- STRIKES AND LABOR DISPUTES
- MAJOR CONTRACT SETTLEMENTS & NEGOTIATIONS
- ADMINISTRATIVE & COURT DECISIONS
- LEGISLATION & POLITICS
- CRIME & CORRUPTION
- Unions lost 771,000 members in 2009. The proportion of all wage and salary workers belonging to a labor union held roughly steady, however, at 12.3 percent. In the private sector, the percentage of workers who were union members fell to 7.2 percent in 2009, compared to 7.6 percent in 2008. By contrast, the overall percentage of government workers who were union members rose from 36.8 percent in 2008 to 37.4 percent in 2009. For the first time in 2009, a majority (52 percent) of all union members were employed in government.
- Flight simulator technicians at Delta Air Lines are scheduled to vote in February on whether they wish to be represented by the International Association of Machinists. The vote will mark the first representation election to take place at Delta Air Lines following its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008.
- The United Food and Commercial Workers has withdrawn its petition to hold a union election for a group of beef plant workers including production, maintenance, shipping and receiving, plant clerical, groundskeeping, and warehouse employees at the National Beef plant in Dodge City, Kansas. The UFCW offered no explanation for the withdrawal other than to say that it was not the right time for an election at the plant.
- Pilots of Cape Air Inc. voted 47-31 to return to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In May 2009, pilots voted 51-40 to replace the IBT with the independent Cape Air Pilots Association after long delays in negotiations for a first IBT contract. The rerun representation election became necessary, however, after the National Mediation Board overturned the election, finding that management had tainted the election by supporting the independent union over the IBT.
- Registered nurses at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas voted 240-152 for representation by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. In negotiations for the first contract, the union announced that it intends to bargain for minimum nurse-patient ratios, wage increases, and employee benefits that include a defined benefit pension plan. MountainView’s election marks the first election since the formation of the National Nurses United.
- More than 2,000 registered nurses, psych-social professionals, and other professional employees at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in Southern California have overwhelmingly voted to switch representation from the United Healthcare Workers-West local of the Service Employees International Union to the National Union of Healthcare Workers. According to the NUHW, it has organized 3,357 new members, winning seven out of nine elections against SEIU in the past year.
- STRIKES AND LABOR DISPUTES
- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm, and approximately 100 other protestors were arrested while blocking the main entrance to the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel as hundreds of other union members and supporters closed down the street during evening rush hour. The protest was held in an effort to bring national attention to contract negotiations taking place around the country for more than 50,000 hotel workers. Contracts covering thousands of UNITE HERE members expired in August 2009 in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago and remain unsettled. Health care benefits have dominated the negotiations between the union and Hilton.
- The Association of Flight Attendants planned a January 7 picket of United Airlines operations at 17 different airports around the globe in an effort to draw attention to stalled contract negotiations with the Chicago-based airline. Negotiations between the parties commenced in April 2009. At the request of both sides, federal mediators stepped in to assist in August 2009. In announcing the protest, AFA emphasized that its frustration with United dates back to 2005 when flight attendants were forced to accept a 9.5 percent hourly wage reduction and the loss of other benefits as part of United’s post-bankruptcy reorganization.
According to participants in a panel discussion hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organized labor is increasingly turning to corporate campaigns that attack a company’s reputation as a means to achieve union goals. Panelists explained that such campaigns are frequently used by the Service Employees International Union and have proven to be highly effective in industries that rely heavily on their reputations—e.g., employers in the health care industry and hotels. Typical corporate campaigns include coalition building with religious and other groups, public relations efforts, allegations of safety and health violations or wage and hour violations, as well as consumer boycotts and shareholder actions.
In an effort to settle a longstanding labor dispute between Grain Processing Corporation and UFCW 86D, Iowa Governor Chester Culver has ordered the parties to participate in nonbinding arbitration pursuant to Iowa Code § 679B.1. Grain Processing Corp. subsequently filed suit in federal court seeking relief in the form of preliminary and permanent injunctions arguing that the governor’s intervention is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. A hearing has been set for February 12, 2010 on Grain Processing Corp’s motion for a preliminary injunction .
James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Bob King, vice president of the United Auto Workers, led a rally of labor, environmental, and consumer groups outside the Embassy of Japan to appeal to the Japanese government for intervention in Toyota Motor Corp’s decision to close its manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. The rally was held in response to Toyota’s announcement in August 2009 that it would close the plant by March 2010. The plant employs approximately 5,440 workers and indirectly employs 35,000 Californians through 1,181 suppliers.
