Labor Union News – Weekly Highlights

Labor Union News – Weekly Highlights

L.A. County supervisors approve three-year, 10% pay increase for deputies, firefighters

By Abby Sewell, November 3, 2015, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County supervisors approved a new contract for sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and several other employee groups Tuesday, giving them a 10% pay bump over three years. The contracts, adopted on a 5-0 vote without discussion by board members, mirror deals OKd in September for lifeguards, public defenders and supervisors in the sheriff’s and probation departments. The county has reached a similar tentative agreement with the county’s largest employee union, Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents more than 57,000 employees. SEIU officials called the pay deal a “breakthrough contract” that “raises up all of L.A. County.” But officials with the union representing sheriff’s deputies said they grudgingly agreed to it. Jeff Steck, president of the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, or ALADS, said his union pushed unsuccessfully for an increase in hiring standards and a larger increase in pay. Both were needed to “rebuild” the department and attract qualified recruits after high-profile scandals involving abuses in the jails, he said. (read article)

Rival labor-backed minimum wage measures could appear on 2016 ballot

By Peter Jamison, November 3, 2015, Los Angeles Times

The fractious internal politics of one of California’s most powerful unions spilled into the movement to raise the statewide minimum wage Tuesday, as one wing of the Service Employees International Union announced a proposed ballot initiative that would compete with a measure backed by another branch of the labor group. The new proposal, led by the SEIU State Council, would be broader in its scope than a separate wage initiative proposed by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. Both measures would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but the State Council’s proposal would also double the amount of mandated paid sick leave for Californians and extend sick-leave rights to workers not currently covered under state law. Each group is aiming to place its proposal on the November 2016 ballot. SEIU leaders and activists with the national “Fight for $15” campaign — which has sought to raise pay for fast-food workers nationwide — announced the latest proposed ballot initiative in a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “It will change my life and my family’s life,” Alaina Brooks, a home healthcare provider in Los Angeles County, said of the proposed measure during the call. In addition to increased pay, Brooks said that more paid leave would give her “peace of mind knowing that when and if I get sick, I can take time off to get better.” Yet the announcement is likely to be controversial, presaging a power struggle on the left over who will control and claim credit for what could be a landmark victory in the effort to raise pay for the working poor. (read article)

Tech Companies Have A Labor Problem, But Democrats Still Love Them

By Steven Greenhouse, November 2, 2015, Huffington Post

It is an industry known as an overwhelmingly white, male bastion — one that has been slow to hire African-Americans, Hispanics and women. It is also an industry that has pushed policies in Washington that some major labor leaders have warned will stifle job growth. And it is an industry that has been accused of labor practices that undercut workers. In short, Silicon Valley, long celebrated as forward-thinking, is increasingly seen – particularly by bedrock Democratic constituencies – as turning back the clock on some issues. Yet despite all this, the Democratic Party establishment in Washington, starting with President Obama’s administration, has established an unusually close relationship with the sector’s rich and powerful companies — one that has benefited the two sides immensely, both in financial and political terms. The ties between top Democrats and the high-tech industry are unmistakable, with the industry pumping millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of Democrats, at the same time that a revolving door brings major industry players into key positions within the Obama administration — and vice versa. Larry Cohen, the former president of the Communications Workers of America, sharply questioned whether some Democrats are losing their way ideologically as they attempt to foster a close relationship with an industry that has in ways undermined core Democratic constituencies like labor. (read article)

Union stakes, spending huge in bid to organize fast-food workers

By Hollie McKay, November 02, 2015,

One of America’s biggest labor unions is spending millions in a bid to make billions, using protests, public relations and political muscle in a bid to super-size its rank and file with fast-food workers. The Service Employees International Union, whose 1.9 million members already include thousands of food service workers, as well as healthcare workers, janitors, security guards and local and state government employees, has spent an estimated $80 million over the last three years on an elaborate plan to capture the loyalty – and dues – of fast food workers. “We know by now that fast food workers aren’t making enough to survive,” the SEIU states in an online appeal to fast-food workers and supporters of higher wages for them. “And our economy can’t thrive if so many people are being held back. (read article)

