Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Napa County declares impasse in labor negotiations
By Barry Eberling, October 21, 2014, Napa Valley Register
Napa County has declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with its largest employees union and the union’s response raises the possibility of a strike, though one has not been called. Both sides issued press releases on Monday and Tuesday outlining their positions. Napa Association of Public Employees, represented by Local Service Employees International Union Local 1021, negotiates on behalf of about 1,000 county employees. “The county has tried to reach agreement with union representatives, but at this point after 21 negotiating sessions we believe we have reached impasse,” county Executive Officer Nancy Watt said. Declaring impasse gives the parties a chance to request that a state mediator step in. County officials expressed hope that mediation can resolve the differences. “It is in the best interest of our employees and the community that we work to resolve outstanding differences and come to agreement quickly,” Watt said in the press release. Should voluntary mediation fail, a union can request that the issue be referred to a fact-finding panel to make recommendations. As a last step, a county can impose its last, best and final offer following a public hearing. Employees responded to the county’s impasse declaration by voting to give their negotiating team authority to take various actions. That includes the power to call for a strike. (read article)

Unions and the White House were hardly best friends. But now that’s changing
By Lydia DePillis, October 21, 2014, Washington Post
For most of President Obama’s tenure, the White House and the nation’s labor movement have been anything but best friends. Unions were disappointed when the White House refused to restructure banks during the financial crisis. They were exasperated by its unwillingness to protect union members’ gold-plated health care plans in the Affordable Care Act. Labor was angered by Obama’s support for for sweeping free trade agreements, and his delay in deciding whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. But on Monday, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez sounded a much different note. Perez, who has emerged as one of the leading contenders to replace outgoing attorney general Eric Holder, began remarks at the National Press Club with what seemed to be a boilerplate narrative extolling the White House’s contributions to economic progress. Soon enough, however, he launched a full-throated endorsement of unions that has been atypical for an administration that has had decidedly cool relations with organized labor. “Worker voice takes so many forms, and one of the most important of which is being a union,” Perez began. “When it comes to protecting collective bargaining rights in this country, we need to continue to protect those rights. And those rights have frankly come under withering attack in recent years.” (read article)

Union Calls Walmart Owners Robbers
By Jason Hart, October 21, 2014, Human Events
Accusing Walmart’s owners of “robbing America,” a labor union fueled by workers’ mandatory dues led protests recently demanding full-time hours and $15 hourly wages for the mega-retailer’s employees. Walmart’s corporate headquarters, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., says the company has more than 1.3 million employees and in 2013 promoted 170,000 “to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay.” This summer, The Wall Street Journal reported on a study concluding Walmart store managers are paid an average of $92,462. Demonstrations last week against the Walton family, founders of Walmart, were coordinated in Arizona, New York and Washington, D.C., by “Organization United for Respect at Walmart” and “Making Change at Walmart,” two United Food and Commercial Workers campaigns to unionize Walmart workers. UFCW headquarters in D.C. had 1,274,156 members and received $210 million in revenue from its state and local affiliates in 2013, based on its latest report to the U.S. Department of Labor. With the union’s monthly dues ranging from $15.04 to $20.15 per member, UFCW stands to gain tens of millions of dollars if even a small portion of Walmart’s workforce votes to unionize. (read article)

