LEFT FIELD Aitto v 010.4020 In a political climate superheated by global warming, the Bush campaign danced around a secret meeting of environmental regulators and representatives of the industry they regulate. Or at least the meeting was supposed to be secret until the Detroit News reported that regulators from seventeen states were scheduled to meet with industry reps at the airport Marriott in Detroit, to discuss how life would be better for them if George W. Bush is elected president. “Many of the state regulators involved in planning the meeting were appointed by Republican governors who were early supporters of Bush,” wrote Detroit News reporter David Mastio. Participants listed in memos drafted by Russ Harding \(Michigan’s senior environmental official who works for Bush supwere David Struhs, a Florida envi ronmental regulator appointed by Governor Jeb Bush; Pennsylvania environmental secretary James Seif, who is an adviser to the Bush campaign; and Robert Huston, Governor George Bush’s appointed chair of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. A T.N.R.C.C. spokesman said Huston did not participate in a conference call on March 2, when the meeting was planned. But his name appears on a conference call list obtained from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. As soon as plans for the meeting were made public, invitees started bowing out. Huston said he never intended to attend. Then the Houston Chronicle reported that it was Ralph Marquez, another Bush appointee to the T.N.R.C.C., who was scheduled to attend only to have Marquez deny any intention to travel to Detroit. According to the Chroni cle, Marquez, “the commissioner who generally takes the lead on air pollution issues,” now promises to look into the controversy over the meeting. Marquez decided to send a middle-management official to the meeting. “If it’s a political meeting, I don’t want a technical person to represent us,” he said. “And if it’s political, I don’t want to go, either.” Then he decided to send no one. After the Detroit News broke the story, John Mintz of the Washington Post jumped on it, further tying the event to Bush supporters. Mintz re-. ported that “the meeting would be –continued on page5 Office DESPOT Office Depot, the nation’s largest office supply chain, home to the C.E.O. who invented the concept of “fanatical customer service,” has been sued by a customer in Los Angeles for providing service so poor it may have been illegal. A local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union ordered some furniture from the company, which offers free next day delivery service in most cases. When a few days passed with no delivery, the union claims they called and learned that their order had been delayed because of a company policy against delivering to union halls. An Office Depot supervisor allegedly told a union member the order was flagged for delivery by U.P.S., instead of an Office Depot driver, because the company didn’t want their non-union drivers ex posed to union members. Talk about fanatical. Reached at company headquarters in Delray Beach, Florida, company spokesperson Eileen Dunn denied that any such policy exists. She suggested that the problem lay with the unions, who frequently requested union delivery drivers. \(In most areas, U.P.S. is represented by Labor Federation provided Left Field with a copy of a letter from Office Depot C.E.O. David I. Fuente that seems to suggest otherwise. Responding to a complaint from the union local, Fuente wrote: “In reference to our associates’ [employees] failure to inform you of our policies with respect to delivery to union offices, I sincerely apologize.” That sounds like a policy to us. I.B.E.W.’s attorney Glen Rothner is also in pos session of an e-mail in which an Office Depot customer service representative allegedly describes the policy in detail to a union member in California. Rothner is suing under a California state law that prohibits private companies who provide services from discriminating based on “creed,” among other things. According to Rothner, nobody has ever sued on precisely these grounds; the case could be ground-breaking. \(“Creed” is commonly construed to refer to religious belief, but California courts have in the past prohibited discriminatory practices based What’s Office Depot so worried about? It could be events in New Jer sey, where the Teamsters have re cently won an election at an Office Depot distribution hub and are cur rently involved apparently for the first time ever in contract negotiations with the company. Or it could be in response to an organizing drive currently underway at Store No. 386 in Florence, Alabama. In what is apparently the first such effort in the country, employees have set up a website to support not only their own union drive, but also “to assist employees in other stores into starting their own union campaign.” Anecdotal evidence \(including a chat with a driver during a recent delivery to Texas Observer headfice Depot’s Texas stores do not discriminate. Can you change someone’s creed during a twominute office supply delivery? Union organizers must be fast-talkers. We couldn’t even get the Office Depot driver to subscribe. No Talkin’ Union at the Depot 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 12, 2000
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