Sound Politics: The Disgrace of SEIU

Remember this warning to keep an eye on SEIU? They're really outdoing themselves now:
In Dearborn Saturday night, at least seven busloads, carrying up to 800 SEIU staff in purple jackets and T-shirts drove up to the Hyatt Regency Hotel where the banquet hosted by Labor Notes was culminating a weekend conference on topics including union democracy, health care reform, and encouraging the resurgent growth of labor.

Upon unloading from the buses, the hundreds of picket-sign wielding staff stormed the hotel and pushed their way through doors to break into the ballroom where the event was being held.

While breaking in the building, the SEIU staff, now joined by SEIU staff inside the building, physically assaulted a group of union members and activists at the door.

As Labor Notes themselves noted in a press release: A recently retired member of United Auto Workers Local 235, Dianne Feeley, suffered a head wound after being knocked to the ground by SEIU International staff and local members. Other conference-goers -- members of the Teamsters, UAW, UNITE HERE, International Longshoremen's Association, and SEIU itself -- were punched, kicked, shoved, and pushed to the floor.

As the SEIU staff broke into the hall, some three dozen CNA/NNOC nurses and leaders, there to attend the conference, including Malinda Markowitz, RN, a member of CNA/NNOC's Council of Presidents, who was scheduled to speak in DeMoro's place, were whisked out the back of the hall for their safety, leaving in vans. The atmosphere was so tense that hotel cooks tried to climb into the vans to join them for fear of their own safety.
Nice fellas, those purple shirts.


Stern in total denial of SEIU misconduct

Statement by SEIU International President Andy Stern Regarding CNA Temporary Restraining Order: The California Nurses Association's (CNA) insistence on presenting misleading and inaccurate stories about the members and staff of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reached new levels this week.

Not only has the CNA failed to admit photos it claimed as evidence of "violence by protesters" at the Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn, MI were actually images of SEIU staff and members injured by conference security -- the union's claims of "stalking of, use of violence against, and harassment of officers, directors, and staff of the California Nurses Association" also stray far from reality.

As SEIU has yet to receive a court order of any kind, we cannot comment on the details of the temporary restraining order filed by the CNA today.

What SEIU can confirm is we have not been notified of a hearing and under no circumstances have SEIU members or staff harassed CNA members or leadership. Nurses and hospital workers from Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) have bravely led a national effort to engage CNA leadership in a dialogue about their vicious "vote no" campaign in Ohio and are committed to continue these efforts.

It's shameful that the CNA is continuing to spread misinformation and distorting reality to divert focus from the real issues -- the anti-union tactics that sabotaged the opportunity for more than 8,000 nurses and other hospital workers in Ohio to freely choose whether to form a union with SEIU and are continuing to stand in the way of workers around the country uniting to improve patient care, workplace standards, and the lives of hardworking families.


Stern, SEIU stalkers slapped with TRO

A California Superior Court today issued a temporary restraining order against the Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern and SEIU to cease and desist the stalking of, use of violence against, and harassment of officers, directors, and staff of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

Under the order, SEIU and Stern are prohibited from stalking, threatening, or following CNA/NNOC leaders staff at work, in hospitals, clinics, and offices, at their homes. They are also barred from following their cars or harassing them with mail or phone calls.

Stern and SEIU will be required to appear in an Oakland, Calif. court on May 1 as the court considers a three-year injunction. The order, signed by the Hon. Jon Rantzman late Tuesday and issued this morning, is in effect immediately.

“While this court order provides a step forward for the safety and security of our leaders and staff, it's a disgrace that a labor organization would engage in this level of deplorable behavior against an organization that is predominantly women and nurses,” said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.

The order was prompted by a campaign of stalking and harassment by Stern's SEIU over the past week in which SEIU teams have targeted CNA/NNOC leaders in nursing stations, harassed them at home, and followed cars.

On Saturday night, SEIU sent what they said were 800 people to crash a conference hosted by the magazine Labor Notes in Dearborn, Mich., where DeMoro was scheduled to speak. SEIU staff muscled their way into the building and assaulted union members beyond the doors before rushing the auditorium and the stage.

According to eyewitnesses, several SEIU staff pulled purple bandanas over their faces to conceal their identities in the attack on union members outside the entrance to the ballroom. Several people were injured, including a retired member of the United Auto Workers, Dianne Feeley, who suffered a head wound after hitting her head on a table when knocked to the floor.

A number of CNA/NNOC Board members have been confronted in their homes by SEIU teams pounding on their doors, pointing cameras in their faces, and yelling at them. SEIU representatives have also gone to nursing floors seeking to find CNA/NNOC leaders.

