Unions In The News – Weekly Highlights

Unions In The News – Weekly Highlights

Unions Try To Replace San José Mayor Over Pension Reform

By Connor D. Wolf, October 14, 2014, Daily Caller

Labor unions in San José, Calif. are overwhelmingly opposing the Democratic mayoral candidate who backed pension reforms they claim are bad for the city. Their choice is Dave Cortese, a county supervisor and former city councilman, who opposed the pension reform proposal known as Measure B. He is also expected to seek a settlement for the union suits against Measure B, if he wins. The measure was designed to control runaway employer costs, according to Public CEO, but has attracted a lot of controversy in the meantime. Measure B was advocated by incumbent Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed, who has also been severely criticized by unions. Reed is endorsing Democrat Sam Liccardo as his replacement because term limits prevent him from running for reelection. Liccardo is seen as another Measure B supporter. The San José Police Officers’ Association argues that as a result of this pension reform, most of the first new training graduates this fall will leave, due to low pay and pensions. Additionally the police union president, Jim Unland, predicts that 200 officers may leave if Liccardo is elected. (read article)

After Google and Facebook labor wins, Silicon Valley government contractors under fire

By Lauren Hepler, October 14, 2014, Silicon valley Business Journal

Drivers of Facebook’s Inc.’s famous shuttle buses are strategizing with Teamsters. Google Inc. is abandoning an often-maligned security contractor to hire 200 of its own guards. Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, chalks those two recent high-profile actions up to effective organization of workers who personify Silicon Valley’s growing income gap. “We’ve been working to up the pressure on high tech and get high-tech companies to use responsible contractors,” Field told me. “The recent attention about occupational segregation at high-tech companies has hit those companies hard.” But Field and allied labor advocates are by no means content with rankling the reputations of multibillion-dollar tech companies. Up next for labor advocates bent on making a dent in their priority list while the economy is hot: Raising wages and improving benefits for the roughly 16,000 workers who are contracted, directly or indirectly, by Santa Clara County each year. (read article)

Why Is California Labor Board Trying to Force Union Membership on Farm Workers?

By Carl Horowitz, October 14, 2014, National Legal and Policy Center

Under federal law, employees have as much right to leave a union as they do to form one. Apparently, that principle doesn’t apply in California. For the past year, a de facto alliance between the United Farm Workers (UFW) and a state agency, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, has been making it all but impossible for employees of a major grower, the Fresno-based Gerawan Farming, to decertify the UFW as their bargaining agent. And the workers are signaling their frustration. On August 26, hundreds of Gerawan workers marched on the board’s Visalia regional office to demand a count of a decertification vote held last November. The board’s justification for its inaction is that Gerawan broke the law in various ways. Yet there has been no investigation of the UFW-driven allegations. Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, to the surprise of many observers, vetoed a bill that would have drastically expanded UFW powers. Unions, in theory, are voluntary organizations. (read article)

San Francisco Court Workers Hold 1-Day Strike

October 14, 2014, Bay City News

A one-day strike held by San Francisco Superior Court workers with Service Employees International Union Local 1021 at courthouses across the city Tuesday slowed down the city’s justice system, court officials said. SEIU Local 1021 workers set up picket lines at the city’s three courthouses, alleging that court management is bargaining over their labor contracts in bad faith. The union filed charges with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board alleging that the court has refused to bargain over mandatory issues, withheld information from the union so it can bargain properly and has threatened the jobs of union members at the bargaining table. Michael Yuen, the court executive officer for the San Francisco Superior Court, has been bargaining with the union since March and said the alleged unfair labor practices charge is “bogus.” Yuen said that the court is in the process of seeking an injunction to end the strike and also plans to file their own charge with the Public Employment Relations Board over Tuesday’s demonstrations, which he said are unlawful. (read article)

Group Warns Blacks, If You Don’t Vote You’ll Need A Bullet-Proof Vest

By Chuck Ross, October 14, 2014, Daily Caller

A community organization group with ties to labor unions and to George Soros is out with a dramatic get-out-the-vote ad featuring an African-American mother forcing her son to wear a bullet-proof vest in order to protect himself from being shot by police and “vigilantes.” Dream Defenders, the group behind the ad, first gained national attention last year when it held a 31 day protest at the Florida state capitol following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The group’s executive director is Phillip Agnew who is paid as an organizer by Service Employees International Union, one of the largest labor unions in the country. The group has also received funding from the Tides Foundation, a non-profit group partially financed by the billionaire Soros. (read article)

