Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions Flex Muscle to Fight Pacific Trade Bill

By Melanie Trottman, June 9, 2015, Wall Street Journal

Retired welder Lonnie Vick had a warning for Rep. Steny Hoyer as he held a banner at a recent union rally outside the Democrat’s office: Vote against a trade bill or organized labor will vote you out of office. “I can get out and rally the troops,” said Mr. Vick, who is concerned that local manufacturing jobs will be sent overseas if Congress approves the Trans-Pacific Partnership among the U.S. and 11 other nations. Despite diminished ranks, unions nationwide are presenting themselves as a potent weapon against the trade legislation now moving through Congress: a so-called fast-track bill that would expedite the Pacific trade pact. Union members are volunteering at phone banks, launching letter-writing campaigns and organizing town halls to pressure lawmakers to vote no. The bill, already passed by the Senate with strong Republican support, could face a close vote in the House as early as this week. Many current and retired union members, after witnessing decades of job losses, fear another trade pact would hurt employment in their communities. (read article)

San Jose firefighters’ union reaches labor agreement that includes raises

By Ramona Giwargis, June 8, 2015, San Jose Mercury

Firefighters will receive more than 14 percent in ongoing raises according to a tentative three-year labor agreement reached with San Jose city officials, union leaders confirmed Monday. The deal with the IAFF San Jose Firefighters Local 230 will give firefighters a retroactive 5 percent raise dating back to June 2014, and an additional 3 percent increase in the first year. The fire personnel will also receive 2 percent non-pensionable lump sum payment, union officials told this newspaper. The second year will include a 3 percent raise and 1 percent non-pensionable payment, and the third year will give them another 3 percent raise. “We look at it as a very positive step in rebuilding labor relations with the city,” said Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the union. “We want to make sure San Jose is a competitive employer and that we’re able to retain and recruit firefighters. This agreement will help in doing that.” Saggau said the agreement includes language to protect the minimum levels of staffing and an organizational review of the department. The union will be at the table to discuss the outcome of that review, he said. (read article)

Why labor groups genuinely believe they can unionize McDonald’s one day

By Lydia DePillis, June 8, 2015, The Washington Post

This past weekend, the walls of Cobo Center on the Detroit River reverberated with more than the usual amount of cheers and chants, endlessly repeating a two-pronged demand: A minimum wage more than double the level of the federal baseline, and a labor union for the fast food industry. “We work, we sweat, put $15 on our check hey hey we work, we sweat, for $15 on our check hey hey!” shouted scores of people dancing and clapping on-stage, as the crowd of hundreds in the ballroom before them joined hesitatingly, and then enthusiastically. Moments of silence with fists raised punctuated speeches and more hype sessions, as contingents of mostly black and hispanic low-wage workers from different cities sought to out-cheer each other. “Kansas City in the hooouuuse!” “Raise up Greensboro!” “Where you at Oakland!” Young people got on chairs and beat on tables, with chants erupting spontaneously from all corners of the cavernous room. It was the second convention put on by the massive Service Employees International Union for the “Fight for $15,” a three-year-old series of protests and walkouts aimed at raising the minimum wage in cities and states. The union has poured tens of millions of dollars into the campaign, and since last year’s gathering in Chicago, it’s shown a lot of progress. (read article)

Hillary Clinton makes a promise to union leaders: I’ll listen to teachers

By Lyndsey Layton, June 8, 2015, Washington Post

Hillary Rodham Clinton told the president of the National Education Association that she would listen to teachers if elected president, a simple promise Monday that impressed the president of the nation’s largest labor union. “She used the most important word that I was personally looking for, the word ‘listen’,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the NEA, which represents mostly K-12 teachers and paraprofessionals and has 3 million members. (read article)

