NY Times sides with unions in Casino War

With unions in a prolonged decline, there has not been a lot of good news lately for the labor movement. But there was some last month in Connecticut — a modest jackpot, so to speak.

Three thousand dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino — the sprawling Connecticut gambling mecca — voted to join the United Auto Workers.

The vote was the first union inroad at either of the two Native American casinos in Connecticut, for good reason: It was only this year that a court decision opened the door to Indian casino workers who want to organize.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in February that tribes must follow the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees’ collective bargaining rights. The tribes have long argued that since their casinos are located on reservations, they were subject to tribal law – and exempt from the NLRA.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns and operates Foxwoods, vowed to appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, and possibly federal court, too. Until those appeals run their course, not much will happen at Foxwoods, which has seen far more union organizing than the nearby Mohegan Sun casino, owned by the Mohegan Tribe.

It may seem odd to see the United Auto Workers organizing blackjack dealers, but the union is simply going where the jobs are. Between them, the two Connecticut casinos employ more than 20,000 workers — not just dealers, but cooks, food workers, and other job categories — none of whom belong to a union. Nationally, tribal gambling employs more than 600,000 people, and takes in an estimated $25 billion a year.

It’s only a start, but 3,000 dealers could be a small sign that labor’s fortunes are beginning to change.


Workers Ambushed by Big Labor's NLRB

Florida grad responds to "Rallying for workers' rights," (Nov. 19) by University of Florida history Professor Robert Zeiger:

In recent days, union bosses staged rallies at National Labor Relations Board offices across America to demand that the federal agency - charged with administering America's Depression-era labor laws - be "closed for renovations."

Despite the histrionics of Zieger and others, Big Labor is indeed winning its overall war against employees who wish to remain union-free. And President Bush's NLRB has sadly been, for the most part, AWOL.

Bush didn't even install a Republican majority at the NLRB until a full year into his presidency. And in the past six years, his NLRB has failed to correct literally dozens of activist rulings handed down by President Clinton's NLRB.

Clinton's NLRB notoriously expanded special privileges for union officials. It strengthened union coercive power over employees and employers alike, entrenched unions in workplaces without the majority support of employees, and allowed for the rampant misuse of forced union dues for politics.

According to an analysis by Jones Day attorney G. Roger King, prepared for the left-leaning American Bar Association, from 1994 to 2001 the Clinton NLRB overturned 60 long-standing decisions, throwing a jaw-dropping 1,181 years of combined precedent out the window.

Bush's appointees have revisited only a few of those controversial Clinton NLRB rulings. Throughout its tenure, the Bush NLRB has either taken years to decide important cases, or has failed to address fundamental issues altogether.

What has recently irked union officials and their sock puppets like Professor Zieger is a handful of rulings just handed down by Bush's labor board after several years' delay. But these rulings curtailed just a handful of union coercive privileges.

Perhaps the most prominent of these recent rulings was in the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation's long-pending Dana and Metaldyne cases, brought for employees at two different automotive suppliers who found themselves forced into union ranks. The NLRB voted 3-2 to give employees access to a secret ballot vote over unionization when union bosses are recognized through the abuse-ridden "card check" union organizing process.

"Card check" is a Big Labor paradise, so union lobbyists are pressing Congress to pass the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act to make this coercive process mandatory. Under "card check" organizing methods, union organizers are able to pressure employees one by one until they agree to support unionization. No government-supervised secret ballot election occurs to protect employee privacy.

To gain bargaining privileges using card check, union organizers need only "persuade" (read "harass" or "mislead") a majority of employees at a company to sign authorization cards that are ultimately counted as votes for unionization. If management is successfully pressured to grant union officials monopoly bargaining power, it becomes illegal for employees to individually negotiate their own wages and working conditions.

And, in the 28 states without the Right to Work protections Floridians currently enjoy, employees can be compelled to pay union dues or be fired. While victories against compulsory unionism abuse like Dana and Metaldyne are encouraging steps forward, they are the exception at the Bush NLRB, not the rule.

Don't be fooled. While they stage their street protests, union bosses are privately celebrating. President Bush should certainly be criticized - but for helping the union bosses, not hurting them.

Stefan Gleason (University of Florida, Class of 1996) is vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.


Hoffa declares "game over" for FedEx

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa commended the California Supreme Court for denying FedEx Corp.'s final appeal of lower court rulings determining that FedEx Ground's independent contractors are direct employees.

"Thanks to the California Supreme Court, FedEx is going to have to compensate these drivers for exploiting them for so many years under its bogus independent contractor model," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "FedEx's illegal model has been exposed and drivers across the country are standing up for their rights and proper compensation."

In August, the California Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the drivers are employees and not independent contractors. FedEx, in an attempt to limit future liabilities, responded in California by firing the drivers who were affected by the court decisions. The 209 workers will receive a share of more than $11 million in repayments for expenses related to gas and insurance directly related to the execution of their jobs.

In addition to the California case, 150 FedEx Ground workers in South Bend, Indiana, are also challenging the company classifying them as independent contractors. A federal judge certified the class-action lawsuit in October that claims the company denied the drivers benefits and proper wages.

"It's game over for FedEx and its independent contractor scam," Hoffa said.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.


