Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

McDonald’s asks judge to toss out U.S. labor board’s “massive” subpoena
By Daniel Wiessner, October 27, 2015, Reuters
Oct 27 McDonald’s Corp has asked a U.S. judge to reject a subpoena from the National Labor Relations Board in its case claiming the company is a “joint employer” of franchise workers, saying the requests are unfair and costly. In a filing in U.S. court in Manhattan on Monday, McDonald’s said it had spent more than $1 million over the last few months producing over 160,000 pages of documents in response to the subpoena, even though the company says it will owe no more than about $50,000 if it is found liable for alleged labor violations at 29 franchises in five states. While McDonald’s is not facing a large payout to workers, the case is of critical importance to the fast food giant and other franchisors, since a finding of joint employment would force such companies to bargain with unions and could impact the very basis of the franchise model. The NLRB’s general counsel, which is comparable to a prosecutor’s office, is seeking emails and other documents from more than 50 McDonald’s executives and employees who work directly with franchise owners. “The General Counsel’s subpoena to McDonald’s is, we believe, one of the most burdensome in the history of the agency,” the company’s lawyers wrote. (read article)

NLRB Updates Its Policy Memo on E-signatures for Union Petitions
By Jon Hyman0, October 27, 2015, Workforce.com
Earlier this year, the NLRB began accepting electronic signatures in support of an employee’s showing of interesting in support of a labor union. The board has begun accepting e-signed documents, provided that they meet the following four criteria. 1. Submissions supported by electronic signature must contain the following: the signer’s name; the signer’s email address or other known contact information (e.g., social media account); the signer’s telephone number; the language to which the signer has agreed (e.g., that the signer wishes to be represented by ABC Union for purposes of collective bargaining or no longer wishes to be represented by ABC Union for purposes of collective bargaining); the date the electronic signature was submitted; and, the name of the employer of the employee. 2. A party submitting either electronic or digital signatures must submit a declaration (1) identifying what electronic or digital signature technology was used and explaining how its controls ensure: (i) that the electronic or digital signature is that of the signatory employee, and (ii) that the employee herself signed the document; and (2) that the electronically transmitted information regarding what and when the employees signed is the same information seen and signed by the employees. 3. When the electronic signature technology being used does not support digital signatures that can be independently verified by a third party, the submitting party must submit evidence that, after the electronic signature was obtained, the submitting party promptly transmitted a communication stating and confirming all the information listed in 1a through 1f above (the “Confirmation Transmission”). (read article)

For Ford, Citing Silicon Valley Bogeymen Won’t Work With UAW
By Dale Buss, October 27, 2015, Forbes
Apple and Google may be years from launching their own automobiles, if they ever do. But it isn’t too early for their apparent car-making ambitions to be used as a lever in contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Ford, a company that actually already makes vehicles. Interestingly in the wake of Ford’s report of record third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, CEO Mark Fields cautioned that no one should get carried away with the company’s unprecedented profitability, in part because Ford now has “all these new competitors from places like Silicon Valley,” in addition to existing rivals in the car business. Presumably he was referring to Google, which clearly has designs on getting into the self-driving-car business someday, and Apple, which has discussed the idea of producing its own electric vehicle. Both companies have hired some old auto-industry hands to help out. All-new Ford GT 2015 NAIAS reveal with Mark Fields in January 20In those remarks on a Detroit radio station, Fields thus brought a very interesting new tactic into the arsenal of “Big Three” executives who must find ways to discourage UAW designs on profits that are bulging these days: citing a bogeyman that may never actually become a competitor. (read article)

A Significant Deal for Automakers and Unions
By Alana Semuels, October, 2015, The Atlantic
For nearly a decade, new workers hired at unionized auto plants across the country have started their jobs knowing a troubling fact: They made less than their colleagues, sometimes half as much. And no matter how hard they worked, they could never earn the wages of the people standing next to them on the assembly line. This was the result of concessions the United Auto Workers (UAW) made in a series of negotiations with the Big Three automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler (now called FCA after being acquired by Fiat). Under the “two-tier” system, as it was called, new workers would never be able to make as much as longtime workers, even though they were often doing the exact same job. Expanded in 2007, the two-tier system was, the automakers said at the time, the only way they were going to be able to continue to make cars in America. But, in a deal reached Sunday night, the UAW and GM announced that they had hammered out an agreement that would get rid of the two-tier wage system. FCA made a similar deal with the UAW last week; Ford is still negotiating with the union. (read article)

