Barack taps top SEIU class-warrior

Organizer-in-Chief opts for hard-left union operative

Barack Obama tapped a new political director today for his presidential campaign, naming Patrick Gaspard, a former official in the powerful Service Employees International Union.

Prior to joining the Obama campaign, Gaspard was the Executive Vice President of Politics and Legislation for Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest local union in the United States. In that job, he helped coordinate political activity and government relations on behalf of 300,000 members in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington DC.

The political director spearheads relationships with other elected officials, labor unions and outside political groups.

Outgoing political director Matt Nugen was appointed earlier this month to oversee the Democratic National Convention in Denver.


Coloradans learn about 'no-vote' unionism

Related story: "Forced-labor unionism exposed in Colo. ads"

TV ads provide valuable education to voters

You may have seen the provocative anti-union ad making claims about union bosses and coerced union elections. The ad is tongue-in-cheek, but the point it makes is no joke. It comes from an out-of-state 501C4 group called the Center for Union Facts.

Related video: "How card-check works"

The group refused to release its donor list although a like-minded sister organization in Colorado called Coloradans for Employee Freedom lists local conservatives Sean Tonner, Jon Caldara, Mark Hillman, Cory Gardner, and Frank McNulty among the local group's board members.

Ad: What if labor bosses controlled class elections. Thanks for your vote. I want to assure you that a vote for me is best for you. Ms. Hudgens has just agreed that there isn't gonna be any secret vote. Sign these cards showing us who you like the best, and my campaign committee will collect and count em.

Here's the spin. The ad attacks legislation in Congress - the oddly-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). If approved, it would amend the National Labor Relations Act to make it easier for unions to organize. How would it work? If a simple majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union, EFCA would essentially require the National Labor Relations Board to certify the union, assuming there was no illegal coercion involved in gathering the signatures. Under these circumstances employers would be barred from demanding a secret vote.

The relevant portion of EFCA states "If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection."

While the Center for Union Facts commercial implies EFCA would end secret ballots, that implication isn't technically accurate. The pro-union group American Rights at Work, correctly points out that employers could still call for secret votes when unions gather cards of more than 30 percent, but less then a simple majority of the work force (source: Josh Goldstein, American Rights at Work). The Center for Union Facts counters that unions are unlikely to move for certification with less than 50 percent of the cards in hand because such elections would likely fail. Instead, under the proposed EFCA, union organizers could bypass the election process by simply obtaining signed cards from more than 50 percent of the workforce. (source: Tim Miller, Center for Union Facts).

Read the text of the amendment: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.800:

Ad: Labor bosses have a new scheme to do away with the secret ballot.

It's not the whole story. Those who support the measure say it would protect union organizers in the workplace by making them less vulnerable to being intimidated or fired for trying to unionize. It would speed up the process and remove potential stalling tactics. This is because the text of the measure calls for specific remedies including multiple back pay penalties for job retaliation and binding mediation in cases where contract negotiations go beyond 90 days.

However, those who reject this approach say it would also force employees to reveal their preference to union organizers rather than voting by secret ballot. They complain that people who don't want to form a union might be identified, harassed, and pressured by co-workers. (source: Center for Union Facts)

In fact, EFCA does have a provision requiring the NLRB to look into whether illegal coercion was used to pressure employees into signing the cards. However, it's not clear how the government would do that.

The relevant portion of EFCA states "The Board shall develop guidelines and procedures for the designation by employees of a bargaining representative in the manner described in paragraph (6). Such guidelines and procedures shall include (A) model collective bargaining authorization language that may be used for purposes of making the designations described in paragraph (6); and (B) procedures to be used by the Board to establish the validity of signed authorizations designating bargaining representatives."

Bottom line. Unions have a done a lot of good for American workers but have also been the target of valid criticism. However you feel about unions, their membership has fallen dramatically in the last 20 years. The Employee Free Choice Act would certainly make it easier to form union shops. But if it becomes law, workers opposed to unions would likely lose their ability to remain anonymous.

