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.

Union Support Of Minimum Wage Hike Is Self-Interested
By Richard Berman, August 27, 2013, Investors Business Daily
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, recently appeared on MSNBC to announce her organization’s solidarity with striking fast-food employees. As part of the segment, she indicated her organization’s strong support for a $15 minimum wage. Henry was quick to emphasize that her organization’s support of a more-than-twofold increase in the minimum wage was “not about growing unions.” This may be true — but it’s also undeniable that such a move would have a profound impact on growing union paychecks, even if those unions don’t count a single minimum-wage employee in their ranks. The fine print can be found in union contracts. Each year, the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) releases a number of union collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). Unsurprisingly, many CBAs available in the OLMS database link union salaries and wage rates to the federal minimum wage. There are a number of methods that unions use to accomplish this end. The two most popular appear to be setting baseline union wages as a percentage above the minimum wage, and mandating a flat wage at a set level above the minimum wage. (read article)

Judge speeds hearing on Detroit bankruptcy eligibility
By Joseph Lichterman, August 27, 2013, Reuters
The federal judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is accelerating the already hurried process of determining whether the city is eligible for protection from its creditors. Judge Steven Rhodes ordered late Monday that initial oral arguments in the case begin on September 18, well ahead of the October 23 date he originally scheduled for the start of the trial on the issue of eligibility. Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history on July 18. Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, has said he wants the city to be out of bankruptcy court by the time his term as emergency manager is scheduled to end in the fall of 2014. Monday’s order was the latest sign that Rhodes wants to set an aggressive timetable to move the city through bankruptcy court. “A prompt oral argument on these legal issues will promote just, speedy and efficient determination of the city’s eligibility to be a debtor” under the bankruptcy code, Rhodes wrote on Monday. Rhodes also said he would delay hearing objections to the bankruptcy that center on potential cuts to retiree pensions, which unions and retiree groups argue are protected by the Michigan state constitution. The judge wrote in his order that he “appreciates the extraordinary importance of the pension rights,” but he will not consider arguments about potential cuts to pensions until after he decides whether the city is eligible for bankruptcy. (read article)

Fast Food Strikes Go Viral: Workers Expected to Protest Low Wages in 35 Cities Thursday
By Victor Luckerson, August 27, 2013, Time
A growing movement among fast food workers to demand higher wages is expected to gain momentum this Thursday as strikes and protests against the country’s biggest restaurant chains spread to the South and the West Coast. Low-wage workers at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and retailers such as Macy’s are gearing up for a nationwide strike just before Labor Day weekend. The striking workers are demanding the right to unionize and at least $15 an hour in pay, more than double the current national minimum wage of $7.25. Organizers say Thursday’s strikes could touch as many as 35 cities. “These companies that own these fast food restaurants, they make way too much money off the backs of the employees,” says Dearius Merritt, a 24-year-old worker at Church’s Chicken in Memphis who earns $13 an hour and plans to take part in his first strike Thursday. “I’m in the store every day with these workers that make $7.25…If I’m 30 years old and this is what I have to do to survive, then I deserve a living wage off of it.” (read article)

There’s A Lot Goin on With Labor This Labor Day
By Kristen Frasch, August 27, 2013
On the heels of Michael J. O’Brien’s blog post below on the growing numbers of over-connected workers celebrating Labor Day this coming Monday, I thought it would also be fitting to call labor union – 164548731attention to the current state of flux — for lack of a better word — involving labor unions as well. Indeed, there is much to keep your eyes on – this Labor Day and beyond. Here are three developments I thought worthiest, from most recent to least, though they’re all pretty recent and they seem to keep coming: 1) On Aug. 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the National Labor Relations Board’s decision in Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, affirming that the NLRB has broad discretion to determine appropriate bargaining units for union representation elections, including narrow so-called “micro-units.” (read article)

