SEIU pickets New England to aid bargaining

As one of nine rallies around the eastern part of Massachusetts, members of the SEIU 615 demonstrated at the Edgewater Office Park on July 12 to demand better wages and benefits for the janitors and security guards. These workers maintain and protect multimillion-dollar properties where they are working under a contract signed in 2002. The contract expires in August, and was negotiated following a 2002 strike in which thousands of janitors in the Boston area fought for a living wage and “the means to escape poverty through hard work.”

SEIU Local 615 represents 15,000 janitors and security officers in Greater Boston, Worcester, Providence, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Some 400 SEIU members are contracted to work in Burlington and Wakefield at the companies such as Unicco and Janitronics.

According to organizers, the July 12 march highlighted the gains of the past five years, which include organizing janitors in New Hampshire and Rhode Island; and, for the first time, thousands of security officers fighting for a living wage and a voice in contract negotiations. Security officers working in office buildings in Greater Boston are in the process of joining the union and negotiating their first contract with their employers.

“It’s a crying shame that when workers are cleaning and protecting buildings worth millions of dollars they are not paid enough to the meet basic expenses of food, shelter and clothing,” said Lauren Jacobs, SEIU’s director of organizing at the union’s office in Downtown Crossing.

While the last contract increased wages to $12.95 an hour for janitorial workers within 15 miles of Boston, Jacobs says some workers’ hours were cut from full time to 17 and a half hours a week. Most others work only six to eight hours a week. And with only around 15 percent of Local 615 workers employed full time, the vast majority do not have health insurance.

While they have yet to put forward a wage proposal, Jacobs said the ongoing negotiations are focused on stabilizing workers’ hours.

“Service workers are looking to close the gap between the region’s wealthiest and poorest individuals by increasing wages, receiving better benefits and promoting respect for hard work,” an SEIU statement says.

These benefits include decent medical and adequate leave time and receiving respect and dignity on the job. Negotiations will also focus on the income gap throughout New England and the negative impact it has on the regional economy and quality of life.

Should these demands be met, SEIU janitors and security officers believe they will “be a part of creating a stronger New England, with better opportunities for more workers and safer and stronger neighborhoods throughout the region.”

The Maintenance Contractors of New England are bargaining with SEIU. Their chief negotiator, James Canavan, could not be reached by press time.


Gov't union strike starts tomorrow in Vancouver

The leader of the union representing more than 1,800 outside workers for the City of Vancouver, BC says job action against the city could start as early as Thursday morning. Mike Jackson, president of local 1004 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said if past strikes are any indication, job action could last up to eight weeks. He said the city called the union to the bargaining table Tuesday but left soon after, a situation he called frustrating.

A strike would severely affect city services, as the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruling declared only emergency and lifeguard services as essential. The workers include garbage collectors and parks and recreation staff.

In addition to a wage increase for all members, Jackson said the union is seeking wage adjustments for positions in the trades, improvements for temporary full-time workers, and progress on other issues.

The union also wants whistle-blower protection for members who want to report concerns without facing discipline.

The 72-hour strike notice takes effect at 10:30 a.m.

"We will be enforcing the ban on overtime. There will be study sessions which means that work will slow down," Jackson said. "Garbage will still be picked up, it will just be picked up a little later maybe. There will not be full pickets out."

Jackson said no further negotiations are planned.

A spokesman for the city could not be reached for comment.

Civic workers in 11 Lower Mainland municipalities have been without a contract since last December.

Parks Board commissioner Spencer Herbert said a strike would shut down service such as pools, golf courses, kids day camps and seniors programs at a time of year when their use is at their highest.

And, he added, it's the one time of year when the parks board manages to make some money from its services.

"It's pretty devastating," he said. "We've got to negotiate."

Herbert said a strike could also halt restoration work in Stanley Park which was devastated by storms last winter.

The work is being done by private contractors and Herbert said he does not know if those workers would honour a picket line or not.

He said while he supports the right to strike, crossing a picket line is up to the private operators.


BC forest Steelworkers issue 72 hr. strike notice

The union representing more than 7,000 of British Columbia's coastal forest workers issued a 72-hour notice to strike yesterday afternoon to International Forest Products Ltd., the last holdout in labour talks aimed at keeping those workers off picket lines. Talks that went through yesterday afternoon went "nowhere," said United Steelworkers negotiator Bob Matters.