While this ad has no direct connection to the union v. business initiatives we'll see on the Colorado ballot this fall, the commercial is no-doubt intended to influence the way Coloradans perceive unions generally. Tim Miller of the Center for Union facts explained that the ads are targeted in states where unions are actively making a move.


Editorial: Workers deserve choice about unions

Greeley Tribune breaks ranks with pro-union Denver Post

Back in the old days, when greedy bosses viewed factory workers as expendable cogs in their money-making machines, unions were the only thing protecting workers from poor conditions, thin paychecks or harassment. Now the unions themselves are allowed to exploit workers.

The way things stand now, many unions, under collective bargaining agreements, require every worker to pay union fees. If they don't want to join the union, that doesn't matter. They pay anyway. Even if they're opposed to unions, they pay anyway.

That's extortion and exploitation, and that's why we're supporting Amendment 47, the so-called Right-To-Work measure.

The measure makes unions get their money the old-fashioned way. They have to earn it.

The measure makes it illegal for collective bargaining agreements to force employees to pay fees to a union.

If unions were disbanded by this measure, however, we don't believe that would be a bad thing. Government agencies such as OSHA and laws that set minimum wages have taken the place of unions and may do as much to protect workers as today's unions.

Workers who don't want to pay dues are either forced to by certain collective bargaining agreements, or the workers who don't may face the cold shoulder from fellow employees.

Unions have become bloated agencies more interested in protecting themselves through draconian laws that force workers to pay them instead of earning a worker's trust, and a portion of her paycheck, by demonstrating that they really are worth the money.

But we're not here to wish unions would disband. We like the measure because it doesn't destroy unions, although that's the fear of some of the unions who have opposed it. It simply gives workers a choice as to whether they want to join or not.

Giving workers a choice, after all, was why they were formed in the first place.


Organizer-in-Chief burnishes foreign-policy cred

Related UFCW-Tesco stories: here and here

Barack acts as bargaining agent for RICO-challenged UFCW

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, has urged the Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy to engage with the largest food workers' union in the US over the employment rights of workers at its Fresh & Easy convenience stores.

In a letter released yesterday, Mr Obama urged Sir Terry to "reconsider your policy of non-engagement in the US" and again called on Fresh & Easy executives to meet the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and other community groups "at the earliest opportunity". To date, Tesco has not responded to the request for dialogue from the union.

The letter is the second missive that Mr Obama has sent to Tesco's top brass, following a previous communication with the Fresh & Easy chief executive Tim Mason in November. The UFCW, which came to London to launch its Two Faces of Tesco campaign this month, is to attend the group's AGM tomorrow.

In particular, the UFCW wants Tesco to offer its Fresh & Easy workers the same employment rights as staff who are union members in the UK.

In the letter, Mr Obama said: "Ensuring that workers are able to exercise their right to organise and work in safe, rewarding environments were an important element of my campaign for the Democratic nomination, as they will be in my campaign for the presidency."

The UFCW president Joseph Hansen said: "If Tesco's business conduct in America is on the radar of the man who could be America's next president, it really is time for investors to start asking Tesco's chief executive some hard questions about the company's business judgements."

Tesco launched its Fresh & Easy chain in the US in November and now has more than 60 stores in America.

James McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99 in Arizona, said Tesco had met its requests for dialogue with radio silence. "There has been nothing," he said. "We have sent letters and reached out to them many times, but they have decided to ignore us. We will be talking to shareholders to raise our concerns about the company's foray into the US."

He declined to say whether the UFCW would actually be inside the AGM building or whether they may protest outside.

The union alleges Fresh & Easy workers do not get a contract, though Tesco insists that while this is standard practice in the UK, it is not in the US. Mr McLaughlin said: "The most important thing is getting workers that first contract and getting them those bargaining rights."

A Tesco spokesman said: "We strongly believe that union membership is a matter of individual choice and if our people want to join a union then they can and will. All the signs so far are that there is little interest in doing so. We have made it a priority to engage with community groups to explain our strong package of pay and benefits which has attracted staff from both union and non-union companies."

