- STRIKES & LABOR DISPUTES
- MAJOR CONTRACT SETTLEMENTS & NEGOTIATIONS
- ADMINISTRATIVE & COURT DECISIONS
- LEGISLATION & POLITICS
- National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) data shows that while unions participated in fewer NLRB elections during the first half of 2009, compared to the first half of 2008, unions won a greater percentage of elections during the first half of 2009. Unions won 73.1 percent of the 588 elections in the private sector during the first half of 2009, compared with 66.5 percent of 813 elections won during the same period in 2008. Yet, the number of workers organized by unions through NLRB elections and the number of decertification elections decreased during the first half of 2009 compared to the same time period in 2008. Unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation won the same number of NLRB elections, with the AFL-CIO affiliates winning a greater percentage of elections and the CTW organizing more workers. During the first half of 2009, the services sector led all other sectors with 245 NLRB elections held and the construction industry had the highest win rate with unions winning 85.7 percent of elections.
- Security officers at the Rivers Casino near Pittsburgh voted against union representation by the International Union of Security, Police, and Fire Professionals. The union’s organizing director, Steve Maritas, stated that prior to the election, 90 percent of the security guards eligible to vote had signed authorization cards indicating their support for the union.
- The Communications Workers of America will participate in a union organizing project with Ver.di, a German union, through a newly created union named TUnion. Ver.di represents 70 percent of the employees of Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent company. Under this joint effort, Ver.di will work with CWA to organize workers at T-Mobile in the United States. T-Mobile has 38,000 workers in the United States and none of them are represented by a union. As workers organize in the United States, they will become members of CWA locals with Ver.di responsible for coordinating all bargaining with the company.
B. Strikes & Labor Disputes
- Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign went on strike to protect the University’s failure to guarantee tuition waivers. The Graduate Employees’ Organization represents 2,600 teaching assistants and graduate assistants at this campus. The strike ended two days later when the Graduate Employees’ Organization reached a tentative agreement with the university to maintain the current tuition waiver program for covered individuals who meet certain minimum academic and teaching standards.
- UNITE HERE Local 2 workers participated in a three-day strike at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where the union has been in contract negotiations since August 2009. Around 650 workers participated in the strike, which was the third three-day strike in San Francisco by Local 2. In October, UNITE HERE members voted to authorize a strike at any of the 31 San Francisco hotel properties where collective bargaining talks are continuing. Local 2 is negotiating separately with the largest hotel operators. While workers are seeking wage increases, the most important issue for hotel workers is health care benefits as employers are seeking increases in employee contributions to health care premiums. About 350 workers represented by Local 2 previously participated in a similar three-day strike at the Palace Hotel. Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which manages the Westin St. Francis and the Palace Hotel, has proposed a four-year contract with a flat bonus in the first and second years, a 3 percent general wage increase in the third year, and a 4 percent wage increase in the fourth year. 300 workers represented by Local 2 participated in a three-day strike at the Grand Hyatt Union Square Hotel.
C. Major Contract Settlements & Negotiations
- Members of International Association of Machinists Local 933 ratified a three-year contract with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona. The agreement covers 1,700 workers and extends through 2012. Under this contract, workers will receive wage increases of 2.75 percent in the first and second years, and 2.5 percent in 2011. Employee health care premiums will increase but these increases will be capped at 22.5 percent in the first year, and 25 percent in the second and third years.
- The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen reached a tentative five-year agreement on wages and work rules with BNSF Railway Co., covering about 6,000 locomotive engineers. The agreement contains wage and work rule provisions through 2014 and includes wage increases each year. Health and welfare benefits would be determined through national railroad bargaining in 2010.
- Members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee approved a four-year contract with Catholic Healthcare West which will cover 12,000 registered nurses at 32 facilities in California and Nevada. The union and Catholic Healthcare West negotiated three agreements, which are all linked, including a master contract to cover nurses at 28 facilities throughout California. These agreements include provisions that assure nurses will receive education and equipment to deal with the H1N1 flu and other pandemics, as well as across-the-board wage increases of 20 percent over the four-year terms.
- United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99 settled a contract covering 24,000 Arizona supermarket workers at Fry’s Food & Drug Stores, Smith’s Food & Drug Centers, and Safeway, Inc. The parties are withholding disclosure of the substantive provisions of the contract until after union members review it and vote. The union and companies have agreed to extend the existing contract, which expired in October 2008, pending the results of the ratification vote.
- UNITE HERE Local 54 members ratified two-year contracts with six hotel casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. These contracts cover 5,000 hotel employees including waiters, bartenders, housekeepers, bell caps, cooks, parking attendants, and dishwashers at Tropicana, Atlantic City Hilton, Resorts Casino Hotel, Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Marina, and Trump Plaza. Under the new contracts, these employees will continue to receive health care coverage and defined pension benefits fully funded by their respective employers. Additionally, while wages for workers at the top of the compensation steps will be frozen for one year, other employees will receive wage increases based on length of service.
- The Teamsters ratified a multiyear contract covering 600 pilots at ABX Air. Of the pilots covered under the new contract, 400 are currently on furlough. The new contract provides for more market-competitive wages, benefits, and work rules. Additionally, furloughed and retired pilots will benefit from substantial severance and post-retirement benefits contained in the new contract. IBT Local 1224 officials did not reveal the specific details of the new contract provisions.
