Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

City Council to consider labor contracts for city employees
By Felicia Alvarez, December 01, 2015, Davis Enterprise
The Davis City Council has a full agenda Tuesday evening, with labor contracts for city employees, an update on the Measure O open-space tax and a $4 million pavement budget coming up for consideration. Following months of labor negotiations, the council will vote to approve new contracts for four unions, including the Davis Police Officers Association, the Program Administrative and Support Employees Association, Individual Management Employees and Individual Police Management Employees. “Since 2009, average employee compensation, or take-home pay, has dropped 7 percent,” said City Manager Dirk Brazil. The new contracts mark the first time since the recession that employees will see a pay raise that compensates for inflation. The four groups will see immediate raises of 2 percent of their baseline salary in January, with an additional 1-percent raise in July 2016. The raises will cost the city an additional $537,000 for fiscal year 2015-16 and $1.129 million for fiscal year 2016-17, according to a city staff report. Employees with more than 10 years of experience could see new pay raises as well. PASEA and IME employees with more than 10 years of service would receive a 2.5-percent pay raise with an additional 2.5-percent raise after 20 years of service. (read article)

Unions can’t force members to stay
Editorial, December 1, 2015, Detroit News
Michigan’s unions need to learn the art of letting go. They don’t want to lose members, and that’s understandable. But under the state’s right-to-work law, employees have the option to leave their union without having to fear losing their job, too. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Some of the state’s most powerful unions, such as the Michigan Education Association, have worked hard to block right to work from making a dent in their membership, even though it’s been the law for nearly three years. But teachers unions are going to have to let go eventually — even if they don’t want to. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation took on a case from Michigan last month in which the Clarkston Education Association told a teacher who wanted out that he’d still have to pay an agency fee to keep his job. Agency fees are typically only slightly less than full union dues. So the teacher, Ron Conwell, who has worked for Clarkston Community Schools since 2001, filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which handles labor violations. (read article)

Huffington Post Employees Ask Management To Recognize Union
By Michael Calderone, December 1, 2015, Huffington Post
Huffington Post employees have asked management to voluntarily recognize their union after an “overwhelming majority” of editorial and HuffPost Live staff members signed union cards signaling their support for representation. The Writers Guild of America, East, which is working to organize staff at HuffPost and other digital media outlets, sent a written request Tuesday to management. More than 220 of the roughly 350 eligible employees have signed cards. “We have enormous respect for the work done by these men and women, and by your company,” Lowell Peterson, WGAE’s executive director, said in the letter. “Like your employees, we believe that collective bargaining enables employees to redouble their commitment to their careers and to the work they find meaningful. We look forward to a long and productive relationship with you and with The Huffington Post.” In a statement to HuffPost, the newsroom’s organizing committee said that employees “came together to form a union to ensure that we have a voice in the company’s future.” “A union is a practical way to both preserve what’s working and advocate for necessary changes,” the statement said. “In just a few months, staff across the country united around key issues including: transparent and equitable compensation, clear job responsibilities, editorial freedom and independence, diversity in the newsroom and consistent management protocols on hiring, firing and discipline.” (read article)

VW to appeal union vote at Chattanooga plant; election to proceed
By Mike Pare, December 1st, 2015, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Volkswagen said today it’s appealing a National Labor Relations Board regional director’s decision that the Chattanooga plant’s maintenance workers are an appropriate group for purposes of a union election. However, the election slated for Thursday and Friday is scheduled to go forward in which 164 skilled trades workers will decide if they want the United Auto Workers to represent them for collective bargaining purposes. “Volkswagen has decided to appeal the region’s decision to the National Labor Relations Board itself,” said plant spokesman Scott Wilson. He said the decision to appeal is based on Volkswagen Chattanooga’s “consistent position that the Chattanooga workforce is one integrated team and our one team concept is a critical component of our success” He said that while the company continues to respect its employees’ right to decide on representation, officials believe that any union election for the Chattanooga plant should provide all hourly team members—production and maintenance—with the opportunity to participate. This appeal does not affect the already posted election schedule and the election will continue as announced, Wilson said. He said the appeal process is expected to proceed after the election is completed. (read article)