Yesterday, Fresh & Easy said it plans to hire 750 additional staff in the next three months as a part of its continued expansion.

Tesco's AGM should also be colourful as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chef and food campaigner, plans to put a resolution on chicken welfare to shareholders.


UFCW to defend racketeering charges in court

Anti-corporate campaigns face federal scrutiny

Claims brought by pork processing giant Smithfield against the United Food and Commercial Workers union, a UFCW local, Change to Win, and other defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) have survived a motion to dismiss. The company has alleged the defendants engaged in racketeering activity by carrying out a scheme to extort voluntary recognition after attempts to achieve recognition through a traditional, NLRB-conducted election failed (Smithfield Foods, Inc v United Food and Commercial Workers, EDVa, 156 LC ¶11,042).

The court's refusal to dismiss the RICO suit means the union has lost a battle in its larger war with Smithfield. The UFCW has been trying since 1994 to organize the Tar Heel, NC, plant of 4,650 workers, having lost prior Board-conducted elections that were fraught with unfair labor practices by Smithfield (the NLRB's findings of labor law violations were upheld by appellate courts).

The RICO complaint marks Smithfield's bold offensive against the union's relentless corporate campaign against it. The Smithfield complaint provided a laundry list of standard corporate campaign tactics, which the employer alleged constituted racketeering. The union defendants sought to dismiss the RICO action, claiming the conduct alleged by the company in its complaint was merely coercive activity and not extortion. The union argued that, since its actions were not directed toward obtaining Smithfield "property"--a necessary showing under the Act--it did not rise to the level of racketeering within the meaning of RICO.

However, the "property" in play here, according to a federal district court in Virginia, was the owner's property right to voluntarily recognize (or not) the union and to operate its business free from interference by or involvement of the union. "The very existence of the Corporate Campaign concept is founded on the recognition that the exercise of that right is of great import and of great consequence," the court noted.

"Until the Unions prevail in a valid NLRB certified election," it is this intangible, but no less valuable, property right that is capable of being extorted by the defendants through the use of corporate campaign tactics, the court concluded. As such, the company has stated a cognizable RICO claim.


Teamster political cash could govern Bud sale

Related story: "Teamsters may try to block Bud sale"

Teamsters control substantial stake in brewer

When it comes to politics, Anheuser-Busch is more than the king of beers. It's the Clydesdale of cash.

The St. Louis brewery and its employees give big bucks to candidates without regard to party. The brewery is the 63rd-biggest corporate political donor in the nation over the last 20 years, contributing more than $11 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In federal campaigns, A-B is No. 1 among beer and wine companies, giving nearly 10 times more in the current political cycle than SABMiller, according to the center.

In the 2000, 2004 and 2008 federal elections, the company has been Missouri's top corporate giver to political candidates and parties, and the race isn't even close.

And that has political fundraisers worried about A-B's possible sale to Belgium beer giant InBev.

"It could have an impact on campaigns from U.S. Senate down to state representatives," said Republican political consultant and fundraiser John Hancock. "Without question, Anheuser-Busch has been the marquee financial supporter for political causes throughout the state."

Hancock, a former state representative who is working on the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, said if the company changes ownership, it will have to answer to different masters who might not want to participate in politics so heavily.

As Missouri politicians have found, simply moving a headquarters out of state, not to mention another country, can have a damaging effect on a company's corporate loyalties.

In 2000 and 2002, for instance, May Department Stores was the seventh-largest corporate giver to federal campaigns from Missouri, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (A-B was first both years, with donations of $1.1 million in 2000 and $1.2 million in 2002.) But after the sale to Macy's Inc., in 2005, May no longer appears in Missouri's top 20.

InBev, like Macy's before it, is telling St. Louis and Missouri politicians that A-B would keep its operations in St. Louis and continue with its corporate traditions.

But InBev's purchase would create fresh complications.

Federal election rules don't allow donations from foreign nationals. That means companies owned by interests outside the U.S. have to establish political action committees that are independent of foreign ownership. A Federal Election Commission advisory opinion from 2006 makes it clear that domestic subsidiaries of foreign companies can give to political campaigns only if the money in the PAC is completely generated from American operations, and no foreign national has any control over the giving.

