Union Watch Highlights

Here are links to the top stories available online over the past week reporting on union activity including legislation, financial impact, reform activism, etc., from California and across the USA.

Sutter worker files another complaint against union
Kathy Robertson, April 9, 2013, Sacramento Business Journal
A respiratory care worker at Sutter Roseville Medical Center has filed another federal complaint against Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West alleging the union continues to coerce her and her colleagues into paying full union dues even though they are not union members. Mary Massen won a federal settlement in late 2011 after filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board. The ruling — and ongoing legal dispute — highlights a long-standing fight over union efforts to collect fees from nonmembers. In November, California voters rejected Proposition 32, which would have prohibited labor unions from spending members’ dues — with or without their consent — on campaigns, effectively eliminating organized labor as a major political force in the state. Massen, who has exercised her right to refrain from formal union membership, is still forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. She cannot be compelled to pay the portion of union dues used for political, lobbying and member-only activities, however. (read article)

Labor Pains, Evergreen
By Sarah Laskow, April 9, 2013, The American Prospect
“For too long we have allowed some corporations to hold a gun to our heads and demand that we choose jobs, or choose the Earth.” That’s what Terry O’Sullivan, the general president of the Laborers International Union of North America, told green groups and fellow unions at a green jobs conference in February 2009, just a few months after the union—one of the largest in the country—joined the Blue-Green Alliance, a group organized to advocate for a “clean economy.” But by January 2012, O’Sullivan had made a choice. The climate bill had failed, the money from the recovery act had run out, political tides had turned against government spending, and the union was no longer so keen to partner with the environmental movement. “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women,” O’Sullivan said. This heady “job killer” rhetoric was aimed not just at green groups but at unions like SEIU and the Communications Workers of America. They hadn’t had to do much earn this scorn. They had just opened their mouth about the Keystone XL pipeline. For more than two years, the climate movement has focused on making Keystone XL the issue for anyone who cares about combating global warming to organize around, and this campaign has kept both the labor and progressive wings of the Democratic Party on edge. (read article)

Michigan’s right-to-work specialist tackles questions about the new law
By Melissa Anders, April 09, 2013, Michigan Live
Travis Calderwood spends much of his time answering emails and phone calls from Michigan workers, employers and union representatives who want to know more about how the state’s new right-to-work law.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed the controversial legislation during 2012’s lame duck session amid protests from Democrats and union members. It went into effect less than two weeks ago. Right to work, which the state calls “freedom to work,” prohibits employers or labor unions from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of their employment. Though it may seem simple on the surface, there are a lot questions about how the law will work and how it will impact workers, employers and unions. The state hired Calderwood to answer those questions. He started in February as an administrative law specialist in the state Bureau of Employment Relations’ Detroit office. “At the end of the day, (my job) is to fairly implement the freedom to work laws. What that means is a lot of education, a lot of information, making sure that both employers, employees, union officials, union reps, all have an accurate understanding of what the law requires, what the law prohibits,” he said. (read article)

Panel spares community colleges with new union contracts ahead of Michigan’s right-to-work law
By Chad Livengood, April 9, 2013, Detroit News
A state Senate panel has spared community colleges of financial penalties for signing new labor union contracts before Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect last month, drawing a budgetary contrast with House Republicans. The Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations subcommittee on community colleges approved a $335.9 million budget Tuesday without cuts to the two-year schools that extended labor pacts as House Republicans proposed last month. The House’s budget plan calls for community colleges to lose an average 2 percent funding increase for signing labor contracts between Dec. 10, 2012 — when right to work was being debated in the Legislature — and March 28, when the law took effect. Contracts in place before right to work took effect are not impacted by the new law’s ban on contracts requiring financial support of a labor union as a condition of employment. Sen. Darwin Booher, chair of the subcommittee, said he wants to have a point of difference with the House to negotiate while lawmakers investigate a recent string of contract extensions. Some House Republicans believe some schools intentionally signed new contracts as a favor to labor unions to be able to continue collecting mandatory dues and agency fees. (read article)