Union hypocrisy exploits union workers

By Erin Shannon, June 6, 2015, Seattle Times

In Washington state and across the nation, union executives and labor activists are demanding mandatory paid sick leave and a $15 minimum wage for workers. They say it is a “matter of fairness” — workers deserve higher wages and paid time off when they are sick. So why do many of these minimum-wage and paid-sick-leave laws, purportedly designed to benefit workers, exempt unionized businesses? In many of the minimum-wage and paid-sick-leave proposals pushed by unions, they have hypocritically included a union escape clause. After well-funded campaigns by labor unions, SeaTac and other jurisdictions have an exemption for unionized employers that allow them to pay a lower wage and not pay for sick leave. Thanks to the union escape clause supported by labor, unionized employers can legally pay their workers less than what their nonunion counterparts earn. That’s right. The union executives pushing these measures don’t think union members deserve to actually benefit from them. So much for fairness. (read article)

Clinton backs labor, hints at $15 minimum wage

By Jonathan Allen, June 7, 2015, Vox Politics

Hillary Clinton asserted her support for union rights by calling in to a convention of fast-food workers in Detroit Sunday. She used the event to take a not-so-subtle jab at Republicans who have sought to limit them, and hinted that she might support a $15 minimum wage — the type that her chief rivals for the Democratic nomination back. “We need you out there leading the fight against those who would rip away Americans’ right to organize, to collective bargaining, to fair pay,” Clinton told the audience. The Washington Post noted that she used language in her remarks that mirrors that used in the Service Employees International Union’s call for a $15 minimum wage. A Clinton spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for confirmation of whether she intended to endorse the wage floor that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley already support. Her first paean to organized labor fits with Clinton’s early strategy of courting base constituency groups, from African Americans and Latinos to women and the LGBT community. (read article)

10 things you might not know about unions

By Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofe, June 6, 2015, Chicago Tribune

10 things you might not know about labor unions, including why it’s called a “strike.” Illinois has become a battleground over worker rights, with Gov. Bruce Rauner pushing for right-to-work zones to diminish the power of unions while labor forces rally to organize fast-food staff. While some are joining the “Fight for $15,” let’s try some union-related trivia, times 10: 1. Why is a labor stoppage called a “strike”? Because in 1768, English sailors unhappy about a wage cut expressed their anger by taking down, or striking, the sails on ships in the port of London. 2. The Air Line Pilots Association reached an agreement with National Airlines in the late 1940s after airline executive Ted Baker attended a religious retreat, came to a realization and called pilots to ask forgiveness, attributing the discord to the “power of Satan.” (read article)

Unions can save the middle class

By Robert Reich, June 6, 2015, Salon

One big reason America was far more equal in the 1950s and 1960s than now is unions were stronger then. That gave workers bargaining power to get a fair share of the economy’s gains – and unions helped improve wages and working conditions for everyone. But as union membership has weakened – from more than a third of all private-sector workers belonging unions in the 1950s to fewer than 7 percent today – the bargaining power of average workers has all but disappeared. In fact, the decline of the American middle class mirrors almost exactly the decline of American labor union membership. So how do we strengthen unions? (read article)

Fiery Police Union Boss Patrick Lynch Crushes Challenge in PBA Election

by Will Bredderman, June 5, 2015, New York Observer

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, today trounced a challenger and won his fifth term as leader of the union representing the city’s 24,000 rank-and-file police officers. Mr. Lynch—who has led the union since 1999—took 70 percent of the vote against Brian Fusco, a union trustee from the Brooklyn South command. The labor leader gained national attention for attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio over his support for Rev. Al Sharpton and the Black Lives Matter Protests, and for claiming the mayor was among those with “blood on the hands” after the killing of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last December. He thanked his members for their continuing support. “We are extremely gratified that our members have recognized the hard work and successes that Team Lynch has achieved on their behalf,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement. “A single tenet has and will continue to guide us as we look to the future: do what’s in the best interest our members. These results give our team a mandate to continue that work.” (read article)

Don’t like union ‘free riders’? Here’s answer

By Ingrid Jacques, June 5, 2015, Detroit News

Freeloading isn’t generally a good way to make friends. Michigan union members who have chosen to opt out of their union under the state’s right-to-work law definitely know that’s true. They’ve been called free riders, freeloaders and much worse because they still benefit from union-negotiated contracts—without paying for the service. But it’s not their fault. Many of these former union members don’t want to be under the union contract, yet they don’t have a choice under a longstanding provision in state law that grants a public sector union exclusive representation. For instance, there can only be one union negotiating the contract for a public school district. Individual teachers who leave a union can’t represent themselves. So why not solve the problem and let public employees who leave their union work out their own contracts? After all, that’s what the 47 percent of Michigan’s public employees who aren’t covered by a union contract already do. F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center, has a solution, and he’s calling it “worker’s choice.” “It’s a brand new concept,” Vernuccio says. “This should give both sides more freedom.” (read article)

