- STRIKES & LABOR DISPUTES
- MAJOR CONTRACT SETTLEMENTS & NEGOTIATIONS
- ADMINISTRATIVE & COURT DECISIONS
- LEGISLATION & POLITICS
- CRIME & CORRUPTION
- More than 300 University of Massachusetts postdoctoral researchers signed cards authorizing the United Auto Workers to serve as their union representative. The UAW submitted the cards to the Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations and is awaiting certification. Once certified, the UMass employees will be the first union-represented postdoctoral researchers in Massachusetts.
- Continental Airlines’ fleet service workers, including baggage handlers, ramp workers, and cargo agents, voted in favor of representation by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Over the past thirteen years, the IBT and other unions have failed a total of five times to organize Continental’s fleet service workers. As part of its most recent organizing effort, the IBT held numerous rallies over the past few months in Continental’s hub cities.
- The American Federation of Government Employees filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to become the exclusive union representative for more than 40,000 transportation security officers. The AFGE filed a similar petition in 2003, which was denied by the FLRA when the FLRA board determined in a 2-1 decision that TSA workers are only entitled to collectively bargain at the discretion of the head of TSA. The FLRA board member who wrote the dissenting opinion, Carol Waller Pope, is now the FLRA chair. The AFGE believes that this change in FLRA leadership increases their chances of obtaining collective bargaining rights over TSA employees.
- Strikes & Labor Disputes
- In 2009, the number of major work stoppages in the United States dropped to five work stoppages, down from 15 stoppages in 2008 and the fewest number of work stoppages since 1947. The five work stoppages in 2009 idled a total of 13,000 employees, as opposed to the 72,000 employees idled in 2008. The total number of lost workdays dropped from two million in 2008 to 124,000 in 2009. Additionally, only two of the five work stoppages in 2009 occurred in the private sector. One was a work stoppage at Textron’s Bell Helicopter plant in Fort Worth, Texas and the other was a work stoppage of workers employed through the Interior Demolition Contractors Association in New York.
- AFL-CIO and UAW members picketed at Toyota dealerships across the nation in protest of Toyota’s decision to close its only union-operated manufacturing plant in the United States. Toyota announced the plant’s closure last August, stating that because the plant was a joint venture with GM, Toyota could not operate the plant after GM decided to stop making its Pontiac line. The protests were designed to place additional pressure on Toyota at a time when “Toyota can ill afford another black mark against its name,” according to AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka.
- Major Contract Settlements & Negotiations
- American Eagle Airlines and the Transport Workers Union reached two tentative agreements covering 3,100 mechanics and fleet service/ramp workers. The tentative agreements cover a two-year period and would allow workers to convert sick time into vacation time and entitle workers to receive pay for unused sick days upon retirement or voluntary separation. The tentative agreements do not, however, include any enhancements to 401(k) or medical benefits.
- Meadows Racetrack and Casino employees voted to ratify a first contract between UNITE HERE and the Casino. The three-year contract will cover nearly 350 employees and entitles workers to annual wage increases, a defined benefit pension plan, contributions to 401(k) accounts, and family health care benefits with no required employee premium contributions. The Casino opened in April 2009 and since that time more than 80 percent of the food and beverage and custodial employees chose UNITE HERE representation through the card check process.
- Safeway Stores and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 reached an agreement covering nearly 7,000 clerks, bakery workers, and meat-cutters in Safeway’s Colorado and Wyoming stores. Under the new agreement, Safeway will transfer $12 million from the active employees’ account within the multiemployer health care trust fund into an account for current retirees. The UFCW and Safeway hope that the transfer will obviate the need for a 21 percent increase in health coverage premiums for retirees. The agreement also includes wage increases, expanded health care benefits, and offers employee’s various signing bonuses in the form of Safeway gift cards.
- Communications Workers of America District 6 members rejected a four-year proposed contract with AT&T Advertising Solutions Southwest Region. The proposed contract covered 1,650 workers in five states and would have increased wages and expanded pension benefits for covered workers. Under the rejected contract, employees would be required, for the first time, to contribute to their health care premiums.
- After Communications Workers of America District 3 members rejected a three-year proposed contract with AT&T Southeast Region, the parties have set forth a new tentative contract which CWA members are scheduled to vote by mail ballot on by the beginning of March. The new tentative agreement offers an 8.75 percent wage increase over term, a six percent pension benefit increase over term, and the introduction of employee contributions to their health care premiums. The new tentative agreement also includes health care premiums of $15 for single coverage and $30 for family coverage; a dramatic drop from the previously proposed coverage of $35 for single coverage and $75 for family coverage.
