Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Marin unions appeal pension ruling to state Supreme Court

By Richard Halstead, October 4, 2016, Marin Independent Journal

Four Marin labor groups have appealed a state appeals court decision that some say could radically alter the ability to reduce the retirement benefits of public employees who are still on the job. The plaintiffs — the Marin Association of Public Employees, known as MAPE; the Marin County Management Employees Association; Service Employees International Union 1021; and the Marin County Fire Department Firefighters’ Association — have requested that the state Supreme Court review a decision issued in August by the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. In the decision, the appellate court upheld the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association’s interpretation of two 2012 state amendments that created new rules for how county retirement boards are permitted to calculate their current members’ retirement allowances. (read article)

Judgment against union grows to $7.8 million

By L.M. Sixel, October 4, 2016, Houston Chronicle

A judgement against the Service Employees International Union grew by another $2.5 million, according to an order signed last week by Harris County District Court Judge Erin Elizabeth Lunceford. The organization got hit last month with a $5.3 million judgment after a Harris County jury found the labor union’s aggressive organizing campaign went too far when it maligned the reputation of a local janitorial company. The total award grew to $7.8 million when $2.5 million of interest was added, The jury sided with Professional Janitorial Service in a suit the company brought nine years ago against the nation’s second largest labor union, which targeted the company as part of its “Justice for Janitors” organizing campaign and wrongly claimed Professional Janitorial Service had violated wage, overtime and other labor laws. (read article)

Virginia’s right-to-work amendment

By Clarissa Cooper, October 3, 2016, Staunton News Leader

On the 2016 ballot, most people have been focusing on the presidential race. In Virginia, two proposed constitutional amendments will also be on the ballot for people to vote on in November. The second proposed amendment is a right-to-work amendment involving labor unions. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, Virginia’s current right-to-work law states that union membership cannot be a condition of employment. If Virginia voters approved adding this into the constitution, it would make it much more difficult for labor laws to change in the future, according to Department of Elections materials. (read article)

D.C. police, labor union settle divisive claims over overtime and All Hands on Deck

By Peter Hermann, October 3, 2016, Washington Post

D.C. police and the union for the rank-and-file officers have ended one of their most divisive disputes with a $9 million agreement to pay overtime for working All Hands on Deck, the former chief’s signature crime-fighting program. The settlement worked out over the weekend comes after a federal arbitrator ruled in 2009 that the extra assignments were illegal and violated parts of the contract over pay and work schedules. The District appealed the decision to a labor relations board, but lost in 2011. (read article)

Talks resume in faculty labor dispute; union accuses management of ‘regressive bargaining’

By Jan Murphy, September 29, 2016, PennLive.com

Negotiators for the faculty union and the State System of Higher Education returned to the bargaining table on Thursday to continue efforts to reach an agreement and thwart what would be the first-ever faculty strike at the 14 state universities. The faculty has set Oct. 19, the first day after the fall break, as the day they will walkout if no agreement is reached. The more than 5,000 professors in the State System have been working under an expired contract since June 30, 2015. Numerous issues separate the sides including changes to the use and pay of temporary faculty, allowing graduate students to teach courses, and modifications to the health care plan. (read article)

Graduate Students Vote to Select Union Affiliation

By Garrett Williams, September 30, 2016, The Chicago Maroon

Graduate students at the University of Chicago have taken the next step toward unionization by initiating an affiliation referendum. This vote will decide which labor union Graduate Students United (GSU) will affiliate with, should its push for unionization succeed. AFT and SEIU are both major labor unions with about 1.6 million and 1.9 million members, respectively. Non-tenure track faculty at the University of Chicago chose to unionize with SEIU Local 73 this past December. The union chosen by GSU will contribute resources and organizing muscle to GSU’s push for union certification. Once an affiliate union has been decided upon, GSU will proceed with the election process. (read article)

