Hollywood unions seek legal protection from Canada

A coalition of entertainment industry unions is asking the U.S. government to put the brakes on Hollywood production in Canada.

The Screen Actors Guild of America, Teamsters and several unions representing Hollywood's technical workers Tuesday filed a petition with the U.S. trade representative alleging that Canadian film and TV subsidies have led to U.S. job losses.

The complaint alleges that Canadian government subsidies that target U.S. film and TV productions constitute unfair trade practices and violate Canada's obligations under the World Trade Organization.

"We are committed to exploring every method we can to bring film and television production back to the United States," said Gretchen Koerner, who chairs the national legislative committee of the Screen Actors Guild. "For decades we have watched as American producers head north to produce movies, television series and commercials."

Although cross-border trade disputes are common, they typically involve such commodities as corn and softwood lumber, not movies and TV shows.

The petition marks the first of its kind backed by entertainment industry unions, highlighting a long-standing hot-button issue in Southern California, which in the last decade has lost thousands of film and TV jobs as production has migrated to cheaper locales offering tax credits and other sweeteners.

Since 1997, Canada has hosted more than 1,000 U.S. film and TV productions, including "Brokeback Mountain," "Chicago" and "The Rudy Giuliani Story."

The outflow, however, has slowed in recent years as some U.S. states began offering Canadian-style tax credits and as the U.S. dollar weakened, making filming abroad more expensive.

Nonetheless, backers of the petition contend that Canada is still unfairly harming U.S. workers by offering American companies a federal tax credit equal to 16% of their labor expenditures in Canada, in addition to provincial tax credits.

"Canada still has by far the highest percentage of shows that leave the U.S., and its model is being used by 22 nations," said Tim McHugh, an executive director of the Film and Television Action Committee. The nonprofit organization coordinated the petition, which also was backed by the cities of Glendale, Santa Monica and Burbank.

The U.S. trade representative has 45 days to decide whether to pursue the matter with Canada.

Officials at the Canadian Consulate General in Los Angeles said they could not comment because they had not seen a copy of the petition.


Teachers prepare for strike to earn respect

Barnesville (WV) Education Association President Chris Pack was not optimistic about a negotiation session that continued late into the night on the eve of a potential teachers' strike.

"I'm not real hopeful about tonight’s meeting," he said late Tuesday. "The BOE will most likely rely on the offer that they have put out on Dec. 18."

Pack said union members moved their personal belongings out of district buildings Tuesday and into the union’s crisis center in preparation for a walkout that was slated to begin today if no contract agreement could be reached.

"Teachers are being treated as if they are a dime a dozen," he said. "It is now a matter of respect."

Neither district nor union officials could be reached for comment on the status of Tuesday's negotiations at press time.

Barnesville Exempted Village School District Superintendent Randy Lucas previously said the two sides have differing views when it comes to health care.

He noted the school system is ready if the teachers walk out today.

"We have been working for the last 10 days in preparation for the possibility of a strike. We do have substitute teachers lined up and also security personnel," he said.


SEIU smacked for secret political power-grab

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and legislators are quietly working with two major unions on a bill that would, for the first time, give state employees the power to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.

The closed-door efforts were flushed out into the open Tuesday when Ritter's office released more than 1,000 pages of documents in response to an open records request by a Republican consultant.

Included was a June 26 e-mail from a union representative urging one of Ritter's policy analysts to keep the negotiations secret. "Our thinking at this point is purely political - we believe that the state employee agenda for next session will be a heavy lift, and therefore has the potential to be extremely polarizing if not messaged correctly," Service Employees International Union Legislative Director Scott Wasserman wrote to analyst Christy Murphy.

"We want to make sure that the ideas we're floating aren't viewed without context and that potential opponents don't have an opportunity to react to the proposal long before it's ready for prime time," he wrote.

Republican campaign consultant Brad Jones, who also is managing editor of facethestate.com, a "free market news Web site," filed the open records request.

