Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

California Public Employment Relations Board issues complaints against university, alleging unfair labor practices
By Suhuana Hussain, February 23, Daily Californian
The California Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, issued its second complaint this year against the university Feb. 12, alleging unfair labor practices. The charges — filed by the American Federation State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 union — allege that the university violated its collective bargaining agreement with the union, which represents UC workers. The university allegedly entered into or extended about five contracts with private companies without properly notifying the union, as it is legally required to, according to Todd Stenhouse, AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson. These private firms source workers for everything from janitorial work and parking security to patient transport, and according to Stenhouse, this work is often equivalent to work done by UC employees. “What is at issue here is the university’s continued reliance on low-wage private firms to do the work normally done by directly employed UC workers,” Stenhouse said. “This is not new.” PERB also issued a complaint earlier this year alleging that the university unlawfully retaliated against about 20 workers — many of whom are Chinese immigrants — employed by UC San Francisco contractor Impec Group. After Impec Group allegedly cut the workers’ wages, workers sought direct employment with the university. The workers organized, sending delegates to speak at a UC Board of Regents meeting and setting up meetings with UCSF management, as well as picketing and distributing leaflets at various events, according to the complaint issued by PERB on Jan. 15. The university responded to these actions, the charges allege, by refusing to hire some workers and subsequently terminating the employment of 11 individuals listed in the complaint. (read article)

Labor and business groups in L.A. are united against one housing measure — and divided by another
By David Zahniser, February 23, 2016, Los Angeles Times
The bruising political fight over housing construction in Los Angeles just got way more complicated. For months, labor unions and business groups have been working together to defeat a ballot proposal, known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, that’s been billed as a crackdown on real estate “overdevelopment.” They have tried to present a unified front, arguing the proposal would bring housing production to a sudden halt. But that alliance came under serious strain last week, after union leaders revealed they had, without the support of business groups, submitted a competing measure for the Nov. 8 ballot, one that puts new hiring and affordable housing requirements on real estate projects. Business leaders, some of them caught by surprise by the new proposal, said it too is a threat to the development of new homes. “The labor initiative is just going to kill small and mid-sized apartment projects in the city of Los Angeles. They’re just not going to get built,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. How labor and business get along in coming months could have major implications for the city, which is grappling with steadily rising rents and growing homelessness. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, still in the signature-gathering stage, calls for a two-year moratorium on major development projects that require changes to planning and zoning rules. Backers of the proposal, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, say it will provide relief to Angelenos who are seeing rent-controlled apartment buildings razed and replaced by luxury housing developments. (read article)

Unions sue Chicago suburb over right-to-work ordinance
By Associated Press, February 23, 2016, The State Journal Register
Four labor unions are suing a Chicago suburb over an ordinance meant to bar private employers from requiring workers to join unions or pay dues. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has encouraged municipalities to pass local right-to-work ordinances as part of his “turnaround agenda,” which includes efforts to curb the power of unions, and also calls for workers compensation reform, property tax freezes, political term limits, lawsuit reforms and other changes. Supporters of right-to-work legislation argue that it would help promote job growth, while opponents claim it would weaken unions and depress wages. The lawsuit against Lincolnshire and key village officials was filed Feb. 18 in federal court in Chicago by unions representing engineers, construction workers and carpenters, including three affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The unions are seeking to have the ordinance declared invalid and block its enforcement, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a formal opinion last year, saying federal labor law allows such policies to be enacted only on a statewide basis. But officials in Lincolnshire disregarded her opinion, as well as strong public opposition, and moved forward with the plan in December. Rauner’s office has said several dozen local governments have approved resolutions supporting his overall agenda. But union officials have said they believe Lincolnshire is the first in the state to actually enact a right-to-work measure, which allows employees at private-sector companies to opt out of having union dues or fees automatically deducted from their paychecks. (read article)

Government workers would have to approve deductions for union fees under a bill approved by House
By Jack Morrisroe, February 23, 2016, Kearney Courier
The Missouri House has approved a bill that would require annual signed approval by a government employee before a portion of the worker’s salary could be withheld to pay union fees. Among legislators voicing support for the bill was Rep. Delus Johnson, R-Andrew County, who complained about how he was required to pay union fees when he was a firefighter. “We have come up with this insane concept that requires you to pay dues to an organization when you do not believe in the leadership’s values and that leadership is not representing your values, especially on a political basis,” Johnson said during the House debate Thursday, Feb. 18. “Over and over again, my money went to candidates that I strongly opposed,” he said. “Say we require every Democrat in this state to join a union and pay dues to support the National Rifle Association. I think some Democrats would have a problem with that.” The bill sparked a lengthy labor union debate between Republicans and Democrats. “This legislation, throughout the country, is designed to limit working families’ participation in the political process by singling out unions for burdensome restrictions,” said Rep. Joshua Peters, D-St. Louis City. One Democrat who voted in support of the bill on preliminary approval earlier in the week was Rep. Courtney Curtis, D-St. Louis County. But on the final vote sending the bill to the Senate, he voted “present.”
He said workers in union workplaces would not be asking to avoid paying dues if the unions treated their workers better. (read article)