- Corning, Inc. and the United Steelworkers Local 1000 ratified a new four-year contract which provides 12.5 percent wage increases over term to approximately 1,350 workers. The agreement also provides increases to pension multipliers from $40 to $45 over term, short term disability increases from $375 to $400 per week effective immediately, life insurance increases from $30,000 to $40,000 per year, and a $250 ratification bonus.
- The Service Employees International Union is seeking contract language that would require employers to abide by “green” cleaning standards. In negotiations taking place in California and Minnesota, the SEIU is seeking to reduce janitors’ exposure to harmful chemicals by inserting green cleaning language into contracts. Employers are resisting commitment to green cleaning language partially because they argue that no clear guidance exists to assist parties in defining “green cleaning” within contracts. Although few organizations have agreed on a definition for “green cleaning,” the California Department of General Services’ best practices manual defines green products as those that are “certified to contain lower or insignificant amounts of toxic or hazardous chemicals and have reduced or minimal adverse environmental impacts.”
- Honeywell International, Inc. and International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1145 ratified a new three-year labor agreement which covers all 1,100 production and maintenance employees at Honeywell’s Minneapolis plants. The agreement provides 4.5 percent wage increases over term, but does not provide for any wage increase in the first year. Under the new agreement, employees will now contribute 20 percent toward their health insurance premiums, a 10 percent increase over the last agreement which required a 90/10 split between Honeywell and covered employees. The new agreement also requires employees to pay health insurance deductibles for the first time. The newly implemented single coverage deductible is $75 and the family coverage deductible is $180.
- Kroger Company and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1996 members ratified contracts covering 177 Kroger stores and more than 19,580 Kroger employees located in Georgia. The new agreements contain “significant” increases in Kroger’s contribution to its employee pension fund, although company representatives declined to state the exact amount of the increase. Under the new agreements, the pension multiplier, however, decreased significantly from $52 per month for each year of service to $40 per month for each year of service. The agreements also contain improvements to areas of health care including vision, disability payments, orthodontia, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.
- ConAgra Foods and members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 38 ratified a new three-year contract. The contract covers approximately 750 ConAgra employees and provides wage increases averaging $1.87 an hour over the contract’s term. The new contract also establishes an additional health plan. If employees elect coverage under the new plan, they will incur less cost-sharing, but will have to pay a $350 deductible. If, however, employees stay on the current plan, they will not have to pay any deductibles, but will pay 19 percent of the premium costs in the first year, 20 percent in the second, and 21 percent in the third. A separate one-time $10,000 payment was negotiated for retirement-eligible employees who opt to retire.
- Costco Wholesale Corp. and members of the IBT ratified a new three-year contract which covers 12,000 Costco employees at more than 40 locations throughout California. The newly ratified agreement provides for hourly wage increases of $1.50 over term, increasing the current average hourly rate of $21.25. According to a union statement, Costco employees are “the highest paid retail workers in the country.”
- Mesa Air Group and the Association of Flight Attendants members replaced their long-term CBA when they ratified a two-year tentative agreement. The new agreement includes one percent annual pay increases for covered flight attendants and provides some work rule improvements.
- Analysis of collective bargaining data compiled by BNA shows the average first-year wage increase through February 22, 2010 is 1.6 percent, down from 2.8 percent for the same time period in 2009; the median first-year increase for settlements is also down to 1.5 percent, from three percent in the comparable time period of 2009.
- Major collective bargaining agreements reached in Canada during 2009 contained average wage increases of 2.4 percent according to analysis of collective bargaining data compiled by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The average wage increase was down significantly from 3.2 percent in 2008. Additionally, private sector collective bargaining agreements in 2009 showed average wage increases of 1.8 percent, down 2.5 percent from 2008. Average wage increases were down in all but three Canadian industries: utilities; manufacturing; and entertainment and hospitality.
- Administrative & Court Decisions
- An National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge determined that Dresser-Rand violated the National Labor Relations Act when it instituted a lockout of striking employees, but continued to operate its facility with temporary and permanent replacement workers. After an extended strike by the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communication Workers of America Local 313, Dresser-Rand lawfully hired permanent replacement workers. When the parties were still unable to resolve their dispute, Dresser-Rand properly exercised its right to institute a lockout. The ALJ, however, found that Dresser-Rand’s exclusion of replacement workers from the lockout demonstrated that its motivation for the lockout was anti-union animus and thus a violation of the NLRA. The ALJ’s recommended order requires Dresser Rand to make striking employees whole by providing back pay to all employees who were unlawfully locked out.
