Union In the News – Weekly Highlights

Union In the News – Weekly Highlights

Coca-Cola, union agree to federal mediation as strike continues

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, December 8, 2015, Chicago Tribune

The union representing striking Coca-Cola workers accepted the company’s offer for federal mediation, even as it shot back at a letter the beverage giant mailed to employees defending the company’s behavior during contract negotiations. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Refreshments said it reached out to a federal mediator last week after negotiations for a new labor contract ground to a halt amid accusations the company was bargaining in bad faith. Members of Teamsters Local 727, the union representing 319 production and warehouse workers at facilities in Niles and Alsip, took to the picket lines Thursday to protest what the union calls unfair labor practices. It was the first strike at the Chicago-area plants since 1985. The union on Tuesday agreed to federal mediation after polling its membership, but the strike will continue until an agreement is reached, said Will Petty, spokesman for Teamsters Joint Council 25, an affiliate of Local 727. “We are hopeful that this can restart negotiations and help us reach an agreement as quickly as possible,” he said. No date for mediation has been set. (read article)

L.A. City Council approves labor deal, setting hiring goal of 5,000

By David Zahniser, December 8, 2015, The Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council approved a wide-ranging salary agreement with its civilian unions Tuesday, resolving a dispute over pension cuts and setting the stage for thousands of new hires. Under the pact, all but two of the bargaining units in the Coalition of L.A. City Unions agreed to go without raises until summer 2017. Council members, in turn, scuttled a 2012 decision to cut pensions for new hires, replacing it with a benefits package that’s more lucrative than the one imposed three years ago, but less expensive than the one that had been in place for decades. The council’s 12-0 vote is designed to end the unions’ legal challenge to the 3-year-old pension reductions. As part of that settlement, council members also established a goal of adding 5,000 new workers by summer 2018. What that hiring goal means for the city’s long-term financial picture is far from clear. Budget officials say they expect at least 1,000 employees to leave their jobs in each of the next three years, raising the possibility that the vast majority of new hires would simply replace existing workers. More than 40% of the city’s civilian employees will be eligible for retirement by 2018, they say. (read article)

The Labor Prospect: Southern Struggles

By Justin Miller, December 8, 2015, The American Prospect

VW workers vote to unionize in Tennessee, right-to-work falls through in Ohio, and the NLRB takes on labor violations at NissanThe United Auto Workers has finally gotten itself a win in the South. Skilled-trades workers at Volkswagen’s sole U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted to unionize late last week—forming a micro-unit that the UAW hopes to use as a foothold to create a factory-wide bargaining unit. The election comes more than a year and a half after the union failed to win a highly contentious plant-wide vote that drew the ire of many a conservative Tennessee Republican. Though the unit is just a fraction—roughly 150 workers—of the plant’s workforce, no win is a small one for unions in the South. The UAW’s ultimate goal is to represent the full factory and implement a German-style works council, a vehicle for bringing workers voices to the management level that Volkswagen has long used in its German factories. However, as Reuters reports, in the wake of the automaker’s disastrous emissions scandal, Qatar, the third-largest shareholder, wants Volkswagen to roll back the influence of works councils and the representation of workers on the company’s board. That representation, however, is required by German law. (read article)

UAW Wins Vote at VW Chattanooga Plant as Some Workers Vote to Unionize

By Mike Ramsey, December 7, 2015, The Wall Street Journal

The United Auto Workers union gained entry to Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant after a group of skilled tradesmen voted to create a collective bargaining unit at the auto maker’s only U.S. facility. The vote passed with 71% of the workers who voted agreeing to form the bargaining unit. The vote was 108 for and 44 against. The vote pertains to a small group of skilled tradesmen but allows the UAW to set up a bargaining unit for them to negotiate for wages, benefits and work rules with the German auto maker, and will open the door to wider representation. The group includes a little more than 160 electricians, welders and other repair workers that maintain the assembly line. Volkswagen said in a statement that it plans to appeal the decision to the National Labor Relations Board. This was the UAW’s second attempt at organizing workers at VW’s only U.S. factory, which builds the Passat sedan and has plans to build a sport-utility vehicle. “We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining,” said Mike Cantrell, president of Local 42 in a statement. “We believe these paths will give all of us a voice at Volkswagen in due time.” Cantrell said he would immediately seek to initiate collective bargaining for the skilled trades employees. (read article)

