Unions planning concerted offensive v. NLRB

Change to Win, an association of political aggressive unions such as the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, announced it’s launching an ad campaign today condemning the Bush administration appointees' September alterations to National Labor Relations Board rules.

Backed by the business community, the rules changed how unions are formed and regulated, and according to Change to Win, damaged worker protections.

Timed in advance of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing hearings on NLRB matters next week, the campaign is limited to print ads in major markets and internet advertising. It's not a major buy, described by Change to Win spokeswoman Noreen Nielson as limited to five-figures. The goal, she says, is to test the water in advance of future NLRB efforts.


Labor-states owned by union political operatives

Not the sort of title you normally expect to find on a Conservative site. But it’s a question that needs asking in the face of a brand new study, the first of its kind, issued today by The Alliance for Worker Freedom. Entitled ‘2007 Index of Worker Freedom: A National Report Card’, the report lists how each of the 50 states does in treating their workers.

Each state is measured on ten variables: right to work (RTW), minimum wage (MW), union density (UD), paycheck protection (PP), prevailing wage (PW), defined contribution pension (DC), collective bargaining rights (CB), public sector union membership (UM), entrepreneurial activity (EA), and workers compensation (WC).

For each variable where a state receives a passing grade, it gets one point. If they fail to do so, they get no points at all. A perfect score is 10, an “A+”, and a perfect failing score would be 0, an “F”.

Not a single state managed a perfect score. Only one, Utah, received a 9, the only “A” on the report card. Only four states, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi and South Carolina joined Utah in the “A” range. They each scored an 8 for a report card grade of “A-”.

The bottom of the rankings found 11 states with either 0 points or just 1 point. Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all had perfect failing scores of 0 for an “F”. California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey managed to find a point somewhere to score a 1 and earn a report card grade of “D”.

Tennessee finished in the middle with a score of 5 and a grade of “B-”.

The report is well done and easy to understand and navigate. Each state’s grade is explained and depicted in several different ways. There are individual state reports highlighting where the state is strong and where it needs some work and there are great graphics included that will make a excellent transition to PowerPoint and other presentation formats.

The best part of the report is near the end. A map of the US is shown with each state’s grade depicted by different shadings, light to dark based on their report card grades. Think of the red/blue map of the country. The darker the shading, the lower the score. It provides an interesting “data at a glance” take on the study’s findings.

Thinking again of that red/blue map, it’s striking to note that the bluer the state, the worse it treats their workers. The NorthEast portion of the country has significant grades of “D” and “F”. So do perennially “Blue” states like Illinois and California. Southern states, Plains States and Mountain States - “flyover country” - do much better.

That one observation, for me, is the most revealing. It’s the states that score the worst when specifically measured on how they treat their workers that seem to be praised the most when all one does is talk about how their workers are treated. There’s a great deal of talk about how the Democrats are for the regular guy and just look at how Illinois and California and New York have great deals for their state’s residents. They’re supposed to be the “Worker’s Paradise” dreamed of by Socialists.

When you do more than just talk, however; when you actually objectively measure how the states treat their workers, the results and the conclusions are far different.

The only variable that remains to be measured is, will the workers overthrow their oppressors? Will they vote the scoundrels out that set up the system that so badly abuses them? Will they dig in and vote to change the laws and regulations in their state to make it better for the regular guys? Or will they vote with their feet and head for greener pastures a state or so away? Thanks to Brian Johnson, the Alliance for Worker Freedom and the 2207 Index of Worker Freedom they’ll know just what to do and where to go regardless of which option they choose.

Wondering if “Workers of the World, Unite!” might not have some Conservative application after all ...


Lawmakers ought to buck teachers union

East Ohio residents are familiar with strikes by public school teachers, unfortunately. They disrupt the education process for students, strain relations between teachers and school administrators and sometimes result in hard feelings in communities.

A state senator wants to put an end to them by enacting a new law that would ban strikes by public school teachers.

We expect that the measure, to be introduced by state Sen. John Carey, R-Wellston, will face substantial opposition — but it should be passed.

