Hollywood unions spill bad blood

The bad blood between Hollywood's two major actors' unions reached Hatfield and McCoy levels during the weekend just as they prepare to negotiate new labor contracts for their members. Saturday's stunning decision by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to negotiate its own deal with the studios rather than in partnership with the bigger and more-confrontational Screen Actors Guild (SAG) raises the question of which union will sit down first for formal talks.

The unions' TV-theatrical contract, which they have jointly negotiated for 27 years, expires on June 30. The studios, slowly recovering from the 100-day writers' strike, are fearful of another walkout and are delaying work on projects that could be interrupted in the summer.

The union that does not negotiate a new contract first with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) could find itself facing a bigger battle, depending on whether its proposals are greatly different than what was agreed upon by the other union.

AFTRA, whose contract covers 44,000 members of both unions, has been pushing for early talks all along, so it would come as no surprise if it were first to the table.

Both unions said Sunday that they would be getting in touch with the AMPTP within the next few days.

"Informal discussions are happening and we expect to set a timeline soon," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said.

SAG executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen said the union plans to call the AMPTP Monday.

"We've discussed it informally with them," Allen said. "This is what we were waiting for to get started on bargaining: To get this process finished and for the input of the members who were all participating."

The AMPTP issued a statement Saturday saying it was pleased that AFTRA is ready to start formal talks and is determined to "work hard and bargain reasonably" to avoid another harmful strike in the industry. The statement made no mention of SAG. (Hollywood writers walked out for 100 days last year.)

Both unions, however, probably will wait until after the April 7 start of talks between AMPTP and the Intl. Assn. of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents blue-collar studio workers.

AFTRA's eleventh-hour decision to suspend its joint bargaining agreement with SAG, known as Phase One, came as both actors unions were set to vote on a proposal package their members had been working on since February. Terms of the package have not been disclosed.

Just last Tuesday and Wednesday, members of both unions' "wages and working conditions" committees met to put finishing touches on the package. Word out of those meetings was that both worked amicably side by side.

But even that characterization had Allen and Reardon disagreeing. SAG's Allen described the meetings as "energetic" and "exciting." AFTRA's Reardon said there had been "tensions" and "disagreements."

The straw that broke the camel's back Saturday, Reardon said, was the anticipated decision by the cast of the daytime soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" to circulate a petition seeking to annul AFTRA's representation of the show's actors.

Several weeks ago, members of the cast approached SAG about issues they had regarding AFTRA's representation.

"They're fed up that AFTRA has not taken care of their needs and concerns and that AFTRA has not assisted them in getting money owed to them," said SAG national board member Anne-Marie Johnson, also an AFTRA member. "They're fed up with their health and retirement package, and they know SAG will assist if they could."

Johnson said the actors were told to bring it up with AFTRA because SAG taking jurisdiction over the "Bold" actors would be considered "raiding."

Allen said the guild assured AFTRA it would not assist the soap opera's cast in their efforts to organize with SAG.

"The timing of this was transparently obvious," Allen said. "It was incredibly cynical and calculated. It was a flimsy excuse. SAG was never intent on raiding or representing the soap opera."

But Reardon said for AFTRA it was clear SAG planned a raid. She cautioned that the decision to stop jointly bargaining was not just because of "Bold."

"We had learned about 'The Bold and the Beautiful' situation but found out quite later in the game that the situation was much more dire than we first knew," Reardon explained.

Over the last year, there have been "growing attacks from the guild" that pushed AFTRA to its boiling point, including "letters in the screen actors magazine, petitions, elected leaders of SAG on the sets of our cable shows."

"It's been a very planned campaign to discredit AFTRA and the decertification petition is the outcome of that," she said. "You cannot engage in bargaining with employers when you're sitting at a table with a partner you don't trust. We would spend more time negotiating with each other than the industry."

Despite the contentious history, Allen denied Reardon's allegations of a SAG campaign against AFTRA and said it tried to work with its sister union.

"How is it better for the acting members of the unions to negotiate separately?" Allen asked. "How is the leverage of the average working actor increased by negotiating separately as opposed to together?"

But not every SAG member believes the union's leadership was that blindsided by AFTRA's decision or will mourn the loss of the union as a bargaining partner.

"It was only recently that the Hollywood leadership of SAG was actively working to end our relationship with AFTRA over the strenuous objections of those of us who knew what the outcome would be for both unions," said Sam Freed a New York member who is SAG's second national vp. "Now, after a year of provocation that has gotten them what they always wanted, they are placing the blame on everyone but themselves for the outcome. The current Hollywood leadership of SAG has today failed all actors."


Dems: Workers need no-vote unionization

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger told a Richmond audience Saturday he wants the Indiana governor's job because the state "deserves better leadership." The crowd of more than 50, comprised mostly of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employees' union, listened to Schellinger's remarks during an hour-long stop at the Richmond Holiday Inn on National Road East.

"I want to stand up for working families," the 47-year-old architect and native of South Bend said.

Schellinger faces Jill Long Thompson in Indiana's May 6 primary. He has never run for public office, and, dressed casually in a sweater, he emphasized his blue-collar background Saturday.

AFSCME endorsed Schellinger for governor in late 2007.

One of eight children, the businessman said he "learned a work ethic" putting himself through college at Notre Dame and working the night shift "grinding steel."

"It was an experience that taught me the importance of representing working families."