Such strict rules cause some foreign companies to just stay out of the political giving game, says Marc Elias, a campaign finance attorney based in Washington.

"In the case of a foreign buyer, the company may be (hesitant to give) because of the law on foreign nationals contributions," says Elias. "Anytime there is a change in ownership, whether it's foreign or domestic, there is often a re-evaluation of corporate giving policies."

So while InBev chief executive Carlos Brito says A-B would retain its corporate identity in a merged company, those in the habit of receiving the brewer's donations wonder what might change.


Former A-B vice president Steven K. Lambright described the company's political giving philosophy this way in 1996: "We believe it is in the best interests of our thousands of employees and millions of consumers that we participate politically by giving to both parties and the best candidates."

In Missouri, A-B is well known for even-handedness with Republican and Democratic causes.

Since 1990, the company and its employees have given $5.2 million to Democratic federal candidates or parties and $5.8 million to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Government. The company routinely gives maximum donations to Missouri's top candidates for governor or U.S. Senate, regardless of party. During the period this year in Missouri during which there were no campaign contribution limits, A-B gave $25,000 to the gubernatorial campaigns of both Gov. Matt Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon.

But the company doesn't always split its donations so equally.

In 2003, the company dropped it support of Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, because of his veto of a law allowing concealed weapons, sources say.

A-B gave $12,550 to Holden's Democratic rival, then-state Auditor Claire McCaskill, and $6,800 to Blunt. Both politicians have been vocal about their concerns over the InBev takeover bid. Representatives of both have said their positions are about jobs, not donations.

Anheuser-Busch is also a big player in the biggest race of all, the race for the presidency. In 2000, the brewer was the sole national sponsor of the three presidential debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush, helping to secure one of the debates at Washington University in St. Louis. The company has consistently been a sponsor of both parties' national conventions to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

In this election cycle, A-B has already given $23,250 to presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. It gave $3,250 to Sen. Barack Obama and $12,010 to Hillary Clinton. A-B regularly supports the candidacies of U.S. senators and House members from districts where the company has a brewery, and it gives to leaders such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

One national political fundraising consultant says the company's political donations won't necessarily dry up if InBev prevails.

"There is always a way to structure things so that if they wish to, they can continue giving at their current pace," says Ben Ginsberg, an attorney in Washington.

So what will A-B do if it sells?

The man who's been responsible for selling A-B's message in Missouri's capital for four decades says he doesn't know. Lobbyist John Britton has been as successful carrying his message as any lobbyist in the state. He's kept Missouri's beer taxes among the lowest in the nation, for example. It helps, of course, when your employer is the state's top political giver.

Britton doesn't know what InBev will do.

Says Britton, "I have absolutely no idea what will happen."


Hoffa in Memphis to organize FedEx

Related FedEx stories: here

A whiff of union-dues in Tennessee

Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa is expected to attend a rally of FedEx Corp. mechanics Thursday in Memphis. The rally is being held at Teamsters Local 667 at 769 E. Brooks. According to a release, Hoffa is coming to show his support of the mechanics in their efforts to form a union.

The rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. following the conclusion of the opening day of the Teamsters Annual Organizers Conference being held in Memphis Thursday through Saturday.


Dems smack down SEIU dues-play in Montana

Related story: "SEIU sees dues bonanza in Montana"

Misuse of voter-initiative process cited

A voter initiative to expand in-home care for the elderly and the disabled in Montana won't be on the ballot this fall. The labor union pursuing Initiative 159 announced Wednesday that it is withdrawing the measure.

Ted Dick, the political director of the Montana for Service Employees International Union, said the union and its supporters gathered more than enough voter signatures to place I-159 on the general-election ballot this November. But facing political pressure from Democratic legislative leaders and advocacy groups that said they "had problems" with I-159, the union on Wednesday formally asked election officials to stop counting the signatures.