Obama to nominate package of labor board members
By Sam Hananel, April 9, 2013, Albany Times Union
President Barack Obama is nominating three candidates for full terms on the National Labor Relations Board, which has been in limbo since a federal appeals court invalidated his recess appointments to the agency. Obama on Tuesday urged the Senate to move swiftly in confirming the members — two Republicans and one Democrat — along with two other Democrats he nominated in February. That would fill all five seats on the board. But it is not clear whether Republicans will go along with the package of nominees. The labor board has been a partisan lightning rod during Obama’s presidency, with Republican lawmakers and business groups furious over decisions and rules they say are aimed at helping labor unions win more members. The move comes as House Republicans prepare to vote this week on a measure that would effectively shut down the board until it has permanent members confirmed by the Senate. (read article)

The Migration Equation: Big Business+Big Agriculture+Big Labor+Big Religion=Big Immigration
By W.D. Reasoner, April 9, 2013, Center for Immigration Studies
If, as they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows, then immigration politics in today’s America makes for absolutely bizarre bedfellows. Business and agriculture rarely have anything useful to say about unionization and the labor movement. Conversely, labor leaders routinely disparage employers, whether in business or agriculture, for their views on wages, benefits, and employee working conditions. And religious leaders frequently shun involvement in such earthly matters, preferring instead to focus on the moral health of their flock and the nation as a whole. And yet despite these profound differences, a loose coalition of representatives from business, agriculture, labor, and religious organizations have come together to press for “comprehensive immigration reform” with the administration and with leaders in both houses of Congress. As these representatives envision it, such reform would take at least three prongs: first, they endorse a broad-based amnesty of the plus-or-minus 11 million aliens illegally in the country; second, they endorse a guestworker program of substantial size for unskilled workers; and third, they endorse a variety of programs that would open the doors to admit large numbers of foreign workers in information technology and certain other skilled professions. (read article)

How Margaret Thatcher Turned Great Britain’s Labor Markets Around
By Stephen Bronars, April 9, 2013, Forbes
Margaret Thatcher was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th Century. She was Prime Minister of Great Britain for eleven years and was probably the most important leader of the conservative movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Among her many accomplishments, part of her legacy will certainly be her role in the transformation of British labor markets and the labor union movement. When Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, British labor unions were quite powerful but labor markets were rigid, inflexible and in many ways uncompetitive. By the time Mrs. Thatcher left office in 1990, the labor union movement had been substantially weakened. Today’s British economy is more vibrant and dynamic in part due to the labor union reforms of the Thatcher government. During the 1979 election, Thatcher’s Conservative Party described a five point plan for the country. The first task in the Conservative Party platform (Manifesto) was restoring “a fair balance between the rights and duties of the trade union movement.” It was Thatcher’s view that British labor laws were in need of reform because “militant” pro-union legislation enacted by the Labour Party had allowed unions to bargain for wages and working conditions that made British firms uncompetitive in an increasingly global economy. Mrs. Thatcher also believed that labor laws encouraged unions to use strikes and work stoppages “as a weapon of first rather than last resort” and led to “increasingly bitter and calamitous industrial disputes.” During the 1970’s, the British economy lost almost 62,000 worker years of production from strikes and work stoppages due to labor disputes. The British rate of lost production due to strikes and work stoppages was about 150% higher than in the United States during the 1970’s. By the 1990’s, after the Thatcher government reforms, lost production due to strikes were less than 5% of the levels in the 1970’s. In fact, during the 1990’s, lost production due to strikes and labor disputes were 22% lower in Britain than in the United States (relative to the size of the countries’ labor forces) and remain lower to this day. (read article)

VW Doesn’t Need The Labor Unions
By David D. Fihn, April 09, 2013, The Chattanoogan
There was a time in this world when unions (then known as guilds) were a necessity in order to protect women and children from workplace abuse. Guilds really got their start during the Industrial Revolution both here and in Britain when millinery bosses would coerce workers (actually entire families) to work almost around-the-clock, sleeping on earthen factory floors after 18 hour days…and for pennies. By contrast, modern unions, AFL-CIO, UAW, et al, have suffered massive migration away from union representation whether by choice or due to company migration to another state or country where unions have no choke hold on industry; where even government intervention prevents the intrusion of the slippery-slope of unionism. I remember back in the early 70’s riding Amtrak from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta sitting next to a rather affable individual returning from a four-week vacation from a “Big 3” auto plant in Georgia. He was riding high on something or one would never have expected him to reveal that he made over $60,000 a year (1970’s money, mind you). When I asked him how he did it he said that the factory had been running night-and-day mandating at least four hours of overtime per day. It came as quite a surprise for me to learn that for such a skilled labor pay scale, he simply swept floors (and not even that much because the union mandated that he have a trainee with him most of the time). An apprentice with two-years of mandatory servitude to gain tenure. Please stop laughing…this is true and not a “dig” at the janitorial profession. (read article)