"We were at the same place we were when we met a week ago," he said. That set the stage for immediate job action by the 4,500 employees of 31 companies who were issued similar notice weeks ago. Workers at Island Timberlands LP and TimberWest Forest Corp. are eligible to strike today, although Mr. Matters said yesterday afternoon that the decision on when to set up picket lines has not yet been made. "We are not releasing our actual rollout strategies just yet," he said.

Workers at Hayes Forest Services did walk off the job briefly yesterday, but were soon brought back to work. Steelworkers researcher Kim Pollock said the union would prefer "everyone to go together," meaning a complete walkout may not happen for several days.

Coastal logging, sawmill and lumber manufacturing workers have been without a contract since mid-June. The union had kept its workers on the job to prevent hurting the companies it was still talking to, since some of its members work as contractors.

Much of the timber harvested by the $2-billion coastal industry is exported to Asia and the U.S., so the impact of a dried-up lumber supply on other forestry-dependent sectors was not immediately clear.

However, observers have said a strike on the coast, where labour frictions extend back many decades, could easily last the duration of the summer, knocking out the main employer in many small forestry towns. It could also potentially force closures at many of the pulp and paper mills that depend on chips and other raw materials from union-run operations.

Many of those operations have said they have a two to four week supply and Kevin Mason, an analyst with Equity Research Associates, said a long enough strike could take enough capacity out of North American paper markets to boost languishing prices.

"There's a $25 increase that's been announced for September in newsprint and it has no hope of success unless there's capacity taken out of the market," he said. "Some people say 600,000-700,000 tonnes of capacity needs to be taken out. You take a look at Catalyst [Paper Corp.] and there you go."

Smaller value-added flooring and panel industries that depend on some of the coast's towering cedars could also feel a severe pinch, he said. However, other types of forest products are in large enough supply that "throughout Vancouver you're just going to click along and it's not going to be even a hiccup," he said.

"There's not a lack of newsprint out there, so it's not like the Vancouver Sun is going to run out of paper."

The provincial government was forced to step in with an imposed settlement during the last strike, in 2003. Provisions granted to industry in that settlement by mediator Don Munroe have formed the basis of the current dispute, with the union attempting to roll back some of those issues -- which it says harm workers -- and industry arguing that, with the soaring loonie and basement lumber prices, its economic situation is so dire it cannot afford to make any concessions.

With that as a backdrop, months of talks achieved virtually no compromise on three key issues: partial-closure several pay, contracting-out and alternate-shifting, a provision which allowed employers a nearly unfettered ability to rapidly switch workers onto different shifts in the interest of efficiency.

Interfor negotiator Andy Smith accused the Steelworkers of bringing forward a series of unacceptable propositions in its last round of bargaining yesterday.

"On the fundamental issues we don't seem to be able to get through that this industry is bleeding from stem to stern," he said. "Why they think this is the time to draw the line in the sand over putting in an overtime premium for Sunday, which Mr. Munroe saw his way clear to remove last go-around, is beyond me. How's that supposed to work?"


Teamsters Local 584 in NY dairy lockout

Behind the scenes, trouble has begun to froth in the local milk supply chain. Although consumers remain unaffected for now, prices on the daily staple could rise even more than expected in coming days if a Teamsters lockout that began Saturday night at Elmhurst Honeywell Dairy in Jamaica, Queens - the city's only milk processing plant - is not resolved. Some fear in a worst-case scenario, milk prices could hit $5.

The plant where labor leaders say management is trying to scale back health care and pension security, is responsible for about 90 percent of the milk processed in the city. Its shut-down comes as dairy prices are climbing nationwide - experts say the culprit is a perfect storm of fewer cows, rising fuel prices and a diminishing corn supply - and has forced dairies to scramble for alternative locations to bottle and pasteurize the raw milk they receive from farms upstate and across the region.

Many Staten Island grocers get milk from plants in New Jersey, and say they have not seen a change in supply or prices.

However, if the labor dispute continues, the ripple affect might be felt in the borough.

"Within a week it will probably affect the price and people are going to pay more," said Willie Whelan, the president of milk drivers and dairy employees Local 584, which represents about 1,500 workers, including the 160 employees at the plant who were locked out by management. "If the lockout ends it shouldn't affect prices at all."

The plant, which packages about 1.5 million gallons of milk per week under several brands, including Elmhurst, Bartlett and Queensboro, has maintained a long, generous relationship with its employees, who, until the contract expired last month, had solid health coverage and could earn up to $3,200 a month in pension payments, said Whelan.

