Teachers union keeps Illinois town on edge

In 2004, Christopher Webb would spend his evenings waiting for the 10 p.m. news instead of studying. The 2006 Harlem High School graduate was wondering whether his teachers would be in class or on the picket line the next morning.

Today, Webb has a different vantage point. The rookie Harlem School Board member finds himself at the epicenter of eleventh-hour negotiations with the Harlem Federation of Teachers union.

But even in his position, Webb's grasp on the situation is hardly any better than it was as a Harlem High School student three years ago, he said. He's not alone. With just two days left to settle contracts with the teachers and support staff and avert a strike, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the district. "I remember watching the teachers on the front lawn of the high school with their signs," Webb said of the nine-day teachers strike. "It really sucked."

Recently, talks between the union and the administration have broken down, with a strike becoming a more likely scenario with each passing day.

Union leaders have planned two general assembly meetings Sunday and Monday so members can either approve tentative contracts or discuss strike plans.

Harlem administrators are preparing for a strike but remain hopeful that school will not be delayed for the second time in three years.

Late for the bell

Superintendent Pat DeLuca said he is confident that students will not miss any school.

But if there is a strike, plans are in place.

The School District will notify parents and students each night through media reports and on its Web site about the status of the contract, DeLuca said.

For athletes, a strike can cost them part of their season.

The golf, soccer and football programs would likely have to forfeit games, said Shane Turner, Harlem's athletic director. A strike could also jeopardize Harlem's eligibility in early-season tournaments.

Other fall sports do not start until late August and early September.

But football players are required by the Illinois High School Association to practice a minimum number of days before the team can play, Turner said.

The Harlem High School football team will reach the minimum of 14 days of practice on Thursday, and Turner said volunteers would coach the team if there is a work stoppage to ensure that the state mandate is met.

But games are a different matter.

"No games can be played while they are on strike," Turner said.

The first game, on Friday, pits the Harlem Huskies against the Belvidere North Blue Thunder - that team's inaugural game. If Harlem can't play, a forfeit victory goes to Belvidere North.

"I hope it's something we don't have to experience," said Karen Reynolds, Belvidere North athletic director. "You don't want to take a win by forfeit."

Besides, she said, hers is a young team, and she’s hoping to gauge how well they do in their first contest.

"You never really know (how well they'll play) until you see them play against somebody else," she said. "We're keeping our fingers crossed for Harlem."

Turner said it may be possible to reschedule the game if the two teams can agree on an alternative date.

"Last year, I had to move a football game from a Friday to a Saturday because of the weather," he said. "So it can be moved. But hopefully, we'll be in school on Tuesday and it'll all be water under the bridge."

Support for the teachers

Deb Keller's family is no stranger to contract disputes.

Keller has six children enrolled in Harlem schools this year, and most of them were in school at the time of the 2004 strike. At the dinner table, the family has discussed the possibility that they will not return to school on the first scheduled day.

"The older children are old enough that we can talk about it," said Keller, the parent-teacher organization president for Parker Early Education Center. "They are in support of the teachers, and they want the teachers to get a fair deal. None of us want to see them settle just to settle."

The family sides with the teachers because they accepted a wage and benefit freeze that helped, in part, to revive the School District's finances. Harlem has rebounded and has surplus projections of about $11 million for this year.

"We bent over backward ... three years ago," said Lynn Kearney, president of the Harlem Federation of Teachers. "Now they have money, and people need to be paid appropriately."

For students, the wait is tedious, something Webb understands.

"When you are a student, your life is school," he said. "All your friends are there."

Contracts by Sunday?

The administration believes it will have tentative contracts for the teachers and the support staff - teaching assistants, secretaries, bus drivers and other noncertified workers - ready for the union’s vote by Sunday afternoon.

Harlem officials say it's not uncommon to reach an agreement hours before a strike. But union members must have 24 hours to review it. So teachers won't return to class until 24 hours after a tentative deal is reached.

Teachers are scheduled to return to school Monday for an institute day, to ready their classrooms and prepare for the first day.

