Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Minnesota Home-Care Workers Say Yes to Union

By Kris Maher, August 26, 2014, Wall Street Journal

The Service Employees International Union scored a victory Tuesday as home health-care workers in Minnesota voted to be represented by the labor group, even as it faces a legal challenge from opponents who say the 27,000 workers involved shouldn’t be forced to join a union. The SEIU is slated to represent Minnesota home health-care workers who are paid through Medicaid. Many of them care for their own relatives. The vote, which the SEIU called the biggest organizing win in Minnesota history, is another piece in its drive to organize the fast-growing slice of the nation’s health-care sector. It already represents 600,000 home-care workers in about 20 states—nearly a third of its 1.9 million members. The SEIU released a statement quoting several home-care workers who said they believed the union would help them negotiate with the state for better pay and paid sick leave, among other things. The announcement drew criticism from opponents who have challenged the union’s right to represent the aides. Besides Minnesota, legal challenges in Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts and Washington threaten to chip away at the SEIU’s representation of home-care workers. (read article)

Bill de Blasio Slams ‘Fear-mongering’ Police Union DNC Letter

By Ross Barkan, August 26, 2014, New York Observer

“Fear-mongering,” “irresponsible,” and “opportunistic.” Those were just some of the descriptions Mayor Bill de Blasio used for an open letter the president of a police union wrote in the New York Post today. Edward Mullins, the president of the Seargants Benevolent Association, ripped Mr. de Blasio’s bid to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, claiming in a letter that New York City is “is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety.” Mr. Mullins, in calling for the DNC to not come to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, infuriated the Democratic mayor today, who said his letter was little more than a petty bargaining ploy in labor negotiations between the city and police unions. “People who care about New York City, who want to see New York City move forward, want to see New York City prosper should be supporting our convention bid,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters in Brooklyn today. “It’s clearly an effort to advance their position in terms of contract negotiations and I think it’s an irresponsible act on their part. It’s fear-mongering to try to benefit their own position in labor talks and that’s just not responsible,” he added. “If any unions want to try and better their economic position, that’s certainly their right. But do it based on facts: don’t try and stoke fear.” Relations between Mr. de Blasio and police unions leaders, including Mr. Mullins and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, are badly strained. (read article)

Port of Portland labor dispute faces irreconcilable differences

Editorial, August 26, 2014, The Oregonian

The long-running battle between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and ICTSI Oregon Inc., which operates the Port of Portland’s container terminal, essentially returned to square one late last week. Friday, the Port announced that it was rescinding an agreement that gave the ILWU control of work related to plugging and unplugging refrigerated containers. A fight over those tasks, handled by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for decades, was the trigger point for slowdowns that have plagued the Port since June 2012. Gov. John Kitzhaber orchestrated an agreement that gave the so-called reefer work to the longshore union in December 2013 with the expectation that the union’s pace of work would increase. But little changed, leading the Port to pull the plug on the deal Friday. The union’s response was predictable. “Productivity at the ICTSI facility is directly related to ICTSI’s irresponsible and incompetent management. Nothing more,” ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent wrote in a statement sent to The Oregonian’s Mike Francis. (read article)

Cuomo’s union troubles underscore years of tensions, analysts say

By Yancey Roy, August 26, 2014, Newsday

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s hard-line stances with teachers over performance evaluations and public employees on contracts and pensions have led some unions to decline to endorse him for re-election. Labor unions have been a traditional strength of Democratic candidates for governor, though the relationship is evolving, experts said. And Cuomo is far from being without any union support — individual private-sector unions, such as those in construction, are expected to endorse him. But the unions that have broken away underscore the trouble the governor is having with some core Democrat supporters and the political left, analysts said, although others note that some voters will view Cuomo’s tough stances with unions as a positive. Last week, the state AFL-CIO, which represents 2.5 million workers and retirees statewide, declined to make an endorsement in the gubernatorial election after one union official said it “became clear” Cuomo would have lost a floor vote among its delegates. That mirrored decisions by the New York State United Teachers and Civil Service Employees Association to sit out the race because of deep divisions about Cuomo. (read article)

Michigan unions brace for teacher opt-out decision

By David Eggert, August 25, 2014, Associated Press

Organized labor and pro-business groups are waging an intense lobbying campaign directed at school teachers who are deciding this month whether to remain in their union, in the first real test of the state’s new right-to-work law. Many of the 112,000 active educators and school workers in the Michigan Education Association can now leave the union and stop paying fees under the law that took effect last year. Other major unions, covered by multi-year contracts, won’t reach the opt-out point until 2015 or later. With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state’s largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated. “If I don’t stand up and stay in my union, then we don’t have a voice,” said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi. Meanwhile, conservative groups are running ads and publicizing the chance for teachers to “grow your paycheck and workplace freedom.” (read article)