Negotiations today were touch and go, Whelan said -- wary to predict how or when the impasse might be broken.

Richard DeFeo, a manager at Elmhurst Dairy, when reached by phone today, simply said "We don't have any comment," before hanging up.

Readying himself for another late night trying to find locations to process milk for Queensboro Dairy, sales representative and router Juan Garcia said much of the supply will likely end up in New Jersey, at the Farmland Dairy plant.

"They're worried about their customers first and they're going to make sure they'll have enough milk for them and whatever is left over they'll give to us," said Garcia, who has worked in the business for 30 years and characterized the situation as a real crisis. "It is impacting everybody."

Staten Island grocers interviewed said Farmland was their primary supplier, and they had not heard of any problems.

"We're still getting our deliveries," said Anthony Lapreta, manager at Met Foods in Grasmere, where truckers bring in approximately 200 gallons a day. "Whatever I've been ordering, I've been getting. Hopefully it stays like that."


ILWU strike threat sends ships to safer ports

Labor talks between harbor-area clerks and their employers are set to resume early today as the two sides push to avoid a waterfront strike. Negotiations broke off late Monday after an attorney bargaining for 14 shipping companies and marine terminals reported a family emergency. When talks ended, both groups indicated a new labor pact for more than 900 front-office clerks was near, but a few sticking points remained.

The labor uncertainty has caused some shippers to divert cargo to other West Coast ports as a precaution and is adding strain to importers who rely on the Long Beach-Los Angeles port complex.

"They don't like what's happening because of the uncertainty of it all," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. "It's causing a lot of headaches for small importers because some of their cargo is ending up in strange locations and they're stuck with delays and added costs bringing those goods back."

Kyser predicted a prolonged strike could lead retailers to seek other gateways for their waterborne cargo in the future.

"It's a very serious situation," Kyser said. "Long-term, it could be very harmful to Long Beach and Los Angeles."

Among the sticking points are job protections being sought by workers to prevent positions from outsourcing, and a PPO-style health care plan for new hires.

Employers have offered wage increases of 50 cents per hour annually for three years, a "no layoff" clause and a trust-ensured retirement plan.

In return, employers are seeking more flexibility in staffing levels. Current rules require companies to replace workers who retire, are out sick or on vacation.

"We want the flexibility to replace people when they're needed, but we don't want to have people on payroll sitting around if there's no work to do," said attorney and employer negotiator Steve Berry before leaving late Monday.

Currently, clerks earn a minimum of $37.50 per hour and receive competitive health and welfare packages, along with paid vacation and sick leave.

Workers, represented by Local 63 Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, authorized their leaders to call a strike two days before the July 1 expiration of their previous 3-year contract.

Late last week, the union set a 12:01 a.m. Monday strike deadline, saying workers would walk off the job if a deal was not reached.

Despite the threat, the two sides have continued talking since the deadline, and Local 63 OCU President John Fageaux Jr. said progress was being made.

The smaller union is being supported by more than 7,000 ILWU longshoremen who work loading and unloading ships and who have vowed not to cross picket lines.

Other unions in the port resolving not to interfere with picket lines are the Teamsters and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Teamsters drivers handle some cargo hauling, including for cruise ship terminals in Los Angeles, while the machinists union has 650 members servicing cargo cranes and other marine terminal yard equipment.

"We're prepared to support OCU all the way," said Kevin Kucera, an AIM representative in Wilmington. "These workers represent the backbone of America's middle class."

Economists estimate the lockout cost the national economy $1 billion per day.

Both sides plan to return to the bargaining table at 10 a.m. today.


Mass. transit union boss: Talks end "in the toilet"

Labor negotiations between the company that operates the Worcester, MA Regional Transit Authority and its union broke off yesterday with no agreement or even a meeting scheduled before the labor contract extension runs out again July 29. When talks resume sometime next month, they will be with the presence, for the first time, of a federal mediator and an international vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

The situation between RTA Transit Services and ATU Local 22 is “in the toilet,” Local 22 boss Christopher W. Bruce said yesterday after the 10th meeting between the two sides. He said he will recommend this week that the union executive board file an unfair labor practice charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

The company had a rosier view of the atmosphere, however, with General Manager John F. Carney saying, “We’re moving forward, we’re making positive steps, we’ve got a mediator coming in and hopefully he’ll be available as soon as we’re available.” While there will be no more negotiations to achieve an agreement before the end of the current contract extension, Mr. Carney said, “I have continuously said we’ll continue to bargain in good faith under the current contract” even after the date of the extension.