Veronica Rocha, a Southern California CNA/NNOC Board member, describes this interaction this week: “I really felt threatened and personally violated when they showed up at our place of residence uninvited and continued to follow us (in our car), knowing I did not want to interact with them.”

“Nobody deserves to be stalked in this manner. I am proud to represent CNA, a professional organization with membership that supports and advocates for patients and safe staffing,” she said.

Another Southern California CNA/NNOC Board member, Carol Koelle, RN, described her response when SEIU went to her house and followed family members in their car. “This is unprofessional, thug-like behavior that has no place in a professional women’s union.”

“I feel violated that they actually came to my home, my sanctuary way out in the desert, and involved my family. They degraded me in front of my son as they were pointing a video camera at us. They are trying to intimidate me, but I am not afraid,” she said.

Other major labor leaders have also spoken out and called on Stern to stop the violence.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney emphasized that “there is no justification – none – for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU at the Labor Notes conference in Detroit.”

“While there may well be multiple sides to any dispute, violence in any form is reprehensible. Violence in attacking freedom of speech must be strongly condemned,” Sweeney said in a statement Tuesday. “Any attempt to deny the right of free speech threatens the foundation of our movement and the future of working people.”


Labor agenda presents an ugly scenario

Picture this scenario: A market bubble is created by easy-money policy and speculative investment followed by a collapse in market values. Our economy teeters on recession. Politicians reward big labor with new powers at the workplace. Large government programs are proposed to create taxpayer-funded jobs. Entitlement programs for seniors and the poor are initiated. Temporary "stimulus" packages are passed to placate seniors, farm workers, unions and the unemployed.

Presidential candidates and congressional leaders attack free trade, vow to instate an estate tax on the rich and increase taxes on corporations, individual taxpayers and stockholders. Foreign countries' economies grow at accelerated rates while American jobs disappear.

Regulations are imposed to crack down on Wall Street, while state and federal governments bring lawsuits against demonized corporations for various offenses. Private companies are more heavily regulated to "protect" the public.

Next, the Democratic governor of New York condemns the "increasing concentration of wealth and power." Outcries against excessive executive salaries on Wall Street become widespread.

Sound familiar? Although it sounds like America in 2008, this scenario describes 1929 through 1935.

In her brilliant description of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes explains how excessive taxes and regulations, along with an attack on free trade, turned a temporary stock-market correction -- which probably would have lasted a year or two -- into an 11-year Great Depression. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed huge tax increases on investment and income taxes, as well as the Smoot-Hawley bill that attacked free trade. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal enlarged and transformed every aspect of the federal government into a Big Brother that stifled the private sector, job growth and freedom itself.

Most of these programs and government intrusions were popular, and FDR was elected a record four times. But populism cannot reverse the laws of economics. Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong and even China are growing faster and creating jobs faster than the United States today because their economies are becoming freer (all but China rank freer than us in the Heritage Foundation 2008 Index on Economic Freedom). Even the European Union has a significantly lower corporate tax rate than the United States.

As I write, Democrats in Congress are taking a page from Hoover's handbook. They have voted for the largest tax increase in history -- an average of $3,040 for every hard-working taxpayer in Florida, according to the Heritage Foundation. Both parties have dramatically increased federal spending and entitlement programs. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton compete to see who can more quickly destroy trade partnerships. And every day the Democratic majority in Congress proposes huge new government programs and expenditures. New oil and gas exploration and petroleum refineries are prohibited while taxes on energy companies are increased as gasoline prices soar. Proposals to allow unions to organize workers without an open democratic vote have passed the House. To add to an already out-of-control tort system, numerous punitive and excessive regulations on business have been proposed and many have passed. Sarbanes-Oxley alone has driven many companies private or overseas, at a cost to America of $1.4 trillion a year according to one study.

As investors flee Democrats' proposed tax increases and regulatory assaults, job creation is declining. You cannot create jobs by destroying incentives for small business owners, investors and capitalists -- nor can you tax and regulate your way to prosperity. The Soviet Union tried and died. Ireland and China, however, have learned this lesson. Populist demagoguery may win this election, but it cannot revive economic growth and prosperity.

"Less government, less taxes, and more freedom" is not just an outdated slogan, but rather a universal and timeless recipe for economic growth.

- U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, an Ovideo Republican, represents District 24.


Full employment act for labor organizers, lawyers

Organized labor is devoting substantial resources to supporting candidates in the upcoming elections who will advance passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). If adopted, the legislation would mark the most significant changes in American labor law in decades, according to Pepper Hamilton, a multi-practice law firm.

“EFCA poses a significant threat to union-free employers,” said Jonathan Kane, chairman of Pepper Hamilton’s Labor and Employment Group, which represents management in employment-related claims and counsels employers on employment policies and practices.

