10/10/07

UFCW complaint jails noted 'entrepreneurial' organizer

A union organizer whose efforts to unionize butchers, bakers and deli and seafood workers at Genuardi's supermarkets were featured in an Inquirer report on Monday, was arraigned this morning on misdemeanor charges of terroristic threats and harassment brought by a union rival.

District Justice Francis J. Bernhardt sent Eric Grumbrecht, 42, of Warminster, to the Montgomery County correctional Facility in Eagleville after Grumbrecht, an Acme butcher on disability leave, failed to post a $5,000 cash bail, according to Plymouth Township detective Rocco Wack. Charges against Grumbrecht were filed by Wendell Young 4th, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 in Plymouth Township because of a conversation the two men had on Oct. 2, Wack said.

In an interview on Saturday, Grumbrecht characterized the conversation as one in which he and Young exchanged playground-style insults. The conversation was overheard by two witnesses, who were with Young and listening on a speaker phone, Wack said. Grumbrecht was arrested Tuesday evening. His preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 18. in Bernhardt's courtroom in Conshohocken.

Grumbrecht had been trying to unionize the Genuardi's workers after previous attempts by Local 1776 had failed.

Grumbrecht had filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections for about 85 workers at three stores. The first one, for the Genuardi's store in North Wales, is set for Oct. 19.
(philly.com)

NY threatens to revise state collective bargaining statute

How would you like to work in a job where your pay could rise even if your contract expired, your pension really is guaranteed, and your boss can't - or may not even want to - do anything about it?

For nearly 1.3 million New Yorkers who work in local and state government and in public schools, that's part of life under the landmark Taylor Law that protects the public from shutdown of public service by strikes. Critics contend the collective bargaining law has also eliminated much of the motivation to strike by raising salaries and benefits with little regard for taxpayers.

Management's role is performed by governments - which is often heavily lobbied by labor. For example, five of the top 10 lobbying clients seeking to influence decisions in Albany in 2006 were unions, including two teachers unions that spent a total of $1.7 million and two public worker unions that spent $1.3 million in that election year. The Civil Service Employees Association and its locals also gave nearly $100,000 to local and state political campaigns that year, while New York State United Teachers gave $245,000, according to state records.

This week, the Taylor Law is getting a rare public analysis in Albany. Economists, labor leaders and political scientists will consider whether a law that was prompted by crippling garbage, transit and teacher strikes from Buffalo to New York City after World War II and into the 1960s should be changed for the 21st century.

"We look it as being a very fine example of public policy and crafted at a time of tremendous upheaval in labor and in society in general," said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the CSEA. The CSEA is the largest state employee union in New York and also represents local government and school workers.

New Yorkers needed such a law after the public services workers resorted to their only formidable recourse at the time and called strikes, which debilitated New York City four decades ago. Public workers sought collective bargaining rights to negotiate the fair pay, job protection and benefits their private sector colleagues got. The law created penalties for public unions and their members for strikes, including possible jail time, fines and a penalty of losing two days' pay for every day spent on strike. It was used against New York City transit workers and their union leaders following a 2005 strike around Christmas.

Madarasz said many of the critics of the Taylor Law see that public employees now have more protections and rights than private sector workers who increasingly face layoffs, outsourcing of labor and raids on pension funds.

"If the private sector is being reckless in how they deal with employees, why should the public sector follow suit?" Madarasz said.

"The Taylor Law in many ways is a relic of a bygone time," countered E.J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy. The center is part of the conservative Manhattan Institute and is sponsoring Tuesday's symposium at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

McMahon said although the Taylor Law was promoted as a way to end strikes, public employee strikes flourished after the law was passed through the 1970s, especially by teachers' unions.

"The more rights they received, the more strikes there were ... and they worked," McMahon said.

Although government officials first bargain with unions, they have to balance labor peace and perhaps their own political support against driving a hard deal, McMahon said. Politicians often avoid the tough spot by allowing the talks to go to arbitrator.

"The word missing in all of this is `taxpayer,'" he said. "It seems like we're working for them."