The candidate talked sporadically about what he called Indiana's most pressing issues: jobs, property taxes, education and health care.

He won his audience's loudest applause when he discussed project labor agreements and his support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which allows workers the freedom to decide whether to join a union. [N.B. - the proposal would ban supervised, secret-ballot unionization elections.]

"On day one in the first hour, I am going to sign an executive order reinstating collective bargaining," he said.

The candidate said Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, is "out of touch with where Indiana is as a state" and criticized his inaction on property taxes.

"This governor stood idle for three years on this tax crisis," he said.

Schellinger said he has a plan to "pick up" Indiana jobs, which includes increasing workforce skills training, working with already-existing small businesses, and investing in "green" technologies.

He said he's working on a health care plan, details about which would be released this week.

Saturday's attendees seemed to appreciate Schellinger's personal history, despite his lack of political experience.

"He comes from a different background ... more of a come-up-to-it instead of (already) being at the top," said Steve Case of Muncie, who works for Delaware County Sheriff's Department.

"We need to be more of a family and everybody work together," Case said. "... I think he'll do that."

Ron Moore, 50, works for Richmond Parks and Recreation Department and said after the event that Schellinger spoke "from the heart."

"I'm glad he's a people person instead of someone who's just going to throw things at us," Moore said. "I thought he was real straightforward."

Libbie Hardwick, 51, who also works for Richmond Parks and Recreation, said Schellinger's pledge to sign bills protecting unions highlighted the event for her.

"(He's) interested in local governments," she said.

Richmond Mayor Sally Hutton attended Schellinger's session. She said earlier this month she does not endorse candidates in primary elections.

Long Thompson met with Palladium-Item's editorial board March 13. Her campaign said Thursday she would likely be in the Richmond area "in the next few weeks."


Closed-door council advances union agenda

Denver City Council members Paul Lopez, Chris Nevitt and Doug Linkhart believed they could hold a meeting with Standard Parking and the Service Employees International Union because “fewer than seven council members attended.” Such a statement shows their lack of comprehension of the laws that dictate their behavior. That they proceeded without the benefit of legal council is irresponsible and endangers the very process they hoped to mitigate.

If there were questions, as Nevitt claims, they should have been dealt with in an open meeting of the City Council, not behind closed doors where, even if nothing improper occurred, the very hint of any impropriety would have been avoided.

If Standard’s bid is lower and they can prove the expertise to do the job, the City Council has a responsibility to choose their bid in order to exercise effective responsibility over taxpayer’s money.

If there are concerns, get them out in a public forum. This appears to be a surreptitious effort to sway a legitimate bid and advance a union agenda. Shame on them, and bring on the consequences at the next election.

- Kevin E. Somerville, Denver


UFCW still on strike in labor-state

A strike involving about 200 workers at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort entered its second day Sunday with no new negotiations scheduled. Members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 23 walked out at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and remained on picket lines outside the track and casino in Chester (WV) on Sunday.

Union spokesman Kevin Kilroy says no bargaining sessions have been set. The contract expired March 1 and the union is seeking higher wages.
Managers and supervisors are filling in for striking cashiers, slot technicians and money room workers. The striking workers represent about 9 percent of the track's work force.


Publicly-funded labor-activism at Cornell

The idea seemed radical at the time: Establish a college where faculty and students could grapple with issues roiling the workplace, including the adversarial relationship between labor and management. This daring vision, coming on the heels of the Great Depression and then World War II, led to the founding of the ILR School by the New York State legislature in 1945. The school was charged with a mission "to improve industrial and labor conditions in the State through the provision of instruction, the conduct of research, and the dissemination of information in all aspects of industrial, labor, and public relations, affecting employers and employees."

Given a home at Cornell University, ILR embodied both the intellectual rigor of the Ivy League and the democratic spirit of state universities. It created a multidisciplinary social sciences faculty that valued academic achievement and practical expertise. On-campus offerings promised students a liberal education with a professional orientation while off-campus Extension programs brought insights about the workplace to the wider community.

The centrality of the workplace in an increasingly complex world is the primary focus at ILR. With its diverse and distinguished faculty, the school leads the way towards new insights about current and future challenges. Faculty expertise ranges across the workplace-related social science disciplines, including economics, sociology, history, psychology, political science, law, and statistical analysis. Cutting-edge research, excellence in teaching, and commitment to outreach remain ILR's defining characteristics.

ILR is the nation's only institution of higher education to offer a four-year undergraduate program focused on the workplace, several types of graduate degrees, programs and workshops for adult learners, and customized services. Programmatic specialties include personnel and human resources management; collective representation, labor law, and labor history; labor economics; organizational behavior; international and comparative labor; and social statistics. From our Ithaca campus and additional offices around the state, ILR connects with the region, the nation, and the world.


Hottest stories last week

Hot on the feed - last 7 days.

Hottest on the blog right now.

Get the RSS feed. (What is RSS?)

SEIU complains about courthouse stench

Sure, the idea of work may sicken some. But what if work actually made you sick and forced you to stay home to recover? That’s the united contention of county employees who have been working in the lower level of the Regional Justice Center. They say the stench wafting through the bottom of the building is much more than a nuisance.

They say the stink stings staffers’ eyes, reduces their energy levels and worsens allergies and colds. They’re frequently sickened, prompting them to go home early or miss full days — which depletes their allocations of sick days. And they worry the often overwhelming sewage odor will affect their long-term health.

