Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Rift Between Unions, Democratic Party Is Not Just Awkward As Campaign Season Nears
By Dan Haar, June 6, 2016, Hartford Courant
Sometime in the next couple of days, Sen. Danté Bartolomeo will sit in a closed room with leaders of the AFL-CIO. The Meriden Democrat will ask the labor coalition to endorse her for re-election and send union troops to her district this fall, just like two years ago, and two years before that. Bartolomeo joined the vast majority of Democrats who voted in favor of the recently adopted state budget for the coming fiscal year. The vote on the $19.8 billion budget is not the only factor in the unions’ grades for each legislator. But it was the final exam, and just about everyone failed as far as the unions are concerned. For the unions, that presents a brutal dilemma that will climax Friday morning, when delegates to the state AFL-CIO convention in Hartford will decide on candidates, one at a time. A two-thirds vote brings coveted endorsement, with access to phone banks, door-to-door ground support and union-financed mailers. If they support their Democratic allies as usual, then what do they stand for? (read article)

Unions’ fight against affordable housing
By Michael Saltsman, June 5, 2016, The OC Register
Gov. Jerry Brown recently proposed reforming the state’s California Environmental Quality Act by allowing new housing projects with at least 20 percent on-site affordable housing to bypass the law’s cumbersome environmental impact process and be approved “as of right.” In short, projects meeting the affordable housing threshold would be approved without review by local government entities and without being subject to citizen appeal. One would think that California’s labor unions would be quick to hail Gov. Brown’s reform. After all, construction means employment for many unions, and labor advocates used unaffordable housing prices as an argument for raising the minimum wage in cities like San Francisco. As is often the case, however, some unions chose political self-interest over the general welfare of their members and came out against Gov. Brown’s reform. (read article)

Special interests pour record $24 million into California lawmakers’ races
By The Associated Press, June 5, 2016, Press Enterprise
Special interest groups are pouring a record $24 million into California legislative races ahead of Tuesday’s primary election as they seek to influence the makeup of the Legislature. With Republicans often on the margins of California politics, some traditional GOP donors are throwing their money behind business-friendly Democrats. Instead of giving directly to candidates, groups representing oil companies, education interests, developers, and businesses are increasingly likely to make independent expenditures. Now traditional Democratic allies like labor unions, consumer attorneys and environmental advocates are dumping in their own money to counter the conservative swing. (read article)

What can labor learn from the Verizon strike?
By Lee Sustar & Alan Mass, June 3, 2016, Socialistworker.org 
IT’S A strike outcome that’s all too rare these days: A corporate powerhouse forced to drop sweeping union-busting demands by a solid strike of tens of thousands of workers with widespread public support. The question now is whether organized labor will follow the Verizon workers’ example and once again make the strike a weapon against the employers’ relentless attacks. The tentative agreement–between 39,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) on one side and Verizon on the other—ended a 45-day strike, with the union successfully holding the line against many of the company’s harshest demands. The unions beat back the company’s demand to be able to send workers away from their home cities to work anywhere in the Verizon system for weeks at a time. (read article)

Climate Is Poised To Be A Divisive Issue For This Group Of Voters
By Samantha Page, June 3, 2016, Think Progress
After decades of political messaging about how clean energy would be an economic disaster, many people are skittish about changing the status quo — even if the status quo holds dire consequences for our economy, our health, and our way of life. But as the effects of climate change touch more and more people, some labor groups are making environmental issues a priority. CWA and other unions that are joining the chorus of voices calling for action on climate change represent an important shift for labor, which has historically been somewhat leery of environmental regulation. The Climate and Community Protection Act passed the Democrat-led Assembly this week and is now at the Republican-controlled State Senate. NY Renew, a coalition which brought together labor, climate, and social justice groups, helped pass the measure. The bill sets a goal of 50 percent renewable electricity generation by 2030 and focuses on clean energy job creation, particularly in disadvantaged communities. (read article)

Assembly kills bill to give California farmworkers overtime pay
By John Myers, June 2, 2016, Los Angeles Times

Legislation to give farmworkers in California additional overtime pay beginning in 2019 was rejected Thursday by the state Assembly. “Historically, farmworkers have been left out of equal protection under the law,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). The final vote — which featured a number of Democrats either voting against the bill or abstaining — came after a long and emotional floor debate, watched closely by the agricultural industry and members of the United Farm Workers labor union. AB 2757 would have required overtime pay for agricultural employees, phased over three years. While those workers currently receive overtime pay after ten hours, the bill would have brought that down to an eight hour threshold over the three years. The bill would also have allowed for suspension of the overtime rules by the governor if California’s new minimum wage increase is also suspended due to an economic slowdown. (read article)