McMahon said before the Taylor Law, New York's tax burden was 9 percent above the national average. Now, it's 35 percent above the national average and New Yorkers pay the highest local and state taxes in the country. Although many factors were in play during that time, McMahon said the rising cost of public worker contracts was a driving force behind the tax increases.

McMahon and Madarasz said they know many New Yorkers are irked by the perks.

For example, while private sector employees worry about whether their pension will be around when they retire, public pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution.

Teachers, except for the most senior, get automatic "step" raises each year that can be 4 percent bumps for longevity or for achieving academic and professional requirements. McMahon notes that's not mentioned on union lawn signs that say teachers are working without a contract, or when school boards approve contract raises. Merit raises are also rare in public contracts.

"Most would agree a good teacher is worth their weight in gold, but collective bargaining means every teacher is paid their worth in gold," McMahon said.

"You can't just look at it like the government always has the solution of raising taxes," said former Gov. George Pataki, who like Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer has vetoed numerous bills that would have sweetened pensions and strengthened public unions. "If you do, you will destroy the private economy that allows you to provide the public services."

The Public Policy Center hopes the symposium will recommend changes in the Taylor that the center feels will put taxpayers into the bargaining equation.

"It seems highly unlikely," said Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac University poll and a longtime New York political reporter. "Unions up here, unlike most places, even have Republicans."

(forbes.com)

Teachers strike weakens, kids trickle back to school

School officials says attendance is rising at an eastern Ohio district where teachers have been on strike more than a week. Harrison Hills superintendent Jim Drexler says 44% of students were in their classrooms yesterday, compared to only about a third who showed up on days last week. He calls the increase "heartening."

A spokeswoman for the teachers union says parents aren't sure what to do, so it's not surprising more children are being sent to school. The district has kept schools open with substitutes since teachers walked off the job on October 1st.

The union says little progress was made during more than eight hours of mediated talks with the school board on Sunday.

(wdtn.com)

UAW sets Chrysler workers' strike pay, picket duty

As a strike deadline looms, thousands of Chrysler workers in Indiana and nationwide are awaiting word on whether they will be spending today on the picket lines or assembly lines.

They're also wondering whether a walkout by 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers would be long or short. And they're wary of Chrysler's new owner, private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which may not behave like auto companies of the past.

At Midwestern factories and union halls Tuesday, workers filled out forms for strike pay and signed up for picket duty as today's 11 a.m. strike deadline approached.
Chrysler has about 6,000 workers at three transmission plants and a casting factory in Kokomo.

Negotiators continued to talk at Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Meanwhile, General Motors' tentative agreement with the UAW appeared headed toward approval. With more than three-quarters of the votes tallied by Tuesday, the UAW's 73,000 members were on track to ratify the agreement, despite some trepidation.

Most of the union locals had approved the contract, but at least eight had rejected it.
In Indiana, results have been mixed. Union members in Marion narrowly rejected the contract, while workers in Fort Wayne narrowly approved it. Vote tallies from plants in Indianapolis and Bedford were not available.

"The failure of UAW to garner sufficient votes in these plants is a very dangerous blow to GM and will likely influence the Chrysler talks now under way," said Michael J. Hicks, director of Ball State University's Bureau of Business Research.

The UAW's strike deadline against Chrysler doesn't necessarily mean workers will leave their jobs. The UAW could extend its old contract hour by hour as it did with GM before going out on a two-day strike last month.

The union normally settles with one U.S. automaker, then uses that deal as a pattern for agreements with the other two Detroit-based automakers. But several analysts have said that Chrysler and Ford have different needs and therefore need different contracts.

Many analysts believe Cerberus will fix the money-losing Chrysler quickly, return it to profitability and sell it for a huge profit, perhaps to a foreign auto company that wants a stronger U.S. presence.

In August, Daimler transferred an 80.1 percent stake in Chrysler to New York-based Cerberus in a $7.4 billion deal. The German automaker retained a 19.9 percent interest in Chrysler.

(indystar.com)

Wrist-slap for union-dues law enforcement embezzler

Former Deputy District Attorney Michael McKneely has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor theft charge, a spokeswoman for Fresno County Superior Court said Tuesday.