Dick said leading Democrats and the advocacy groups convinced the union that it would be better to work through the 2009 Legislature to expand and reform in-home health care rather than to attempt an overhaul with a voter initiative.

"We want to go through the legislative process, so everybody can understand this issue a lot better," he said at a Capitol news conference. "In the end, it just kind of made sense. We need to really take the opportunity to study it, to vet it, and get a lot of input from people who received these services."

Senate President Mike Cooney, D-Helena, said Democratic leaders have committed to working on legislation in 2009 that could expand access to in-home care.

"If we run it through the Legislature, we can take a much more in-depth look at what the costs would be," Cooney said. "We can ask a lot of questions."

I-159, if approved by voters, would have allowed in-home care workers to be independent, private contractors employed by the people they care for. They would be paid by state and federal funds and could choose to become organized by the union.

The union pitched the proposal as a way to expand in-home care and allow more people to stay in their homes instead of going to a nursing home, thus saving government money over the long run.

Dick said the union spent about $150,000 to collect signatures to place I-159 on the ballot and collected 30,000 signatures of registered voters in five weeks. A ballot measure needs only 22,308 valid signatures to qualify, as well as signatures of 5 percent of the voters in at least 34 of Montana's 100 legislative districts.

Several prominent groups had declared their opposition to I-159, including the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and in-home care companies, and AARP-Montana, the state's largest consumer group for the elderly.

Cooney said Wednesday that Democratic leaders had concerns about the initiative's potential cost to the state and whether its changes would truly benefit the elderly and the disabled.

He said he and Senate Majority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, had a teleconference two weeks ago with the union leaders in Montana and Seattle, asking the union to consider withdrawing the measure.

"We made the point to SEIU leadership that we would like to at least have a bite at the apple here (in the Legislature) and try to craft good policy that we felt comfortable with," Cooney said. "If the Legislature does not succeed in making strides along this route, I suspect SEIU, along with other groups, may revisit this in the future."

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, the executive director for Disability Rights Montana, said that group is "very pleased" with the decision to withdraw I-159.

Decisions on changing the in-home care system for the disabled needs more input from those it serves, she said, and the initiative "was not an inclusive process."

"We need to make sure (the system) is based on the values of the people who are affected," she said.

Dick said the union will spend more of its efforts to help elect legislators who support its vision of expanding in-home care.


Top SEIU officials ousted, leadership in turmoil

Andy Stern handles complaints about union democracy

After months of vicious infighting, the two top officials of the Service Employees International Union Nevada have resigned. Executive Director Jane McAlevey and President Vicky Hedderman submitted their resignations to the union's executive board this evening, "in an effort to move the union out of the period we’ve been going through, so we can move forward and focus on issues that actually matter," said SEIU spokeswoman Hilary Haycock.

SEIU Nevada is one of the state's largest unions and represents 17,500 health care and public sector workers. Its two leaders have clashed over the direction of the local.

Some members have raised concerns about a lack of internal union democracy. Among other examples, they point to the overturning of an election in which several candidates opposed to McAlevey won, leading to a second contest in which McAlevey and her top lieutenants — whose job it is to represent all members — actively campaigned for favored candidates.

That election is now the focus of a Department of Labor investigation.

The division was on display again in in a failed takeover attempt by a rival union at an SEIU-represented hospital. The California Nurses Association won more votes than the SEIU but not a clear majority because some nurses voted for "no union."

The California union is now posturing to unseat the SEIU at University Medical Center.

We should note that McAlevey was widely credited with reforming the union since coming to Las Vegas in 2004, winning good contracts for public employees in Clark County and for nurses at Las Vegas Valley hospitals and increasing political activism.

Two separate attempts by the international union to mediate the dispute apparently failed.

"This is the right time to offer members of our organization the opportunity for a new beginning," Haycock, the spokeswoman, said. "The distractions had gone on far too long in an organization that both people have built."

Vicky Baca, who has been working in the international union's public services division with a focus on organizing, will replace McAlevey for the next six months while the local's executive board conducts a national search for her replacement. Shauna Hamel, the union's executive vice president, will replace Hedderman.

