By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
One rapidly growing publicly traded firm, Labor Ready, has found a niche in construction by offering temporary workers. Founded in 1989, Labor Ready has 700 offices and expects to tally revenues this year of $1 billion.
Labor Ready and other construction temp companies have successfully presented themselves as cheaper alternatives to unions. "They have become essentially a non-union hiring hall," said Grabelsky.
More alarming, from a union perspective, has been the firm's willingness to provide workers to companies whose own employees are on strike. According to Grabelsky, Labor Ready has provided strike breakers on half a dozen occasions since 1998.
"The challenge of temporary work represents an unraveling of the employment relationship," economist Ron Blackwell, director of corporate affairs for the AFL-CIO, told the Cornell meeting. "It's a change welcomed by corporate honchos," said Blackwell. "They tell us they see a future of no set wages, no employment arrangement."
The Domino Effect
Striking Domino Sugar workers in Brooklyn, who spent their second Christmas on the picket line, took some modest seasonal cheer from news that their employer, the British firm of Tate & Lyle, was reported to be considering the sale of their money-losing sugar division. Among possible suitors, reported union leader Joe Crimi, is Florida Crystals, Inc. That firm acquired a Yonkers sugar-processing plant and quickly settled a one-week strike by Crimi's union, the International Longshoremen's Association. "I know we can work with them," said Crimi.
Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone led a pre-Christmas contingent of councilmembers to the picket line on December 22, bringing canned goods and other foods for the intrepid strikers, who number some 100.
Among the delegation was Queens councilman John Sabini, who has been among the strikers' most stalwart supporters. "My father worked there when I was a kid," said Sabini. "He got laid off. I remember it wasn't a pleasant sight. Now we have a foreign-owned company that is forcing workers out of one of the oldest plants in the city, one of the last big waterfront businesses. It is plain wrong, it is un-American.
"It's not like this business isn't profitable," continued Sabini. "Even the dotcom people put sugar in their coffee. They make a good profit there and they should treat the workers like they are people."