An Uber union? Seattle could clear way for ride-app drivers
By Daniel Beekman, November 30, 2015, Seattle Times staff reporter
Politicians, labor activists and business executives across the U.S. are watching Seattle as it wrestles over what role government should play in the country’s growing gig economy, which includes app-based ride-dispatch companies like Uber. The first major city in the U.S. to set its minimum wage on a path to $15 an hour, Seattle may soon become the first to help Uber drivers unionize, as well. Determined immigrant drivers, a hard-charging union and an ambitious City Council member have pushed the city close to enacting the groundbreaking legislation. Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s ordinance would give drivers the ability to bargain collectively despite their status as independent contractors. It could pave the way for independent contractors in other sectors and cities to unionize, and it also could get the city sued. (read article)

Minn. police union calls out public employee union’s support of protestors
By Libor Jany, November 30, 2015, Star Tribune
St. Paul police union officials this week criticized the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3800 for its support of protesters condemning the shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police, calling it “so biased and ignorant — it is useless to even debate.” In a news release, St. Paul Police Federation president David Titus said he was “highly disappointed” with a Nov. 15 resolution of support put out by Local 3800, as well as the presence of the union’s members at protests outside the Fourth Precinct police station in north Minneapolis. The labor union, which represents University of Minnesota clerical workers, called the shooting an outgrowth of “deep-seated, systemic racism that persists in our country where young people of color are profiled, criminalized, brutalized by police all across America.” Local 3800 members also held a rally in solidarity with Black Lives Matter last weekend near where Clark was shot. (read article)

Kentucky labor unions try to slow right-to-work momentum
By Jason Hart, November 30, 2015, Watchdog.org
Kentucky labor leaders are trying to slow the state’s momentum toward a right-to-work law that would let Kentuckians opt out of paying union dues. With Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin taking office next week, circumstances aren’t rolling in union bosses’ favor. Bevin was elected by a nine-point margin after campaigning on making Kentucky a right-to-work state. Republicans control the Kentucky Senate, and the Democratic majority in the Kentucky House shrank to six when Louisville Rep. Denny Butler switched parties. Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers told the Louisville Courier-Journal more than a dozen other House Democrats have flirted with the idea of jumping ship. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is a firm opponent of right-to-work. Because all of the House members hoping to remain in office are up for re-election next November, Bevin’s big victory will loom over Democrats during the state legislative session starting Jan. 5. In a right-to-work debate with Jim Waters of the free-market Bluegrass Institute on WEKU 88.9 after the election, Kentucky AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan insisted forced union dues were necessary to cover unions’ representation costs. (read article)

Chicago Teachers Union plans strike vote on Dec. 9
Staff Report, November 29, 2015, Chicago Sun-Times
NBC 5 news reported Sunday night that the Chicago Teachers Union has set a strike vote for Dec. 9. A practice strike vote was taken in early November, and while the word “strike” did not appear on the ballot, it was considered a preview for what’s to come. In that vote, 97% of CTU members said then they would vote to authorize a strike if needed.
CTU officials did not respond to calls and emails from the Chicago Sun-Times seeking comment on the strike vote. No one from the CTU would confirm that date, and it has not communicated any strike vote date to teachers. At a Grant Park rally last Monday night, CTU President Karen Lewis said teachers don’t want to strike, as they did in 2012, but they will, if they must to protect “our professions and our classrooms,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported that night. In front of a crowd of thousands who braved a frigid night to show their strength, and joined by legislators, pastors and other labor leaders, Lewis said, “It is time for us to act.” “We must show the city, the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education and even our students and parents that Chicago’s public school educators will stand up for what is just and fair, and together we will fight to protect our professions and our classrooms,” Lewis said. “No teacher wants to go on strike,” she continued, as the crowd bundled up in the union’s signature red shouted, “No”. (read article)