Labor-state gov't unions school the boss

Yesterday was supposed to be D-Day for dozens of Rhode Island state employees who received layoffs notices two weeks ago. By the end of the day, however, it was clear that just a handful had, in fact, packed up to leave, while the vast majority had initiated a months-long process that would allow them to “bump” into a job held by a less senior employee.

It was also clear yesterday that the coming months would be messy, as Governor Carcieri tries to follow through on a pledge to cut 1,000 state jobs to save $100 million and help stave off a deficit projected as high as $450 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Contractual obligations and labor laws make it difficult to remove state employees, and labor leaders yesterday said they would fight every involuntary cut using arbitration or even Superior Court. There were also indications that bumping provisions had pitted employees against each other as they fight to keep their jobs.

The 154 layoff notices that have gone out so far represent just a part of the governor’s work force-reduction plan, which includes the potential layoff of another 330 state workers, while leaving open the jobs of another 487 employees who are expected to leave or retire on their own by July 1 and 168 “contract employees” who may or may not have contracts to work beyond July 1.

The governor’s office was at a loss to explain how the total number of state employees targeted for potential layoff had dropped from 536 two weeks ago to 484 yesterday.

Confusion was the dominant theme yesterday among workers and their unions.

Labor leaders said they had little idea how to inform fearful employees about what to expect through the bumping process, something that hasn’t been tested in this magnitude since the early 1990s.

Molly Soum, a Cambodian interpreter for the Department of Human Services, went to work yesterday thinking it would be her last day. A coworker took her out to lunch to say goodbye.

But because she had requested being bumped to another job and no one told her otherwise, Soum plans to show up at her Providence office on Monday.

“As of this moment nobody knows anything,” she said yesterday afternoon. “In the meantime I will continue to come to my same office and wait to see if they tell me anything.”

With eight years in state government, Soum thinks her seniority will save her. She has requested jobs as a “behavioral specialist” at the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals, for example, and as a “motor vehicle operator examiner” at the Registry.

She’s says she’s more worried about junior employees she may bump. “The union says, ‘Don’t worry about them; just worry about you.’ I don’t want to do that. I’m feeling sick to my stomach,” she said. “The people who know that they’re going to be bumped feel awful.”

One of them is Soum’s co-worker, Arline Maroni, a principal clerk for DHS. A state employee for just two years, she learned she was being bumped when an unfamiliar woman was looking at Maroni’s work area earlier in the week.

“The lady wanted to see my desk. She said, ‘Is this your desk? This will be mine soon,’ ” Maroni said.

“It wasn’t until afterward my supervisor called me in and said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ ”

The governor’s office, meanwhile, could not say how many employees requested a bump, how many accepted the layoff or had no seniority and were forced out, and how many accepted an offer to stay as long as they agree to retire by July 1.

Two weeks ago, 154 state workers were sent letters that said: “Effective Friday, November 30, 2007, you will be placed on layoff status.” But the governor’s spokesman Jeff Neal said the administration viewed yesterday as little more than the beginning of the bumping process. “The intermediate steps aren’t nearly as important as accomplishing the governor’s overall goal,” he said.

Union leaders had a different view.

“It’s been a big day for us and the people we represent,” said J. Michael Downey, president of Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. “Actually, the past two weeks have been brutal.”

Council 94, the largest state employees union, spent the last two weeks pouring through job directories helping workers find positions to bump into. Downey said he discouraged people from visiting prospective jobs to gauge the work environment.

Overall, 82 Council 94 members received layoff notices. Twelve employees accepted the layoffs and likely won’t return to work Monday, Downey said. Another seven agreed to retire by July 1. And at least 56 filed forms requesting to be bumped.

Council 94’s contract allows three bumps before someone is forced out of a job. In each case, an employee is allowed to bump into the position of a less senior employee in an equal or lesser class. The governor’s office has to review each bumping request submitted yesterday and determine if the employee is qualified for the move.

Neal said that process for all 154 employees in the first wave of layoffs may be completed by next week. And he noted that he didn’t expect any “significant changes to the operation of state government” in the meantime.

Glenn Dusablon, head of AFSCME Local 2869, said there were already disruptions among his workers at the Department of Labor and Training.

They’ve eliminated two jobs for people who handle invoices for all elevator and boiler work, he said. And officials there are trying to train maintenance workers to fill the posts.

“It’s utter confusion,” Dusablon said. For some high-end workers, such as Robert Marshall, the Health Department’s $108,823 assistant director for community affairs, the layoff notice means a new assignment within the department.

Health Director David Gifford said Marshall’s “job position” is being eliminated, but as a state worker since 1982 Marshall has what is called statutory status, meaning “we can’t” lay him off. Gifford said Marshall was being reassigned to “a paid vacancy.” Among his new duties: providing staff assistance to the Health Services Council, the arm of government that will review the proposed Lifespan and Care New England hospital mergers.

It could not be determined how many others will be moved into empty jobs. But Neal said: “To the extent that a vacant position is deemed critical by the affected department and by the Department of Administration and is filled with an existing employee with statutory status, it will enable the state not to hire a new person or pay an additional salary to fill that position.”

Not all state hiring has stopped, however.

The administration is advertising eight openings for $33,739-to-$37,330 a year “billing specialists” in the state controller’s office. The application period runs from Dec. 5-11. Neal said the posting stems an effort to lay off 16 people handling invoices in various agencies, “consolidate their jobs in one agency and rehire eight.”