- Major Contract Settlements & Negotiations
- The United Auto Workers Local 2121 and Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise have reached a tentative first contract covering 2,500 casino dealers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand located on an Indian reservation in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The 23-month tentative contract, which is the first in the country negotiated under tribal law, would raise dealer wages by 30 cents on March 1, by 10 cents on January 1, 2011, and by 30 cents on March 1, 2011 resulting in a 12 percent wage increase over the term of the contract. If ratified, the contract will also establish an “industry model” for job safety, provide job security and a dealer career path, establish a more equitable distribution of tips, expand maximum sick leave for serious illness, establish seniority provisions, and create a grievance and arbitration procedure.
- 1,100 members of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 406 overwhelmingly rejected a three-year labor contract proposal from Newsday. Prior to the vote union leaders urged members to turn down the company’s proposal which called for a 10 percent across-the-board wage cut, an increase from a 35 hour workweek to a 40 hour workweek, and less paid vacation. Newsday maintains that such concessions are necessary because the newspaper is losing business. The day after union members voted against the proposed contract, Newsday amended its severance policy resulting in a reduction in the amount of severance pay available to laid-off workers.
Members of the Air Line Pilots Association at Hawaiian Airlines ratified a new 68-month labor contract for more than 400 pilots. The new contract, which took nearly three years to negotiate, will result in an immediate pay increase of either 4 percent or 6.1 percent, depending on the type of aircraft flown. Four additional pay increases ranging from 2 percent to 6 percent will take effect at 14-month intervals throughout the duration of the contract. The airline also agreed to increase contributions to pilots’ defined contribution pension plan. Current pilots will also retain health care benefits; newly hired employees will be required to serve for 10 years before becoming eligible for employer-provided health care benefits after retirement.
Members of Utility Workers Union Local 127 ratified a labor contract with the Rocky Mountain Power Co. that covers 577 employees working at three coal-fired plants in Wyoming. The nearly four-year contract will raise wages 6.25 percent over term. Under the new contract, employees are entitled to an immediate 1.25 percent increase, followed by 1.5 percent increases in September 2010 and September 2011, followed by a 2 percent increase in September 2012. Employee contributions to health care premiums will more than double over term with an increase from 12.5 percent to 20 percent in the first year, followed by increases to 25 percent in the third year and 30 percent in the fourth year. Employee co-payments and deductibles remain unchanged.
- Collective bargaining data compiled by BNA through January 11 for all settlements showed that the average first-year wage increase was 2.7 percent, compared with 3.4 percent reported in the comparable period of 2009. The median first-year increase for contracts reported to date in 2010 was 2.4 percent, compared with 3 percent in 2009; the weighted average was 1.9 percent, compared with 5.8 percent in the same period in 2009. Manufacturing, unlike other industries, reported an average wage increase from 0.4 percent in 2009 to 1.8 percent in 2010; the median was 2 percent, compared with 0 percent in 2009.
- All-settlements data representing 950 agreements and more than 1.1 million workers show that the average first-year wage increase under contracts negotiated in 2009 was 2.3 percent, compared with 3.6 percent in 2008. The average second-year increase reported in 2009 was 2.6 percent, compared with 3.4 percent in 2008, and the average third-year increase was 2.8 percent, compared with 3.3 percent in 2008. Changes to benefits occurred in 42 percent of all settlements reported. Changes to pension plans were reported in 52 percent of all settlements.
Major collective bargaining agreements in Canada during November produced average wage increases of 2 percent, compared to 2.2 percent in October. The data was compiled from 15 agreements covering 39,180 employees. The lowest private sector wage increase was recorded at Prevost Car Inc. in Quebec, where 970 employees received a wage increase of .3 percent, including a wage freeze in the first year of the contract. The highest wage increase was recorded at Construction Management Bureau Ltd. in Nova Scotia, where 800 electrical workers received a wage increase of 2.5 percent.
- Administrative & Court Decisions
- The Seventh Circuit ruled that Allied Electrical Contractors Inc. must pay delinquent contributions to a multiemployer pension fund despite the fact that the contractor never signed a letter of consent agreeing to be bound by a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that increased the contractor’s hourly contributions. Although Allied did not sign the letter of consent, the court noted that Allied had made contributions to the fund for several months at the increased rate, and therefore manifested its assent to the increased rates through its course of conduct. Line Construction Benefit Fund v. Allied Elec. Contractors Inc.
Legislation & Politics
- President Obama has resubmitted to the Senate the nomination of attorney Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. Becker, who has been an associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union for 18 years, was previously nominated by President Obama in April 2009, but at the end of the 2009 session the Senate sent Becker’s nomination back to the White House, indicating that one or more senators objected to including him on the list of pending nominations that were held over under a unanimous consent agreement. Becker’s nomination is opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
- The Republican members of the House Education and Labor Committee sponsored a forum entitled “A Culture of Favoritism: The Obama Administration’s Labor Agenda” on January 21, 2010. Speakers at the forum, including former labor secretary Elaine Chao, pointed to the Obama administration’s alleged favoritism toward unions as a primary reason economic recovery has stalled.