While neither side publicly disclosed its positions on wages and benefits, Mr. Bruce said the way the negotiations are proceeding is more of a problem than the positions. He said that Thomas Hock, president and CEO of PTM, parent company of RTA Transit, has attended only the most recent two bargaining sessions and does not recognize the progress he said was made while Mr. Carney headed the company bargaining team in the first eight sessions.

Mr. Bruce said that the unfair bargaining practice complaint he wants to file would allege making offers that are worse than previous offers and “surface bargaining” designed not to make progress. Union members who go on strike are protected from being replaced if there is an unfair labor practice charge pending.

Mr. Bruce also said that Mr. Hock said he will not be available to meet again until next month. He also said he believes Mr. Hock was trying to circumvent the Local 22 executive board by saying that he would not meet with the union again without the presence of a union vice president.

Mr. Carney called that “a stretch” and said, “We were responding to the issue that the union stated to us that they were going to bring the international person in. We thought the best thing was to bring in both the international vice president and the mediator at the same.”

Local 22 members will meet at 8 a.m. July 29 at the Tatnuck American Legion Post on the day the contract extension expires. But members will be faced with the dilemma that the ATU will not give its blessing — and strike benefits — to any decision by the local to strike until after an international vice president has met with the company, and the company will not meet with International Vice President Lawrence J. Hanley until sometime in August, Mr. Bruce said.

There also is no formal offer of a contract extension by the company for the membership to vote on, he said, but Mr. Carney said there also had not been one last month when the membership voted on it.

Mr. Bruce said that Mr. Hock rejected a union suggestion that the negotiations continue without Mr. Hock but instead with the local management team headed by Mr. Carney. But Mr. Carney said, “I was the one who made the determination after my committee’s meeting in June had got to the point where I wanted to bring Tom Hock in. Obviously at that point in time I wasn’t comfortable pursuing it any further by myself without counsel.”


Unions labeled: Anti-democratic

Immigration reform wasn't the only initiative stymied in the U.S. Senate last week. In a largely party-line vote, senators refused to cut off debate on a bill that had been a legislative priority for the Democratic majority: a change in labor law that would make it easier for unions to organize workers.

Unlike immigration reform, however, this legislation deserved to die. The problem with the bill, previously passed by the House, is not that it would make union organizing easier. That is a worthy goal. Organized labor persuasively argues that under current law employers often fire workers who try to form a union. Such reprisals are illegal, and employers who violate the law should be punished with tougher sanctions.

Yet the misleadingly titled Employee Free Choice Act would go beyond punishing illegal behavior by employers to give unions an unfair — one might even say an un-American — advantage. The bill would have allowed organizers to secure bargaining rights as soon as a majority of workers at a workplace sign an authorization card. Under current law, employers have the option of insisting on a secret ballot election.

You don't have to be an apologist for employers to recognize that the so-called card-check system invites abuses. Of course employers shouldn't be able to punish workers for wanting to join a union. But neither should union organizers be able to pressure unwilling or hesitant co-workers to authorize a union.

As The Times editorial board has observed, the bedrock principle of federal labor law is not unionism at all costs, but the right of workers to choose whether they want to affiliate with a union.

Given a fair choice in a secret ballot — and one that is not conducted in the shadow of harassment by management — workers often will decide that affiliating with a union is in their interest. In general, unions in a workplace promote not only job security but safety as well.

But that choice should be a free one, and nothing ensures a free election better than a secret ballot in which neither the employer nor the union organizer is looking over a worker's shoulder as she makes her choice. The labor movement used to support the secret ballot (and there's evidence that a majority of union members still do). The movement was right then and it's wrong now.

Instead of railing against Republicans for blocking action on this flawed bill, Democrats should regroup and propose legislation that would focus on the real problem: inadequate penalties for employers who intimidate or harass workers who want to unionize. That would be a real Employee Free Choice Act.


Democrats gut union accountability watchdog

Union members and everybody else concerned about accountability and corruption in both politics and union affairs have a big stake in the outcome of the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill being considered in the House today. Unless the House approves an amendment sponsored by Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, the 2008 budget will be slashed for the Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), which is the only federal agency charged with protecting the $22 billion in union assets from corruption.