They contend their supervisors and human resource specialists haven’t taken the matter seriously enough. Some staffers say supervisors have belittled them over their complaints — a charge administrators vehemently deny. At least, the employees say, it has reached the radar of their representation: the Service Employees International Union, Local 1107.

It’s the stink that links. The union has begun organizing those affected, and could ultimately take the matter to county commissioners and other elected officials if the employees continue to be exposed to the smell.

“There shouldn’t be anybody in that lower level,” said Frank Maldonado, who works in the district attorney’s office in the justice center’s lower level.

So far, a half-dozen of the 53 employees of the district attorney’s bad check and information technology departments have been relocated across the street from the justice center, but it’s unlikely the rest will be moved elsewhere. There just isn’t room among the county complexes downtown, said Terry Johnson, who manages administration for the district attorney’s office.

The Regional Justice Center was supposed to be the airy and ventilated alternative to the moldy and dank Bridger Building, the previous county courthouse.

But “employees who had been healthy in the old building now are often sick,” Maldonado said.

Yet, two tests conducted by consultants found the levels of hydrogen sulfide in the lower level safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration maintains that any level below 20,000 parts per billion of that gas is acceptable. The highest peak recorded by sensors has been 36 parts per billion, county officials said.

“I realize it’s uncomfortable even if it’s not unhealthy,” Johnson said.

The most recent smell test, which lasted seven days last summer, found a high of 14 parts per billion. That test cost $7,000.

The results were little consolation to county employees.

“You get into the office after a good night’s sleep feeling good, but quickly you’re sluggish,” Maldonado said. Kavyn Lighten, a senior financial office assistant in the bad check unit, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and “just can’t take” the smell. She says she misses about three days a month because of the smell, and has just four hours of sick time left. Lighten joined the district attorney’s office nine years ago.

Some staffers, including Damien Brodie, have sought workers’ compensation for the frequent stomach irritation and nausea, as well as the occasional dry heave and headache. But Brodie and all others have been rejected by health provider Sierra Nevada Administrators. Sierra maintains “the description of injury” does not meet state criteria.

“You feel powerless,” Brodie said.

All in a day’s work, eh?


Catholic teachers in strike threat

There will be plenty of memorable images from Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York City next month: a trip to Ground Zero, a public Mass celebrated at Yankee Stadium. But there's one possible image the Archdiocese of New York can't be looking forward to: hundreds of Catholic school teachers walking picket lines.

More than 400 teachers at 10 Catholic high schools — including John S. Burke Catholic in Goshen and Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie — represented by the Lay Faculty Association will vote tomorrow night on a possible strike during the Pope's visit.

Association president John Fedor, a science teacher at Burke, says he expects his members to vote to walk out.

The teachers have been without a contract since September and an independent mediator failed to bridge the gap between them.

On Jan. 10, more than 300 teachers staged a one-day sick out, which canceled classes at Burke and Lourdes.

The union and archdiocese are at odds over salaries, pension contributions and medical premiums.

Now, teachers are poised to strike for the first time since a 17-day walkout in 2001.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Fedor says member won't do anything to actively interrupt the papal visit, but the strike's timing has a purpose.

"We are looking to embarrass the archdiocese," Fedor said. "They deserve to be embarrassed."


SEIU lawsuit may shut Head Start center

A labor union filed a lawsuit against the St. Martin Iberia Lafayette (LA) Community Action Agency for refusing to reinstate a teacher after an arbitrator found she was fired improperly. Tina Becnel, a former Early Childhood Development teacher at SMILE’s New Iberia Head Start Center, was fired in September 2006 after she was accused of hitting a 4-year-old student.

An arbitrator later ordered Becnel be reinstated, finding no credible evidence the incident occurred.

According to the lawsuit, SMILE reinstated Becnel on Dec. 7, 2007, but terminated her again just four days later when the Louisiana Department of Social Services threatened to revoke the facility’s license based on the original abuse allegation.

Service Employees International Union Local 21LA, which represents SMILE employees and other public workers in Louisiana, filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court on Becnel’s behalf.

The lawsuit states SMILE’s failure to reinstate Becnel violates the federal Labor Management Relations Act.

It requests Becnel be reinstated and receive lost wages and benefits since the date of her initial firing.

“The arbitrator ruled that the teacher should be made whole,” said Local 21LA President Rick Pettitt.

“(SMILE) has refused to abide by that, which has left us no choice but to file a lawsuit in federal court.”

Alvin Wiltz, SMILE’s executive director, did not return calls Friday seeking comment.


Ignorant unions, leftists line up with Hamas

Two of Australia's most prominent left-wing unions have been branded anti-Semitic in an influential Jewish-American online newsletter for linking the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel's statehood to "racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians". The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia have attracted criticism in the US-based Jewish daily Forward for their condemnation of Israel.

Unionist Stuart Appelbaum singled out the CFMEU and MUA for their "venom" after endorsing an advertisement published in The Australian that condemned a parliamentary motion commemorating 60 years of friendship between Australia and Israel.

Mr Appelbaum's criticism is all the more stinging considering he is president of the giant Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in the US and president of the Jewish Labor Committee.

In an article called "American labor can help right anti-Israel left", Mr Appelbaum said many progressives in the US were fuming at the lack of support from left counterparts overseas after Israelis living in towns near Gaza had been the "target of choice for Hamas terrorists".