NLRB: Jimmy John’s Can’t Fire Workers for Sick-Leave Protest

By Josh Eidelson, August 25, 2014, Business Week

The government is ordering a Jimmy John’s franchisee to rehire workers who were fired after putting up posters suggesting that the people making customers’ sandwiches could be ill. In a decision dated Thursday, Aug 21, the National Labor Relations Board found that a Minnesota Jimmy John’s violated the National Labor Relations Act when it fired half a dozen workers active in a union campaign by the Industrial Workers of the World. According to the NLRB, pro-union workers, to protest their lack of paid sick days, had put up posters on community bulletin boards in the stores and in public places in the vicinity. The workers “clearly intend to harm and the security of the 240 local jobs we provide,” said Mike Mulligan, the president of the franchisee, MikLin Enterprises. Although U.S. labor law generally bans retaliation against workers for taking collective action to improve their working conditions, the NLRB has ruled that companies can punish workers whose communications to the public are “so disloyal, reckless or maliciously untrue as to lose the Act’s protection.” So management argued it had the right to can the Jimmy John’s activists. (read article)

Unions Face Backlash for Joining March on Staten Island

By Nikita Stewart, August 23, 2014, New York Times

On the eve of a demonstration over the death of a black Staten Island man in police custody, organizers were making sure the official signs carried messages that, while protesting aggressive policing, did not castigate the New York Police Department. Signs reading “Support NYPD. Stop Police Brutality” would be dotted among those reading “Respect Human Rights” and “Justice for Eric Garner” at the march on Saturday, said Chelsea-Lyn Rudder, a spokeswoman for 1199 S.E.I.U. United Healthcare Workers East, one of several labor unions participating in the protest. The careful sign-making came as the labor unions faced backlash from police unions, over both their involvement in general and because the demonstration, on Staten Island, was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, a lightning rod in police-community relations in New York City. Specifically, the United Federation of Teachers was facing off with some of its own members who demanded the resignation of its president, Michael Mulgrew, over the union’s involvement and threatened to end contributions to the group’s political action committee. (read article)

12 Things You Need To Know About Government Unions

By Stan Greer, August 22, 2014, The Federalist

The recent Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn has shifted forced unionism across the country. 1. Even pro-union politicians used to think public sector unionism was too radical. Long after the pro-union monopoly National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was adopted in 1935, even strong supporters of this statute rejected the appropriateness of attempting anything analogous in federal, state, or local government. For example, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who just two years earlier had publicly endorsed and signed the NLRA, wrote a letter to a government union official explaining it is “impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or bind the employer” in dealings with “Government employee organizations” because “the employer is the whole people.” 2. Politicians later empowered private groups to tax government employees…. (read article)

Bill de Blasio’s administration settles two more labor deals

By Jennifer Fermino, August 22, 2014, New York Daily News

The de Blasio administration on Friday announced it had settled labor pacts with two more city unions following the same pattern as the ratified UFT contract, which includes modest pay raises. Including these new contracts, the city has now settled with over 60% of its workforce. When Mayor de Blasio took office in January, every single labor union was operating on expired pacts. The new deals cover the SEIU Local 300, which includes fingerprint technicians, forensic mortuary technicians, and other titles, and the United Probation Officers Association. The Local 300 contract, which covers 775 employees, was settled for a gross cost of $14.43 million. After projected savings, that cost will drop to $7.11 million, according to the mayor’s office. The gross cost of the UPOA deal covering 691 workers is $18.09 million, which comes down to $11.56 million after including savings the union has already agreed to, City Hall said. “Today’s tentative agreements with Local 300 and UPOA mean contracts for workers who have been working without them for years—providing raises that are consistent with the established pattern and including unprecedented, guaranteed health care savings, while keeping out-year gaps below average,” de Blasio said. “By continuing to work together, we’ll find additional workplace savings that benefit our City and workers alike.” (read article)

Kansas fights labor rule for home health workers

By Roxana Hegeman, August 21, 2014, Albany Times Union

The federal government may not know the “unintended consequences” of a planned labor rule that aims to protect domestic service workers, Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday. Brownback met Thursday with home health-care givers and their charges at the Independent Living Resource Center to rally public opposition to the regulation, which would require overtime pay for such workers under federal wage laws. “We are fearful it is going to lead to further institutionalization of people,” Brownback said, alarming many in the audience who depend on such workers so they can live at home rather than an institution. But some domestic service workers, many of whom are family members caring for disabled relatives, also urged the governor to have the Medicaid-funded program that provides the care pay them a fair wage. (read article)