- Operating Engineers Local 310 and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation reached a tentative three-year labor contract. The contract will cover 950 workers, including clerical employees, linemen, natural gas workers, power plant workers, janitors, and auto mechanics. Under this contract, employees would receive wage increases each year totaling 7.5 percent over the contract term. The contract includes a retirement defined contribution plan for new hires instead of the defined benefit plan that current workers participate in. The health care plan will shift to a preferred provider organization, but will require no employee contribution to health care premiums.
- The BNA review of 2009 bargaining data showed that the average first-year wage increase was 2.4 percent, compared with 3.6 percent in the comparable period of 2008. The median first-year increase for settlements reported in 2009 was 2.5 percent, compared with 3.3 percent in 2008. The all-settlements average increase, excluding construction and state and local government contracts, was 2.7 percent, compared with 3.6 percent in 2008. Construction settlements showed an average increase of 1.8 percent while state and local government contracts showed an average increase of 2.1 percent in 2009.
- Major collective bargaining agreements reached in Canada during the third quarter of 2009 showed an average wage increase of 1.9 percent based on 44 agreements covering over 106,000 employees. The average wage increases for the first and second quarters of 2009 were 2.4 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. Agreements in the private sector showed an average annual wage increase of 1.5 percent while agreements in the public sector showed in average annual wage increase of 2.1 percent. The construction sector had the largest annual wage increases with 4.2 percent, followed by the utilities sector with 3 percent.
D. Administrative & Court Decisions
- California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board set aside results of a decertification vote at Gallo Vineyards Inc.’s Sonoma County, California, operations. The board held that the employer gave the United Farm Workers union a flawed list of employees. The hearing officer found a total of 82 factually incorrect or invalid addresses. Noting that providing an accurate list of current addresses “is a clear statutory and regulatory requirement,” the board adopted the hearing officer’s decision to set aside the decertification elections, dismiss the decertification petitions, and decline to order a rerun election.
- A National Labor Relations Board official requested that NLRB Regional Offices submit to the Division of Advice all cases where the office recommends rejecting deference to an arbitration decision. The Board will conduct a case-by-case review of the submissions to the Division of Advice and may develop a new approach to such cases. Under the NLRB’s current standard, the four factors that are applied in deciding whether to defer to an arbitration award are whether the arbitration proceeding was fair and regular, whether all parties agreed to be bound by the decision, whether the contractual issue considered by the arbitrator is factually parallel to the unfair labor practice issue, and whether the resulting arbitration decision is clearly repugnant to the National Labor Relations Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has questioned the factors applied by the Board and would instead limit administrative review to whether the arbitration procedures were fair and regular and whether the Union violated its duty of fair representation in processing the grievance.
- The National Mediation Board set a hearing for December 7 on proposed historic changes in representation election rules. The proposed rule would permit airline and railroad workers to vote “yes” or “no” for union representation with the outcome being determined by the majority of the votes cast. Under the ballots currently in use, in order for the board to certify a union, a majority of eligible workers must cast ballots for the union or write in another union. The union with the most votes is then certified. The current ballots do not allow workers to vote “no” or cast a ballot against representation. Interested parties who ask to attend or present at the hearing will be notified of their status prior to the date of the hearing.
E. Legislation & Politics
- The five-member Board of Supervisors of Orange County, California unanimously voted to approve an ordinance that would prohibit project labor agreements for county-funded projects. The new law would take effect 30 days after the vote and would not apply to projects with federal or state funding.
- At a press conference sponsored by the organization Interfaith Worker Justice, speakers declared November 19th a “National Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft.” The IWJ called for action on H.R. 3303, the proposed Wage Theft Prevention Act. Wage theft is the illegal underpayment or nonpayment of wages. The proposed law would ensure that workers would not lose back pay as a result of delays in investigating wage theft claims. This conference followed the results of a recent study of over 4,300 workers in the low wage industries conducted by the liberal National Employment Law Project. The study claims that 76 percent of the workers surveyed were not paid overtime, 70 percent were forced to work off the clock, 41 percent had illegal deductions from their pay, and 69 percent had experienced meal break violations.
- National Labor Relations Board chairman Wilma B. Liebman spoke at the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law’s annual meeting on November 5, 2009. For the past 22 months, the NLRB has been operating with only two members. Liebman noted that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the NLRB’s authority to issue two-member rulings. Liebman further explained that while 538 rulings have been issued by the two-member board, only about 77 have been filed in the appeals courts challenging the board’s authority. It remains unclear when the vacancies on the board will be filled. After these vacancies are filled, Liebman stated that board members should think about engaging in rulemaking. Liebman also expressed her hope that a fully constituted board would be “more flexible and less formulaic” in applying the National Labor Relations Act to workplaces.
- The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit seeking information related to Labor Department officials’ contact with unions. Specifically, the requested records relate to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Acting Deputy Labor Solicitor Deborah Greenfield, and include records of meetings between Solis and union representatives, a list of gifts that unions gave Solis, and records of Greenfield’s salary and responsibilities. The lawsuit claims that the Labor Department violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to disclose these records earlier and seeks an injunction ordering the DOL to process the request.
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