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.

BART strike: no news Tuesday may be good news

By Mike Rosenberg, October 8, 2013, San Jose Mercury News

BART and its unions were back at the negotiating table Tuesday just days before their deadline — and for riders awaiting word on whether trains will continue running, no news may have been good news. Late Monday, labor unions said they would not issue a customary 72-hour notice of a strike for Friday morning. Again on Tuesday, the workers declined to give any warning of a possible walkout. It comes after the unions — who have vowed to give the traveling public a head’s up before walking out — issued three-day notices before a July shutdown and prior to a planned August walkout that was eventually averted. “It’s definitely a positive sign,” said Harley Shaiken, a UC Berkeley professor who specializes in labor issues. If the unions were to strike without notice, as Boston school bus drivers did on Tuesday, it “would clearly anger a lot of commuters. I suspect the union is well aware of that.” Still, the strike notice is not required, and unions could still shut down BART trains after the 60-day cooling-off period ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown expires at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. The BART Board of Directors canceled a tentative meeting that had been scheduled for Wednesday evening in case a deal was in place to be voted on, making it clear the talks would go down to the wire Thursday as both sides had long suspected. (read article)

Arizona Officials to Require Voter ID

By Tamara Audi, October 8, 2013, Wall Street Journal

A decision by Arizona officials to require proof of citizenship for voters in local and state races is likely to cause confusion and may hamper Democratic efforts to alter the political dynamic of the conservative state, some elections officials and political observers said Tuesday. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the state couldn’t require proof of citizenship for those voting in federal elections. On Monday, state Attorney General Tom Horne said voters who didn’t provide proof of citizenship “should not be permitted to vote in state elections, or to sign state petitions.” Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he would comply with Mr. Horne’s instructions. It was unclear Tuesday exactly how the state’s new voting system would work, or what it might cost. State elections officials said they were working with county elections officials on structuring the new system. Mr. Bennett, a Republican who said he supports requiring proof of citizenship in elections, called the issue “a big mess.” For now, the state is requiring residents to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote, by using a birth certificate, passport or the type of Arizona driver’s license that requires proof of citizenship. (read article)

May be too late for Bloomberg administration to overhaul city workers’ health care

By Lisa Colangelo, October 8, 2013, New York Daily News

The city’s labor unions may have finally scuttled efforts by the time-bound Bloomberg administration to have employees pay a portion of their health care costs as part of a larger overhaul the municipal health insurance program. Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer issued a preliminary injunction last week that barred the city from hitting up insurance companies for proposals in its bid to find less expensive health coverage for municipal workers. Administration officials, who have long complained that rising health care costs are draining the city budget, wanted to see if they could get a better deal. The city noted in court papers that the cost of employees’ health care is $17 million a day. But the Municipal Labor Committee, which negotiates for unions on health benefits, wanted more time to review the city’s request for proposals. One controversial change would require city to workers to pay for health insurance premiums for the first time. The two sides have met several times to hash out the technical details of the $6 billion plan. The committee sought to delay the process, and the city pushed back the date to begin soliciting proposals. Now, there might not be enough time to hash out an agreement before Mayor Bloomberg leaves office. (read article)

Justices Weigh Campaign Finance in Case Watched by Teachers’ Unions

By Mark Walsh, October 8, 2013, Education Week

In a case being watched closely by the politically active teachers’ unions, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday took up a challenge to aggregate limits on individual contributions to federal candidates and parties. It was the justices’ first time revisiting campaign finance since their landmark 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations, labor unions and so-called super political action committees and has resulted in an influx of spending on elections. At issue in the new case is the aggregate limit on the amount of money an individual may contribute to all federal candidates and parties in a single two-year election cycle. The aggregate limits are a companion to base contribution limits—the amount an individual may give to a single candidate—and they are meant to prevent donors from circumventing such direct limits by giving to multiple committees and parties, all in support of their desired candidate. “Aggregate limits combat corruption,” U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the justices during Tuesday’s oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (Case No. 12-536). “If you take off the aggregate limits, … there is a very real risk … that the public will perceive that the government is being run of, by, and for those 500 people” who make the most contributions, he said. The aggregate limits are being challenged on First Amendment free speech grounds by Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama business owner and Republican Party activist who would like to give more than current limits allow. (read article)