School Board ignored labor justice

By Jami Lund, December 7, 2015, The Dispatch

An injustice remaining in society which the U.S. Supreme Court may soon correct is the ability for public school leaders to force employees to pay a union as a condition of serving students. The decision about forced union payment has always been a matter of local control, and we do not need to wait for the Supreme Court. Some school districts in Washington such as Eatonville, Steilacoom and Davenport have allowed teachers to control whether they will buy into the relatively new concept of government union services. However, the Eatonville School Board yielded to union bargaining pressure this year and agreed that all but a few teachers would be forced to pay the union roughly $900 for the privilege of teaching Eatonville students. Also earlier this year, the La Center School Board made the opposite change by adopting a resolution committing to let employees choose whether or not to fund the unions. They affirmed that employees should be in control of their workplace representation by having the right to choose whether to support the union financially. (read article)

Teacher contract dispute deepens, tests state law before union strike vote

By Juan Perez Jr, December 7, 2015, Chicago Tribune

The school board has rejected the Chicago Teachers Union’s demand to move contract talks to a final stage, setting up a new fight as teachers prepare to vote later this week on whether to authorize their leaders to call a strike. The union filed an unfair labor practice on Monday with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, demanding talks proceed to a fact-finding phase. Three of the board’s five members were appointed this year by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has made it his mission to weaken public employees’ unions. The move could test a law enacted before the 2012 teachers strike that governs how contract talks can unfold. The city and the CTU agreed in August to enlist a mediator’s help to reach a new contract as part of that legal process. CTU believes those talks have run their course and wants to move negotiations to a three-person fact-finding panel. CPS says the mediator’s work should continue. “We have to let the mediator do his job and actually mediate between the parties, which has not yet begun,” said district CEO Forrest Claypool, who spoke to reporters Monday about the district’s budget and labor talks. The union’s attorney accused the district of trying to delay talks to avert a possible strike until the end of the school year. (read article)

Unions See Indian Casinos and Think: Jackpot

By Robert Odawi Porter, December 6, 2015, The Wall Street Journal

Despite the recent success that gaming has brought to some Indian tribes, most of Indian country remains shockingly poor. This condition reflects the historic policies of the U.S. government that were designed to destroy tribal economies and induce Indian political subjugation. The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which exempts tribal governments from application of the National Labor Relations Act, is a rare opportunity to both support tribal sovereignty and strengthen tribal economies. Passed by the House on Nov. 17, the bill is now before the Senate, where it deserves bipartisan support. The bill recognizes the exclusive authority of tribal governments to regulate labor relations within their territories in the same manner as federal and state governments. In 2004, in a case involving the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed 70 years of its prior rulings and held that tribal governments—unlike the federal, state and territorial governments—were subject to the National Labor Relations Act. Thus national labor unions like the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO could invoke the protections of federal labor law to organize workers, primarily casino workers, on tribal lands. (read article)

Nissan charged with violating labor laws in Mississippi

By Jeff Amy, December 5, 2015, The Detroit News

The National Labor Relations Board is charging Nissan Motor Co. and a contract worker agency with violating workers’ rights at the company’s Mississippi plant. Filed Monday, the charges claim Nissan illegally stifled workers’ right to wear pro-union or anti-union clothing when it created a uniform policy in 2014 for its manufacturing plants in Canton, as well as in Smyrna and Decherd, Tennessee. Also charged is Kelly Services, which provides an unknown number of contract workers in Canton. The 2014 policy, as laid out in a question-and-answer document attached to the labor board complaint, called for most employees to wear company issued pants and shirts. Nissan spokesman David Reuter said Friday, though, that uniforms were never mandatory. “Nissan’s uniform program is designed to help achieve the highest standards of safety and quality in all our manufacturing facilities,” Reuter wrote in an email. “Employees have been able, and will continue to be able, to wear the clothing of their choice as long as it complies with the Nissan manufacturing dress code.” The United Auto Workers made the complaints leading to the charges. The UAW has long sought to unionize the Canton plant, but workers haven’t petitioned for a vote, and union supporters have broadly aired claims that Nissan has intimidated workers. The company says its workers are free to unionize. (read article)

