9/6/07

UFCW decertified at Portland co-op

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 is out at the Food Front Cooperative Grocery in Northwest Portland, Ore. The National Labor Relations Board today certified the results of the store employees' earlier 20-8 vote on Aug. 29 ending representation by the union.

"It's a pretty strong statement of how we feel about the UFCW," says Stephanie Hawkins, an employee at the store. "They're big business. The co-op is the antithesis to that." Hawkins says the union wasn't around much until employees started talking about decertification. "They would only show up to collect our dues," she tells WWire.

The employees voted in the union about a decade ago but many employees now say their relationship to management has improved and that the union interferes with their ability to work together.

They also took issue with the amount they were paying in dues, roughly $30 per month when the average wage is $10 per hour. The employees figured that the union made about $12,000 from the coop last year.

Ric Ball, Collective Bargaining and Organizing Director for the UFCW, says he "supports workers making their employment choices" and wishes the Food Front employees good luck.

Many of those who voted against the UFCW are still interested in unions and collective action. Hawkins says employees intend to begin looking to replace the union with either a smaller union than the UFCW, or another employee organization that can advocate for itself to management.

If the employees should find another union, they must wait a year before they can have another NLRB election.

(wweek.com)

Teachers strike illegal, union set to defy judge

A Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that a strike by teachers in East Greenwich is illegal and granted the school district's request for a restraining order against the union.

The superintendent told NBC 10 that classes would be held Friday. Judge Jeffrey Lanphear said if teachers do not obey the order to go back to class, he would see them in court. "Public employees cannot strike. The court must move promptly and strongly to ensure that the law is followed," Lanphear said.

The walkout entered its third day Thursday.

The two sides met Wednesday night but no settlement was reached. The next negotiation session is scheduled for Sept. 14.

It was determined that after 100 hours of negotiations that the two sides were still so far apart, they needed a cooling-off period before they could resume negotiations.

(turnto10.com)

AFSCME strikers fail to enforce picket line

The union representing some 3,100 clerical, technical and health care workers went on strike Wednesday morning after negotiations with the University of Minnesota broke down at 11 p.m. the night before, eight hours into a last-ditch effort to salvage a persistent wage dispute.

Despite what Eliot Seide, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, called "a powerful start," as well as significant support from faculty, some students and the independent university media, Minnesota officials said the job action had a "minimal" initial impact and continued rearranging employees and prioritizing services to avoid potential disruptions on campus. Still, a significant number of professors who supported the strike intended to hold classes off campus, in violation of university policy.

From preliminary reports, the university estimated that about two-thirds of AFSCME employees had come to work on Wednesday, the second day of classes this fall. Seide said on Wednesday morning that at least 500 people had picked up picket signs, with "literally thousands" out on strike.

"We didn't want to strike. Our people like to serve the students of the University of Minnesota," said Seide. "The university would not come up with a proposal that allowed our members to even keep pace with inflation."

The basic disagreement between the parties comes down to wages. While the union maintains that the proposed pay increase does not keep pace with inflation, the university says what makes up an "increase" is a matter of semantics. The university's offer, still on the table, would apply to the 94 percent of employees who haven't reached the top of their pay range and provide at least a 4.25-percent wage increase each year for the next two years.

The problem, as the union sees it, is that the university doesn't distinguish between "step" and other increases. Step increases (about 2 to 2.4 percent) are intended to award employees for longevity as they progress from their initial hiring rate to the final job rate. Separately, the union seeks pay boosts on top of the step increases to help employees match the costs of inflation. The university views both types as "real money" and as a result doesn't distinguish between them.

For the 6 percent of remaining workers not eligible for step increases because they are at the top of their range, the university offered lump-sum payments, which AFSCME found unacceptable. The dispute between the university and the union has not focused on health insurance or other benefits, which include tuition benefits and coverage of 85 percent of medical plan costs for active employees.

AFSCME has also complained that the university is not making use of additional funds appropriated by the state Legislature intended for wage increases. Daniel Wolter, a university spokesman, disputed that allegation. The university received $155 million out of a $189 million budget request, in which the regents sought a 3.25-percent increase in wages for all employee groups. The university’s offer of 4.25 percent for AFSCME employees exceeds that, Wolter said.

Clerical workers struck at the university in a 2003 standoff that lasted for 11 days, an experience whose lessons officials are applying this time around. "We're certainly prepared to minimize any impact for a longer-term strike," Wolter said.