In exchange for the plea deal entered Thursday, prosecutors from the California Attorney General's Office dropped a felony grand theft charge. McKneely, 32, was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and was placed on two years of probation. As a condition of his probation, he is not to enter any gambling establishments or visit gambling Web sites.

McKneely resigned from his job as a prosecutor in the Fresno County District Attorney's Office in March after he was accused of embezzling money from his own union, the Fresno County Prosecutors Association, while he was its treasurer.

The Attorney General's Office investigated the claim because it was a conflict for the District Attorney's Office to investigate one of its own. McKneely graduated from the Sacramento-based McGeorge School of Law. He was hired by the District Attorney's Office in November 2003. He worked primarily on felony cases and routinely decided whether to file charges against suspected criminals.

(fresnobee.com)

Milwaukee unions show solidarity in brewery picketing

Seeking to light a fire under contract negotiations at Miller Brewery, the Milwaukee County Labor Council sent out an e-mail call Oct. 1 for members to join informational picketing by Brewery Workers Local 9 on Oct. 4.

Members of a dozen unions responded at the midday event, clogging the sidewalks outside Miller’s tourist center. Miller executives called in the mounted police to watch, but there were amiable exchanges among all. The police, after all, are union members who certainly understand contractual concerns. Among those spotted marching were members of the state AFL-CIO, USW, UFCW, AFSCME, IBEW and UAW at Master Lock and Delphi.

UAW Local 9‘s three-year contract expired in early August but they have continued under those outdated terms while facing little response in months of negotiations.

In a walking interview during the informational picketing, Local 9 President Harry Shayhorn pointed out that the company seemed to have nothing to gain, except consumer skepticism, by moving so slowly.

Oct. 9 brought other reasons to actually speed things up and keep the Miller name positive among customers. The brewer is becoming part of a massive new merger.

South African Breweries announced an operational merger of Miller with Coors – each retaining brands for now but combining the nation’s second and third largest breweries and directly threatening the dominance of No. 1, Anheuser-Busch.

SABMiller and MolsonCoors will each own half of the new venture and expect in few years to save half a billion dollars in operational costs.

All six Miller breweries in North America are unionized. But that’s not true for Coors, headquartered in growingly Democratic but still union-resistant Colorado. That raises some troublesome future issues for Local 9 as well as OPEIU Local 35, whose members serve at the corporate headquarters, and other Miller unions.

The joint venture must clear anti-trust regulators and won’t be completed until next year – and it is still evaluating where to put its corporate control: here or in Golden, Col.

Previous issues and mergers in the beer industry have not been kind to Milwaukee. Miller has lost headquarters jobs before – in the mid-1990s because of a swoon in sales and three years ago after SAB purchased the operations.

It is unavoidable that the new merger will chop at least administrative jobs. The where is undecided. And there will be a learning curve for both the unions and for executives used to non-union attitudes.

Miller here has 500 workers in Local 9 and about 100 in Local 35 as part of a rough total of 1,700 employees. About 800 are in the corporate offices.

Peter Coors will be chairman of MillerCoors and SAB CEO Graham Mackay will be vice chairman. More of concern to Milwaukee workers, the new president, Leo Kiely, comes from MolsonCoors but intends to retire in a few years, and the successor being touted is Miller President Tom Long.

Local 9 is part of United Auto Workers and has been an active supportive affiliate of the MCLC, whose members were glad to return the favor Oct. 4 as part of the tourist center event.

“They were here for us, now we’re here for them!” shouted Jan Wilson during the information picketing, laughing that this time the weather was much nicer than the bitter cold her union experienced.

She was among the “Miller women” in OPEIU Local 35 who battled hard to retain a good pension, and she recalled how Local 9 had marched by their side during the troubles.

(milwaukeelabor.org)

State lawmakers use Teamsters to lure Hollywood

A group of state lawmakers is devising a way to attract more filmmakers to the state. Numerous movies have filmed scenes in Connecticut since the state began offering tax incentives. Movie producer and former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin said that he is planning to shoot up to five movies in Connecticut.

"We want to do as many movies as we can in Connecticut -- there's a great tax incentive. There are still some issues like crews, but otherwise, this is a great place to film," he said.