He said the Socialist International's statement last month condemning "the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza" was salutary compared with some of the venom generated by the Left abroad.

It was a triumph of instinct over intellect, Mr Appelbaum said, that the CFMEU and MUA could back a resolution saying, "we as informed and concerned Australians, choose to dissociate ourselves from the celebration of the triumph of racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948".

Mr Appelbaum questioned why voices publicly seeking social justice served up "these kinds of diatribes against Israel" and held Israel to standards that no other nation would be expected to meet. "One can only conclude that, at least in part, what we are increasingly witnessing on the left overseas is anti-Semitism cloaked under the veil of anti-Zionism," he said.

Andrew Ferguson, the CFMEU's chief in NSW who authorised his union's participation in the ad, told The Australian yesterday: "I do not accept that being critical of policies of the Israeli state makes us anti-Semitic, just as being critical of the policies of George Bush does not make us anti-American."

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin was unavailable for comment yesterday, but his union is believed to want to put the onus on officials lower down the pecking order for supporting the anti-Israel ad.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff accused the CFMEU and MUA of reacting without the facts.

"The small number of unions that have adopted an anti-Israel position have done so more out of ignorance than prejudice," Mr Alhadeff said.

The nation's union movement has divided over the issue, with right-wing Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes accusing the CFMEU and MUA of "lining up with Hamas".


UAW striker-replacements sought

Nearly five weeks into the UAW strike at American Axle & Manufacturing Inc., the company is hiring workers at four plants in New York and Michigan that are subject to the work stoppage, to replace striking workers and for future positions at the auto supplier. In an ad found on The Oakland Press' Web site, the company said it seeks candidates for production and skilled trade positions.

After noting the strike, the ad reads: "Employment offered to applicants responding to this advertisement will be to fill anticipated attrition replacement openings after negotiations or in place of employees involved in this strike."

The ad does not list compensation rates for the positions or a start date, but notes that the company seeks to fill full-time positions for three shifts and that those hired would receive benefits after "a certain period of regular employment."

The Detroit supplier says the hiring is primarily intended to give the company a group of workers ready to start as workers now on strike leave their jobs. Any deal between the union and the company is expected to include buyout and early retirement packages.

"We are currently preparing a pool of potential new associates in anticipation of those events," American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said Saturday.

Little progress has been made on key economic issues at the heart of contract negotiations, such as wages, benefits and buyout packages.

Word spread among workers Saturday that the company is seeking replacement workers.

Wendy Thompson, former president of UAW Local 235, said in an e-mail message that the union learned the company expects to have more than 20 replacement workers report to work Monday.

Rogers said that was not true. "We are not bringing in any replacement workers on Monday," she said.

Rogers also said the company has asked workers who were laid off before the strike to report back to work.

UAW Local 235 President Adrian King said he was not aware of replacement workers being asked to report on Monday.

On Feb. 26, 3,650 UAW members at American Axle went on strike after negotiations on a new contract collapsed. The company is seeking to cut wages and benefits in half, saying it needs to cut labor costs to compete with other suppliers that have won concessions from their unions.

The UAW, which has said it needs more data to substantiate those demands, argues the cuts are too steep for a company that is not in bankruptcy and made a profit last year.


Picket line as Dem photo-op


Labor-state dominated by left-wing agenda

Trenton (NJ)’s legislating machine is running in over-drive. The radicals who are running the engine of big government have opened the throttle of central planning and are bent on ramming through their agenda, regardless of disturbing economic indicators, skyrocketing taxes and the evacuation of job producing taxpayers.

The Swedish-style Paid Family Leave scheme is being railroaded through the legislature, despite its destructive effect on the state’s small business community.

A costly Socialistic Universal Health Insurance plan that has already failed in Massachusetts is on the horizon. Union organizers are using the insidious Card Check bill to unionize anyone they can without a secret ballot, expanding the government workers union bosses' powerful influence even more.

We have seen the state government grow at astronomical rates for five years in a row and are feeling the effect of this growth in every municipality. As if all this is not enough, the jewel in the crown of the Corzine administration liberal agenda is One Hundred Thousand Low Income Housing units being forced down the throats of taxpayers.

During the 2005 Gubernatorial Primary I exposed this scheme, expecting my Republican opponents to help take on this threat and its destructive impact. I predicted this would be a major initiative of Jon Corzine should he become Governor.

My opponents chose to dodge this issue, afraid to challenge this taxpayer funded entitlement rip-off. Now Corzine will have his way, using COAH regulations to override local zoning ordinances and jam high-density, low income housing into every town in the state, especially targeting Republican towns. The scary part is that few politicians are stepping up to stop this wacko socialist scheme, but there are a few bright spots.

One of the heroes in the battle against the Central Planners is Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger for his courage in standing up to Trenton’s bureaucracy. His resolution passed by the Middletown Council calling for a moratorium of state mandated Low Income Housing being forced on local municipalities is refreshing and timely. The resolution was voted on along party lines with the mayor breaking the tie, demonstrating local Democrats commitment to Trenton’s big government agenda.

Middletown taxpayers, like all other taxpayers in this state, cannot afford to have local property taxes driven even higher so Trenton’s central planners can continue to manipulate the state’s housing market while simultaneously growing the state’s outrageous debt, which is how much of this government housing will be financed.