The university's biggest concern was Boynton Health Services, the on-campus clinic, but by Wednesday afternoon no appointments had been canceled. Seven of the campus's 911 dispatchers are AFSCME employees, but officials rerouted the service to the Minneapolis emergency routing center in anticipation of any disruptions. Still, veterinary service was reduced to emergency care and the bursar’s office had to shift resources to continue operating.

Classes were set to continue, but some professors were ready to move their lessons off campus for the duration of the strike. According to Steff Yorek at the AFSCME Local 3800 clerical workers union, strike organizers have accommodated at least 140 classes, representing about 4,000 students, at off-campus locations such as theaters, church meeting rooms and the back rooms of restaurants. There are at least 100 more requests pending.

"Being on campus is crossing the picket line, in my mind," said Katherine Fennelly, a professor of public affairs who chairs the University Senate's Social Concerns Committee. Holding classes off campus "says to students that I respect the rights of workers to strike," she said.

"This strike hits all faculty hard. The people striking are people we know and work with every day. We care about them and their families, and we want the best for them," said Geoffrey Sirc, a professor of English who chairs the Faculty Affairs Committee.

"So even a basic decision like that has faculty feeling very uneasy, torn between duties as faculty regarding students, and allegiances, as good citizens, for unionized workers," Sirc said. "Overlaying all that, of course, is a respect for the administration. I think it's safe to say every faculty member wants this strike settled as quickly and as justly as possible."

(insidehighered.com)

Wealthy town suffers illegal teachers strike

East Greenwich School District will file a complaint this morning in Superior Court, Kent County, seeking an injunction to order the teachers back to work. Teachers have been on strike for three days.

As of 11:20 p.m. last night, the School Committee and union representatives had not come to an agreement on the teachers contract. The key issues are salaries and health care benefits. The union represents 235 teachers, who have been on strike since Tuesday.

East Greenwich is one of Rhode Island's weathiest communities. "We asked the teachers to come back to work and they refused and so that's where we are at," Meyers said last night. "We are still negotiating now. The mediator has not dismissed us."

Negotiators for the School Department and the teachers union returned to the bargaining table yesterday afternoon.

"If we don't leave the meeting with the teachers going back to work, then the district will have no choice but to go to court" in search of a back-to-work order, Schools Supt. Charles E. Myers said yesterday morning.

"This is a last-ditch effort," Meyers said of the evening bargaining session, assisted by a state mediator, that was expected to extend into the early-morning hours. All seven School Committee members showed up for the session. Two board members are on the bargaining team.

"We will all be there ready to do the work. We are ready to stay the night if that’s what it takes," commented Donna Hayes, co-boss of the 235-member East Greenwich Education Association. "We are hoping the School Committee makes the movement that they need to so we can back [today]. We want to be teaching, we want to be with the kids."

If the School Department does to go court, "we'll be prepared for that, but it's my hope that we reach an agreement," said Jane Argentieri, assistant executive director of National Education Association Rhode Island, parent organization of the East Greenwich union,

Rhode Island law forbids strikes by public school teachers, but the state Supreme Court has stipulated that a judge must hold a hearing before deciding on a request for a back-to-work order.

When the negotiating teams arrived at East Greenwich High School yesterday for the 5 p.m. start of talks, they were met by more than 100 teachers, some carrying small children, marching at the school entrance off Middle Road.

The union's old contract expired Friday. The unresolved issues, aside from salaries, include the school board’s proposal to double, to 20 percent, the share of health coverage premiums that top-scale teachers must pay.

In the fall of 2004, the town's teachers reported to their schools despite the lack of a contract. An agreement was not reached until a year later; until then teachers expressed their displeasure by working to rule - doing no more than the terms of their old contract provided.

That wasn't fun, said Robert Robberson, a physical education teacher at Eldredge Elementary School, recalled as he picketed the school yesterday morning.

"Things didn't go in our favor last time. It was tough, work to rule, we had to follow contract compliance," Robberson said. "I feel stronger that the teachers are more united. We are just real optimistic that something will get settled [tonight]."

Before going into the high school yesterday afternoon, some School Committee members said they were upset about a letter, highly critical of the board, that the union mailed to all residents this week. (The text of the letter appears on D4.)