Can’t we save “Save New York”

By Steve Levy, October 8, 2013, Washington Examiner

The chorus from that lame seventies ballad kept ringing through my ears: “You left me just when I needed you most.” It was all I could think of last month they announced that the fiscally conservative advocacy group “Save New York” had disbanded. Save New York was founded at the advent of the Cuomo administration to offset the impact that labor unions and other big-spending interests had on the political process. Their efforts have helped the State government slow its rate of growth, but now as the most important measures to help avoid fiscal Armageddon are before the legislature, this influential group has faded into the sunset. Message to its founders: Come back soon, we need you now more than ever. If you doubt the amazing impact Save New York had on the political process, reflect back to the David Paterson administration. Paterson, a lifelong liberal consensus builder, was thrust into a leadership position at a time when governments across the nation were in a state of collapse. He knew he had to make tough decisions, but Paterson had not been elected to this position and had no mandate. There hadn’t yet been the municipal bankruptcies that were to come later, or the riots in the streets of European welfare states. His attempt at fiscal reform was pounded into oblivion by an onslaught of commercials — paid for by teacher, healthcare and statewide unions — that pulled on the public’s heartstrings. (read article)

University of California union to ask members to authorize strike

By Jon Ortiz, October 8, 2013, Sacramento Bee

The bare-knuckles contract brawl between the University of California and one of its larger unions has entered the next round, with an announcement Tuesday that AFSCME Local 3299 is planning to take a strike vote at the end of this month. The union represents some 22,000 employees who provide staff support and medical services at UC hospitals. Contract talks have been deadlocked for more than a year. AFSCME officials have said they are pressing for changes to policies that waste public money and put public health at risk. The university counters that AFSCME’s concerns are a smokescreen to hide its real agenda to curtail pension changes that other unions have already accepted. The union plans to take its unfair labor practice strike vote from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30. AFSCME’s move comes after the Public Employees Relations Board last month charged the UC system with intimidating employees who participated in another strike last summer. And 10 Democratic lawmakers recently sent this letter to the UC’s new president, Janet Napolitano. The letter notes the imposed working terms on AFSCME-represented service staff affect some of the UC’s lowest-paid employees, “90% of whom are immigrants and people of color.” UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that the university’s terms for service employees gave them a 2 percent pay raise this year following 5 percent raises during each of the last two years and that they earn more than counterparts in the California State University system or the private sector. (read article)

Right-To-Work Laws Help States Like Oklahoma Shine

By Frank Keating & Brandon Dutcher, October 8, 2013, Forbes

When Indiana and, incredibly, Michigan became Right-to-Work (RTW) states in 2012, it was the first year a state had done so since our home state of Oklahoma passed Right to Work in 2001; giving every Oklahoma employee the choice of paying—or not paying—a labor union as a condition of employment. Labor-market freedom is a matter of justice, so we would support it whether or not it spurred economic growth. But for years we made the case, in various publications and public forums—including State of the State addresses, during which Gov. Keating was routinely jeered by union members in the gallery—that Right to Work would boost employment (especially in the manufacturing sector) and stimulate economic activity. A new study from the Fraser Institute, a leading Canadian think tank, suggests this is the case. (read article)

Are we witnessing a new era or final demise of unions?