- The Fifth Circuit determined that portions of the City of Houston’s restrictions on holding outdoor events violate the First Amendment. The SEIU challenged Houston’s ordinances after the city declined some of the SEIU’s applications to hold parades and other gatherings. The Fifth Circuit struck down as unconstitutional some of the city’s ordinances, including a restriction on allowing only two permits for the same location during a 30-day period; restrictions on weekday parades in the downtown area except from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.; and the parks ordinance which fails to define “public gathering” and fails to designate which park areas require permits.
- After AT&T voluntarily recognized the Communications Workers of America as the official representative for its employees at a newly-acquired facility, an NLRB Regional Director mandated a decertification election among the employees. The NLRB director found that AT&T did not provide its employees with proper Dana notice, a 45-day period during which employees may file a petition for a board conducted election. While AT&T argued that it had provided its employees with proper notice, one employee alleged that he saw no notices regarding AT&T’s voluntary recognition and, according to the NLRB decision, AT&T presented no evidence to the contrary. As a result of AT&T’s failure to provide its employees with proper Dana notice, the ALJ ordered a decertification election.
- The Fourth Circuit held that the NLRA does not preempt breach of fiduciary duty claims based upon Maryland state law. Plaintiffs, retirees of a Chrysler assembly plant, brought suit against the UAW alleging, inter alia, that the UAW breached its fiduciary duty when it informed retirees that the UAW would not reach a workforce reduction program with Chrysler. Based upon the UAW’s representations, plaintiffs allege that they retired from Chrysler only to learn that two weeks after their retirement, Chrysler announced it was instituting a workforce reduction package. The UAW argued that plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty claims were preempted by Section 9(a) of the NLRA. The Fourth Circuit rejected the UAW’s argument, holding that “Section 9(a) simply does not reveal an intent to always foreclose state law claims for breach of fiduciary duty arising solely on the basis of union membership.” The court directed the district court to send the case to Maryland state court for resolution.
- Ten days before a decertification election at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, the SEIU mailed “supersized” refund checks to more than a quarter of the bargaining union for alleged over-deducted union dues. Earlier that year, the SEIU and Good Samaritan Hospital had entered into a good faith agreement to recalculate union dues deducted from employees paychecks because employees believed they were being overcharged. The employer was in the process of calculating the amount of refunds owed to the employees when the SEIU mailed employees refund checks for amounts substantially higher than what was actually owed the employees. An ALJ determined that mailing oversized refund checks during a critical period before the decertification election was an interference with employees’ electoral choice and therefore a violation of the NLRA. The ALJ ordered a new decertification election to take place.
- The Third Circuit held that Rite Aid was not required to arbitrate grievances over its refusal to allow the UFCW to organize at its newly acquired stores. Rite Aid and the UFCW had entered into collective bargaining agreements covering all of Rite Aid’s Pennsylvania stores. When Rite Aid acquired new stores within Pennsylvania, the UFCW sought to organize at these stores. Rite Aid refused the UFCW’s request to organize the employees at its newly-acquired facilities and the UFCW filed grievances and a demand for arbitration. Rite Aid denied the grievances and instead sought a declaratory judgment in federal court determining the arbitrability of the union’s grievances. The Third Circuit determined that the parties collective bargaining agreements did not cover any newly acquired Rite Aid stores and therefore Rite Aid was not mandated to arbitrate the union’s grievance.
- A federal judge rejected Iowa Governor Chet Culver’s attempt to intervene in a labor dispute between a grain processing firm and the UFCW. Governor Culver sought to invoke Iowa state law to compel the parties to submit to mandatory arbitration. The parties objected and filed a motion for an injunction in federal court alleging that the NLRA preempted Iowa state law and prohibited the governor from interfering in the parties’ dispute. The judge agreed with plaintiffs and issued an injunction prohibiting Governor Culver from intervening in the parties’ dispute on the basis that the Iowa state law was preempted by the NLRA.
