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.

City’s offer yanks retroactive pay hikes, union says

By Fran Spielman, September 24, 2013, Chicago Sun-Times

Rank-and-file Chicago Police officers are not the only ones at risk of losing their retroactive pay raise. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to deny nearly two years’ worth of back pay to 3,000 civilian city employees, their union charged Tuesday. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 disclosed that portion of the city’s offer in an attempt to turn up the heat on Emanuel to negotiate a fair replacement for a contract that expired more than a year ago and last gave AFSMCE members a pay raise on Jan. 1, 2012. “We need wage increases that keep pace with the rising cost of city living for our members, but what the administration has offered doesn’t meet that standard and doesn’t provide any retroactive increase for the nearly two years that our members have been without a raise,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall, shortly before his members demonstrated outside two downtown work sites. (read article)

New Jersey’s Largest Firefighter’s Labor Union Backs Buono for Governor

By Mel Fabrikant, September 24, 2013, Paramus Post

This week the New Jersey Firefighters Association unanimously voted to endorse New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono for Governor of New Jersey. In defiance of any poll numbers outgoing President Bill Lavin and the 5,000 plus members of the NJFMBA enthusiastically embrace Barbara Buono as the only choice in the upcoming election. “While everyone else is running out of a burning building, firefighters are running in, sometimes in situations that seem impossible to imagine a positive outcome. We rush in despite the odds”, Lavin said. “We see an appropriate analogy here, while some Democratic leaders and local Democratic Mayors have abandoned Senator Buono for fear of losing favor with an overbearing administration and shown no political courage whatsoever, our firefighters choose the only Democrat in the State that has the courage to take on Chris Christie.” “Barbara Buono has more political courage and substance than Governor Christie and the current leadership of the NJ Democratic Party combined,” said President Bill Lavin. “If New Jersey voters are tired of both parties and the back room political dealing that exclude the middleclass and the hardworking families of New Jersey, they can shock the world this November and vote for Barbara Buono for Governor.” (read article)

The new voice of labor in Connecticut is female and gay

By Mark Pazniokas, September 24, 2013, Connecticut Mirror

Lori J. Pelletier appears set to be chosen by acclamation in a casino hotel ballroom Thursday as the new voice and face of labor in Connecticut, becoming the first openly gay woman to lead a state labor federation in the United States. But on Tuesday, Pelletier stood at a busy shopping plaza, trying to be heard over idling CT Transit buses and passing delivery trucks as she spoke in support of U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro’s push for a federal version of Connecticut’s groundbreaking paid-sick day law. “The workforce today is like it is in this plaza,” Pelletier said. A majority of U.S. private-sector workers are non-union, with many drawing paychecks from service and retail jobs where minimum standards for pay and benefits often are set by law, not by the marketplace or negotiated contracts. “That’s why we’re here,” Pelletier said. Standing in the shade of a tree, Pelletier joined DeLauro, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and Teresa Younger and Christine Palm of the legislature’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. They were celebrating labor’s successes in Connecticut, promoting DeLauro’s federal agenda, and making a pitch for a new concept: family and medical leave insurance. (read article)

Struggling, San Jose Tests a Way to Cut Benefits

By Rick Lyman and Mary Williams Walsh, September 23, 2013, New York Times

This metropolis of nearly a million residents is the third-largest city in California, home to tens of thousands of technology industry workers, as well as many thousands more struggling to get by. Yet even here, in the city that bills itself as the capital of Silicon Valley, the economic tidal wave that has swamped Detroit and other cities is lapping at the sea walls. Joe Nieto, head of a neighborhood association, with the vandalized cord of an emergency phone. San Jose now spends one-fifth of its $1.1 billion general fund on pensions and retiree health care, and the amount keeps rising. To free up the money, services have been cut, libraries and community centers closed, the number of city workers trimmed, salaries reduced, and new facilities left unused for lack of staff. From potholes to home burglaries, the city’s problems are growing. (read article)

Valley farm laborers protest UFW union

By Kyle Harvey, September 24, Visalia Times Delta

About 200 farm workers gathered Monday at the Visalia office of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, 1642 W. Walnut Avenue, to protest the United Farm Workers union. The group of protesters, which was comprised primarily of workers employed by Gerawan Farming, said that they are being forced to join the UFW against their will. Gerawan has operations in Fresno, Madera, Reedley and Sanger. The workers assembled in Visalia because the Visalia office has jurisdiction over this particular issue. According to the protesters, the UFW is forcing Gerawan’s employees to join the union and pay dues — three percent of their earnings — in exchange for collective bargaining rights, which workers say they do not need. Silvia Lopez said her and her co-workers already have some of the best pay and benefits in the industry. (read article)