Donald Trump Says He’s Chummy With Unions. Then Why’s He Fighting One In Las Vegas?
By Dave Jamieson, February 22, 2016, Huffington Post
Donald Trump has dealt with labor unions throughout his long and lucrative career in real estate. Though it’s nothing most candidates would brag about in a Republican presidential primary, the GOP front-runner likes to say that he and organized labor get along just swell. “I have great relationships with unions,” Trump told Newsweek last year. A few hundred mostly immigrant hotel workers in Las Vegas might disagree. For the last half-year, Trump has locked horns with a powerful Nevada union over the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Culinary Union Local 226 won a union election at the posh 64-story hotel in December. But since then, Trump’s team has been challenging the results of the election, accusing the union of coercing workers and improperly influencing the outcome. In typical Trumpian fashion, the fight has been a litigious one, full of accusations and counter-accusations. And for now, Trump is losing. Trump’s team claimed that union staffers, organizing committee leaders and even federal officials tried to sway the election in the union’s favor. But last week, a hearing officer with the National Labor Relations Board found no merit in those claims. She recommended that the objections of hotel management “be overruled in their entirety,” and that the election results be made official. (read article)

Unions Say a Majority of Their Members Support Hillary Clinton
By Noam Scheiber, February 22, 2016, New York Times
In an effort to dispute what they say is a false narrative that union voters are closely split between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a group of more than 20 unions representing more than 10 million workers released a statement on Monday reaffirming support for Mrs. Clinton. “Secretary Clinton has proven herself as the fighter and champion working people and their families need in the White House,” says the statement, which was embraced by several large unions, including the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees International Union. “That is why, of all unions endorsing a candidate in the Democratic primary, the vast majority of the membership in these unions has endorsed her.” The statement is partly a reaction to the aftermath of the announcement by the A.F.L.-C.I.O., a federation of unions, that it would not vote during its executive council meeting this week on whether to endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries, essentially postponing an endorsement until the primaries are no longer competitive. “I have concluded that there is broad consensus for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to remain neutral in the presidential primaries for the time being,” Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, said in an email to union officials last week. (read article)

Labor board rejects Trump Las Vegas hotel’s effort to overturn union vote
By Laura Clawson, February 22, 2016, Daily Kos
Workers at the Donald Trump co-owned Trump International Hotel Las Vegas voted to unionize back in December, despite having faced a harsh anti-union campaign that included workers being suspended for showing union support. Now, the National Labor Relations Board has rejected management’s effort to get the workers’ vote thrown out: Trump Hotel management had asked the National Labor Relations Board to throw out the results of that election, claiming that organizers from the Culinary Workers Union intimidated and coerced employees into voting yes, which “interfered with their ability to exercise a free and reasoned choice.” But after weeks of reviewing the evidence, the labor board did not agree. Hearing Officer Lisa Dunn announced: “I recommend that the Employer’s objections be overruled in their entirety.” Trump’s management has already withdrawn some of their objections, but still refuses to recognize the union. They have two weeks to challenge this new recommendation. The workers are going to keep pressing their case as the spotlight is on Nevada for the Republican presidential caucus, trying to get Donald Trump to meet with them (you can guess how he’ll respond to that) and rallying outside the Trump International Hotel on Tuesday. They have a union. Now they need a fair contract. (read article)

Labor Board Sides With Trump Hotel Workers In Union Battle
By Alice Ollstein, February 21, 2016, Think Progress
Just days before Nevada’s Republican presidential caucus, a federal labor official weighed in on the ongoing dispute between Donald Trump’s signature luxury Las Vegas hotel and the hundreds of workers who voted in December to unionize. Trump Hotel management had asked the National Labor Relations Board to throw out the results of that election, claiming that organizers from the Culinary Workers Union intimidated and coerced employees into voting yes, which “interfered with their ability to exercise a free and reasoned choice.” But after weeks of reviewing the evidence, the labor board did not agree. Hearing Officer Lisa Dunn announced: “I recommend that the Employer’s objections be overruled in their entirety.”  Trump’s management has already withdrawn some of their objections, but still refuses to recognize the union. They have two weeks to challenge this new recommendation. Now, the hotel’s 500-odd workers say they will continue pressuring the Trump Hotel management to recognize their bargaining unit and join them at the table to hammer out a first contract with the Culinary Workers Union and Bartenders Union. They plan to take advantage of Donald Trump himself coming to Las Vegas to campaign ahead of Tuesday’s Republican caucus, and will gather in the same building where he’s holding a rally Monday night to demand he negotiate with them.  (read article)

