Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Here are links to the top stories available online over the past week reporting on union activity including legislation, financial impact, reform activism, etc., from California and across the USA.

California Supreme Court Rules Union entitled to addresses, phone numbers of all county employees

By Jessica Karmasek, June 11, 2013, Legal News Online

The California Supreme Court ruled last month that a union, representing all Los Angeles County employees, is entitled to obtain the home addresses and phone numbers of all represented employees, including those who have not joined the union. In its May 30 opinion, the state’s high court agreed with lower courts that the Service Employees International Union Local 721 is so entitled, but reversed the state Court of Appeal’s imposition of procedural requirements limiting disclosure. “State and federal labor decisions have long held that unions are presumptively entitled to contact information for all employees they represent. These decisions, and applicable labor laws, generally obligate the County to give SEIU the requested information,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the court. “Whether the right to privacy under article I, section 1 of the California Constitution prohibits disclosure is a question of first impression.” The court concluded that, although the county’s employees have a “cognizable” privacy interest in their addresses and numbers, the balance of interests “strongly favors” disclosure of the information to the union that represents them. “Procedures may be developed for employees who object to this disclosure,” Corrigan added. “However, the Court of Appeal exceeded its authority in this administrative mandate proceeding by attempting to impose specific procedures on the parties.” (read article)

The State Worker: Union says labor agreement includes CA state worker raises

By Jon Ortiz, June 11, 2013, Sacramento Bee

The state’s largest public employees union says it bargained a new contract with Gov. Jerry Brown that includes an across-the-board pay raise of 4.5 percent over 3 years. The contract, which must be ratified by voting members of the 95,000-employee of SEIU Local 1000, provides either a 2 percent raise July 1, 2014 and a 2.5 percent raise a year later if the state “achieves certain revenue targets,” according to an early-morning union email announcing the deal. If the state misses the revenue targets, the entire 4.5 percent increase would be effective July 1, 2015. The announcement, emailed this morning around 5 a.m., doesn’t detail the revenue thresholds for the pay increases. A spokeswoman for Brown’s Department of Human Resources could not be immediately reached for comment. The agreement falls short of the pay increases that local negotiators wanted: an across-the-board $2,500 bonus this year for all 95,000 state employees covered by Local 1000, followed by a 7 percent salary increase in 2014 and 9 percent boost the following year. (read article) 

Labor backs immigration plan with million-dollar ad buy

By Kevin Liptak, June 11, 2013, CNN

As the U.S. Senate prepares for its first procedural votes on the “Gang of Eight” immigration plan, a top labor union is launching a seven-figure ad buy on cable television. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said Tuesday that five different spots that feature police officers, small business owners, veterans, children of undocumented immigrants and Republicans will run through June, encouraging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The ad will air on cable networks including CNN. Labor unions and business leaders were initially at odds over immigration reform, but reached an agreement on guest workers earlier this year that allowed the Gang of Eight plan to move forward. The SEIU, which represents 2.1 million workers in a wide swath of American service industries, has long endorsed Democrats in political races, and backed President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. “We’re seeing a growing consensus across the country that we need to get immigration reform done and get it done now,” Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International president, said in a statement. “These ads show the breadth of support for commonsense immigration reform and highlight the diverse voices that are integral to moving this debate forward.” (read article) 

South Carolina Becomes 17th State to Ban Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements on Taxpayer Funded Projects

June 11, 2013, The Truth About Project Labor Agreements

Yesterday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed S.438 into law, which will prohibit government entities in the state from requiring contractors to sign a project labor agreement (PLA) or other agreements with labor unions as a condition of performing work on public construction projects. South Carolina is the 17th state to take action to protect taxpayers and the vast majority of the construction industry workforce from wasteful and discriminatory PLA mandates, and the 13th state to enact reform since President Obama issued Executive Order 13502 in February 2009, which encourages federal agencies to require PLAs on federal construction projects costing more than $25 million and allows state and local governments to require PLAs on federally assisted projects. “This new law will ensure that public construction contracts will be awarded to firms that provide taxpayers the best construction at the best price,” said ABC Carolinas Chapter President & CEO Doug Carlson. “There is no question that construction labor union bosses in other states are using these types of mandates to steer public construction projects to contractors who are willing to accept their onerous demands and this new law will protect South Carolina taxpayers from this kind of abuse.” (read article) 