State-Run Retirement Plan OK’d in California

By Nick Cahill, September 29, 2016, Courthouse News Service

Millions of California workers lacking access to pension and retirement plans received a boost Thursday after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that greenlights a state-sponsored savings plan for private employees. Hoping to encourage and spur retirement planning for nearly 7 million Californians relying largely on social security, the California Secure Choice Retirement Program will create savings plans for workers whose employers don’t offer 401(k) or other retirement options. Structured like a traditional 401(k), workers will be able to take the state-sponsored retirement plan with them to new jobs but face penalties for withdrawing before retirement. While similar to California’s public-employee pension plan, it will not be guaranteed by state taxpayers. (read article)

Jerry Brown again vetoes union-backed restrictions on paid signature gatherers

By Christopher Cadelago, September 29, 2016, Sacramento Bee 

A union-backed effort to change the signature-gathering process for ballot initiatives was turned away again by Gov. Jerry Brown, who argued in a veto message Thursday that the bill would do little to lessen the grip of powerful interests. Senate Bill 1094 sought to require that proponents of a statewide initiative use non-paid volunteers to collect at least 5 percent of signatures needed to qualify their initiative. SB 1094 “will not keep out special interests or favor volunteer signature gathering,” Brown wrote. (read article)

Chicago Teachers Union sets Oct. 11 strike date

By Lauren FitzPatrick & Jesse Betend, September 28, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times

Determined to control the bargaining clock and “call the question” on what could be the second walkout since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates on Wednesday set a strike date of Oct. 11. “If we cannot reach the agreement by then, we will withhold our labor,” CTU President Karen Lewis said at a news conference, surrounded by dozens of members. CTU’s full membership overwhelmingly voted last week in favor of a strike to pressure the Board of Education. Delegates took a voice vote so loud Wednesday it could be heard from outside the special meeting. (read article)

California pensions: How a deal went wrong and cost taxpayers billions

By Jack Nolan, September 28, 2016, The Mercury News

With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation that gave prison guards, park rangers, Cal State professors and other state employees the kind of retirement security normally reserved for the wealthy. More than 200,000 civil servants became eligible to retire at 55 — and in many cases collect more than half their highest salary for life. California Highway Patrol officers could retire at 50 and receive as much as 90% of their peak pay for as long as they lived. Proponents sold the measure in 1999 with the promise that it would impose no new costs on California taxpayers. The state employees’ pension fund, they said, would grow fast enough to pay the bill in full. They were off — by billions of dollars — and taxpayers will bear the consequences for decades to come. (read article)

Labor Pressing Obama for Action on Contractor Workers’ Union Rights

By Sam Skolnik & Ben Penn, September 28, 2016, Bloomberg BNA

Labor groups and lawmakers are pressuring the Obama administration to issue perhaps its furthest-reaching executive order aimed at federal contractors — this time to strengthen workers’ union rights. Labor and progressive leaders told Bloomberg BNA that the administration is discussing a possible post-election action: a model employer executive order (EO), including a labor peace clause that would mandate that contractors affirm workers’ right to unionize in return for a no-strike pledge. However, an administration official downplayed the possibility that the White House currently has plans for a new contractor-focused EO. (read article)

Big Labor has an identity crisis, and its name is Dakota Access

By Aura Bogada, September 28, 2016, Grist

A growing rift has split the country’s biggest union federation, the AFL-CIO. Many labor activists and union members are outraged that Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, threw the AFL-CIO’s support behind the Dakota Access pipeline project earlier this month. The AFL-CIO’s statement backing the pipeline was announced a week after the Obama administration put construction on hold. Trumka acknowledged “places of significance to Native Americans” but argued that the more than “4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs” attached to the pipeline trumped environmental and other considerations. (read article)

State school board discusses waivers to Labor Day start

By Associated Press, September 28, 2016, Albany Times Union

Maryland’s state school board has adopted a resolution to “expeditiously” approve waivers to Gov. Larry Hogan’s order to start school after Labor Day starting next year, if local school boards can explain the educational benefits to students. The board adopted the resolution Tuesday. Doug Mayer, Hogan’s spokesman, says Superintendent Karen Salmon and board member Andy Smarick have assured the governor’s office that the board will not approve waivers before the regulations have been adopted. He says that could take about 90 days. Mayer also says the executive order requires a “compelling justification” for a waiver. Supporters say the delayed start would boost tourism and increase family time. But opponents say it shortchanges education. (read article)

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