Court Finds Indiana Right-To-Work Law Unconstitutional

By Fisher & Philips, September 23, 2013, Fisher & Phillips LLP

In a stunning decision, a state court judge has ruled that Indiana’s hard-won right-to-work law is unconstitutional. The reasoning is strained and rests on the rather peculiar notion that “just compensation” for a union means forcing all employees to pay dues, whether they support the union’s aims or not. On February 1, 2012, Indiana became the 23rd state to adopt a right-to-work law. Indiana’s law prohibits anyone (including employers and labor organizations) from requiring a covered individual, as a condition of initial or continued employment, to: 1) become or remain a member of a labor organization; 2) pay dues, fees, assessments, or other charges to a labor organization; or 3) pay a charity or third party a dues equivalent. Violating the law is a Class A misdemeanor. The ruling has now cast doubt on the law’s viability. In February 2013, the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, filed suit, claiming the law violates Indiana’s constitution. Sweeney et al. v. Zoeller et al. On September 5, 2013, Lake County Superior Court Judge John M. Sedia threw out four of the Union’s five counts, but held the right-to-work law was unconstitutional. The Judge cited Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution which provides, “o person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.” The court noted that to be considered “particular,” services must be 1) historically compensated, and 2) something required of a party as an individual, as opposed to something required generally of all citizens. The court found services provided by a union, including negotiations and enforcing collective bargaining agreements, fit within that definition. (read article)

Wisconsin labor panel won’t stop union restrictions

September 23, 2013, Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin labor officials are refusing to stop enforcing provisions of Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious public union restrictions on local government workers, brushing aside assertions that they’re violating a court order. A Madison judge last year found the restrictions unconstitutional as they applied to Madison teachers and Milwaukee public workers. It’s unclear whether the ruling applies statewide, though. The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission is moving ahead with union certification elections as prescribed in the restrictions. The judge said last week his decision applies broadly but refused to order WERC to stop the elections. Six unions have threatened to try to hold WERC in contempt of court if it didn’t stop the elections by Monday. Commission Chairman James Scott said the panel doesn’t believe it’s violating any court order. (read article)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Labor panel going ahead with Wisconsin union recertification elections

By Patrick Marley, September 23, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel The head of the state’s labor commission told unions Monday he would continue to adhere to a law restricting collective bargaining for public workers, taking a stance that is expected to prompt unions to file a contempt-of-court accusations against him. Timothy Hawks, a lawyer representing six unions, on Friday asked the two members of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to cancel November elections that would determine whether the unions would continue to be recognized by the state. Hawks said that was required under a Dane County judge’s decision and said he would seek contempt orders against the commissioners if they did not change their plans. James Scott, chairman of the employment commission, responded with a two-sentence letter Monday that said the commission still plans to hold the elections. “As you may be aware, over four hundred unions have filed requests that we conduct recertification elections,” Scott wrote. “We do not believe that we are in contempt of any court order by proceeding with those election requests.” (read article)

IBEW Criticizes EPA’s New Coal Emission Standards

By Lachlan Markay, September 23, 2013, Washington Free Beacon

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) blasted the Obama administration’s new standards for coal plant emissions on Monday, saying they will hamper job growth and U.S. energy independence and raise electricity prices. The union’s antipathy to the plan underscores a long-running tension between big labor and environmentalists, two key segments of the Democratic Party’s political base. “The draft regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding emissions from newly-constructed power plants threaten economic growth and America’s energy future,” IBEW president Edwin Hill said in a statement. The regulations propose strict emissions caps for coal-fired power plants, which will have to install costly carbon sequestration systems, which experts say are not yet technologically viable, to meet EPA’s emissions targets. “The new rules would in effect stop the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States by enforcing emission-reduction goals that just aren’t realistic using today’s technology for carbon capture and sequestration,” Hill said. (read article)

