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- STRIKES & LABOR DISPUTES
- MAJOR CONTRACT SETTLEMENTS & NEGOTIATIONS
- ADMINISTRATIVE & COURT DECISIONS
- LEGISLATION & POLITICS
- CRIME & CORRUPTION
The number of immigrant workers who are union members has increased 30 percent since 1996, while the number of native-born workers who are union members declined 9 percent over the same period. From its analysis of the 2006 Census Bureau data, the Migrant Information Source estimates that in 2006, 1.23 million, or 12.3 percent of the 15.36 million union members in the United States were foreign born. Of the 16.86 million workers represented by a union in 2006, 2.04 million, or 12.1 percent, were foreign born. In 2006, relative to their share among workers in manufacturing, construction, and mining, immigrants were underrepresented among workers with union representation. Conversely, in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, wholesale and retail, and agriculture-related business, immigrants were overrepresented among workers relative to their share.
Production and maintenance workers at PPG Industries, Inc. in Evansville, Ind. voted for union representation by the United Auto Workers in a rerun election conducted by the NLRB. The 177-154 vote in favor of representation closely resembles the 186-158 of the first vote held on June 28, 20006, which was set aside in light of numerous objections filed by the employer claiming some employees had threatened their coworkers.
Beginning Oct. 1, the National Mediation Board will provide airline and railroad employees taking part in representation elections the option of casting their ballots on the Internet or by telephone.
Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union is launching a drive to organize 60,000 workers at Boston's mostly nonunion teaching hospitals and is participating in a representation vote among some 22,000 workers who provide home care for Medicaid patients in Massachusetts. Announced organizing targets include Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Children's Hospital, New England Baptist Hospital, Faulkner Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Workers at a UPS Ground Freight terminal near Pittsburgh September 12th rejected representation by the Association of Parcel Workers of America (APWA). The Pennsylvania result is the second defeat for APWA since the independent group was formed with the goal of supplanting the Teamsters as the representative of more than 200,000 employees of parent company UPS. In a related development, APWA has withdrawn its petition for a representation election at a terminal in Gaffney, S.C. The Gallup Poll's annual Work and Education survey found that 60 percent of Americans approve of labor union, while 32 percent disapprove of labor unions.
B. Strikes & Labor Disputes
The NLRB directed employees in its Regional offices to stop wearing/displaying buttons and posters when interacting with the public that refer to the ongoing labor dispute between the unionized NLRB workers and NLRB General Counsel Ronald Meisburg.
Organizers of a program to mark the 50th anniversary of the NLRB's regional office in Newark, N.J., cancelled the program scheduled for the evening of September 10 because members of the union representing NLRB employees announced that they would engage in informal picketing at the event. The General Counsel in late June refused to bargain with the NLRB Union in order to obtain judicial review of the Federal Labor Relations Authority's decision granting the union's request to combine four previously separate bargaining units into one.
San Francisco security guards represented by SEIU Local 24/7 went on strike September 24 at 20 buildings in the city's financial district, claiming "intimidation, harassment, and speech rights violations" by the private security companies that employ them. The guards have been working without a contract since June 30, when the collective-bargaining agreement covering about 4,000 security officers expired. The security guards' employers include Securitas USA, ABM Industries, and Universal Protection Services. The San Francisco Central Labor Council sanctioned the strike, meaning that CLC's 150 affiliated labor unions, including sanitation workers, stationary engineers, parking attendants, UPS delivery drivers, window cleaners, and janitors may honor SEIU's picket lines.
Unable to agree to terms with 14 area properties, including the Tropicana, members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union 165 in Las Vegas voted by a 99 percent margin to authorize negotiating committees to take economic action, including a strike. The vote covers 10,000 casino and laundry workers in downtown Las Vegas as well as on the Strip. On September 4, the union, along with its parent organization UNITE HERE, announced an $80-million strike fund to pay strike benefits, offer support benefits and cover logistical costs indefinitely. The union reached an agreement with a number of Las Vegas properties in August that included Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Excalibur, and Luxor, as well as several other MGM Mirage properties. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 represents more than 60,000 workers in Nevada.