Union demands driving railcar jobs out of California, Japanese firm says
By Laura Nelson, October 20, 2014, Los Angeles Times
A Japanese company’s much-celebrated plans to build a light-rail manufacturing plant in Palmdale appear all but dead after months of clashes with local labor unions and community groups. Kinkisharyo International of Osaka said it is now looking at factory sites outside California, saying pressure from organized labor has made it difficult to do business in the state. Union officials and activists, however, argue they are simply trying to hold the company to environmental rules it should be following. Kinkisharyo won a $890-million contract to build 175 light-rail cars for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority two years ago. Most of the parts will be built in Japan, but the firm agreed to perform final assembly, including painting and wiring the cars, in Los Angeles County. It has been doing that from a temporary facility in Palmdale. Kinkisharyo leaders said they hoped to build a permanent plant that would allow enable them to also move some heavy rail car manufacturing from Japan to the United States. The 60-acre Palmdale site that Kinkisharyo chose, however, came under fire this last summer when local activists — including members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 — presented the city with a 588-page appeal claiming violations of state environmental law. The document says that the factory has not secured proper water rights, and that construction could kick up spores that carry valley fever. Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Michael D. Antonovich accused labor leaders of “greenmail” tactics — using the environmental law as leverage to convince Kinkisharyo to promise that its workforce would be unionized. (read article)

Strategy by Union: Mock a Manhattan Apartment Building’s Selling Points
By Matt Chaban, October 20, 2014, New York Time
“Hey there!” shouts the 50-year-old man, wearing an oversize beanie and a tank top, trying to look cool for the camera. “Welcome to AVA, a new kind of living space designed with young, quirky, outside-the-box creatives like us in mind.” Introducing himself as Gary, he makes his way through a sleek lobby of squiggly sculptures and funky lighting. The video is not an advertisement for any particular apartment building, though it is a reminder of just how hyperbolic real estate ads can be. Especially since this one, starring the comedian John Ennis as Gary, parodies almost shot for shot an actual ad produced by the developer AvalonBay Communities for its newest apartment line, AVA. As for the producer of this parody, it is not The Onion or Funny or Die. It is one of New York’s largest unions. Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, the 70,000-member organization of doormen, janitors, security guards and other building workers, has been trying for years to organize workers at AvalonBay’s 10 properties in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. (read article)

Labor Unions Fund Attack Ads Against GOP Franken Challenger
By Connor Wolf, October 20, 2014, Daily Caller
Labor unions will begin funding a series of attack ads against Mike McFadden, the Republican challenging Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken. The ad campaign will be launched by Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), a liberal group funded by labor unions and other liberal donors, according to Minnesota Public Radio. The ad campaign, which is expected to cost high into the six figure range, will attack McFadden on Medicare and Social Security. This blitz will be the first significant attack on broadcast for ABM and the biggest investment in the Senate race by an outside group. Republican outside groups have mostly stayed out of the race, according to Minnesota Public Radio. McFadden spokesman Tom Erickson dismissed the ad campaign. (read article)

CEQA Juggernaut Rolls Through The High Desert
By Loren Kaye, October 20th, 2014, Fox and Hounds Daily
When it comes to organized labor, California is a friendly state. We long ago eschewed right-to-work status. Labor unions enjoy a web of laws that ease organizing workers, like farmworkers, refinery employees, teachers, and state and local government workers. Other laws give union contracts special status unavailable to nonunion employees, such as the ability to work longer days without triggering overtime and avoid the new sick leave mandate. Employers who obtain workers from a union hiring hall are not subject to the new joint liability mandate applicable to other labor contractors. But who would have thought one of the most powerful union organizing tools may be the state’s premier environmental statute, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)? CEQA is best known as the vanguard of disclosure, transparency and mitigation of environmental impacts. More recently, CEQA has been fingered as an easy ticket to litigation by project opponents, NIMBY activists, or even business competitors. Labor unions have leveraged the law to obtain sweetheart contracts for construction projects. (read article)

Labor Secretary pushes unions as key to prosperity
By Michael Lindenberger, October 20, 2014, Dallas Business News
U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez strongly defended labor unions as intrinsically linked to overall worker prosperity in America in a speech Monday at the National Press Club. He said growing indications that the middle class in Canada has fared better than their U.s. counterparts in the last decade can largely be attributed to the northern nation’s much stronger labor union participation. In a 35-minute speech peppered with campaign-style references to workers and bosses he’s met around the country, Perez also renewed his calls to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and pushed for legislation requiring companies to provide paid parental leave for the birth of children. Perez said unemployment is falling and hiring has grown, including among higher-wage jobs like accountants and other professional services. Still, he said those stuck on the lower-end of the pay-scale and in the middle are still struggling. “There is no dignity in working 40 or 50 hours a week and getting your food at the food pantry,” said Perez, who has served as labor secretary since 2013. Perez also sounded a note that’ll be familiar to big companies in Texas and elsewhere, whose leaders have urged Congress to reform immigration laws to, among other things, let more foreign workers into the country. (read article)

