Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Union-Sponsored Ads By SEIU Target ‘Anti-Immigrant’ Politicians

By Melanie Trottman, December 2, 2014, Wall Street Journal

One of the country’s largest labor unions launched television ads Tuesday to kick off what it vowed will be a long-term bid to hold what it calls “anti-immigrant” politicians accountable. The Service Employees International Union ads call on Latinos to urge Republican senators to stand with immigrants instead of GOP “extremists” who threaten to derail President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration. The Spanish-language ads are running in seven states: Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to the English translation of one ad running in Ohio, a voiceover says, “In the battle for immigration reform, President Obama took a bold step forward to keep our families together. But Republican politicians respond with more opposition… and keep insulting our families. Enough! Our families deserve respect and a better future. Call Senator Rob Portman. Tell him to stand with our families and not with Republican extremists.” The ad then posts Mr. Portman’s office phone number on the television screen. (read article)

Converting a Union Skeptic

By Alana Semuels, December 2, 2014, The Atlantic

When the union representatives first came knocking at Audra Rondeau’s door in this rural part of the state, near the Canadian border, she turned them away. They wanted her to join an effort to organize Vermont’s 7,000 or so home-care workers. But Rondeau had been raised with a healthy skepticism about unions: Her 93-year-old grandmother, who she says “still scares the beans out of me,” has a strong aversion to labor organizing. But then they came back, and this time they asked Rondeau what she’d want changed in the home-care industry, where she works taking care of two young girls, one with autism and one with severe depression. “They said, ‘What’s irritating you about the program you’re in?’ And I just started going off,” said Rondeau, who is 47, as she potted a plant in her kitchen, in the house she built herself. The state kept cutting funding for programs, putting her clients in danger, she told them. Without anyone to look after them, her clients might not be able to feed themselves or get out of the house. She also made less as a home-care worker than she did when she started thirty years ago, and there was so much red tape around billing that it was sometimes hard to get paid. (read article)

Conservatives call fast food worker protests publicity ‘stunts’

By Lydia Wheeler, December 2, 2014, The Hill

Conservatives are calling the ongoing fast food employee protests dressed up public relations “stunts.” Backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), fast-food workers have been picketing for minimum $15 an hour wages and union rights since November 2012. But during a press call Tuesday, Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative said the vast majority of protesters are SEIU members and SEIU allies, not employees of popular chains like McDonalds, Burger King and Domino’s. “These local franchise business owners and employees don’t need to be subjected to the intimidation tactics of the SEIU,” he said. The teleconference, hosted by Worker Center Watch, comes two days before another day of protests conservatives say are SEIU events to unionize the fast-food industry and pad its pockets. Employees who are part of unions pay union dues and initiation fees. It’s why, according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the SEIU has specifically targeted the fast-food industry — high employee turnover means more people paying union membership fees. Furchtgott-Roth, whose first job was scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins for $3.25 an hour, said the demands are uncharacteristic of entry-level employees. (read article)

Boston Labor Group Rallies Against Uber And Lyft

By Connor D. Wolf, December 1, 2014, Daily Caller

A Boston labor union rallied Monday against ride share services such as Uber and Lyft, calling them unsafe. “At 12:00 Noon, the Boston Taxi Drivers Association (BTDA) will hold a rally on City Hall Plaza to demand unl-icensed Uber, Lyft and other illegal vehicles for hire be taken off the streets,” the United Steelworkers said in a press release. The BTDA is a labor organization that was formed in 2007 by the United Steelworkers to promote the interest of taxi drivers in the area. The press release went on to say, “Boston taxi drivers will be joined in protest against Uber and Lyft as unregulated personal vehicles for public transit by labor and community leaders. Participants will include taxi driver organizations from New York City and Philadelphia. Demonstrators will have placards, display banners, and their city-marked cabs.” (read article)