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Will Impact Workers’ Wages & Benefits
By Charlie Wowkanech, October 27, 2015, Politics New Jersey
A decision before next summer in a U.S. Supreme Court case you’ve probably never heard of has the power to significantly reduce employee earnings and compensation well into the future. The wealthy special-interest organizations financing the case have spent great sums to ensure that all workers earn lower pay, receive few if any retirement benefits and see their full-time jobs replaced with part-time work. Right-wing billionaires like the Koch Brothers have partnered with Tea Party extremists and are reshaping the economy in their favor by making it even harder for working people like teachers, electricians, office workers and firefighters to get and stay ahead economically. This right-wing influence is making it harder every year for workers to join a union and negotiate wages and benefits that enable them to earn a decent living and build a better life. (read article)

Arizona Court of Appeals Curbs Public-Sector Union ‘Release Time’
By Carl Horowitz, October 27, 2015, National Legal and Policy Center
Conducting union business and performing employment duties are two activities that don’t, and shouldn’t, overlap. Yet in a growing number of jurisdictions, taxpayers are being forced to subsidize both. In Arizona, at least, this trend has hit a detour. This August, the Arizona Court of Appeals, affirming a lower court decision, ruled that a Memorandum of Understanding forcing the City of Phoenix to compensate local cops for union activity, while not necessarily violating the state constitution’s Gift Clause, imposed grossly excessive costs. This was a significant, if incomplete victory for public accountability. And further pushback against release time clauses is occurring in courts and legislatures across the nation. Unions, including those representing public-sector employees, are private organizations. As such, conducting union business does not serve a public purpose. While workers have the right to form or join a labor organization, there is no reasonable justification for forcibly enlisting the general public to pay for union meetings, rallies, retreats, lobbying and other partisan activity. (read article)

Why Does Labor Oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
By Andrew Gripp, October 27, 2015, IVN News
Congress will not vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) until 2016, but in the meantime, presidential candidates have taken positions on the massive free trade deal. Republican candidates are split on the merits of the deal, while the Democratic candidates, at this point in the campaign, oppose it. Yet there is one bloc of voters who stand the most to gain — or lose — from the agreement, yet have mostly been ignored: American workers. Currently, many of the country’s largest unions oppose the TPP. On October 5, 2015, the day the member nations finalized the agreement in Atlanta, the presidents of five of the most powerful unions – the Teamsters (IBT), United Steelworkers (USW), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Machinists (IAM), and Communication Workers (CWA) – issued statements declaring their opposition to the trade deal. So, why is organized labor against the TPP? One reason is the prospect of further deindustrialization and the continued outsourcing of American manufacturing and service jobs to low-wage countries like Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 28 cents per hour. Since the TPP includes 12 countries whose collective GDP amounts to 40 percent of the world’s total economy activity, unions fear that passing the TPP will accelerate a “race to the bottom” in terms of the wages of American workers, who will be competing against comparatively cheaper labor. (read article)

Bernie Sanders Pickets With Verizon Workers In New York City
By Abigail Abrams, October 27 2015, International Business Times
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders matched his rhetoric about wealth inequality with action Monday when he joined about 200 Verizon workers rallying in New York City. The union picket, which was organized by the Communication Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, came as part of a monthslong contract battle with Verizon, MSNBC reported. “Let me get to the point,” Sanders told an enthusiastic crowd. “The middle class in this country is disappearing, and what Verizon is doing to their workers is exactly what has got to be fought if we are going to rebuild the American middle class.” Union leaders have been negotiating with the communications giant since it proposed a new contract in June, but employees say the company is undermining their job security and trying to raise their healthcare contributions and alter their pension structure. (read article)