Harnessing Labor Vote Essential To Clinton’s Chances In Nevada
By Emily Cadei, February 20, 2016, Newsweek
With polls showing a tightening race in Nevada, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s labor allies are going all out to turn out the vote for her in Saturday’s Democratic caucuses. Clinton’s backing from some of Nevada’s major labor unions gives her a significant operational edge in a state known for low turnout. If Bernie Sanders can overcome that disadvantage on the ground and still win the Silver State caucuses Saturday, it will be the most telling sign yet that Clinton’s campaign is in trouble. A poll of Nevada voters released Wednesday night shows the Democratic race in a dead heat, which caught prognosticators by surprise. The assumption has been that Clinton’s organizational advantage—in addition to having more labor support, Clinton had staff on the ground six months before Sanders did—would make her impossible to catch in the state. That Sanders has been able to close the gap, thanks to enthusiasm of his supporters, has lent even more urgency to the pro-Clinton voter drives. Professor Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at University of Nevada Reno, cautions that “it’s hard to measure” where voters stand in a caucus, which requires more commitment than primary voting. (read article)

How the birthplace of the American labor movement just turned on its unions
By Lydia DePillis, February 19, 2016, The Washington Post
A dozen or so speeches into the debate over whether to pass a right-to-work law in West Virginia, with union members glaring their reproach from the galleries, Del. Lynwood Ireland stared at the red and the green buttons at the front of his broad, wooden desk. Ireland had spent the past few days listening intensely to businesses, unions, advocacy groups, and other delegates on the merits of making West Virginia the nation’s 26th right-to-work state — a stunning change of fortunes in a state that essentially gave birth to the modern labor movement. By releasing workers from the obligation to pay for the cost of negotiating and administering the union contracts that cover them, such laws have hastened the decline of organized labor elsewhere. Of the Republican’s constituents, about half told him to vote yes, and half to vote no. A former chemical engineer at Dupont’s plants in the Kanawha valley, Ireland had worked with union craftsmen, and knew the value they brought to the job and to their fellow members. But West Virginia’s economy wasn’t like it was four decades ago, when he started his career — so many mines and factories had shed workers or idled. (read article)

Faced With Choice of Clinton or Sanders, Influential Nevada Culinary Workers Union Goes With Neither
By Jonah Shepp, February 18, 2016, New York Magazine
The Culinary Workers Union, the most influential labor organization in Nevada, says it will not pick a side in the hotly contested Democratic primary. According to the New York Times, leaders of the the 57,000-member union fear that endorsing either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would “divert resources, distract members and potentially polarize the union just as they are entering critical contract negotiations.” They prefer to concentrate on the general election. The Culinary Workers have not had great experiences so far with either candidate. During her 2008 campaign, Clinton’s backers sued the union over its voting procedures after it endorsed Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, the Times recalls. More recently, Sanders campaign staffers were accused of posing as union workers to gain access to their members, but both the union and the campaign later said the matter had been resolved. Sanders has closed the gap with Clinton in recent polling and the two are now nearly tied in Nevada, so the union may be wise not to enter into the fray if its membership is strongly divided between them. In recent campaign ads, both candidates pander heavily to the state’s Hispanic community, to which more than half the Culinary Workers belong. Clinton has historically polled well with Latinos and leads Sanders among them in most key states. (read article)

State board rules against teacher ‘steps and lanes’ raises
By Lauren Fitzpatrick, February 18, 2016, Chicago Sun Times
A state board that oversees school labor disputes ruled against immediately reinstating raises for education and experience to members of the Chicago Teachers Union, but could reconsider the teachers’ request at a later trial. A cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools told the union over the summer that it wouldn’t pay the “steps and lanes” raises while the parties negotiated a new contract to replace the one that expired June 30. In November after several months of bargaining, the union filed a grievance with the five-member Illinois Education Labor Relations Board asking for immediate help. Three of the board’s members were appointed by anti-union Gov. Bruce Rauner. Their request was unanimously denied Thursday morning following a brief hearing, said CTU attorney Robert Bloch, who intends to prepare the case for trial. “For 50 years there’s been an unbroken practice to the school board paying steps and lanes,” worth about $26 million a year, Bloch said. That even includes four times, he said “when the contract expired and teachers went back to work without a contract.” He said the labor board believed the problem could be remedied with back pay, should the union prevail. (read article)