Carey’s timing may not be good, from one viewpoint. It is that it will be debated in the midst of an election year, a time during which special interest groups such as the state’s biggest teachers’ union, the Ohio Education Association, have tremendous clout.

We suggest that those interested in the best education possible for Ohio children — without the disruption of strikes — should make it clear that they, too, have clout in the form of votes.

Only 13 states allow strikes by public school teachers. In most states members of the public — and lawmakers — recognize that there are better, effective methods of settling disputes between teachers and school districts. Binding arbitration, such as that Carey will include in his bill, is one.

According to one study, Ohio has had 23 teacher strikes since 2000 — several of them in this area.

One proponent of allowing teachers to strike is Tal Hutchins, who works for the OEA and also is a West Virginia House of Delegates member. Even in defending the idea of allowing teachers to strike, Hutchins admitted to our reporter that, “Everyone understands that teacher strikes are disruptive to the community and to education ...”

Precisely. That is reason enough to ban them.

Ohio lawmakers should do just that.


Dubious SEIU out-of-bounds in West Virginia

West Virginia has a reputation for having an unpredictable court system -- one that some executives see as a threat to their interests and a reason not to risk their companies' assets here. If that's not bad enough, we apparently now have a powerful state regulatory body that creates uncertainty for those who contemplate doing business in West Virginia.

The state Health Care Authority granted reconsideration of its earlier approval of the Carlyle Group's acquisition of HCR Manor Care, which owns seven nursing homes in West Virginia under the Heartland name. The deal also involves scores of properties in 31 other states and is valued at $6.3 billion.

But West Virginia's HCA -- listening intently to the late-arriving Service Employees International Union -- decided to reconsider its earlier approval. The union, which represents fewer than 2 percent of the company's 60,000 employees nationally, raised questions about patient care after HCA had gone through its approval process, which included ample opportunities for public comment.

Great timing. Health Care Authority officials have arranged a Dec. 14 public hearing. Goodness knows where that will lead.

As the Charleston Daily Mail pointed out in a Nov. 29 editorial, the union simply appears to be using the HCA to hold up the transaction. What possible good could come from that?

Here's what may not be obvious: The HCA's willingness to give the union its way serves to devalue each and every health care entity over which the state agency exercises regulatory control. How so? Properties that operate under the purview of the HCA apparently cannot count on regulatory certainty. That uncertainty makes those properties less valuable in the marketplace and, in an ever-changing environment, less attractive to companies that specialize in the efficient and professional operation of all health care facilities.

Late-arriving objections to any transaction that needs HCA approval can derail mergers and acquisitions that benefit patients, health care employees and communities. Parties to such transactions abhor West Virginia-style regulatory uncertainty, not to mention the expense of paying lawyers and consultants to guide them out of the maze the HCA has helped construct.

This demonstrates that West Virginia is prone to ignore the conventional free-market protocols that are the foundation of a strong national economy. Instead, our state kowtows to interests that go out of their way to scuttle transactions for dubious reasons.

Once again, West Virginia is out of bounds. The consequences cannot be beneficial.


Serious escalation of San Jose gov't-union strike

San Jose building inspectors brought two commercial development projects to a halt Thursday as they expanded their weeklong strike from City Hall to construction sites. Picketing by the 90-member inspector union at the Three Sixty Residences downtown luxury condominium project and at an expansion of eBay's north campus infuriated city officials who hoped they were making progress toward ending the impasse.

"We had felt relatively good about the tenor of the conversation," said Employee Relations Director Alex Gurza. He called Thursday's move by the union "a very serious escalation."

Things could escalate even further. The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, representing more than 100 unions in Santa Clara and San Benito counties and at least 110,000 workers, was weighing whether to sanction the strike. That could give the inspectors added leverage. Construction workers and other unionized workers who now honor the picket line at their discretion, as the workers at the two sites did Thursday, would be obligated to do so.

In the first city employee strike in more than two decades, the inspectors have picketed City Hall for the past week seeking to keep what they say is a right to appeal disciplinary actions to outside arbitrators. An arbitrator last year ruled the union had such a right, but city officials have called that ruling an error and said they may seek to overturn it in court.