High school freshmen and students at seven of the district's nine elementary schools and the middle school are scheduled to start Tuesday. All high school students will return Wednesday, and Parker Center students go back Thursday.

Plans for lost days

To absorb the school days that would be lost during a work stoppage, the School District will shorten winter and spring breaks, the superintendent said.

Maple Elementary students would have their schooling shaken up the most, having finished three weeks of school. The children would be forced out of the classroom while teachers, who have been working under an old contract, joined the picket lines.

Maple uses a modified schedule that has students in class nine weeks and then off two weeks. While classes there start earlier in the summer, the school year ends at the same time others in Harlem do.

So in the case of a strike, the two-week breaks would be shortened.

"They are all settled in, and they are all into a routine," DeLuca said. "That would be more disruptive."


Patients hurt by Long Island SEIU caregivers strike

As home health care workers picketed outside the Hempstead and Ronkonkoma offices of Premier Home Health Care Services Inc. for the fifth consecutive day Friday, some of the company's patients expressed frustration at the quality of care - or lack of care - they have received this week. About half of Premier's 250-member workforce in Nassau and Suffolk counties went on strike Monday demanding higher pay and health insurance. They belong to 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Premier and 1199 entered negotiations Thursday, said 1199 spokeswoman Leah Gonzalez, but no resolution has been reached. Gonzalez said she did not have information about when the groups would continue negotiations, but workers will return to work Saturday.

In the workers' absence, Premier is responsible for the patients' care, but as of Friday, Braddie Greene, 76, of Riverhead, said he had not received a caregiver.

Greene, who usually has an aide Wednesdays and Fridays, said he received a call from a Premier employee Wednesday to say the company was trying to find someone to come to her home.

"She was kind of watering it down," Greene said. "She said the girls would be off all this week. She didn't tell me why." Under the National Labor Relations Act, a group is required to give 10 days notice of its intention to strike or picket a health care institution. Premier was given a month's notice of the strike, said Gonzalez, allowing time to arrange care for its patients.

Calls to Premier's corporate office in Westchester County were not returned Thursday and Friday. It is unclear how many patients Premier serves on Long Island.

Naum Feldman, 81, of Long Beach, said through an interpreter that he usually receives an aide for more than four hours every day, but he did not see a replacement caregiver until Wednesday.

The World War II veteran of the Russian army speaks only Russian, and his words were translated by 1199 organizer Valentina Furman, who also speaks Russian.

Feldman said he had heart bypass surgery six years ago and has been in and out of the hospital for heart and kidney problems.

Premier called him Wednesday to say they would send someone at 2 p.m., but when the worker did not arrive until 2:45, Feldman sent her away. He is a military man, he said, and did not want her if she was late.

Feldman received another aide Thursday and Friday, but he said that if the agency does not send his original caregiver Saturday, he will change agencies because "they are unfair to workers."

"The workers have to care for old, sick people," Furman said, translating Feldman's words to English. "They're working too hard for too little."

The union says Premier's workers receive less than $8 an hour and do not receive health insurance or paid holidays and sick days.

Hempstead resident Verdell Morris, 94, who suffers from Alzheimer's, also received a replacement aide Monday through Wednesday that her daughter described as "inadequate."

Wilhelmina Bell, 67, of New Paltz, N.Y., who is visiting her mother, said the aide fed Morris fruit after being instructed not to do so, and she did not properly assist Morris in daily activities, like bathing.

"Also, she left my mother alone to make a personal telephone call without asking. We never leave my mother alone," Bell said.

The replacement unexpectedly did not return Thursday, and Bell declined the replacement aid offered by the agency Friday.

Morris's regular caregiver of four years usually spends every day at her home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"If you have a person like her caring for your mother like she was her own mother, and she doesn't even have health insurance -- that is just unbelievable to me," Bell said. "My family supports the strike 100 percent."


U.S. House votes less labor union oversight

Even though House Democrats campaigned on promises to improve ethics, promote greater transparency and disclosure, and fight corruption, it now appears they will not require some of their top campaign contributors to live by those same vows.