“Companies should mobilize to fight efforts to make EFCA the law of the land. Otherwise, they may well find themselves being forced to bargain with a union even though no union-organizing election was ever held,” said Kane.

Employers must understand what EFCA’s passage would mean and what they can do now to ensure union organizers do not target their employees, according to Kane.

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), unions attempt to organize workers through a union organizing vote and then bargain collectively with employers afterward if they are successful. Through union-organizing elections, employees can decide in the privacy of a voting booth whether or not they want to be represented by a union.

EFCA would allow a card-check campaign as one way for employees to decide if they want to be represented by a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could certify a union as an employee unit’s exclusive bargaining representative after a union convinces enough employees to sign union-authorization cards.

“EFCA would significantly undermine elections as the way to bring a union on board,” said Kane. “EFCA would also force employers to negotiate the first contract in a hostile mediation and arbitration environment.

“What’s more, EFCA would allow a union to demand that the employer participate in mandatory arbitration for the first contract. That could precipitate disastrous economic consequences,” said Kane.

EFCA Would Encourage Coercive Card-Check Campaigns
If EFCA becomes law, authorization cards will become a much more important tool for union organizers than certification of an election. “Now, employees who sign authorization cards to demonstrate tentative union support can still vote against a union when they cast their ballots in an election. That would change under EFCA. An employee who signs such a card will, in essence, be casting a public vote for the union that cannot be changed,” said Kane.

“Employees who don’t want a union to represent their interests may face subtle, or even explicit, union intimidation, since they won’t make their decision in secret,” Kane added.

Kane said that secretive card checks among union protagonists would also “eliminate the concept of ‘an informed electorate’ that is so key to democracy.”

EFCA Would Impose Mandatory Arbitration
EFCA would make wholesale revisions to the ways companies and unions negotiate all of their first contracts. As proposed, it would require the employer to meet and begin collective bargaining with the union within 10 days of receiving an appropriate bargaining demand.

The employer and union then have just 90 days to agree on a first contract. If they can’t, either party can request mediation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). Once a union or employer seeks mediation, the FMCS has 30 days to resolve all of the parties’ contract negotiation disputes. “Simply put, that is an unrealistic amount of time to resolve all outstanding first-contract issues,” said Kane.

The next step would be arbitration. An arbitration panel has an unspecified period of time to make a decision. Once it has made that decision, however, the parties are bound for two years.

“Mandatory arbitration of first-contract disputes marks a radical departure from current law. Now, the NLRA leaves to the union and employer the difficult work of negotiating and arriving at key terms and conditions of their collective bargaining agreement, without the government imposing specific contract provisions,” Kane said.

“If adopted, EFCA would reflect the government’s clear support of the union in first-contract negotiations, rather than merely providing a neutral bargaining framework for both parties, and would give arbitrators unprecedented power to impose economic restrictions on individual employers,” said Kane.

Kane added, “The mandatory arbitration requirement is a clever strategy by unions. They know that card signing is not indicative of true employee support, and without true employee support, they do not have the economic power to bargain a viable first contract. The EFCA will mandate that first contract.”

Additional Penalties for Employers
EFCA would impose additional penalties on employers that commit certain unfair labor practices. For instance, if an employer commits an unfair labor practice during the period of time between union certification and agreement on a contract, the NLRB could award treble back-pay damages to affected employees, as well as assess a civil penalty of up to $20,000 for each violation. “The practical effect on employers would be to force them to choose between bargaining with a union and a possible punitive penalty,” Kane added.

What Employers Should Do
“The best approach is to make sure your workforce is generally satisfied. Happy employees are far harder to organize than unhappy employees. Take your employees’ pulse using surveys, feedback systems and audit teams,” Kane said.

“You should also implement management training and develop communication and problem-solving systems to highlight the risks of union representation. It is your frontline management team that will first see union organizing efforts. Make sure they recognize it for the threat it is. Then get proactive by calling in experienced counsel to guide your actions during a union drive,” said Kane.


Hawaii urged to spurn card-check, adopt RTW

Private businesses could find it a great deal more difficult to operate here in Hawaii if House Bill 2974 becomes law. Known as the "Card Check Bill", the legislation has already passed the House and Senate, and it is headed to the Governor's Office for her signature.

Under this bill, workers will no longer be able to determine if they want to be represented by a union through an election process using secret ballots. The "Card Check" bill will give unions the ability to pick off employees one at a time. They will intimidate workers into signing individual cards indicating they would like to join a union.

Unfortunately, some hardworking employees will sign the petitions, not because they are in favor of a union shop, but because of persistent union requests, peer pressure tactics or simply not wanting to be harassed anymore.