C. Major Contract Settlements & Negotiations
The UAW and General Motors Corp. September. 26 reached a tentative four-year labor contract ending a strike that began September 24. The agreement provides for no general wage increases, and instead provides annual lump-sum payments to employees, a two-tier wage structure for certain jobs and a new health care trust fund that would eliminate GM's liability for retiree health care, while the company would guarantee greater product investment in its U.S. plants. The UAW will effectively take over the company’s retiree health benefit obligation in the form of a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, an independently managed fund that would be in the form of a trust with initial funding coming from the company. This change would shift the estimated $55 billion liability from GM to the VEBA for approximately 70 cents on the dollar. The tentative agreement reached by GM and the UAW is expected to become a framework for UAW negotiations with Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, which are expected to increase after ratification of the GM contract.
SEIU Local 615 ratified a five-year agreement with the Maintenance Contractors of New England. The agreement covers 10,000 janitors cleaning buildings in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Over the contract term wages of janitors in Boston would increase 23 percent, and wages of janitors in the Boston and Providence, R.I. suburbs would increase 25 percent. The contract would also provide full employer-paid individual health insurance for individuals and would add 7.5 hours per week for thousands of part-time janitors.
Collective bargaining data compiled by BNA through September 24 for all settlements showed that the average first-year wage increased by 3.7 percent, compared with 3.3 percent for the comparable period in 2006. The median first-year wage increase was 3.2 percent as compared to 3 percent in 2006, and the weighted average was 2.8 percent as compared to 3.6 percent.
Members of four unions ratified agreements with the major U.S. freight railroads, but the International Association of Machinists members rejected the agreement. Members of the Transportation Communications Union, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen-TCU, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Transport Workers Union all ratified the agreement. To date, eleven of the thirteen major rail unions have ratified accords in the current round of bargaining.
Members of UNITE HERE Local 25 ratified a new three-year contract with the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., covering about 4,300 hotel employees at 20 hotels. The contract provides for increases in wages, pensions, long- and short-term disability, and continues fully-funded family health insurance coverage. Employees of hotels undergoing renovation or conversion will have recall and seniority rights, and the hotels agreed to limited organizing neutrality and card check. Fourteen hotels participated in the negotiations and another six "me-too" hotels accepted the terms of the labor agreement.
Major collective bargaining agreements reached in Canada during July produced average base-rate wage increases of 3.8 percent, up sharply from the 3.0 average increase during June, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The July average was larger than the 3.4 average in May and the 2.9 percent average in April and brings the year-to-date average wage increase in contracts to 3.1 percent, up from the 2.5 percent for 2006 as a whole and the 2.3 percent for 2005.
The Teamsters announced that the union has broken off negotiations with Interstate Bakeries Corp., which is seeking concessions from the Teamsters and other unions as part of a plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Meanwhile, IBC announced that it reached an agreement with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
Cessna Aircraft Co. and International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 774 settled a three-year contract that preserves existing health care coverage at the same premium costs. The new agreement covers 5,000 workers at the Company's plant in Wichita, Kan.
D. Administrative & Court Decisions
A federal court ruled that the Railway Labor Act preempts state law overtime claims by employees of an interstate railroad. (Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. Shannon, N.D. Ill., No. 05 C 994, 9/21/07). Judge Ruben of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted Wisconsin Central Ltd.'s request for a declaration that the RLA preempted application of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law to the railway's unionized employees, finding that enforcement of the state law would require either an application or interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement negotiated under the RLA.