New kind of union rising in South

By Lydia DePillis, November 30, 2014, Washington Post

For someone who helped torpedo the United Auto Workers’ attempt to organize the Volkswagen plant here this year, Sean Moss sounds an awful lot like someone who might have been on the UAW’s side. “It’s really to the benefit of everyone that everyone have a say,” said Moss, 46, who has worked in the plant’s assembly shop since the factory started in 2011. Workers need “the opportunity to step up and speak for themselves,” he said. Last spring, Moss successfully fought the UAW when it seized on a rare opportunity in the anti-union South to organize the workforce at Volkswagen, a German company that views unions as partners, not foes. Moss opposed the move because he felt the UAW had been integrally involved in the bad fortunes of the big Detroit automakers during the recession. But since then, Moss has helped create a quasi-union of his own at the plant here, saying he still believes that workers should come together to negotiate with their bosses. The American Council of Employees, as it’s called, was founded a few weeks ago to compete with the UAW for members. (read article)

Teachers Union Lost 272,014 Members on His Watch, Then Gave Him a Big Raise

By Jason Hart, November 30, 2014, The Daily Signal

The recently retired president of the National Education Association received a huge pay raise this year even though the union he led lost more than 40,000 members. Dennis Van Roekel, who retired this summer, was paid $541,632 during NEA’s fiscal year ending Aug. 31, a $130,000 increase from last year, driven by a gross salary hike from $306,286 to $429,509. The union’s membership dropped from 3,003,885 last August to 2,963,121 this August. NEA, the nation’s largest labor union, has lost 272,014 members since 2009. The membership losses have come in large part because of reforms in Wisconsin and Michigan, where new public school contracts may no longer make paying union dues a requirement for having a job. The union paid Van Roekel $2.2 million from 2010 to 2014. The drop in membership didn’t keep Van Roekel from being praised by union advocates in a series of videos recorded for an NEA meeting in July. (read article)

The Gangs of New York – A union scam helps explain why Gotham hotels cost so much.

Editorial, November 30, 2014, Wall Street Journal

Tourists converging on New York City for the holidays are often stunned by how expensive the hotels are. Much of that is real estate and seasonal demand, but what may be less apparent to travellers is a shakedown engineered by Big Labor and assorted corporate cronies to force non-union accommodations to organize or leave Gotham. In 2001 the major city hotels bought labor peace through a multi-employer collective-bargaining agreement known as the Industry Wide Agreement, or IWA. The New York Hotel Trades Council (AFL-CIO) and the Hotel Association of New York City, the trade group for the five boroughs, agreed that association members would be neutral when the union tries to organize a property and abide by “card check.” That’s the gambit that denies workers their right to secret ballots in labor elections. Businesses tend to get the unions they deserve, and three of every four New York hotel employees now belong to a workplace with contracts governed by the IWA. More notable is that the agreement contains an unusual “accretion clause” that foists the IWA’s terms on every hotel that is directly or indirectly owned or managed by any party to the IWA. (read article)

De Blasio bid to change civil service rules faces opposition

By Matthew Chayes, November 30, 2014, Newsday

Mayor Bill de Blasio faces a showdown with organized labor if he pursues his plan to allow recruiting from outside union ranks for uniformed management positions in the city’s jail system. Key members of the City Council and jail guard unions say they would fight the mayor, generally regarded as a friend of labor, if he seeks to rewrite civil service laws that now require any promotion to uniformed upper management must come from within the existing ranks. “I will do whatever is necessary to defeat it,” said Norman Seabrook, the powerful president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the union representing about 9,000 employees in city detention facilities.

Seabrook has publicly resisted a range of proposed changes to the scandal-scarred jails, which are the target of a lawsuit threat by the U.S. Justice Department over mistreatment of juvenile inmates. Seabrook, the union’s leader since 1995, said he’s beaten back ideas of past mayors and would do the same to de Blasio’s. (read article)

Unions Hold Black Friday Protests

By Connor D. Wolf, November 29, 2014, Daily Caller

Union protests were seen at Wal-Mart locations across the country Friday. “Tens of thousands of Americans are protesting at 1,600 Walmart stores across the country today, calling on the company to pay associates a minimum of $15 an hour and provide full-time work,” a press release from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) declared. The press release went on to say, “The broad group says the country’s largest employer and the Waltons—Walmart’s majority owners—are abusing their power and hurting American families by allowing Walmart to violate workers’ rights.” “For the past three years, Walmart workers have been raising concerns about persistent understaffing at stores and its impact on wasted food, un-stocked shelves, long check-out lines and lower sales,” the press release concluded. (read article)