Big Labor Expanding Battleground to Corporate Boardrooms
August 27, 2013, LaborPains
Big Labor is always trying to weasel its way into policymaking through backdoor channels. From pressuring Democrats into changing U.S. Senate rules to advance its chosen labor law arbiters to protesting for a potentially self-enriching higher minimum wage (despite the average private-sector union member earning more than three times the federal minimum wage), the modus operandi is always the same: Deploy hardball tactics aimed at disrupting standard operating procedures so as to ultimately dictate key policies. In recent years though, the deployment of one such tactic has become increasingly prevalent, stepping further outside the realm of traditional policymaking and deeper into the boardrooms of America’s largest corporations. This tactic is broadly known as “shareholder activism,” and typically goes something like this: Through their behemoth pension funds, unions buy shares in publicly traded companies, thus entitling them to file shareholder petitions. If approved by a majority of shares, such petitions would force corporations to implement the union-advocated policy changes. In other words, it gives Big Labor the ability to change corporate policy to their liking. What’s troubling is that such union shareholder activism has become increasingly popular in recent years – and for reasons wholly unrelated to the financial health of union pension funds. As Susan Combs, a Texas public official who oversees the state’s public pension funds, explains in The Wall Street Journal: Since 2006, about a third of all shareholder proposals floated with Fortune 250 companies have come from institutional investors affiliated with organized labor, according to the Manhattan Institute. (read article)

Four questions about right-to-work in Oregon
By Shelby Sebens, August 27, 2013, Northwest Watchdog
When Michigan, with the fifth highest percentage of union members in the country, became a right-to-work state, advocates in other states took notice. And one of those states was Oregon. Proponents of right-to-work laws say now is the time to start the conversation in Oregon, where union membership exceeds the national average at about 16 percent. Even with strong labor-union influence and a trifecta of power in state government — Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office — some people are saying its not out of the question that Oregon could become a right-to-work state. That means unions cannot force employees to join or pay dues. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director for the free-market policy institute Mackinac Center, will be in Oregon next week to spread the word about right-to-work laws. He will be headlining an event sponsored by free-market organizations Cascade Policy Institute and the Freedom Foundation. (read article)

Local fast-food workers to join nationwide protest
By Katie Johnston, August 27, 2013, Boston Globe
Kyle King made $8 an hour when he started working as a cashier at the Burger King across from Boston Common. Nine years later, he is up to $8.15, logging fewer hours and living with his brother in Roxbury because he can’t afford a place of his own. King’s worsening economic condition has prompted him to make a bold decision that could cost him even more money: He plans to skip his scheduled Thursday afternoon shift at the chain’s Tremont Street restaurant. But King isn’t quitting. Instead, he is taking part in a nationwide demonstration of fast-food employees demanding $15-an-hour wages and the right to unionize. Thousands of workers in 50 cities are expected to take part in the one-day strike. In Boston, as many as 200 fast-food employees are expected to form rolling picket lines outside nine chain restaurants — including Burger King, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts — culminating in a rally on Boston Common. King, 45, said he realizes low-skilled workers like him are easily replaceable and that he could be fired over Thursday’s act of defiance. But he is more worried that nothing will change for those who work behind fast-food counters unless more attention is called to their cause. (read article)

Work It Out: New York’s Labor-Management Stalemate
By Adam Janos, August 26, 2013, City and State
In New York City, every public employee union is working under expired contracts. From firefighters to teachers to police officers, it’s a management-labor impasse the likes of which the city hasn’t seen since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this isn’t entirely a bad thing from the city’s perspective. “My successor will enter negotiations with enormous leverage, because union leaders will have gone about four years without new contracts, and that has never happened before,” Bloomberg said in a speech earlier this month. New York City isn’t the only municipality in this predicament. So too are places like Yonkers, Syracuse and Jamestown. According to Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors, the number of towns and cities in the Empire State with employees working under expired contracts is reaching an all-time high. “I’ve been in the Conference of Mayors over 25 years,” Baynes told City & State. “I’ve never seen it as prevalent as it is right now.” (read article)