Obama angers construction union with tax-funded apprenticeship program

By Dave Boyer, November 2, 2015, Washington Times

Another rift between President Obama and his labor base surfaced Monday as the union representing the construction trades voiced its disagreement with his administration’s push to fund apprenticeship programs with tax dollars. Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, reacted to the administration’s initiative by saying that the construction trade unions have been funding successful apprenticeship programs on their own for a century. “I might sound a little ‘Republican-ish’ here, but we pay for our own,” Mr. McGarvey said in an interview. “All of a sudden people are starting to recognize , and they’ve kind of got their hand out, wanting the federal government to pay for it. We’re not enthused by that.” He said his union isn’t opposed to the government providing “seed money” to start apprenticeship programs. (read article)

Chicago Teachers Union amps up rhetoric in fight with district

By Juan Perez Jr., November 2, 2015, Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Teachers Union said Monday that it will check members’ appetite for a strike with a “practice vote” later this week after the head of Chicago Public Schools again warned of “drastic cuts” absent a state bailout of district finances. Gov. Bruce Rauner also stepped into the fray, saying at a forum in Bloomington that “misguided state policies” were to blame for CPS’ financial difficulties while also predicting pressure on Chicago could lead to a state budget deal in early January. The amped-up rhetoric followed a Tribune op-ed piece by district CEO Forrest Claypool, who wrote that without help from Springfield, “drastic cuts will be made in February to make sure our schools remain operational.” “There will be fewer teachers,” Claypool wrote. “There will be larger class sizes. And the educational gains that our principals, teachers and students have worked so hard for will be jeopardized.” The layoffs would come later than Claypool has previously suggested. In September, he said CPS would need to issue layoff notices by Thanksgiving in order to take effect by the beginning of the second semester of school. (read article)

How Unions Fight Inequality and Strengthen Democracy

By Richard Eskow, November 2, 2015, Huffington Post

A new study from the International Monetary Fund concludes that unions reduce inequality and foster a healthier economy for everyone, mainly by preventing the wealthiest among us from keeping the fruits of a collaboratively-created prosperity for themselves. The IMF study shows that a reinvigorated labor movement is essential to both a just economy and a well-functioning democracy. It deserves widespread attention – and should inspire concerted action. The IMF is not considered a hotbed of leftism, yet the conclusion reached by research economists Florence Jaumotte and Carolina Osorio Buitron is clear. As they explained in a summary of their work, they found that “the decline in union density has been strongly associated with the rise of top income inequality” and that “unionization matters for income distribution.” Jaumotte and Osorio Buitron examined the relationship between unionization and income inequality indicators in 20 advanced economies between 1980 and 2010. They found “a strong negative relationship between unionization and top earners’ income shares,” and concluded that this relationship “appears to be largely causal.” (read article)

Failure to ratify new labor deal at GM would mean strike

By James Dornbrook, November 2, 2015, Kansas City Business Journal

The 3,500 members of United Auto Workers Local 31 were among the first to vote on the tentative labor pact, but shot it down with a resounding 63 percent voting against. The local represents the General Motors Co.’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan. Vicki Hale, president of the United Auto Workers Local 31 at the General Motors Co.’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan., said she was informed by the union’s national leadership that if members fail to ratify the tentative labor agreement, a strike would be inevitable. The 3,500 members of Local 31 were among the first to vote on the tentative labor pact, but shot it down with a resounding 63 percent voting against. Members at the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Michigan passed it, so the vote is still up in the air with four plants scheduled to vote today: Flint Assembly, Arlington Assembly, Orion Assembly and Toledo Transmission. Other locals will vote later this week. (read article)

Columbia Grad Students Lose Union Battle, May Win War

By Rebekah Mintzer, November 2, 2015, Corporate Counsel

Over the last two years, plenty of ink has been spilled about the attempt by football players at Northwestern University to form a union. The union drive was shut down by the National Labor Relations Board in August. But the debate over college athletes unionizing may have obscured the discussion about another group on campus that is likely to make it to the bargaining table—graduate students. On Oct. 30, an NLRB regional director in New York City rejected an attempt by Columbia University students—both graduates and undergraduates—who have teaching and research duties to hold a union election. Although this is a setback for the United Auto Workers-backed students, who believe that the work they do makes them employees of Columbia under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore qualifies them for union representation, the legal fight over their status is far from over. Groups of private university graduate students have been working toward unionizing for awhile now (public universities are controlled by state law, so their unionization drives depend on the state, not the NLRA), but the NLRB’s perspective on the central student vs. employee question has gone back and forth. In 2000, the board ruled that students qualified as employees and could unionize. But this decision was reversed in 2004 when the board rebuffed a group of Brown University students who wanted to organize. (read article)

