Carta abierta: para la dirigencia de SEIU, con respeto al contrato de los janitors.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 by unionstaffspeaksout

25 centavos de aumento la hora? En serio? Cuando supuestamente tienen 95% de los janitors sindicalizados en Denver y trabajadores en huelga de hambre?

Al tener 95% de los janitors bajo un solo contrato, los janitors tienen tremendo poder.  Tremendo poder.  Si los janitors se ponen de huelga laboral, eso le pondria alto a la producción y ganancias de casi un sector de servicio entero.  Eso no es cualquier cosa entonces deberíamos de examinar lo que esta pasando con este contrato.

Como se justifica una meta tan baja considerando esas condiciones de poder?

Veo las siguientes posibilidades:

1. El sindicato realmente no representa 95% de los janitors en Denver. Es decir: no tienen la fuerza que dicen y alguien esta inflando esos números.

2. Si realmente tienen 95% de los janitors organizados entonces la dirigencia no sabe como organizar, preparar, o usar el poder de los trabajadores para negociar mejores sueldos y contratos.

3. O es que: como son trabajadores inmigrantes, que importa la cantidad del aumento? Ya me *imagino la dirigencia de SEIU tratando de meterle un aumento de 25 centavos la hora a los miembros de Kaiser o las/los enfermer@s. En un contrato donde esos trabajadores representan 95% de la industria en que trabajan?! Dios guarde!

4.  La dirigencia les dijo a los miembros que esto es “lo mejor que se puede pedir bajo estos tiempos económicos.”

25 centavos de aumento? Cuando tienen 95% del sector de limpieza comercial organizada?  Algo anda mal.  Dirigencia, pueden explicar porque es esta la meta?

En solidaridad,

Ricardo “Ric” Urrutia


Intro to Corporate Research for Econonic and Social Justice presentation

Posted in How to find information on the bosses/corporations on February 8, 2011 by unionstaffspeaksout

This presentation is meant for people with zero background in corporate research. All I ask is that you know how to open up the internet on your computer…we’ll take it from there. It’s a free event and I’ll have research booklets available for $20 each (or in bulk for unions/organization/large orders). The research booklets will combine information on how to research along with some of my photography.

Please help spread the word by handing out the flier, coming with a friend/co-worker/neighbor, forwarding this blog entry, sharing the invitation in Facebook, etc.

…and you can also click here to download a .pdf version of the same flier.

SAVE THE DATE: “How To Research Corporations,” a presentation by Ric Urrutia

Posted in How to find information on the bosses/corporations on January 31, 2011 by unionstaffspeaksout

On Thurs, March 10th, at 6:30pm I will be doing a presentation on how to research corporations. 

The presentation will be held at the Denver Area Labor Federation, 140 Sheridan Blvd.  It’s free and open to all workers, union members, community members, non-profit/union staffers, social justice activists, and anyone else who simply wants to attend.

The point of the presentation is to teach people how to research information on corporations.  We will focus specifically on researching/analyzing corporate documents, finances, workforces, environmental record, worldwide facilities, unionization rates, industry research, etc. 

This is a beginner’s level presentation that will incorporate my labor photography and photo art.

Please bring your co-workers, union sisters/brothers, friends, family, neighbors, etc.

Crisanta Duran beats Mark Thrun in Democratic HD5 primary, gets her website hacked

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 by unionstaffspeaksout

Alright folks, here’s the article from the Westword.

What can I say?  My new house district representative.  sigh…

So…I haven’t blogged in a really long time.  …certainly not for lack of interest but capitalism’s latest little hiccup has affected all of us and made me refocus my priorities for a bit.  As much as I’ve been burning to write, I, like millions, possibly billions of other people have had to hustle a bit harder these days to make ends meet.  Blogging has therefore lost priority points. I think and hope I’m through the worst of it so I’ll be blogging again some time in the near future.  Only difference: I’m letting go of Union Staff Speaks Out and will be blogging from a new site.  This blog has offered a good taste of what’s to come though.

I think the biggest mistake I made with Union Staff Speaks Out was that I painted myself into a corner with regards to subject matter.  In short: I felt everything had to focus around labor and I had to be careful to not come across as though I was the voice of union staff.