Five reasons for optimism about unions this Labor Day
By John Logan, August 27, 2013, The Hill
The week following Labor Day, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) will hold its first-ever “open convention,” which will welcome many non-labor allies, in Los Angeles. With unions representing just 11.3 percent of the workforce, previous Labor Days have been greeted by countless stories about unions’ decades-long decline, and pessimistic predictions about their chances for survival.
But for those feeling despondent about the decline of unions, and its terrible consequences for American workers and the economy, there are real reasons to be hopeful. Here are five good reasons for optimism: First, most Americans hold favorable views of unions. According to a June 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of Americans hold favorable views of labor unions, a 10 percent increase from the number in the same poll conducted two years earlier. This is first time since January 2007 that a majority of the public has viewed unions favorably. 80 percent of “liberal Democrats” hold favorable views on unions. Women, minorities and youth – key groups for organized labor — hold the most pro-union attitudes. There is no straightforward relationship between public approval for unions and union growth, but the labor movement must figure out how to bring into its fold the majority of Americans who like unions. Second, bucking national trends, union membership in California increased by a whopping 110,000 members in 2012, even as it fell by 368,000 nationwide. Much of the increase in California, which has the nation’s largest number of union members, was among healthcare workers and Latino workers. In several other states with growing Latino populations, membership grew more modestly, but these states may soon follow California’s lead. (read article)

Liberals Don’t Like Cory Booker Because Cory Booker Doesn’t Love Teachers Unions
By Matthew Yglesias, August 26, 2013, Slate
Molly Ball had a smart piece last week wondering why liberals seem to have such antipathy to Cory Booker based on ideological deviations that are really quite small in the scheme of things. But while puzzling over this, she actually identifies the answer and then skips past it. Liberals don’t like Booker because he’s an education reformer—a board member of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that pushes charter schools and test-based teacher assessments and other ideas that labor unions representing America’s teachers don’t like. Ball dismisses this as inadequate to fully explain the depths of the antipathy on the dual grounds that Barack Obama is also an education reformer, and that this particular issue doesn’t feature all that heavily in the liberal critique of Booker. Both are true, but it’s still the case that this is what’s driving things. The basic issue here is that not only is the education reform issue itself contested in the Democratic Party, there’s a deep divide over how to frame the divide. Reformers like to see it as unions standing in the way of the interests of minority kids. That makes people of color such as Booker, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, etc. particularly valuable faces of the cause. By contrast, liberals prefer to see the issue as pitting billionaire donors against the interests of middle class workers. Their ideal antagonist is someone like Michael Bloomberg. Given Cory Booker’s age and ethnicity, it is overwhelmingly likely that he will be an important figure in this debate for years (if not decades) to come. So there’s a lot at stake in painting Booker not as a fairly conventional Democrat who (like Barack Obama and lots of other Democrats) happens to disagree with teachers unions about K-12 issues. Instead, they want to paint Booker as an across-the-board demonic corporate sellout figure who disagrees with teachers unions as part of a general agenda of overclass madness. (read article)

Commissioner asks Miami-Dade to reduce or eliminate practice of paying union reps
By Patricia Mazzei, August 26, 2013, Miami Herald
A Miami-Dade commissioner began a push Monday to have the county end its practice of excusing dozens of public employees from their work duties to serve as full-time labor union representatives. Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, citing a Miami Herald report, has sponsored legislation directing county administrators who must renegotiate union contracts next year to eliminate or reduce the number of exempt employees. The Herald reported last month that 42 employees who have collected more than $2.65 million in salaries so far this year work full-time for their unions and cannot be fired from their county jobs. “Shouldn’t employees that are doing the union work be paid by the union to do their work?” Bovo asked at a commission meeting Monday. “Why does the taxpayer have to front that bill?” (read article)

Scorecard: Organized Labor
August 26, 2013, City and State
Organized labor unions continue to play a big role in New York’s political world. Among the key private unions are 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Hotel and Motel Trades Council. All four unions play a big role in moving legislation and influencing policy, and are expected to have a meaningful impact in the coming citywide election, with 32BJ, RWDSU and HTC endorsing Christine Quinn for mayor. 1199, the city’s largest union, has a reputable ground operation and a large minority membership that should be a boon to their endorsed candidate, Bill de Blasio. Communication Workers of America Local 1109 is also backing de Blasio, though CWA Local 1180 is backing John Liu. Liu also has the support of DC 37, the city’s largest municipal union. Among the public sector unions, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which is backing Bill Thompson, will bring serious clout to the citywide races as well. (read article)