In a galling political move, the House voted down an amendment last week that would have restored funding for the Office of Labor and Management Standards (OLMS), an office within the Department of Labor. That means OLMS's budget will be slashed by about 20 percent next year. And OLMS isn't just any ordinary office. Under the Bush administration, OLMS has led the charge on requiring greater union financial disclosure and transparency and fighting union corruption.

OLMS was instrumental in updating the LM-2 form, a union financial document required by DOL. Before the current administration, the form itself had not been updated in decades and unions were generally lackadaisical in turning it in at all. OLMS made changes to the document that accurately reflected the financial sophistication of today's labor unions, required individual unions to document expenses and membership numbers, listed salaries for union officials, and mandated that the form be filed with the Department in a timely manner.

The result is that today any rank and file union member can log on to the Department of Labor's website and look up detailed financial information about how their dues are being spent. Never have the "average Joes" in labor unions had so much useful and readily accessible information about their unions.

OLMS has also been

instrumental in fighting corrupt union leaders. Its work has helped prosecutors win convictions in corruption cases and returned to union coffers money that unsavory labor leaders tried to pilfer.

While all of this might sound noble, one constituency has not been enamored with OLMS: union bosses. Suffice it to say that all of this talk about financial disclosure, transparency, and corruption has made many labor leaders quite uncomfortable. Much of the financial reporting has also brought to light embarrassing information about the ways that union leadership spends members' dues. Many union leaders would prefer to have their members in the dark about how many golf outings, "retreats" at lavish resorts, and fancy dinners they have enjoyed on their dime.

OLMS is nothing more than an annoyance to labor leaders, and they have been eager to find a way to muzzle the office. Union leaders first fought OLMS in federal court over the financial disclosure rules but lost that battle. So, now, they have turned to their Democratic friends in Congress and asked for help in derailing OLMS. With union contributions being key to Democratic political fortunes, labor's allies on the House Appropriations committee have been willing to slash OLMS's budget.

What makes these budget cuts so obviously related to OLMS's oversight of unions is that the Democrats have actually added $935 million dollars to the original administration budget request. It seems that the Democrats have no problem with spending taxpayer dollars on DOL. They just don't want that money to fund oversight of their campaign contributors.

It's also noteworthy that labor unions are trying so hard to keep their own books secret when they have aggressively lobbied to require greater financial transparency from publicly traded corporations. OLMS's reporting requirements pale in comparison to Sarbanes-Oxley. It's clear that labor wants to promote one stringent standard for companies but live by another.

The real losers in this fight however are the rank and file union members. They work hard and pay their dues. They should have the right to know what their leaders are doing and how they are spending their financial resources.

Unfortunately, disenfranchising regular workers seems to be a trend for organized labor in this Congress. Earlier this year, Democrats tried to push through a bill that would have eliminated a worker's right to a secret ballot election. That bill also would have prevented union members from even voting on contracts in some circumstances.

Even though that legislation was eventually defeated, it's clear that labor unions are trying every tactic to increase their membership and escape public and governmental scrutiny. And the irony is that it's just this type of arrogant behavior that makes workers reluctant to join unions in the first place--that and the dues.

If House Democrats had some political courage, they would tell labor leaders that cutting OLMS's budget is just a step too far. They would remind them about their campaign promises to promote ethics and end corruption and say that labor, too, will be held

to a high standard. And they would stand up for the regular union members that they speak so fondly of in their campaign advertisements.

But don't bet on that happening. Campaign contributions matter more than anything else. House Democrats just did what was asked of them.


Democrats preach labor unionism in Iowa

Democratic presidential candidates argued Saturday night that organized labor is an essential part of the nation's economy whose troubles mirror the deterioration of the middle class way of life.

"The only way to reinvigorate the middle class is to reinvigorate the labor movement," Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware told several hundred union members at a labor forum in eastern Iowa.

For all the candidates, it was one stop in a busy several days leading to a Sunday morning debate in Des Moines. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York leads the Democratic field in national polls and has pulled into a three-way tie in Iowa, where the first votes of the 2008 campaign will be tallied.