Considered the unions' equivalent of the business-monitoring Securities and Exchange Commission, OLMS consumes less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the Labor Department's budget. But it is the one Labor agency being singled out by Democrats for budget cuts, according to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The Kline amendment would prevent OLMS funding from being reduced to 2006 levels. As it is, OLMS is currently able to audit only 4.6 percent of the LM-2 forms, the financial-disclosure reports submitted by unions detailing salaries of union officials and other expenditures. Unlike financial statements of public companies, which are audited by public-accounting firms, the only oversight LM-2s receive, other than from the union bosses who help prepare them, comes from OLMS.

OLMS investigates both civil matters, including union elections upon receipt of a complaint, and criminal matters, such as embezzlement. In 2006 alone, OLMS supervised 24 new union elections after determining that election rules had been violated. OLMS investigated the Washington Teachers Union scandal involving the embezzlement of more than $5 million in teachers' dues. Since 2001, it has obtained court-ordered restitution totaling more than $70 million.

OLMS has successfully exploited the Internet to communicate details of union expenditures to union members. During a recent 12-month period, the OLMS Web site received nearly 800,000 hits, more than 2,100 per day. Consider a Republican-voting janitor (Don't laugh — 38 percent of union members voted for President Bush in 2004) earning $25,000 per year as a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). During the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, SEIU's 527 committee spent more than $75 million on (Democratic) political activity. Its separate political action committee raised nearly $40 million, and about 90 percent of its PAC contributions went to Democrats.

Perusing SEIU's LM-2 on the OLMS Web site, the Republican janitor can learn that the SEIU officials who are spending his union dues on Democratic politicians are also paying themselves $258,731 (President Andy Stern), $228,608 (Secretary Treasurer Anna Burger), $206,217 (Executive VP MaryKay Henry), $197,166 (Executive VP Tom Woodruff), $194,336 (Executive VP Eliseo Medina), $183,447 (Executive VP Gerald Hudson) and $169,356 (Executive VP Paul Policicchio). Now you understand why House Democrats and the Big Labor bosses want to emasculate OLMS.

Help the janitor and pass Mr. Kline's amendment.


Chicago SEIU's politics makes strange bedfellow

Chicago officials said Tuesday that they will investigate "credible" allegations that a company recently awarded a $31 million contract to provide airport security is paying its employees a base rate below what's called for in the city's living-wage ordinance. Aldermen, including those loyal to Mayor Richard Daley, strongly criticized the contract after the wage discrepancy was highlighted Tuesday at a public hearing by the president of the Service Employees International Union.

The union, which represented workers at the company that previously had the contract, has pushed the contract issue in its first major confrontation with the administration since it successfully bankrolled some aldermanic challengers to Daley-backed candidates in elections earlier this year.

Some Daley allies opposed by SEIU in the elections sided with the union Tuesday, saying at the joint Finance and Aviation Committee hearing that the contract should be canceled because the company appeared to have violated the city ordinance that sets a minimum pay rate, currently $10.33, for large contractors.

"There's one thing ... that is as clear as the nose on my face, and that is when I voted for a living wage, I voted for a living wage," said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), a Daley loyalist who was strongly opposed by organized labor in the elections. "Clearly this is a bad contract."

Universal Security Inc. was the winning low bidder among 16 companies seeking the five-year deal to provide unarmed security workers at O'Hare International Airport and Midway Airport. It took over the job June 1, replacing longtime contractor McCoy Security, which employed workers represented by SEIU.

Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1, showed aldermen a posterboard-size version of an employee's pay stub that showed workers under the new contract were earning a base pay rate of $7.50 an hour. The workers were being paid the equivalent of an additional $3 an hour in untaxed transportation and uniform allowances.

Balanoff and several aldermen said the arrangement could have given Universal an edge in the bidding process because it effectively reduced its own federal tax burden by paying workers a lower rate.

Nuria Fernandez, the city's aviation commissioner, said that when she learned of the pay issue Monday afternoon, her office contacted Universal CEO Mark Lundgren and told him it was "a very unusual practice" and that the company "immediately had to fix that problem."

No company representatives attended Tuesday's public hearing. Lundgren did not return a phone call seeking comment. Lundgren provided a one-paragraph letter to the city saying that paychecks would now show employees earning $10.50 in wages.

The public hearing lasted nearly three hours as a room full of aldermen took turns blasting the contract in front of Balanoff.

"I don't believe there's anybody in this room that believes this is a good contract," said Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), one of Daley's staunchest allies on the Council.

The irony of siding with SEIU and Balanoff was not lost on Stone.

"SEIU spent $500,000 to beat me and here I am agreeing with them," Stone said to a Daley aide on the side of the council chamber during the hearing. "It hurts me to agree with [Balanoff]."