When the Union organizers have collected enough signed petitions to equal 50% plus one of the company's employees, the union will inform the employer that they are the legitimate negotiating entity for the company's employees and the company will have no recourse. The "Card Check" bill does not level the playing field, as unions are fond of saying, it gives them the upper-hand.

Under current law, if 30% of employees of a company sign a petition stating they are interested in joining a union, The National Labor Relations Board will arrange for an election and the employers will have time to make their case and listen to the employees' concerns.

The issue to join a union or not will then be decided by a secret ballot. If a majority of employees vote in favor of union representation, then the company is required to recognize the union as the official negotiating entity. However, if House Bill 2974 becomes law, the secret ballot goes out the window.

The timing for this bill could not be worse. The cost of living in Hawaii is skyrocketing while our economy is slowing down. On Thursday, ATA Airlines ceased operations. This past Monday, Aloha Airlines laid off 1,900 employees, last week Molokai Ranch laid off over 120 employees, NCL is reducing its cruise ship fleet in Hawaii from three ships to one, and even attractions like Sea Life Park have recently laid off employees.

This bill sends a strong message to businesses that Hawaii is not a business friendly place. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Hawaii ranked 45th out of 50 states in economic outlook and we ranked 50th out of 50 on the sales tax burden levied on our citizens. The Alliance for Worker Freedom gave Hawaii an "F" in its 2007 National Report Card.

Instead of passing legislation that will scare off potential businesses, we should look into labor reform, such as Right-to-Work legislation. Statistically, almost half of the states in the country (22 in total) have Right to Work laws, while only six states have card check laws.

A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join a union individually, not as a collective group. Right to Work laws protect the freedom of private AND public sector employees to keep and hold jobs without being required to pay union dues.

2008 is an election year and the Democrats want to "curry favor" with the unions to receive their support in the upcoming contests. It is also convenient that the Legislature passed this bill early, so when the Governor vetoes this bill, the Democrat super majority will be able to override the Governor's veto during the regular session and avoid the criticism that often is raised when the Legislature calls a special session.

Over the past two decades, union membership has declined nationally, but not so in Hawaii, where 24.7% of our workforce is unionized. That’s the highest percentage in the country. If you compare Right to Work states with those that have "Card Check" laws, the Right to Work states are outperforming the Card Check states.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the states that have the highest percentage increase in Gross Domestic Product over the last few years are states with Right to Work Laws. Those states that have "Card Check" laws or high union membership do not perform well at all.

Michigan ranked 48th of 50 and New Jersey was ranked 36th. It is a shame that the Majority Party is putting "political points" and union interest before the economic well being of the people of Hawaii.

I urge the voters of Hawaii to contact their state representatives and senators and tell them not to override the Governor's veto.

- Rep. Colleen Meyer, R-Kaaawa, is in the Hawaii State House


Reprehensible, backward 'no vote' unionism

United Laundry Services, Inc. President and CEO, Vicky Cayetano sent a letter to Governor Linda Lingle yesterday requesting her veto of House Bill 2974 relating to labor. She said both she and her husband, former Benjamin Cayetano, believe the bill will be harmful to Hawaii. "Fundamentally we do not believe it is appropriate or fair to the employee to remove his or her right to a secure ballot in determining their representation by a labor organization. ... In a recent McLaughlin poll, 87 percent of voters agreed that 'every worker should continue to have the right to a federally supervised secret ballot election when deciding whether or not to join a union.'"

I believe, like Mrs. Cayetano, that the Card Check Bill is against our workers, would deprive them of their fundamental right to a secret ballot and expose them to threats and intimidation tactics.

As a former Democracy Officer with USAID, I have seen first hand how the secret ballot protects the integrity of the process. To deny our citizens of this right is simply reprehensible and takes us backward.

- Rep. Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, is in the Hawaii House of Representatives.


'No-vote' unionism opposed in labor-state

U. S. Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Barrington (IL), co-sponsored and voted for HR 800, a bill that would deny workers their secret ballot rights when voting to join or not to join a union. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), replaces secret ballots with a card-check scheme that makes workers’ votes public and subjects them to intimidation by employers or union thugs.

In a recent poll, 79 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of independent voters, supported a worker’s right to a federally supervised secret ballot when deciding to join a union or not.

Clearly, Bean is out of touch with 8th District voters and in the pocket of big labor. No surprise since she accepts huge contributions from many unions.

Don Castella, Lincolnshire, IL


Judge orders SEIU decertification re-run

A federal labor judge has set aside the Nov. 2 union decertification vote at O’Connor Woods in Stockton (CA), citing employer misconduct prior to the election.

Administrative Law Judge James Kennedy, with the National Labor Relations Board, recommended Tuesday that a new election be held to decide whether Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West should continue to represent roughly 200 certified nurse assistants, supply clerks, dining service workers, janitors, housekeepers, groundskeepers, maintenance and other workers at the large north Stockton retirement community.