San Jose Reaches Tentative Agreement with Unions On Pension Reforms 

By Chris Nguyen, December 4, 2015, abc7 News

The long labor dispute involving San Jose city employees and their pensions could soon be coming to an end. A new agreement could save taxpayers nearly $3 billion over the next 30 years, but it is certainly not a done deal just yet. The bitter battle between police and the city of San Jose appears to be coming to an end. The settlement the long labor dispute involving San Jose city employees and their pensions, could soon be coming to an end. On Friday, there was a spirit of cooperation at San Jose City Hall as city leaders announced a tentative agreement covering 99 percent of the civilian employees. “I made a very conscious decision to stay working for this city through these very difficult times, and I’m glad that we’ve done this, and that we’ll be able to keep moving forward because I want the city to go back to where it was when I first started working here,” Kara Capaldo, a city employee, said. Previously at issue is Measure B a pension reform and retiree health care measure that was passed by voters back in June of 2012. Forcing new employees to pay 50 percent of their pension costs, and requiring current employees to select a lower-cost plan, or make more contributions to their current plan. Lawsuits then immediately followed. (read article)

Sacramento court workers reject labor pact; strike looms

By Darrell Smith, December 4, 2015, The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento Superior Court’s office technical employees overwhelmingly rejected a proposed three-year contract, union officials said Friday, setting the stage for a strike as early as Monday at the county’s four courthouses. Officials declined to provide a breakdown of Friday’s vote tally, which came after months of negotiations over a new labor pact. “We didn’t want to strike. We asked (the court) to invest in their employees,” said Ted Somera, executive director of United Public Employees Local 1, which represents the court reporters, deputy clerks, account clerks and court attendants who make up much of Superior Court’s rank and file. Somera said he will meet with union representatives over the weekend to determine a strike date. For months, the bargaining group and Sacramento Superior Court have wrangled over a proposed three-year contract. Superior Court officials initially offered salary raises of 3 percent each of the first two years of the deal, with a conditional 3 percent increase in the final year depending on funding. Court technical staff asked for a guaranteed 10 percent raise over the life of the three-year pact. (read article)

Liberal hypocrisy about legislative influence

By Michael Saltsman, December 4, 2015, The Orange County Register

Liberals are quick to complain about the role that free-market groups play in influencing local legislatures. Liberal darling John Oliver, for instance, devoted a recent episode of his show HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” to demonizing the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council. However, emails that my organization recently obtained under the California Public Records Act show that liberals are among the worst offenders when it comes to influencing local legislation. These emails give a behind-the-scenes look at how San Francisco city supervisors, liberal activist groups and labor unions colluded to plot, write and pass last year’s municipal scheduling legislation known as the Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights. This first-of-its-kind legislation requires employers to compensate employees for scheduling changes made up to six days in advance of the shift or for “on-call” shifts when they’re not called in. (read article)

Morning Spin: Why the Chicago Teachers Union strike vote lasts three days

By Tribune Staff Report, December 4, 2015, The Chicago Tribune

It’s Friday, Dec. 4, five days before the Chicago Teachers Union kicks off a three-day strike authorization vote. Wait, why is it spread out across three days? State law requires three-quarters of union members to approve authorizing a strike, so the union told members that it “will run the vote for as long as it takes to get 99.9 percent of our membership voting.” That quote is from CTU’s latest “contract bulletin,” one of a series of fliers meant to fire up member support and provide the union’s perspective on stalled contract negotiations with the Emanuel-appointed Chicago Board of Education. “We will continue the count until every vote is recognized and every member has had a chance to cast their ballot,” union financial secretary Kristine Mayle said as part of a statement CTU’s press shop distributed Thursday afternoon. (read article)

Union Distaste of Ritz and Whole Foods May Scuttle 7th and Market Project

By Andrew Keatts, December 4, 2015, Voice of San Diego

The project at 7th and Market in East Village, has something to please almost everyone – but that “almost” is what’s causing it problems. The City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to give Civic San Diego – a city-owned nonprofit that regulates downtown development – the go-ahead to negotiate a deal with Cisterra Development for the project. The sticking point for Council Democrats, though, is the union unfriendliness of two high-profile business intended to be part of the project, Whole Foods Market and the Ritz Carlton Hotel. (read article)

UAW VP confident VW workers will vote ‘yes’ on union

By Michael Wayland, December 4, 2015, The Detroit News

United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell is “confident” that a group of Volkswagen AG skilled trades workers in Tennessee will vote in-favor of union representation. “I’ve been confident about that from the beginning,” he said during a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV investment announcement on Friday in Detroit. “Once you get away from all the interference, you give people a chance to talk to people … it’s a whole different thought process.” The UAW suffered a large setback in February 2014, when workers voted 712-626 to reject creation of a German-style works council. The vote was conducted amid heavy anti-union campaigning from Republican lawmakers in the state. (read article)