UAW accused of rejecting worker’s attempt to quit union

By Sean Higgins, October 14, 2014, Washington Examiner

The United Auto Workers refused to allow a Michigan member to resign her union membership, according to a legal complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. That constitutes a challenge to the state’s new right to work law, which forbids workers from being obligated to join or otherwise support labor unions. Kathy Sulkowski, a truck driver with CEVA Logistics U.S. Inc., filed the charge with the NLRB Friday. She is being represented by the National Right to Work Foundation, a nonprofit group supported by business groups. According to her complaint, Sulkowski notified the UAW Local 600 in August of her desire to resign her membership. On Sept. 18, Local 600 told her that her request was denied and that to be released from membership she had to show up in person at the office and provide photo identification. “UAW union officials’ latest tactic to show up in person and furnish photo identification is designed to dissuade or intimidate workers from exercising their rights to refrain from membership,” said NRTW President Mark Mix. A Local 600 spokesman could not be reached for comment. (read article)

Where Are The Labor Unions For the 2014 Midterms?

Katie Pavlich, October 14, 2014, Townhall.com

It isn’t just Democrat voters who are uninterested in heading to the polls in November. There is one major political group missing from the 2014 midterm election conversation: labor unions. Labor leaders shamelessly helped re-elected President Obama in 2012, but after broken promises on job creation and the destruction of worker healthcare plans, they’ve taken a major step back from their traditional role of putting or keeping Democrats in office this fall. More from the Washington Times: Labor unions, long a rich source of ground troops for national Democrats’ Election Day victories, are less enthusiastic this year, according to some movement leaders who say they are more focused on state-level races and feel left behind by the party on key issues such as Obamacare. While public sector unions remain almost universally supportive of congressional Democrats, more traditional labor unions in key industries and key states express frustration with the party or say they haven’t been given a reason to get as deeply involved in the midterm elections. “A lot of it is midterms — there’s nothing exciting on the ballot here,” he said. “But I think a lot of it is the state Democratic Party up. In my personal opinion, the choices they made for the top of the tickets — wow. Did they vet any of these people beforehand or what?” Last year Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, UFCW President Joseph Hansen and UNITE-HERE President D. Taylor sent a letter to President Obama demanding Obamacare be changed and warned the legislation is destroying the 40 hour American work week. (read article)

San Jose Vote May Derail Pension ‘Rights’ Ruling

By Ed Mendel, October 13, 2014, Public CEO

An appeal of a San Jose pension reform ruling that could cause the state Supreme Court to revisit “vested rights” may be halted by a settlement with unions, if candidates aligned with the policies of Mayor Chuck Reed are defeated next month. Labor unions opposed to the pension reform are backing a candidate for mayor to replace Reed (barred by term limits from seeking a third four-year term) and three candidates for open city council seats, more than enough to shift the power balance. Reed has been operating with a thin margin of support, at times just one vote, in a weak mayor system that has 10 council members in addition to the mayor. He helped one ally, Rose Herrera, win re-election two years ago despite heavy union opposition. A Reed-backed measure approved by 69 percent of San Jose voters two years ago has a provision that does what critics of “unsustainable” pensions, such as the watchdog Little Hoover Commission, think is the key to controlling runaway employer costs. Pension amounts already earned by current workers would be protected, but the pensions they earn in the future could be reduced. Cuts of this kind are allowed for private-sector pensions. In California, state court rulings, a key one in 1955, are believed to mean the pension offered state and local government workers when hired becomes a “vested right,” protected by contract law, that can only be cut if offset by a comparable new benefit. (read article)

BlueGreen Alliance calls for strong US methane reduction strategy

By Nick Snow, October 13, 2014, Oil & Gas Journal

The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of 10 national labor unions and 5 environmental organizations, urged the Obama administration to adopt a strong methane reduction strategy with the US oil and gas industry as a major component. The goal is to advance the administration’s climate action plan and meet its goal of reducing the nation’s global warming pollution 17% by 2020, the group’s executive director, Kim Glas, said in an Oct. 10 letter to US President Barack Obama. “The oil and gas industry is the nation’s largest industrial source of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas,” she maintained. “Reducing methane emissions throughout the industry’s operations needs to be a key part of our nation’s strategy to address climate change.” The White House said in March that the US Environmental Protection Agency would determine sometime this fall how best to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, Glas said. (read article)

Could This Be the Senate Race Where the Koch Brothers Meet Their Match?