The union was originally authorized to represent employees in late 2005 on a 101-90 vote of the employees. The contested Nov. 2 election resulted in a 105-to-102 vote to decertify the union. There has never been a labor contract between the union and O’Connor Woods in more than two years of on-and-off negotiations.


SEIU busted by Feds for election-law violations

A preliminary U.S. Labor Department investigation has found that one of Nevada’s largest unions violated federal labor law during its most recent officer election, including the use of union funds and membership rosters for internal political purposes. The findings give new ammunition to critics who argue that the Service Employees International Union leadership gamed the election to produce the results it wanted. The findings also are fueling a rival union’s attempts to poach SEIU members at three local hospitals.

For the past four months, Labor Department officials have been probing last year’s election of union officers at SEIU Nevada, which represents 17,500 health care and public sector workers in the state.

An initial election in June resulted in victories for several candidates opposed to SEIU Nevada Executive Director Jane McAlevey, but those results were overturned because some union fliers had advertised incorrect dates and locations for the election. That led to a second election in September in which McAlevey and other paid union staffers successfully campaigned for favored candidates, who called themselves Members United to Win.

SEIU Nevada President Vicky Hedderman and several candidates who lost in the second election filed a complaint with the Labor Department.

The department’s preliminary probe found four violations, according to an April 7 letter to Hedderman and SEIU International President Andy Stern.

Two violations involve improper use of union resources. The pro-McAlevey slate used union membership lists for campaign purposes and used $5,000 in donations from an SEIU District 1199 solidarity fund, the letter says. SEIU District 1199 represents more than 27,000 health care and social service workers in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, and is headed by Dave Regan, a close ally of Stern’s.

Neither the international union nor representatives from District 1199 could explain how the solidarity fund works. A local SEIU spokeswoman and members of the slate that benefited from the donations said membership lists were not used improperly and that no union money was used in the election. A District 1199 spokeswoman said in a statement that the union “believes that there is no basis for the current allegation.”

A third finding involves Sacramento-based political consultant Phil Giarrizzo. The Labor Department says the pro-McAlevey slate improperly benefited from campaign mailings paid for by Giarrizzo’s company.

Giarrizzo is a former SEIU leader in California who sat on the union’s national executive board with Stern. He also has performed work in Nevada, including SEIU mailings opposing Clark County Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey’s 2004 reelection bid.

Giarrizzo said he did not do any free work for Members United to Win last year. In fact, he said the group still owes him $20,000 for printing and mailing fliers. The group has paid him only $3,000 so far, he said, though it sent a second check for $3,000 that bounced.

“We in no way, shape or form are donating a damn thing and we want our money,” he said Tuesday.

The fourth Labor Department finding says a member of the pro-McAlevey slate was allowed to campaign at St. Rose Hospitals’ Siena campus while a candidate on the opposing slate was denied the same opportunity.

Shauna Hamel, SEIU Nevada’s executive vice president, said that if the opposing candidate was not a nurse at St. Rose, that person might have been restricted from certain areas out of concern for patient safety.

The Labor Department letter emphasizes that the findings are not final. It gives union officials until Friday to provide additional information, though SEIU Nevada spokeswoman Hilary Haycock said that deadline has been extended. The Labor Department would not comment on the investigation — or even confirm that it is conducting one.

The government generally seeks to correct union election violations through voluntary compliance. Possible corrective actions include rerunning all or portions of the disputed election. If challenged, the government could file suit in District Court to have the election set aside and order a rerun under government supervision.

Labor experts are skeptical of the Labor Department’s motivations, given the Bush administration’s pro-business stance and the SEIU’s status as the nation’s largest union. The department’s actions in this case seem uncharacteristically quick, they say.

“My guess is that they are saying, ‘Here is a juicy internal fight and here’s an opportunity for us to say there is some impropriety,’” said Janice Fine, a labor expert at Rutgers University.

“They will seize on it because it gives the whole labor movement a black eye.”

Still, union members who have been critical of McAlevey are reveling in the findings, which they say underscore the argument of some SEIU leaders that Stern and his allies are too heavy-handed in local affairs. So is the California Nurses Association, which is fighting to replace the SEIU as the representative of 1,100 nurses at three St. Rose Dominican Hospitals. A representation election is scheduled for next month.

The international SEIU plans to send a representative to Nevada this month to address the rift within the local union, said Andy McDonald, a union spokesman. It will be the international’s second attempt to mediate the dispute.


UAW nabbed in election-law violations

United Auto Workers Local 551 members at the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant will conduct a new representation election to replace a June 2007 vote that was ruled flawed by the U.S. Department of Labor. The department overturned the June local officer election in December, based on a lack of timely notice of the election and other concerns about how the election notice was distributed, according to one of the candidates.

