Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Golden Gate Bridge Union Workers Begin Strike Over Health-Care Benefits

By Jeffrey Schaub, September 16, 2014, CBS San Francisco

Union workers began a one-day strike Tuesday morning at the Golden Gate Bridge over the healthcare contributions they say they were promised by theGolden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Despite the picket lines, however, buses and ferries are running as scheduled. Bridge workers, mostly from Machinists Local 1414, formed a picket line Tuesday morning on the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, where the buses enter. They were joined by some bridge painters and mechanics. Members of 13 unions making up the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition came to their decision Monday after union members had voted in August to authorize a strike. There has been no contract settlement in that time. “Back in 2012, we came to an agreement with the district on health care for retirees and the district is not honoring that agreement and so this really signifies why there’s such a lack of trust,” Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, told KCBS. He said retirees are not getting the healthcare coverage that they were promised. Bridge district General Manager Denis Mulligan told the San Francisco Examiner that the district offers multiple medical plans, with the most expensive—a PPO plan that costs the agency $33,000 annually per family. As for pay, district officials said they offered a 9 percent increase over thee years but the coalition said that raise would be negated by union members having to pay more for healthcare premiums. They want a 4 percent a year raise. (read article)

Labor union protest sparks controversy

By Sara Molenda, September 16, 2014, Sonoma State Star

The Carpenters 46 Workers Union protested in front of the Sonoma State University last week. Members of University Carpenters 46 Workers Union gathered in protest at Sonoma State early last week. Representatives from the union passed out flyers on campus sporting a grim reaper holding a money bag with the words SUNDT and Profit on the image. SUNDT Construction is not working on any current projects at Sonoma State, however this is the third demonstration where members in construction unions have protested against the actions, or lack thereof, of SUNDT Construction and the lack of action against the university to act on the demands of the protestors. Two separate protests occurred on two other California State University campuses earlier this year, one at San Jose State University and the other at Cal State East Bay. Descriptions of the flyers from each of the protests all seem to match up. (read article)

CNN Ordered to Rehire Over 100 Union Techs, Compensate Many More

By Jonathan Handel, September 16, 2014, Hollywood Reporter

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday ordered CNN to rehire more than 100 union technicians in the network’s New York and Washington bureaus, compensate more than 200 others wrongly paid at lower wage rates, and recognize a unit of the Communications Workers of America as the bargaining representative of the affected employees. The decision, which affirmed a 2008 administrative law decision and concerned layoffs that took place in 2003, may be particularly unpleasant for network parent Turner Broadcasting to implement, given that the company is currently slashing jobs: about 600 employees, many at CNN and sister channel HLN, received voluntary buyout offers in August, with layoffs believed to be looming. The decision may also complicate Turner’s search for additional executive talent. Turner is a unit of Time Warner. (read article)

Unions trumpet historic win in American Airlines vote

By Heather Caygle, September 16, 2014, Politico

Reservation agents at Texas-based American Airlines have voted overwhelmingly for union representation, in a move that labor organizers hailed Tuesday as a historic win in the South. The agents chose to join with US Airways agents to form a bargaining unit of 14,500 employees at the new American Airlines. The two airlines merged this year, taking American’s name. The combined group of airport and reservation agents will be represented by the Communications Workers of America-Teamsters Association. The CWA called it “the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also praised the vote, saying it proves that the “future of the U.S. labor movement is alive.” “It should not be lost on the pundits that most of the nearly 14,500 new union members work in southern states,” Trumka said in a statement. “The right to a voice at work doesn’t have a geographic predisposition, and this victory will energize ongoing organizing efforts in the South.” Of the 9,000 American Airlines service agents, roughly 86 percent supported the vote for union representation. US Airways agents have been members of the CWA since 2000. (read article)

Settlement reduces Ohio teachers’ forced union fees

By Jason Hart, September 15, 2014, Ohio Watchdog

Ohio’s largest labor union will issue partial fee refunds and reduce mandatory “fair share” fees taken from teachers under a class-action settlement approved by a federal judge on Sept. 9. The settlement, which affects nonmembers of Ohio Education Association covered by the union’s contracts in public schools across the state, was more than three years in the making. Thousands of current and former teachers are eligible for refunds, and tens of thousands of future teachers could see fee reductions until 2040. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented Green Local School District teacher Kathleen Thaxton and 13 other current and former teachers who declined OEA membership. The teachers’ complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in August 2011. Not only will the case impact OEA’s bottom line for decades, it could have implications for other labor unions across the state. (read article)