BlueGreen Alliance calls for strong US methane reduction strategy
By Nick Snow, October 20, 2014, Oil & Gas Journal
The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of 10 national labor unions and 5 environmental organizations, urged the Obama administration to adopt a strong methane reduction strategy with the US oil and gas industry as a major component. The goal is to advance the administration’s climate action plan and meet its goal of reducing the nation’s global warming pollution 17% by 2020, the group’s executive director, Kim Glas, said in an Oct. 10 letter to US President Barack Obama. “The oil and gas industry is the nation’s largest industrial source of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas,” she maintained. “Reducing methane emissions throughout the industry’s operations needs to be a key part of our nation’s strategy to address climate change.” The White House said in March that the US Environmental Protection Agency would determine sometime this fall how best to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, Glas said. She said the group supports adopting national standards to regulate oil and gas industry methane emissions, which could contribute substantially to meeting the administration’s 2020 goal “with even greater reductions post-2020.” The alliance’s members from organized labor are the United Auto Workers; United Steelworkers; Utility Workers Union of America; Service Employees International Union; Communications Workers of America; American Federation of Teachers; Amalgamated Transit Union; Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Union of Concerned Scientists, and EDF Action, the Environmental Defense Fund’s political action arm, are the coalition’s remaining members. (read article)

Obama Labor Board Bucks Precedent and Positions Itself to Weaken Worker-Backed Elections to Remove Unwanted Unions
October 20, 2014, National Right to Work
Disregarding its own long-standing precedent, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued an order that continues the impoundment of Bradken, Inc. workers’ ballots cast to determine whether the workers want to remove a local Machinist union from their workplace. The NLRB’s ruling endangers the results of an election initiated by Jonathan Fuller and his coworkers at the steel manufacturing facility to determine whether to remove the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District W24 union as their monopoly bargaining representative. Fuller is receiving free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. On August 16, 2013, IAM union officials filed federal charges against Bradken during a contract dispute. On August 30, 2013, Fuller and his coworkers filed a petition seeking a decertification election to determine their union representation. On April 23, 2014, an NLRB Regional Director approved an agreement between IAM and Bradken officials that settled the union’s charges with no admission of liability by Bradken. On June 5, the Regional Director ruled based on long-standing NLRB precedent that the facility’s approximately ninety-eight workers could vote in a decertification election, which was held on July 1 despite IAM union officials’ objections. (read article)

How to Revive the Labor Movement
By David Moberg, October 20, 2014, Bill Moyers
After the Brooklyn College administration temporarily suspended Stanley Aronowitz from school in 1950 for taking part in a protest, he dropped out to follow a much more unorthodox route to an academic career. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Aronowitz — a lifetime New Yorker in spirit even when temporarily absent — was a factory worker, union organizer, civil rights advocate, influential contributor to New Left organizations and a vivid, often flamboyant debater in a tumultuous political period. Since 1983, however, he has been a prolific sociology professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, writing or editing 25 books. His latest, The Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Workers’ Movement, out from Verso this fall, expands his decades-long argument that unions need bigger goals and more direct action to succeed, or even survive. Aronowitz spoke with In These Times Senior Editor David Moberg about his strategies for reviving the labor movement. (read article)