After standing by Filner, labor moves on
By Craig Gustafson, August 25, 2013, San Diego Union-Tribune
Mayor Bob Filner swept into office last December thanks to huge financial support from labor organizations and union leaders kept him afloat politically in recent weeks by counseling him behind closed doors as he tried unsuccessfully to survive a sexual harassment scandal. Now labor plans to play a large role in determining Filner’s successor, a fact that is inevitable given labor’s political clout but also upsetting to those who blame unions for getting Filner elected in the first place. There’s no doubt many potential candidates, especially those on the Democratic side, will openly court support from various labor organizations ahead of the coming special election to replace Filner. Whether those endorsements carry the same weight in a post-Filner era remains to be seen, but it doesn’t appear labor leaders are lacking in confidence. Frank De Clercq, head of the city firefighters union, interjected into a Twitter discussion on Sunday about whether the Republicans would back former City Councilman Carl DeMaio or current Councilman Kevin Faulconer in the coming race. “One or both would be welcome for a shellacking,” De Clercq wrote. (read article)

Fully staffed NLRB raises concerns of pro-labor decisions
By Rod Kackley, August 25, 2013, Crain’s Detroit Business
Farmington Hills attorney Frank Mamat is telling clients that the recent appointments for the final two openings on the National Labor Relations Board are going to make life difficult for employers. Clients need to be “doubly careful in trying to comply to the strict letter of the National Labor Relations Act,” said Mamat, a shareholder at Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith PC. Mamat contends that under the Obama administration, the NLRB had been “shifting the goalposts” even before the U.S. Senate on Aug. 12 confirmed the appointments of attorneys Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa. As an example, he pointed to an NLRB ruling in a case involving McLean, Va.-based Gannett Co. Inc. and WKYC-TV in Cleveland that forces employers to continue to collect union dues after a labor contract expires. “That removes a trump card that employers had during strikes,” Mamat said. (read article)

Cuomo’s Labor Pains
By Nick Powell, August 25, 2013, City and State
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s relationship with organized labor is best described as complicated. Unlike many statewide Democrats who rely on heavy labor support in elections, Cuomo won his race in 2010 with underwhelming labor support for a politician who fashions himself as a progressive. And while logic would have him relying on union support to help push his legislative agenda and bolster his credentials for a potential run for higher office, Cuomo has taken a somewhat combative stance toward certain sectors of organized labor. Yet simply characterizing Cuomo as pro- or anti-labor would be too reductive—rather, he seems to have a knack for working with the unions that most closely align with his policy agenda, while keeping those that have challenged him at arm’s length. In an interview with The New York Times published shortly before the 2010 gubernatorial election, Cuomo—then the Democratic nominee—asserted that he would not be beholden to the interests of labor, and stated his intentions to reorganize state government, a perceived slight to the public sector unions. Referring to the lobbying power of the private-sector unions during budget season, Cuomo told the Times: “We’ve seen the same play run for 10 years. The governor announces the budget, unions come together, put $10 million in a bank account, run television ads against the governor. The governor’s popularity drops; the governor’s knees weaken; the governor falls to one knee, collapses, makes a deal.” (read article)

Public labor unions ask court to toss out Detroit’s bankruptcy filing
August 24, 2013, International Venture Capital Post
Public labor unions asked a US court to throw out the bankruptcy protection filed by the City of Detroit. A union that represented Detroit’s police and firefighters said Kevyn Orr did not hold negotiations in good faith. Orr was the emergency manager appointed by the state. Chapter 9 of the US Bankruptcy Code stipulates that before a municipality or city government could be certified by a judge to proceed with its bankruptcy filing, it must prove that it had become insolvent. Detroit should also prove that it had already conducted good faith negotiations with its creditors. If there were too many creditors negotiations possible, the city should also show proof of such. The city’s two public pension funds and other unions also claimed that the bankruptcy filing could lead to a reduction of the retirement benefits of the city’s workers. This would be unconstitutional, they said.The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, also argued that the Detroit filing was a violation of the Constitution. (read article)