By Erika Eichelberger, October 13, 2014, Mother Jones

Republicans’ most likely path to retaking the Senate in November requires GOPers to pick up seats in six key states: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Of the six, Alaska—where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is facing off against former Republican Attorney General Dan Sullivan—may be the closest race. That’s why right-wing groups backed by the likes of the Koch brothers and Karl Rove are dumping millions into the state—and why Alaska unions are pulling out all the stops this year to make sure Begich, a fierce supporter of labor, carries the day. “This is literally the most active we’ve ever been in an election cycle,” says Vince Beltrami, the president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, which represents nearly all unions in the state. Union members have been working the phones, pushing out mailings, and canvassing on behalf of Begich. Volunteers have even taken the unusual step of door-knocking in areas far outside of Alaska’s urban centers, says Jerry McBeath, a professor of political science at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Because of the unprecedented level of campaign action this year, Beltrami says, the AFL-CIO had to rent out an extra 7,000-square-foot warehouse. (read article)

About That CEO/Employee Pay Gap

Editorial, October 12, 2014, Wall Street Journal

Income inequality is a key theme of Democrats’ 2014 re-election strategy, and the nation’s chief executive officers are an easy target. Before retiring to their districts for the fall, the House Democratic Caucus rallied behind the CEO/Employee Pay Fairness Act, which would prevent a public company from deducting executive compensation over $1 million unless it also gives rank-and-file employees raises that keep pace with the cost of living and labor productivity. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO and its aligned think tanks have made hay of the huge difference between the pay of CEOs and employees. One of the most widely cited measures of the “gap” comes from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch website. The nation’s largest federation of unions laments that “corporate CEOs have been taking a greater share of the economic pie” while wages have stagnated for the rest of us. As proof, it points to a 331-to-1 gap in compensation between America’s chief executives and the pay of the average worker. (read article)

Unclear if UAW will charter union in Mississippi

By Jeff Amy, October 11, 2014, The Tennessean

Some union supporters say they hope the United Auto Workers will charter a formal local union at Nissan Motor Co.’s plant in Mississippi, but it remains unclear whether the UAW will do so. The workers made the comments Friday during a visit by a group of international trade union leaders whose organizations represent workers at Nissan and its controlling partner, Renault S.A. of France. Jyrki Raina, the general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said representatives would pressure Nissan in their home countries, although he declined to say exactly what union members would do. “In the globalized world we can’t allow Nissan to treat the workers in Mississippi as second-class citizens,” said Raina, accompanied by representatives from unions in Japan, France, Spain, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom. “We want them to have the same rights and representation as at all plants.” IndustriALL, a global federation, says its constituent unions represent more than 150,000 Nissan and Renault employees worldwide. The UAW, an IndustriALL affiliate, is trying to organize Nissan workers and contract employees to seek union representation at the Canton plant, where more than 6,000 people work. No petition for a union election has been filed. Nissan said again Friday that it hasn’t done anything illegal and that its workers are free to unionize under American law. (read article)

Union Federation Gets Vocal On Harsh Prison Sentencing: ‘It’s A Labor Issue’

By Dave Jamieson, October 10, 2014, Huffington Post

Backers of a California ballot measure that would release thousands of non-violent prisoners have found a surprisingly enthusiastic ally in their fight: the nation’s largest federation of labor unions. On Friday, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, is expected to deliver a speech in Los Angeles offering robust support for Proposition 47, a proposal that would reduce the penalties for simple drug possession and shoplifting. According to his prepared remarks provided to The Huffington Post, Trumka will declare that mass incarceration is a “labor issue” and that unions need to join other progressives in pressing for reform. “It’s a labor issue because mass incarceration means literally millions of people work jobs in prisons for pennies an hour — a hidden world of coerced labor here in the United States,” Trumka’s remarks read. “It’s a labor issue because those same people who work for pennies in prison, once they have served their time, find themselves locked out of the job market by employers who screen applicants for felony convictions.” There are many labor unions that represent police and corrections officers, and they don’t always support lighter sentencing or the closing of prisons, seeing as prisons and inmates translate to jobs for those officers. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the largest union representing the state’s prison guards, has been a powerful opponent of prison reform in the state, reliably backing harsh sentencing laws and the building of new prisons. The union, which is not an AFL-CIO member, has made the surprising decision to sit out the debate on Prop 47, HuffPost reported Thursday. (read article)