Obamacare: Good For Workers, Bad For Unions

By Josh Barro, September 23, 2013, Business Insider

It’s been a tough couple of months for labor unions and the Affordable Care Act. The AFL-CIO passed a resolution at its convention earlier this month complaining about several of the law’s provisions. The head of the Laborers International Union of North America said the law should be repealed if it isn’t modified to the unions’ liking. Most of the Democratic Party’s liberal coalition is quite eager for implementation of the new health care law, and Obamacare is pretty clearly beneficial to the sort of people who join labor unions: low- and middle-income workers who stand to gain bigger subsidies and better access to health insurance under the law. But the unions are resistant. Here are five reasons why: (1) Obamacare discourages the sort of high-end health plans some unions have negotiated, (2) Obamacare is financed in part through taxes on health insurance premiums, (3) Obamacare will undermine union-run Taft-Hartley multiemployer plans, (4) Obamacare will make non-union workers better off, (5) Universal health care will reduce the importance of collective bargaining. (read article)

Critics fear unions could gain power in ballot process under new bill

By Chris Megerian, September 23, 2013, Los Angeles Times

Advocates trying to place initiatives on California’s ballot may face new requirements under a bill approved by the Legislature this month. The measure, AB 857 by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), would require 10% of petition signatures to be gathered by volunteers instead of paid workers. However, critics say the bill would unfairly empower unions – their members would be counted as volunteers even if they’re on labor’s payroll.

Phil Ung of California Common Cause said the measure would do little to remove the influence of big money on the initiative process while giving an unfair advantage to unions. “We should do what we can to return the process back to the everyday voters without favoring any one group,” he said. Ethan Jones, chief consultant to the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, said unions would not be the bill’s only beneficiaries. Any nonprofit’s members or employees could count as volunteers, he said. “That could be labor,” he said. “It could be other groups on the right. Or other groups on the left.” (read article)

Maryland Democratic candidates for governor promise union jobs

By Michael Dresser, September 23, 2013, The Baltimore Sun

Three Democratic candidates for governor made their pitches to an influential labor group Monday, each promising to step up efforts to create high-paying union jobs in Maryland. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County each stressed their records of support for organized labor as they addressed a candidate forum put on by the Maryland-D.C. Building Trades Council at the Turf Valley Resort in Howard County. The three did not appear together before council delegates, who will decide which candidate to recommend for the state AFL-CIO’s endorsement. Instead, the candidates went on one after the other, without their rivals in the room. That didn’t stop them from getting in digs at their opponents. Gansler, who will formally announce his candidacy Tuesday, criticized as too weak an executive order issued last week by Gov. Martin O’Malley — Brown’s chief political ally — on project labor agreements. Such agreements, which set the wages and working conditions for major public projects in a way that usually benefits union labor, are supported by the building trades but opposed by Republicans and some business groups. Gansler dismissed O’Malley’s order as “an executive suggestion,” and he promised to increase the state’s use of such agreements. “It’s not about helping you,” he told the union members. “It’s about helping every working family in this state.” (read article)

Illinois will continue Medicaid purge despite union lawsuit

By Ben Yount, September 23, 2013, Illinois Watchdog

Illinois will continue looking at each of the 2.7 million people on Medicaid, trying figure out who doesn’t belong in the program despite a lawsuit from the state’s largest public employee union. Illinois’ Health and Human Services Director Julie Hamos said last week the state will appeal a ruling that would force the state to essentially stop its Medicaid scrubbing program, which is being done by a private contractor. “We believe ending this contract … would not best serve the interest of Illinois taxpayers,” Hamos told a state legislative panel. “We do plan to appeal the decision of the arbitrator.” That arbitrator ruled in favor of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union, saying Illinois could have offered the work of scrubbing the Medicaid rolls to state employees, who are members of the union. The arbitrator based his decision, in part, on wording in the Medicaid scrubbing legislation that said Illinois “may” hire an outside company. The arbitrator noted the law did not say Illinois “shall.” (read article)

Phony California initiative reform a ploy by labor unions

Editorial, SF Gate, September 22, 2013

Something is seriously amiss with any initiative reform bill opposed by both the conservative Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which gained its wings on the populist revolt of Proposition 13, and California Common Cause, a nonpartisan promoter of transparency and fair play in government. The next clue that something is wrong with Assembly Bill 857 is the extraordinarily narrow support list: basically, a who’s who of major labor unions. It’s not too hard to connect the dots. This measure represents a crass attempt to tilt the initiative process in favor of organized labor and its causes. The ostensible reason for the bill (authored by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino) is to reduce the role of paid petition gatherers in the initiative process. It originally would have required at least 20 percent of an initiative’s signatures to be gathered by volunteers. The threshold was ultimately amended to 10 percent. (read article)

