting and brought up Robin Arkley's public endorsement of the railroad and his political and phone line ties with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as possible leverage for the northern section of the rail line. He also mentioned that railroad advocate and former Congressman Doug Bosco has Arnold's attention after leading the Democrats for Schwarzenegger Committee. Maybe we will see the resurrection of the rail yet.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Humboldt Creamery to strike? Other TS stuff getting petty.

This story in the TS seems premature. Times-Standard Online - Strike talks at Humboldt Creamery They are still negotiating and a strike is your last plan of defense in a contract war. I know it is in Teamster's Representative Dave Hawley's best interest to make this issue public to get sympathy, but all it did was stir the pot way early. I would have liked to see the TS interview some long term employees to see what the worker sentiment is. Come on, there are over 100 of them to talk to. One thing that shocked me in the story is to find out the average wage at the plant is under $16 an hour. That is around a dollar less than our entry pay at Evergreen Pulp.

It was great that the Arcata Playhouse received front page news. I know some of the people involved and I hope to enjoy the venues soon. But why did the TS basically ignore the great hullabaloo of the Arkley center? If nothing else they should have treated it as great significant historical piece of Eureka being brought to life. Maybe many of the TS staff was not around when this was a important fixture in Eureka residents lives. And how do you ignore the hundreds who enjoyed the opening and the thousands who have checked it out. Jealousy creates poor journalism?

What is with TS editor Rich Somerville feeling the need to respond to hyper blogger Capt. Buhne in an editorial? Talk about some paranoia in the TS editorial den. Times-Standard Online - Anatomy of a blog exclusive Take a chill pill Rich!

I just think the TS stand of trying to ignore all things Arkley is kind of weak. The Eureka Reporter has brought a healthy competition of wages to the mix. Writers and staff of each paper have reaped some financial rewards in this mix and that has been good for our local economy. I am a subscriber to the TS and was a paper boy in the 60's and also a paper street vendor in Eureka. I have also been an occasional writing contributor in the sports section since the 70's. So I do have a long history with the TS. But I think they can do better. Snivelling and ignoring isn't helping.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Where are the local hard workers?

We are still short of workers at Evergreen Pulp. I keep hearing of people being interviewed, but they do not seem to be showing up on the work floor. I just finished shoveling chips and sawdust at $40 an hour because we are short handed. (I worked a 16 hour shift.) You would think that local people would be knocking down the doors for a Union job that pays around $17 to start with benefits.

Is it just me, or do we seem to have a lack of a motivated younger workforce locally? I see new hires that just do not seem to care. And I am always shocked to see so many call ins. The last time I called in sick here at the Pulp Mill was in 1990. My recent Operating partner has worked at the Pulp Mill for nearly 30 years, and I can not remember him ever calling in. I have always thought of work as a commitment that should have a high priority. Is anyone out there seeing the same trend in their workplace?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Exxon has record profits, little environmental responsibility.

I know that not many want to talk about this subject, but don’t you think Exxon’s 39.5 billion dollars of profits for the year 2006 was pretty scandalous considering what is going on in the world today? They topped their own record for a U. S. A. company of 36.13 billion dollars of profit from 2005. And we consumers just whine and keep paying at the pump.Exxon Mobil breaks its own record for U.S. annual profit

One part that really bugs me about this subject is they still have not taken total responsibility for the clean up around the Prince William Sound, Alaska and in fact had the judgment against them cut in half a few months ago! Exxon gets Valdez oil spill damage award slashed in half - Dec. 22, 2006

And now we have new reports on the long term damage in Alaska being documented. Exxon Valdez oil lingers along Alaska - Environment - MSNBC.com

How do Exxon and other corporations get away with this? Has public apathy blinded our judgment of corporate wrongdoing?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Palco screws over their workers!

I watched channel 3's news coverage of the Palco disaster. Seems they made promises to workers they have not kept. Then their legal team is hiding from the blame by saying the "it is in the bankruptcy court's hands, not our." Worse kind of people are those who have no regard for the workers. Then the TS does a story pretty much saying, "you workers are no longer assets to the company, so go get in line with the others we owe money to." Times-Standard Online - PL severance packages on hold Just makes me sick!

David Cobb has an excellent atricle today Times-Standard Online - Wall Street vs. Main Street concerning the subject. Those workers who have been ripped off should be holding up pickets as a group until they get what is owed them.

Heraldo also covers this subject well. Humboldt Herald