Pennsylvania law unfairly protects unions
Paul Carpenter, August 24, 2013, The Morning Call
Let this be a warning to all you al-Qaida types: If you want to engage in terrorism in Pennsylvania, you’ll be committing a crime under state law, unless, of course, you do it in the name of labor union activism. The state House Judiciary Committee, now in the hands of those nasty anti-union Republicans, has taken a look at proposed legislation, House Bill 1154, that would change that situation. It would remove language from the law that exempts union people from prosecution for the crimes of “stalking,” “harassment” and the “threat to use weapons of mass destruction.” Three separate sections of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code apply sanctions, ranging from “summary offense” to “felony of the second degree,” for those three categories of crime. But then each section adds this: “This section shall not apply to lawful conduct by a party to a labor dispute.” The conduct is now lawful, I gather, because it’s exempted by the Crimes Code. The logic of “Catch 22” comes to mind. Those three exemptions were enacted in 1993, the only time in more than two decades when Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislature plus the governor’s office. They did not provide any exemptions of any kind for anyone other than those involved in labor union activism. Pennsylvania’s exemptions were spotlighted in an Aug. 10 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, noting “structural favoritism toward labor unions.” It said there are similar exemptions in some other states, but the main focus was on Pennsylvania, where “state policies … benefit unions but seem to defy common sense.” Now, with all three branches of state government controlled by the GOP, there is legislation (HB 1154) aimed squarely at those exemptions, and hearings on it were held Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee in Harrisburg. “There is a dark side to the organized labor movement,” testified Alex Halper, the government affairs director of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “The immunity allowed by law,” he said, “has been exploited by a few bad elements, which is unfair to the victims of these acts and a disservice to unions that advocate on behalf of their members in a fair, responsible and constructive way.” (read article)

German labor union playing key role in UAW’s latest campaign at Alabama’s Mercedes plant
By Dawn Kent Azok, August 23, 2013, Alabama Media Group
Members of the German labor union IG Metall are playing a key role in the latest effort by the United Auto Workers union to organize at Tuscaloosa County’s Mercedes-Benz plant. Union members from Germany have been traveling back and forth between their country and Alabama throughout the course of the campaign, which has been underway for more than a year. They spend a lot of time talking to Alabama workers about the benefits of the union at other plants operated by Mercedes’ parent, Daimler AG, including better pay and pensions, an organized voice and greater say in workplace issues, they say. “It’s not something bad, having a union,” Denise Rumpeltes, a member of IG Metall who sits on the works council at the Sindelfingen plant in Germany, said during a recent visit to Alabama. “It’s a culture at Daimler.” (read article)

Iowa Federation of Labor, with 46,000 union members, backs Braley for U.S. Senate
By William Petroski, August 23, 2013, Des Moines Register
The Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, which represents more than 46,000 union members, said it has unanimously voted to endorse U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in his bid to succeed Tom Harkin in the U.S. Senate in 2014. Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, was endorsed at the 57th Annual Convention of the Iowa Federation of Labor this week in Altoona. Braley has already won many endorsements from other union groups, but the Iowa Federation of Labor endorsement is the most significant. Ken Sagar, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor, praised Braley in a prepared statement. “For years Bruce Braley has worked tirelessly for working families in Congress, fighting to strengthen the middle class and to grow the economy for all workers. That’s because he always remembers where he came from. Growing up in small town Iowa and working his way through college and law school, Bruce knows the meaning of hard work and shares our values. We’re proud to stand behind him in his campaign for US Senate.” The Iowa Federation of Labor is a coalition of more than 470 local labor unions from across the state of Iowa, and is the official state affiliate of the national AFL-CIO. (read article)

Labor’s Latest Attempt to Unionize the Restaurant Industry
By Mike Paranzino, August 23, 2013, Blue Mau Mau
The restaurant industry has long been a target for unionization by Big Labor. Despite their best attempts, traditional organization drives, pickets, and strikes have never yielded the results that union bosses wanted. This has left the industry largely free from organized labor’s grasp. But hope springs eternal for union bosses. For the past decade, they’ve been testing out a new strategy in their pursuit of the restaurant industry: A non-union group named the “Restaurant Opportunities Center.” ROC is little more than a labor union front group. Founded in 2002 by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE), ROC was heralded by its co-founder Saru Jayaraman as a tool to “organize the 99 percent of the [restaurant] industry that doesn’t have a union.” It has since been singled out by none other than AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has called Jayaraman a “real pioneer” for her work attacking restaurants with ROC. But ROC isn’t a labor union. It’s technically a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, which gives it freedom from both taxes and the federal labor laws that govern traditional labor unions. It operates as a “worker center,” and it has been at the vanguard of turning worker centers into union-like operations. Its freedom from labor unions’ legal constraints hasn’t stopped it from acting like a union, however. Since its founding, ROC has made a name for itself by attacking the restaurant industry through protests, shakedowns, and other standard union tactics. Just ask the restaurant where ROC protesters used a 12-foot inflatable cockroach to scare off patrons, or the eatery where they verbally assaulted patrons and took pictures of diners through the window in an attempt to scare them from ever returning. (read article)