One of her chief rivals, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, energized the crowd with his rebuke of Democratic candidates who accept donations from lobbyists. While he has done so at other forums, this time Edwards did not single out Clinton for raising tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists.

"We are not the party of Washington insiders. We are the party of the people, and so from this day forward we say no - no forever to the money from Washington lobbyists," said Edwards, the party's vice presidential nominee in 2004. "Their money is not good anymore."

He singled out money tied to drug companies and health insurance companies. "I don't represent those people," he said. "I want to represent you."

Clinton addressed the crowd first. "It was unions that organized workers, that gave them better wages and working conditions and benefits like health care and pensions," she said. "And what is happening now is that the American middle class is under assault."

The crowd thinned out after Edwards' speech, leaving scores of empty seats for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who spoke third. The rest of the field spoke to mostly empty rows.

Obama said a Democratic president, backed by organized labor, can change Washington and protect the middle class.

"We need a president ... who is not afraid to mention unions," he said.

Biden said Republican are trying to destroy the so-called house of labor - "the house the built the middle class."

Labor organizations are critical to any Democratic candidate, particularly in Iowa where grass-roots organizing is key.

"I never once had to look over my shoulder and wonder whether organized labor and unions stood with me," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., in a fiery speech. "I'm a union guy!"

Obama plans to attend fewer such multi-candidate events in the future, his campaign manager wrote on Obama's 2008 Web site.

"We simply cannot continue to hopscotch from forum to forum and run a campaign true to the bottom up movement for change that propelled Barack into this race," David Plouffe wrote. He added, "I think this approach will be better for the voters and the campaign."

He said Obama was committed to five remaining debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, two Iowa debates in December and one in Florida on Sept. 9.

Many of Obama's rivals also have complained about the overwhelming number of multi-candidate gatherings and could follow suit

Earlier in the day, Clinton, Edwards, Dodd and Biden attended an event at a minor league baseball field where they ate boiled sweet corn and made their pitches to more than 1,000 people.

In central Iowa, Obama toured a city-owned utility plant to promote his energy policies. He said the country faces an "an urgent moral challenge" to reduce reliance on oil and needs a president willing to defy special interests in Washington that dictate energy policy.

Obama, casting himself an agent of change in a crowded field of White House hopefuls, suggested that he is voters' best bet to shake up the status quo.

"We've got to have a president in the White House who sets bold targets and sets broad goals and isn't intimidated by the barriers and the roadblocks and isn't driven by those who already have an investment in the status quo - somebody who can overcome the lobby-driven, divisive politics that characterizes this issue," Obama told about 300 people at Waverly Light and Power, the city utility.


Oregon's labor gov't in contract giveaways

The second-largest state workers union in Oregon has been given a generous two-year labor deal with the state. Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees reached a tentative agreement Thursday night with state negotiators for a 2007-09 contract, said Don Loving, union spokesman.

The deal affects about 4,000 state workers. As expected, AFSCME was given the same increased pay and benefits package offered to SEIU Local 503. State officials hope the SEIU economic terms will become a template for other bargaining unit contracts. That includes a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment retroactive to July 1, and a 3.2 percent COLA in the fall of 2008. The state will continue to cover workers' health premiums.

Oregon is the only remaining state that continues to pay 100 percent of workers' health premiums, Loving said.

AFSCME also won improved pay grades for 16 job classifications. That will affect about 200 workers, Loving said. In addition, "we got what we consider excellent improvement in contracting-out language," he said.

Workers now may take three days' bereavement leave to attend a funeral of an immediate family member. In the past, they had to use sick days, Loving said.

The definition of an immediate family member was expanded to include grandchildren and foster children.


SEIU will not help patient care

First, the SEIU's claim that Citrus Valley Health Partners (CVHP) is using disproportionate funds from the state to pay consultants to fight employee unionization is completely false. CVHP has investments, income and other sources of funds that they have at their disposal.