Pelosi ‘optimistic’ about fixing some labor worries in Obamacare

By Ashley Killough, September 22, 2013, CNN

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi acknowledged deep concerns by major unions about Obamacare in an interview that aired Sunday, but vowed to work on a plan to quell those worries. “We’re working on the issue,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Three major labor unions, including the Teamsters, sent a letter to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this summer, disparaging Obamacare as a plan that will “destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week.” At issue is the Affordable Care Act’s designation of a full-time employee as someone who works 30 hours per week. The president’s health care law will require businesses that employ at least 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance or face a penalty, starting in 2015. Critics of the provision argue the 30-hour mark for “full-time” employees will cause some businesses to reduce the hours of their workers to fewer than 30. That way, they won’t be considered full-time employees and their employers won’t be required to offer them health care insurance. (read article)

Labor wages internal battle in mayor race

By Mark Walker and Craig Gustafson, September 21, 2013, San Diego Union-Tribune

The unified political might of labor unions catapulted Bob Filner into the Mayor’s Office last fall, but the labor community is decidedly split in the contest to replace him as San Diego’s next mayor. The infighting over whether to back City Councilman David Alvarez or former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, both Democrats aggressively courting union support, could result in a distinct advantage for Councilman Kevin Faulconer, the lone major Republican and the biggest threat to labor’s agenda in the race. With former Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation following a sexual harassment scandal, it’s widely presumed that no one will win a majority in the Nov. 19 special election which means the top two finishers will duke it out in a runoff likely to be held in February. Most analysts expect Faulconer to nab one of those spots given the Republicans cleared the field for him so the real battle is over who will join him — Alvarez, Fletcher or someone else? (read article)

BART, union touch on major issues with little progress

Michael Cabanatuan, September 19, 2013, SF Gate

Negotiations that would avert a second BART strike next month resumed this week but the transit agency and its two largest unions apparently made little progress toward an agreement. “We’re kind of stuck right now,” said Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman. The unions already struck for four and a half days in July, but after going back to the bargaining table they made little progress. That’s when the governor ordered the cooling-off period. While negotiations are held behind closed doors with state and federal mediators, both the unions and BART have described their proposals and discussed their concerns. The unions offered a proposal Monday that they described as cutting the cost to the transit agency by $10 million. “Our proposal makes significant movement,” said Cecille Isidro, SEIU spokeswoman. It calls for a three-year contract instead of the four-year deal favored by BART, with 4.5 percent raises each year – or 13.5 percent for three years. The earlier proposal called for 21.5 percent in raises over three years. The unions are also proposing contributing a percentage of their salaries toward their pensions and increasing their medical insurance premiums. BART officials say that’s not enough. (read article)

Union members disrupt right-to-work strategy session

September 20, 2013, Northwest Labor Press

More than 50 protesters — primarily from construction trades unions — greeted attendees of a strategy session on how to pass right-to-work referendums in Oregon and Washington. The event was sponsored by the anti-union Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Wash., and the Portland-headquartered Cascade Policy Institute. “We want to let them know that they’re not going to come into Washington or Oregon without a fight,” said Eric Fanning, a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290. “We (labor) may have some disagreements, but on this issue we have total solidarity.”Proposed initiatives in Oregon and Washington are restricted to public-sector worker unions. The Oregon initiative, dubbed the “Public Employee Choice Act,” would remove any requirement that public employees pay union dues or any share of the costs that unions incur to represent them. Under current Oregon law, public employees who are represented by unions pay either union dues, if they choose to be members, or reduced “fair share” fees, which cover the union’s cost of negotiating contracts and representing workers. On Sept. 12, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered that the ballot title be rewritten. According to an Oregonian report, the court unanimously ruled that the attorney general’s office needs to rewrite the ballot title for the measure to make clear the “free-rider effect” of allowing represented workers to avoid union dues. (read article)