Labor Union Execs Bash Sequestration
By Jeanette Steele, August 23, 2013, San Diego Union-Tribune
Officials of a federal employees union on Thursday said their members shouldn’t have to continue to bear the sacrifice of unpaid days off, as the United States looks ahead to a possible second year of across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. At a San Diego news conference, an American Federation of Government Employees official pointed to three years of frozen salaries on top of the six unpaid days off that most federal workers are taking this fiscal year. “Federal employees are not the reason we have that deficit, and I’ll be damned if we’re going to continue to pay that down,” said George McCubbin, a national union vice president. “It’s not our responsibility. … We have done our fair share.” U.S. Reps. Susan Davis and Scott Peters, both San Diego Democrats, stood with the union to say that furlough days unnecessarily hurt at least 650,000 government workers this year. (read article)

Top labor union aims to topple six GOP governors: payback or big risk?
By Mark Guarino, August 22, 2013, Christian Science Monitor
For 2014, the AFL-CIO is targeting Republican governors in Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which have signed bills curbing union rights. But big-spending GOP ‘super PACs’ could stand in the way. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talks to fellow governors during a session of the National Governors Association meeting Aug. 4, 2013 in Milwaukee. The six governors America’s most powerful labor union is targeting are primarily from the Midwest: John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Walker, plus Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania and Paul LePage in Maine. The strategy is considered by payback for a series of attacks on organized labor since November 2010, when voters ushered the new wave of hard-right Republicans into office. The legislation the governors pushed curbed many unions’ collective bargaining rights, established right-to-work laws, clamped down on voting rights, and, subsequently, diminished union strength in those states. The GOP governors said the battle was about balancing budgets, but it looked to the unions like a frontal assault on their survival. That’s why the AFL-CIO, rather than accepting the 2014 election as a referendum on President Obama, aims to bring the fight to the states that mark the breaking point for union growth. (read article)

After acrimony, Garcetti approves of tentative deal with DWP labor union
Frank Stoltze, August 22nd, 2013, KPCC
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed victory Thursday in his battle to squeeze more contract concessions from the powerful union that represents Department of Water and Power workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18. “Today, the balance of power at the DWP shifts to the people,” said Garcetti at a late morning news conference. The mayor credited voters, in part, saying his May election over union-backed candidate Wendy Greuel paved the way for a tentative deal. “You delivered a clear mandate for reform in this city and the DWP,” said the mayor. “You gave me the strongest possible bargaining position for this contract.” Under the new contract deal, 8,200 DWP workers will give up a cost of living increase scheduled for October 1. They instead will receive the increase in three years. It’s been more than two decades since DWP workers have gone without an annual pay increase. City officials estimate the deferred raise will save the city $385 million over the four-year contract and $3.9 billion in higher salary and pensions costs over 30 years. More importantly for Garcetti, the union agreed to continue negotiating hundreds of work rules that govern DWP employees during the life of the contract – a concession that could save millions of dollars and make the agency more efficient. The mayor had said he would veto any contract that failed to include the provisions. By reaching an agreement, Garcetti avoided the possibility of the city council overriding his veto. (read article)

Orange County mayor sues police labor union for conspiracy
Associated Press, August 21, 2013, The Sacramento Bee
The mayor of Costa Mesa is suing the police labor union, claiming it waged a campaign to intimidate and defame him during contract talks. James Righeimer’s suit, filed Tuesday in Orange County, accuses the Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Association of privacy invasion, conspiracy, assault and civil rights violations. His wife and Councilman Steve Mensinger are also part of the suit. The suit claims that last year, the union was involved in a failed effort to get the mayor arrested on trumped-up drunken driving allegations. It claims a private investigator working for a law firm hired by the union spied on Righeimer at a bar, where he had only a soft drink, then arranged for police to confront him at his home. An email to the union seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday. (read article)