By Marc Bloch, October 8, 2013, Crains Cleveland Business

With the number of union workers at an all-time low in this country, it should really come as no surprise that unions have resorted to more drastic, unconventional methods of recruitment. The use of worker centers to help recruit traditionally unorganized sectors of the workforce has caught the attention of not only the media, but also business leaders and even politicians across the country. As a result, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions has scheduled a hearing titled “The Future of Union Organizing”. The focus of the hearing is to discuss the impact of worker centers on the union movement. If you haven’t already read one of the more than dozens of national newspaper stories focused on the latest union escapades, it’s good to start with an explanation: Worker centers are non-profit organizations that “provide” services for workers in construction, restaurants, retail, food processing, agricultural, landscaping and domestic professions. Although these worker centers are not officially affiliated with unions and, on the surface, appear to not have a lot in common with them, they have been in the spotlight recently and are credited with focusing attention on workers’ rights through such tactics as the highly publicized national one-day strike in the fast food industry in mid-September. A primary advantage of worker centers is that they fall outside the scope of the National Labor Relations Act’s provisions that regulate, among other things, how and when unions can picket and can interact with employees and management. Clearly, the move by organized unions to work with worker centers signifies a willingness on the part of unions to utilize bold, new and strategic tactics to re-energize the union movement. However, by reaching out to such non-organized groups, it can also be seen as a last-ditch effort to breathe life into a languishing ideology. (read article)

Supreme Court 2013: Court Could Cripple Unions In Major Labor Cases

By Pema Levy, October 07 2013, International Business Times

Over the next few months, the Supreme Court will hear two major cases that could prove a major setback to unions’ ability to organize and collect dues — and the conservative majority on the court is making pro-labor advocates nervous. In UNITE HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall, the court will decide whether agreements between unions and employers that set the ground rules for union organizing violate the anti-corruption provision of the Labor Management Relations Act. That may sound pretty specific, but it could have far-reaching effects, leading labor expert and Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs to write that this “could be the most significant labor law case in a generation.” In this particular case, the union, Unite Here Local 355, struck an agreement with Mardi Gras, a Florida casino company, under which the casino would not interfere in the union’s organizing drive, and in return, the union promised not to strike during that organizing period. That kind of agreement is standard practice across the country. The challenge to this routine agreement alleges that the casino’s concessions to the union, which included a promise to remain neutral during the organizing campaign, violates an anti-corruption statute that was intended to keep employers from bribing unions by specifically prohibiting companies from giving union officials “things of value.” Until very recently, no one considered that these organizing agreements would constitute bribery in the same way that the casino might be trying to bribe the union by letting union officials borrow the corporate jet. The second major labor case this term involves payments to public-sector unions. In Harris v. Quinn, a home health care worker in Illinois sued the state’s governor for requiring her, as a public-sector employee, to pay union dues, arguing that these mandatory payments violate her First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Conservatives are excited about the case. (read article)

As BART strike looms, experts see hope as sides get closer

By Mike Rosenberg, October 7, 2013, San Jose Mercury News

After six months of nasty negotiations, a crippling rail shutdown and two more threatened strikes, BART and its unions are facing another strike deadline this week. But a panel of mediators enlisted by this newspaper is optimistic that the two sides will finally settle this time. Perhaps the brightest sign came last week when both sides began trading proposals back and forth for the first time during the 60-day cooling-off period and met more often, closing the gap between the competing offers from $112 million to $89 million over four years. Those initial steps — a far cry from the stonewalling strategy used all summer to try to break the other side — are typically the start of something bigger, the experts said. “The dynamic is that one side starts to move, and that encourages the other side to move. Movement begets movement in labor negotiations,” said Oakland-based Paul Roose, the state’s former top mediator who oversaw BART negotiations in 2009. The graduate students in Arlene Kostant’s negotiations class at Hastings College of the Law took on the dispute as a special project and concluded that the biggest problem was that each side was focusing on demonizing the other, a strategy that rarely proves successful. The students suggested “hitting the reset button” to switch from enemies to partners trying to solve a common problem. Each side seems to be tiptoeing in that direction. (read article)