"We both agreed to face-to-face negotiations. Shame on them," said School Committee member Anne Palumbo, who is on the negotiating team. "It's discouraging and a wedge in the conversation."

Board member Jean Ann Guliano, also a bargaining team member, said she hoped to keep the dispute out of court.

"We are definitely trying to take the high road. We are going to ask them to come back. Our kids need to get back," she said.

(projo.com)

Celeb leftists join AFSCME strike at University

Amid cheering striking workers, students and faculty, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, spoke in support of University of Minnesota clerical, technical and health care workers, Sept. 5. The rally was one of the high points in the first day of the strike.

Edwards was followed by SEIU Local 26 president Javier Morrello. Joe Rofler, president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees spoke and donated $5000 to the U of M Workers Support fund.

AFSCME Council 5 pledged the support of tens of thousands of AFSCME members in Minnesota. Additional messages of solidarity were received from AFA, ATU 1005 and Teamsters Local 120. A group of teamsters carried a banner reading, "Rank and file teamsters support AFSCME strike."

Al Franken visited picket lines around campus this morning accompanied by 'Stuart Smalley' who offered strikers the to join him in the affirmation, "I'm good enough, I’m strong enough and gosh darn it I deserve a fair contract."

In addition many members of the campus community attended the rally including professors, civil service staff and students. The enthusiastic support was welcomed by strikers. One striking worker said, "All of this support is tremendously powerful, it helps keep me strong on the picket line. I want people to understand why I am on strike, I am not striking to buy a Lexus, I am striking to be able to survive."

The strike is having a tremendous impact all over campus. Just a few examples are:

Veterinary Medicine - St. Paul Campus:
The Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Clinics are virtually shut down and are only accepting emergent patients. At least 50% of the University of Minnesota's veterinary technicians walked off work today, leaving some 15 specialty clinics and the animal hospital open only for emergency calls. Clinic appointments scheduled through the week of Sept. 17 have been canceled due to the lack of technicians to provide care. Inexperienced students are being asked to take over technical responsibilities.

School of Dentistry - East Bank Minneapolis Campus:
The school of dentistry clinics were reduced to one floor of clinics. Without AFSCME Local 3260 dental assistants, lab technicians and dental hygienists, two floors of dental clinics in Moos Tower have consolidated to one floor. Healthcare employees interview patients and assist teeth cleaning, as well as fabricate dentures and crowns.

Bursar’s Offices - West Bank Minneapolis Campus and St. Paul Campus:
With the absence of AFSMCE clerical workers, the Bursar's offices on the West bank and St. Paul areas are closed for the duration of the strike.

Anderson and Wilson Libraries - West Bank Minneapolis Campus
Anderson Library is cleared of technical and clerical workers. Anderson holds eight special collections and archives units and is the central office of the MINITEX Library Information Network. Staff at Wilson Library, the main West Bank library, is significantly reduced. No books leave a U of M Library without touching an AFSMCE worker.

911 Dispatchers - Twin Cities Campus:
Without AFSCME police dispatchers, University of Minnesota police cannot handle the computerized dispatch system. Minneapolis dispatchers are also AFSCME and are handling 911 calls for the U of M only. Normal dispatch operations cannot be fulfilled.

Facilities Management - Twin Cities Campus
The facilities management emergency call center is cleared of employees. The call center answers problems with building maintenance such as elevator malfunctions and electricity failures.

(fightbacknews.org)

Campaigning to be the Union's president

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether John Edwards is running for president of the United States or union president.

Edwards has walked picket lines with hotel workers in Chicago, campaigned for janitorial workers at the University of Miami and rallied with striking Teamsters at a Sikorsky helicopter plant in Connecticut.

If elected president of the United States, Edwards promises to go on the White House lawn and proclaim the virtues of organized labor in a way not seen since the days of the political patron saints of the labor movement, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt.

"The greatest anti-poverty movement in American history is the organized labor movement," Edwards told 1,000 steelworkers union leaders in Cleveland this summer.

The stakes are high for Edwards, who is counting on key labor endorsements this month that could be a make-or-break moment in his bid for the Democratic nomination.

"It's a very tough call for labor," said Peter M. Francia, author of "The Future of Organized Labor in American Politics" and political science professor at East Carolina University. "If they back a loser, stories will be written that labor doesn't matter any more. Edwards is clearly their guy on the issues. Their hearts are with John Edwards. But the only thing holding them back right now is, 'Can this guy do it?'"