Judge sides with unions in Anchorage labor law rewrite
Associated Press, August 21, 2013, Juneau Empire
Anchorage voters should be allowed to decide whether the municipality’s new labor law, which in part, limits annual raises for city employees should be repealed, a Superior Court judge has ruled. Judge Eric Aarseth sided with unions Monday, and ordered the ordinance suspended. He said the city should provide the union with petition ballots by Thursday, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The city is considering whether to seek a stay to the judge’s decision while it considers an appeal. The appeal to the state Supreme Court must be filed within 30 days. “This is too important an issue to simply sit back, and not consider seriously whether to appeal or not,” City Attorney Dennis Wheeler said. “If the municipality is going to be compelled down this path, I would love for it to get the directive from the Supreme Court, so that we have the full bench weighing in on this issue.” Besides limiting raises, the new rewrite of the city’s labor laws restricts incentive pay and bonuses in future contracts, and eliminates the ability to strike. Aarseth’s decision hinged on his interpretation of a 2009 state Supreme Court decision. That ruling said citizens could bring forward referenda only on laws that make significant changes and set new policies, as opposed to laws that clarify measures already on the books. (read article)

Reid touts new labor secretary before friendly union crowd
By Andrew Doughman, August 21, 2013, Las Vegas Sun
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had something of a trophy to display to Las Vegas labor unions Wednesday. When Reid introduced new Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez at the Nevada State AFL-CIO convention at the Excalibur on Wednesday morning, he touted Democrats’ recent victory over Republicans in getting President Barack Obama’s nominees like Perez confirmed for various cabinet-level agencies. The fight had pushed Reid to threaten what D.C. political followers dubbed the “nuclear option,” a change to the Senate rules that would have weakened the minority party — currently the Republicans — in the Senate and allowed Democrats to unilaterally push Obama nominees to confirmation. Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vigorously protested the proposed change, which Reid said he would introduce again in the future if Democrats encounter what they deem to be Republican obstructionism in appointing the President’s nominees. “We hope we’re over that hog for now or we’ll have to continue on that path we did,” Reid said. Perez had waited for months as the Senate postponed votes confirming the President’s nominees. “He waited a long time to be confirmed because of what was going on in the Senate,” Reid said of Perez. Both Reid and Perez received a standing ovation from union members gathered at the Excalibur to hear Reid and other Democrats speak. Reid lambasted Republicans, repeating a refrain that Tea Party conservatives are “modern-day anarchists” before introducing Perez to the friendly crowd. (read article)

Labor Secretary Perez Asked to Decide if ‘Worker Centers’ Are Unions
By Carl Horowitz, August 21, 2013
Secretary of Labor Thomas PerezThomas Perez is the nation’s newest Secretary of Labor. And given his track record of political radicalism, this ought to be more than a little troubling. Perez insists he will be even-handed in his enforcement of the law. That commitment is getting an early test. On July 23, the day of Perez’s swearing-in ceremony, two key House Republicans, John Kline (Minn.) and Phil Roe (Tenn.), wrote Perez a letter asking him to clarify the legal status of nonprofit ‘worker centers’ that are proliferating throughout the country. Because these nonunion organizations mimic the behavior of unions, the letter stated, they ought to be subject to laws that govern unions, especially with respect to financial disclosure. Perez has yet to respond. Given that worker centers often operate as union fronts, a response would seem all the more imperative. (read article)