Worker Freedom Leads to Huge Drop in Union Membership in Wisconsin
By Daniel Greenfield, April 8, 2013, FrontpageMag.com
Freedom gives people the power to opt out of associations they don’t want. And the only ones who fear workers escaping from their organizational prisons are jailers because they worry about the inevitable loss of wealth and power that comes about when workers are free to choose. More than two years after Scott Walker’s showdown with organized labor in Wisconsin, the official numbers for the state’s public sector union membership are in — and they are down. Way down. According a Labor Department filing made last week, membership at Wisconsin’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 40 — one of AFSCME’s four branches in the state — has gone from the 31,730 it reported in 2011, to 29,777 in 2012, to just 20,488 now. That’s a drop of more than 11,000 — about a third — in just two years. Labor Department filings also show that Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 48, which represents city and county workers in Milwaukee County, went from 9,043 members in 2011, to 6,046 in 2012, to just 3,498 now. They show why the state worker unions and their liberal allies fought such a protracted, bitter battle in 2011 over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s changes to the state’s labor laws. Under the old laws, state employees were obligated to pay dues to a union even if that worker didn’t want to belong to a union. Walker changed that to allow state workers to opt out of paying those dues. And now the unions are bleeding members because their membership was not a membership of choice, but compulsion. It’s why unions have rammed through more compulsory membership in Maryland, along with 2nd amendment violations, because the only way they can hang on to power is through the force of the law. (read article)

Emanuel, Unions Gear Up for Chicago Pension Fight
By Sandy Fitzgerald, April 8, 2013, Newsmax.com
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is gearing up for a tough fight with labor unions as he struggles to resolve a $24 billion municipal pension shortfall, one of the largest in the country. According to The Wall Street Journal, Emanuel inherited the pension mess when he took office and is now facing bills coming due for pensions that cover teachers, firefighters, and other city workers. Emanuel says he won’t consider raising property taxes, as his administration estimates residents would face a jump in payments of 150 percent. And efforts so far to reach agreements with the unions on benefit cuts have not worked. The mayor could bypass the unions by persuading the Illinois legislature to trim pension benefits or granting the city the power to do it. But at the same time, the state is also facing its own pension shortfall issues. Emanuel won the mayor’s seat in 2011 despite having little union support in an organized labor town. His relationship with the unions is still unstable. Police sergeants last month rejected a pension offer, and he squared off with the teacher’s union last September, when educators walked out on a seven day strike over evaluations and layoffs. Teachers are also fighting back at Emanuel’s plans to close more than 50 schools. (read article)

Graham says immigration bill delayed by union vs. business fight
Neil Munro, April 8, 2013, the Daily Caller
The Senate’s draft immigration bill has been delayed by new disagreement between business and labor groups, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the bill’s primary GOP author and advocate. “We’ve got an agreement between labor and business about the guest worker program, but we’re revisiting that [and] we’re hoping to get this thing done in the next couple of weeks,” Graham said in an interview with NBC’s David Gregory April 6. That’s a sharply different message from that pushed by the bill’s leading Democratic author and advocate, Sen. Chuck Schumer. “I think we’re doing very well,” he said on “Face The Nation,” CBS’ Sunday talk show. “I think that we hope that we can have a bipartisan agreement … hopefully, we can get that done by the end of the week,” Schumer said. But even that optimistic message was a walk-back by Schumer, who has repeatedly said the closed-door negotiations are going well, and that he expected a bill to be revealed early this week. Under the pending bill, GOP politicians would accept a multi-stage amnesty for at least 11 million illegal immigrants. Some conservative critics of large-scale immigration say this measure would provide Democratic candidates with a large pool of new Democratic-leaning Latino voters in roughly 13 years. In exchange, GOP politicians expect Democratic politicians to open the door to an increased inflow of low-wage workers with foreign visas. (read article)

House panel advances divisive Colo. labor measure
By Kristen Wyatt, April 8, 2013, Denver Times Union
A labor question that threatens to fracture Colorado Democrats moved closer to a possible collision Monday, when a Democratic House committee voted to move ahead with a measure to expand labor rights for firefighters. The Democratic governor threatened to veto an earlier version of the measure. The bill would expand labor rights for firefighters even in localities that have voted to bar them from organizing. As introduced, it would have allowed firefighters to collectively bargain even in places where local voters barred the practice. The bill was watered down a bit Monday. Instead of requiring bargaining, it would require only that local governments “meet and confer” with firefighting groups, not engage in actual bargaining. Firefighters would be banned from talking about salary or benefits, instead confining talk to questions of safety and equipment. (read article)