Ford worker challenges UAW union dues

Alisa Priddle, August 21, 2014, Detroit Free Press

A Ford worker has filed charges against the UAW and the automaker seeking a partial refund of his union dues. Todd Lemire, a tool-and-die maker in Dearborn for 16 years, filed charges last week with the National Labor Relations Board. He is receiving free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation. If Lemire and the foundation prevail, the case could encourage other workers to take the same action and hinder the UAW’s fund-raising for political purposes. It would be a symbolic victory for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislators who pushed through Michigan’s right-to-work law in late 2012. The UAW in Michigan may automatically deduct dues from members’ pay through the Sept. 15, 2015, expiration of its current contracts with the Detroit Three automakers. Under future contracts, workers in the state will be able to opt out of paying any union dues. (read article)

Palo Alto to appeal ruling from labor board

By Gennady Sheyner, August 20, 2014, Palo Alto Weekly

The City of Palo Alto will appeal a recent ruling by the Public Employment Relations Board, which has said that the city violated state law in failing to confer with the city’s firefighters union before placing on the November 2011 ballot a measure to repeal binding arbitration. During a closed session Monday night, the council voted 7-0, with council members Pat Burt and Gail Price absent, to challenge the labor board’s Aug. 6, which overturned an earlier decision in favor of the city by administrative law judge Shawn P. Cloughesy. Both rulings were a response to a complaint filed by the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1319, which charged the city with not negotiating in good faith before placing Measure D on the ballot. The measure overwhelmingly passed, with more than two-thirds of the voters supporting the repeal of binding arbitration. In voting to challenge the ruling, the council followed the recommendation of City Attorney Molly Stump, who told the Weekly last week that she would recommend doing so. Though the labor board’s ruling did not invalidate the Measure D vote, it left the city vulnerable the firefighters union challenging the vote in Superior Court. The labor board also required the city to post public notices disclosing that it has violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act “by breaching its duty of consultation in good faith” with the firefighters union. (read article)

The State Worker: State scientists face labor contract test

By Jon Ortiz, August 20, 2014, San Luis Obispo Times

It’s test time for California’s 3,000 state government scientists. Last week, the five-member bargaining team for the California Association of Professional Scientists reached a tentative agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown. It gives the union’s members a $1,000 bonus if they ratify the contract and 3 percent raise next July 1, when the deal expires. Then on Wednesday the Brown administration signed orders for 570 scientist supervisors and managers to receive pay raises of up to 42 percent, a cost of $24.4 million for this year alone. (About 3,500 state engineering supervisors get an 8 percent raise under the terms of the same administrative order. Total first-year cost: $32 million.) Although the state owes the money from losing a pay parity lawsuit filed on behalf of those employees years ago, some rank-and-file scientists are sure to see Brown’s contract offer as a comparative insult. What’s more, the union rank and file recently rejected a contract that offered more money than the current tentative agreement. (read article)

The Latest Attack on Labor, From The Group That Brought Us ‘Harris v. Quinn’

By Moshe Z. Marvit, August 20, 2014, In These Times

On the heels of its recent Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, the National Right to Work Committee and Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) has initiated a bold new attack on unions. In a recent fundraising appeal sent on August 10, the president of both organizations wrote that Harris “was just the beginning,” and that fair share provisions (or, as he called them, “forced dues”) were only “part of the problem.” Now, having succeeded in imposing a right-to-work model for home healthcare workers across the country, NRTW is gunning after a much greater and unexpected target: exclusive representation. One of the bedrock principles of American labor law is exclusive representation, whereby a union represents all the workers in a bargaining unit after it shows majority support by the workers. In a new case filed on behalf of a few Minnesota home care workers, Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW is now arguing that a union elected by the majority of workers should not be permitted to represent anyone that does not choose to join. (read article)

Obama’s Top Ex-Advisers Are Cashing In On Fighting Unions

By Jacob Fischler, August 20, 2014, BuzzFeed

President Obama’s innovative, take-no-prisoners campaigns crafted an elite force of operatives, skilled in the political arts. Now that they’re done helping Obama, however, it appears they have a new goal: weakening and defeating organized labor. On Tuesday, Obama’s former top White House adviser and 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe signed on with Uber, the company known for its slick app and on-demand cars — and efforts to break taxi-union holds on urban transportation. Plouffe joins former top Obama campaign and White House communications strategist Robert Gibbs and Obama’s national press secretary for the 2012 campaign Ben LaBolt, who are using their talents in a campaign against the power of teacher’s unions. Along with them is Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, who went to London to work for the reelection of England’s Conservative Party government, which is campaigning on a platform that includes new rules English labor says would make it “close to impossible” to go on strike. American labor is still wary of talking on the record about Obama, but union frustration with the path Obama’s campaign dream team has taken is palpable. (read article)

Detroit police union reach tentative agreement on labor contract

By Joe Guillen, August 20, 2014, Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Police Officers Association Wednesday reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract with the city, union president Mark Diaz said. The deal, which still needs to be voted on by members of the union, completes a smaller piece of the agreement reached in July on wages, benefits and other economic terms. Diaz said he couldn’t comment on terms of the contract yet until meeting with union leadership. “Reaching a tentative agreement with a bankrupt city has been incredibly difficult,” Diaz said. (read article)

Labor organizing underway at Boeing, MUSC despite anti-union climate in S.C.