Teachers’ strike vote set for next week, union says

By Juan Perez Jr., December 4, 2015, Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Teachers Union’s 27,000 members will take part in a three-day vote beginning Dec. 9 on whether the union should call a strike, though teachers won’t be able to walk off the job for months even if a strike is approved. The voting will come after union leaders and allies urged thousands of teachers during a Grant Park rally last month to confront the city with the threat of what could be the city’s second teacher walkout since 2012. Under state law, the union needs approval from 75 percent of its total membership before it can stage a walkout. A strike vote in 2012 was approved by nearly 90 percent of CTU members, leading to a seven-day strike that September. (read article)

Clinton secures major labor endorsements from building trades

By Amanda Becker, December 3, 2015, Reuters

The labor organization representing the U.S. building trades on Thursday endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, giving her the backing of national labor groups that represent more than 11 million workers. North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey praised a $275 billion infrastructure plan Clinton announced this week as “robust, yet entirely practical.” The building trades group is an alliance of 14 unions that represent 3 million skilled craft professionals. One of its member unions, the International Heat and Frost Insulators, endorsed Clinton this week. (read article)

California nurses union endorses Gavin Newsom in governor’s race

By Javier Panzar, December 2, 2015, The Los Angeles Times

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was greeted by raucous applause and blasts of confetti Wednesday as he took the stage to receive his first major endorsement in his 2018 campaign for governor from a labor union representing nurses in California. The Democratic hopeful was swarmed by dozens of attendees who ran onto the stage to snap selfies as rock music blasted through the conference center ballroom. Newsom joked the scene felt as if he had already won the race, which is three years away. The endorsement from the California Nurses Assn. was “one of the the easiest endorsements” the union has ever made, said Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. She said the union’s board did not interview any other potential candidates. (read article)

Ford Motor Company New Expensive Labor Contract Alarms Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and GM

By Sam Hason, December 2, 2015, Business Finance News

Ford Motor Company’s (NYSE:F) labor costs are expected to swell 1.5% per year over the four-year labor contract.. Since the wages are rising at a slower rate than inflation, the automaker is in a safe position to compete against rivals. The Detroit automaker has finalized the deal with United Auto Workers (UAW) union putting an end to the two-tier wage system at the company. Ford’s hourly labor costs are estimated to escalate from $57 to $60 by fiscal 2019 (FY19). Ford CFO Bob Shanks believes it is “directly in-line” with the objectives. The organization will incur $600 million in the current quarter over bonus ratification, and reflecting bonuses worth $500 per employee during the quarter. The four-year agreement with the 53,000 union members will end the cap on new employees. The car maker intends to hire low-paid temporary employees instead of full timers to reduce the burden of wage expenses. (read article)

Will Unions Force Employers to Recognize Card Checks?

By Carl Horowitz, December 2, 2015, National Legal and Policy Center

“Card Check: The Sequel” has arrived. No, it’s not a movie. It’s a congressional bill. And labor unions are counting on a happy ending this time. On October 6, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., unveiled the Workplace Democracy Act (S.2142, H.R. 3690). The measure would force nonunion private-sector employers to recognize a union as a bargaining agent if it obtains signed pledge cards from over half of all potentially affected workers. This organizing tactic, known as a “card check,” is legal. And unions often use it as a prelude to, or a substitute for, a secret ballot representation election. The bill’s name is misleading. It’s no more about democracy than its almost identical forerunner, the Employee Free Choice Act, was about freedom of choice. And its economic effects are not likely to be salutary. (read article)

Public safety, city, reach amicable labor contracts

By Anne Ernst, December 2, 2015, The Napa Valley Register

Work-contract agreements between the city and firefighter and police unions were approved Tuesday, securing three-year contracts that inch the city’s public safety personnel salaries toward market rate, something they sacrificed during economic downturns and the city’s darker times. Mike Kirn, acting city manager and public works director, complemented both the Calistoga Professional Firefighters Association and the Calistoga Police Officers Association for “stepping up” and negotiating. Negotiating teams for both fire and police met with the city four times and collaborated on agreements that give each group an increase in salary, which hasn’t been at market rate for a number of years. (read article)