A panel, led by Democratic House Speaker James Amann wants to iron out the issues. Amann said that he hopes to continue Connecticut's growth in the film industry. He said the current problem is a lack of local workers. "We want to make sure we have local Teamsters involved with us and create opportunities for young people to grow here ... in the movie industry," he said.

Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Hena Daniels reported that in 2005, movies brought in $750,000 for the state. Since 2005, the number has risen to $500 million.

"You're going to see that number continue to grow to a billion-dollar industry much sooner than I thought," Amann said.

Amann said the tax credit has been expanded to include digital media and music production.

(wfsb.com)

Sen. Clinton is union activists' 3rd choice

One day after failing to win endorsement from a major labor union, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards sought the support of Oregon's union workers on Tuesday. "I grew up in a family where my mother and father had health care only because of the union," Edwards said of the parents who worked in a Carolina mill. "What people forget is that the organized labor movement built the middle class in America."

Edwards said rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has indicated she would talk with drug companies, insurers and medical interests about expanding health care coverage, but he said there should be no compromises. "In my America, every person is worthy of health coverage," he told about 400 union members at the annual Oregon AFL-CIO convention.

The labor activists interrupted Edwards with applause several times as he promised an aggressive agenda to provide health coverage for all, end the Iraq war and push for pro-union laws to help working families.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain said that while the state labor federation has no plans to make an endorsement in the presidential race, Edwards is highly popular among the state's union activists. "We love him," Chamberlain said. "He understands what it takes for working people to earn a living. It's genuine and sincere. He's a champion for rebuilding the middle class."

Edwards said he expects to do well in the state.

"One of the reasons I'm here is that we have a great deal of support in Oregon," he said during a news conference after the speech.

Edwards also took comfort in the results of a weekend straw poll among state Democratic activists. He finished second, with 47 votes, behind Barack Obama, who had 49. Clinton finished third with 36 votes.

On Monday, the Service Employees International Union said it would not make an endorsement for the primary elections. The announcement was especially hurtful to Edwards, who had worked hard to win SEIU's seal of approval.

(ap.google.com)

Jumbo government union picketers stage protests

Hundreds of Santa Barbara (CA) County government workers staged union rallies Tuesday in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara to draw public attention to their fight for “a fair contract” with cost-of-living raises and better retirement benefits. During the noon hour, about 200 members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Locals 620 and 721 carried signs and shouted slogans as they marched outside a Betteravia Government Center hearing room where county supervisors were meeting.

“We are union; mighty, mighty union,” they chanted in unison, “fighting for a contract and fair COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments).” Earlier in the morning, several union members dressed in purple SEIU Local 620 shirts addressed the Board of Supervisors during public comments.

“We feel we're being treated like a low priority during contract negotiations,” remarked Nancy Robel, a Sheriff's Department property officer who is on the bargaining team for Local 620. “Many of us believe this county works because we do.”

Local 620 is county government's largest union, representing more than 2,100 workers in a wide range of departments. Local 721 represents about 475 social services workers. Those unions' previous three-year contracts expired Sunday, and negotiations on new contracts have been under way since early July, union officials said.

They said pay increases to cover inflation and improved pension benefits are key stumbling blocks in the negotiations. The county is proposing a three-year contract with no cost-of-living increases for the first year and no retirement changes, the unions said.

The workers have asked for across-the-board raises of 4.26 percent for the first year and the lowering of pension eligibility to age 55, from 57, according to Bruce Corsaw, an SEIU staff member and negotiator.

Any contract reached with the groups must be approved by the Board of Supervisors. None of the supervisors responded to the union members' remarks Tuesday, except Board Chairman Brooks Firestone. “This is ongoing negotiations,” he said, “and that is the appropriate arena for these discussions.”

The county's official spokesman, Communications Director William Boyer, declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations or what the county has offered.

“We are actively negotiating with the unions and are at the bargaining table,” he said. “That's the appropriate place to talk about what benefits package is being discussed. When there is an agreement acceptable to all sides,” he added, “that's when it will be announced.”