The decision was challenged by the officers of Local 551 who won the election, but the decision was upheld. The officers then sued the department over its decision, the candidate said.

The challenge and lawsuit, which both proved fruitless, have drawn the ire of at least a portion of the local's members.

"They spent the local's money to sue the Department of Labor, even though they weren't officially elected and don't have the right," said a member, who asked not to be identified. "We're mad about that. They're wasting the local's money."

On March 17, a voluntary compliance agreement was reached between Local 551 and the Labor Department, according to a notice the department sent to candidates in the June 2007 election.

The department will supervise a new nomination process and the election of the local's president, vice president, financial and recording secretaries; three trustees, guide and sergeant-at-arms, as well as the nominations and election for the office of unit chair, the notice said.

Ryan Rettig, acting unit chairman, was appointed to the position by the local's board when Anthony Tallarita, who won his second term as chairman in the June election, took a job with the UAW International in August.

The department will conduct a pre-election conference at 2 p.m. April 26 at the Local 551 hall, 2620 E 136th St., Chicago. Its representatives will explain the department's role in supervising the election process, review the local's nomination and election procedures, and establish rules and a timetable for the election, the notice says.

The department has a policy not to comment on "open matters" and refused to provide information on Local 551's 2007 election, or any other information concerning the matter, said Claudia Guerra, who signed the notice.

No one from Local 551 returned calls for comment.


UAW strike v. General Dynamics, day 3

Related General Dynamics stories: here

A barrel of smoldering firewood was the main source of heat on the picket line Monday as United Auto Workers/United Defense Workers began their third full day of a strike against General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products’ Marion facilities.

There was no fiery rhetoric against the company, just labor union members picketing at five stations along Brunswick Lane and Johnston Road. No anger. Just a few demands.

At the main entrance off Brunswick, more than a dozen strikers marched with “UAW on strike” signs in the cold as rain and snow threatened. Among them was Ron Blevins, chosen as the workers’ spokesman because he was their negotiator in four weeks of talks with GDATP administrators that broke off late Friday, followed that evening by UAW officials’ decision to have the Marion local go on strike.

“We want our seniority,” Blevins said, laying out much of the union’s position all at once. “They’re messing with our seniority. They’re cutting pensions for new employees. They’re putting new hires on a progressive pay scale, starting them out lower. It takes them three years to get up to the pay grade where everyone else is. They drop insurance on people as soon as they’re laid off. Insurance had been continuing for a year. They want to transfer people from department to department. They could lay off somebody for five days and bring in somebody who’s not been there long at that pay level. The price of benefits is up. The price of the prescription plan is up. They’re just wanting to go backward.”

The union had been in talks with local GDATP officials for a month “on a continuing basis,” Blevins said, after the union could not agree with changes in GDATP’s compensation and benefits package.

“They act like they’re listening, but they’re not really listening,” Blevins said. Nor have they been talking since Friday. “They’ve not told us anything than what they put in the contract. The company’s not getting back to us. We voted the contract down Friday.”

The company has had little to say to the media, releasing in response to questions a prepared statement from Jim Losse, GDADP’s vice president of general manager advanced materials: “The United Auto Workers - United Defense Workers of America Local 2850 late [sic] are on strike at our Marion facility. Our site has over 350 employees who are currently on strike and over 175 who are not. The site remains open for business and will continue operations to meet customer needs.”

That statement drew a challenge from the strikers who interpreted it as suggesting 175 who could have walked out stayed on the job. On Monday after the statement appeared in local news outlets over the weekend, striker Mike Husketh said, “The 175 working are all salaried, not production workers.”

“No production workers,” his wife and co-worker Sharon Husketh echoed. “We’ve had no scabs as of this morning”—a slang reference to union members who break ranks and work in spite of ongoing strikes.

Asked for a response from her or Losse to the strikers’ interpretation and for a description of the positions of those working, GDATP spokeswoman Gail Warner said only that the 175 are “non-union employees who, of course, not being union, are not on strike.”

A delivery truck slowed on Brunswick Lane, its driver signaling his intent to make a right turn into GDATP’s main entrance. Pickers blocked the way, not so much in defiance of the trucker but rather in showing no haste in pausing their circular march to stand aside. A few chanted, “Don’t cross, don’t cross” though as a suggestion, rather than an ultimatum.

“If he wants in, you gotta let him in,” Blevins said to the rest of the strikers.
One of the strikers disappeared around the front of the truck to talk with its driver and soon reported the driver said if it were up to him, he would not cross the line.
The picketers paused and let the truck through.