UFCW bullying tactics shameful

The tactics of the United Food and Commercial Workers against Bashas' food stores must have Jimmy Hoffa turning in his grave ... no small feat, considering Hoffa's grave may have several tons of concrete over it. But the national food-handlers union is in a difficult position. Let's try to sympathize, if that's possible. It may not be.

The 14,000 employees of the Bashas' Arizona supermarket chain appear to have rejected the UFCW. The union has logged an aggressive campaign to urge employees of the food-store chain to sign cards indicating an interest in unionizing, and the effort looks to have flagged badly.

The Bashas' management long has contended that its employees are uniquely loyal. Their rejection of the UFCW would seem to bear out a mutual sense of goodwill. So, goodbye, UFCW? Not quite. With private-sector union membership in the United States dwindling rapidly, the UFCW has decided that "no" just isn't good enough. Now, the union is giving intimidation a try.

Oh, it's intimidation dressed up as consumer watchdogism. But the union's intended effect, to force Bashas' managers either to negotiate a contract or lose customers, constitutes a cartoonish paean to old-school union bully tactics.

Over the past weeks, the UFCW, in association with a local activist group funded by the union, has held two news conferences in which they claim to have discovered containers of baby formula on Bashas' shelves that are out of code.

At the news events, UFCW local President James McLaughlin said his union is just concerned about the health and safety of little babies. Eddie Basha Jr., chief executive of the food-store chain bearing his family name, views the union claims differently, decrying them as "vicious lies and despicable slander." The union claims to have found 683 containers of out-of-date baby food at dozens of stores owned by the Bashas' chain.

McLaughlin and his team produced sales receipts showing recent purchases of baby food. But, as Bashas' President Mike Proulx notes, sales receipts do not include enough data to tie them to the out-of-date food.

State inspectors for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, meanwhile, regularly monitor food stores for code compliance. In two years of random inspections, the inspectors have uncovered no violations at Bashas' stores, according to Karen Sell, head of the WIC program.

This Arizona baby-formula "scandal" is almost a mirror image of a 1995 event in Virginia, also staged by the UFCW. Then, the union claimed to have found rampant evidence of out-of-date baby formula at Food Lion supermarkets, while government inspectors had found almost none. And, not coincidentally, the union accusations about Food Lion's abuse of the public trust immediately followed its failed efforts to unionize Food Lion employees.

The UFCW openly admits that it dislikes the primary means of union-organizing in the U.S. today: secret balloting supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. Its tactics against Bashas' demonstrate what it does prefer: direct union-to-management contract negotiations forced by Bashas' capitulation to union bullying.

Does anyone really doubt that all those heartfelt union concerns about the welfare of the children would evaporate the moment Bashas' managers rolled over for them?

Unfortunately - for them - no one at Bashas' headquarters is of a mood to roll for such shameful tactics.

Only Jimmy H. is rolling. Somewhere. And, likely, out of embarrassment.


Teamsters shocked by KY school board rejection

The Bullitt County Board of Education tonight voted 3-2 not to recognize a union that supporters said would provide more stability and fairness for the district's 115 bus drivers. "I'm disappointed and shocked," said Teamsters 783 vice president John Stovall, who has been working with bus drivers to create the union. "It's cruel to do this to the very people they profess to care about."

Bus drivers have complained that their hours were continually decreased, they were assigned fewer field trips and senior drivers didn't get priority for the trips, which provide additional income.

Opponents of the union said it wasn't necessary because they trust the board to work out any problems. "I always found that if I go to my supervisors or use my chain of commands, I've always been able to work any problems out," said Virginia Buehler, who has worked with the district for 22 years. "I haven't had many major issues, other than discipline issues with the children."

A committee, formed by the board last month, recommended to the board in a five-page report presented tonight to reject the union.

The committee members were board attorney Eric Farris, school board member Tom Rogers, assistant superintendent of personnel Helen Harrah, Freedom Elementary principal Terry Price and Eastside Middle School principal Bonita Franklin.

Principals were assigned to the committee because bus drivers have complained that many field trips were handled by transportation companies — a decision often made by principals or decision-making councils.

Committee members met five times at the central office, Farris said. Meetings consisted of talking with bus drivers for and against the union as well as with Linda Belcher, who has served as the transportation department's interim director for the past year.

The report said many drivers' complaints were misunderstandings and could be resolved by the board.