"We know this is hurting our customers, but it's the city council and the city manager who are holding up this whole thing," said Tom Brim, president of the Association of Building, Mechanical and Electrical Inspectors.

The city points to a policy manual indicating only police and firefighters can appeal discipline to an arbitrator. City officials want the inspectors to agree that discipline must be appealed through the council-appointed Civil Service Commission, a process they say is quicker and cheaper. But the inspectors don't trust council appointees to be fair.

The inspectors earn average salaries of $94,000. They conduct a total of 400 to 500 inspections a day, ranging from single-family home remodels to high-rises, to ensure the projects meet building safety codes.

The escalating strike has raised the stakes for both sides, with city officials fielding complaints about idled commercial projects and inspectors feeling the financial strain of the walkout.

"It's been a pretty tough road," said Deriek Clemmons, a city inspector for 20 years, as he picketed in the rain outside the eBay site Thursday. "We get no money for our time here. We're talking to creditors to make arrangements to pay our bills."

EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the company hopes the strike, which idled the site off North First Street, ends soon.

"We aren't really taking a position one way or another on the strike, other than to say we hope that it's resolved," Durzy said.

It wasn't just big businesses feeling the strike's impact. Brady Lin said rescheduled inspections delayed the planned opening of his Tropicana Buffet restaurant on Story Road. Now he's worried about being able to pay rent.

"I feel like I'm the small guy in the middle of two big elephants fighting, and I'm the one being hurt," Lin said.

The labor council set a Dec. 17 date to consider sanctioning the strike but could act sooner, said Executive Officer Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins.

Ellis-Lamkins said she spoke Thursday with both Brim and Mayor Chuck Reed to help broker a resolution. "I think there's potential for compromise," she said. "We see a strike as a sign of failure, not success."

Councilwoman Nora Campos, labor's strongest ally on the 11-member city council, maintained her refusal to cross the picket line and said Thursday she has opened a temporary office at the Dr. Roberto Cruz Library in her East San Jose district.

City officials already scrambling to hire enough replacement inspectors from private companies to keep up with the workload were troubled by the strike's expansion.

The city has fielded three dozen inspectors from seven private firms. But Planning Director Joe Horwedel, who oversees the inspectors, acknowledged it has been easier to find inspectors for single-family home projects than those qualified to handle major commercial development. Rescheduling inspections can mean costly delays.

"We have projects like the Three Sixty Residences that are on a very regimented schedule," Horwedel said.

San Jose officials Thursday posted their "last, best and final offer" on the city's Web site. It offers to allow fired inspectors, on a trial basis, to appeal unfavorable Civil Service Commission rulings to an arbitrator. The inspectors currently can appeal in court.

But Brim said the inspectors rejected that offer as a poor substitute for the binding arbitration they seek. The inspectors, he said, are prepared to continue their escalated strike until the city recognizes that right.

"This morning began the second week, we called for phase two," Brim said. "Hopefully, we'll never have to go to phase three and four."


Are labor unions good for women?

A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research delineates strategies for labor organizations to use in promoting women’s voices and leadership.

“Unions are good for women workers, but they could be much better at promoting women into leadership positions,” said Amy Caiazza, IWPR director of democracy and society and report author. “The strategies outlined in this report are designed to help women claim a voice of authority in an area that is traditionally dominated by men.”

Based on interviews with women union activists, I Knew I Could Do This Work identified several key obstacles to their involvement in leadership, including the following: lack of role models, fear of employer retribution, discomfort with public authority, unions’ inadequate emphasis on issues of women workers, making room for the demands of union work in competition with family obligations, and an insufficient awareness among women of the benefits of unions to their lives as workers.

The report lists seven recommendations for increasing women’s presence in union leadership:

- Address women’s true priorities to inspire their long-term, active involvement.
- Create formal mentoring programs as a source of ongoing support.
- Provide opportunities for women to strategize together in conferences, committees, networks and programs.
- Place women in visible local and national leadership roles to provide role models and convey respect for their authority.
- Highlight the importance of women’s contributions as models of what union women can accomplish.
- Provide flexible options for involvement, to accommodate the conflicting demands of women’s lives.
- Train leaders and organizers on strategies that effectively inspire women’s activism and promote their leadership.