The Future of Work: The Coming Political Storms
By Charles Postel, October 26, 2015, Pacific Standard Magazine
The nature of work, we are told, is being transformed by technology. As the authors of the Second Machine Age explain: “[T]here’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.” Charles Postel is the author of the Populist Vision,’ which won the Bancroft Prize, and he teaches history at San Francisco State University. It is, truly, “a worse time” to be a worker. Over the last 30 years, American workers have suffered declining wages, longer workweeks, eroding benefits, and intense insecurity. But technology only explains so much. Government policy and corporate strategy explain much more. Take meat cutters. Turning pigs and cows into pork chops and hamburger is a grueling job. It is also a job no robot can do. It requires men and women with keen eyes and powerful hands to wield sharp knives through flesh, tendon, and bone. Meat cutters in the big slaughterhouses used to earn a livable wage with health insurance and a pension. But in the early 1980s, executives in the food industry decided to cut labor costs. With the aid of elected officials, judges, bankruptcy courts—and the National Guard in the case of Hormel workers—corporations broke unions, slashed wages, and pilfered pension funds. Today, despite working one of the toughest jobs there is, meat cutters barely scrape by. (read article)

NYPD Union: Boycott ‘Cop-Hater’ Tarantino’s Films
By Jenn Gidman, October 26, 2015, Newser.com
NYPD Officer Randolph Holder was shot dead Tuesday, and by Saturday Quentin Tarantino was in Washington Square Park, protesting “murderers”—not the ones going after cops, but the cops themselves. “When I see murders, I do not stand by … I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers,” Tarantino said during the “Rise Up October” rally, per the New York Post, adding too often it is cops who kill. The head of the NYPD’s labor union wasn’t impressed and responded by asking locals to boycott the director’s films, including the upcoming Hateful Eight. “It’s no surprise that someone who makes a living glorifying crime and violence is a cop-hater, too,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement, via the Post. “New Yorkers need to send a message to this purveyor of degeneracy that he has no business coming to our city to peddle his slanderous ‘Cop Fiction.'” (read article)

For 2016 hopefuls, stance on Obamacare’s ‘Cadillac Tax’ an issue of union votes
By Andrew O’Reilly, October 26, 2015, Fox News Latino
Hillary Clinton on August 18, 2015 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (2015 GETTY IMAGES)
One of the most controversial aspects of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become a major thorn in the sides of Democratic presidential hopefuls vying to secure the support of labor groups across the country. The so-called “Cadillac Tax” – a 40 percent, non-deductible tax on employer-sponsored health coverage that takes effect in 2018 – has been a touchy subject for Democratic hopefuls like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as they try to win over union members and some working-class groups that strongly oppose the tax, while also not alienating themselves from hardcore Obamacare supporters. “This is something we do here often, particularly among labor groups,” Emmy Ruiz, the Nevada state director for the Clinton campaign told Fox News Latino. “When we hold meetings with union members, yes, the Affordable Care Act comes up … we’re looking at different options about what can be done.” (read article)

Democrat challenging Faulconer’s re-election
By David Garrick, October 26, 2015, San Diego Union Tribune
The long wait for a Democrat to challenge Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s bid for re-election ended this weekend when Gretchen Newsom, president of the Ocean Beach Town Council, announced her candidacy. Newsom, 34, enters a race that some other prominent Democrats have chosen to avoid because of Faulconer’s status as a relatively popular incumbent. With the June primary seven months away and Faulconer’s campaign war chest topping $1.2 million, Newsom appears to be facing an uphill battle. She has little name recognition outside of Ocean Beach and hasn’t yet secured the support of organized labor, which typically plays a key role in financing the campaigns of local Democrats. Newsom is the political director for an electricians union, but local labor leaders say they’re not ready to endorse or support her without conducting a candidate search. Carl Luna, a University of San Diego political scientist, said Monday that Newsom has a steep challenge. “You don’t usually go from a local position like that to the head of a big city without some interim steps to show you have the experience to do it,” Luna said. “To think that a very unknown local leader is going to vault up ahead of a fairly established Republican incumbent is quixotic at best.” (read article)

U.S. union, GM reach tentative agreement on labor contract
By Bernie Woodall, October 26, 2015, Reuters
Negotiators for the United Auto Workers and General Motors Co (GM.N) reached a tentative agreement on undisclosed terms for a new four-year labor contract, averting a threatened strike, the union said late on Sunday night. The proposed deal will now go to a council of several hundred UAW leaders from GM’s U.S. plants meeting on Wednesday, who are expected to approve it. The contract then goes to a ratification vote of the UAW’s 52,700 workers at GM. Last week, the union’s new contract with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU.N) (FCHA.MI) was overwhelmingly ratified by worker vote. “We believe that this agreement will present stable long-term significant wage gains and job security commitments to UAW members now and in the future,” said UAW President Dennis Williams. “We look forward to presenting the details of these gains to local union leaders and the membership.” GM confirmed in a separate statement that it had reached a tentative accord with UAW negotiators. “The new UAW-GM national agreement is good for employees and the business,” Cathy Clegg, head of North American GM manufacturing and labor, said in the statement. (read article)