By Paul Bowers, August 20, 2014, Charleston City Paper

After finishing a day’s work at the Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston, aircraft mechanic Farrington James stops by the new machinists’ union hall, a spartan storefront office in a strip mall on Dorchester Road. He’s been thinking about what he’ll say to the press, jotting down notes on a sheet of paper. When he speaks, his words are measured and calm. He wants to talk about joining a union. “I know, learning from these guys, that it’s a can of worms,” James says, gesturing to the two union organizers working at their desks across the room. “But at the same time, we want to get some visibility on this and inspire other workers to really understand it’s OK to talk to people. I think it’ll be the start of something great.” James has his work cut out for him. It is famously difficult to start a union in South Carolina. The state has the third-lowest union participation rate in the country, with just 4.7 percent of workers represented by unions. Part of the reason has to do with the Palmetto State’s right-to-work laws, which prevent an employer from making an agreement with a union to only hire unionized workers. As a result, some workers in right-to-work states might reap the benefits of a union’s efforts — including negotiated wages and grievance representation — without paying a nickel in union dues. This phenomenon has been called the “free rider problem.” One 1995 study published in the Journal of Labor Research found that 17 percent of covered workers in right-to-work states are free riders. And yet, despite the regulatory challenges, labor organizing efforts are underway at Boeing, the Medical University of South Carolina, and some local fast-food franchises. (read article)

Unions Violate Labor Law, Too

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth, August 20, 2014, Wall Street Journal

President Obama’s new “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order” requires federal contractors to disclose labor law violations for the past three years to the government before their contracts can be approved. Violations of 14 labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, must be reported to the contracting agency, and repeat violators will not receive contracts. The executive order, signed on July 31, leaves the administration with enormous discretion for enforcement and gives it one more tool to bash its enemies and reward its friends. One question arises: will the executive order be applied to unions? After all, unions such as the American Federal of Government Employees and the National Federation of Federal Employees sign contracts with government agencies, and therefore are government contractors, subject to the executive order. Unions as well as corporations can be guilty of violating labor laws. The National Labor Relations Board’s Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act contains a section entitled “Unfair Labor Practices of Labor Organizations.” These unfair labor practices include coercive conduct of union officials, threats to affect an employee’s job status if he does not support union activity, and discriminating on the basis of race or sex. (read article)

Unions, Activists Align on Affordable Housing

By Laura Kusisto, August 19, 2014, Wall Street Journal

A group of New York City construction unions have forged a coalition with affordable housing activists to ratchet up pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to require organized labor in the building of 80,000 lower-cost apartment units over the next decade. The unions say they will begin supporting a call for 50% of the new units to be set aside for lower- and middle-income residents, a key tenet of the housing advocates’ agenda and a departure from past practice in the city. Unions are also willing to make an unusual concession, accepting wages that are 40% lower than normal union pay on affordable-housing projects in certain neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and upper Manhattan for a new class of workers with less experience than existing members, many of them drawn from local communities. The coalition would bring together two powerful interest groups who have traditionally been at odds. Much affordable housing has traditionally been built without union labor because developers, advocates and policy makers say that higher wages means fewer units. The alliance shifts the political landscape for Mr. de Blasio in a challenging way, as he tries to fulfill his campaign promise of fostering new affordable housing construction while also maintaining positive relationships with real-estate firms that are wary of the 50% requirement. (read article)

Labor unions organize to back Taveras for R.I. governor

By Katherine Gregg, August 19, 2014, Providence Journal

A phalanx of public and private unions — including the largest state employees union — have announced the creation of a new “Working Families for Angel” coalition to promote Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’ bid to become Rhode Island’s next governor. Monday’s announcement was headlined: “Labor Increases Involvement in Democratic Primary for Governor.” It said: “Today, some of the largest private and public sector labor unions in Rhode Island announced the formation of a coalition that has the potential to have a significant impact on the Democratic race for Governor. Another headline read: “Working Families for Angel Coalition, over 30,000 strong, represents significant portion of electorate in Democratic race for governor.” With far less money in his campaign fund, Taveras risks being significantly outspent by two of his opponents in the Democratic primary race: state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and newcomer Clay Pell, who worked briefly in the U.S. Department of Education after active-duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. Each has their own bloc of labor supporters: Raimondo from among the construction trade unions, and Pell from the National Education Association of Rhode Island, among others. (read article)

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