Caiazza said the recommendations are designed ultimately to empower women’s activism in public life, within unions and beyond “By claiming leadership, women can transform their lives, their workplaces and their communities,” she said.


Police union raid highlights Big Split

City of Worcester (MA) police officers are set to vote today on whether to join a new union and leave the union that has represented them for many years. The decertification election will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. at the police station at 9-11 Lincoln Square. It will be supervised by the state Department of Labor.

The election is the result of a petition brought in September by the New England Police Benevolent Association, a group that broke away two years ago from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which has represented Worcester patrol officers for three decades.

If the new union wins — by gaining more than half of the votes of the officers who cast ballots — it could signal a more militant bargaining stance by the rank-and-file officers, who have been working without a contract since the previous three-year pact expired in June.

The 364 members of the current union will face three choices on the ballot: stay with the current union; go with the rival union; or dissolve all union affiliation, a choice both unions oppose.

Officials from both unions have been lobbying hard in the days and weeks leading up to the vote.

The Lowell-based Police Benevolent Association held an open meeting last night at Maxwell Silverman’s restaurant, a few blocks from the station.

The meeting was the culmination of a week of intense campaigning by both sides that has included early-morning and afternoon leafleting of officers at the station, and meetings sponsored by the competing unions.

A potentially pivotal development in the contest occurred Monday when the local IBPO’s executive board voted 4-0 to endorse the rival union. The board members notified officers by e-mail Tuesday of their decision to recommend that voters drop the current union, said Detective Thomas G. Daly, secretary of the current union.

A key issue for the executive board, Detective Daly said, was the recent departure of the IBPO’s longtime lawyer, Richard K. Sullivan, who has handled contract negotiations and grievance and discipline issues.

Mr. Sullivan recently became affiliated with the Lowell law firm of Nolan, Perroni and Harrington, which works for the Police Benevolent Association.

“Richard Sullivan has 30 years of institutional knowledge. You can’t put a price on that,” Detective Daly said.

David E. Bernard, Massachusetts state director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, countered that Mr. Sullivan’s affiliation with the rival union’s law firm does not necessarily mean that police officers here will get his full attention.

“That doesn’t mean much,” he said. “Richard Sullivan’s name doesn’t appear on this ballot.”

Mr. Bernard also noted that several past presidents of his union’s Worcester local are endorsing the union and asking officers to vote for it to stay.

“This election is about the IBPO, the largest police union in New England and Massachusetts against a police group that’s been in existence for 18 months,” he said.

The New England Police Benevolent Association, which is part of the International Union of Police Associations, has 86 locals in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The International Brotherhood of Police Officers, based in Quincy, is under the umbrella of the National Association of Government Employees and the Service Employees International Union, which recently left the AFL-CIO to create the Change to Win labor federation. The union has affiliates and locals in eight other states and 90 locals in New England.


Ohio weighs controversial teacher strike-ban

The Buckeye Local School District has never experienced a teacher strike, according to Lisa Smith — but the right to strike is a tool educators there want to have at their disposal.

Smith, president of the Buckeye Local Classroom Teachers Association, said her union for many years had waived the right to strike. But in a new contract that will take effect Aug. 31, 2009, that right is restored.

However, a state lawmaker on Wednesday announced plans to pursue a ban on teacher strikes that would negate that provision of the contract, arguing public educators should fall under the same prohibition applied to firefighters and police officers.

“While the circumstances may be different, the job of Ohio’s teachers is just as critical as our public safety forces when we consider the tremendous impact they have on the lives of their students, the strength of families and, ultimately, the growth and prosperity of our economy and communities,” said state Sen. John Carey, a Republican from Wellston in southern Ohio.

Carey’s bill, slated for introduction in the next several days, would add teachers to the public safety professions banned from striking under Ohio’s collective bargaining law. They would be required, like police, fire and emergency workers, to enter into binding arbitration when they have a contract dispute.