As of mid-October, there were a total 15,723 people receiving state paychecks, not including the 660 or so “contract employees” scattered through state government. At that time, there were 1,034 vacancies in authorized (though not necessarily funded) positions. At this point, Neal said, the governor “intends to eliminate the majority of funded vacancies that existed as of July 1, 2007.”

While the numbers make state government the largest single employer in Rhode Island, Governing Magazine ran a recent chart that showed Connecticut with 68,600 employees, Maine with 29,200, Massachusetts with 120,100, New Hampshire with 24,700 and Vermont 18,800.


Five Reasons Why Congress Should Enact a National Right to Work Law

Here are five reasons why forced association with unions breeds corruption and why right to work laws are good to stem that coercion.

1. Freedom to Associate Also Means Freedom Not to Associate - The average man on the street, as well as constitutional scholars, understands that any genuine personal right should include the freedom to refrain from exercising that right.

2. Right to Work Bolsters Job Creation, Personal Income Growth - In addition to freeing millions of Americans from the yoke of forced union dues, a national Right to Work law would at the same time help to improve our nation’s economy.

3. Right to Work’s Benefits Reach Citizens at All Income Levels - In addition to protecting the freedom of association and promoting economic development, Right to Work laws are an anti-poverty program with a proven record of success.

4. Passage of a National Right to Work Law Would Eliminate All Forced-Dues Politicking by Private-Sector Union Bosses - Not passing a national Right to Work law means not only that American workers will be denied a brighter economic future. It also means that millions of private-sector workers will continue to be forced to contribute to political candidates they do not wish to support.

5. A National Right to Work Law Would Reduce Union Corruption - The incestuous relationship between forced union dues and corruption was captured perfectly by the late U.S. Sen. John McClellan (D-Ark.): “Compulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand.” McClellan was referring to the corruption inherent within labor organizations that depend on the forced tribute of workers.

Check out the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, a great organization with tons of info available on their website.


Labor-state favors gov't union strikes

State workers can hit the picket line, regardless of the no-strike provision in Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order, says Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

The no-strike provision was among the key elements in the order but Suthers says it doesn't negate the right to strike conferred on them under a 1915 law. The legislature would have to pass an anti-strike law, which would force Democrats to vote against unions in an election year.

Chris Barge reports:

Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, have drafted a bill that would do just that. And Suthers' opinion reinforces the need to pass it next session, Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany said.

Ritter, a Democrat, was aware that such legislation was in the works and would sign it, said his spokesman, Evan Dreyer. However, some Democratic lawmakers would have to vote for such a bill for it to make it to Ritter's desk, since they are the majority party.

Voting in an election year to deny some union members the right to strike would put Democrats in a tough spot, said Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer. "The question is what happens to the other members of his party," said Straayer, who likened it to Republicans having to vote for a bill that allowed abortions. "It would divide them," Straayer said.


SEIU objects to Mrs. Clinton

Two leaders in a key Nevada union are accusing Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign of using their names on a list of endorsers without their permission, the latest twist in an ongoing fight over the backing of local Service Employees International Union.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press Friday, two executive board members of SEIU Local 1107 said their names appeared in a Nov. 14 press release announcing a "Nevada Nurses for Hillary" group, but "we have never given permission to use our names as an endorsement of Sen. Clinton."

The local has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate.

"As members of the SEIU Nevada executive board, we have complete respect for our union's internal endorsement process and plan to actively support whichever candidate our local union decides to endorse," wrote board members Martin Gallagher, a registered nurse, and Jackie Johnson in a letter sent to other members.

The two said they plan to investigate "any misrepresentations or miscommunications made by the campaigns, and hope the board will take those into account in our final decision-making process."

Clinton spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said the campaign contacted both members and let them know their names would be used. Gallagher's name has been removed at his request, Grey said, but Johnson has not asked that she be dropped from the list.

SEIU Nevada has been aggressively courted by the top Democratic presidential campaigns since the powerful union's national leadership announced it would not be endorsing. Nevada will be among the first states to pick its nominee and SEIU's more than 17,000 nurses and public employees in the state are expected to lend its candidate of choice critical organizing muscle.

Clinton's list of 200 nurses was perceived by some as evidence of division among the union and an attempt to influence the board members who are expected to vote on the endorsement in the next few weeks.

The Clinton campaign rejected that interpretation. Grey said the list was a standard organizing tool. Similar lists of educators and various constituencies are released regularly by the campaign.

"We're sorry if they interpreted our building a nurses list as anything to do with their endorsement because it was certainly not intended that way," Grey said.

Those on the lists typically are contacted at least twice by the campaign and are told their names will be released to the media, Grey said. Records of the phone calls to Gallagher and Johnson were not immediately available Friday evening, Grey said.

Johnson has been part of a group of health care workers for Clinton, Grey said, and has had a series of contacts with the campaign.

Johnson could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Gallagher, who works at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, said he first heard of the nurses' group from media reports. He said he remembers being called by the Clinton campaign, but was never asked if his name could be used.

Gallagher said he will support the candidate his union backs and dismissed the notion that the union had pressured him to retract his support.

"Nobody tells me what to do or who to support I make my decision on my own," he said.


Ex-Teamster strike boss not a dealmaker

Heads of studio-parent conglomerates have been mostly silent about the prospects for ending the four-week-old writers strike, quietly assuring Wall Street all would be OK. But it appears that pinstriped group has issued a collective "No more Mr. Nice Guy."