Labor union endorses $15 minimum wage, Brown re-election
By Gordon Friedman, October 26, 2015, Statesman Journal
The Oregon chapter of the AFL-CIO voted unanimously Sunday to endorse Gov. Kate Brown for re-election. It also endorsed a ballot measure that would bump Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The votes took place at the union’s three-day convention, which was in Seaside this year. The convention held a debate with the three Democratic candidates for Secretary of State: Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Val Hoyle. Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain was re-elected. Chamberlain said the Secretary of State debate showed numerous strong candidates. There wasn’t a clear winner, so an endorsement vote won’t take place until next year’s retreat. Brown joined about 400 attendees on Sunday and made a speech. Afterward, a union member took to the microphone and nominated Brown for a re-election endorsement. It passed unanimously. “She’s very well liked in the labor movement. She’s very personable,” Chamberlain said. He said Brown’s strong commitment to labor organizations and her support of “Fair Shot” legislation, a package of laws which require paid sick leave and address racial profiling and other social justice concerns, were factors in her endorsement. (read article)

Labor officials attack anti-union op-ed
By Erik Engquist, October 23, 2015, Crain’s New York Business
Organized-labor antagonist Richard Berman’s opinion piece about race and union wages sparked a spirited response from union officials and a nonprofit. An op-ed on this website by the leader of the Center for Union Facts, a longtime critic of organized labor, prompted a rapid response from union officials in New York City. Richard Berman’s opinion piece highlighted a 19% wage discrepancy between African-American and white unionized construction workers in New York, arguing that the overt discrimination in unions decades ago had been replaced by a more subtle form of inequality. The responses—including three letters to the editor—attacked Berman’s message and his background, and touted construction unions’ diversification efforts. “Let’s be clear about what is behind this op-ed,” wrote Paul Fernandes, executive director of the New York City and Vicinity Carpenters Labor Management Corp. “Richard Berman is a front-man for big business interests that oppose increasing the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and just about every effort to improve the lives of working people. He’s even attacked Mothers Against Drunk Driving.” Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, which was the primary target of Berman’s piece, wrote, “Special interests have been paying Richard Berman to repeat this same stale rhetoric for years.” (read article)

Bernie Sanders Gets SEIU Local Endorsement In 2016 Race
By Abigail Abrams, October 23 2015, International Business Times
The Service Employees International Union Local 560 has decided to endorse Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid for president. The local group, based in Hanover, New Hampshire, said Sanders was its clear choice, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Bernie Sanders is the most honest man in Washington,” Earl Sweet, president of SEIU Local 560, said in a statement, according to the Union Leader. “There’s no question about what Bernie Sanders believes because he has always meant what he said — and to many of us in the labor movement, that’s a breath of fresh air.” The union local represents more than 500 workers in the custodial, dining, energy, hospitality, security and trades industries. Union endorsements are typically important for Democratic candidates, and Sanders has been vying with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton over labor union support in recent months. (read article)

Campaign finance limits don’t apply to unions with city contracts
By Fran Spielman and Dan Mihalopoulos, October 22, 2015, Chicago Sun Times
Unions representing city employees should not be bound by Chicago’s campaign financing law limiting annual contributions to $1,500 per candidate, the Board of Ethics ruled this week. In a confidential advisory opinion, the board ruled that a collective bargaining agreement with the city is not the same as an agreement between the city and a private company for commodities or services rendered. Therefore, the board concluded that the $1,500 limit on campaign contributions should not apply to labor unions. “A [collective bargaining agreement] is not a `lease, a purchase or a sale of goods or services’ to or from the city. Neither is it a zoning matter, concession agreement, bond inducement ordinance, nor any of the other types of transactions listed in the definition of `seeking to do business,’” the opinion states. “The relevant question here is not whether a CBA is a contract, but whether by entering into a CBA with the city, a labor union is ‘doing’ or ‘seeking to do’ business within the meaning [of the campaign finance law]. We determine that it is not.” The board cited several reasons for its decision. First, research shows that the City Council has not considered collective bargaining agreements to be leases, purchases, or sales of goods or services to or from the city. (read article)

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