Two Looming Risks for Future Budgets

By Nicole Gelinas, October 7, 2013, New York Times

From a skim of the first page of last week’s report from the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, a reader might think that all is well with the M.T.A. DiNapoli said that the transportation authority will have $1.9 billion more than it expected over the next four years. He even said the M.T.A. should consider “reducing the size of planned fare and toll increases.” But the M.T.A. can’t think of cutting back fare hikes until it – and the state – make progress on two goals: cutting health care costs and securing money for capital investment. As the comptroller points out, the M.T.A. will increase fares and tolls by more than twice the inflation rate over the next half-decade, following similar increases over the past half-decade. Rising labor spending, especially for health care and raises, could cripple the agency. And long-term investment costs are a big unknown. But the M.T.A. is increasing fares so steeply because key costs are also increasing quickly. Health care costs for M.T.A. workers will rise nearly 42 percent over the same period, to nearly $2 billion annually. Annual debt costs will rise nearly 30 percent, to $2.9 billion. Pension costs have nearly leveled out, rising to $1.4 billion in 2017 from $1.3 billion this year. But they have quadrupled in a decade. Even with planned fare and toll hikes, the M.T.A. faces a $100 million annual deficit in four years. The M.T.A. faces two big financial risks, too. The first is employee raises. As DiNapoli notes, “all of the M.T.A.’s labor agreements with its unionized employees have expired, some as long as four years ago.” The M.T.A.’s agreement with the Transport Workers Union, its biggest labor force, ended nearly two years ago. If the next mayor awards city unions, including the teachers union, retroactive raises, M.T.A. management will face pressure to do the same. The M.T.A.’s other risk is its long-term investment budget. (read article)

Advice for ‘Occupy’s Bank’: Stop Being One

By Matthew C. Klein, October 7, 2013, Bloomberg

Founded and owned by labor unions, Amalgamated Bank is supposed to be different from other lenders. It proudly recalls being the first institution to offer unsecured personal loans to “working people and their families” in 1924. Its equity index funds don’t just track the S&P 500, they also engage in “aggressive shareholder activism” on behalf of “sustainable social and environmental practices.” Perhaps most strikingly, Occupy Wall Street has chosen to park its savings at Amalgamated. Yet as Bloomberg News’s Max Abelson reports, Amalgamated Bank bears a striking resemblance to the large behemoths loathed by left-wing activists. This isn’t a conspiracy; it’s simply a reflection of the realities of the banking industry. (read article)

Fast Food Workers Win a Union…through Zoolidarity

By Shamus Cooke, October 07, 2013, Labor Notes

Fast food workers at the Oregon Zoo defied the odds and voted in a union, but they started acting like a union well before the vote, with “zoolidarity” actions. Photo: Laborers Local 483. Union members have watched in awe as fast food workers struck over the last year, calling for “$15 and a union.” Despite the slogan, however, the prevailing wisdom has been that union recognition isn’t really the goal; that’s too hard against giant employers insulated by a layer of franchises, with a part-time and transient workforce. Last month 142 mostly part-time food service workers, public employees at the Oregon Zoo, showed it could be done, winning a landslide election to join Laborers Local 483 in Portland. They join 137 already-union admissions and custodial employees at the zoo—about half of these are temps—doubling the size and power of the bargaining unit just in time for contract negotiations. Like the rest of Fast Food Nation, these food service workers reflect a changing economy and a changing workforce. When I worked at the Oregon Zoo as a teenager making burgers and fries, the workforce was overwhelmingly high school- and college-aged. No more. Because of the ongoing jobs crisis, many zoo food workers have college degrees or are long-term employees. Because of the low wages and the zoo’s strategy of using temporary employees, many are forced to take multiple jobs. The zoo uses the word “temporary” to refer to classifications under a cap of 1,040 hours per year. Some work 40 hours a week for up to six months. The food workforce swells in the summer, with food carts and cafés sprinkled across the zoo. Others work year-round, but part-time, some as little as one or two days a month. Many are “on call.” (read article)

VW labor chief backs UAW union bid for U.S. works council

By Andreas Cremer, October 7, 2013, Baltimore Sun

Volkswagen’s top labor leader lent weight on Monday to efforts by U.S. union UAW to represent workers at the German company’s U.S. plant, an issue that has raised hackles among some U.S. politicians and other critics of the UAW. Volkswagen prefers German-style labor representation at the plant through a works council and has held talks with the UAW about how the union can be involved in setting one up. Currently the workers at VW’s plant producing the Passat car in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are not represented by a union. But the UAW is eager to boost its membership, which has shrunk to about a quarter of the 1.5 million workers it had in 1979, and get a toehold that could allow it to expand among all foreign-owned auto companies. However, Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker has said it would be a mistake for VW to allow the UAW to organize workers at its Tennessee plant. Last month, Corker called that possibility a “job-destroying idea” and said it would make the German automaker a “laughingstock in the business world. (read article)