In a plan orchestrated after the last bargaining session between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, several top company heads smiled and dialed members of the Fourth Estate, letting the press corps know how management feels about the guild and its chief negotiator, WGA West exec director David Young.

"I do think this whole thing calls into question David Young's ability to make a deal," one top management exec said. "He has no experience in these sorts of negotiations, and so perhaps there is something to that theory that they're not being capable of making a deal.

"You can say what you want about the AMPTP, but for 20 years they've been able to make a deal," the exec added. "The fact is that you have to wonder about the current leadership at the WGA and its ability to get something done here."

The verbal broadside follows a Thursday negotiating session in which the AMPTP offered new proposals for new-media compensation that it claimed would "deliver more than $130 million in additional compensation above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year."

The WGA asked to study the proposals and reconvene negotiations Tuesday. Then the guild issued a public statement dismissing the proposals.

"For streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a years reuse of an hourlong program (and) for theatrical product, they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming."

On Friday, a management source confirmed the guild's estimate. The company insider also suggested that the figure wasn't any sort of "final offer," but the gist of comments by a more senior exec suggested that current guild leaders don't understand collective-bargaining protocol.

WGA brass has simply dug in its heels on too many of its original negotiating demands, the top executive argued.

"I remain hopeful, but obviously I'm dubious," the exec said. "It's unclear why -- if they want to make a deal -- they would wait 96 hours even to respond (formally). Certainly the ball is in their court, but it makes you wonder if they are capable of making a deal."

WGA negotiating committee chairman John Bowman rejected any notion that guild negotiators are too inexperienced or unskilled to construct a deal with the AMPTP.

"From my sense, the problem with negotiations is that (the AMPTP) never wanted to deal with the Internet, and they are only now really coming around to the fact that they have to deal with it," Bowman told The Hollywood Reporter late Friday. "But it is something that they have tried to do repeatedly, to make this about personalities. It's not about personalities."

The WGA also has been concerned about a compensation-free "promotional window" studios had wanted penciled in to any compensation agreement on streamed content. The latest AMPTP proposal sidestepped that impasse by tying streaming compensation not to advertising streams but rather licensing fees, a company source said.

Also on Friday, the AMPTP distributed copies of a letter and "fact sheet" sent to update member companies on the status of talks and the latest management proposals, which the group has dubbed the New Economic Partnership.

"Between now and Tuesday, we hope that the discussion about our proposed New Economic Partnership will focus on the facts," the AMPTP said. "For example, the allegation that the New Economic Partnership and its groundbreaking proposals to extend and increase payments and jurisdiction for the writers in three wholly new areas of new media is somehow a 'rollback' does nothing to advance a substantive dialogue over these issues, especially given that the WGA asserted for weeks that we were unwilling to share in new media revenues (despite, for example, our ongoing payments for digital downloading)."


Portland, Ore: #1 in the nation for gov't unions

While classified employees with AFSCME Local 1995 hit the streets today as part of their strike against the Multnomah Education Service District (sort of like the "county" to Portland Public Schools' "city"), another labor dispute continues to boil over.

Portland Public Schools will meet again Monday with the bargaining team from SEIU Local 503, which represents food-service workers and janitors. Their contract expired in June.

The two groups are very far apart on issues relating to pay and benefits with the school district saying money must be saved for classrooms. But last week state Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) testified to the School Board that she hoped the district would give some ground to SEIU.

Several days later the School Board met in a executive session to discuss labor negotiations. (They also are set to begin negotiations with the Portland Association of Teachers in January, earlier than expected.)

After Kotek's testimony last week, the audience broke out in a pro-union chant and the School Board had to take a break to quiet the tumult.

In the midst of that demonstration, School Board Member David Wynde approached Kotek, threw his arm around her and huddled with the state rep. I moved in close but was only able to gather, from another person with better hearing, that Wynde was criticizing Kotek for not having her facts straight, according to that person.

I asked Wynde later to describe that chat and to tell me what facts Kotek had wrong. "The conversation I had with Tina was private," Wynde said.

Meantime, the MESD is dealing with its labor dispute by shifting staff and bringing in substitutes (who've already had background checks, etc.). Almost 30 educational assistants did not strike, according to a spokesman for MESD. (Their dispute is also over benefits.) Almost 86 percent of the MESD's special-needs students in Portland Public Schools and other districts are in class today, the spokesman says, which is close to normal and a sign that their education won't be entirely disrupted.


New taxes would boost ailing labor-state economy

A projected $373 million budget deficit announced Friday by the State of Minnesota illustrates the continuing failure of Governor Tim Pawlenty's 'no new taxes' ideology, union leaders and progressive policy analysts said.

The budget forecast, released by Minnesota Department of Finance officials, reports a slowdown in the national and state economy has changed a $294 million state budget surplus estimated for fiscal year 2008-2009 into a $373 million deficit. "This definitely is a manageable problem and we are well-prepared to address it," said Tom Hanson, state finance commissioner. "We have planned well. We have record reserves." He added: "The one thing you do not want to do is increase taxes."

Taxes, however, enable the state to invest in jobs, transportation and education — and those investments become even more critical during an economic slowdown, union leaders and progressive policy analysts responded.