Although organized labor has been a declining factor in the American economy, it remains a powerful force in Democratic politics. Labor's influence looms in three of the first four Democratic contests. By some estimates, union members account for about one-third of the caucus-goers in Iowa and as much as a quarter of the New Hampshire primary voters. As many as half the caucus participants in Nevada could be union members.

Edwards has an unusual political pedigree for a labor candidate. He comes from North Carolina, one of the least unionized states in the country - a state where political leaders have often been hostile to labor interests.

But the former N.C. senator has used his working-class background and his subsequent career as a trial lawyer suing corporations to argue that he is uniquely qualified to champion the cause of working people.

David Bonior, Edwards' campaign manager, estimates that Edwards has attended 200 union organizing events on behalf of 23 international unions since 2005.

"There has never been a presidential candidate in the history of this country that has engaged himself or herself [with labor] like Edwards has," Bonior said.

While labor may like Edwards, he has not yet closed the deal with some leaders.

Last week, the International Association of Firefighters backed Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and the United Transportation Union and the machinists and aerospace workers union Clinton. Edwards received the support of the 520,000-member United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The AFL-CIO, the largest union federation, has decided to sit out the primary, but the individual unions that compose the federation can make endorsements. Edwards' best prospects are with the seven unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form their own federation, Change to Win. They represent 6 million public employees, health-care workers, Teamsters, hotel workers, textile workers, carpenters and others.

The first major endorsements are likely to be made during the first days of September.

(myrtlebeachonline.com)

CWA strikes California courts for higher pay

More than two hundred Los Angeles County court interpreters demanding graduated pay increases went on strike Wednesday, disrupting cases throughout the system, court officials said.

Interpreters picketed at several courthouses around the county and pledged to stay out as long as necessary. "Our services are absolutely indispensable," said Karen Stevens, a Spanish-language interpreter picketing in front of the downtown Criminal Courts building. "Our work should be recognized."

About 240 staff interpreters and nearly a dozen contract interpreters did not show up for work as scheduled Wednesday, court spokesman Allan Parachini said. Judges responded to the strike by continuing cases and rearranging their daily schedules. No courtrooms were closed. "Effects of this are being felt throughout the county," Parachini said.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court also planned, as provided by law, to provisionally certify as interpreters about three dozen court employees who are fluent in another language and have taken some training courses. Parachini said the court is consulting with the general counsel at the Administrative Office of the Courts to determine what step to take next.

The interpreters working for Los Angeles County courts received a 2.5% pay raise last year and were offered a 4% increase last month, raising their salaries to more than $73,000.

But the interpreters want a graduated pay scale that would give them 22% salary increases over five years. They say other court employees receive such pay raises and that they deserve to as well. The money for the increases would come from funds allocated in the state budget, they said.

"It's a question of fairness," said Alex Abella, who has been working as a Spanish-language court interpreter for 20 years. "We don't want to do this. They have forced us to do this."

Union officials with the California Federation of Interpreters estimated that more than 90% of the roughly 400 interpreters in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties participated in the strike. Interpreters, who were independent contractors until two years ago, translate in dozens of languages, including Vietnamese, Russian, Armenian and Hebrew.

Japanese-language interpreter Nao Ikeuchi said he could earn a much higher salary working for private agencies or the federal courts. And if interpreters don't get a graduated salary schedule, Ikeuchi said he might do just that.

"They are not treating us like professionals," he said.

Stephanie Freidenreich, a public defender who works on felony trials in downtown Los Angeles, said that although her cases weren't affected Wednesday, she was worried about the next several days if the strike continues. Provisionally certified interpreters may have the best intentions, but their interpretation may not be completely accurate, she said.

"I would certainly want to wait to be sure that my client understood the proceedings and that my client and I were able to effectively communicate," she said.

The state Constitution ensures that anyone charged with a crime has access to a court-appointed interpreter. Interpreters often translate for witnesses and victims as well.

Stevens said interpreters are the voice of those who cannot speak English.

"It's their opportunity to be heard," she said. "That couldn't happen without interpreters."

Interpreters are already in high demand, union officials said. And Stevens said that if the court doesn't offer a better salary package, it will become even harder for the courts to recruit and retain staff.