(santamariatimes.com)

Employer sues striking union over defamation

Calling a United Steelworkers apology too little too late, TimberWest plans to go through with a threat to sue the Steelworkers after the forestry giant said the union reneged on a deal to retract damaging statements about the company. “We have begun legal action against the Steelworkers union,” TimberWest’s Steve Lorimer confirmed Friday.

Included in the list of defendants in the writ of summons filed Wednesday in B.C.’s Supreme Court is Duncan area Steelworkers union boss, Bill Routley, of Local 1-80. The action is the latest in a series of events that took place last week between the union and the forestry company. Last Monday the company and the union reached an agreement in which the Steelworkers agreed to apologize for inaccurate statements, said Lorimer.

The company wanted the public act of contrition for statements regarding the forestry, environmental, safety and business practices of TimberWest the union made last week at a Sustainable Forestry Initiative industry conference in the U.S., as well as simultaneous news conferences in Vancouver and Salt Lake City, Utah.

At the end of September the union released video images it claimed showed TimberWest’s forestry contractor cutting trees into a small Comox Valley lake.

TimberWest was quick to react and said the lake doesn’t exist, and that the body of water was actually a flooded gravel flat and wanted an apology for the misinformation.

“It’s disappointing that the union reneged on the deal,” said Lorimer.

When reached by the News Leader Pictorial, representative of the union said they had no comment.

In a news release, the company said it received and approved a retraction and apology in the form of a media statement prepared by the Steelworkers.

The union also committed to issue the statement publicly, said Lorimer.

In addition, he said the Steelworkers committed to removing web-links connecting the union’s website to videos the company maintains are defamatory and to striking offensive information regarding TimberWest’s forestry practices from its various websites.

Again last Tuesday, a Steelworkers’ representative confirmed the union will not be issuing the apology publicly, Lorimer said.

“TimberWest is disappointed with the union’s decision to go back on its word and to break the agreement reached in good faith between the two parties,” he said.

Nearly 1,000 Valley steelworkers have been on strike since mid-July after months of negotiations failed to resolve the disputes around wages and other items.

In all, about 7,000 unionized workers at 34 companies are manning picket lines.

Lorimer would not speculate whether the legal action will impact negotiations between the company and the union.

However, president and CEO Paul McElligott said last week in a news release: “Our request for an apology and retraction has nothing to do with the current labour dispute.

“We will not stand by idly when false and defamatory statements are made, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against these malicious attacks.”

(ladysmithchronicle.com)

Gov't union strikers refuse to settle

Libraries will remain closed and the mounting piles of garbage along Vancouver, B.C.'s back lanes will get higher after two of three government employee union locals rejected a mediator's settlement and opted to remain on strike. A slim majority of outside workers voted in favour of accepting the deal to end the almost three-month-long strike, but it wasn't enough to meet the union's two-thirds threshold.

And library workers complained the mediator didn't adequately address their demands for pay equity, among other things. Inside workers - who keep community centres, swimming pools, the permit office and other facilities running - accepted the deal and could be back at work as early as Thursday.

But some of them may not yet be able to collect their new paycheques. Their union has pledged to respect the picket lines of the other two and outside workers have promised "welcoming parties" for those who show up for work at places such as city hall or community centres with libraries attached.

Meanwhile, City of Vancouver spokesman Jerry Dobrovolny says his side will take some time to "study the situation," and no negotiations are planned at this time.

"Right now, I think the focus is to have council vote on the mediator's recommendations and take it one step at a time," he said.

That vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

Dobrovolny said the city is "disappointed" with the "unfortunate" outcome. "The mediator worked hard to find a compromise solution."

But Mike Jackson, president of CUPE Local 1004, which represents outside workers, said his union is calling for an "emergency meeting" with the city.

"This is not about money," he said. "This is obviously about the language and terms here that we have expressed concern about. Members are not willing to get back to work right now until the language and those issues are addressed."

Mediator Brian Foley was called in Sept. 16 to make recommendations on a solution to the strike which began July 20.

After receiving submissions from both sides, he tabled his report Oct. 5. He called for a five-year package with a 17.5 per cent wage increase and a $1,000 signing bonus.