Union rally in St. Charles aims at influencing Missouri Senate leader, other GOP lawmakers
By Mark Schlinkmann, April 8, 2013, St. Louis Press Dispatch
About 200 union members rallied here Monday to build some pressure on the Republican-run Missouri Legislature – and Senate leader Tom Dempsey of St. Charles in particular – to reject bills they consider anti-labor. “Let me make this very clear to every elected official,” said Dave Cook, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655. “We will not back down, we will not go away, we will not stop. We will door-knock your constituents.” Lawmakers should “stop busting unions and start growing the economy,” Cook said. The afternoon event, at Frontier Park, was partly aimed at a Senate-approved bill that would require many government employee unions to get annual written consent from a member before dues can be deducted from his or her paycheck. Yearly consent also would be required before fees could be used for political purposes. The measure is now in a House committee. “All they want to do is eliminate your voice in politics so they can run rampant over us for years to come,” Cook said. (read article)

Labor union front group deserves to be sequestered
Mike Paranzino, April 8, 2013, The Daily Caller
At the end of the day, every restaurant owner tries to avoid the same thing: closing his doors because he can’t make ends meet. One restaurant, however, doesn’t have to deal with economic reality: New York’s COLORS, a restaurant project of a labor union front group called the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). Founded as a “new type of restaurant” where “workers are owners” and “stress is kept at a minimum,” COLORS has struggled financially from the start. Debt, unpaid rent, and tax warrants filed by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance are all part of the day-to-day of COLORS’ existence. It’s a fun bit of irony for a group like ROC that often lectures restaurant owners on how to run their businesses. Fortunately for the restaurant, ROC has stepped in and generously subsidized COLORS through six-figure interest-free loans and grants. But where does ROC get its money? From the federal government, it turns out. Over the course of its existence, ROC and its regional affiliates have received nearly $1 million in free taxpayer money via the Department of Labor’s Harwood Grant Program. Here’s how the scheme works: ROC applies for grants from the government to provide worker training. It then “rents” space and trainers from its own restaurant to provide that training. If you’ve got a failing restaurant, that’s a great way to boost your bottom line. (read article)

Pennsylvania Unions get unusual legal passes
By Jerry Shenk, April 7, 2013, Pennsylvania Patriot-News
Are stalking or harassment ever acceptable practices? In Pennsylvania, the answer is yes – to both. Pennsylvania legislators who passed anti-stalking and harassment legislation made exceptions for labor union organizers, exemptions which remain Commonwealth law. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report entitled “Sabotage, Stalking & Stealth Exemptions: Special State Laws for Labor Unions,” reveals that Pennsylvania law “permits ‘labor’ exemption from laws regulating conduct that would otherwise be considered criminal activity.” It states, “…Pennsylvania, and other states with a significant union presence…carve out an exemption from the crime of stalking, in the case of Pennsylvania by noting the prohibition on stalking ‘shall not apply to conduct by a party to a labor dispute.’” — ditto union harassment. According to the national chamber’s report: “While few lawmakers or members of the public are generally aware of these special provisions, they seem clearly intended to tilt the playing field in favor of unions – with potentially significant impacts on workers, employers, individual citizens, and the overall economic and political climate in the state.” (read article)

Labor Unions: America’s Last Hope
By David Macaray, April 7. 2013, The Huffington Post
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of old-fashioned “resistance.” Indeed, without resistance (e.g., pushing back, taking an aggressive stand, demonstrating that you’re willing to fight, etc.), things can get out of hand very quickly, whether we’re talking about international relations, social intercourse, basic economics, children or adults. On Sunday, April 7, the Los Angeles Times ran a disturbing front-page story on the topic of worker victimization. The article pointed out that employers now believe (especially since the recession) that they are firmly in the driver’s seat, that the economy has become such a lopsided “buyer’s market” that they can now pretty much force their employees to do anything they wish. After all, who or what is going to stop them? It’s true. Businesses have won. They’ve increased their production demands, they’ve extended employees’ work hours (after having laid off a segment of the workforce), they’ve taken to issuing ultimatums (If you don’t like it here, quit), and they’ve done all of it while, simultaneously, having kept wages relatively stagnant. As for traditional benefits such as pensions, bonuses, sick leave and paid vacations, forget about it. Most of those have been abolished. Welcome to the underbelly of technology. Companies electronically time your coffee breaks, they electronically measure your output, they spy on you with cameras, they force you to attend indoctrination meetings and film you as you listen, and they send out emails threatening to fire you if you show up late to work. Things have shifted so dramatically, management now expects to run the table every time they pick up a pool cue. (read article)