The NLRB General Counsel Ronald Meisburg issued a memorandum describing the "novel, complex, or unsettled legal questions" that the Regional offices must submit to the Division of Advice for handling. In summary, the following types of cases affected involve: i) those requiring a prosecutorial decision by the General Counsel because of the absence of precedent or involving "policy priorities," (ii) those requiring the "development of a litigation strategy" in light of an adverse appeals court ruling or a new board decision, and (iii) those presenting "particularly difficult" legal issues, and those involving issues that have long been required to be referred to the Advice Division.
The NLRB ruled 3-2 that local unions that pay a portion of their income to national and other affiliates must disclose to nonmembers how the affiliates spend that money when the nonmembers object to paying agency fees for nonrepresentational purposes, and that unions may not wait until a nonmember challenges the local's calculation of the reduced fee. (Teamsters Local 579 (Chambers & Owen Inc.), 350 NLRB No. 87 (2007)). In so holding, the Board overruled previous precedent insofar as it held to the contrary.
UNITE HERE sued Cintas Corp. under the False Claims Act alleging that the uniform supplier defrauded the federal government by failing to comply with the Service Contract Act's minimum labor standards for work performed on the company's numerous service contracts with the government. UNITE HERE alleges that Cintas obtained the service contracts under the false pretense that the company would pay its workers at least the minimum wage rates and provide at least the minimum levels of fringe benefits and paid days off required by the SCA.
The NLRB ruled 2-1 that a Florida piping contractor whose foreman told employees that he knew that "about 80 percent of the shop" had signed union authorization cards for the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union did not unlawfully create an impression that employee activity was under company surveillance (Sunshine Piping Co., 350 NLRB No. 90 (2007)). Because union solicitation at Sunshine Piping was conducted "openly on the Respondent's premises during or immediately before the start of the workday," the Board found the foreman's comments simply indicated that the company was aware of the union's activity on its property and its evident success.
A New Jersey state appellate court upheld the conviction of union members for violating a Lawrence Township, N.J., sign ordinance by displaying a 10-foot-tall balloon in the shape of a rat on a public sidewalk outside a Gold's Gym construction site as part of a labor protest (New Jersey v. DeAngelo, N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. No. A-4229-05T3, 09/13/07). The majority found the ordinance was not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, did not violate the First Amendment's free speech provision, was not void for vagueness, was a content-neutral restriction, and was not selectively enforced against unions.
A court approved a settlement between Rexam, Inc. and the Steelworkers in a retiree health benefits case that calls for 2,551 retirees of Rexam, Inc. to now share in the cost of their retiree health benefits, at levels that depend on the retirees' Medicare eligibility. (Rexam Inc. United Steelworkers of Am., D. Minn., No. 03-cv-2998 (PJS/JJG), 9/17/07).
The NLRB ruled that MediaNews and its subsidiary ANG Newspapers were wrong to issue a policy that restricted its employees' e-mail use without first negotiating the change with the Northern California Media Workers Guild. The dispute started in late 2000 when a union officer, who worked as a reporter at the Oakland Tribune, started sending broadcast e-mails to fellow members about union business. He was disciplined for using the company e-mail system to send out the messages, and the company introduced a new rule restricting the practice.
The NLRB affirmed a Regional Director's dismissal of an election petition filed by Marriott Hartford Downtown Hotel (an RM petition) in response to UNITE HERE's request under a local ordinance for a "labor peace agreement" as part of an organizing effort. (Marriott Hartford Downtown Hotel, N.L.R.B., No. 34-RM-88, unpublished decision 9/14/07 [released 9/19/07]).
E. Legislation & Politics
On September 27, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed into law a bill providing for recognition of public sector unions when a majority in a bargaining unit signs authorization cards. Under the new law, unions have 12 months to gather signatures and request certification from the state Labor Relations Commission or another neutral party. The measure was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate in July after passage of a Senate amendment to clarify that it applied only to public employees, and not to all employers who do business in the state.