Smith said for many years, Buckeye Local teachers waived the right to strike, relying on an arbitrator who was not connected to the district in any way to make decisions that were binding for both the union and the board of education.

Although many good rulings resulted, a few years ago an arbitrator issued a decision Smith said union members and board members found difficult to interpret. The union sought legal advice as a result, due to many confusing changes in contract language, elements of the decision that seemed to contradict other portions and the loss of rights teachers had either earned or that were common in districts similar to Buckeye Local.

“We were shocked,” she said of the union membership. “Even though the arbitrator clearly ruled in the board’s favor, they couldn’t understand the ruling, either.”

At that time, union officials began to talk with teachers in other districts and to their membership. She said teachers in the district had voluntarily accepted many pay freezes to preserve their insurance benefits. She also pointed out that the district has not asked voters to approve a levy in “at least 15 years,” saying residents of the region cannot afford to support school levies due the loss of industrial jobs and other elements of the local economy. “You have to work with the money your district has available,” she said.

Ultimately, though, the Buckeye Local Classroom Teachers Association decided its members needed the right to strike.

“The decision wasn’t made lightly,” she said. “We felt that we at least had to put the outcome (of negotiations) in the hands of the teachers.”

According to Smith, the new contract requires that both the teachers and the board must go through an arbitration process before reaching a final impasse. “We must at least make a concerted effort with a federal mediator,” she said. “We have safeguards.”

But Smith wonders why legislators aren’t focusing on ways to better fund education, rather than restricting teachers’ right to strike.

“Every day somebody comes up with one of these crazy ideas,” she added. “They need to fund education fairly and honor the DeRolf decision (in which the state Supreme Court ruled legislators must correct the state’s over-reliance on property taxes for school funding) ... If the millions of dollars being wasted would be used to fund education, teachers wouldn’t need to strike.”

Tal Hutchins, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, said the right to strike is something teachers need to create a labor balance and ensure they are on equal footing with their employers. He said he opposes legislation that would take that right from them.

Hutchins noted that “overall, teachers strikes are very rare” in Ohio. He pointed out the state has 612 school districts, only about three of which experienced strikes this year — two in the local area. He said there generally are not more than five teacher strikes a year across the Buckeye State.

“Everyone understands that teacher strikes are disruptive to the community and to education — they’re a last resort,” he said. “But districts have to have a way to resolve an impasse. They can use binding arbitration or mediation and bring in a third party to resolve a dispute, but I favor the idea of letting the local board and local teachers resolve it. It’s that element of local control.”

As a policy maker and practitioner, Hutchins said he sees the issue from both sides but hasn’t come up with better way to allow teachers a voice.

Ohio is one of 13 states where teacher strikes are still legal. The state has had 23 teacher strikes since 2000, ranking it second highest in the nation behind Pennsylvania’s 82, according to a report by the Allegheny Institute.

Michelle Prater, a spokeswoman for the OEA, said the union representing 120,000 Ohio teachers opposes Carey’s proposal.

“We recognize the value of binding arbitration in resolving differences and we highly value the mediation process that’s in place,” she said. “But under some conditions, we believe it’s critical for employees to retain the right to withhold their services.”

She said only six strikes have taken place over the past three fiscal years, despite the economic woes that have plagued the state.

“When you consider the lack of action on school funding combined with Ohio’s rising health care costs, you can imagine the financial strain that’s put on the negotiation process,” she said.


Burundi's first-ever gov't union strike

More than 90 percent of government workers in Burundi joined a three-day strike starting Monday, called by the country's two biggest unions over undelivered pay increases, a union leader said.

"We are very very satisfied: more than 90 percent of civil servants have heeded our call for the three-day strike starting Monday morning," Tharcisse Gahungu, president of the Confederation of Burundi Unions (COSYBU), told a press conference in Bujumbura.

He added that primary school teachers, who constitute two thirds of all government workers, and administrative workers have all stopped work, with the exception of a few in the Gitega province."