Labor money starts flowing in for Garcetti
By Michael Finnegan, April 06, 2013, Los Angeles Times
Organized labor’s lopsided support for Wendy Greuel in the Los Angeles mayor’s race has started shifting as unions begin pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into an independent campaign backing her rival, Eric Garcetti. The $300,000 in new labor donations for Garcetti — the first installment of what union leaders say will be more than $1 million — still leaves the city councilman far behind Greuel in the contest for union money. But it highlights a dramatic split within labor, often the driving force in Los Angeles elections. The bulk of labor money behind Greuel, the city controller, comes from public-sector unions that are vying for raises and benefit protections for city workers. The main source of Garcetti’s labor money is private-sector unions looking for City Hall support to expand their ranks and strengthen their hand in disputes with business. They have been fighting to organize cargo handlers at Los Angeles International Airport and truck drivers at the harbor, among others. It’s a dynamic that works in Greuel’s favor, at least financially. (read article)

Detroit Labor Relations Director Says Letters to Unions Misinterpreted
By Vanessa Evans, April 5, 2013, Yahoo News
The director of labor relations for Detroit, Lamont Satchel, hit back on Thursday against reports that letters that his office sent to the city’s public safety unions on March 28 implied that Detroit was no longer obligated to honor its contracts with them now that an emergency financial manager has been appointed to handle operations. Satchel told the Detroit Free Press that there was “no way you can read my letters to mean that.” The city’s newly-appointed emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, had responded to the letters’ content on Wednesday. Spokesman Bill Nowling told Reuters that Orr “had no warning” regarding the letters, and that communication of that sort “has to be authorized by the emergency manager and this was not.” Here is some of the key information that has emerged over the last week regarding the letters sent to Detroit’s public safety unions and the subsequent fallout. As noted in Wednesday’s article, it was Reuters that had originally printed excerpts from the letters, in which Satchel stated that “the City is no longer obligated to participate in collective bargaining.” The letters also reportedly said that the city would be immediately withdrawing from any current arbitration or mediated discussions and that any union issues that were currently in progress would be “dismissed.” (read article)

State labor strife bleeds into private sector, CUNA Mutual union claims
By Mike Ivey, April 05, 2013, The Capital Times
Mike Ivey has been a reporter with The Capital Times for more than 25 years, covering business, the environment and politics. He was named the state’s top business reporter in 2011 by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Public sector unions in Wisconsin have been reeling since the election of Gov. Scott Walker and private unions are convinced that anti-labor sentiment is now spilling into the broader economy. Most recently, officials with the union representing some 700 office workers at CUNA Mutual Group report a tougher-than-ever bargaining stance from the Madison insurance company as the parties try to reach agreement on a new contract. “It’s frightening to see what happened to the public unions being extended into the private sector,” says Kathryn Bartlett-Mulvihill, president of Office & Professional Employees International Union Local 39. According to the OPEIU, CUNA Mutual has offered no wage increase and is demanding more employee contributions for health care despite posting strong earnings in 2012. OPEIU also says the company wants to close out new employees from the company’s defined benefit pension plan. (read article)

Some labor unions push back against Mayo Clinic plan
By Tom Scheck April 4, 2013, Minnesota Public Radio
Three labor unions are distributing flyers at the Minnesota Capitol saying they oppose a plan to provide taxpayer funding for improvements in Rochester related to the Mayo Clinic’s expansion unless “key questions” are answered. The hospitality union UNITEHERE!, the Minnesota Nurses Association and SEIU Healthcare say they will oppose the Destination Medical Center (DMC) plan until Mayo Clinic and Rochester officials provide more details. “We ask the legislature to OPPOSE providing any tax payer money to the DMC until Mayo answers key questions about the impact this proposal will have on our jobs, our homes and our communities,” the flyer said. The plan put forward by the clinic and its supporters asks for more than $500 million in state funding over the next two decades to help Rochester support the Mayo Clinic’s proposed expansion. The clinic says it plans to spend $3 billion expanding its Rochester campus but wants the state subsidy to build roads, bridges, parking garages and other amenities around the expansion. The unions want to know specifics about where the DMC will be built, how many jobs created will be union jobs, what the impact will be on other health care and hospitality employers in Minnesota, what Mayo’s commitment to low income patients in Minnesota will be, and whether Mayo will commit to “labor peace agreements” with the workers and unions that represent them. (read article)