He also recommended whistleblower rules, no loss in seniority, vacation or sick pay for workers as a result of the strike, and limits on contracting out by the city, including giving the union six months' notice.

Seventy-three per cent of inside workers, represented by CUPE Local 15, accepted his recommendations.

But just over half of the outside workers - 58 per cent of parks employees and 57 per cent of city workers - gave their approval, well short of the two-thirds margin.

"After almost three months on strike, it is an insult to be offered less than other civic workers in the (Vancouver) region," Jackson said late Tuesday evening after the vote results were tallied.

Jackson said the city and his members are only divided by about five issues and the main demand is language negotiated in other municipalities to stem the loss of skilled workers to the private sector.

Paul Faoro, president of the inside workers' local, said his members will respect picket lines of other locals still on strike but the majority of his members won't be forced to stay outside their workplaces.

He said this has been one of the most difficult rounds of bargaining that he has encountered.

"I believe that one of the reasons for that difficulty is the guidance, or lack of guidance, out of Mayor (Sam) Sullivan and his government," said Faoro, adding that the memory of the strike will be "embedded in people's minds in the coming years."

"With an election just a year away, I suspect this strike is going to be a black cloud over politicians trying to seek re-election."

Library workers followed their leadership's recommendation to reject the Foley proposals by a 78-per-cent margin while demanding a "library-made" solution.

Ed Dickson, chairman of the CUPE 391 bargaining committee, said the library local felt the proposed settlement fell short in key areas like pay equity and improved rights for part-time and auxiliary workers.

"We believe that with a few modifications we could find a resolution to this labour dispute that our members would be able to accept," he said.

About 2,500 children in summer day camps and some in licensed child-care facilities were affected but parks remained open, although some washrooms were out of service and attractions like the Stanley Park petting zoo and children's miniature train ride were closed.

Garbage, recycling and yard-waste collection was suspended for 90,000 single-family homes, while apartment blocks and commercial buildings continued to have private garbage pickup.

Despite the service cuts, city managers continued to issue tickets for parking meter violations and rush-hour parking infractions, noting the city gets up to $30 million in annual revenue from meters.

Over the summer, concerns were raised that the city's parks and beaches would become heaps of garbage - especially after big events like the Celebration of Lights fireworks festival. But spectators took home much of their trash and volunteers pitched in to help managers clean up.

On Sept. 27, traffic lights malfunctioned in downtown Vancouver and a man called a local radio station to claim it was the work of a CUPE local. Earlier the same week, a city playing field was seeded with nails, broken glass and bits of concrete.

Viviana Zanocco, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, said Tuesday that health authority staff have been watching the trash piles grow and have recommended the city remove anything that's becoming a health risk.

But she said it would take a major disease outbreak for health officials to step in.

(canadianpress.google.com)

Kids, parents to pay for teachers strike

Pupils in the Reynolds (PA) School District didn't go to school Tuesday, didn't go again today and aren't sure when classes will resume. The district was hit by a teachers' strike as about 100 members of the Reynolds Education Association walked off the job Tuesday morning after contract negotiations failed to reach a new agreement.

The teachers' old contract expired in June 2006 and they worked all of last year and for the first six weeks of this school year under an extension of their old agreement. Pennsylvania puts strict limits on how long teachers can remain on strike.

School districts are required to provide instruction for 180 days during the school year, and teachers can actually call two strikes during that time period. State law mandates that the first strike must end in time for the district to complete its 180 days by June 15, which means Reynolds teachers could be on the picket line for about three weeks, based upon the Pennsylvania Department of Education's determining what the district's revised school calendar will be.

Scheduled days off, including holiday time, could be shortened by a strike.

A second strike could be called if issues remain unresolved, but that would be of even shorter duration as the law requires that the 180 days be covered by June 30 in the event of a second strike.

Negotiators for the teachers and school board met for five hours Monday night into Tuesday morning, and, although some agreements were reached on secondary issues, the two sides remain apart on wages and insurance issues, including having teachers pick up part of their health-care costs for the first time.

The district has said it is offering wage increases averaging 3 percent per year over a five-year contract.

The district said the teacher salary proposal would give some teachers raises as high as 10 percent or 11 percent, which would include salary step increases for those not yet at their maximum pay levels.