"Unions are typically needed where work conditions are dangerous, jobs are at risk of being exported and/or raises/benefits have been historically unequal between employment groups," the report said. "These conditions are not present in the Bullitt County Transportation Department."

The committee also recommended that the board create a task force to periodically address bus driver complaints. That task force could be created within the next few weeks, Farris said.

The district's next superintendent also should make employee relations a "primary focus," the report said.

Board members Michael Robison and Sammy Allen voted for recognizing the union.

"Many of the issues that the drivers brought to us 15 months ago still haven't been resolved," Allen said. "I don't see why they haven't been fixed."

Member Gary Wooldridge said he voted against the union because he didn't want for all the drivers to have to pay dues.

Last month, transportation employees voted 57-54 to join Teamsters Local 783. A few of the 115 employees did not vote. The vote was conducted to indicate to the board whether enough bus drivers wanted to join the union.

Tonight's vote could provoke more division and dissent among bus drivers, many drivers said tonight.

"We put up a good fight," said driver Brenda Murray, who was for the union. "We got a lot of our issues across to them. But there are going to continue to be issues."

Stovall said that he'll be talking to lawyers about other options. He also said they will campaign against the board members who voted against them.

"We're not just going to walk away from this," he said.


Teamster boss slings accusation as talks stall

Contract negotiations between the town of Brookfield, WI and its firefighters union have broken down, with a Teamsters official accusing the town administrator of calling firefighters lazy and complaining that he'd rather be at home eating pizza than bargaining in the evening.

Town Administrator Rick Czopp said he never called firefighters lazy. He said he might have complained about the evening meetings because the two sides were making little progress and union officials, he said, walked out of one bargaining session less than 10 minutes after it began.

After about a half-dozen meetings since the firefighters' three-year contract expired Dec. 31, talks have deteriorated to the point that the two sides can't agree when to meet. Czopp said he was optimistic that negotiations would get back on track. He said the recent tension was typical posturing during contract talks.

Gene Gowey, a Teamsters Local 695 official representing the town's fire personnel, wrote a biting letter to Czopp on July 11, denying the union was bargaining in bad faith.

Gowey had e-mailed a request to meet for negotiations, to which Czopp said the union never responded to the town's May 16 contract offer.

Gowey wrote that Czopp was the one blocking progress and acting in bad faith.

"Rick Czopp complains during bargaining that he is hungry and is missing his TV shows," Gowey wrote. "Rick Czopp quips he wishes he was not there and that he was at home watching his favorite TV programs and eating pizza."

He said Czopp berated employees during talks.

"In conversation across the table with (Fire Lt.) Brian Loomis, Rick Czopp says Town's Fire Department employees don't do anything but eat, sleep and watch TV all day. They're lazy!" Gowey wrote.

In his letter and in an interview Tuesday, Gowey accused Czopp of refusing to meet with union stewards - part-time town firefighters.

Czopp disputed that, saying he merely wanted to meet with them when they weren't on duty for the town. He said the town shouldn't pay firefighters to bargain during work hours.

"What happens if they get a call? Oops, negotiations are over," Czopp said.

Gowey said Czopp didn't object when they attended past sessions during work.

He said some stewards worked other full-time jobs during the day and needed to meet in the evenings.

Czopp said he and the other two members of the town's negotiating team - Fire Chief Andrew Smerz and Town Supervisor Dan Shea - have asked for bargaining to move from evening to daytime hours.

Gowey accused Czopp of dismissing a union offer to settle for about $39,000 a long-standing dispute about overtime pay pending before the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. Gowey said the town might be liable for more than $200,000.

"It would have been great for the town, saving them a TON of money, litigation fees, attorney fees, etc.," Gowey wrote. "Members of the union would have ratified this BUT you told me to go to hell!"

Czopp said this week: "I never received any proposal like that, otherwise that would have to go to the Town Board."

Smerz said the settlement offer was made verbally during contract talks but was not put into writing.

Smerz, Shea and Czopp jointly signed a reply letter July 13 that calls Gowey's letter "painfully inaccurate."

Gowey stood by his letter Tuesday, saying it was "very accurate."


Ex-Teamster arrested, charged with assault

Alameda County Sheriffs responded to a usually-quiet street near Redwood Road in Castro Valley Friday morning after receiving a report that a Waste Management garbage truck had been shot at with a pellet gun. At 10:30 a.m. confused neighbors peeked from beyond garage doors and window curtains as deputies - with sidearms and assault rifles drawn - ordered 62-year old John “Jack” Boyle from his home at 4124 Nichandros Street.