Republicans jumped on the documents as validating their suspicions that Ritter and fellow Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature, plan to strong-arm a collective bargaining bill into law next session.

"I think it confirms our concerns that there's going to be a union raid on the state budget," said Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs.

Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, declined to discuss the potential legislation, except to say: "The governor has made no secret and has been very open about his desire to strengthen partnerships with snowplow drivers, prison guards and the other men and women who make up the state workforce.

"It is a shame that Sen. McElhany and other Senate Republicans do not value the workforce that carries out the policies established by the legislature, which includes Sen. McElhany."

The unions involved are Colorado Association of Public Employees, its umbrella organization, the SEIU, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Plan wasn't introduced

Senate President Joan Fitz- Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, said she and Ritter talked at the start of last year's session about an "empowerment package," which she described as giving state workers "more ownership over their jobs."

But the proposal was never introduced, which she attributed to the fallout over Ritter's veto of the pro-union HB 1072. That bill would have made it easier to unionize work places.

Fitz-Gerald is viewed as staunchly pro-union. Almost all of the political action committee donations she has collected for her 2008 congressional run are from unions.

She said workers are frustrated because they have had small pay raises, but large hikes in the cost of health insurance. In addition, in some departments positions have not been filled and other workers are being asked to do more than one job.

"Our job is to make sure employees feel valued," she said. "We want a government that works. There is a portion of the Republican Party that doesn't want government to work, so it can get rid of it, outsource it and privatize it. Of course, then we have no control over it."

A draft of the "empowerment package," titled "State Employee Partnerships," was included in the documents released Tuesday. So was an SEIU memo summarizing the bill, sent Aug. 14 to Ritter's chief legal counsel, Trey Rogers.

"As you know, last year we worked with Representative Rosemary Marshall and, with the assistance of the Office of Legislative Legal Services, drafted proposed legislation that would implement a Partnership system giving state employees the right to choose a representative to bargain with the state," SEIU Assistant General Counsel Steven K. Ury wrote.

Difference in wording

Marshall, D-Denver, denied Tuesday that the draft legislation had anything to do with collective bargaining, even though it states, in part, that "a negotiated employee partnership agreement would shape the legislative budget-setting process."

"Nothing was ever introduced," she said.

In an Aug. 28 letter, Marshall informed Rogers that she was denying Ritter's office permission to release "a work product drafted for me by legal services during the 2007 legislative session" regarding the organizing of employee unions in state government.

In the cover letter of its Tuesday response to Jones' open records request, Ritter's legal counsel writes that it is therefore withholding a document as "legislative work product."

Jones said he and a lawyer are looking into whether Ritter violated the law by withholding that document.

E-mail excerpts

• We want to make sure that the ideas we're floating aren't viewed without context and that potential opponents don't have an opportunity to react to the proposal long before it's ready for prime time. As we discussed yesterday, even all the employee associations/unions aren't on the same page yet and while we've done as much communication as we can with them about our proposal, there is still opportunity for misinterpretation, etc.

Scott Wasserman legislative director of SEIU Colorado to Christy Murphy, policy analyst for Gov. Bill Ritter

• While we now feel that many sections of that proposed legislation need to be changed because of changed circumstances, the sections of that proposed legislation dealing with the mechanics of administering a partnership law and the scope of its activities are still relevant and can be incorporated into legislation this year."

From an SEIU memorandum forwarded to Ritter's chief legal counsel from SEIU general counsel

• Ultimately, on economics, a negotiated employee partnershp agreement would shape the legislative budget-setting process. The Governor, in partnership with employees, would go to the legislature with a jointly supported request for financial needs."

From the draft bill State Employee Partnerships, that Rep. Rosemary Marshall worked on with the SEIU last year but never introduced

• I guess I didn't know that we were going to be moving on this until all the details were thoroughly worked out and we went forward with a plan the Admin and the unions (and legislators) agreed upon. I've also heard that SEIU plans to start distributing authorization cards to ALL state employees on Labor Day (Confidential, inside info for your info only).