"The whole 'no new taxes' approach is worsening the state's economy," said Wayne Cox, director of Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice. "It's not hard to see why." If you have worsening traffic congestion, Cox explained, it takes longer for businesses to move goods. If you're not investing in education, he continued, you're not training a skilled workforce. "If you shortchange the government, you short-change the economy," Cox said.

"There's a clear level of dissatisfaction with state services," said Nan Madden, director of the Minnesota Budget Project. "The fact that the middle class is being squeezed is real."

State economist Tom Stinson was asked how the state's budget forecast accounted for projections for Minnesota sales tax receipts from holiday shopping. He drew the only laugh of the budget forecast news conference: "Once again, I'll give you my annual urging: spend on taxable items."

State finance department officials blamed the revenue shortfall on a faltering economy impacted by the slowdown in the housing market, tightening credit, and rising energy costs.

Madden countered that the revenue shortfall is rooted not in the economic downturn, but in policy choices made by the Pawlenty administration.

"Governor Pawlenty has used his veto — or the threat of a veto — to lead our state to its current budget mess," said Ray Waldron, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. "During his time in office, this governor has rejected repeated opportunities to invest in Minnesota's economy and get our state back on the right track. Even though a majority of legislators voted to raise revenues to fund education, health care, transportation and bonding bills, the governor vetoed those bills, the jobs they would have created, and the economic recovery that middle class families are looking for.

"Minnesota's economy, its schools and its bridges are crumbling under Governor Pawlenty's leadership," Waldron said. "It is time to hold Governor Pawlenty accountable for the mismanagement that has led to lost lives, lost jobs and a loss of confidence in our state."

"[President] Bush and [Governor] Pawlenty mislead us when they say smaller government and lower income taxes have helped working families prosper," charged Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5, the state's largest public employee union.

"Their policies have made the rich richer by squeezing the middle class. Not only have working families lost economically, we've lost the services that sustain our quality of life."

"For a decade now, Minnesota has pursued a risky fiscal experiment," said Dane Smith, president of Growth & Justice, a nonpartisan organization advocating for fair taxation and smart public investment.

"It began in 1999 with large and permanent tax cuts mostly for top-tier households, and continued with deep budget cuts and disinvestment in our once highly regarded education, transportation and health-care systems.

"The latest forecast of a $373 million revenue shortfall — on top of mounting evidence that the state's economy is underperforming the national average for the first time in decades — strongly suggests that this fiscal gamble was unwise," Smith continued.

"The numbers suggest that a vigorous return to public investment mode is in order, in education, transportation, public health and environmental protection," Smith said. "At the very least, the current shortfall must not be addressed with further erosion of the public investment tradition that has made Minnesota among the healthiest, wealthiest and wisest of states."

For the first time, key data indicate that "the Minnesota economy is worse than the national economy," noted Cox. "Minnesota has gone from being an economic powerhouse to economic second class." Yet, he continued, "the governor's message to Minnesota is we're going to let things crumble even faster."

Steve Share edits the Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council. Visit the CLUC website, www.minneapolisunions.org


Failed Dresser-Rand strike boss has no regrets

Some union workers at Dresser-Rand Co. could be called back to their jobs as early as today or Sunday following a 17-week work stoppage that ended without a settlement.

"The company will notify individuals when to come back," said Steve Coates, president of Local 313 IUE CWA. "I would imagine Saturday or Sunday they will start calling individuals."

Dan Meisner, human resources manager at the Painted Post (NY) factory, did not respond Friday to messages seeking comment on the timetable for recalling union workers. About 400 members of Local 313 have been off the job since Aug. 4, when their three-year contract expired.

On Thursday, Dresser-Rand declared an impasse in negotiations, imposed the terms of its latest contract offer and asked union members to return to work.

"We provided a list of names for the company and our lawyer did contact their lawyer and said we were all ready to come back to work," Coates said. "We're going to review the list today to make sure we have everybody on it."

Coates said he doesn't think all 400 union members will be called back immediately because Dresser-Rand hired 90 permanent replacement workers during the strike. "Our preference, what we are going to demand, is that workers go back by seniority," Coates said. "Hopefully everybody will be called back (eventually)."

Coates said the union disagrees that negotiations have reached an impasse and has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Not everyone in the union is happy about going back to work under terms of the Dresser-Rand-imposed contract, Coates said, adding, "We'll start losing money after the first of the year."

The new contract contains work rules more favorable to management and sharply increases charges to union members for medical insurance.

"It will be in effect until we get a decision by the National Labor Relations Board (on unfair labor practices charges filed by the union) and go back to the negotiating table," Coates said.

Despite the failure to negotiate a new contract, Coates said he doesn't regret the union's decision to participate in a lengthy strike.

After 15 weeks off the job, Local 313 offered to send its members back to work under terms of the expired contract. Dresser-Rand refused.

"I think we caught the company off guard in our decision to go back," Coates said. "The hierarchy of this company is kind of disappointed because I don't think they want this union here."

The company's authority to declare impasse and impose contract terms exists in the National Labor Relations Act, Coates said.

Picket lines that were re-established after Dresser-Rand rejected the union's offer to come back to work were abandoned after the company's announcement Thursday.


Strike, week 10: Hope turns to despair

About 160 workers at the OPW Fueling Components plant here have been on strike for 10 weeks, with little prospect of returning to work. "It's very depressing," said Linda Humphries of Maineville, whose husband, Gilby Humphries Sr., has worked at the company for 30 years. "Hope has turned to despair."