Hillsboro police union drops labor complaints filed against city
By Rebecca Woolington, April 04, 2013, The Oregonian
The Hillsboro police union on Friday dropped two labor complaints it filed against the city in February, according to the state’s Employment Relations Board. Court records also indicate a pending civil lawsuit brought by a Hillsboro officer against his department has been settled. The city and the Hillsboro Police Officers Association are still finalizing a written agreement between the parties, Hillsboro Interim Police Chief Ron Louie said. The agreement addresses outstanding labor issues, including grievances, Louie said. “We are in the final negotiation stage in resolving the issues,” he said. The civil lawsuit against the department, filed in January 2012 in Washington County Circuit Court, claimed police supervisors unlawfully commanded an officer to turn over his cellphone records during an internal investigation. It sought a permanent order prohibiting the department from using the records. Amid the ongoing litigation, in early December, the police department implemented a new electronic communications policy. In one of its labor complaints, the association alleged the policy contains violations of both state and federal law. (read article)

Film unions buck labor’s struggles
by Jason Slotkin, April 4, 2013, Marketplace.org
Michigan’s right-to-work law recently took effect. It’s the latest blow to U.S. organized labor that’s seen membership fall by 2 million over the past four years. But there’s at least one sector where union membership is actually on the upswing. Since 2011, Davis’ local has added more than 150 new members. It’s one of five film production unions in the Mid-Atlantic working on shows like HBO’s “Veep” and the Netflix series “House of Cards.” Last year, those two productions alone pumped $70 million into Maryland’s economy. Maryland wants to make sure they and others stay on location. Like many states, it offers tax credits to film productions. But in fall 2011, it had blown through $22.5 million in tax credits that were meant to last through next year. Lawmakers now want to add $40 million to the program. And local film unions have become a key lobbying partner. “I can’t overstate the importance of this program enough and how well that it’s worked in bringing jobs to Maryland,” said David O’Ferrall. He’s the business agent for Studio Mechanics Local 487. Professor Susan Schurman is Dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. She says film unions are one of the enduring success stories of the labor movement. “These are unions that are asking themselves, what do we do to maintain and grow our base and our leverage?” she said. That’s because they have something other unions lack — star power. Support from the celebrity-studded actor and directors unions have helped trade unions at the negotiating table. (read article)

McMahon blasts Robins, union leaders over labor relations
By Wayne Crenshaw, April 4, 2013, The Macon Telegraph
A small group of leaders at Robins Air Force Base and in its largest union are jeopardizing the base’s future, retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon said Thursday. In a talk with community leaders at the Museum of Aviation, he unveiled statistics that showed Robins workers are filing far more grievances than those at the other two Air Force depots combined. Robins workers filed 328 grievances in fiscal 2012, compared with 142 at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and 110 at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Also, there were 229 arbitrations at Robins in the same period, with only 64 at Hill and 32 at Tinker. The work force at all three bases is about the same size, he said. The disparity is even greater in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, with 204 grievances and 173 arbitrations at Robins. Hill has 57 grievances and 33 arbitrations, and Tinker has 42 grievances and five arbitrations. A grievance is the process by which workers file complaints ranging from workplace conditions to disputes with supervisors. If not resolved, it goes to arbitration in which an independent panel hears both sides and makes a ruling. (read article)