Desperate Labor Unions Stage An End-Run Around Labor Law

By Richard Berman, September 19, 2013, Forbes

Today, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions is holding a hearing entitled “The Future of Union Organizing,” which will focus on the increasing importance of “worker centers” in the union movement. This hearing comes less than a month after the AFL-CIO voted to offer membership in the federation to these non-union organizations—a move billed as putting some upward “movement” back in the otherwise floundering “labor movement.” Worker centers stole the national spotlight in recent months with the headline-grabbing union paid pickets at fast food restaurants and retailers like Walmart. Yet even though they protested employers, demanded higher wages, and the right to form a union, the International unions behind the protests—“Fight for $15” and “OUR Walmart,” respectively—insisted that these were not actually strikes, and that their picket sign wielding friends weren’t actually part of any labor unions. (read article)

Senators’ Plea to OMB: No Carve Out for Union Health Plans

By Melanie Trottman, September 19, 2013, Wall Street Journal

Adding insult to injury? A group of 21 Republican senators urged the Office of Management and Budget not to approve any regulations that would provide a special “carve out” to union-sponsored health plans under the Affordable Care Act. In a blow for unions, the White House already said late Friday that it can’t legally make the primary change unions want to the new health-care law. For months, unions have been warning that the law could cause millions of their members who get health insurance under multiemployer plans to lose their coverage. To support its conclusion, the White House cited a Treasury Department determination that there was no legal way to adjust tax treatment to make the change. But the 21 senators remain suspicious that the administration will try to find another way to satisfy unions’ main request. In a letter to OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, they said they “remain troubled that the administration has only made a commitment to not move forward with a rule through the IRS, but has left the door open for the Department of Labor to issue a regulation favoring labor unions.” (read article)

Labor Dispute Could See Las Vegas Shut Down By Strike

By Martin Michaels, September 18, 2013, Mint Press News

Stalled contract negotiations could soon lead to a major strike by 50,000 bartenders, maids and food servers working at 20 hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, Nev. A strike of this size could shut down or significantly limit operations at some of the largest Las Vegas casinos, including the MGM Grand and Caesar’s Palace. The Associated Press reports that the Culinary Union representing workers has been in contract talks with major casinos MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp since June, when workers’ contracts expired. Seeing little progress in talks for pay raises and improved benefits, union representatives issued a letter last week warning the casinos that a strike could be called soon. “Union workers are preparing for a major labor dispute,” wrote Ken Liu, a spokesman for the Culinary Union’s parent organization Unite Here, in the letter. “As the companies have shown no urgency toward working out a settlement, union members have started to sign up for ID cards in preparation for a strike.” The Culinary Union is part of Unite Here, a larger labor union that represents 251,000 hotel and gaming workers across North America. A strike of this size would have a significant impact in a city that relies upon tourist revenue and gambling dollars. The Las Vegas Convention and Business Authority reported that nearly 40 million people visited the city last year, contributing to the $6.2 billion in gambling revenue generated from casinos along the Las Vegas strip. (read article)

Day-care unions will hurt Rhode Island parents, taxpayers

By Steven Frias, September 18, 2013, Providence Journal

On Labor Day, organized labor glorified its past. With the push to unionize Rhode Island home-based day-care providers, organized labor is attempting to salvage a future. Over the years, membership in organized labor has dwindled, particularly in the private sector. At the national level, the AFL-CIO has responded to this “crisis” in membership by letting non-workers join. Here in Rhode Island, organized labor recently pushed a law through the Rhode Island General Assembly that lets Rhode Island’s home-based day-care providers who accept state government day-care subsidies organize into a union to bargain with the state. Organized labor seems to be trying to turn small-businesses owners and independent contractors who receive government subsidies for providing day care to low-income children into the equivalent of unionized employees with some of the same collective-bargaining rights as state employees. Regardless of whether unionization will actually turn out to help most day-care providers, it is probable that the unionization of home-based day-care workers will cause harm to the parents who use day care and the taxpayers who subsidize it. The purpose of government day-care subsidies is to help low-income parents. Unionization of home-based day-care providers could actually result in harming these parents. Day-care unionization could limit the choices of low-income working parents who use home-based day care. If the home-based day-care providers who accept government subsidies unionize, then the only way such a provider can avoid paying the cost of union dues is to turn away low-income parents who use a government day-care subsidy. (read article)

Will AFL’s Love Affair With ‘Alt-Labor’ Leave Existing Union Members Behind?