Jo Romero president of the Colorado Federation of Public Employees, to Rich Gonzales, director of the Department of Personnel and Administration

What would change for state employees

• State employees can join unions now, but the unions can only help individual workers resolve disputes with management over disciplinary action, wages and benefits.

• Two of the largest unions want legislation that, for the first time, would give state employees the power to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.


Republicans welcome Big Labor influence

National labor unions, traditional allies of the Democratic Party, are planning to play a significant role in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. As a result, next year could be the first time that several major unions endorse a Republican candidate in a presidential primary.

Last week, the International Association of Machinists, which has nearly 700,000 members, endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic contest.

The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades also plans to endorse a Republican and a Democrat.

Two of the country's largest unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Education Association (NEA) also are contemplating making endorsements in each party's primary. Even if they don't, the SEIU and the NEA will seek to influence the outcome of GOP primaries, or, at least, pressure the candidates to make their policy platforms more "worker-friendly."

"Stopping at the SEIU and getting your ticket punched is not the normal thought process for Republican campaign managers," said Skip Roberts, the assistant director of government affairs at SEIU. "For almost two years we have been empowering and mobilizing our Republican members."

Nationwide, the SEIU has 1.9 million members. Its membership includes more than 300,000 Republicans, according to union officials.

"We're trying to make sure that our Republican members are not ignored by the presidential campaigns," Roberts said.

Compared to past election cycles, Roberts said, "We're much further along in making sure our Republican members are trained and backed by the union to make their party a more family-friendly party."

The growing political activity of Republican union members is both tempting and risky for Republican presidential candidates.

On one hand, union support can be a valuable asset. Union members are known for their ability to organize and work hard to help candidates on Election Day. Extra volunteers working at phone banks and walking from door to door could make a crucial difference in caucuses and primaries decided by a few thousand votes.

But accepting help from unions could also open Republican candidates to criticism from the conservative ranks of their party.

"They know they'll be skewered by right-wing blogs and the Club for Growth," Roberts said, referring to a conservativegroup that has been known to pay for television ads attacking centrist Republicans.

Of the Republican presidential candidates, Huckabee has been most willing to embrace potential union support. It may be an easier decision for Huckabee than other Republicans because the Club for Growth has already declared war against his candidacy, criticizing him for his record on taxes while governor.

The NEA, a union with 3.2 million members - an estimated 1 million of whom are Republican - also is working to have an influence on the GOP primaries.

"We feel we can have an impact on the Republican Party," said Randall Moody, chief lobbyist at the NEA.

The union has drawn attention from two Republican front-runners.

At the beginning of August, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Mike DuHaime, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign manager, attended a reception the NEA held in Minneapolis for politically active Republicans in its union, Moody said.

Huckabee, who finished second in the Iowa state Republican straw poll last month, spoke to about 9,000 delegates at the NEA's annual meeting this summer. NEA officials have also met with Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), another Republican White House hopeful.

Moody said the NEA has strong affiliates in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

"We do have substantial numbers of Republican members in those states," Moody said. "Our members are community leaders, and a lot of people in their communities look to them for leadership. Any candidate, from school board to president, should seek the support of our members because of it."

Huckabee has met with Republican members of the SEIU in New Hampshire, said Lee Quandt, a union member and state representative from Exeter who describes himself as a conservative Republican.

"He's the only Republican candidate in New Hampshire to have the courage to sit down with union members, and it went really well," Quandt said. "They took a liking to him."

Quandt said other Republican candidates would be smart to meet with the SEIU because it represents about 10,000 Republican workers in the state.

"Nixon had union support and so did Reagan," Quandt said.

The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades has 190,000 members, including retirees, and has a significant presence in Iowa and Nevada, two early-caucus states, the union’s director of government affairs, Tim Stricker, said. Stricker estimated that Republicans make up between 30 and 40 percent of the union’s membership.