San Diego City Council approves labor deals with six unions

Newsteam, June 11, 2013, ABC 10 News San Diego

The City Council Monday gave final approval to five-year labor agreements with the six unions that represent city of San Diego employees. The deals are expected to generate nearly $110 million for the city’s general fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and libraries, over the life of the contracts, as well as gradually restore most of a 6 percent pay cut faced by workers since 2009 and implement terms of a pension reform initiative passed by voters last year. Tim Davis, a consultant on the city’s negotiating team, called the deals a “historic achievement.” The contracts were approved by most of the labor organizations last week. Davis said word of ratification by the remaining union came Monday morning. Councilman Kevin Faulconer said negotiations in the final weeks were “very intense” but produced deals the city could afford. “We got to a five-year deal that was fair,” Faulconer said, “fair to city taxpayers, fair to our employees and, of course, implemented the terms of Proposition B, which Mr. Davis has talked about extensively today.” Councilwoman Marti Emerald said she has “mixed feelings” because workers won’t necessarily get their full 6 percent pay cut restored. Most city workers will receive increases of 1.75 percent in each of the next three years, primarily from a reduced number of furlough days and improved benefits. Public safety workers will have more upfront compensation increases. (read article) 

Louisiana’s Teachers Need a Professional Association, Not a Labor Union

By Gary Beckner, June 11, 2013, The Louisiana Hayride

We are at a critical crossroads on the path to much needed education reform. Stakeholders from all walks of life and political stripes are beginning to understand that in order to compete in a global economy we must focus on choice and technology to prepare our students for the future. Likewise, we must also recognize that in order to drive needed change in instruction we must also reform how the teacher workforce is represented. Just as a one-size-fits-all system is not working for students, an old industrial labor union representational model for teachers, one that is solely fixated on political power and collecting more dues, does not serve the needs of all educators in a modern workforce. For years, educators have joined teachers’ unions thinking their money was going to advance their profession. Unfortunately, teacher labor unions in Louisiana have become more concerned with partisan politics and blocking reform than serving the needs of students. Not only is this harmful to our students, but it also degrades the professionalism of one of the most revered career choices. (read article) 

Union declares impasse in Oregon state labor talks

By Hannah Hoffman, June 11, 2013, Oregon Statesman Journal

Service Employees International Union Local 503 has declared an impasse in its negotiations with the State of Oregon over the 2013-15 labor contract, which opens the door for a possible strike this summer. “The declaration came as a surprise,” Department of Administrative Services spokesman Matt Shelby said. The union and state have been in mediation for several weeks, he said, and during that time either side can declare impasse. Dan Smith, an Oregon State Hospital psychologist who leads the union’s bargaining team, said the declaration was primarily a technical matter. “We think it’s really important to protect our timeline,” he said. An impasse comes with strict deadlines. Both sides have a week to submit a final offer and then have a 30-day “cooling off” period before the union can strike and the state can unilaterally implement its final offer. That would make July 14 the earliest a strike could happen. However, both sides said they plan to keep negotiating. (read article) 

Los Angeles Labor Unions Play Politics Like It’s Monopoly

By Rick Berman, June 11, 2013, Forbes

Labor unions view Los Angeles politics like it’s a game of Monopoly. They do their best to buy up as much property as possible through spending millions of dollars on friendly candidates. Then no matter which space the public voters land on, the union expectation is that they’ll directly benefit from the policies that come down from the City Council—even if those policies directly harm others. The most obvious example this year was Wendy Greuel’s union-backed mayoral campaign. In its concluding days, she picked up the union’s demand for a $15 “living wage.” This became her campaign’s defining policy going into Election Day—and one which unions touted in mailers, ads, and more. The unions did their best to make this a reality. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-backed Greuel super PAC raised more than $4.1 million to elect its candidate. The police union chipped in with another $1.4 million, while other unions—the Longshoremen and the Teamsters—made contributions to the tune of $300,000 and $100,000, respectively. The unions may not have been victorious on that issue, but they did achieve a 100 percent success rate in the earlier city-wide elections in March. (read article) 

Are Calif. labor-protest laws constitutional? Supreme Court turns away case

By Warren Richey, June 10, 2013, Christian Science Monitor

The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up an appeal challenging the constitutionality of two California laws that allow labor unions to picket on the private property of a targeted non-union business, despite the objections of the property owner. Critics of the laws say they violate the First Amendment rights of the property owner and the Equal Protection Clause by establishing a content-based preference that affords a higher level of protection to the speech of union officials during a labor dispute than to other would-be speakers. The issue arose in a case involving a grocery store in Sacramento, Calif., owned by the Ralphs grocery chain. The store’s lawyers challenged the constitutionality of two provisions of California law that place restrictions on the authority of state courts to issue injunctions concerning a labor dispute. They are state versions of a 1932 federal law that barred the federal courts from becoming involved in efforts to break an ongoing strike. The law established that unions have a right to peacefully publicize a labor dispute and that the courts may not interfere with that right. Lawyers for the California union argued that the state provisions are constitutional and deserve to be upheld. A California judge questioned the constitutionality of the two provisions, but ultimately upheld them and declined to issue an injunction against the union based on existing legal precedent in California. A state appeals court, however, reversed that decision. The appeals court overturned the earlier precedent and declared both laws unconstitutional. The case went to the California Supreme Court. The state high court reversed the appeals court and declared that the two state laws at issue did not violate free speech and equal protection guarantees in the US Constitution. Urging the US Supreme Court to take up the case, lawyers for Ralphs said the California provisions give those engaged in labor-related speech a “free pass to trespass on private property by closing the court-house doors to the property owner.” (read article) 