“Far too much time and energy has been focused on personality issues rather than on the important work of improving the lives of our members,” Hedderman and McAlevey said in a joint letter of resignation. “We believe it is time to move beyond the current situation so that our members can continue to win the improvements they deserve.”

The union's executive board vowed to win standard-setting contracts in negotiations with Catholic Healthcare West’s St. Rose hospitals, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and six other employers currently at the bargaining table.

The message is clear: unity.


Google teams with SEIU

Related story: "Progressive Google"

Socializing the internet

A new lobbying group called Internet for Everyone launched this week to push for government-supported, inexpensive Internet access “for all Americans.”

In 2001, the US was fourth in broadband penetration compared with other countries, but today it ranks 15. That means businesses face a competitive disadvantage compared with Europe and Asia, where broadband penetration has grown faster, the group says. Plus, only 40% of racial and ethnic households have Internet access, compared with 55% of white households, exacerbating social and economic “divides.”

Backers include Google, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Skype, Public Citizen, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and eBay. The group hopes that a coalition of public interest groups and Internet businesses stands a better chance of overcoming opposition by telephone and cable companies to policies enabling universal access to the Internet, Wired reported.


Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaigns

Learn to cope with change you can believe in

While the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) - the much-debated federal legislation - was defeated in Senate, it continues to be a controversial measure and could very well be reintroduced.

In this environment every employer may find themselves subject to union organizing efforts. Aspen Publishers' Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaigns helps you guide your company through every stage of union organizing campaigns, so that you can react quickly, effectively, and legally even before organizing begins.

Whether you're looking to be proactive - or react effectively - you need the insights and the tools to create effective and legally compliant policies and responses to union activity. Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaig ns provides:

* Complete coverage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
* How-to practical guidance on anticipating - and reacting to - union activity while staying in compliance
* Sample letters, checklists, and documents ready for your immediate use
* Up-to-date coverage of current case law

Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaigns delivers expert, step-by-step guidance to help you:

* Understand how today's organizing environment can affect your company
* Recognize new union tactics such as the corporate campaign and the request for card-check recognition
* Effectively respond to union organizing without violating the law, alienating the workforce or creating ill-will in the community

Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaigns provides employers with proven insights into becoming proactive employers who create work environments where employees are treated fairly - establishing the sort of win-win conditions in which union organizing techniques have less effect. And if union organizing does begin, this professional resource explains precisely what employers can and should do - how to recognize a threat and how to communicate powerfully, using the Internet and other technology platforms that can help employers present their position.

Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaigns by Jackson Lewis
List Price: $259.00
ISBN: 0735564841
ISBN-13: 9780735564848
Page Count: 526 pages
Format: Looseleaf
Publication Cycle: Supplemented annually
Latest Supplemented Date: 5/15/2008


News Union takes dues hit in Baltimore

Big Print's left-wing influence, paper-stream waste threatened

The (Baltimore) Sun will cut about 100 jobs, including 55 to 60 in the newsroom, through buyouts, layoffs and the closing of open positions. The latest in a series of cuts to the venerable newspaper were announced Wednesday in a memo from publisher Tim Ryan to the newspaper staff.

"These actions are necessary for us to remain competitive and win in the future, and will enable us to create new targeted print and interactive media for the marketplace that satisfy both consumers and advertisers," Ryan wrote.

The Sun is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co., the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

The Hartford Courant, another Tribune Co. paper, said separately Wednesday it plans to cut nearly 60 newsroom positions and 25 percent of its news pages as Connecticut's largest newspaper struggles with an industrywide decline in advertising.

Earlier this month, Tribune CEO Sam Zell announced the company would trim pages and editorial content from all eight of its daily newspapers, which have been losing circulation and advertising revenue as readers migrate to the Internet.

Last year, 41 Sun employees accepted buyouts and three advertising designers were laid off. The year before, The Sun announced the closing of its last two foreign bureaus.

Staff positions represented by the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild have shrunk by at least 34 percent through buyouts, layoffs and departures since 2003, the union said.