Meanwhile Thursday, about 60 members of the same union, Local 45B, Glass Molders and Pottery Workers, at an OPW plant in Lebanon voted to accept a new, three-year contract and are returning to work today.

Contracts at both plants expired Sept. 15, but workers at the Lebanon plant - part of OPW's Engineered Systems business - agreed to continue working under a contract extension that expired Nov. 18. Workers at the Lebanon plant have been on strike only since then.

The West Chester workers, also members of Local 45B, have been walking the picket line outside the plant at 9393 Princeton-Glendale Road since rejecting OPW's contract offer in mid-September.

The company, a unit of Dover Corp., has hired replacement workers to assemble the gas-station nozzles and other components produced at that plant and told the workers if they accept a new contract they won't be given priority in being recalled. "That's a big stumbling block," said Jim Miller, shop chairman for the union.

The company and union are slated to meet today. Miller said the union hopes the company will offer contract language clarifying work schedule changes proposed by the company, which triggered the workers' rejection of the company's last offer.

Ray Mann, shop chairman at the Lebanon plant, said the contract accepted by his members, by a vote of 46-9 with five no-shows, included base pay hikes of 6 percent in the first three years and 3 percent in each of the succeeding years and improvements in health care.

The differences in the two labor situations reflected the skill levels at the plants, Mann said. Workers at the West Chester plant primarily assemble fuel nozzles and other components. The workers at the Lebanon plant are skilled machinists and welders who make equipment for OPW's refinery customers, he said.

The strike at the West Chester plant is the longest since a 13-week walkout in the 1970s, Miller said. It's particularly tough on the workers with the holidays coming on, he said. Most are getting by on savings and $112 a week in union strike pay.

The union has asked the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to classify the strike as a company lockout because the union believes the company hasn't made a new contract proposal. A lockout ruling would let the workers seek unemployment pay.

Michael Hawkins, labor lawyer for OPW, disputes the contention that the stalemate is a lockout. He said there's nothing to prevent union workers from voting on the contract and returning to work under conditions set by the company.

After appealing to Gov. Ted Strickland during his visit earlier this month to Amylin Pharmaceuticals in West Chester, the union has secured a hearing set for Monday on its request for unemployment benefits.


Dem Gov. flings open the door for labor unions

Colorado's state worker unions have big plans to take advantage of Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order establishing "employee partnership agreements."

The governor quietly released his order on Nov. 2. Just four days later, the unions entered into their own Colorado Partnership Agreement declaring solidarity of intent to organize as many of the state's 31,500 civil service employees as they can under the umbrella of a new Colorado Workers for Innovations and New Solutions (WINS).

WINS includes the Service Employees International Union (which also embraces the old Colorado Association of Public Employees), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Federation of Teachers. Yes, the state employs teachers for, among other things, prison and youth corrections educational programs.

Under the Ritter order, the unions need only 30 percent of each potential collective bargaining unit to sign petitions calling for a union representation election. If they try to organize the entire state civil service work force, they would need only 9,450 of the 31,500 employees to sign up.

Whatever the size of the unit, only 50 percent plus one of those actually voting in the election would be needed to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for ALL employees in the unit - union members or not.

Union dues would be collected by state payroll deductions only from union members. Under terms of the governor’s order, non-members could not be coerced into paying union dues or agency fees.

This union-organizing process is a big first step for the union leaders who secretly negotiated with the governor. (To be technically accurate, Gov. Ritter uses "partnership" in place of the union's "collective bargaining unit" and "exclusive representation" in place of the union's preferred “exclusive bargaining agent.”)

Predictably, Ritter's fellow Democrats generally support this cause, while Republicans mostly object to it. By making it an executive order, the governor gave political cover to Democratic legislators who now can avoid the messy business of debating and voting on the record for a pro-union bill in the next session, which comes in a partisan election year.

Partisan debate has erupted nonetheless. The Democratic governor said his order is not collective bargaining because it bans employee strikes and binding arbitration. Conversely, Republican Attorney General John Suthers cited a 1992 Supreme Court decision, based on a 1915 Industrial Relations Act, giving state employees some rights to strike.

It's true the governor's order penalizes state strikers by revoking the union agreement that they obviously would violate by striking. In reality, however, most unions strike only after a contract has expired and they're at an impasse in negotiations. So the Ritter-Suthers conflict may be a difference without much of a distinction.

Meanwhile, Republican activist Jon Caldara is preparing a 2008 ballot initiative that would outlaw state payroll deductions for union dues. Former GOP Gov. Bill Owens had revoked union payroll deductions after he took office, but they were reinstated when Ritter replaced him this year.

Whether it's called employee partnerships or collective bargaining, state worker unions hope to recruit thousands of new members (they currently count about 5,000 members out of the potential pool of 31,500 civil service workers). In union negotiations, as in politics, there's definite power in numbers.


SEIU rejected by majority of school bus drivers - again

Employees for a Chicago-based company that provides transportation services for the Kansas City, Mo., School District, rejected a bid for union representation late Thursday.

Of the 348 votes, 183 Durham School Services employees voted to reject the Service Employees International Union Local 2000 in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board; 165 voted for the union.

James Foster, a lawyer with St. Louis-based McMahon Berger PC, said Friday that the election marked the second-consecutive year that the union failed to unionize local Durham employees.