Unions back Sierra Club in push for climate justice
Letter to Editor, November 28, 2015, Buffalo News
Unions really care about climate change. I know because I am treasurer of the local 2,200-plus member Sierra Club Niagara Group. That makes me responsible for overseeing the funds for the Rise up for Climate Justice Campaign initiated by Sierra Club in late summer. The campaign is making it clear to me that President Obama and our political leaders must take the lead at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris that begins on Monday. The goal of an increasing number of organizations (including labor unions) is to have an enforceable commitment to control climate-disrupting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from every nation on earth. Locally, the campaign began with a noisy and enthusiastic gathering at Niagara Square on the day the pope spoke to Congress and the president on climate justice. Our campaign is finding increasing support from social, economic, civic, religious groups, environmental clubs, community action organizations, individuals, labor unions and labor-affiliated organizations that have all signed the climate pledge. As treasurer of the local Sierra Club and a member of the Public Employees Federation, I am encouraged that my labor union and 13 other unions (CWA, teachers, painters, auto workers, nurses, etc.) have contributed their time, money or personal commitments to the Rise up for Climate Justice Campaign. I can firmly see that the mainstream is getting it. On to Paris! (read article)

Clinton wins union endorsements but still struggles to win over hearts
By Luciana Lopez, November 27, 2015, Reuters
California nurse Katy Roemer remembers how at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders marched arm-in-arm with union workers as they fought for hazmat suits and other protections to treat patients with infectious diseases. Roemer’s gratitude is why she keeps a large stash of “Bernie” stickers and posters in her car and is urging people she knows to back his White House bid. She jokes that she will be telling friends and family members: “You’re not coming to dinner if you didn’t vote.” If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Roemer said she would vote for her in the November 2016 general election but she will not volunteer for her campaign. Roemer’s comments crystallize a risk Clinton faces as she courts organized labor – a potential enthusiasm gap. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has racked up a string of formal endorsements, but many rank-and-file union members remain drawn to Sanders. In the race for union endorsements, Clinton has more than a dozen from national unions, representing more than 10 million members. By contrast, Sanders has notched two national endorsements, for about 385,000 members. But in many cases, there have been divisions within unions. Dozens of interviews with rank-and-file members show Sanders generating more passionate support based on his years of walking picket lines, attending social gatherings and intervening in labor disputes. (read article)

Support for San Diego bond measure revoked because of surprise PLA
By Christine Huard, November 25, 2015, San Diego Union Tribune
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association has revoked its support for Proposition V, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s $398 million bond measure voters approved three years ago. The college district lost the organization’s endorsement after trustees voted Nov. 17 to begin negotiating a project labor agreement, or PLA, with the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council on work paid for with the bond money. In 2012, the district said it would promote fair and open competition for Proposition V projects. The resolution passed by trustees at the time promised “ … all contractors and workers, whether union or non-union, are treated equally in the bidding and awarding of district construction contracts.” Board President Bill Garrett, who along with trustee Edwin Hiel abstained from the Nov. 17 vote, said those words generally mean “no PLA.” The watchdog group said its endorsement is a “stamp of approval that carries enormous weight with voters.” It called the decision to OK talks on a union-friendly agreement a breach of trust not only to voters but the taxpayers group, which gave its support after being promised there would be no PLA. (read article)

How Unions Influence Policy With Tactics They Denounce
By Connor D. Wolf, November 24, 2015, Daily Caller
Labor unions used front groups to get favorable legislation passed in San Francisco according to a new report released Monday. Employment Policies Institute (EPI) released the report titled “By Big Labor and For Big Labor?”. It analyzed hundreds of emails obtained through a California Public Records Act request. The emails reveal how unions use front groups to influence San Francisco lawmakers into enacting union-friendly laws. Tactics that unions have often condemned when it comes from the right. “Since early 2012, labor unions and the left-wing pressure groups they fund have attacked conservative policy organizations for assisting state and local legislators in developing legislation,” the report notes. “However, many of the same unions and left-wing pressure groups employ nearly identical tactics to develop and enact liberal policies.” (read article)

 

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