Ryan and Sun editor Tim Franklin declined to comment through a spokesman.

Sun staffers said they received few satisfactory answers at a staff meeting Wednesday afternoon about how the cuts will improve the newspaper.

"This is a crisis for good journalism in Baltimore," said Lynn Anderson, a Sun reporter and a unit co-chair for the Guild, which represents 480 of The Sun's 1,400 employees.

Another Guild co-chair, Tanika White, said managers haven't figured out how to streamline the newspaper's print and Web operations, which are housed in separate buildings.

Buyouts will be offered Friday to all employees, who have two weeks to accept, Ryan wrote. If not enough employees accept buyouts, layoffs will be announced July 18 and the reductions will take effect in early August.

"It is extremely difficult for all of us to lose colleagues and friends," Ryan wrote.

A radical redesign of The Sun is expected to accompany reductions. The Orlando Sentinel, another Tribune paper, this week debuted a new-look front page that includes just two or three articles, big photographs, graphics and advertising.

Separately, The Courant disclosed plans to reduce newsroom staff from 232 to about 175, with most cuts to be implemented by July 31. Newsroom employees will be offered voluntary buyouts, but the paper said layoffs are also possible.

The number of pages devoted to news in The Courant will fall to 206 a week, from 273. In late September, the newspaper expects to roll out sweeping design changes that could see some sections combined.


SPEEA wins secret-ballot decert election

Close call for frustrated organizers who can't identify dissenters

Spirit AeroSystems professional and technical workers voted to retain union representation on Tuesday. Workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace voted 1,073-895.

The union represents about 2,400 workers at Spirit. A separate engineering unit was not affected by the decertification effort and did not vote.

A group of workers began a decertification drive in March. In May, the group filed a petition to ask the Labor Relations Board in Overland Park to hold a vote.

SPEEA's professional and technical unit at Boeing was decertified in a similar election last year.


Teamsters dues cut canceled in labor-state

Related story: "Teamsters face dues hit from Gary schools"

Powerful union's political influence triumphs

Seventeen school security posts and the jobs of 11 maintenance workers and five Teamsters were saved Tuesday night when five Gary School Board members excluded those jobs from a proposed $7 million budget slash. Without those layoffs, the cuts amounted to roughly $4.5 million, leaving the district pressed to find other avenues to save $2.5 million by Tuesday's state-mandated deadline.

The surprise move was one of three critical decisions pushed forward by board member Darren Washington in the absence of the Gary Schools Superintendent Mary Steele-Agee, who is on vacation this week.

Washington led a phalanx of members not only to oppose Steele-Agee's cuts, but also to appoint three temporary administrators to regular duty and ditch a food service provider backed by the superintendent -- Sodexho, which had angled for a $2.6 million contract extension this week.

Steele-Agee had expressed prior opposition to all the decisions and a few board members such as Vice President Michael Scott and Jesse Morris refused to follow Washington's lead, saying policy and procedures were not being followed by using the superintendent's absences for the actions.

Andrea Ledbetter also expressed concern that the decisions were being made a week before three new board members begin their official terms.

Washington, saying the district should not pad the coffers of private business while laying off workers capable of the same maintenance jobs, put an end to the plan to cut the building and grounds department by one-third. He said the district has spent $1 million on outside contractors for building upkeep since 2007.

"I believe cutting positions when we haven't adequately cut contractors is a disenfranchisement of the community," Washington said.

He was supported in Tuesday's actions by President Nellie Moore, Debra Crawford, Ledbetter, and occasionally by Alex Wheeler and Morris, who supported saving security jobs. Scott said he wanted to protect high school security but could not support keeping the 12 elementary school security positions.

Scott and Wheeler abstained from voting to save maintenances jobs

Washington also moved to appoint Willie Cook as regular human resources director at a salary of $98,000 for 48 weeks; Ken Bonner as director of purchasing at $72,000; and Willie Stewart as coordinator of security at $62,000. All three had been interims subject to replacement. He also appointed Lionel Hampton lead day security officer and Craig Morris lead night security officer.