Labor union set to give Sen. Mark Begich a helping hand

By Tom Howell Jr., October 10, 2014, The Washington Times

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich will get a helping hand from teachers’ union leader Randi Weingarten on Saturday, a few days after a poll put the senator 6 points behind Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in Alaska’s Senate race. Ms. Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, will swing through Anchorage to introduce Mr. Begich at the Alaska Public Employees Association’s biennial caucus and kick off an AFL-CIO event, highlighting the right to vote “as a way to address the serious issues members face in the workplace every day,” the union said in a press release. Mr. Begich may need help where he can get it, after he earned 44 percent of support compared to 50 percent for Mr. Sullivan in a CNN poll released Thursday. The poll found Mr. Sullivan, a former state attorney general and an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, leading Mr. Begich, 50-45 percent, among voters in Anchorage, where Mr. Begich previously served as mayor. It also found the senator, unlike other Democrats, fares no better with women voters than he does with men. Mr. Begich, one of the GOP’s main targets as they try to pick up six Senate seats and take the majority, is forging an independent posture as he seeks re-election. Earlier this week, he released a radio ad, titled “Fix It,” which touts Obamacare’s treatment of people with pre-existing medical conditions while touting his pitch for a low-cost Copper Plan on the health exchanges. (read article)

Unions spend freely in Oakland council races

By Matt Artz, October 10, 2014, San Jose Mercury

Organized labor so far is keeping most of its money out of the Oakland mayor’s race, choosing instead to pump funds into electing two union-friendly City Council members. Campaign finance reports filed this week show that the Alameda County Central Labor Council and SEIU Local 1021 have teamed up to spend more than $35,000 apiece on behalf of Annie Campbell Washington in District 4 and Abel Guillen in District 2. The influx of cash, made through the unions’ independent expenditure committee, gives both candidates a sizable financial advantage over their business-backed opponents with early voting already underway. For SEIU Local 1021, which represents more than 2,500 city workers, its spending on behalf of Campbell Washington and Guillen dwarfs what it put into electing council candidates two years ago. “Our members want us to be more aggressive in electing labor-friendly candidates, and we’re trying to do it,” said Pete Castelli, the union’s executive director. Castelli said he wasn’t sure if the union also would set up independent expenditure accounts for the mayor’s race, but it appears to have little incentive to do so. SEIU has endorsed both Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and Mayor Jean Quan who have been placing first and second in recent polls. (read article)

Union Says Photo IDs not Necessary to Vote — Unless You Vote to Leave Union

By Tom Gantert, October 10, 2014, Michigan Capitol Confidential

In recent arguments against states requiring voters to show a photo ID, the United Auto Workers Local 6000 has compared concerns about voter fraud to belief in the fictional Loch Ness monster and Yeti. The union wrote on its Facebook page that requiring a photo ID for voting is the goal of the “billionaire funded” American Legislative Exchange Council, and is intended to create obstacles for voters who might support a more “progressive” agenda. When its own members, however, want to exercise their freedoms under the new right-to-work law in Michigan to opt out of paying union dues as a condition of employment, UAW 6000 says they must show a photo ID. According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWF), a Michigan truck driver has filed a federal labor law complaint against the union, alleging that the photo ID requirement is a form of intimidation and coercion. (read article)

ACA navigators used as union recruiters

By Jon Cassidy, October 9, 2014, Watchdog.org

A lawsuit filed by an organizer for Battleground Texas accuses a labor group established by ACORN founder Wade Rathke of instructing an Obamacare navigator to spend time recruiting union members. The complaint echoes decades-old criticisms of Rathke and ACORN: They use federal money meant for services to the poor in pursuit of their own labor organizing activities. Cedric Anthony, who went to work for the Democratic Party’s Texas recruitment operation, filed a wage-and-hour lawsuit in June against two groups he says jointly employed him as a “federal navigator assisting people with the Affordable Care Act” – Southern United Neighborhoods and Local 100 United Labor Unions. (read article)

Unions Representing Golden Gate Transit District Workers Announce 1-Day Strike

By Chris Filippi, October 9, 2014, CBS San Francisco

Bus maintenance and dispatch workers for Golden Gate Highway & Transportation District will go on a one-day strike Friday, October 17th. A coalition of labor unions announced Thursday that the transit district’s bus drivers will honor the picket line. While it is likely there will be no bus service between Marin County and San Francisco that day, KCBS is waiting for a response from the transit district on this latest development in their ongoing negotiations with the coalition of 13 labor unions. Last month there were two brief work stoppages within the district. The coalition of about 450 transit workers, including those from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Locals 856 and 665, has argued that the wage increase proposed by management would be offset by rising health care premiums. A union of machinists held a strike on Sept. 16 that did not affect transit service and ferryboat captains held a strike on Sept. 26 that halted ferry service that day. The transit district’s board of directors had previously said that they’ve offered what they say is a “generous” wage increase of three percent per year for each of the three years of the proposed contract. They have further stated this represents a 9.27 percent wage increase over the next three years on a compound basis. (read article)