Second, as a patient caregiver who bends over backward for my patients at CVHP, I am absolutely offended that SEIU states that we are providing poor patient care at our facilities. They do not work with us and they do not have proof to back up their inflammatory claims. We have passed our Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCAHO) every year and meet the national patient safety standards. SEIU is obviously trying to incite fear and alarm the community.

Finally, I ask readers to consider this: Since when did having unions in a hospital setting improve patient care? Let's take a look at Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Medical Center. SEIU represents the employees of King-Harbor and they are now being permanently closed due to extremely poor patient care and failure to meet the national safety patient standards.

Rebecca L. Grant, Covina


No need for SEIU at Calif. hospital

I have been working at Citrus Valley Medical Center (San Gabriel, CA) for nine years now, and I can't believe the unbelievable garbage the SEIU-UHW are spewing out to try and get new paying members.

The SEIU-UHW put out a full page ad in your paper on Aug. 1 and stated that the "hospital administration is trying to prevent us from performing the patient care we give them." Well, that is a crock! The SEIU-UHW has nothing to do with patient care. That's what the CNA is supposed to be for. The SEIU-UHW is only concerned with non-nursing people.

It's also a crying shame that the union sent over some hired representatives to the hospital cafeterias at both hospitals and were disruptive to those who were taking their lunch break or to the families of patients who were trying to relax from visiting their loved ones.

For as many people who are in favor of the union at the hospital, and that is their right, there are more people in the hospital who are totally against it - like myself.

Chuck Gay, Baldwin Park


Forestry strike forces mill to idle 600 workers

Due to fibre supply limitations caused by the ongoing United Steel Workers strike, Catalyst Paper Corporation will curtail most of its production at the Campbell River Elk Falls mill effective August 31, 2007 at 8:00 a.m. The temporary closure removes about 1,100 tonnes per day of paper production and 900 tonnes per day of pulp products impacting about 600 employees. To protect service to key customers for as long as possible, the mill will continue to run its #2 paper machine. This production will be curtailed sometime in mid-September.

The situation with respect to the coastal forest industry strike and its impact on Catalyst Paper is growing more difficult. The company continues to actively manage its fibre supply and inventories. While the remainder of the company's manufacturing facilities maintain full operations, the likelihood of additional curtailments will increase as the labour disruption moves into September. Catalyst Paper continues to call for a quick resolution to the dispute.

Catalyst is a leading producer of mechanical printing papers in North America. The company also produces market kraft pulp and owns Western Canada's largest paper recycling facility. With five mills and 3,500 employees at sites within a 160-kilometre radius on the south coast of British Columbia, Catalyst has a combined annual capacity of 2.4 million tonnes of product. Catalyst Paper Corporation common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol CTL. The company is headquartered in Vancouver, BC.


Forestry layoffs caused by Steelworkers strike

Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Ltd. laid off more than 100 workers yesterday from its newsprint operation due to shortages of raw materials caused by striking loggers and sawmill workers on the B.C. coast. The company shut down newsprint production at its mill in Port Mellon, B.C., last week and temporarily laid off between 120 and 150 workers after a week of maintenance work on the paper machine.

Howe Sound spokesman Al Strang said the company had enough raw material to continue running its pulp mill late into September, but after that, more difficult decisions would have to be made. "We're evaluating different possibilities," Mr. Strang said.

Pulp and paper mills depend on wood chips generated by sawmill operations for a supply of wood fibre. However, B.C.'s coastal forestry industry is undergoing a strike by thousands of unionized workers who are negotiating labour agreements.

Graham Kissack of Catalyst Paper Corp., one of the biggest paper companies on the coast, said his company was beginning to feel the squeeze on its fibre supplies.

Mr. Kissack said Catalyst had set out a plan before the strike to manage its stockpile of raw material, but if the strike drags into September, things become a little more unclear.

"We will start to see shortages of fibre and wood waste which we use as fuel to generate steam and electricity in the coming weeks," he said.

Catalyst said it would curtail most of its production at the Campbell River Elk Falls mill effective Aug. 31 due to limited fibre supply. About 600 Catalyst employees will be affected.

Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, a joint venture of Canfor Corp. and Japan's Oji Paper Co. Ltd., employs 600 people and produces 400,000 tonnes a year of bleached kraft pulp and 220,000 tonnes a year of newsprint.

About 7,000 coastal forestry workers employed by Island Timberlands LP, International Forest Products Ltd. and Forest Industrial Relations member operations walked off the job on July 21. Key issues are work scheduling, severance and protection from contracting out. No talks have been scheduled.

United Steelworkers union members plan to start a campaign at Home Depot Inc. stores across Canada today, asking customers to not buy lumber manufactured by companies where workers are striking.

Union spokesman Steve Hunt said settlement talks were closest with Island Timberlands before breaking off.

"If we can get the Island people back going again, it is possible we could get a settlement, and that may be the catalyst for everybody else," he said.

However, Ron Shewchuk, spokesman for Forest Industrial Relations, repeated a call for the union to put Forest Industrial's last offer to a vote by its membership. "We feel that our offer is worthy of serious consideration," he said.

On Thursday, the B.C. Labour Relations Board rejected TimberWest Forest Corp.'s application to force a vote on an offer to the union that would raise wages by 11 per cent over five years and provide a $100,000 signing bonus for each of its 29 engineers and foresters. However, the union said the company has filed another application for a vote.


'Gang of Four' at Boeing's labor union

The Boeing Co.'s commercial jetliner business is flying high these days, but the union that represents many of the engineers and technical workers who help design and build those jets is in turmoil. Last month, four of the seven board members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace abruptly sacked the union's executive director without cause.

The surprise vote came while the union's president was on vacation. Charles Bofferding, the executive director, was away, too, attending a family reunion after his daughter's wedding.

Now, those same four board members are facing a possible recall vote. One Web site, SPEEA Watch, (speea-watch.com) calls them the "gang of four." And it gets pretty nasty. Lots of name-calling. "I never thought we would have this kind of situation, that we would be going through all of this," said Cynthia Cole, president of SPEEA, which represents about 24,000 white-collar workers, most of them in the Puget Sound area.

Cole is an engineer on Boeing's P-8A Poseidon subhunter program in Renton. The Poseidon will be a modified Boeing 737 for the Navy.

Enough SPEEA members -- at least 10 percent -- have signed petitions to force a recall vote of the four board members, Cole said Tuesday.

A union committee must now go through the petitions to verify that those who signed them are members of SPEEA and that the 10 percent figure was reached.

Once that happens, ballots would be mailed to members, and they would vote whether to recall any or all of the four board members. A simple majority vote is required to recall a board member.

None of the four could be reached Tuesday for comment.

But SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich, who was named by the board as interim chief of staff when Bofferding was sacked, said the union is not in as much turmoil as recent events might suggest.

He said the search for a new executive director is going well. An advisory committee has been meeting twice a week to come up with qualifications and areas of responsibilities for the next director. The board hopes to hire a new executive director by Nov. 2.

Dugovich acknowledged that the union was flooded with e-mails, both for and against what happened, after the board's vote to end Bofferding's contract.

"But that has settled down," Dugovich said. "The advisory committee is making good progress. We keep working union issues and the internal issues, too."

One of those SPEEA members upset by what happened sent this reporter an e-mail.

"This takeover of SPEEA by a tiny group of mischief makers is truly a very important story in view of its impact on Boeing and the economy of this area. I am shocked that it has received so little attention," the member wrote.

Cole said many SPEEA members are still very upset about what happened, and that's why they have signed the recall petitions.

Even those who did not like or support Bofferding are upset about the way he was terminated, she said.

"SPEEA typically does not make such big decisions without involving the members," Cole said. "But they didn't even ask the president of the union," she said of the four board members.

They terminated Bofferding's contract after he served 16 years as the union's executive director. The other three board members, including Cole, voted against the motion. Cole did so by phone from Oregon.

The union publishes a monthly newsletter for its members called Spotlite, and it includes a standing message or column from the president.