National Labor Leader Says Unions, Like The Nation, Must Confront Racism

By Jo Mannies, September 15, 2014, St. Louis Public Radio

National AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says that the unrest in Ferguson illustrates the need for a more vigorous national discussion on race and racism. And labor unions, which have had their racial problems, must be part of the conversation, he acknowledged. “We have to be willing to look at ourselves critically,’’ Trumka told reporters Monday. “If we have things that need to change, we need to change them. We’re not perfect. We’re trying to get better every single day. But we’re not perfect.” Trumka was interviewed after he had addressed Missouri labor leaders at a convention at the downtown Crowne Plaza hotel. In his speech, which was closed to the press, Trumka noted the labor connections on both sides of the unrest, which began with the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by a Ferguson police officer. (read article)

Illinois is labor’s next big battleground

By Ned Resnikoff, September 14, 2014, MSNBC

For decades, the Midwest has been a fortress for the embattled American labor movement. But in recent years, it has turned into something much closer to a battleground. In Michigan – the cradle of the American auto industry and the powerful labor union United Auto Workers (UAW) – Republican Gov. Rick Snyder successfully passed “right-to-work” legislation that weakened unions by making it illegal for them to automatically charge fees to the workers they represent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another Republican, famously presided over the passage of Act 10 in 2011, restricting public workers’ collective bargaining rights. And in Indiana, organized labor continues to fight a prolonged legal battle against the state’s own 2012 right-to-work law. Now labor unions in Illinois fear they could be next. This year, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is squaring off against a Republican challenger who has made opposition to the labor movement into a central plank of his campaign. Bruce Rauner, a venture capitalist, has promised to establish “right-to-work” zones in Illinois if elected and dramatically revise the state’s public employee retirement system. He has launched bromides against “government union bosses” and touted his donations to charter schools. In other words, he’s everything that labor unions in Illinois fear. And he could win. (read article)

L.A. police union: there’s no talking to the city

By Kellie Mejdrich, September 12, 2014, Los Angeles Register

Los Angeles’ police union declared an impasse Friday in its labor negotiations with city officials. “The city’s most recent offer is not only insulting, it’s regressive,” said Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union representing more than 9,900 rank-and-file officers in the police department. In a notice to the city Friday, the union wrote that after 28 meetings this year, it can’t agree with the city on salaries, health care contributions, overtime compensation or bonuses for specialized units. The latest meeting was Monday. Declaring an impasse is part of a formal city process that could usher in third-party negotiators to help parties reach an agreement, according to city documents. The request will go to the city’s employee relations board, which could result in the appointment of a mediator and result in a fact-finding mission. Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as councilmen Herb Wesson and Paul Krekorian all said Friday they don’t agree with the union’s position. (read article)

NJ’s largest labor union files ethics complaint against Chris Christie advisor over pension losses

By Ryan Gorman, September 12, 2014, AOL.com

New Jersey’s largest labor union will file a grievance with the state’s ethics commission over pension investments reportedly channeled to firms close to Governor Chris Christie. The AFL-CIO has sent an 11-page letter to the investigative body claiming State Investment Council Robert Grady improperly directed hundreds of millions of dollars to Wall Street firms charging exorbitant fees, the Newark Star-Ledger first reported. The complaint comes on the heels of a series of reports from the International Business Times and Pando Daily detailing how taxpayers lost millions of dollars in fees to investment banks and hedge funds suddenly handed large chunks of the state’s pension under sometimes questionable circumstances. Union President Charles Wowkanech claims in a letter to the commission that Grady “violated the Division’s own rules barring politics in the selection and retention of such funds and investments, and has further created an appearance of impropriety,” according to the Star-Ledger. Top officials at the firms reportedly have prior relationships with Christie and key advisors, and have even donated massive sums to Republican campaigns, according to the paper. (read article)

Ohio teachers, paid an average of $61,000, ready to strike

By Jason Hart, September 11, 2014, Watchdog.org

A teachers union whose members were paid an average of $61,069 during the 2012-2013 school year announced Monday its intent to strike starting Sept. 19. The strike notice followed weeks of what the school district describes as “bad faith bargaining.” Reynoldsburg Education Association logoReynoldsburg Education Association, an affiliate of National Education Association and Ohio Education Association, has been negotiating a new contract with Reynoldsburg City School District since May. The union plans to picket up to 20 locations, including school buildings, athletic facilities and district offices. In a release announcing the 10-day strike notice, union spokeswoman Kathy Evans accused the school board and superintendent of “continuing a divisive ideological crusade” by pushing to implement merit pay and refusing to meet union demands on raises and class size caps. Evans was paid $85,515 during the 2012-2013 school year, based on Ohio Department of Education data posted online by free market think tank Opportunity Ohio. Dolores Tufaro, an OEA labor relations consultant assisting with the union’s negotiations, was paid $130,633 in teacher dues in 2013. (read article)