Business, unions dig in over proposed state public pension plan
By Stephen Singer, October 19, 2014, The Day
Round two is about to begin in the fight between business and organized labor over Connecticut’s proposed public retirement plan. Neither side got exactly what it wanted in the first battle that ended when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a compromise bill earlier this year authorizing a study of how a retirement plan would work. Organized labor urged enactment of a plan while business lobbyists said no such plan is needed. With a one-year study about to begin, businesses plan to reiterate their point that public retirement accounts are superfluous and will undermine Connecticut’s financial industry that already offers retirement plans and expert advice. “We will be opposing this measure as we opposed the legislation,” said Eric Gjede, assistant counsel at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. Organized labor is pushing hard from the opposite direction. (read article)

Stop union bullying at work
Editorial, October 18, 2014, Detroit News
Bullies aren’t tolerated in schools, and they shouldn’t be accepted in workplaces either. Yet there are reports of Michigan employees who have been harassed and bullied because they have opted out of union membership, thanks to the state’s right-to-work law. Two bills in the Legislature would give these individuals some relief. The measures would offer public and private employers the option to forbid the posting of names of workers who have opted out of unions — a practice that goes on now. State Rep. Kevin Daley, R-Lum, is sponsoring the legislation and says constituents have complained to him about being targets of harassment when it is revealed they have opted out. “This is bullying, plain and simple, and it should not be allowed in any workplace in Michigan,” Daley says. “If people decide they no longer desire to be a part of organized labor, then that should be a personal and confidential matter between them and union officials.” We agree. (read article)

CSU, union, reach tentative agreement on 3-year labor contract
By Debbie Sklar, October 17, 2014, My News LA
California State University and its faculty union have reached a tentative agreement on a 3-year labor contract, it was announced Friday. The agreement, which covers more than 23,000 instructional faculty, coaches, librarians and counselors on the 23 CSU campuses, will be in effect through June 30, 2017, according to a Cal State statement. The pact, which must be ratified by both the membership of the California Faculty Association and the CSU Board of Trustees, “is a tremendous accomplishment,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “As we approach the next year with limited resources and increased expectations at state and federal levels for increased outcomes, we have this agreement as the foundation on which to build a bright future for our students who deserve the highest quality education programs in the state,” he said. The agreement provides an increase of 3 percent to the base compensation pool for 2014-15, the statement said. The additional funding will be used in part to provide a 1.6 percent general salary increase for all CFA employees. The agreement also provides for renewed negotiations to determine salaries for 2015-16 and 2016-17, as well as provisions to address workload concerns — including a $1.3 million pool to fund additional assigned time “for faculty who provide exceptional levels of service to students” and a $2.7 million pool to fund changes to instructional workload assignments for new probationary faculty, according to the Cal State statement. The last contract expired June 30. (read article)

Pennsylvania Senate defeats union dues measure
By Kate Giammarise, October 16, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A controversial proposal that would have ended automatic dues deductions and political contributions from unionized public school employees was defeated in the state Senate Wednesday. An amendment on the issue failed by a vote of 20 -28, when six Republican senators joined with the chamber’s Democrats to defeat the measure. The chamber has a narrow 27- 23 Republican majority, but a number of the Republicans are from the more politically moderate Philadelphia suburbs. It was mostly those members who voted against the amendment, along with an Allentown Republican and all the Senate Democrats. Labor unions and their advocates have said they see the measure as part of a broader, Republican-lead attack on unions and collective bargaining rights. Calling it “an attack on working Pennsylvanians,” David Broderic, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the union was pleased a majority of senators voted against the measure. Conservative and business groups who support the idea say the dues deductions allows public resources to be used for political purposes. (read article)

Tentative Agreement Reached Between Golden Gate Transportation District And Thirteen Labor Unions
October 16, 2014, Bay City News
Thirteen labor unions and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District reached a tentative contract agreement this afternoon, avoiding a strike Friday that would gave affected Golden Gate Transit bus service between the North Bay and San Francisco. Details of the new agreement are not yet being disclosed and each of the 13 unions in the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition will vote on the tentative pact over the next few weeks, coalition co-chair Alex Tonisson said late this afternoon. “It’s possible the agreement could be rejected, negotiations would continue and there could be a strike. Each union negotiates side table issues and individual unions could strike, but that’s unlikely,” Tonisson said. Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District spokeswoman Priya David Clemens confirmed a tentative agreement was reached but did not disclose any details. “The agreement will be presented to the district’s board for approval on Friday, Oct. 24. At that point, the details of the agreement will be made available to interested parties,” Clemens said. (read article)