"This unsuccessful effort by the SEIU to acquire representative status was their second losing effort since the SEIU broke away from the AFL-CIO and formed the new Change to Win Coalition," Foster said in a written statement.

Tony Condra, secretary treasurer and legal arbitration representative for the SEIU, said the union planned to appeal the election with the NLRB within a week because of alleged violations before the election, including holding captive-audience meetings with employees within 24 hours of the election and intimidating employees.

Foster denied the allegations.

"The employers have complied with the highest standards of conduct for the standards and respect for employee's rights," he said.


Striking writers force NBC layoffs, terminations

A couple of days after the WGA strike began Nov. 5, the star of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" told about 80 of his staffers that they need not worry about their finances. Leno was so adamant about paychecks being safe, many didn't bother looking for new jobs even though NBC was forecasting layoffs.

So it came as quite a shock Friday when the entire staff was told that they were not only out of a job but also that they weren't guaranteed of being rehired once "The Tonight Show" returns.

"Some people were crying. Some people were screaming," said one employee speaking on the condition of anonymity.

NBC declined comment on the firings beyond a brief statement Friday saying that the network had "regretfully informed the people who work on 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno' and 'Late Night With Conan O'Brien' that their services are not needed at this time due to our inability to continue production of the shows."

According to several staffers, tensions at "Tonight Show" have been mounting for weeks, and matters weren't helped by news that other late-night hosts have been preserving the jobs of their nonwriting staffs or paying those who had been laid off. Conan O'Brien confirmed Thursday, for example, that he would pay the salaries of at least 50 nonwriting "Late Night" staffers out of his own pocket on a week-to-week basis.

But "Tonight Show" insiders say Leno's actions have destroyed morale at the show and in the process dented the host's previously squeaky-clean reputation as one of television's A-list nice guys.

"A lot of people don't want to work for Jay anymore," another staffer said. "His true colors have shown. We were told he won't cross the picket line until David Letterman or Conan O'Brien do so that he can look like the good guy to the WGA."

All of the laid-off workers who spoke for this article asked that their names not be used.

Insiders said the source of the sudden hostility toward Leno is a conference call he held shortly after the WGA strike began.

"He was on speaker phone," a staffer said. "There were 80 of us. He told us not to panic. He said to trust him. He said: 'I can't get into details, but nobody will miss a car payment or lose their house. We're family. Trust me. I'm going to take care of this.' But that was the time we should have been looking for new jobs."

More recently, a letter NBC sent to now-laid-off staffers said, "If your services are needed, we will contact you."

"That's standard boilerplate," said Joe Medeiros, a striking writer who has worked with Leno for 18 years. "It's corporate butt-covering."

According to insiders, the early confidence that Leno expressed stemmed from several options in the works, including the hiring of guest hosts. Leno himself guest-hosted for "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" during the 1988 writers strike, according to the WGA. This time around, comedian Wanda Sykes was a top pick, but she turned down the offer. Using rock stars on a rotating basis also was considered, insiders said.

Another option was having Leno do a show without a monologue or writers, relying heavily on musical acts and stand-up comedians.

None of the options, though, came to fruition, and "The Tonight Show" has continued airing reruns.

Beyond Leno's misplaced optimism about the financial well-being of his staff, he further damaged himself -- in the eyes of some workers -- with his public behavior. While he privately expressed concern for the jobs of all staff members, to the media he seemed preoccupied with supporting striking writers, including handing out doughnuts to picketers and mugging for press photos.

"He even joked that because of the writers strike, he had more time to work on his car collection," a staffer said. "That didn't sit well with us."

Madeiros said that Leno made his doughnut appearance on Day One of the strike at his request. "I asked him to come out and he did. We thought it sent a message to end the strike."

Asked if writers would object to Leno working without them during the strike in order to save jobs, Madeiros said: "I can't answer that. The story to me is that the corporations are doing this in order to pit groups against each other and break the strike."

The fact that some of Leno's writers are paid $500,000 or more annually also didn't sit well with suddenly out-of-work below-the-line staffers who make a fraction of that amount. Writers also are getting residuals on "Tonight Show" reruns that air during the strike.

Another staffer complained that Leno was taking credit for getting employees two extra weeks of work, but those extra days were the result of executive producer Debbie Vickers making the request to NBC topper Jeff Zucker.

"Jay made his voice known too, and those jobs were held for four weeks," a Leno representative responded.

The final indignation was a Christmas bonus that many thought lacking. Staffers with a couple of years on the job were given $200. Some higher-paid employees were awarded three days of salary or a bit more, about the same bonuses they got last year.

The Leno representative defended the bonuses as well, pointing out that they amounted to $500,000 in aggregate out of Leno's pocket. He also noted that Leno handed out $2 million five years ago to staffers in celebration of his 10th year as host.

"Jay is a very generous man," added Madeiros. "I don't know what people expected. How much more should he give over a situation that he didn't cause?"

But, said one staffer: "When the most powerful man in TV tells you to relax, then you relax. That's why we expected the bonuses to cover us through the strike. He could of at least covered us through Christmas. That would have been nice."


GOP decertified in labor-state

Wisconsin Republicans have disbanded the Green Bay area’s Republican Party after its chairman was busted for child enticement and the party couldn’t muster enough officers to pick a new leader.