Rhode Island Labor Relations Board to consider calls to delay child-care union vote

By Katherine Gregg, October 7, 2013, Providence Journal

The Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board will decide Tuesday how to respond to calls for a delay in a looming child-care unionization vote, until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a related Illinois case that has already put a Minnesota union-drive on hold. In Rhode Island, the Service Employees International Union District 1199 has petitioned the state labor board for the right to represent upwards of 560 state-subsidized daycare providers, taking care of other people’s children in their own homes. The board has not yet scheduled the vote, and two advocacy groups who oppose the union drive are urging the board to delay the vote until the high court rules on the Illinois case. First, Michael Stenhouse, the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, posed this written argument to the board: “This is a major legal development, and it is the hope of our Center that the SLRB will not rush into scheduling this election, potentially violating providers’ constitutional rights to freedom of association, before it conducts a proper legal analysis of how this ruling may or may not impact related existing plans in Rhode Island.’ (read article)

Forming a student union is best route toward affordability

By Kevin Sullivan, October 7, 2013, Daily Emerald (Oregon State)

A student walks into her first class and sits down in the back of the room. The professor asks everyone to get out their books. The student doesn’t move. A sinking feeling starts in her chest and moves down to her stomach. The professor asks if everyone brought the book today. She shrinks in her chair. She didn’t purchase the book. Not because she’s a bad student, but because like so many other students on campus, she had to choose between paying rent and buying books. The roof over her head won the battle this month. Sorry, education. On Sept. 19, our faculty forged a deal with the University of Oregon administration, giving them an annual increase of 6 percent a year for two years and added benefits. Now, it’s time for the students to organize a union. Currently, the student-worker-wage on campus ranges between the minimum wage of $8.95 and $14. A union would increase that rate as well as give students health care. Imagine that for a second. Imagine if all student workers were paid $14 an hour. That increase would surely help with the 3.4 percent increase in tuition students have to deal with this year. Meanwhile, minimum wage increased at a snail’s pace of less than 1 percent in 2013. An increase in wage wouldn’t affect all students, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41 percent of full-time and nearly 72 percent of part-time students have a job. Obviously not all jobs are on campus, but wage increases would make working for the University of Oregon a hell of a lot more attractive. Wages and benefits aren’t everything though. “Not only would you be getting benefits, you’d have job security,” said James Jacobson, vice president of SEIU Local 503, the union that represents classified employees across the Oregon University System. (read article)

Labor groups push for $15 minimum wage, target Seattle-area airport

By Jonathan Kaminsky, October 6, 2013, Reuters

Voters in a working-class Seattle suburb encompassing the region’s main airport will soon decide whether to enact one of the country’s highest minimum wages for several thousand workers in the area. The ballot measure that taps into unease over American income inequality goes before voters in the city of SeaTac on November 5. If approved, some 6,300 workers at its namesake airport and nearby hotels, car rental agencies and parking lots would have to be paid at least $15 an hour – more than double the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25. The wage campaign, funded by labor and community groups, comes during a push for more liveable wages for lower-skilled workers that extends far beyond SeaTac, an ethnic hodgepodge of roughly 28,000 people that was incorporated in 1990. Washington state already mandates a higher minimum wage than the federal government or any other U.S. state, at $9.19 an hour, although it also has the highest tax burden on the poor. Nationwide, perhaps the highest wage is mandated by Sonoma, California, which has a minimum hourly rate of $15.38 for city workers and contractors. Labor groups see the proposed SeaTac wage ordinance as an opportunity to encourage other communities to take similar action. “This would be a big economic boost in the arm for a part of our region that is suffering a lot,” said Heather Weiner, a spokeswoman for the Yes for SeaTac initiative campaign, whose main funders include the Service Employees International Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (read article)