Moore, Crawford and Ledbetter joined Washington in voting to not give Sodexho Food Services another year with the district. They saved the district no money last year and realized a $95,000 deficit. Under them, the district was set to lose at least $772,000 next year. The board decided instead to request proposals from other food providers staring June 25.

Ledbetter, Crawford and Wheeler had their last meeting as board members Tuesday; they will be replaced by Marion Williams, Barbara Leek and Ken Stalling on July 1.


Unfilled positions cushion job cuts

Gov't employer strives to protect union-dues losses

While President Judy Genshaft has guaranteed tenured faculty members job security during budget reductions, other USF employees face a slash of 450 positions, about 70 of which are filled. Economic belt-tightening has left approximately 34 staff members jobless and forced others to relocate or take demotions, said Michael Stephens, director of USF Human Resources.

Some employees disagreed with the University's decisions and have filed grievances against the school.

The controversial layoffs occurred with the University still entrenched in negotiations with the staff union over the terms of the union contract.

William McClelland, USF employee and president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said he contests the actions taken by the administration.

"We have a collective bargaining agreement - our union contract - and part of the agreement addresses layoff procedures and job security," he said. "We have a disagreement with the University about how they have been implementing these layoffs."

Many of McClelland's objections pertain to issues covered by the collective bargaining agreement between the school and the union. The terms of this agreement have been under negotiation for more than two years.

McClelland said he regularly receives complaints from staff members who feel they were unjustly laid off, demoted or relocated. Among his chief concerns is the misuse of the retention point system, a method of laying off the newest and least productive employees first, and the inability to satisfactorily relocate laid-off employees.

"Many of the employees that are being laid off are long-term employees," he said. "Almost a half a dozen have worked (for USF) for 20 years."

Stephens said he disagreed with the notion that human resources failed its obligation to laid-off employees.

"My staff at the Human Resources Office has been working nonstop, tirelessly, until we are able to find whatever gainful placement opportunities for employees who have been affected by layoffs," he said.

The reality is that some employees will not find additional employment at USF during budget reductions, Stephens said.

"As a result of budget cuts, certain positions went away," he said. "Possibilities (for relocation) have been limited as a result of trying to find those dollars to meet our mandate."

Some employees had to take large pay cuts, as much as 30 percent in some cases, to keep their jobs, McClelland said.

The exact number of employees taking pay cuts or relocation is unknown at this time since the employees have a notice period before they must decide to accept another position, Stephens said.

McClelland also criticized the University for failing to involve AFSCME in budget priority discussions before decisions were made.

"They certainly didn't consult our organization," he said. "It was announced to us as a done deal."

At a time when dollar amounts are the bottom line, McClelland said that administrators may have lost sight of the human face that accompanies each job.

"This is real suffering going on by real individuals," he said. "It's not all just pie charts."

McClelland knows firsthand. His position was recently eliminated after 30 years of employment. However, he was notified that he will have a placement opportunity elsewhere on campus.

Employees file grievances

In response to layoffs, some employees have individually filed grievances against USF. While the cases pertain only to individual employees, union members will be backed by the AFSCME.

Haydee Sevilla, a former administrative clerk, filed a grievance against the University after she received a layoff notice in 2007. She argues that the University did not make a reasonable effort to place her - after 17 years of employment - based on the retention point system. She seeks a position of equal employment without loss of pay.

Human resources denied her request and stated that regardless of retention points, she "could not displace another employee" because she lacked "the requisite skills and competencies to perform temporarily assigned duties," according to a memorandum.

Sevilla requested a hearing with a neutral arbitrator, a right provided by the collective bargaining agreement, which will occur in July.

McClelland said he hopes the grievances will force the University to reevaluate past layoffs and rehire employees who were unjustly released.

"If we are successful, it may force the University to revisit the layoffs they are conducting now in order to be in compliance with what we think their obligation is," he said.

Rehiring those employees and providing lost wages would certainly hurt the University in a time of budget crisis, McClelland said, but immediately changing the way layoffs are implemented may reduce the burden.


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