Legislation & Politics
- A majority of voters believe the proposed Employee Free Choice Act would cause U.S. companies to expand abroad and would negatively impact U.S. job creation according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll released on February 1, 2010. The poll found that 62 percent of those questioned believe that EFCA would result in more U.S. companies creating jobs over seas while 25 percent of those questioned believed EFCA would result in more job creation within the U.S.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees approved the nominations of Craig Becker (D) to membership on the National Labor Relations Board and Cynthia Attwood (D) to membership on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Becker practiced as a labor law attorney for eight years before becoming associate general counsel for the SEIU in 1990 and then staff counsel for the AFL-CIO in 2004. Becker also taught labor law at several law schools and has published numerous academic articles on labor law. Many management groups are opposed to Becker’s nomination, arguing that Becker has a pro-union agenda and his views are a threat to economic growth. Attwood served as an administrative judge on the Labor Department’s Administrative Review Board for three years and also served as associate solicitor for occupational safety and health at the DOL. Democrats failed to obtain the 60 votes necessary to override a filibuster on Becker’s and Attwood’s appointments. If Democrats cannot obtain the necessary vote, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that the White House will use recess appointments for critical nominees.
- Iowa Governor Chet Culver issued an executive order that requires all state departments and agencies to use project labor agreements for state construction projects costing $25 million or more. The executive order also requires that, once implemented on a project, the PLA must allow contractors and subcontractors to compete for contracts regardless of whether they are subject to collective bargaining agreements. The executive order also mandates that the PLAs guarantee against any strikes, lockouts, or other work disruptions. Many have criticized the Governor’s order as imposing too many burdens on the construction industry.
- The proposed excise tax on high-cost benefit plans contained in the Senate-passed version of the health care reform bill will have significantly greater impact on non-union employees according to a study released by the University of California, Berkley’s Center for Labor Research and Education. By 2019, approximately 80 percent of employees impacted by the excise tax will be in non-union jobs. The excise tax is also less likely to affect union employees because the bill contains an exemption for collective bargaining plans.
Legislation pending in Washington state would mandate unionization of the private child care industry. Washington House Bill 1329 would require union representation over both child care center employees and the ownership and center management. The union representation, however, would be limited to negotiations with the state legislature over the amount of child care subsidies paid to centers who accept children from low income homes. Critics argue that representation of both employees and management violates federal labor law, but supporters contend that the limited scope of the representation is not preempted by federal law. In order to organize employees under the proposed legislation, unions must submit written proof that 30 percent of the centers in a region support unionization. Once a union submits written proof of 30 percent support, an election is held only to determine which union will represent the region’s child care workers.
Crime & Corruption
- A jury in Boston convicted Frank Rago, the former president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1604, on two counts of unlawful labor payments for securing a “no show” job and one count of document falsification for forging employee benefit plan reports.
- In a New York federal court, James Minter, a former International Union of Operating Engineers trustee and organizer, pleaded guilty to one count of felony racketeering. Minter admitted to using fear and intimidation, including acts of bodily harm, destruction of property, and workplace sabotage, in an effort to obtain wages, benefits, and jobs for union members.
- A federal indictment for former “Sandhogs” union employee benefit funds administrator, Melissa King, was obtained through the efforts of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service. According to the 12-count indictment, King set up a shell corporation and then funneled over $42 million in pension funds into an account for her corporation. From 2002 to 2009, King allegedly transferred over $40 million from her company account to pay her personal expenses.
- A federal indictment filed in New York federal court alleges that former United Craft and Industrial Workers Union Local 91 president, Warren Annunziata, accepted more than $500,000 in bribes during his tenure with the union. According to the indictment, Annunziata solicited and collected cash payments from companies whose employees belonged to Local 91. The acceptance of these payments violates the Labor-Management Relations Act.
- IBT President James Hoffa placed Chicago-based IBT Local 706 under trusteeship due to the Local’s financial difficulties. Local 706 represents newspaper drivers and press operators. It began experiencing financial difficulties as the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times laid off many of their employees due to the financial crisis plaguing the newspaper industry. John Coli, an IBT vice president, will serve as trustee over Local 706 and will assume day-to-day operations of the union.
- Favorable public opinion of labor unions has dropped dramatically from 58 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2010 according to a Pew Researched Center survey released on February 23, 2010. Labor union favorability is the lowest since 1986, when 46 percent of people surveyed in a Pew study had a favorable opinion of unions. According to the most recent study, favorable opinions of unions fell across demographic and partisan groups, although more Democrats have favorable opinions of unions (56 percent) than Independents (38 percent) and Republicans (29 percent).
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