Labor judge: City employees, retirees could be entitled to bonus payments

By Chad Livengood, October 5, 2013, Detroit News

LansingA state labor law judge has ruled city employee and retirees could be entitled to as much as $174.2 million in bonus payments from excess earnings Detroit’s General Retirement System made in 2011 and 2012. But the employees and retirees aren’t likely to get paid anytime soon as the judge’s ruling is merely a recommendation to the Michigan Employee Relations Commission and the debt could get entangled in Detroit’s complicated bankruptcy case. In a written opinion released late Friday, state Administrative Law Judge Doyle O’Connor cautioned that his ruling “may well offer little more solace than an assurance of a full ticket-price refund offered while still on the sharply tilting deck of the Titanic.” O’Connor ruled Detroit’s City Council “unlawfully” breached a labor union contract in November 2011 when it ended the so-called 13th checks. The judge also said the exact sum of retroactive payments would depend on a closer examination of the pension fund’s investment returns in 2011 and 2012. (read article)

Firefighters union backs Anthony Brown in Maryland’s race for governor

By John Wagner,October 04, 2013, Washington Post

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) picked up an endorsement of his gubernatorial campaign Friday from the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, the latest labor union to offer its support. “Anthony Brown has always been a partner to Maryland’s professional firefighters, working consistently to ensure we have the support needed to do our jobs,” the organization’s president, Michael Rund, said in a statement in which the union said it represents more than 10,000 active and retired members. The nod was the latest in a series of endorsements that have come Brown’s way from fellow politicians and interest groups in what is expected to be a highly competitive race next year to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Three other labor groups have endorsed Brown thus far. (read article)

David Alvarez’s labor backers field well-heeled political committee

By Joe Yerardi, October 4, 2013, ABC News San Diego

Independent committees that support San Diego’s mayoral hopefuls — but can’t coordinate with them — are emerging as major forces in the special election. In fact, these committees have already changed the entire big-dollar fundraising picture, reports Team 10 partner, inewsource. Working Families for a Better San Diego, a political committee established in early September by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, is supporting Democrat David Alvarez and has already raised more than half a million dollars to get him elected. The Labor Council endorsed the first-term councilman, a favorite of unions and other left-leaning interest groups, last month. Since Sept. 20, Working Families has raised $620,000 from just nine contributions. The money has come from either labor unions or unions’ political action committees. The largest contribution was a $250,000 donation from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union representing government workers. Another pro-Alvarez committee has raised $15,000 from just a single contribution. This is all possible because unlike candidates, these committees can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, unions and practically anyone else. Alvarez isn’t the only candidate to have an independent committee behind him. Republican Kevin Faulconer has a group called San Diegans to Protect Jobs & the Economy. It hasn’t raised any money yet. Democrat Nathan Fletcher is supported by Restoring Trust in San Diego. That organization has raised $32,500 in the form of five contributions of between $1,250 and $10,000. Both the independent pro-Faulconer and pro-Fletcher committees likely will get a lot more money in the coming days and weeks but for now, Alvarez is the biggest beneficiary of independent expenditures. (read article)