Union ratifies West Coast port labor contract

By Keith Laing, June 4, 2015, The Hill

The union that represents dockworkers at ports along the West Coast has ratified a contract to formally end a labor standoff that, earlier this year, threatened the flow of cargo packages. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dockworkers, voted 82 percent to 18 percent to approve a five-year contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which negotiates labor contracts for port managers. The agreement follows a months-long standoff that resulted in port managers closing 29 ports along the West Coast in February, in a move that prompted President Obama to send Labor Secretary Tom Perez to California to mediate talks between the groups. ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said the long-term agreement ratified by his members would provide stability to West Coast dockworkers.  “The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” McEllrath said in a statement. “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committe made the outcome possible.” The contract between the port operators and the ILWU was supposed to have been renewed in July 2014, but negotiations dragged on for months, and the standoff resulted in several large cargo ships idling at sea. (read article)

Right to Work Republicanism

By Autry J. Pruitt, June 4, 2015, Spectator

Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s history on illegal immigration has placed him in league with some of the Senate’s most notorious liberals. Rand Paul’s positions on foreign relations and domestic law enforcement prompted Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol to proclaim that the Kentucky senator, “has now decided he wants to be a liberal Democrat.” Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein says he’d be happy with either Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush in the White House, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the king of Repeal and Replace Obamacare, signed up for the president’s signature program. (Okay, it is the law but still…) The net net is that it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between the Republican and Democratic parties and the people who want to be their party’s respective standard bearer next year. There are some exceptions but in many cases, bright policy differences have faded and are blending together; it’s like trying to tell the difference between bone and ivory paint samples. (read article)

Unions: Nevada collective bargaining reform reasonable

By Ben Botkin, June 4, 2015, Las Vegas Review Journal

The end times didn’t fall upon organized labor this legislative session, despite initial fears from union leaders that the GOP-led red wave endangered their way of doing business. To be sure, there were times when public-sector unions were worried that would happen, after the November 2014 elections resulted in Republicans gaining control of both legislative chambers and a GOP governor easily winning a second term. Indeed, one bill had them so worried they dubbed it “Armageddon” due to its perceived threat to collective bargaining. But reality never reached biblical proportions, and labor leaders and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval alike said the outcome was more measured, with compromise. School districts can more easily fire principals of poorly performing schools that don’t improve. School administrators who earn more than $120,000 a year cannot belong to a union. Government agencies must post copies of proposed collective bargaining on their websites three days before making a final vote, as opposed to simply listing the item on the meeting agenda. Unions must either reimburse government agencies when government employees do union-related work, or make concessions in negotiations that are financially equal. Without the change, paid union leave is simply negotiated like any other part of a contract. It’s an outcome that supporters call reasonable and critics say didn’t go far enough. (read article)

Hearing panelists warn right-to-work laws in jeopardy

By Michael J. Lotito and Ilyse Wolens Schuman, June 3, 2015, Lexology

A recent move by the National Labor Relations Board threatens the right-to-work laws in 25 states, witnesses testified during a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. At the June 3 hearing, lawmakers and panelists debated the merits of right-to-work laws, and whether unions should be permitted to force nonmembers to pay grievance fees. The impetus for the hearing was the Board’s April 16 invitation for public comment on whether it should adopt a rule allowing unions to require nonunion members to pay fees for grievance processing. According to Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), this shift in long-standing labor policy would undermine employee protections provided under state right-to-work laws. He said the NLRB “has a clear agenda of growing private-sector union membership at any cost.” At the outset of the hearing, Kline explained that an employee’s grievance process is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, and nonunion members are bound to these requirements whether or not they voted for the union in the first place. Nonunion members have no other recourse to resolve their grievances. (read article)

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