New Jersey’s financial situation is at a crisis point. The state’s economic strength is deteriorating, not because of anything out of our control but because of one single factor-- failed State Government policies.

Now this reckless and irresponsible Trenton ruling class wants to force their ridiculous social experiments on every community in the state. They think they can out think the housing market and in doing so will create an artificial over-supply of Low Income Housing. Where will the inhabitants of these units come from?

With New Jersey experiencing the outward migration of our upper income job producing taxpayers and polls revealing the majority of our young people do not believe they have a future here, the Central Planners are making New Jersey a magnet state for those looking for a taxpayer subsidized handout. They believe that those they categorize as “Low Income” have a mortgage on the success and income of others. This entitlement mentality is contrary to all the principles that have made America a great country. Taxpayers simply cannot afford this train wreck.

Most politicians would prefer to avoid tackling this issue, like my primary opponents did. It seems to have become “politically incorrect” to oppose all these new entitlement programs. Mayor Scharfenberger has set a standard for defending the free market and spirit of individual responsibility for the rest of our state’s mayors and political “leaders” to emulate. In America, everyone has the right to the opportunity to prosper under equal protection of the law and equal opportunity. They do not have the right to equal things. Mayor Scharfenberger and the Middletown Council Majority should be commended for their courage in standing up for what is right.

- Steve Lonegan was Mayor of Bogota, NJ, and is Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity - New Jersey. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation) are committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process. He is a prolific writer, having been published in newspapers and blogs. He just published a book, Putting Taxpayers First: A Blueprint for Victory in the Garden State, that discusses the impact of the Trenton government on the well being of the taxpayers of the state. He offers solid and workable solutions. Learn more at lonegan.com.


Newspaper ad explains union-only thuggery

It is a topic that can arouse intense public opinion fast: How taxpayers’ dollars are spent. And that debate is at the heart of an argument and ad campaign by the Central Ohio Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. The organization contends the bidding process for the South Point School District’s new elementary buildings excludes non-union workers; a claim one local union official says is simply not true.

On March 11 the school district opened bids for the projects to replace the South Point and Burlington elementary buildings. Nineteen companies submitted bid packages for a variety of jobs at both sites. Five of the nine lowest bids came in over the advertised bid package estimate.

This followed the school board’s rejection in January of all bids that had been submitted during a previous bidding process.

At that time the board passed a resolution tossing those bids and initiating a new bidding process.

“Basically, they wanted to adopt a model responsible bidders criteria,” Bill Palonis of Bovis Lend Lease, the Columbus-based project manager for the building projects. “It states items each contract has to meet — an 18-point criteria. The bids actually came in on price. They were rejected because they wanted to adopt the criteria.”

However, it is the contention of Associated Builders that adopting all 18 points translates into the exclusion of all non-union labor in the construction industry.

“Some of the schools just adopt 15 or 16 of them. When you include all 18, it includes a union-only project labor agreement,” said Mary R. Tebeau, president of the Central Ohio Chapter of Associated Builders.

The 18th point of the model states: “The Bidder shall certify that it and its subcontractors or any other contractor performing work on the project covered under the contract of the Bidder, shall comply with the requirements of a project labor agreement adopted for use on the project.”

Tebeau says construction firms represented by Associated Builders spent time and money bidding at the end of 2007, only to have those bids tossed out because of the adoption of the 18-point model.

According to Tebeau, South Point’s project labor agreement stipulates that labor be union only. That has prevented those firms from re-bidding the South Point jobs.

However, Steve Burton of the Tri-State Building and Trades Council disputes that the PLA is exclusively union.

“There is nothing in the PLA that keeps anyone from bidding the project or being awarded the project as long as they work by the terms and conditions of what the South Point school board determined to be needed,” Burton said. “The terms and conditions of the PLA are perfectly legal and no one is denied the right to bid or be awarded the project.”

Burton said the PLA for the South Point project is identical to the one used on the Ironton schools’ replacement project.

That agreement states that while non-union and union workers may be hired “all employees hired by the employer, as a condition of employment, become and remain members in good standing in the union on the eighth day of employment.”

Burton says this doesn’t exclude anyone and that companies can leave the union as soon as the job is completed.

Associated Builders, an organization that dates back to the 1950s that represents what they call “merit shop construction companies,” sees it a little differently.

“They choose not to be a signatory to a construction union,” Tebeau said. “Everything is based on merit. It is based on the merit of the bid. If they give raises to the employees, it is based on merit, not tenure. When a union tries to shut out the merit shop contractors from bidding on projects, that is when we get involved and try to educate those making the decision.”

The Associated Builders’ ad in the newspaper states, “80 percent of the local construction workforce won’t be able to work on this project because they don’t belong to a union.”

The ad then requests taxpayers contact the South Point school board “to tell them that the excessive building costs of this union-only project labor agreements aren’t fair.”

Burton contends that the local school boards opted to implement the PLA as a way to ensure quality construction projects that come in on time and under budget.

“The South Point and Ironton school board’s chose to use the terms and conditions of the project labor agreement to best spend local and state taxpayer money,” Burton said. “(Those boards) will be held accountable by the voters of those communities not by the Associated Builders and Contractors chapter of Columbus.”

“If this group was so concerned, where were they when the bond was being prepared and voters were going to the polls,” Burton asked. “Is it for their own selfish greed? Where were they when the schools needed to be replaced?”