Stricker said leading Republican candidates have reached out to his union, which plans to endorse in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

"Giuliani's people have reached out to us and we've had some under-the-radar inquiries from Senator [John] McCain's (R-Ariz.) campaign," Stricker said. 'I expect to meet with Giuliani’s people in about a month."

McCain's campaign spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, said her boss is seeking potential union allies in various primary states.

"We are continually reaching out to those folks through our supporters on the ground in early states such as South Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa and Michigan," Buchanan said. "Unions have a broad base of organization and support and we appreciate the support that has been given to the senator and look forward to working with them as we move forward in this campaign."

Other traditional Democratic allies have made efforts to reach out to Republican candidates in hopes of influencing their policy stances. But Republicans appear less receptive to their entreaties.

The political director of NARAL Pro Choice America, Beth Shipp, said her group has placed a few calls to the Giuliani campaign but despite Giuliani’s record in support of abortion rights, his campaign has responded cautiously.

"I think they're nervous because they're running in a Republican primary," Shipp said.

The New Hampshire and South Carolina affiliates of the League of Conservation Voters have met with several Republican campaigns, said Gene Karpinski, president of the national environmental group.


Denver teachers consider strike

After two failed attempts at negotiations, teachers from the Denver (CO) Public School District had the first of five meetings on Tuesday evening to discuss their options, including a possible strike. The district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association are at odds over salary increases, benefits and the amount of time teachers have to apply new classroom techniques.

Tuesday's union meeting was to gauge what teachers are willing to give up and how far they are willing to go. Some of the teachers who talked with 9NEWS were taking a very strong stance.

"I think right now, teachers are fed up with what's happening with negotiations and I think overwhelmingly they're not going to take it this year," said Bobbi Walter, a special education teacher at Wyman Elementary School.

"I think one of the biggest issues is insurance, the cost of insurance. We need more say in what's going on in the schools, and time to teach," said Walter.

Carsten Engebretsen, a language arts teacher at Place Middle School, agrees, saying now is the time to stand firm.

"I don't know if we're there (at a strike) yet, but I know that teachers are saying 'take a stand,'" said Engebretsen.

"Teachers, I think are frustrated by what's happening and the situation also in their buildings and so we want to make sure that we're being responsive to what teachers want out of these negotiations and improve their instruction," said Kim Ursetta, president of the DCTA.

A DPS spokesperson says the salary increase it is offering would mean an increase of more than 21 percent since 2004.

The union has petitioned the Department of Labor to intervene.

Walter says she and other teachers do not have time to deal with this because they are already overwhelmed with work.

"I think part of the problem is we have people who don't want to negotiate … that came to the bargaining and didn't want to look at both sides," said Walter.

"There is nothing wrong with teachers asking for money, or demanding for more money. It does not mean we love students less, it just means that we deserve the pay that we deserve," said Engebretsen.


The Jefferson County School District provided teacher contract information and cost of living salary increase information for other districts across the metro area:

- Aurora Public Schools have a teacher contract valid from spring 2007 to spring 2008. They have a 4.1 percent cost of living salary increase.

- The Adams County 12 teacher contract is expected to be signed on Sept. 7 and will run through August 2008. They have a 4.1 percent cost of living salary increase.

- The Boulder Valley Schools teacher contract is from 2006 through 2007. They have a 3.6 percent cost of living salary increase.

- Cherry Creek Schools has a negotiated agreement from 2007 through 2011. They will review the contract in June 2008. Teachers will receive 4.35 percent annual cost of living salary increase.

- Douglas County School has a teacher contract valid from July 2005 through June 2008 with annual reviews. Teachers will receive a 4.35 percent cost of living salary increase.

- Jefferson County Schools has a teacher contract from 2007 to 2011. They have a 4 percent cost of living salary increase along with annual steps and level increases in salary


Anti-scab candidate racks up endorsements

US Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards won labor union backing on Monday from steelworkers and mineworkers, putting him ahead of rivals in declared union support, his campaign said.