Longshoreman clerks, employers to begin 2016 talks three months before contract expiration

By Bill Mongelluzzo, November 02, 2015, Journal of Commerce

Hoping to avoid tumultuous negotiation like in 2010 and with shippers’ patience already low, International Longshore and Warehouse Union office clerical workers in Los Angeles-Long Beach are expected to begin negotiations with employers in April — less than three months before the current contract expires. Shippers are in no mood to tolerate more work stoppages next year involving ILWU office clerical worker, said attorney Stephen Berry, who represents the 15 marine terminals and shipping lines. After enduring months of West Coast port congestion and work slowdowns associated with the coastwide ILWU dockworker negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association, shippers are keeping some of the cargo they diverted to East and Gulf Coast ports. The Office Clerical Unit of ILWU Local 63 represents about 600 office workers who process shipping documents at 15 marine terminals and shipping lines in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Negotiators for the employers and the OCU must agree upon 15 separate contracts, an exercise which in its own right is a Herculean task, and cries out for early negotiations. In fact, Berry said he recently discussed with OCU President John Fageaux the possibility of launching early negotiations this year, but Fageaux indicated he prefers to stick with the normal bargaining timeline of beginning negotiations in the spring, allowing less than three months to reach an agreement before the current contract expires on June 30. (read article)

UC must increase transparency, stop deferral of labor disputes

Editorial, November 1, 2015, UCLA Daily Bruin

Following last-minute meetings, the lecturers’ union and the University of California finally reached an agreement. Sort of. One day before their Halloween deadline, the University Council-American Federation of Teachers and the UC agreed to extend their contract until Dec. 10 with an additional round of bargaining coming up in a few weeks. University representatives, both in negotiations and with the media, are not nearly transparent enough to ensure a fair bargaining process. The public knows little about what is going on in these meetings outside of UC-AFT’s Twitter and Facebook posts. Even the union has been left in the dark. As of Thursday night, union bargainers say they had yet to receive the UC’s salary proposal; although on Friday, they said they eventually were offered a single 1.5 percent salary increase for the next five years. It is in both sides’ best interest to ensure that the November negotiations lead to a lasting contract rather than repeated extensions; it is unlikely that either side wants an extended labor dispute. But this month we’ve seen evidence of how unwilling a partner the UC can be in such negotiations. UC-AFT alleges that the UC representative repeatedly showed up late to meetings and treated its members with disrespect. (read article)

Clinton gets key union endorsement

Associated Press, October 31, 2015, SF Gate

Hillary Rodham Clinton picked up endorsements from another major labor group and a longtime ally of Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday. The International Longshoremen’s Association and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley announced their support of the Democratic presidential candidate at a Charleston union hall the morning after she was received warmly as the keynote speaker at a local NAACP banquet. Both events in this early voting state demonstrate the delicate balance Clinton has to maintain between withstanding her closest primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and laying the groundwork for a coalition that will win the general election. The same alliance twice elected President Obama: enthusiastic turnout from minorities, women and young voters, with just enough additional support from white working-class voters of all ages. At the ILA union hall, Clinton credited unions with bringing fair working conditions and better wages that “raised hopes … and gave people a chance to have a better life.” And she assailed Republican-led efforts to “dismantle collective bargaining rights.” Clinton has attracted more support from organized labor since coming out against the Obama administration’s Pacific rim trade agreement that unions loathe and that Sanders opposed long before Clinton. (read article)