Conservative group sues Madison school board, teachers union over labor contract

By Todd Richmond, September 10, 2014, Minneapolis Star Tribune

School officials in Madison violated Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law barring public employers from collectively bargaining with their workers when it set up new contracts with the local teachers unions, a conservative group alleged in a lawsuit filed late Wednesday. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty alleges the Madison school board, the school district and Madison Teachers Inc. all violated Walker’s law that stripped almost all public workers of their collective bargaining rights, when the parties negotiated new contracts for this school year and the next. The school board, district and union knew they could not negotiate anything more than wage increases based on inflation under the law, the lawsuit alleges. Despite the institute’s warnings, they began negotiations for a new 2014-15 contract in September 2013 and ratified it in October. What’s more, they began negotiating a deal for the 2015-16 school year this past May and ratified it in June, according to the lawsuit. Both deals go beyond base wage changes to include working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, tenure and union dues deductions, the lawsuit said. Taxpayers will be irreparably harmed if the contracts are allowed to stand because they’ll have to pay extra, the lawsuit went on to say. It demands that a Dane County judge invalidate the contracts and issue an injunction blocking them from being enforced. (read article)

Bombshell BART report slams hiring of union-busting negotiator Tom Hock

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, September 10, 2014, SF Bay Guardian

Independent investigators analyzing BART’s recent turmultuous, rollercoaster-ride labor negotiations issued their report yesterday, concluding that last year’s pair of damaging strikes could and should been avoided. The opinions that the analysts collected from the unions, management, and BART’s Board of Directors covered a wide spectrum, but there were a couple of common themes. First, the strikes and the death of two BART workers who were killed on the tracks when BART management ran scab-run trains while the workers were on strike, were devastating to the district and its personnel. “We just walked out of a war,” one anonymous BART employee (or manager) told the report authors. Other anonymous quotes follow a similar theme: “It was like Vietnam… Labor massacare… The bloodiest strike ever… He was our hired gun… They threw bombs.” The second thing everyone agreed on, from management to the unions, was that hiring union-buster labor consultant Tom Hock as a negotiator was a bad idea. “I think a lot of the stakeholders involved and unions have identified that Tom Hock was the problem,” Tom Radulovich, a BART board director, told the Guardian. “This (report) validates my concerns. They talked to everybody.” (read article)

Scott Walker targeted in fall union offensive

By Matea Gold, September 10, 2014, Washington Post

The nation’s largest public sector union is mounting an intense effort to eject Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office this fall, determined to oust the Republican who punctured the power of organized labor in the state. “We have a score to settle with Scott Walker,” Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in his first interview about the union’s midterm strategy. “He took collective bargaining away from us,” Saunders added, noting that the union was first started in the 1930s by state employees in Madison. “He stole our voices, in a state where we were born.” A spokeswoman for Walker, who is in a tough reelection fight, did not respond to requests for comment. Walker is in a tough reelection fight against Democratic challenger Mary Burke. Alleigh Marre, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement that “the big government union bosses are bitter about Governor Walker’s reforms which have saved taxpayers $3 billion to date, and they’re going to stop at nothing to undo the recall by bankrolling Mary Burke’s campaign.” “When the union bosses say they ‘have a score to settle with Scott Walker,’ they really mean Wisconsin taxpayers because that’s who Governor Walker is protecting with his reforms,” Marre added. (read article)

Unions spending big to defeat city labor law in November

By Devin Kelly, September 9, 2014, Alaska Dispatch News

Unions determined to defeat Anchorage’s controversial labor law at the ballot box in November have launched a campaign marked by heavy advertising spending. The No on 1 – Repeal 37 campaign recently purchased $300,000 in radio advertising, according to a Sept. 4 filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. “It’s going to be tight in this market because of all the other races,” said Gerard Asselin, president of the Anchorage Coalition of Unions and an Anchorage police sergeant. “So we made the decision up front to buy as much radio as we could.” Another $13,000 has been spent to run ads on People Mover buses. The ads, which began running Monday and will stay up until Oct. 5, feature the slogan “Keep Anchorage Safe” above the words “No on 1” and “Repeal AO-37.” The funds come out of a pool of money that had reached $380,000 at the time of the latest APOC filing. The filing showed the city police union had contributed $250,000, which Asselin, who is also treasurer of the union, said came strictly out of union dues. “Obviously, more will be coming,” Asselin said, though he did not say how much more. The firefighters union contributed the other $130,000, according to the APOC filing, which a union representative said was a combination of dues and private donations. Other city unions are also jumping into the funding mix. (read article)


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

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!