The United Steelworkers, the United Mine Workers, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the Transport Workers Union all endorsed John Edwards for President.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council approved a record political budget of more than $53 million for the upcoming elections. The money will purportedly be spent on political education, mobilization, and get-out-the-vote drives in the 2008 election cycle, with none of the money going to political candidates. The Council approved a $1 per member assessment from its 55 affiliates to help fund the political program, which comes on top of the eight cent per capita tax assessment that affiliates have been paying for several years to support the AFL-CIO political agenda. In total, the affiliates of the AFL-CIO together will dedicate an estimated $200 million to the 2008 election effort.
The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents 222,000 active city letter carriers and has approximately 80,000 retired members, has endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for President in 2008. The International Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers also announced its endorsement of the Clinton campaign. The union represents roughly 100,000 skilled masonry-trowel trade craftworkers.
The House Education and Labor Committee approved legislation (H.R. 1644) that would modify the definition of "supervisor" under the National Labor Relations Act. The bill, titled the "Re-empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction and Tradesworkers Act," or RESPECT Act, would change the definition of "supervisor" to eliminate the tasks "assign" and "responsibly direct" from a list of 12 supervisory duties to clarify, in the view of the bill's sponsors, that workers who lack actual supervisory authority are not supervisors under the law. The bill has 133 co-sponsors and is a response to three decisions issued last year by the NLRB defining supervisory status more broadly than the union movement favors.
AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka called on retired union members to use the example of the Democratic electoral victories in 2006 to intensify their efforts to oust Republicans from elected office in the 2008 elections. Trumka claimed that one-fourth of all voters in the 2006 elections were from union households and that 75 percent of these voters supported union candidates.
F. Crime & Corruption
The Justice Department announced criminal charges against the newly installed president of Chicago based Teamsters Local 743 and three former employees, accusing the four of rigging two elections in order to benefit incumbent officers of the local (United States v. Lopez, N.D. Ill., No. O7 CR 580, indictments 9/6/07). According to the grand jury indictment, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy involving a voided election of officers in October 2004 and a rerun election held six weeks later. The government alleges that the defendants diverted hundreds of official ballot packages to friends, confidants, and family members, who then cast ballots in favor of the incumbent officers. The indictment also alleges that the defendants, together with others not named in the indictment, entered the local's computer database and changed the official addresses of certain union members, a scheme causing hundreds of ballots to be diverted to addresses of members loyal to the incumbents. At its announcement, the Justice Department stressed that the investigation of Local 743 was ongoing.
Teamsters president James Hoffa ordered internal union charges be brought against a Chicago area Teamster official. The local officer allegedly allowed improper contact between one of his employees and his father, who is a former official who was expelled for misconduct in 2002. The decision came in response to investigations by an independent review board commissioned to root out corruption within the union. The report charges Robert Hogan with failure to supervise Local 714 employee Robert Riley, who admitted to investigators that he had improper contact with Hogan’s father, William T. Hogan. According to the report, Riley maintained regular contact with William Hogan between 2003 and 2006. Robert Hogan currently serves both as secretary-treasurer of the Berwyn-based Local 731 and as Vice President of Chicago’s Joint Council 25, though Hoffa has announced that he “brought reproach on the IBT.”
Mark Ayers, director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Construction and Maintenance Department was selected as the new president of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department. Ayers has stated his priorities will be expanding membership and reaffiliating three former trade unions, the Laborers' International Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Carpenters and Joiners of America, that separated from the department to form the National Construction Alliance.
The Screen Actors Guild reelected Alan Rosenberg as union president, while the union is gearing up for contract negotiations with producers.
United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger removed himself from membership on the supervisory board of DaimlerChrysler AG. This move was expected following the company's sale of the majority share of the Chrysler Group in August to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.
Linda Chavez-Thompson stepped down as executive vice president of the AFL-CIO effective September 21. Chavez-Thompson was first elected at the federation's 1995 convention to a newly created position of executive vice president, becoming the first person of color to serve in one of the federation's three highest offices.
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