A dispatcher advised deputies on the scene that a variety of .22 and .38 caliber and Glock 9 handguns were all registered to the residence. After a few tense moments, Boyle emerged, handcuffed and in custody, and was subsequently transported to the San Leandro Eden Substation for questioning.

“He’s such a nice, quiet guy who spends his time feeding raccoons and works on cars,” said a neighbor, who identified herself only as Trish. “He’s been retired for years and is disabled with a bad knee. He’s not a violent guy at all!”

Lt. Kelly Miles said the impact hole on the driver’s side wing window on the garbage truck appeared to be too large to have been made by a pellet gun. “We’re thinking that maybe it was a live round or something else,” Miles said. “There are some upstairs windows that were open that could have been where the shot was fired from.”

Unlike traditional American vehicles, the drivers side on the Waste Management truck is on the right side, so the driver was standing in the passenger side when he saw what appeared to be a gun in a window, which he then heard slam shut.

Neither the driver nor the security guards who were following the truck were not hurt in the incident and Waste Management officials had no comment. Boyle’s son Jeremy described his dad as a peaceful, retired Teamsters Local 70 truck driver for the local Consolidated Freight Lines.

“He worked for Consolidated for some 30 odd years,” said Boyle. “My dad’s life is really his cars, animals and his family.” Deputies waited for the better part of the day for a judge to grant a search warrant, and by the afternoon were taken aback at what they found in Boyle’s home.

“We discovered a lot of weapons that we’re just beginning to make a list of,” Lt. Miles added. “There were about 22 assorted guns and rifles, a crossbow and a wrist-rocket-style slingshot we believe was used in the incident.”

On Monday before Hayward Judge Roy Hashimoto, Boyle was charged with four felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, throwing a projectile with intent to cause bodily harm and possession of a weapons’ silencer and armor-piercing ammunition . Boyle was later released on a $60,000 bail bond.


Denver Post defends secret ballot union authorization

The U.S. Senate recently blocked a bill that would have junked 72 years of U.S. labor law and, for the first time, allowed the federal government to force employers and workers alike to sign union contracts without their consent. The proposal, which passed the House with support from Rep. Mark Udall, contained an offensive and little-known provision that would have allowed a government arbitrator to impose a two-year contract on businesses and workers that actually specified wages and working conditions. Neither the employer nor the workers could appeal the decision.

The government has no place mandating how much private employers, for example, pay for their employees' health insurance.

We were extremely disappointed that Colorado's Sen. Ken Salazar abandoned his centrist values to vote with the liberal wing of his party when he voted to shut off debate on the bill, which could have forced a vote on the measure. He was elected as a moderate, and he simply can't become intoxicated by the ideals of his big-government liberal colleagues. He needs to maintain his independence.

And Udall, who wants to be Colorado's next senator, should know that elections here are won by wooing over moderate, independent-minded voters. Casting votes like this won't help.

The proposal died only after Senate Democrats could attract only one Republican vote, from Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, to stop a GOP filibuster against the bill.

The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act also would have denied workers the right to a secret ballot on the question of whether they want to be represented by a union at all. The measure, which passed the House 241-185, is sure to be back because organized labor has made it the top priority in the new Democratic-controlled Congress.

But the tenets of the bill aren't Western values, and our lawmakers should oppose this unprecedented intrusion of federal power into the collective bargaining process and private workplaces.

The defeated bill, HR 800, received the most attention for a provision that would have given unions exclusive bargaining rights in a workplace when a majority of workers signed union authorization cards. But it would have also established binding arbitration when the employer and workers failed to quickly agree on a first contract and strengthened penalties for companies that coerce or intimidate workers. In The Post's opinion, only the third objective is worthwhile.

The landmark National Labor Relations Act of 1935 established the procedure whereby if a majority of workers signed union authorization cards, an election would be held among the proposed bargaining unit to determine whether a majority, voting by secret ballot, wanted that union representation. HR 800 would have ended that election process and granted bargaining rights whenever the necessary cards were signed.

So HR 800 would allow workers to be forced into unions without even the right to vote - and could force workers and employers to accept a government-written contract after just 120 days of negotiations.

This is a radical departure from collective bargaining rules that have worked well since the New Deal. Salazar, and indeed all members of Congress, should fight this bill when next it rears its ugly head.


Westchester County AFSCME picketing July 16

Unit 9200 only wants what all County workers' unions want. [Thanks to Macy's.]
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