The former senator from North Carolina, endorsed by the carpenters' union on Thursday, now has the support of unions representing more than 1.8 million members and retirees, more than any other candidate in the White House race, the campaign said.

Edwards picked up the backing of the United Steelworkers, which calls itself the largest US private-sector industrial union with 1.2 million members and retirees, and the United Mine Workers of America, which represents 105,000 active and retired coal miners.

While campaigning in Des Moines on the Labour Day holiday, which honours American workers, he said that as president he would oppose strikebreakers.

"If the union, in order to show its strength and courage has to go out on strike and walk the picket line, when I'm president of the United States ... nobody ... will be able to walk through that picket line and take your job away from you," he said.

He credited the labour movement with building the country's middle class and he said it was time for government to take steps to protect union workers.

"We have such important work to do in this country to create opportunity and 'One America' so that everybody actually has a chance in this country - not just a few rich people, but every single working man and woman," Edwards said.


AFSCME to picket Ohio University

Union workers at Ohio University will begin picketing on campus this week, upset about recent layoffs and the way university officials have handled related budget decisions. OU officials explain, however, that the layoffs are part of a larger budget process and that they have been frank in explaining the reasons to union leaders.

In July, OU announced that it would be laying off 24 facilities-management employees. The positions being eliminated were union positions, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at OU. The union represented 645 employees at OU before the cuts were made.

On Friday, Dave Logan, president of AFSCME Local 1699, said that he believes the administration was not honest with the union in explaining why the positions were being eliminated. He confirmed that the union will begin informational picketing on campus on Thursday and will also be doing informational picketing at special events. "The union was stabbed in the back by the administration. There's just no polite way of saying it," Logan said.

The union negotiated a three-year contract in good faith earlier in the year, and the university made the cuts after the contract was finalized, Logan said. He believes that both sides negotiated in good faith, and that the top officials at OU made decisions that resulted in the layoffs.

"It's my opinion that the layoffs are a clear violation of the contract," Logan said. The contract states that employees can be laid off only due to lack of money or lack of work, Logan said.

The layoffs resulted in 17 custodians and seven zone-maintenance specialists losing their jobs, Logan said.

"The least senior position of the custodial positions has been here longer than (OU Vice President for Finance) Bill Decatur," Logan said. "And of course, you know he's out looking for another job while he's laying people off."

At the time the layoffs were announced, OU officials said the cuts were because of budget problems and the budget realignment, Logan said. He said that OU officials talked a lot about how more money would be put toward campus safety and that they often mentioned the tragedy at Virginia Tech. With the budget realignment, though, the university spent a small percentage on the campus police and spent much more on accountants and administrators, Logan said.

DECATUR AGREED Sunday that both sides negotiated in good faith, and said that OU officials told Logan that there almost certainly would be layoffs.

"At the time we finalized the contract, we didn't know what the budget would look like," Decatur said, adding that OU was still waiting for budget information from the state.

The layoffs are the result of three main factors, Decatur explained. First of all, when OU did a major budget realignment more than a year and a half ago, it did not eliminate all of the positions that it needed to in order to keep up with the budget cuts, because planners hoped a significant number of employees would take early retirement.

"As of June 30, we were way short on the number of early-retirement participants," Decatur said.

The second reason is that funding had to be cut again to balance this year's budget, Decatur said. Budget cuts were made in all areas of the university, he added.

The third reason was a reallocation of resources. The university put more funding into areas such as planning and high-priority areas, adding two police sergeant positions, creating a position in risk management and safety to help reduce worker's compensation expenses, funding a new senior associated vice president of finance, and creating other positions that will ultimately save money on campus, Decatur said. For example, if OU can get down to the state average in worker's compensation expenses, it would save $700,000 per year, he maintained.

The money saved by these new positions will help protect jobs on campus in future years, Decatur predicted.