New Era of Labor: Hawaii’s Powerful Teachers Union’s Multi-Front War

By Sarah Butrymowicz, June 08, 2013, Time

Hawaii has traditionally been one of the most labor-friendly states in the nation. But by last November, Hawaii’s 13,000 teachers had reached a breaking point. They had been working without a negotiated contract for more than 16 months. The union and state had fought over pay, benefits and a new teacher evaluation plan that tied compensation to student test scores. A federal mediator and a crisis communications consultant had failed to break the logjam. And teacher resentment toward both union officials and Democratic governor Neil Abercrombie was at an all-time high. The dramatic showdown in Hawaii demonstrates how radically the nation’s education landscape has changed in recent years. For decades, teacher unions used their political clout to exert near-complete control over school systems in many states, winning increased funding and better compensation. Now, Democrats are embracing policies that are anathema to unions, and Republicans have successfully weakened labor laws in former bastions of union strength. As a new generation of teachers joins the profession and questions the old way of doing things, teachers unions are dealing with dissent within their own ranks. No less than the future of the labor movement is at stake. (read article) 

San Diego County Courthouse to be built under labor pact

By Christopher Cadelago, June 7, 2013, San Diego Union Tribune

California judicial officials quietly brokered a union-friendly pact to govern construction of a new $586 million courthouse in downtown San Diego, marking the first time the state has turned to a “project-labor agreement” at the onset of building a major court facility. The deal is between contractor Rudolph and Sletten Inc. and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. “I requested that the contractor enter into a PLA with the Trades Council to ensure certainty and timeliness as well as reduce variables in a construction project of this magnitude,” state courts director Steven Jahr wrote in an email obtained by U-T Watchdog. “This will be the first state courthouse project on which a PLA is signed.” The bargain comes a year after 58 percent of San Diego voters prohibited city officials from requiring such pacts on projects funded by city government. The local ballot measure does not apply to state projects. Details of the pact are not yet available, as an official public announcement has not been made. Project-labor agreements typically outline standards for wages, local hiring and health care coverage for workers, and require workers on projects to pay union dues whether they are members or not. Critics say the deals inflate project costs, at the expense of taxpayers. (read article) 

Labor Unions look to loopholes for future growth

By Richard Berman, June 07, 2013, Fox News

This Friday, hundreds of union organizers and striking workers will descend upon Bentonville, Arkansas, as Walmart begins its annual shareholder meeting. Organized by union-backed OUR Walmart, the union agitators will protest the retailer’s labor policies. There’s just one small wrinkle: OUR Walmart walks like a union and talks like a union, but — due to their attempt to create a loophole in Federal labor law — isn’t subject to the regulations and the reporting requirements that keep union activities fair and labor leaders honest. Welcome to the “worker center,” a clever effort to take advantage of this loophole and give union front groups the ability to operate beyond the reach of the law. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has singled them out as a new model of organization and worker representation. Employers and legislators should take note. With explicit union support, worker centers’ numbers have risen from a meager five organizations in the early 1990s to well over 200 today (the exact number isn’t known because of the murkiness of the laws surrounding these groups). Many of these groups arepresently in the news: Fast Food Forward and its sister organizations have organized large-scale fast food walk outs in at least six major cities; Good Jobs Nation protested the federal government’s use of low-wage employees; and OUR Walmart previously made news with its “Black Friday” strikes. (read article) 

Union Site Warns Vegas Visitors About Labor Fights

Newsteam, June 6, 2013, CBS Las Vegas

The 55,000-member Culinary Workers Union has launched a site warning Las Vegas visitors about possible strikes that could affect their events. VegasTravelAlert.org lists 10 venues owned by Station Casinos as sites with active labor disputes. The powerful union has tried for years and failed to organize workers at those properties. The site lists 27 other casinos as “at-risk,” meaning their labor contracts are set to expire soon. That roster includes big names such as Caesars Palace and the Bellagio. Union officials instruct site visitors to “protect themselves” by calling the casino and urging them to resolve the labor disputes. (read article) 

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!