Despite the Builders’ claims otherwise, Burton says the construction project actually came in more than $35,000 lower after the PLA was implemented.

Ken Cook, South Point schools superintendent, said the district has bid the project three times because those bids came in over budget.

“We entered into a PLA just like Ironton did on building their building. As long as they follow the PLA. They have to follow that project labor agreement. We are partners with the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission,” Cook said. “It is approved by the OSFC. Again, we work in conjunction with all the guidelines they established.”

Cook said it was his understanding that 80 percent of the labor on the replacements projects has to come from the Ashland, Ky.-based Tri-State Building and Construction Trades.


Unions re-inject partisanship into politics

At the UAW Local 95 Hall, yard signs for Janesville (WI) council candidate Kevin Bishop are stacked in the foyer. A sign for candidate Yuri Rashkin is anchored in the grass outside. Before the February primary, many Janesville residents were surprised to pick up the phone and hear an automated call from Rep. Mike Sheridan, a Democrat, endorsing Bishop. Sheridan also is the president of Local 95. Bishop is a former chair of the Democratic Party of Rock County.

By state statute, local offices such as city council and school board are non-partisan. Members of both parties, however, say they have distributed literature and worked the phones for candidates, although those activities were not sponsored by the parties.

Local observers say partisanship is increasing in non-partisan local elections and is especially evident this year.

Democrats point to the non-partisan county board, which voted in 2006 to eliminate the elected coroner’s position beginning in 2011. Even though county supervisors don’t run for office on a party ticket, Democrats say Republicans on the county board maneuvered to eliminate the elected position, which is occupied by a Democrat.

“If the board changes, (we have) great interest to revisit that,” said Tim Rutter, chair for the Democratic party of Rock County. He also is a trustee with Local 95.

Rutter encourages Democrats to run for local office and wrote in a recent party newsletter that the Democrats were looking for a “few good men and women for the Rock County Board of Supervisors, city council and school board.”

But partisanship at the local level doesn’t sit well with Ed James, a Janesville resident who recently wrote a letter to the editor decrying the trend.

Political parties can put more resources behind a candidate than an ordinary resident has available, he said.

But it is ordinary residents who have run Janesville so well in the past, he added.

James said local issues are not Democratic or Republican but citywide and should be addressed as such.

James believes city council candidate Kevin Bishop illustrates the increased political influence in local elections. He pointed to the many Democratic endorsements Bishop received even though Bishop has lived in Janesville less than two years. Bishop came in third of 11 candidates in the primary.

James said newspapers should note the affiliations of the people who write letters of endorsement so voters have the information they need to make qualified decisions.

When called by The Janesville Gazette to comment, Bishop instead wrote about his motivations in a letter to the editor that ran Saturday.

“I moved to Janesville in July 2006, fell in love with the city and chose last winter to try and make an impact by running for city council,” he wrote.

“The local Democratic Party has not endorsed me, rightly; this election is non-partisan.”

But he and his supporters share common values, he said.

“Some are Democrats; the rest, I have no idea.

“I’m a working guy. I go to work and get my hands dirty. It seems natural that other working people share some of my perspectives. I’m proud of my labor supporters, as I’m proud of my supporters who are lawyers, social workers, teachers, retirees, lawmakers, disabled people.

“No endorsement buys me a single vote. My hope is that an endorsement earns us a hard look ... ”

Dan Cunningham, vice president of government relations at Forward Janesville, a pro-business development group, said he has noticed labor’s activities in support of candidates.

“Whether those candidates are Democrat or Republican, I do not know,” he said.

Business interests can’t always be labeled Republic or Democratic, he added.

He hopes political affiliations won’t become part of a council’s or board’s makeup.

“We need to continue to elect candidates who clearly have the best interest of our communities at heart, not the interests of a political party,” he said.

That said, Cunningham said Forward Janesville is looking at how the labor community has been able to recruit people such as Mike Sheridan to take the next step in public service by getting elected to the Legislature. It is a model Forward Janesville might follow in finding business-friendly candidates, he said.

Jan Deters, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Rock County, said her party has “basically stayed out” of local races.

Individual party members help other Republicans by working phone banks, making donations from their own accounts or going door-to-door.

“We feel they are non-partisan positions and the Republicans should not be out there endorsing people,” Deters said.

“These people are running as managers for these positions, they’re not running as lawmakers.”

Rather than relying on the political parties, people should make their voting decisions at the local level by using the candidate’s credentials, she said.

Deters believes Democrats are getting more involved at the local level because “it’s a power thing.”

“They just want to have total control.”

But Rutter of the Democrats said awareness is increasing about the importance of getting more members involved in the political process.

He views local offices as a training ground for future party leaders.

But some of the views expressed on the opinion pages of the newspaper make it sound as if the “Democratic machine is rolling over the competition,” he said.

Rutter has knocked on doors for candidates, but he said he does that as a Democrat helping a Democrat.

Although the Democratic Party and labor are intertwined, Rutter distinguishes between the Democratic Party and the Rock County Labor Coalition, which is made up of numerous unions.

Not all union members are Democrats, he said.

But “obviously, the foundation of the Democratic party is the working men and women.”

In making endorsements, the labor coalition decides which candidates are friends of working people in Rock County, he said. Members then work to get that candidate elected by dropping literature or putting up signs, for instance.

“I don’t believe somebody cares whether you are a Democrat or a Republican when it comes to potholes in the street,” Rutter said.