The COSYBU with 35,000 members along with the 6 000-strong Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Burundi called for the strike - a first for Burundi - after the government failed to deliver on promises of a rapid solution on pay increases, first promised by President Pierre Nkurunziza six months ago.

Since Saturday government officials have been making TV and radio appeals for civil servants to ignore the strike call.


UAW-Navistar strike talk blackout

Representatives from the United Auto Workers union and International Truck and Engine worked through the weekend in hopes of reaching a contract agreement, officials said. Talks resumed last week after breaking off Oct. 23 once the union called a strike against the company.

Details of the negotiations are not being released, but Charlie Hayden, UAW Local 402 president, said he was told Sunday that talks are now focused on a small number of difficult items. "Things have narrowed down to a few issues, but those seem to be stalemates," he said.

International Chief Executive Officer Dan Ustian and UAW heavy truck division vice president General Holiefield were in direct discussions at some point over the weekend, Hayden said.

Roy Wiley, International spokesman, could not confirm the Ustain/Holiefield meeting.

"The negotiating teams ... seem to be making progress, but it's not possible to know how much," Wiley said.

It is a good sign everyone was willing to remain at the table, he added. While he sees that as positive, Wiley stressed that it is still not possible to predict when an agreement might be reached.

Hayden agreed, saying he is ready for a resolution and thinks the weekend's events are a good sign.

"The whole negotiating team — everyone from both sides — has been working diligently to reach an agreement," he said.


Catholic teachers union threatens sick-out

The union representing Catholic teachers at 10 regional schools could authorize a sick out or strike in the next two weeks if it's unhappy with the recommendations of a mediator.

The union and the Archdiocese of New York have been negotiating for months over the teachers' contract but talks have stalled. Both sides met with the state mediator on Tuesday.

For the Lay Faculty Association, which represents John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen and Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, this is the final attempt at bargaining.

"We'll give him a few days and if he can't come up with anything we'll have to take some kind of job action," said Henry Kielkucki, business manager for the union.

He said any action taken would be before Christmas vacation, which begins around Dec. 19 for most schools.

Both sides are set to meet again with the mediator on Dec. 17 but Kielkucki said he would not wait that long to find out whether there is a potential resolution.

The Archdiocese of New York presented to the mediator what it termed its best offer, a contract the union has already deemed unacceptable.

Archdiocese officials have said the offer includes generous raises, increases in contributions to pensions and modest insurance increases.

"We think this is an excellent proposal," said archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

The teachers are pushing for higher salaries with a cap moved from $52,000 to $60,000, bigger pension contributions by the archdiocese and lower medical premiums.

For a week in mid-November, teachers picketed outside their respective schools before classes began.

The union and archdiocese have a troubled history of negotiations. In 2001, the union staged a 17-day strike. In 2004, the union voted to strike but that was averted by renewed negotiations.


Union leaders lick chops over $3.5 million

It is a big win for ARH nurses in a two year old fight over pay issues. A federal appeals court ruled Appalachian Regional Healthcare will have to pay millions in back pay to nurses.

The dispute started back in 2005, long before the current strike, but nurses on the picket line in Hazard say the decision renews their energy to fight for what they believe is right.

"It was wonderful, it was great," said Kim Hurt with the Kentucky Nurses Association.

If the federal appeals court decision stands, hundreds of registered nurses, like Kim Hurt, will receive more than three and a half million dollars in back pay from ARH. The ruling upholds the opinions of an arbitrator and a federal district judge who both said ARH breached an old contract by cutting nurses' hourly wages.

"This is the third time that we have won this decision, three times. How many times does it take to understand when somebody's telling them no," said Wilma Jones with the Kentucky Nurses Association.

"Once again, it's another victory for us and it uplifts everyone," Hurt said.

Union leaders say they're confident they'll win again if ARH files another appeal.

"It is so simple, any judge that reads it can understand it and they would vote again on our behalf," Jones said.

WYMT called several officials from ARH and no one was available for an interview, but a spokesperson tells us right now they are evaluating their options.


What I did during the teachers strike

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