However, Marcus Schlegel, a Pennsylvania State Education Association representative assisting the Reynolds teachers, said the two wage proposals are only $40,000 apart over the entire five-year contract.

Current salaries range from a low of $36,361 (with 20 teachers at that level) to a high of $57,161 (with 33 teacher at that level), according to the REA salary proposal listed on the school district's Web site.

Teachers will be on the picket lines from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., mirroring school hours, Schlegel said. No new bargaining sessions had been scheduled as of late Tuesday, he said.

The district has canceled some activities, such as junior varsity and junior high football, but other programs, such as varsity football, volleyball, cross country, marching band and homecoming are still on the schedule.

(vindy.com)

Candidates answer union question

Here are the GOP presidential candidates' answers to one question from Tuesday's GOP debate. See more debate excerpts at freep.com.

RON PAUL: "You should be able to organize. You should have no privileges, no special benefits legislated to benefit the unions, but you should never deny any working group the right to organize and negotiate for the best set of standards of working conditions."

MIKE HUCKABEE: "The real fact is, unions are going to take a more prominent role in the future for one simple reason: A lot of American workers are finding that their wages continue to get strapped lower and lower while CEO salaries are higher and higher."

JOHN MCCAIN: "I think the unions have played a very important role in the history of this country to improve the plight and conditions of laboring Americans. I think that like many other monopolies, in some cases, they have been serious excesses. I come from a right-to-work state. If someone wants to join a union in my state, they're free to do so, but they are not compelled to do so."

MITT ROMNEY: "Sen. McCain is sure right on that point. With regards to unions overall, there are some good ones and some not so good. The good ones are those that say, 'How can we do a better and better job helping our members have better and better skills and making sure that the enterprises they work in are more and more productive?' "

FRED THOMPSON: "All right. Now, I believe in the right that if workers band together for their own purposes, no questions about that. I do not believe a person ought to have to be a member of the union to work. I do not believe that union bosses ought to use union dues for political purposes that their members don't necessarily agree with. And I do not agree with them denying union members a secret ballot."

RUDY GIULIANI: "Sure, I think unions have made a positive contribution. My grandmother was an early member of the United Ladies Garment Workers Union, and I don't know if our family would have gotten out of poverty without that. So, I have a great appreciation."

DUNCAN HUNTER: "I could tell you a good union -- the Steelworkers Union, when last year ... we had a strike in a Kansas plant that made the tires for our Humvees. I called up the president of the Steelworkers and the president of Goodyear and within a very short period of time, they were working together; they got that thing done for the good of the country. A union is a receptacle of power, just like management. But those folks love this country, they love their family and they helped to build a middle class, which has been important for America and for our party."

TOM TANCREDO: "The creative conflict that occurs between unions and management is usually a good thing. When unions, I think, get off track is when they start to influence public policy, especially with regard to, need I say it, illegal immigration ... allowing illegal immigration into the country because they want to fill up their ranks."

SAM BROWNBACK: "Sure, they've been good for the United States, I think, historically. My mother was a union member. She was a mail carrier. ... She called herself a postal packin' grandma for a good period of time. And it helped her on health care. It helped her, I think, in some negotiations."

(freep.com)

Chrysler to cut non-union jobs

Automaker Chrysler, facing a possible union walkout Wednesday, said it was considering cutting hundreds of non-union jobs at its U.S. plants.

Chrysler said it intends to cut its nonunion, salaried workforce by 5 percent and reduce the contract workforce at its Auburn Hills, Mich., facility by 37 percent, sources familiar with the plan told the Detroit Free Press. In February, the automaker announced plans to eliminate 13,000 jobs over three years, including 2,000 salaried jobs.

Under the new plan, the additional layoffs could affect about 535 white-collar jobs. The automaker has 3,000 contract workers in Auburn Hills. A 37 percent reduction could mean 1,110 jobs eliminated. The move comes on the heels of the United Auto Workers giving Chrysler an 11 a.m. Wednesday deadline to reach a new labor agreement or face a nationwide strike.

(earthtimes.org)

SEIU tips hand with anti-Bush candidate ad

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