Trade unions rail against non-union worksite

By Troy Graham, October 04, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA Trade unions have taken their dispute with developers Michael and Matthew Pestronk to a new level, producing a sleek documentary that accuses the brothers of safety and health violations at their signature project, the unfinished Goldtex building. The 20-minute documentary, unveiled Wednesday at a campaign-style event at the headquarters of electricians union Local 98, includes videos, photos, and interviews with two unidentified “undercover workers” at the job site, just north of Chinatown. The documentary shows sheetrock walls splashed in mold, a diesel fuel line allegedly run through a trash chute, and an “undersized crane” used to hoist material to upper floors among other purported safety violations. At one point, the video depicts a man scraping a ceiling while standing precariously on a bucket perched on scaffolding – a scene that drew guffaws from the large union crowd gathered for the viewing. Local 98 leader John J. “Johnny Doc” Dougherty described the Pestronk brothers as committing “economic vandalism.” “This has to be stopped,” he said. The Pestronks, who do business as Post Bros., did not respond to the individual allegations, but released a statement calling them collectively “false and reckless.” “The labor union’s ‘Johnny Doc-umentary’ should have been called ‘Labor Gone Wild,’ ” the statement said. “It’s nothing more than a video Hail Mary from a desperate group whose fearmongering is standing in the way of Philadelphia’s real growth.” The brothers launched a rehab of the 10-story former factory into 163 apartments without an all-union workforce, the first major project to do so in the city in decades. In March 2012, protesters organized by the Building Trades Council began picketing the site at 12th and Wood Streets, slowing deliveries and engaging in scuffles with workers. Two union members eventually were charged with assault, while the Pestronk brothers had to devise a ruse to sneak a crane onto the site. The brothers started a website called phillybully.com to document the confrontations and rail against the unions. (read article)

Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Accused of Playing Dirty and Stealing Information

by Tyler Hayden, October 4, 2013, Santa Barbara Independent

A labor union that has generated considerable attention and backlash over the “SHAME” banners it plants throughout Santa Barbara and beyond may have crossed a legal line it regularly toes. Two men with the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters — which is headquarted in Los Angeles, has 65,000 members in six states, and aggressively pickets developers, contractors, business owners, and anyone else it feels has wrongfully hired nonunion workers — are accused of breaking into the locked dumpster of a Santa Barbara construction firm and stealing client lists and other privileged material. Though a nearby resident witnessed the reported nighttime burglary of Frank Schipper Construction on East Cota Street and watched the men drive away in a car registered to the union, a lack of additional info — including more detailed descriptions of the suspects and questions about the actual value of what was taken — stopped the police investigation before it really began, which frustrates Schipper president Paul Wieckowski. “The union’s attitude is: ‘We’re going to do what we want to do, and you can’t stop us,’” said Wieckowski, who complained he’s dealt with union members trespassing on his job sites and hassling his employees for years. “And the police are unwilling to do anything about it,” he claimed. (read article)

Hawaii Teachers Union Applies to Join AFL-CIO

By Alia Wong, October 3, 2013, Honolulu Civil Beat

The Hawaii State Teachers Association could soon join the ranks of the AFL-CIO, a powerful political labor federation that local union leaders say would strengthen the HSTA’s voice and help it to forge partnerships with other unions. This, they say, would ultimately improve Hawaii education. The price tag for membership in Hawaii’s American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations for all 13,500 public school teachers is likely to surpass $50,000 annually, teachers say. The HSTA proposal to join the AFL-CIO aims to remedy challenges the union faces. HSTA President Wil Okabe recently sent out an email to teachers with an update on how the union’s elected board is responding to negative feedback about the association. He outlined three priorities that he said will make HSTA “stronger than ever”: transforming education by focusing on the student, making the union more relevant to members and offering programs that meet the professional needs of new teachers. (read article)

Labor rights group sues Subway for firing striker

By Michael Sarko, October 3, 2013, The Capitol Hill Times

On May 30, 2013, Carlos Hernandez walked out of his job at the Subway restaurant on Broadway. It was part of the first fast food workers’ strike of the year, which Hernandez helped organize. He walked out again on August 29, when several organizations, including Good Jobs Seattle and the Socialist Alternative political party, organized a rally and march in favor of establishing a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. In September, Hernandez lost his job, leading to a federal lawsuit filed on his behalf by Good Jobs Seattle against the national Subway corporation for wrongful termination. Good Jobs Seattle alleges that managers from Subway fired Hernandez under false pretenses in retaliation for his highly visible involvement in the recent strikes. According to those managers, Hernandez was officially fired for giving away a cookie to a small child, totaling 66 cents in lost revenue. Citing long-standing federal labor laws that prohibit terminating a person’s employment for striking, representatives at Good Jobs Seattle believe the stated reason for Hernandez’s firing was an attempt to circumvent such laws. (read article)

