February 24, 2012
By Harry Kelber
AFL-CIO staffers seem to find satisfaction in reporting stories about greedy CEOs and their company’s outrageous behavior toward their workers. The stories incite deep anger among t union members, but they rarely deter a major corporation from changing its policies or its conduct.
Take the example of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company of Ohio, as reported by AFL-CIO staffer Manny Hermann. In 2008, when Cooper Tire and Rubber was losing money, workers at its Finlay, Ohio plant gave up $31 million in pay and benefits to help the company stay afloat, Hermann reports.
Thanks to the workers’ sacrifices and productivity, Cooper has made more than $300 million in profits since 2009. Cooper paid its executives millions of dollars in bonuses, and bought a new corporate jet. What did its employees get? Locked out on Thanksgiving weekend!
Despite soaring profits, Cooper pushed through a new contract on the employees that included higher healthcare premiums and undisclosed wage terms.
Corporations No Longer Fear Retaliation from Organized Labor
The situation at Cooper Tire is ready-made for intervention by unions in behalf of the locked-out workers, but apparently the AFL-CIO has decided not to get involved, except for calling on union members to send e-mails to the company.
Years ago, there were few lockouts, because employers knew they would face powerful, sustained opposition from a union. The locked-out workers did what they could to prevent scabs from entering the plant and taking away their jobs. Employers had little to gain from risking a lockout.
Today, employers regard the AFL-CIO as cautious and conservative. Their leaders do a lot of talking, but they tend to play it safe by avoiding mass actions,, even non-violent ones,, for fear of jeopardizing their control of the organization.