Phoenix City Council doing unions’ bidding (again)
Editorial, October 14, 2014, Arizona Republic
It started Oct. 1, when the council’s agenda included the $103 million first stage of renovating Terminal 3 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Preparations for this vote had been in motion for well over a year. General contractors had been selected. Plans were in place to begin moving airline and airport operations equipment out of the terminal. And then, Councilman Michael Nowakowski asked for a delay of two weeks. He had additional questions. “Nothing problematic,” Nowakowski said. “Nothing to really stop it, but I would like these questions to be answered, and I recently received some concerns from people. So I would like to have some briefing from the staff.” Nowakowski never explained what prompted his concerns or who those concerned “people” were. Staff told the council a delay would add $1.9 million to the cost. No matter. Mayor Greg Stanton and councilmembers Kate Gallego, Laura Pastor and Daniel Valenzuela joined Nowakowski in a 5-4 vote. On behalf of “concerns from people.” Mayor Stanton declared he was sure “Nowakowski’s request is in good faith.” Others think not. In a furiously worded letter sent to the council a week later, representatives of the Arizona Builders Alliance and the Associated General Contractors called the vote “a mockery of the law” and a “thinly disguised attempt at a political payoff to organized labor.” (read article)

Labor Unions Endorse Democrat For Pennsylvania Governor
By Connor Wolf, October 14, 2014, Daily Caller
Unions are closing ranks behind Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf ahead of November’s election. Local radio station WITF reports that four of Wolf’s top ten contributors this summer were labor unions, giving his campaign more than $1.4 million. Those unions were the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees who gave him $500,000, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who contributed $410,000, the Mid-Atlantic Laborers’ Political League who gave $300,000 and the United Steelworkers who gave $200,500. Critics say union support for Wolf is driven by the Democrat’s opposition to pension reform. But Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan told WITF that even though the campaign has received a lot of money from unions, the candidate is still committed to solving the pension problem. (read article)

Illinois governor race: Bruce Rauner explains ‘right to work zones’
By Sophia Tareen, October 13, 2014, Northwest Herald
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says his campaign proposal to create so-called “right to work zones” also means designating areas where businesses face fewer tax and regulatory burdens, but the idea has raised eyebrows in union-friendly Illinois. The venture capitalist is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in one of the nation’s most competitive governor’s races where labor issues have featured prominently. Rauner told The Associated Press in a recent interview that the zones would be a way to give local entities autonomy and help jumpstart economically depressed areas. Rauner said an example of his plan could let municipalities or counties decide on whether to make paying union fees voluntary for unionized workers. And it would allow struggling areas, such as Chicago neighborhoods or downtown Decatur, the ability to lower corporate income tax rates to lure new businesses, something that appears to take a program that Illinois already offers a step further. (read article)

Labor unions in Wisconsin recovered some lost ground in 2013
By Adam Belz, October 13, 2014, Minnesota Star Tribune
Looking at Minnesota and Wisconsin, you can see a few things: – Overall union membership as a percentage of employment (including government workers) is a little higher than the national level in both states. – Minnesota is more unionized on a percentage and absolute basis, with 362,000 union members that are 14.3 percent of the workforce. Wisconsin has 317,000, and they’re 12.3 percent of the workforce. – Unions have fallen further since the recession in Wisconsin than in Minnesota. – But Wisconsin’s unions made up some ground in 2013. Membership rose there by more than 1 percent, while ticking up just slightly in Minnesota. – The addition of 17,000 home care workers who are negotiating a contract with the state will increase Minnesota’s union share once that’s settled. (read article)

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