Blevins has been in the union for 10 years, and this is the first strike he’s seen. The last one against General Dynamics, as he recalled, was 1991 and centered on similar issues. But the New York Times reported in June 1994 that 2,000 UAW members walked off their General Dynamics jobs in three states.

“Officials of the General Dynamics Corporation would not describe the concessions the company is seeking,” NYT writer James Bennet wrote. “But U.A.W. officials said the company wanted employees of its tank-making operation to begin making co-payments for health care, give up some vacation time and take a cut in their life insurance policies.” GDATP, based in Charlotte, N.C., is a business unit of General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church. GD employs approximately 82,600 people worldwide and had 2006 revenues of $24.1 billion, its Web site said.

Day three of the Marion strike opened with no end in sight. In fact, plywood shacks erected for shelter stood at other places along Brunswick Lane where workers stood and waved at passersby.

“The president of the union said we’re here for the duration,” Blevins said.
That also means around the clock. Striker Cheri Frye said the union members were required to picket four hours every fourth day, though some have put in 8- and 10-hour shifts.

A company security guard, and sometimes two, stood nearby. One, who said he was not supposed to comment, acknowledged the strike had been peaceful.

The strikers’ pay and insurance continue during the strike, although the pay comes at a reduced rate, Blevins said. He’s not endangering his ability to pay for gasoline and groceries, whose prices inch up almost daily – by striking. In fact, he said, gas and food have “a lot to do with why we’re out here. We can’t afford to go backwards.”

A car passed the GDATP entrance, and the driver blew a greeting on the car’s horn. Community support has been strong and several businesses have shown their support by providing food and drinks, Blevins said. He declined to name them. Instead, he said, the union will show appreciation for its supporters when the strike is all over.

From all indications Monday, the union’s thank-you notes may not go out any time soon.


UAW-American Axle strikers cancel rally

The United Auto Workers union has called off a rally in support of striking workers at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. The rally was scheduled to be held this Friday in downtown Detroit. A striking worker and officials with the union and American Axle confirmed Wednesday that the rally was canceled.

It wasn't immediately clear if the action meant there was progress in talks between the UAW and American Axle. American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said she knew the rally was cancelled but that negotiations were still progressing.

The UAW has been on strike against American Axle's five U.S. plants for nearly two months. The strike has affected more than 30 plants at General Motors Corp., which is American Axle's biggest customer.


UAW-American Axle strikers export layoffs

General Motors Corp. will cancel one shift of production at its Oshawa, Ont., car plant beginning Monday, but restore another shift for two weeks at the neighbouring truck plant as the impact from a strike at a major parts maker ripples through the auto maker's North American operations.

The seven-week strike at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. has caused GM to shut most of its large pickup truck plants for several weeks - including the Oshawa truck plant. But it's also affecting other parts makers already battered by the slump in U.S. sales, soaring commodity prices and permanent plant shutdowns by the Detroit Three auto makers in the past two years.

"Clearly, particularly in North America, I would characterize the supply base as generally distressed," Keith Wandell, president of automotive interiors giant Johnson Controls Inc., told investors and analysts during a conference call yesterday.

Such Canadian parts makers as Magna International Inc., Martinrea International Inc. and others have been affected by the GM shutdowns and the slump in the U.S. market. The companies have shut some of their operations in Ontario and elsewhere until GM resumes production at several plants that receive parts from American Axle.

The problem lies in the just-in-time supply formula that drives the North American industry.

Cutting one link in the supply chain almost immediately causes a shutdown at a vehicle assembly plant, which then cascades through the sector.

Magna, for example, has shut parts of a plant in St. Thomas, Ont., that assembles frames for GM's large pickups and SUVs. The parts maker has also laid off some workers at a plant in Syracuse, N.Y., that puts together four-wheel-drive components for those same vehicles.

Analysts who follow Magna have reduced their forecasts for first-quarter profit because of the strike.

Martinrea has laid off most of the workers at its frame-making plant in Kitchener, Ont.

David Tyerman, who covers Magna and other parts makers for Scotia Capital, cut his profit forecasts yesterday for Magna, Martinrea, Linamar Corp., Wescast Industries Inc. and Exco Technologies Ltd.

The first quarter "was a terrible quarter for the auto industry by any measure," Mr. Tyerman said in a note to clients. "The combination of the [American Axle] strike and weak consumer demand pushed auto production to the lowest level in our historical database," he wrote.

He's now forecasting share profit of $6.40 (U.S.) this year for Magna, down from an earlier forecast of $6.76.

The strike has led to a production cutback of 100,000 vehicles at GM's plants, Citigroup Global Markets Inc. analyst Itay Michaeli said in a report this week. Mr. Michaeli cut his profit forecast to $6.85 a share from a previous level of $7.02.