Lawmakers: Right-To-Work Is Right For Kentucky

By Connor D. Wolf, October 30, 2015, Daily Caller

A panel of Kentucky lawmakers argued Thursday the state should outlaw mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The policy is better known as right-to-work. It’s law in 25 states with several others currently considering it. At a luncheon hosted by the Covington Business Council, a panel of four state lawmakers asserted the policy is something Kentucky should enact as well. The panel included Mississippi and Kentucky state Sens. Chris McDaniel and Damon Thayer as well as Kentucky state Reps. Adam Koenig and Arnold Simpson. Democrats like Simpson, for the most part, tend not to agree with right-to-work laws. “The best thing that we can do is to create an environment where Kentucky is a place where companies want to come and to operate,” McDaniel said according to The River City News. “Let’s keep our tax rates as low as humanly possible. We cannot be fooled that we are on an island. We are surrounded by competitors.” For Koenig, the issue comes down to the upcoming governors race. Republican businessman Matt Bevin is facing off against Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway for the office. Bevin supports right-to-work while Conway doesn’t. Conway has served as the attorney general of Kentucky since 2008. (read article)

Legislation to Counter Union Tactics Goes to Gov. Tom Wolf for Signature

By Liz Spikol, October 29, 2015, Philly Magazine

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill this week that, if signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, will likely have an impact on organized labor in Philadelphia. House Bill 874 (see below), introduced by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin County), would amend the state’s Crimes Code, which immunizes union members against prosecution for certain criminal actions taken during a labor dispute. In theory, this ensures the rights of workers to protest unfair labor practices. But what happens if those workers go too far? In a House Memoranda, Marsico pointed to the example of Philadelphia’s Ironworkers, a number of whom were indicted for arson, assault and racketeering. “In each case,” Marsico wrote, “the grand jury found evidence of intimidation and threats toward the property owners and non-union workers which preceded the later acts of violence, all protected by these loopholes in the Crimes Code.” Currently, the Crimes Code sections on stalking, harassment and threat to use weapons of mass destruction do not apply “to conduct by a party to a labor dispute.” (read article)

Labor friction escalates between California port truckers, shippers

By Steve Gorman, October 28, 2015, Reuters

Long-simmering labor tensions between Southern California port truckers and shipping companies they accuse of wage theft escalated on Tuesday as a group of drivers demanded recognition as full-fledged employees and petitioned to join the Teamsters union. The action, according to the Teamsters, was taken by at least 50 drivers who work for New Jersey-based Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) hauling freight to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest cargo hub in America. Teamsters officials said it marked an incremental but unprecedented effort in which workers treated by management as contractors had for the first time mustered a majority of their ranks to simultaneously seek employee status and union representation. James Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, marked the occasion by appearing with a phalanx of union executives and picketers for a waterfront rally outside a marine terminal in Long Beach. (read article)

Top Republican Has ‘Serious Concerns’ Over IRS Union Influence

By Connor D. Wolf, October 28, 2015, Daily Caller

Top Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch expressed great concern over union influence at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) while questioning its commissioner John Koskinen Tuesday. During the hearing, the Senate Committee on Finance addressed management problems it found within the IRS. The focus was on an August report by the committee which looked into how the agency handled applications for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. The agency has been accused of unfairly denying conservative and tea party groups tax-exempt status. “I have serious concerns about the influence of labor union activity at the IRS,” Hatch said during the hearing. “While I am not anti-union and while I do not oppose collective bargaining in general, we know that two-thirds of IRS workers are represented by a union organization that is very politically active.” (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. Public-sector unions are private organizations. Their activity does not serve a public purpose. While government 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, get-out-the-vote drives and other partisan activity. (read article)

Marsico’s ‘union intimidation’ bill heading to Pennsylvania governor for enactment

By Jan Murphy, October 27, 2015, Pennsylvania Live

Controversial legislation that would specifically prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats of using weapons of mass destruction by individuals involved in a labor dispute is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf for enactment. The state House on Tuesday voted 107-91 to concur on changes the Senate made to it. The Senate passed it last week by a 30-18 party-line vote. Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the governor will review the bill when it reaches his desk. The so-called “union intimidation” bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Lower Paxton Twp., eliminates loopholes that exempted the crimes of harassment, stalking and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction if the person doing these acts was involved in a labor dispute. Marsico pointed to disputes in recent years over the use of non-union labor that led to property damage, harassment and intimidation as the driving force behind the need for this law. (read article)

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