Now Teachers Union Outlaws Coca-Cola From Its Events

By Eric Owens, November 29, 2014, The Daily Caller

After wasting millions of dollars on losing Democratic candidates in this month’s midterm elections, the American Federation of Teachers has completely gone off the deep end and banned Coca-Cola and Coke products from its events and facilities. The teachers union — America’s second largest — based its prohibition on America’s best product and, certainly, its best export, on allegations of human rights violations that were described in a trio of books published several years ago, reports Fox News. The rather late AFT resolution outlawing Coca-Cola products from union events is intended to show solidarity with other labor unions, union spokesman Michael Heenan said, according to Fox News. (read article)

Labor unions protest for higher wages at Walmart

By Vivien Leigh, November 28, 2014, WCSH 6 Portland

One of the busiest shopping days was the the stage for protests at Walmart stores in Maine and across the country Friday. Representatives from labor organizations rallied to raise awareness about what they call ‘poverty wages’ being paid to employees at the country’s largest retailer. About two dozen people carrying signs marched through the Walmart parking lot in Scarborough and took their protest right outside Walmart’s front doors. The group passed out flyers informing employees they had a right to form a union. The rally was short lived because the police asked them to move their protest to the far side of the parking lot or be arrested for trespassing. Protesters complied, but said they won’t stop fighting until Walmart starts paying a living wage, which economists say is $15 an hour. Employees are paid a little more than $8 an hour. (view video)

VW policy for Tennessee plant sets off labor scramble

By Erik Schelzig, November 27, 2014, Houston Chronicle

In rival camps about a mile apart, supporters and opponents of the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize their first foreign auto plant in the South say a new labor policy at the Volkswagen factory is going to help them. The policy, known as “Community Organization Engagement,” sets formal rules for labor groups at the plant for the first time. What the effects will be is still up for debate. To some, the policy may open the door to the union eventually representing all workers in contract negotiations. To others, it may undercut the union by giving an opposing group an official voice at the plant. The outcome is being closely watched in the U.S. and abroad. Other German and Asian automakers in the South are keenly monitoring developments, as are anti-union Republicans. But the company itself isn’t saying much at all. “Let’s let this play out and see how it goes,” Volkswagen Chattanooga spokesman Scott Wilson said. (read article)

Pasadena teachers finally have a substitutes’ union

By Randy Jurado Ertll, November 26, 2014, Pasadena Star-News

The sad reality is that substitute teachers, of which I am one, have been getting the short end of the stick for way too long at the Pasadena Unified School District and throughout the United States. While substitutes deserve respect, in 2013, the PUSD school board voted to reduce the pay rate from $140 to $120 a day. It was a dramatic reduction, especially for long-term subs who formerly were making $172 daily. Other surrounding school districts pay more than Pasadena, especially the Los Angeles Unified School District, which pays $173 per day and $233 per day for long-term substitute teachers. PUSD should at least pay $150 per day, and I’m pleased to say that the brand-new Pasadena Substitute teachers United will advocate to restore the money that was taken away by the PUSD administration and board of education. Even Compton and Paramount pay $150 per day to substitute teachers. PSTU will advocate for health insurance to be offered to substitute teachers, similar to what teachers receive. United Teachers of Pasadena does exist, but we felt that we needed to create our own union to advocate for specific needs that are unique to substitute teacher. Let me tell you, it takes courage and commitment to be a substitute teacher. But it also takes boldness to establish a labor union. I witnessed and served as the official representative at the state of California Public Employment Relations Board where the ballot vote count took place. (read article)

Union walks off the job at Port of Portland: Is a strike or lockout next?