Stay tuned, thanks for reading, and congratulations Crisanta Duran.

United Airlines Picket, Denver International Airport

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2010 by unionstaffspeaksout

I spent about 30 minutes talking with United Airline workers at Denver International Airport today.

Here’s their situation, in their own words.

Here’s United Airlines’ Annual Reports (which the company files with the Security and Exchange Commission) from 1996 through 2009. I encourage any/all airline workers to go through these documents. There’s TONS of info in there that’s useful for organizing members and bargaining more strategically. Information on profits (“net income”), debt, properties, assets, number of workers, number of union workers, etc., etc., etc.

What I learned today:
-Workers took two concessionary agreements because of United Airlines’ filing for bankruptcy.
-Workers are working at the rates they had in 1994 (again: as a result of the concessionary agreements)
-The company said the workers would regain their benefits/salaries once the company’s financial situation started to improve. The workers haven’t seen anything thus far but they’ve seen an increase in the pay of the executives of the company. …always charming.
-Some workers lost all (or a lot of) their pensions after the company filed for bankruptcy. Some of the workers I spoke to had been working for United for 10, 20, 30+ years. One flight attendant told me of an 81 year old flight attendant who was basically too broke to retire.

I normally don’t publish photos of people blinking or with their eyes closed but in this situation it just tells you how strong (and cold) the winds were at Denver International Airport. If members of the Association of Flight Attendants would like to add, please do so with the comment section.

if you would like more information on how to research information on United Airlines, please look at the “how to research” blog entries on this blog.  I use Safeway as an example to teach people how to research corporations but the basic idea on how to research is the same if you’re looking up info on United.

In solidarity,
Ric Urrutia

Response from Luis Espinosa (answer to question 1 on Crisanta Duran)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2010 by unionstaffspeaksout


In a previous blog I posed the question: “Question 1:  In your own words, why should the constituents of House District 5ive vote for Crisanta Duran?” to Luis Espinosa, campaign coordinator with the United Food and Commercial Workers. In case you’re tuning in for the first time, the conversation started here.

Luis, to acknowledge your downfall comment: I hope you don’t encounter retaliation for your sincerity.  Especially from the UFCW.  If someone from the UFCW or the community takes exception or disagrees with what you’ve written, they’re more than welcome to come on here, address the merits of your arguments (in comparable tone), and defend their position.  That’s what this blog is for.

Regardless, Luis, you’re welcome to continue contributing to this blog.

Below is his response.

-Ric Urrutia


Here is my response to question 1. Sorry if it has taken my long, but I have found myself pretty busy lately. The second question which is about the labor movement and the UFCW (very lenghty subjects) will come hopefully by tomorrow night. I will also probably will not be debating the first question much further for the same reasons as you.

On Crisanta Duran:

First off, there is an unspoken question that needs to be addressed. You didn’t ask, but it is fair to assume that you and your readers might be wondering why I am such an outspoken defender of Crisanta. Supporting her is easy if you like her politics, but defending her out loud in this poisoned climate is something few people are willing to do. Let me clarify, I have never received any benefit from my friendship with Crisanta or her family. I have always maintained a healthy distance from Local 7 and its leadership. In fact, I only set foot in the local twice (and for less than two-hours each time) during the time that the Duran’s were in charge: one was during the ICE raids, and what I saw them do was consistent with what a labor leadership that cares about workers should do, regardless of where they come from or how they got here. The local provided representation for workers detained and submitted a writ of habeas corpus in federal court to make sure the Federal government wouldn’t violate workers constitutional rights. I was part of that effort, and assisted attorneys at the detention center in Aurora. The important thing is that there are many who came to the Duran’s to seek financial support for their projects. Several causes and organizations found in the Duran’s and the former leadership at UFCW Local 7 the legitimacy they needed to receive other endorsements, contributions, etc. I’m not referring only to politicians, but to very progressive causes and organizations that past leadership supported to the benefit of our community. Now, it seems, their silence is notorious. Many might even be reading this blog, still shaking under their beds feigning amnesia.