National Teachers Union Chief Says She Didn’t Mean to Call Kids “Chronically Tarded” and “Medically Annoying”

By Laura Moser, December 2, 2015, Slate

“Open mouth. Insert foot. That’s what I did.” So begins this apology from Lily Eskelsen García—the president of the National Education Association—for remarks that outraged disabilities advocates and special-needs parents. In a lively speech at a Campaign for America’s Future gala in October, where she was accepting a Progressive Champion Award (just wait, because that detail is about to seem funny), Eskelsen García was running through a rapid-fire list of teachers’ sundry responsibilities when she produced a few infelicitous phrases: We serve kids a hot meal. We put Band-Aids on boo-boos. We diversify our curriculum instruction to meet the personal individual needs of all of our students—the blind, the hearing-impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically tarded and the medically annoying. (read article)

Teachers union sues state agency over voting records

By Jessie Opoien, December 2, 2015, The Capital Times

The Madison teachers union is suing the state’s labor relations agency over its refusal to release voters’ names during a recertification election, arguing such information should have been given under the state’s open records law. Madison Teachers Inc. filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on Monday against the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission and its chairman, James Scott. Under Gov. Scott Walker’s signature Act 10 legislation, most public sector unions are required to hold annual recertification elections to determine whether they can continue to bargain over pay with their employers. In order to continue, the union must receive a “yes” vote from 51 percent of eligible members, rendering an abstention from voting a “no.” (read article)

Congress Proposes Legislation to Overturn NLRB Ruling on Joint Employer Liability 

By Roger S. Kaplan, December 2, 2015, The National Law Review

Lawmakers have introduced identical legislation in both chambers of Congress to overturn a landmark decision by the National Labor Relations Board intended to broaden joint employer liability. By including employers who may only indirectly affect employees’ terms and conditions of employment, or have the right to affect such terms and conditions, the controversial Board decision has swept many more businesses under the “joint employer” umbrella and increased labor union bargaining power. Under the new standard, control of employment terms and conditions can be direct or indirect, such as through an intermediary or through contractual provisions that preserve the right to control, regardless of whether that right is ever exercised. Prior to the 3-2 ruling in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015), a joint employer relationship existed only where an employer could meaningfully affect matters relating to the employment relationship, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction. The essential element in the new analysis is whether a putative joint employer, under the Board’s elastic analysis, “possesses sufficient control over employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment to permit meaningful bargaining.” The NLRB ruling overturned three decades of precedent and is expected to immediately affect independent staffing services, subcontractors, distributors, and franchisees. (read article)

Education Leader Responds to Outrage on Comments Made About Students With Disabilities

By Genevieve Shaw Brown, December 1, 2015, abc News

The president of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the United States, has issued a response to the firestorm of criticism she received after comments made about students with special needs during an October speech. The comments, which came to light after a video of Lily Eskelsen Garcia’s speech went viral, sparked outrage from both parents and advocacy groups. In the October speech at the Campaign for America’s Future Awards Gala when speaking on what teachers do daily, she said, in part, “We diversify our curriculum instruction to meet the personal individual needs of all of our students, the blind, the hearing impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically ‘tarded and the medically annoying.” (read article)

Act 10 politics come to fore in union open records lawsuit

By Patrick Marley, December 1, 2015, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

Madison— In a case that brings the politics of the labor limits known as Act 10 to a dispute over the open records law, a union is suing a state agency over its refusal to turn over documents while an election was pending that would determine whether the union could continue to negotiate over wages. Under Act 10, most public-sector unions must hold annual elections to determine whether they can continue to bargain over their pay with their bosses. Unlike typical elections, the unions must get support from 51% of all eligible members, not just those who cast votes. In effect, if someone doesn’t cast a ballot, it counts as a “no” vote. (read article)

Labor Overreach NLRB power grab

By Katherine Mangu-Ward, December 1, 2015, Reason

In August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that subcontractors, franchisees, and other workers should be granted the right to join labor unions. The move is one step in a larger campaign by organized labor to work around the fact that large American corporations are increasingly using independent contractors rather than traditional full-time employees. These “joint employees” have typically been excluded from union membership, thus diminishing the negotiating power of labor. In a bid to reduce their tax responsibilities, benefit obligations, and regulatory burdens, companies sometimes turn to temporary workers. The NLRB reports that there were 2.87 million such temp workers in August 2014, and says that number is increasing rapidly. (read article)

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