Chicago Labor Leaders Plan Massive March For Immigration Reform

October 3, 2013, Progress Illinois (SEIU)

Labor leaders in Chicago held a press conference Thursday morning announcing plans to hold a massive march and rally to call for “an immediate end to deportations and immigration reform legislation which will protect workers’ rights and provide for legalization for all workers.” Leaders with Chicago Federation of Labor, Illinois AFL-CIO, SEIU* Local 1, Local 881 UFCW, National Nurses United, Chicago Workers Collaborative and others plan to hold a ‘March for Dignity, Respect and Justice for Immigrants’ on Saturday, October 12 to demand that lawmakers pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that creates a path to citizenship. “This march through the streets of Chicago will demonstrate our ongoing commitment to passing real immigration reform that protects all working people,” said Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor. “Thousands of marchers will send the message directly to Congress that we will not waver in our support for dignity, respect and justice for the immigrant workers in our communities.” (read article)

America’s Largest Union Coalition Partners With Collegiate Movement

Steven Covelman, October 2, 2013, Neon Tommy (USC Annenberg)

In a move that both parties describe as beneficial to their aims, the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the U.S., and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) have agreed to a new national partnership. According to the AFL-CIO, collaborations will include campaigns for everything from the safety of Bangladeshi garment workers to protecting the freedom of U.S. workers on college campuses to organize. “The labor movement shares USAS’s values and vision for global solidarity and social justice,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “Together, we are stronger and better positioned to meet the mutual goals and objectives of improving the lives of working people. This partnership demonstrates the AFL-CIO’s determination to turn commitments on paper into action.” This agreement follows the AFL-CIO’s National Convention and the USAS’s Summer Retreat, where members of both organizations discussed ways to broaden their movements in local communities. While this is their first formal venture, both groups have worked together in the past. “We have been working closely with the AFL-CIO for years now, and it seemed like a natural partnership,” said Sarah Newell, USAS Representative to the Workers Rights Consortium and student at the University of Southern California. “We are fighting the same fight and striving towards the same goals, so it makes sense to team up on a national scale as well as a local one.” Established in 1997, the USAS is the largest youth-led organization devoted to the student labor movement. It has affiliates on over 150 college campuses, including the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE) on the University of Southern California’s campus. (read article)

BART, unions still disagree on big issues of pay, benefits

By Nick Smith, October 2, 2013, ABC San Francisco

Eight days and counting before a possible BART strike; if it happens, hundreds of thousands of commuters will have to scramble to get around. Negotiations started at 11 a.m. Wednesday and wrapped up around 6 p.m. BART’s chief negotiator Thomas Hock tells me this has been one of the most difficult negotiations he’s ever had. That’s because he’s dealing with two different unions who have to agree before they can agree together and come back to him with a proposal. BART labor unions and management continue to disagree over several issues, including pay increases, benefits, safety, and even the length of the contract. “We should be really serious about bargaining, our teams are,” ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said. The unions want a three-year agreement, BART is asking for another four-year contract. Neither side seems willing to budge. (read article)

Anchorage, unions seek quick labor referendum decision

By Nathaniel Herz, October 1, 2013, Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage’s municipal attorney and a coalition of city unions have jointly asked the Alaska Supreme Court for a quick decision on the contentious case involving the city’s new labor law. In a joint motion filed Friday, the two sides asked the Supreme Court to issue a decision in late January, which they say would give the city clerk enough time to prepare ballots for a referendum on the law as part of Anchorage’s regular election in April. The unions have already gathered enough signatures to force the city to hold a referendum on the law, but its supporters on the Anchorage Assembly have submitted a proposal to push back a vote as April, 2015. The supporters said they wanted to wait until they had a decision from the Supreme Court on an appeal filed by the city, which could proclaim the referendum effort invalid. The case stems from a dispute over whether the labor law is too narrow and technical an issue to be considered by voters. The delay is permitted under the city charter, as long as the Assembly votes to prolong a suspension of the ordinance that began in September when the unions turned in their referendum petitions. Anchorage’s unions want the referendum on the ballot in April of 2014. (read article)


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