Tish James picks up 2 big union nods
By Chris Bragg, August 20, 2013, Crains Business New York
Public Advocate candidate Letitia James landed the endorsement of two more powerful unions Tuesday, her campaign said, helping solidify labor support behind her candidacy. Ms. James, a Brooklyn councilwoman, is getting the backing of the 15,000-member Mason Tenders District Council and the 24,000-member Teamsters Local 237. In the public advocate race, Ms. James has received the bulk of the support from politically powerful labor unions, in contrast to the mayoral race at the top of the ticket, which has seen organized labor split among four candidates. Local 237 is one of the city’s more influential public sector unions, while the Mason Tenders has a more right-leaning building trades membership and is part of the Real Estate Board of New York’s efforts to elect pro-business candidates to the City Council through an independent expenditure group called Jobs For New York. Nonetheless, Ms. James, who has been a liberal voice on the City Council, was able to line up the union’s support because of her advocacy for its building trades workers. “Time and time again, Tish has been a champion and a voice when it came to protecting both our members and our fellow New Yorkers in the general public from dangerous construction sites,” said Michael McGuire, the union’s political director. (read article)

Labor Council’s Seattle mayor endorsement vote may get lively
By Lynn Thompson, August 20, 2013, The Seattle Times
A raucous meeting is expected Wednesday evening as the King County Labor Council votes on endorsing a candidate in the Seattle mayor’s race. Up to 100 delegates from the council’s affiliates will debate supporting Mayor Mike McGinn, who galvanized several unions with his stand against Whole Foods over living wages, or his challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, who has a lifetime rating of 95 from the Washington State Labor Council for his votes over 18 years in the Legislature. At stake is the financial and tactical support of more than 75,000 union members in King County who can be marshaled for one of the two campaigns. But whether either candidate can win the two-thirds majority needed to secure the endorsement is an open question. McGinn has the support of some of the activist unions such as Unite Here Local 8, which represents hotel and hospitality workers, and Teamsters Joint Council 28, while Murray has picked up the endorsements of some maritime- and construction-trade unions. (read article)

California Officials, Doctors’ Union Reach Tentative Labor Agreement
August 20, 2013, California Health Line
The Union of American Physicians and Dentists and the California Department of Human Resources have reached a tentative agreement on a labor contract that includes raises for about 1,500 employees within three years, the Sacramento Bee’s “The State Worker” reports. If approved by the state Legislature and UAPD membership, the agreement would be implemented retroactively from last month through July 1, 2016. The agreement would add about $28.9 million in salary expenses, according to estimates by Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) administration. The agreement would include: An 8% raise for some doctor and surgeon subgroups; A 5% raise for some medical consultants and public health officers; and a 4% raise for all other UAPD-covered employees. Pay increases would be dependent on state revenue. They would be dispersed over fiscal years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 if state revenue meets projections. If revenue falls short of projections, the increases would be delayed and distributed together in FY 2015-2016, according to the agreement. (read article)

Union representing AC Transit workers rejects labor deal
By Sarah Grossman, August 20, 2013, The Daily Californian
The union representing AC Transit workers rejected a labor contract deal with the Bay Area bus system over the weekend, just weeks after the union threatened to strike, according to a report by the Contra Costa Times. The contract agreement between the union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, and AC Transit was tentatively been put forward on Aug. 6 but was overwhelmingly voted down by union members in a vote of 576 to 257, with nearly 70 percent voting against the deal. The rejected contract would have instituted a 9.5 percent pay increase for workers over the course of three years but would have also have required them to begin contributing a share of their medical insurance premiums, the Contra Costa Times reports. The union represents 1,760 workers, including bus drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and clerical workers. (read article)

Labor union leader: Obama’s war on coal is a “war on jobs”
By Jason Pye, August 20, 2013, United Liberty
Not only are labor union leaders revolting against President Barack Obama over his ill-conceived healthcare law, they’re also pushing back over environmental regulations against coal plants. In a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Raymond Ventrone, business manager of Boilermakers Local 154, slammed the Environmental Protection Agency’s “anti-coal agenda and noted that the new regulations are hurting the workers that he represents. “Just three years ago, hundreds of construction workers and boilermakers from Local 154 installed state-of-the-art pollution control equipment on a 1,700 megawatt coal-fired power plant,” wrote Ventrone, who represents 2,000 workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. “More than $500 million was invested in this plant, proving that coal and clean air were not mutually exclusive.” “Now, those breakthrough technological upgrades — approved by the Environmental Protection Agency only three years ago — have been deemed insufficient by the very same agency by virtue of new regulations created without a vote in Congress or input from the public,” he explained, adding that the anti-coal regulations have forced two Western Pennsylvania coal plants out of business. (read article)

 

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