- In response to recent declines in Chicago’s trade show and convention revenues, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced their support for proposed legislation that would impose sweeping labor changes at the city’s major convention facilities. Proposed legislative changes include language that would establish the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority as a “public employer.” Status as a public employer would give the MPEA increased leverage to negotiate with trade show workers and the authority to prohibit strikes. Other proposed legislative changes would reduce the number of bargaining units at the MPEA facilities and eliminate “area bargaining agreements” negotiated beyond the control of MPEA.
In a speech at the National Press Club, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on Congress to pass legislation to help create millions of jobs, to reject the excise tax on high-cost (“Cadillac”) health care plans that has been proposed in the Senate health care overhaul legislation, and to pass the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. Trumka warned politicians that given the current high levels of unemployment, workers will not stand for “tokenism,” and that passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is necessary to “reduce the inequality which is undermining our prospects for stable economic growth.”
President Obama met with labor leaders to discuss the proposed excise tax on high-cost (“Cadillac”) health care plans that has been proposed in the Senate health care overhaul legislation. The Senate bill includes a funding provision that would place a 40 percent excise tax on the value of workers’ health insurance above minimums of $8,500 yearly for an individual and $23,000 for a family. Big Labor is adamantly opposed to the tax and supports instead the House health care bill which would be funded by a surcharge on wealthy Americans. While President Obama had voiced his support for the proposed excise tax, after meeting with Trumka, he announced that he had agreed to postpone until 2017 implementation of the tax on "Cadillac" health insurance benefits that were part of union contracts.
Crime & Corruption
- Joseph Jewett pleaded guilty to giving a kickback to Walter Ralph Mabry, the former secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, in exchange for Mabry’s recommendation to the manager of the Carpenters Pension Trust Fund to use Jewett’s company, J&R Ventures, as a consultant on a pension fund casino investment in Mississippi. Jewett faces a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He has also agreed to forfeit $157,000 in funds from the scheme.
- Teamsters President James Hoffa granted a stay of disciplinary measures taken against Richard Berg, president of Local 743, and Eugenia Alvarez, secretary-treasurer of the local while the officers appeal an order issued by Teamsters Joint Council 25. Berg was stripped of his title at Local 743 and barred from the union for five years in response to charges that he entered into a $21,000 severance agreement with a former business agent without gaining the approval of the local’s executive board. Alvarez was stripped of her title and barred from the union for three years for dispersing funds to the departing agent despite knowledge that the severance had not been approved by the local’s executive board. The stay will permit Berg and Alvarez to continue to fulfill their duties at the local while their discipline is reviewed by the IBT’s General Executive Board.
- Sherell Mitchell, formerly the secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America Local Union 86823 in St. Louis pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $110,000 over a seven-year period. Mitchell faces a possible sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as an order of restitution.
John J. Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO has been named a resident fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for the 2010 spring term. Sweeney will work in the classroom and with faculty, and will be called upon to share his insights from 50 years of experience in the U.S. labor movement.
- Meredith Jason has been selected as the deputy general counsel of the Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Branch in the National Labor Relations Board’s Division of Enforcement Litigation. The Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Branch conducts federal court litigation involving the enforcement and review of board orders, advises the general counsel and board members regarding litigating positions the agency should take in U.S. Supreme Court cases, and works with the Justice Department and the Office of the Solicitor General in developing the government’s position in Supreme Court cases.
- The International Association of Machinists has launched a social networking website “UCubed” aimed at curbing unemployment rates. The site offers users the ability to connect with other users by common ZIP codes, thereby allowing users within the same geographic area to help each other find new jobs and collectively push politicians to act on legislation that addresses unemployment. The site includes a “Legislative Action” section allowing users to easily send members of Congress an e-mail regarding the urgency of taking action on a particular bill.
- Fred Feinstein, a former National Labor Relations Board general counsel, was reprimanded by the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, where he is an adjunct professor and senior fellow, for issuing a legal opinion to the Service Employees International Union on University letterhead and failing to disclose the compensation he received from SEIU in exchange for his opinion. The controversial letter was drafted after SEIU members requested Feinstein’s legal opinion regarding the status of members’ collective bargaining agreement if they decertify one union and join another. The letter is being circulated by SEIU’s United Healthcare Workers-West local in a campaign to keep the support of members who have petitioned to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
If you have questions about items that appeared in this bulletin, or would like to learn more about any of these topics, please contact William Miossi at (202) 282-5708 or (312) 558-6109, or one of the other Labor & Employment Relations partners listed here:
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