I have responded to your anti-Duran, anti-labor movement attacks on principle. You know our organization is not monolithic and more than one person in our midst might prefer that I stay silent. It could be the case that being outspoken about this issue now could be my downfall. Who knows, and I don’t care. Like you, I also have options. At the very least, I made a living as a Medical Lab Tech between the ages of 18 and 26, before I came to this country, and I am still able to describe the enzymatic reactions of the creatin kineasa and its use as a marker for myocardial infarction. The point is, whatever can be said about the mistakes of the former UFCW Local 7 leadership, there were many good things they accomplished and supported, and if everyone else has run for the hills, then I’ll be happy to be the one stepping up to the plate, to point out the positive, even at the expense of sleep, personal time, and career stability. You have always been critical of the Duran’s and for whatever this criticism does for you, I respect that. I do not respect those who were Crisanta’s friends only while the weather was fair.

So now, with regard to question number one, let me give you a two-fold response; first half principled and second half pragmatic: First, Crisanta has the right values and politics that I believe we need in a legislator at the State Capitol. For the work that must be done, I trust she would carry the right principles to not only be accountable and push for progressive legislation but do it aggressively and have the power to lead her own democratic colleagues. Her current boot camp training notwithstanding, pressure can only make her best suited to receive and apply pressure as a legislator. Second, the alternatives are not better. Have you done your homework on the other candidates? You cannot hold Crisanta to the highest standards without using the alternative candidates and officeholders as a frame of reference. Crisanta’s preparation and experience outshines that of many sitting representatives. Crisanta has already lobbied for issues and people that I hope you can agree are friendly to people we care about (i.e. living wages, good benefits, locked out workers, immigrant students, etc). Can you honestly affirm that Crisanta’s principles are inconsistent with the kind of representation we need in the State Capitol to move an agenda not only for workers, but for many progressive issues that affect our different communities? Comparatively, she has already done more than any candidate who is running for HD5. If you disagree with me, I will probably lose you from this point forward, but we have agreed to disagree, so I will continue.

Having established, in my view, that she holds the right values, the next issue at stake is her “scandalous” nature. Let me state my position about the Local 7 election and be very clear: the membership spoke and with whatever numbers, they decided not to give another term to the former Local 7 leadership. I will always respect that. My support for Crisanta is consistent with my support for the membership and my commitment to stand with them and face the challenges that lie ahead for UFCW workers. However, scandal, we both know, is a social construct–a man/woman made phenomenon. Granted it does not happen in a vacuum. Scandal needs incentive and momentum. With this being said, there are two things that are brought up often about Crisanta: whether she deserved the job she had, and whether she took advantage of that job in detriment to the UFCW membership. Both questions are fair, but from my perspective, all facts have not been heard as much of this situation has played out by and for the mainstream press and the lines have been bloodied with emotions and faulty accusations.

First, Crisanta was not doing just any kind of job, she was legal counsel for the union and in order to be able to do that, she had to hold a law degree from an ABA accredited school of law, which incidentally, she possesses. Did she have an unfair advantage at getting that job than anyone walking in from the street? Most likely she did, and there is no shortage of lawyers out there trying to get a job. Was that advantage detrimental to members? I don’t think so. I am a strong believer that, whenever possible, rank-and-file members should be in decision-making positions in unions. Of course, this is not a position where the pool of rank-and-file applicants is big. She had to litigate, undertake legal research, lobby, help draft policy, etc.– tasks for which she had the skills and was properly educated.

And so we get to the last question that is implied in your challenge: did she take advantage of her position as legal counsel for the union in detriment to the membership? Let’s take in parts.
Crisanta’s salary was comparable to what many attorneys make in many other unions and companies. Yes, some attorneys make less than that, and there are attorneys that make more. You can get me started about the legal priesthood and the niche they have created in society for themselves if you want, but the fact is that in this place and time attorneys are compensated as a very specialized trade. Furthermore, when confronted with the reality of a potential strike, she gave back a big portion of her salary to the strike fund. That doesn’t make her a saint, but it makes her actions consistent with the values she represents.

As for the accusations of misused funds: there was a complaint filed with the Labor Department, and so far they have not been able assert that any funds were misused. If they had, they would be pursuing at the very least fines, but at worst prosecution. Is the investigation over? It depends who you talk to, and the government bureaucracy is notorious for taking its time. The fact is that if there were any irregularities in the government audit, they would have already issued charges. Anyone can make accusations, yet the presumption of innocence remains a very standard value of any civilized society. Demonizing Crisanta over this very serious allegation without merit does not advance any worthy cause. It is mere character assassination without formal charges or prosecution.