State Republican leaders on Thursday downplayed the development, promising to remake the Brown County party. County parties generally focus on local candidates but also assist in larger races. The Brown County party’s dissolution could have reverberations in the already bitter campaign for northeastern Wisconsin’s congressional seat.

"It’s just really, really going to create some difficulties if they don’t act fast on this," said Tim Meyer, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay communications professor who specializes in politics and the media. "It’s the organizational structure and experience that they’ll lose."

The party’s dissolution comes as the GOP fights to recover from some painful losses in northeastern Wisconsin, historically a staunch Republican stronghold.

A year ago, Democrat Steve Kagen narrowly defeated Republican star John Gard in the race for the 8th Congressional District seat, which encompasses northeastern Wisconsin. Gard has since vowed to defeat Kagen and has campaigned against him for months. And Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, handily beat GOP challenger Mark Green of Oneida, just outside Green Bay.

Then, this past September, Brown County prosecutors accused county GOP chairman and treasurer Donald Fleischman of masturbating on a 16-year-old boy’s feet, and supplying the boy with marijuana and beer in 2006.

Prosecutors dropped the charges weeks later after the boy failed to show up at a hearing. But Fleischman already had resigned his party positions.

"You can’t talk about a bigger red flag to have happen to your organization," Meyer said. "The fact that they’re (charges) filed, you can never escape."

Fleischman’s resignation created two vacancies in the party’s officer corps. Holly Arnold, the first vice-chairperson, did not want the top spot, and the second vice-chair position already was vacant, said state GOP Chairman Reince Priebus.

That meant the party didn’t have enough officers to call a caucus to elect new officers, Priebus said. At Arnold’s request, the state GOP decertified the county party on Nov. 13.

That move, for all practical purposes, dissolved the party. Priebus said the state GOP itself can now call Brown County Republicans together to pick officers and start the county chapter anew.

Priebus said the state party expects to call meetings soon and hold an officers election within the next two months.

"We’re more or less coming in and fixing a technical problem they couldn’t fix themselves," Priebus said. "Obviously, Brown County is extremely important in the 2008 election. We’re going to take this as an opportunity to rebuild Brown County and make it one of the strongest in the state of Wisconsin."

David Littig, retired associate professor of political science at UW-Green Bay, said Gard and Republicans still could suffer if word of the county party’s problems spread.

"If you’re running in the fall, you should have your ducks in a row at the beginning of the year," Littig said. "It’s at best going to be a distraction."

Gard campaign consultant Mark Graul said the Brown County moves shouldn’t hurt. GOP volunteers in northeastern Wisconsin typically join individual campaigns, not the party in general, and Gard already has built a strong network.

A message left for Kagen with his campaign wasn’t immediately returned.


AFSCME strikes over health insurance

Multnomah Education Service District classified employees went on strike Friday, Nov. 30, after the union representing 381 workers failed to reach an agreement on a new contract with the district. Members of the union picketed at various sites throughout Multnomah County (OR), including the district’s offices in Portland.

The district provides a wide variety of alternative and special education services, as well as technology and health services, to all eight Multnomah County school districts, and operates such facilities as Alpha School in Gresham and Arata Creek School in Troutdale.

Local 1995 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had been negotiating with the district over a new contract for several months. The last contract expired June 30.

A last-ditch mediation session Nov. 28 failed to yield an agreement, according to spokesmen for both sides. Another mediation session may be taking place on Monday, Dec. 3, according to Don Loving, union spokesman.

The dispute centers on such issues as wages, longevity pay and health care benefits, Loving said, noting that the key issue of contention is health insurance for part-time workers, or those who work 30 hours a week for the district. Some such workers are spending more than 40 percent of their take-home pay on health insurance, he says.

“Obviously we’d like to get that number down,” he says.

He added that if both sides could come to an agreement on the health insurance issues, other such issues as differences over wages could probably be settled.

Mark Skolnick, district spokesman, said the district understands the union’s concerns and has offered the union members almost $2 million in new total compensation, including wages and benefits.

The new package represents 52 percent of the amount of increased funding the district got from the state for 2007-09, Skolnick said. Meanwhile, the union represents 51 percent of the district’s employees, he said.

“We feel confident that our offer is fair,” Skolnick said, adding that the district can’t offer the union members a larger package without cutting vital services.

To cover positions affected by the strike, Skolnick said the district used substitutes it had employed before, as well as district employees.

“We didn’t go and put an ad out and use anybody who walked in off the street,” he said.

The largest single classification of striking workers comprises 175 educational assistants, who work in classrooms with special needs students, Loving said.

Peter Kane, principal of Alpha School, which serves 75 middle and high school students in Gresham, said three of his 11 employees did not show up for work Friday, including two office workers and one educational assistant.

“We still have all the teachers on staff,” he said. “This has had no real effect on the academic work with our students.”

Jim Schlachter, director of education for the Gresham-Barlow School District, said about 20 Multnomah Education Service District employees did not report to work at various facilities in the Gresham-Barlow district Friday. The employees were either health assistants or education assistants. Substitutes or district employees mostly covered their positions.

He added that there was also some concern that information services provided by the service district might be interrupted but that didn’t happen Friday. Schlachter said it was too early to tell what kind of effect the strike is having on his district.

“One day is not really enough to really tell,” he said. “We may learn more if it continues for awhile.”

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