But Rutter also believes some in the business community “aren’t interested in seeing labor or working men and women having a voice on the city council … Why should working men and women not have a voice?”

Labor unions have been losing membership and clout on a national level, and members feel politicians are losing interest in them, Rutter said.

“There’s been a growing interest in saying, ‘Our voice is not being heard’” he said.

“We really need to make a stand.”


Gov. organizes for public-worker unions

Colorado state troopers on Friday became the first group to officially register themselves as a union under Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order that allows government employees to organize. The group registered with the Colorado Department of Labor after 75 percent of troopers voted to organize this month, according to labor department spokeswoman Cher Roybal Haavind.

She said out of 709 ballots sent out to the troopers, 431 were returned - easily surpassing the 30 percent participation required to organize.

The troopers will now be represented under the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals and can take a list of requests straight to the governor's designee that handles the negotiations.

However, the organized group differs from a union in that there is no binding arbitration agreements or right to strike.

Lonnie Westphal, the group's executive director, said one of the top issues that will be taken to the governor's designee is salaries - specifically the raises troopers get after being on the job for six or seven years.

He said currently troopers make a good starting salary but by the time they can train new recruits, the experienced troopers are only "making a few dollars more a month than the recruit they're training."

According to the trooper Web site, the salary structure ranges from $4,051 a month to $5,755 a month.

The executive order Ritter issued in November provided a forum for state employees to raise such concerns. His spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said both sides are feeling their way through the new process.

"The intent is to bring people to the table to discuss issues of mutual concern and reach common ground and to move forward and to serve the people more effectively," Dreyer said. "The intent was never to create a traditional binding arbitration type of system."

Westphal agreed and said Ritter's executive order is filled with caveats.

Westphal also said state troopers have a no-strike clause - something that has been in place since 1935. Ritter's executive order prohibits the organized state employees from striking.

Westphal said he sees a real opportunity for troopers to have direct input into the salary and benefits they'd like to see included in their employment package. He said one of their chief concerns is health care benefits - especially in rural areas where access to health care is not as good and more expensive.

But Westphal said there are limits on what troopers can get the state to do.

"There is no way of forcing them to agree to our list of priorities," he said.


Right to Work state suffers nurses union break-in

In a dramatic breakthrough for the aspirations of Texas registered nurses to have a stronger voice to speak out for patients and themselves, a northwest Houston hospital Friday night became the first hospital in Texas to win union collective bargaining rights.

RNs at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital voted 119 to 111 to affiliate with NNOC Texas -- Texas affiliate of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, the largest and fastest growing organization of RNs in the nation.

The election was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. NNOC Texas will represent nearly 300 RNs at the hospital.

"Finally our voice will be heard," said Josie Jupio, RN. "This victory of the nurses' unity will bring a change for the better, impacting patient care, improving the benefits and assuring an open door policy that is fair to all."

"This is indeed a victory for all patients, and all the staff providing care for them," said Jeanette Thornhill, RN.

NNOC/CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said the "stunning victory changes the face of healthcare in Texas, and will send shockwaves across the country, especially in states where no or only a few RNs are represented."

"It sends a clarion message to those RNs, a hope that they too can overcome the odds and band together to improve the quality of care at the bedside and change forever the standards for themselves and their colleagues," DeMoro said.

Part of that message is the impressive momentous growth of NNOC/CNA. In the past decade, CNA/NNOC has grown by more than 375 percent. Since 2001, CNA/NNOC has gained more than 30,000 new members, including 6,200 in the past 100 days. Nationally NNOC/CNA has 80,000 members in all 50 states, and represents RNs in union hospitals in California, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and now Texas.

While Cypress Fairbanks, part of the Tenet Healthcare system, is the first hospital where the RNs will be covered by a union contract, NNOC Texas has spread its roots far and wide in Texas with members and hospital committees from El Paso to Dallas to Austin to Brownsville to San Antonio.

"Texas RNs have shown courage and determination to fight for their rights and their patients," said David Johnson, Director of Organizing of NNOC/CNA. "Their commitment helped lay the groundwork for tonight's breakthrough victory for safe patient care and RN power in Texas, and for many more such victories to come."

"The intensity to which the nurses were involved on this historic achievement demonstrates that Texas will never be the same," DeMoro said. "There is something about these nurses that should give hope to patients in Texas and nurses across the nation. We plan on working quickly with Tenet Healthcare, as we have in the past to achieve an agreement that works best for the patients of Texas."

"Union means unity for the good of all, especially our patients who are the cause we are here for," said Cypress Fairbanks RN Purita Reyes.

Chris Williams, RN, noted the proximity of the election date with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Williams called the civil rights movement and the union movement the nation's "two most progressive movements. We nurses at CyFair will try to expand upon (Dr. King's) vision with respect to patient care in Texas."

Statewide, Texas/NNOC has more than 2,000 activists who have also been busy campaigning to pass legislation to establish minimum RN-to-patient staffing ratios, based on a California law where the ratios have improved care and helped reduce the nursing shortage, and establish legal protections for RNs' ability to advocate for patients.

NNOC Texas has held major rallies for the bill on the steps of the Capitol in Austin and outside the Alamo in San Antonio, and hosted workshops across the state.

In Houston, NNOC Texas has been a presence since 2005 when hundreds of NNOC/CNA members arrived from around the country to provide disaster relief in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Following Katrina, NNOC/CNA members formed the largest support group of RNs in the Harris County relief operation at the Astrodome.