The truck plant will resume production for just two weeks, Canadian Auto Workers local 222 president Chris Buckley said yesterday, which means 1,200 to 1,300 employees will go back to work. The shift reduction at the car plant means layoffs for about 1,000 workers.

Although the American Axle strike has led to layoffs in Oshawa, two busloads of retirees from Canadian Auto Workers local 222 will travel to a picket line in Tonawanda, N.Y., tomorrow, local 222 president Chris Buckley said yesterday.


Catholic teachers' blantantly embarassing strike

The Lay Faculty Association, the union representing the archdiocesan Catholic high school teachers, recently received a strike authorization from its membership. What is particularly disturbing is the union's decision to schedule the strike for this week, coinciding with the pope's historic visit to New York.

While it is certainly the right of the union to take lawful actions in support of its membership in pursuance of fair and equitable contract terms, this blatant attempt to embarrass the archiodese at this particular time is most repugnant and certainly represents a low point in decent labor relations.

The union should not lose sight of the fact that over the past several years, the New York Archdiocese has expended many millions of dollars in subsidies to many of its Catholic schools, permitting them to remain open to serve both urban and suburban schools, despite severe declines in revenues and ever-increasing operating costs. It has been through the generosity of the archdiocese and its faithful donors that many schools have been spared during the several waves of closings - providing continued employment for many administrators, teachers and support staff.

If the teachers' union, the Lay Faculty Association, was convinced by its advisors that a strike, demonstration or other forms of high visibility protest during the pontiff's visit is the way to engender public support for its cause, perhaps it should rethink the strategies in its public relations playbook.

George F. Hosey, Hawthorne, NY


Labor-state features tiny bargaining units

Umatilla County (OR) Commissioners could be facing additional arbitration now that employee groups are looking into forming two separate unions. There are three established unions among county workers. Twelve supervisory employees at the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office and five of the seven deputy district attorneys in the D.A.'s office are considering forming two different unions.

The county's leaders are hesitant to add two unions to the three they already deal with, at least not without going through proper procedures, commissioners said during Tuesday's administrative meeting.

"We need to understand better what we're getting into with this," said Commissioner Dennis Doherty.

At the Sheriff's Office:

Connie Caplinger, executive assistant to the Board of Commissioners, said the sheriff's office supervisory employees have applied to be received as an association.

Akin Blitz, a labor attorney of Portland, has filed paperwork on the county's behalf to oppose this action.

Jim Barrow, county human resources director, said there may be a problem because traditionally these supervisory employees - including lieutenants and the undersheriff - sit in on negotiations with the sheriff and other unions.

Sheriff John Trumbo said he believes the desire for a union came up after the law enforcement association union arbitrated for better wages for regular employees. That closed the wage gap between those employees and the supervisors, according to Trumbo. He said, for example, some employees working in the jail make more than their supervisors.

Trumbo said he wasn't opposed to a union, but he didn't want to see them bargaining for anything other than wages and benefits.

Commissioners Doherty and Bill Hansell warned Trumbo he may not be able to decide what is and is not allowed for bargaining.

"You won't have a choice," Doherty said.

"What they choose to bargain for is on the table," said Barrow. "We don't control what they bargain for."

At the District Attorney's Office:

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) had previously asked the commissioners to voluntarily accept the deputy district attorneys request to organize without going through the complicated legal processes.

AFSCME legal council Jason Weyand came to the commissioners meeting Tuesday afternoon expecting acceptance.

Instead he got a surprise.

Commissioners were hesitant to accept the organization without knowing the effect on the county. They said they wanted the deputy district attorneys go through the proper channels.

"Go ahead and apply," Hansell said. "Then we'll determine the extent to which we agree or disagree."

Weyand said he was disappointed. He said he came expecting a show of good faith from the commissioners.

"I don't see why the county isn't willing to do the right thing," he said.

Weyand said five of the seven deputy district attorneys have agreed to form a union. Chief among concerns, he said, was wages.

"This is a result of a lot of years of other district attorney offices getting more wage increases," Weyand said.

He said Umatilla County ranked 35th or 36th out of Oregon's 36 counties in terms of wages.

"We have the lowest-paid department," he said. "In this case, our folks just want to be paid what they're worth."

The commissioners, Weyand and District Attorney Dean Gushwa agreed they didn't want union formation to result in a chance of a strike by deputy district attorneys.

"I don't know how you would shut the courts down," Weyand said. "You'd have people released from the jail if they're not arraigned on time."

Gushwa said that knowing each deputy district attorney personally, he doubted they would go on strike.

"I've got to believe that situation would never arise," he said. "I'd do whatever I have to to make sure."

"The bottom line is public interests, public safety and public policies," Doherty said. "Until we understand the ramifications, we want to think through and get into what it means for our county."


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