Labor Groups Are Taking On Walmart And McDonald’s. But Who Will Fund Their Fight?
By Dave Jamieson, June 2, 2016, Huffington Post
The company is also famously anti-union. The UFCW has never succeeded in unionizing any of Walmart’s U.S. workforce. So the union turned to organizing workers in a less traditional way. Even if it couldn’t unionize Walmart workers, the thinking went, the union still had an interest in pressuring Walmart to hike wages, since Walmart sets the tone for the entire brick-and-mortar retail sector. Rather than try to secure a standard union contract, OUR Walmart would pressure the company publicly into raising pay and offering employees better hours and benefits. The model is sometimes called a worker center or “alt labor” — as in, an alternative to traditional unionism. (read article)

Trump Continues To Win Support From Union Members — Labor Leadership Isn’t Happy
By Connor D. Wolf, June 2, 2016, Daily Caller
Union leaders are expressing concern over how much Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appeals to unionized workers, according to reports Wednesday. National union leaders have adamantly opposed Trump over what they feel are extremist and bigoted views. The business mogul’s views on trade and immigration, alongside his decisive tone, has gained him significant support among workers. Union leaders are now concerned that they have lost their members to the outspoken candidate. National unions have overwhelming endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president. Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling data, however, shows Clinton and Trump both have 44 percent support among union households. AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer notes union workers became less supportive once they learned where Trump stood on workplace issues. (read article)

MTS Strike Over; Union Workers Ratify Labor Contract
By Maggie Avanats, June 2, 2016, Coronado Patch
A week-long strike of more than 300 Metropolitan Transit System workers has ended. First Transit, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based company contracted to operate MTS Access services and 18 of 95 fixed-route MTS buses, announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with Teamsters Local 542, the union representing the employees. “All union workers are scheduled to return to work on Friday, June 3, and full service will resume to all San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System para-transit and fixed-routes that First Transit operates,” said Jay Brock, spokesman for First Transit. Union members including bus drivers, service technicians and reservation-takers voted to ratify the contract Thursday. (read article)

Sanders accuses DNC of keeping labor union representation off platform committee
By Daniel Strauss,  June 1, 2016, Politico
Sen. Bernie Sanders lobbed another shot at the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday, charging that chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is keeping labor union members off the DNC’s platform drafting committee.”What we heard from the DNC was they did not want representatives of labor unions on the platform drafting committee. That’s correct. To the best of my knowledge,” Sanders said in Spreckels, California, during a news conference on fracking.The drafting committee, however, does have labor representation. Paul Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union was on the list of names Hillary Clinton’s campaign submitted and the DNC approved. (read article)

Labor Department Issues Costly Overtime Rule
By Carl Horowitz, June 1, 2016, National Legal & Policy Center
The Obama administration sees it as the middle class getting a raise. The details suggest it’s a demotion. On May 18, the Department of Labor published a final rule hiking the annual income ceiling for overtime pay eligibility of salaried employees from $23,660 to $47,476. Set to go into effect December 1, the regulation would benefit an estimated 4.2 million workers. However, it also may produce unintended consequences such as: loss of scheduling flexibility; pay cuts; benefit cuts; fewer work hours per week; higher employer compliance costs; and needless litigation. A group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., have responded with bills to nullify the rule and make it difficult for the DOL to offer a substitute. (read article)

New opposition to Chargers initiative
By David Garrick, June 1, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune
A group representing non-union construction companies and workers declared its opposition on Wednesday to a Chargers-sponsored citizens’ initiative for a downtown stadium and convention center annex. The group, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said its opposition was sparked by the team’s recent announcement it would partner with organized labor in a “project labor agreement” banning non-union construction workers on the $1.8 billion project. During a Kearny Mesa news conference, the group said such pacts, which have become increasingly common on large projects with lengthy construction time lines, are “kickback schemes” that often increase project costs and unfairly deny non-union workers an opportunity to earn a living. (read article)

San Diego inks new deal with firefighters
By David Garrick, May 31, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune
San Diego has reached a tentative labor deal with city firefighters that reduces costs for overtime and unused vacation in exchange for enhanced benefits and the first general salary hikes for firefighters in a decade. The city’s 850 firefighters were the only labor group that hadn’t agreed to a new pact since Mayor Kevin Faulconer was elected in 2014. The four-year deal and separate agreements reached earlier this month with three other city unions must be approved by the City Council in June. The council approved pacts with two other unions last year. The firefighters wouldn’t get the salary hikes until summer 2018 because of voter-approved Proposition B, which also replaced pensions for newly hired firefighters — and all other city employees except police officers — with 401 (k) retirement plans. The pay raises would be 3.3 percent in both fiscal year 2019 and 2020. (read article)

Verizon, Unions Agree to Pay Raises, New Jobs to End Strike
By Reuters, May 31, 2016, NBC News
A tentative deal between Verizon and leaders of striking unions includes 1,400 new jobs and pay raises topping 10 percent, the company and unions representing about 40,000 workers said on Monday, hoping to end a walkout that has lasted nearly seven weeks. One analyst called the deal “very rich” for workers at Verizon, the No. 1 U.S. wireless provider, which reached the tentative pact with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) on Friday.The CWA said Verizon agreed to provide a 10.9 percent raise over four years while Verizon put the increase at 10.5 percent. (read article)

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