State board rules against Chicago Teachers Union effort to get back pay for teachers
By Juan Perez Jr., February 18, 2016, Chicago Tribune
A state labor panel on Thursday rejected a Chicago Teachers Union effort to get Chicago Public Schools to pay salary increases mandated by a contract that expired last summer. The ruling to deny an injunction could save CPS from having to pay CTU members about $26 million in back pay. But the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board unanimously voted against intervening while the union and Chicago Board of Education continue talks over a new contract. CTU attorneys said they will still push the state board to make CPS pay salary hikes based on factors such as their education and seniority that were part of the expired contract. The two sides differ on whether CPS should have continued to advance teachers through the expired contract’s step-and-lane grid that determined pay increases while talks over a replacement deal are ongoing. The district’s latest offer to teachers would have frozen the process for one year. “It’s very much contrary to the public interest for this board to step in and put its fingers on the scale as to what the ultimate settlement has to be,” said Andrea Waintroob, an attorney who Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed as chair of the labor board in April. “For us to force an employer to pay lane and step, when the employer is bargaining to freeze lane and step would really put a poison pill into the negotiating process.” The district’s budget does not cover step-and-lane payments, district spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. (read article)

Boeing Engineers Approve 6-Year Pact, Avert Labor Showdown
By Julie Johnson, February 17, 2016, Bloomberg
Boeing Co. won’t face labor strife later this year after engineers and technical workers overwhelmingly approved a six-year contract extension that brings a salary boost and more job security. The terms take effect immediately and extend to October 2022, the company said in a statement on its website. The tentative agreement was approved by 71 percent of union engineers and 73 percent of technical workers, the union said in an e-mailed statement late Wednesday. The deal is the latest of several long-term pacts struck by Boeing and its collective bargaining units that break from short-term contracts that had left the company at risk of frequent unrest and strikes. The effort to avert a showdown gained momentum after new Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg met last October with Ray Goforth, the union’s executive director. “This agreement recognizes and rewards the contributions of engineers and technical workers who are vital to our continued leadership in aerospace, and it will help ensure Boeing’s competitiveness in our second century of business,” Muilenburg said in the statement. Boeing rose 1.1 percent to $117.57 at the close in New York. The shares have declined 19 percent this year as a report of an accounting probe and a weaker-than-expected forecast for 2016 fanned investor concern. (read article)

Friedrichs Is Dead; Labor’s Crisis Is Not. The ‘Scalia Dividend’ Is a Rare Opportunity for Unions
By Shaun Richman, February 16, 2016, In These Times
The Friedrichs vs. CTA Supreme Court case, a nakedly partisan assassination attempt on the labor movement, has died with Justice Antonin Scalia. What cannot die with it is the sense of existential crisis within the labor movement. We need a far-reaching conversation about the pathway back to increased activism, membership and power. Like few moments before it, the Friedrichs case sparked a broad consensus within labor that our movement faced an existential crisis and that business as usual was a prescription for assisted suicide. Unfortunately, too many union leaders and staff based out of Washington, D.C. are now at risk of being dismissed as a bunch of Chicken Littles who overhyped a sky that never fell by the people who have the greatest ability to determine labor’s future: the local leaders and disengaged members. It was a mistake to use the Friedrichs case to forge this somewhat rare agreement that labor faces an acute crisis. It seemed like a long shot that the Supremes would even take up the case just a few months after rejecting Justice Alito’s wet dream of a public sector “Right to Work” standard by a 5-4 margin in last session’s Harris vs. Quinn case (I lost a lot of bar bets when they did). Even with the case proceeding to oral arguments, there was always the possibility that the Court would punt on the issue or even rule in favor of the unions for political reasons or that one of these old farts would die and the case would deadlock. But labor’s crisis predated Friedrichs and will live on after it. The “Right to Work” agenda, and the gutting of public sector collective bargaining laws, will continue to be pressed at the state level. And if the general financial commitment and philosophical approach to new union organizing remains the same, union density will surely continue to decline. (read article)

After Scalia’s Death, Lawyer for Teacher Challenging Public Unions Wants Supreme Court to Rehear Case
By Melissa Quinn, February 17, 2016, The Daily Signal
California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs had her day before the Supreme Court to challenge public-sector unions once. Now, following the unexpected passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, her lawyers are pushing for the elementary school teacher to have her day before the high court again. Oral arguments in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association took place last month, and because the Supreme Court’s inner workers remain secretive, it’s unknown how far along the justices were in deliberations in the case and whether the high court would come down in favor of Friedrichs and the nine other teachers who joined in her case against the California Teachers Association. However, the Center for Individual Rights, which along with lead counsel Michael Carvin of Jones Day is representing Friedrichs, is pushing the high court to rehear the case after a new justice is confirmed to the bench. “The disputes between teachers and their unions are fundamentally political disputes, and they do deserve First Amendment protection, and this isn’t special First Amendment protection among public employees,” Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, told The Daily Signal. “It’s just a normal First Amendment protection for political disputes with the government, and public employees like teachers have strong views about political issues, and they shouldn’t be required to fund an organization that’s fundamentally opposed to their political views on those issues.” (read article

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