Unions seek vote to repeal new Anchorage city labor ordinance
By Rosemary Shinohara, April 3, 2013, Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage union leaders are launching a referendum drive to try to kill the city’s just-passed rewrite of the city labor law, a spokesman for a coalition of city unions said Wednesday. “We are stepping forward in response to what we’re hearing from the community and our members,” said Anchorage police Sgt. Gerard Asselin, head of the coalition. Just filing the roughly 7,200 required signatures for the referendum with the city clerk’s office in a timely way would require the city to suspend the ordinance, Asselin said. It’s not just city unions backing the referendum, but other representatives of organized labor, too, Asselin said. Andy Holleman, Anchorage teachers union president, said he is one of two people signing as sponsors of the referendum petition. The teachers union is not affected directly by the revised city labor law. But, he said, “We don’t agree with the process that’s been used to make these changes. We depend on the process where we’re free to bargain anything not prohibited by state law.” The city labor ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Dan Sullivan and two Assembly leaders, stripped power from the eight city unions. It removed the right to strike, limited annual pay increases, outlawed performances bonuses or incentives in future contracts and sets up a system for outsourcing some work done by city employees. (read article)

Immigration compromise includes union-friendly ‘prevailing wage’ provisions
By Bill McMorris, April 3, 2013, The Washington Free Beacon
Organized labor succeeded in attaining special provisions in the illegal immigration compromise that will boost union contract prospects. The AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed a package of immigration reforms on Friday after months of negotiations. Under the deal, 200,000 work visas would be issued each year, up from 66,000. Companies would be forced to pay those workers “prevailing wages” dictated by the Department of Labor’s regional standards. Prevailing wages, which were first adopted nationally with the Davis-Bacon Act, require employers to pay workers at industry standards that are often determined by union pay, according to Steve Allen of the Capital Research Center. “[Prevailing wage is] usually interpreted to be union wages, which gives unions advantages in bidding for contracts,” Allen said. “It raises prices for whoever’s paying for the project and by requiring union wage regardless, you might as well hire the union guy.” For example, in Prince George’s County Maryland, prevailing wage laws require any employer to pay electricians about $50 per hour in wages and “fringe” benefits for working on highway construction projects, according to the Department of Labor. (read article)

Saginaw Mayor Greg Branch roasted by labor union protesting Bancroft project downtown
By Mark Tower, April 03, 2013, Michigan Live
Saginaw Mayor Greg Branch said his home phone typically rings once or twice each day. But Branch said it rang nearly a dozen times on Wednesday, April 3, thanks to a flyer distributed by a local labor union that has been picketing a development project in downtown Saginaw. At the bottom of the flyer, which claims Branch “refuses to stand up for the working people of Saginaw,” the mayor’s home telephone number is listed. “The flyer encourages people to call my home phone number,” Branch said. “Many people have. Some of the messages accuse me of ‘lining my pockets’ with money from the ‘out-of-town contractor.’ Many simply stop at ascribing my motivation to greed.” Members of the Laborers Local 1098 union protested outside the Bancroft House building at 107 S. Washington starting on Thursday, March 28. Returning on Friday, Monday and Tuesday, the laborers leveled claims against a developer working on two downtown buildings of unsafe work practices and the use of non-local labor. (read article)

Union-only O.C. hiring pacts raise alarms
By Scott Martindale, April 3, 2013 Orange County Register
For 33 years, electrical contractor Alfred Dennison’s bread and butter have been public-works projects, mostly at public schools and community colleges. But Dennison’s company isn’t unionized, and the 20 electricians and apprentices who work for Dennison Electric in Los Alamitos aren’t interested in joining a labor union, Dennison said. Alfred Dennison, founder of Dennison Electric, says his 33-year-old business will be affected by a proposal by two Orange County college districts to exclude non-union construction workers from being hired. That stance could exclude Dennison Electric from bidding on electrical work for about $900 million in renovation and construction projects set to begin in the coming months at two Orange County community college (read article, subscription required)

Greuel vows to be independent from unions backing her for mayor
By Maeve Reston, April 2, 2013, Los Angeles Times
Setting the stage for the final seven weeks of the campaign, Wendy Greuel vowed Tuesday that she would be independent from the labor interests backing her and framed herself as the “business-labor” candidate in the mayor’s race, while accusing her chief rival of demonizing “the working people” of Los Angeles. Greuel delivered her remarks at UCLA a short time after Kevin James, a Republican who finished third in the mayoral primary, endorsed her opponent, City Councilman Eric Garcetti. James argued that Garcetti had greater “potential for independence” than Greuel “because of the way labor has lined up” behind her. The city controller vigorously refuted that characterization in her speech, charging that Garcetti had not shown the mettle to make difficult budget decisions and would bring more paralysis to a city that has struggled to pay its bills. Though she did not offer a specific plan, she added that she would “not shy away from telling my friends in labor that the city is going broke and cannot sustain the current pension system.” (read article)

About the author: Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.org, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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