"The Cypress Fairbanks story was written in the Astrodome, on the steps of the Capitol, in education workshops, in gatherings of nurses at their homes and in hospital break rooms, in nurses throughout Texas meeting each other and understanding how collectively they could transform the state and themselves," DeMoro said.

"Cypress Fairbanks is all of that and more," she said. "Texas RNs have crossed a historic bridge, and will never look back."


Bitter Big Ent union divorce threatens labor peace

Unions representing film and television actors will negotiate separately with producers in upcoming contract talks after board members of the TV actors union voted Saturday to sever a long-standing agreement between the two guilds. The vote by the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists came hours before a meeting with the Screen Actors Guild and just three months before the expiration of the contract covering movies and prime-time shows.

Despite a sometimes rocky 27-year relationship the unions had shown recent signs of peace as they prepared for the upcoming talks.

But instead of discussing strategies the sides swapped accusations Saturday afternoon.

"For the past year SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said in a written statement.

SAG President Alan Rosenberg's written response: "AFTRA's refusal now to bargain together with us and their last-second abandonment of the joint process is calculated, cynical and may serve the interests of their institution, but not its members."

The AFTRA board said the vote to terminate the agreement, known as "Phase One," was "overwhelming."

Wary of repeating the damage wrought by the recently ended 100-day Hollywood writers strike, producers and several A-list actors including Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro had been pressing for negotiations to start as early as this week.


Soap-opera union raid termed 'solidarity'

Just as the Screen Actors Guild and its smaller sister union American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are jointly preparing to face off against the studios in upcoming contract negotiations, the two actors groups are embroiled in a behind-the-scenes soap opera -- over a soap opera.

The latest episode in the long-standing turf wars between SAG and AFTRA erupted among the cast of the classic CBS daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful."

For more than 50 years, AFTRA has negotiated contracts for daytime soaps. But AFTRA accuses the leadership of SAG of encroaching on its territory in an attempt to gain jurisdiction of the show. They view it as an effort by SAG to increase its power.

"This is an ongoing campaign by the Screen Actors Guild since last year to discredit AFTRA," said Roberta Reardon, president of AFTRA. "It's very clear they've tried to take this union apart."

Doug Allen, national executive director of SAG, rejects AFTRA's claims and says his union has no designs on organizing daytime dramas. "We're not raiding AFTRA, and the suggestion we are is inaccurate," he said.

The flare-up around "Bold and Beautiful" comes at a delicate time for both unions. Today, the joint board of AFTRA and SAG is meeting to approve the bargaining proposals that will be presented to the studios in their upcoming negotiations. The unions are expected to seek, among other things, higher pay for their members in the area of new media. If all goes well, the unions are likely to begin talks with the studios by mid-April.

But SAG and AFTRA, which historically have had an uneasy alliance, have been feuding for the last year over the terms of their 27-year joint bargaining pact and other issues.

SAG has been looking to change the terms of the partnership. The bigger union, which has 120,000 members compared with AFTRA'S 70,000, objects to equal voting rights in the agreement even though SAG actors account for most of the earnings.

The Hatfields and McCoys-like sniping got so out of hand that John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, met with leaders of both guilds and urged them to resolve their differences before starting negotiations with the studios. The AFL-CIO, to which both SAG and AFTRA belong, bars unions from raiding each other.

The latest skirmish is now occurring on the set of "The Bold and the Beautiful," the second-highest-rated daytime drama. AFTRA officials are furious that Allen and SAG President Alan Rosenberg held a private meeting with two actors from the show at which the cast members complained bitterly about AFTRA representation.

After the actors aired their grievances, Allen said, he advised them "to go to AFTRA and have those conversations with them."

AFTRA officials were upset at SAG for not telling them about the meeting until two weeks after the fact, according to Reardon.

Allen dismissed the concern, saying "I don't know why SAG is being held accountable for complaints by AFTRA members about AFTRA."

The early March meeting was requested by the "Bold" actors, including Susan Flannery, who plays the matriarch of the fashion dynasty at the center of the show. Flannery, a regular on "Bold" since its inception in 1987, is leading an effort to decertify AFTRA as the union representing the actors on the series by circulating a petition, AFTRA officials said.

The petition would have to be submitted to the National Labor Relations Board, which would hold a secret ballot if it were signed by at least 30% of the employees.

Flannery and other cast members believe they would earn better pay and benefits under SAG. Flannery, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

That doesn't sit well with some high-profile AFTRA members, who say the show would be weakened if it came under another union's jurisdiction.

"If they raided this show and other shows it would be a disaster," said veteran soap star Don Hastings, who plays Dr. Bob Hughes on "As the World Turns." He said SAG has no experience negotiating daytime contracts, which would put the show in jeopardy at a time when audiences for soaps are declining and the networks are cutting budgets.

Both Reardon and Allen say they agree on one thing: Their unions need to be well prepared to jointly negotiate a new contract with the studios. But Reardon says SAG's actions do not always suggest unanimity. "How can we be expected to sit side-by-side in a joint negotiation with a union that is actively raiding us?"

Allen says AFTRA's concerns are unfounded. The two unions, he said, just completed two days of "productive and successful" meetings to finalize their joint proposals.

"It was an example of union solidarity."

Related Posts with Thumbnails