Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Supreme Court deadlocks over public employee union case; Calif. teachers must pay dues
By Robert Barnes, March 29, 2016, Washington Post
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was unable to resolve a major challenge to organized labor, and the result was a defeat for a group of California teachers who claim their free speech rights are violated when they are forced to pay dues to the state’s teachers union. The court said it was split 4 to 4 on the issue, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It was the most important case yet in which the eight-member court was unable to reach a decision. (read article)

Opposition murky to local wage hike
By David Garrick, March 29, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune
Supporters and opponents of incrementally increasing San Diego’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour are gearing up for the June 7 primary, when it will appear on the ballot as Proposition I. But how much money and effort the two sides will devote to their campaigns has been complicated by strong support for the increase in many polls, and a pending deal among Sacramento lawmakers to gradually hike the minimum wage across California to $15 an hour by 2022. (read article)

Alpha Seeks to Sever Labor Agreement, Cut Retiree Benefits
By Jacqueline Palank, March 29, 2016, Wall Street Journal
Alpha Natural Resources Inc. is asking a bankruptcy judge to let it slash retiree benefits and tear up existing labor agreements with its mine workers union, warning that its survival is at stake. Taking a page from fellow mining companies Patriot Coal and Walter Energy, Alpha said it is bleeding cash and that time is running out on efforts to broadly cut costs and offload liabilities, including those related to United Mine Workers of America-represented workers and retirees. (read article)

$15 Minimum Wage Approved In California; Lawmakers And Labor Unions Find Common Ground
By Peter de Jesus, March 28, 2016, Headlines & Global News
Seemingly in order to avoid putting the state at the forefront of a national movement, lawmakers and union leaders have agreed to raise the minimum wage in California. A tentative agreement about the fiery issue of raising the minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour has been reached in California, with lawmakers and labor unions finding a common ground about the controversial and highly debated issue. According to sources, who have opted to remain anonymous, the state’s lawmakers and labor union leaders have agreed on a gradual wage increase to be implemented, with the minimum wage to be increased to $10.50 next year. (read article)

Obama administration unveils rules on silica, union-busting
By Mark Gruenberg, March 28, 2016, Workday Minnesota
After years of consideration, and brushing aside one final attempt by an industry lobby to derail it, the Obama administration issued a final rule that it says would cut workers’ exposure to harmful silica dust in half. The silica rule is one of two big-ticket pro-worker rules the administration unveiled the week of March 21. The other would change the definition of when so-called “labor consultants” – otherwise known as “persuaders” and union-busters – must disclose their spending. The silica rule, proposed by OSHA, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was approved by the Office of Management and Budget on March 21 despite a last-minute industry attempt to kill it. (read article)

Chicago Teachers Union walkout leaves some members weighing options
By Juan Perez Jr., March 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune
There were scattered cheers inside a South Loop union hall last week when the Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body backed a call to walk off the job and gather downtown Friday for a mass protest. A message union leaders admit was sometimes confusing and questions about the action’s legality has left some educators weighing whether they will picket alongside their colleagues, or cross the line to stay in classrooms. “I’m 50-50 right now, I really am,” said Jim Macchione, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Healy Elementary in the Bridgeport neighborhood. “I don’t want to cross the line, I really don’t. … It’s a tough decision.” (read article)

US businesses attack new labor rule aimed at curbing union-busting tactics
By Steven Greenhouse, March 24, 2016, The Guardian
The US Department of Labor has announced the final version of a new rule that would require companies to disclose any arrangements they have with outside consultants that seek to persuade workers not to unionize or back their union’s bargaining stance. Business groups attacked the new regulation while the Labor Department said it was merely seeking to close a longtime loophole in the regulations for a 1959 law that sought to require more disclosure by unions and employers. With the number of union avoidance consultants exploding since the 1970s, labor unions have long urged the labor department to issue a tougher “persuader rule” because the 1959 law – the Landrum-Griffin Act – requires disclosure by any outside consultant that seeks “directly or indirectly to persuade employees” not to form a union. (read article)

State labor dispute headed to administrative law judge
By Dan Petrella, March 24, 2016, Herald & Review
A judge may soon decide whether the state and a union representing 38,000 of its workers have reached an impasse in contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than a year. The Illinois Labor Relations Board determined this week that there’s enough information in a pair of complaints filed by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 to warrant a hearing before a Springfield-based administrative law judge. The administration and AFSCME have been bargaining over a new contract since shortly after Rauner took office last year. (read article)

Rule to Require Employers to Disclose Use of Anti-Union Consultants
By Noam Scheiber, March 23, 2016, New York Times
The Labor Department on Wednesday released the final version of a rule requiring employers to disclose relationships with the consultants they hire to help persuade workers not to form a union or support a union’s collective bargaining position. The department said the rule, which will be published on Thursday and apply to agreements made after July 1, is necessary because workers are frequently in the dark about who is trying to sway them when they exercise their labor rights. (read article)

‘Labor For Bernie’ Activists Take the Political Revolution Into Their Unions
By Rand Wilson, March 23, 2016, AlterNet
Last June a small group of volunteers kicked off a network called “Labor for Bernie.” Their goal was to build support inside their unions for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Since then, Sanders has come a long way—racking up primary wins in nine states, including a major upset in Michigan. The all-volunteer Labor for Bernie operation has come a long way too, growing to include tens of thousands of union members. So far they’ve helped Sanders win the endorsements of more than 80 local unions and four national or international unions, including the Postal Workers (APWU), Communications Workers (CWA), and National Nurses United. (read article)

The Labor Prospect: How Garland Would (and Would Not) Be a Pro-Labor Justice
By Justin Miller, March 22, 2016, The American Prospect 
Though Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland last week is predictably facing head-in-the-sand obstructionism from the GOP, there is still a possibility that the Senate could approve him if a Democrat wins the presidency in November. So it’s important to consider what kind of justice would Garland be on labor cases. His nearly 20 years of jurisprudence on the D.C. Circuit Court shows him to be a prudent and restrained jurist who in labor-related cases largely defers to the National Labor Relations Board, typically benefitting unions and workers. However, given his preference for restraint, it’s unlikely that Garland would significantly counter the Court’s pro-business tilt of the past four decades. (read article)

Give back pressure mounting on state labor unions, rally planned
By Mark Davis, March 22, 2016, WTNH Connecticut News
It is now unanimous at the State Capitol; the Governor, Republican leaders and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly say the state labor unions must come to the table to negotiate give backs because the state’s cash flow is so bad. This comes as the leaders of the General Assembly announce they will vote on budget cuts for the current budget year a week from today, Tuesday, March 29. The highest ranking state lawmaker in the General Assembly, Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney of New Haven, is joining in the chorus calling for the state labor unions to come to the table and negotiate give backs on pensions and benefits to avoid thousands of layoffs. (read article)

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