"Reallocations are always tough. These decisions weren't made easily," he said. "I don't think this is the end of it."

As for Logan's comment about him looking for another job, Decatur said he no longer is considering any other positions. "I'm committed to staying here," he said.

DURING THE CONTRACT negotiations, the union asked for a 2 percent raise, and was given a 3 percent, raise, Logan said. If the university had given a 2 percent raise to all university employees, it would have saved $900,000 and could have saved the jobs of the 24 employees, he noted.

Decatur said that the union contract calls for union employees to receive no less than the other raises on campus. Because other OU employees received the 3 percent raise, the union also received a 3 percent raise, he said.

The zone-maintenance employees who lost their jobs had all been at OU between 9-16 years, Logan said. These employees were all able to bump other OU employees with less seniority and take their positions, but they also had to take significant pay cuts and take other jobs.

The bumping process means that many people across campus had to move into other jobs before those with the least amount of seniority were either laid off or placed on part-time status, Logan said. Several employees also bumped employees out of position at the regional campuses in Chillicothe and Zanesville, according to Logan.

One layoff notice went to Jane Pack, who was a cook at the Oasis when the university bought the restaurant in 2002. Logan said that Pack was promised a job at OU, and that she worked as a cook and then as a custodian.

"We had to deliver her layoff notice to the James Cancer Center," Logan said. "She's got brain cancer."

Pack was worried about losing her insurance and not being able to get disability pay at a time when she needed to focus on getting better, Logan said.

"This is what they do," he said.

Pack has been able to get on disability and use her vacation and sick time at OU, but Logan said he's still upset that the university began the layoff process for her while she was so sick.

"It's just a sad situation," he said.

The layoffs take affect this week, and will result in several buildings being cleaned less often, Logan said. Baker Center, Alden Library and the Ping Center will all suffer from the decreased cleaning, as will other buildings, he said.


Teachers union strikes riddle RI

While class is back in session in Tiverton today, East Greenwich schools remain closed for a second day, with talks on that contract dispute set to resume tomorrow night.

Contract talks between the teachers union and school committee in both districts had broken down over salaries and health care. Yesterday marked the first time since 1991 that two Rhode Island teachers unions were striking at the same time.

The planned first school day yesterday in East Greenwich was canceled after the teachers union voted to strike following 30 hours of Labor Day-weekend negotiations that failed to produce new contract terms.

More than 150 of the union's 235 members filled the auditorium at East Greenwich High School last night for the School Committee's regular monthly meeting as a show of solidarity, union co-president Jane Argentieri said. The labor dispute was not on the meeting’s agenda.

School Committee Chairwoman Suzanne McGee Cienki said yesterday that the board is ready to pursue "all legal options," including taking the teachers to Superior Court or pressing criminal charges if legal maneuvers fail.

Mediated negotiations resume tonight at 5.

Meanwhile, the Tiverton teachers strike ended yesterday afternoon, after lawyers for the union and the School Committee reached a consent agreement, with the guidance of Newport Superior Court Judge Vincent A. Ragosta.

The agreement sends teachers back to work today and compels a majority of the School Committee to attend all mediation sessions with the union. Those talks start tonight, at 6.

"We're glad we're going back to school and we're glad we got them at the table," said Amy Mullen, president of the 193-member Tiverton teachers union. Union members picketed earlier yesterday near Tiverton High School.

Tiverton had held classes last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but the union, the National Education Association-Tiverton, called a strike Monday after failing to reach an agreement over the Labor Day weekend.

Teacher contracts expired in recent days in a number of Rhode Island communities. Many of the new agreements remained unsettled as of last night:

•Teachers in Burrillville halted their strike and agreed to return to school yesterday after not reporting for work Aug. 29, the scheduled first day. Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel continued to hold off on issuing an order forcing teachers back to work, giving both sides more time to negotiate.