Finally, you can argue that the whole two party system is broken, that nothing in the current electoral system advances the cause of workers, and that the relationship between labor and the democrats is not what gives workers power. That would be a valid argument. However, the debate would be a different one, and it would not be fair to center that on Crisanta either or her candidacy for HD5. It would require a more global analysis of what it is really needed to bring real social change.


How to research candidates, elected officials, and government spending

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by unionstaffspeaksout

The purpose of this blog entry is to show you where you can find information on campaign contributions to political candidates, elected officials, and government spending/budgets.  If you don’t live in Colorado, it’s still a good idea to read through the information I present on Colorado.  It offers the basic ideas on how you can research your own state/city/municipality, etc.

…you see i have this sinking feeling that when political candidates get elected with the campaign contributions of corporations/CEOs there might be an expectation to “return the favor”.         …just a suspicion.

…please forward this blog entry to teachers, state workers, city workers, or any type of government workers.  especially if said workers are union members and have to negotiate with their department heads and other government bureaucrats.

also please forward this blog entry to anyone in the community who wants to look up the financial information on their elected officials.  This is public information and can/should be freely used.  i encourage you to be creative…this blog has already shown you how to research information on corporate CEOs, no reason you can’t connect the dots for us.  : )

let’s begin.

Colorado’s elected officials and candidates

One of the most recognizable names in Colorado politics: [Denver] Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, recently decided to run for governor.

Say we wanted information on campaign contributions to candidate Hickenlooper.

In general, you’d start by looking at the website of whatever government agency maintains information on the campaign contributions for the level of office a candidate is running for.  In this case, in Colorado, if we want information on gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper we would look at the Secretary of State’s (SOS) website.  …the governor’s office is the “executive body” of the state which means we need to look at the records held by a state agency.

If we wanted information for a federal-level official (e.g. McCain/Obama/Bush, Congressional representatives) we would use a federal agency.

We would specifically look at the part of the SOS’s website that concerns itself with campaign finance reports [please click here].

Click “search database”.

[NOTE: If you don’t know what government agency holds this information for the candidate you’re researching, it’s a good idea to google “campaign finance report” in combination with your state’s/city’s/county’s/district’s/etc name.]

So if researching Hickenlooper’s campaign contributions you’d start on this page [please click here].

…and click on “Candidate Search”.

Click here to get down to brass tacks.

I usually search by the candidate’s name or the committee name.  A committee is usually created by a candidate to serve as the organization or group of people in charge of reporting campaign contributions.  A committee’s name is usually something like: “Hickenlooper for Colorado” or something simple like that. Committees are also formed to fund ballot initiatives if you’re ever researching that.

Go ahead and type in the names of your house/senate district representatives, current candidates, past/present governors, etc.   If you need the names of your state legislators you can find those by clicking here.


Government spending/budgets

If you want information relating to how any level of government spends its money, you definitely want to check out the government office(s) with the word(s) budget and finance and in it.  Nowadays you can find A LOT of information online.

So, for example, if you’re looking for information on how Boulder County uses its money you’d Google something like “boulder county budget office” and find this link.

If you wanted information on the budget for the Colorado Dept. of Education, you’d google something like “Colorado Department of Education budget” and find this linkDenver Public Schools would have a separate budget office which you can see by clicking here.

You can find the Denver City Council’s budget office by clicking on this link.

If you wanted information on the US military budget you would google something like “US Department of Defense budget” and get this link.

As with corporate research, you always have more credibility when you’re using the official source.  In this case, it’s the department of government that maintains the type of information you’re looking for.  Don’t understand the financial lingo?  Get one of these books.

So we’ve found the types the sources that house information on budgets, spending, etc.

Now the job of a researcher to break it down, make sense of it for us and put it together in an interesting way.  For example: Is there a connection between campaign contributions and how our elected officials vote?  If so, what is that connection and who is involved?  How many years has this been the case?  At what cost to constituents?

I hope readers find this useful and that they watch their candidates and elected officials more closely with the information being provided.

In solidarity,

Ric Urrutia