By Steve Early, September 18, 2013, Huffington Post

As AFL-CIO leaders packed up to leave Los Angeles last Wednesday, they basked in the glow of favorable media coverage of their five-day convention. The meeting concluded, per usual, with fulsome delegate praise for President Rich Trumka’s carefully scripted chairing and bold personal leadership. But these accolades were apparently not enough. Writers Guild of America-East president Michael Winship claimed he had just witnessed the “the most radical restructuring of labor since the AFL and CIO merged nearly sixty years ago.” Cribbing from Labor Notes’ own 30-year old slogan, another national union president told the New York Times that the federation had finally “put some movement back in the labor movement.” Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson agreed that AFL-CIO had made an important “strategic shift” in how it intends “to advance workers’ interests.” Feedback was also quite positive from the hundreds of invited guests from worker centers, labor support coalitions, public policy groups, student, feminist, and community organizations, and “social change” foundations — present in larger numbers than ever before. These enthusiastic “solidarity partners” — from constituencies younger and more diverse than the delegate body — got to make “action session” presentations, hold press conferences and side rallies, and network with unions and foundation funders. Sometimes, rank-and-filers from “Alt-labor” groups even got airtime on the main stage, for moving celebrations of their difficult organizing work among fellow immigrants. (read article)

Labor Union Doesn’t Qualify As Media In Defamation Appeal

By Jeremy Heallen, September 17, 2013, Law 360

A Texas appeals court said Tuesday that a labor union being sued for defamation by a janitorial services company cannot immediately challenge a trial court’s refusal to dismiss the case because the union is not a member of the electronic or print media. The First District Court of Appeals ruled that articles and commentary published on the heavily trafficked website of Local 5 of the Service Employees International Union do not qualify the union as a news media organization, preventing it from invoking a state law designed to protect free speech that allows for an immediate appeal of an unsuccessful motion to dismiss a defamation suit. “Such would be an absurd reading of the statute, would render meaningless the statute’s express language limiting the class of persons who may appeal to ‘members of the electronic media,’ and would run afoul of the Texas Supreme Court’s instruction to strictly construe statutes granting interlocutory appeals,” the appeals court said. Representatives for the union did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The underlying suit was filed in 2007 by Professional Janitorial Service of Houston Inc., which says it was unfairly targeted by the union’s “Justice for Janitors” campaign. PJS claims that because it refused to allow its employees to be represented by the union outside of a secret ballot election sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board, the union began spreading false rumors that PJS was violating federal labor laws. Among other things, the union allegedly published statements on its website and sent faxes and letters to PJS’ clients accusing it of violating federal wage-and-hour laws, the opinion said. In at least one instance, the union allegedly placed a giant inflatable rat in the building of a PJS customer, according to court records. (read article)

University of Calif hospital workers union alleges unfair labor practice during 2-day strike

Associated Press, September 17, 2013, Indiana Republic

A complaint has been filed on behalf of thousands of University of California hospital workers who claim they were threatened when they went on a two-day strike in May. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some 13,000 hospital pharmacists, nursing assistants, operating room scrubs and other health care workers, took the claims to the state Public Employment Relations Board. Last week, the board issued a complaint to force UC to answer the allegations. The complaint outlined alleged instances when UC administrators questioned workers about their participation in the walkout, told them their absence during the strike would be considered unauthorized, and threatened disciplinary action. UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said Tuesday the administrators believe they acted in accordance with the law. “We have negotiated tirelessly and we are going to respond appropriately to this,” Klein said about the complaint. The union organized the strike at medical facilities in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Sacramento. The union was battling the university system over staffing and pension issues. (read article)

Buying Birthday Cakes for Employees Leads to Labor Complaint

September 17, 2013, NBC Miami

Celebrating his employees’ birthdays has turned out to be no cakewalk for Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Not even close. His office recently began buying birthday cakes for employees each month – but a union has filed an unfair labor complaint against his office for the practice, Lopez-Cantera said. The cakes are paid for with money from vending machines that employees use. ”The union says that I should have negotiated how we determined those dollars be spent. And the only thing those dollars are spent on right now is birthday cakes. And so it doesn’t make sense,” Lopez-Cantera told NBC 6. “It’s almost laughable that we would have to spend any time and energy on something as ridiculous as a complaint for the practice of birthday cakes.” The complaint from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 199 says there should be no cakes or party decorations without its approval, The Miami Herald reported. (read article)

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