But Cole's message for the August issue was not published. Dugovich said five of the six other board members voted not to publish Cole's message. The president's message has to conform to general guidelines for SPEEA's publication and that includes "no personal attacks," Dugovich said.

In her unpublished message, Cole explained how she was taken by surprise by the abrupt vote to terminate Bofferding.

"What concerns me," she wrote, "is not who is SPEEA's executive director; but rather that this motion was rushed through without discussion."

She went on to say that the four board members "prefer an autocratic philosophy, which tends, by nature, to disregard other points of view, and positions others as opponents."

This is not the first time the SPEEA board has been embroiled in internal disputes.

In 2002, SPEEA members voted to recall two of their leaders, President Tom Day and Treasurer Mike Dunn. They were members of the Dedicated Unionists, a dissident group within the union that had challenged longtime union leaders. The Dedicated Unionists started a petition back then to remove Bofferding as executive director and abolish his position.

Dunn was voted back on the SPEEA board in March. He was one of the four who voted to fire Bofferding.

In a recent posting on the SPEEA Watch Web site, Tom McCarty, one of the three board members who opposed the four when they fired Bofferding, wrote that the Dedicated Unionists led by Dunn seek "confrontational negotiations with our employer."

"This attitude will not be successful in the next negotiations," McCarty wrote. "Rather than demand, we need to help the company see the value that we bring to the enterprise and that their success is inseparable from our success."

The union has struck Boeing only once -- for 40 days in 2000.

The current three-year SPEEA contract with Boeing ends in December 2008. Boeing's contract with its more militant Machinists union ends at midnight Sept. 1, 2008.

Contract talks with both unions will come at a critical time next year for Boeing. A strike by either union could disrupt production of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, which is set to enter airline service in May 2008. Production will just be ramping up when serious labor talks get under way.


British Columbia forestry strike leads to lockout

After TimberWest attempted to renew its collective agreement with Steelworkers Union locals 1-80 and 1-363, including a restructured contractor model, the union chose to serve strike notice rather than continue negotiations. Today TimberWest responded by serving lockout notice.

The lockout will be effective as of 4 p.m. Monday, August 20, 2007. It has been served to terminate the Coast Master Agreement and the Woodlands Letter of Understanding that the company is now operating under. The lock out puts TimberWest on a level playing field with Island Timberlands, Interfor, and FIR member companies who have all been struck by the USW. With the USW strike action underway, none of those companies have a collective agreement in place and they are no longer bound by any of the terms and conditions of the previous agreement.

"This lockout notice serves to highlight the importance of a restructured contractor model to TimberWest. There is still too much volume in the hands of too few contractors," said Steve Lorimer, Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations. "This lockout notice puts TimberWest in the same position as the rest of the industry," added Lorimer.

TimberWest has also tabled a revised final offer for a new collective agreement and has asked that the BC Labour Relations Board conduct a secret ballot vote.

TimberWest's offer contains three key features:
- An 11% increase in wages over five years.

- A $100,000 signing bonus for each engineer and forester who is eligible to vote on the final offer, if the final offer is ratified.

- A simplified contractor model that is more closely aligned with that which is in place elsewhere in the Coastal forest industry and puts TimberWest on a more stable footing with its global competitors.

"Companies must stay competitive so that employees and contractors who depend on forestry continue to have safe, good-paying and stable jobs," said Steve Lorimer. "We need a collective agreement that will provide communities on Vancouver Island with a viable forest industry for the long-term."

According to Lorimer, "A simplified contractor model will allow for competitive and stable logging operations while protecting the rights of the Steelworkers. The model will create the ability for more operators to enter the marketplace, and improve overall safety by allowing the company to sub-divide operations to smaller Steelworker certified contractors, which will provide financial stability and a more secure work environment." He added that "TimberWest's competitors operate with smaller unionized contractors."

The company's final offer has been modified from an earlier one placed before the BC Labour Relations Board to comply with representational issues raised by the Board. The company also plans to appeal the Board's ruling that its earlier proposal was inconsistent with the law and the policy of the code.


Obama addresses Iowa AFL-CIO convention

Related Posts with Thumbnails