•A tentative contract agreement was reached on Labor Day between the Foster-Glocester School Committee and the union representing middle and high school teachers. The School Committee was set to meet last night to vote on the two-year contract. The union’s 130 members are expected to vote on the contract tomorrow. Officials said they would not release contract details until the union ratifies the pact. School started Aug. 30 at Ponaganset.

•School started on schedule on Aug. 29 in the Exeter-West Greenwich regional school district, though the union and the school board are scheduled to hold mediated contract talks today at 4.

The state law governing teacher-contract negotiations does not give teachers the right to strike. What’s more, the state Supreme Court has ruled that such work stoppages are illegal. The high court added that teachers cannot be ordered back to their classrooms without a lower court hearing.


16 yr.-old girl files ULP against UFCW over dues

AFSCME will not honor its own picket lines

The strike by clerical, technical and health care workers at the University of Minnesota is on. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees confirmed its members would go on strike on Wednesday, the second day of fall classes on the U of M's Twin Cities campus.

At the University of Minnesota, Crookston, AFSCME representative Angelika Huglen said there are approximately 41 union members on campus. Not all of them will be striking, however. Some will report to work Wednesday as usual, while other AFSCME members picket at the various entrances to campus.

"The University's wage proposal is not acceptable," Huglen said in an email. "We are asking for at least the same offer as was given to the state employees, which was 3.25 percent plus their steps for longevity in each of the two years of the contract. This money was approved by the state legislature for pay raises. The University has been given this money so why are they trying to hold it back from us?"

AFSCME Local 3800 President Phyllis Walker says the strike will continue until the university improves its offer.

The strike announcement was expected after the union rejected the latest contract offer and no new talks were scheduled.

"We cannot in good conscience go to work on Sept. 5th," Huglen said in the email. "We will go on strike until the University treats its front-line workers with respect and dignity."

The university says its offer would have provided 94 percent of AFSCME employees with at least a 4.5 percent pay increases in each year of a two-year contract. The union calculates the university's offer at 2.25 percent per year for clerical and technical workers and 2.5 percent for health care workers. The university says on its Web site that it has plans in place to keep things operating during the strike.


Waiting for the NYC taxi strike to arrive

Six hours and counting. That's when the leaders of the 10,000-member Taxi Workers Alliance said they would strike. It's all to protest new rules requiring New York City cabs to carry electronic equipment, including GPS.

The question is, will it happen? And if it does, how many will curb their cabs?

Lea Acey spends about 60 hours on the road every week as a taxi driver. She needs to support her 2-year-old son. But on Wednesday she will put the brakes on her job behind the wheel to step onto the picket line.

"We feel bad. We don't wish to strike. But I hope the mayor's listening to me," Acey said Tuesday. "I hope he comes with a better deal so that we don't have to strike tomorrow."

Acey already has the GPS and touch-screen monitor credit card system the city is requiring more than 13,000 cabs to have, but she says it's a high-tech headache that breaks down a lot and costs her nearly $100 a month in maintenance fees.

"I don't want to make an appointment to fix something that doesn't belong to me," Acey said. "I don't have profit from the GPS advertisement. I don't want to take my car to the shop, sitting there wasting my time. I don't get paid for that."

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a contingency plan to help travel run smoother.

The plan allows working cab drivers to pick up multiple fares, including from the city's airports where passengers would pay a flat fare of $20 a person from LaGuardia and $30 from JFK.

Group rides within the city would be based on a zone system, starting at $10 for the first zone and $5 for each zone the passenger crosses.

The MTA is preparing to add additional service on routes to and from LaGuardia.

St. Louis businessman Jeffrey Newton is already nervous about a pending strike.

"I'm from out of town," Newton said. "I use the cabs to get around the city so I don't know what I'll do tomorrow. I guess I'll figure out the subway system."

Bloomberg is confident he won't have to.

"Our expectation is there will be very few if any taxi drivers striking tomorrow and the next day," the mayor said.

For the entire contingency plan, click here.

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