Joseph Esposito, head deputy of the narcotics division of the district attorney's office, said quality interpreters are critical in such a diverse place as Los Angeles County.

"You don't get to choose who your witnesses or your victims are," he said. "A choice of a word could, in some instances, make a difference for jurors."

(latimes.com)

Gov't union strike slaps hockey school, parents

A new hockey academy at an East Vancouver, B.C. secondary school has been put on hold because the rink attached to the school is behind picket lines during the civic strike, now in its seventh week. The program at Britannia Secondary School, a first in Vancouver, is designed to allow students to take academic courses in the morning and play hockey in the afternoon to gain school credit.

Inside workers with CUPE Local 15 walked off the job on July 23, closing the city's community centres, including Britannia Community Centre, which houses the hockey rink.

Jamie Overgaard, who teaches the program, said it took the school two years to launch the hockey academy. "We've promised them a certain type of academy-style program within a public school with certain levels of service and a certain amount of ice time," Overgaard said.

Despite the lack of ice time during the strike, parents are still expected to pay $140 each month.

Students looking forward to the new program on the first day of school said they are very disappointed.

"I'm not too happy about it, so I just hope the strike stops," Cory Wong said.

He said it's a real letdown, because it had been a coup for the east-side school to be the first to run the program.

"I was kind of surprised it was going to be here," Wong said. "Usually you'd think it would be Prince of Wales or, you know, on the west side of Vancouver. Yeah, it's kind of a drag."

The 3,500 full-time and seasonal inside workers are on strike along with the city's 1,800 outside workers, represented by CUPE Local 1004, who walked off the job on July 20, halting residential garbage pickup, among other services.

Eight hundred library workers, who belong to CUPE Local 391, have been on strike since July 26, closing 22 library branches in the city.

(cbc.ca)

Industrial strikers get gov't union support

Cash contributions may keep a strike fund going strong, but chocolate is the icing on the cake. So when members of the Corning Teachers Association decided to show their support recently for the picket line at a local manufacturing plant, their effort had a home-baked component.

As teachers returned to classes the first week of September and as workers at the Dresser-Rand turbine manufacturing corporation in nearby Painted Post entered their fifth week of their strike, the Corning Teachers Association was one of several NYSUT locals to let the Dresser-Rand workers know that other unions are backing them. Corning teachers donated $100 to the strike fund, along with a homemade chocolate cake.

"They're out there around the clock; they're very visible," said Corning Teachers Association President Billie Gammaro, longtime elementary teacher and cake-baker. "These are our neighbors, our friends and our fellow union workers. Dresser-Rand is a major employer in our community, and obviously as we drive by, we are very aware of the strikers."

Local 313 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers - Communications Workers of America went on strike Aug. 4 after failing to reach agreement on health insurance and work rules.

(nysut.org)

AFSCME strikes U. of Minnesota for higher pay

Clerical, technical and health workers walked off their jobs Wednesday at the University of Minnesota's five campuses after last-ditch contract talks broke down late the night before. The university said no major disruptions were reported.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 represents about 17 percent of the employees in the University of Minnesota system — some 3,500 workers responsible for fixing computers, distributing paychecks, assisting dentists and veterinarians, and many other jobs. School officials said they had contingency plans to keep the campuses running, with students or temporary workers filling in where necessary.

According to university spokesman Daniel Wolter, about two-thirds of the AFSCME workers showed up for work Wednesday - the second day of fall classes - at the campuses in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Crookston, Morris and Rochester. The biggest change involved the bursar's office in the Twin Cities consolidating operations on the school's grounds on the East Bank of the Mississippi River and using drop boxes at its West Bank and St. Paul locations.

No appointments had to be canceled or rescheduled at Twin Cities campus health or dental clinics, Wolter said. Service at the veterinary clinic was reduced to emergency and critical care in anticipation of the strike, he said.

"There have been no major disruptions," Wolter said.

AFSCME Local 3800 president Phyllis Walker warned the strike will slow things down initially and eventually could bring some departments "to a standstill."

About 600 striking workers showed up for a noon rally on the Twin Cities campus.

"I like my job and I like the university atmosphere," said striking worker Sarah Wolf. "But just because I like my job doesn't mean I should be compensated less than any other state worker."

An unexpected visitor attended the Twin Cities rally: Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. She told KSTP-TV that if the university respected the workers, it would give them the cost-of-living increase they are seeking.