No Golden Gate bus service Oct. 17 as unions strike

By Mark Prado, October 9, 2014, Marin Independent Journal

Golden Gate Transit bus drivers said Thursday they will not cross picket lines of fellow union workers who plan to strike on Friday, Oct. 17 — effectively grounding bus transportation for thousands of riders. The labor action would affect some 22,000 bus commuters who use Golden Gate Transit to get into San Francisco. Thirteen unions comprising the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition — about 450 employees — have been working without a contract since July 1 and have been in negotiations with the district since April. The bus drivers are not part of that coalition, but bus dispatchers, road supervisors and bus cleaners are. The head of the bus drivers union said his drivers will honor picket lines if those employees go on strike Oct. 17, as planned. (read article)

Union challenge on pension overhaul headed to court

By Katherine Gregg, October 9, 2014, Providence Journal

The high-stakes union challenge to the 2011 pension overhaul championed by state treasurer and Democratic candidate for governor Gina Raimondo is back on the court docket for next week. Raimondo has made the sweeping rewrite of state pension law an issue in her campaign to succeed Governor Chafee, who is not seeking reelection. In a TV ad airing this week, she again takes credit for having “solved” the state’s pension crisis. But the legal battle continues. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft Carter has scheduled a 9:30 a.m. hearing on Oct. 17 on a motion by the treasurer, the governor and the state retirement system for a jury trial in the long-running fight over the legality of the pension cuts aimed at reining in the exploding cost of Rhode Island’s public employee benefits. The phalanx of unions that filed the lawsuit in June 2012 contend the cutbacks — which include the temporary suspension of the automatic “cost-of-living adjustments” for retirees — familiarly known as COLAs — are illegal. Even though the pension benefits at issue are dictated by state law, not contract, the unions argued — and the judge agreed as a starting point for the case — that there was an implied contract. (read article)

Christie Enters Contract Talks With Weary Public Unions

By Terrence Dopp, October 9, 2014, Bloomberg

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is headed into contract talks with unions that are still smarting over wage freezes and higher health-care payments imposed during his first term. Negotiations with all employees except state police are slated to begin this month, according to a bond offering statement. Workers affected have four-year contracts that expire on June 30. No talks have been scheduled, said Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman. The Republican governor, 52, persuaded Democrats during his first term to support an overhaul of pensions and benefits. The agreement allowed unions to bargain for lower health premiums after four years, or in the upcoming contract talks. Employees are hesitant to make any more concessions, said the director of the largest union for state workers. “You can’t squeeze blood from a stone — the concession stand is closed,’” said Hetty Rosenstein of Communications Workers of America, which represents about 40,000 of 74,000 state workers. “They don’t believe in collective bargaining. Everything Christie does now is about politics. It’s about the fact that he wants to run for president.” (read article)

UAW ‘Scab Lists’ Pop Up in More Right to Work States

By Bill McMorris, October 8, 2014, Washington Free Beacon

The Kansas chapter of the United Auto Workers union is using its website to draw attention to GM workers who choose not to pay union dues. UAW Local 31 dedicates an entire page of its website to listing the names and work stations of employees who have opted to exercise their rights not to be in the union. UAW Local 31 lists nearly 30 workers at the Fairfax, Kansas GM plant who are not in the union. The “Scab List” is published under the union website’s “Important Information” section. Local 31 president Vicki Hale did not respond to request for comment. Glenn Taubmann, a lawyer at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said that scab lists are used to pressure workers into joining the union. The use of their personal information and where they can be found in the plant make them easy targets for harassment and intimidation. “It comes as no surprise that unions in right to work states engage in all sorts of harassment and pressure tactics against independent-minded workers,” he said. “The ugly truth is that once UAW bosses get into power, they will not tolerate any worker who refused to ‘voluntarily’ join and pay dues. Their view of “voluntary” unionism is an iron fist against anyone who dissents.” (read article)

Silicon Valley, Meet Organized Labor

By Kevin Roose, October 7, 2014, New York Magazine

Tech companies and labor unions have never been friends. Whether union protectionism has made it tech’s enemy or, as historians have written, tech’s executive class was opposed to unions from the beginning, the fact remains that the Teamsters and other labor groups have never had much of a foothold in Silicon Valley. But that’s about to change. Silicon Valley’s newest labor challenge is coming from the tech underclass — the blue-collar workers who cook, drive, and clean for all those coddled engineers, and who are getting tired of watching the incredible spoils of the tech boom pass them by. This week, the Times reported that the Teamsters are attempting to organize bus drivers at Facebook. These drivers aren’t actually Facebook employees — they’re hired through an outside firm called Loop Transportation. But organizers are hoping that by appealing directly to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, they’ll convince Facebook to either use a unionized contractor instead of Loop, or pressure Loop to let its drivers organize. (read article)

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