By Sara Aitchison, November 26, 2014, Puget Sound Business Journal

On Monday, the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union walked off the job at the Port of Portland, said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agricultural Trade Coalition. Spokesman for the port managing authority, the Pacific Maritime Association, Wade Gates confirmed this but didn’t have further details aside from the fact that the terminal has operated for the last two days. Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the ILWU, couldn’t confirm whether union workers walked off. It’s been 12 years since negotiations between the ILWU and the PMA have been this rocky. In 2002, the PMA locked the ILWU out for 10 days. The U.S. lost $1 billion a day and then-President George W. Bush used the Taft-Hartley Act to pursue executive intervention and force ports along the West Coast to resume work. On July 1 of this year, the labor contract between the PMA and ILWU expired. They’ve been working without a contract since. Negotiations turned ugly at the beginning of November when accusations about the cause of slowdowns started flying from both sides. The barrage of blameful press releases have outside parties worried that a deal is unlikely to happen quickly. (read article)

Labor union work by federal employees on ‘official time’ costs taxpayers millions

By Eric Boehm, November 25, 2014, Fox News

Unionized federal employees spent 2.48 million hours working for their labor unions while getting paid by taxpayers during 2013, and more than 360 workers who are on the federal payroll spent 100 percent of their time working for their union. Under federal rules, employees who are members of a labor union are entitled to so-called “official time,” where they are dismissed from their duties as a government employee to engage in labor union organizing activities. A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows the use of official time has increased over the past several years as the size of the federal workforce has grown. And it’s costing taxpayers plenty. According to the Office of Personnel Management, which tracks federal employees’ time, federal employees were paid more than $157 million during 2012 while doing work for labor unions. The GAO says the price tag may be even higher, since some federal agencies are not adequately tracking their employees’ official time. (read article)

Intel cafeteria workers at center of latest union action aimed at Silicon Valley companies

By Jason McCormick, November 24, 2014, Silicon Valley Business Journal

Only days after approval of unionization among Facebook Inc.’s contract bus drivers, Intel Corp. is being called upon by labor activists to protect the jobs of cafeteria workers who may be impacted by a change in catering companies running the company’s food facility. Though the labor group Unite Here claims that Intel could require Guckenheimer Services LLC, its new corporate food manager, to retain the 70 employees of Bon Appetit Management Co. that currently serve in Intel’s cafeterias, the chipmaker said it cannot insert itself in a dispute between the union and employers. Both sides of the disagreement said in separate statements to the Silicon Valley Business Journal Monday that new employment opportunities will be offered to existing workers. Unite Here said that the Bon Appetit’s employees at Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara were informed that a new manager will take over food services for Intel Thursday. Seventy cafeteria workers could lose their jobs on Thanksgiving Day, according to the labor union. (read article)

Shippers, terminal operators accuse dockworkers union of ‘slowdown tactics’ at bargaining table

By Karen Robes Meeks, November 24, 2014, Long Beach Press Telegram

The group representing shipping lines and terminal operators has condemned the West Coast dockworkers’ union for taking “its slowdown tactics to the bargaining table,” an accusation the union denies. In their latest labor clash, the Pacific Maritime Association criticized the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for taking a 12-day Thanksgiving break from “big-table talks” and limiting negotiations to smaller committees during a time when the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with others up and down the West Coast, are facing unprecedented cargo shipment delays. “While there are limited negotiations happening, it’s impossible to reach any coast-wide agreement without both parties meeting at the big table in San Francisco, and the ILWU eliminated that potential until Dec. 2 at the earliest,” the PMA said Monday. “Our view was and is that these negotiations require full attention by both sides; that these talks are too important to put off until Dec. 2 given the real impacts of the ILWU slowdowns. There’s a lot of work left to do, and the lack of urgency by the union to resolve existing differences is disappointing.” ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees fired back, denying PMA’s claims of slowing talks. He added that smaller committees are repeatedly used during negotiations to progress specific labor issues. “Are we really worried about the size of committees?” Merrilees said. “What we care about is that progress is being made. It’s about getting a contract done as soon as possible.” Since May, the PMA and the ILWU have been negotiating the terms of a new contract that would cover about 20,000 West Coast dockworkers. Their last contract expired in July. (read article)

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