"This is just to keep up with inflation, for Pete's sake," she said. "They're not asking for the moon."

Another 100 workers took part in a rally at an entrance to the Duluth campus. On the Morris campus, about 30 of the 74 union members who work on campus took to the picket line.

Publicly, the two sides are even disputing exactly what the latest contract proposal involves.

According to AFSCME, the proposal offers raises of 2.25 percent per year for clerical and technical workers and 2.5 percent for health care workers, raises the union says wouldn't cover inflation.

The university says the increases are actually higher because they include step increases for years of service. Looking at the wages that way, administrators argue, the offer would provide 94 percent of AFSCME employees with at least a 4.5 percent pay increase each year.

The university system enrolls about 65,000 undergraduate and graduate students, according to its Web site.

(ap.google.com)

SEIU: Gov't to take over health bargaining

Health insurance costs in this country to rise and nobody wants to foot the bill. Today's New York Times describes how the major American automobile manufacturers are planning to stop providing health care for their workers in upcoming collective bargaining negotiations. The union, the United Auto Workers (UAW), is also said to be powerless to strike in protest -- for doing so might mean bankruptcy for these financially fragile companies. The workers may receive a one-time payment in return for the union assuming health care costs, but on the whole, it seems these workers with solid middle-class jobs will be worse off after these negotiations. What's to be done?

While there is no easy answer, this case certainly seems a good one to support SEIU leader Andy Stern's plan for government-provided health care. (See, for example, this NYT piece). It seems that the UAW workers described above would clearly benefit from such a system. First off, the automakers would remain solvent as they did not need to carry the heavy burden of increasing health insurance costs. This means a more stable future for the people that work there. Secondly, the workers would not need to have this cost passed on to them when times are bad -- as they are facing now. Around the country, many workers are accepting wage freezes or even cuts in order to just maintain their health care package. If the government was picking up the tab on this though, these workers might be better-positioned to bargain over wages and other issues.

So it seems like both employers and workers, at least in the present case, might come out better from a quality government-provided health care system. Perhaps Mr. Stern is onto something.

(warrenreports.tpmcafe.com)

Cemetery union agrees to Friday-only strikes

Families who have been waiting, some for months, to bury their deceased loved ones in Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery got what they say is a long overdue piece of good news yesterday. Cemetery management agreed to a union proposal that will send workers back on the job Monday to begin interring the remains of nearly 500 people.

The 129 gravediggers and maintenance staff will work four-day weeks. Fridays will be spent on the picket line until both sides agree to a new contract. "We are happy but we are not celebrating," said Paul Caghassi, whose mother is still unburied after her death May 13.

The cemetery workers, represented by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, were locked out May 16, the day before Caghassi's mother's funeral. Her remains have been in refrigerated storage ever since. Her burial is one of nearly 350 put on hold by the labour dispute. The remains of about 150 others are destined for mausoleums in the burial grounds, cemetery management said.

Premier Jean Charest, pressed by families affected by the work stoppage, last week threatened back-to-work legislation and set Sept. 4 as the deadline for the two sides to find a solution.

Yoland Tremblay, executive director of the cemetery, said burials will begin Wednesday. In the meantime, workers will repair any hazards that may have developed on the 140-hectare site on Mount Royal after a summer of neglect.

Tremblay said he expects the cemetery to finalize a plan to deal with the backlog of interment services this afternoon. Cemetery staff are to begin contacting families Monday. Tremblay said 59 burials that will be too difficult to do during the winter will have priority.

He acknowledged the trouble families may have gathering for the rescheduled services. "We will adjust our agenda with the families' needs," he said.

The cemetery, operated by the Fabrique de la Paroisse Notre Dame de Montréal, faces a class action lawsuit launched by people who have organized themselves as the Defence of the Rights of the Deceased and Their Families.

The legal action includes families who have not been able to bury their relatives, and those with family members already buried whose plots have been neglected, said Benoit Gamache, the lawyer representing the families in the suit.

"This cannot happen again. (The cemetery has) to pay back for the grief the families are going through," said Debora De Thomasis, who with Caghassi heads the Defence of the Rights of the Deceased and Their Families.

In July, the Quebec government named conciliator Denis Giasson to help settle the dispute, but he has been unable to bring the sides to an agreement.

(canada.com)

Everyone's kissing up to Big Labor

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