Workers decertify union, 7 month-long strike to end

Current and striking workers of Maremont Exhaust Products in Loudon County voted Friday to dissolve the union. The vote on whether to continue the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 2545, at Maremont Exhaust Products was 223 to dissolve it and 141 to continue it, said Michael Moschel, the company’s attorney.

That means if there are no objections filed to the election the union will be decertified in seven days and the strike will be over, Moschel said.

The union declined comment.

In February, 227 union members went on strike primarily over significant increases in employee costs for health insurance. In early spring, the company permanently replaced about 150 of the striking workers.

Since the strike began, there have been reports of windows on vehicles being broken in drive-by shootings, a fire set at an employee’s house, an electrical transformer shot by a high-powered rifle, a bomb scare at the plant, tires being slashed, and rocks thrown at individuals and vehicles.

There was also an incident where a striking worker was injured after being struck by a vehicle being driven by a company security guard.

And in March, a Loudon County sheriff ’s deputy apologized for angrily confronting strikers on the picket line.

Maremont, which is owned by International Muffler Co. of Schulenburg, Texas, produces automotive exhaust components, including heavy-duty mufflers and catalytic converters.

The company filed unfair labor practices against the union, and that’s to be heard by the National Labor Relations Board on Oct. 15. The company alleges those practices included several criminal actions including shootings at the homes of non-striking employees.

Moschel said there were about 46 votes challenged but the company did not press the issue because they weren’t enough to change the outcome of the vote.

He said almost 70 people eligible to vote did not, but he did not know how many of those were current or past union members.

During the seven-month strike “lots of” union members got other jobs, Moschel said.


Mrs. Clinton huddles with unions prior to fundraiser

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is slated to appear at an Arizona fundraiser Oct. 2. for her 2008 presidential bid. The event is scheduled for Tucson and, according to sources familiar with the situation, the goal is to raise $250,000 for Clinton's presidential bid.

Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle recently was in Phoenix meeting with top state Democrats. Those attending that meeting included real estate developer and Clinton ally Jim Pederson, Democratic lobbyists David Waid and Tom Ziemba as well as representatives of labor unions, teachers unions and trial lawyers.

The meeting was held at Ziemba Waid Public Affairs offices in Phoenix and did not entail fundraising or endorsements.

Clinton has lead consistently in Arizona polls for the Democratic side of the 2008 presidential race.

One of her chief rivals, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., also is expected to make a campaign/fundraising stop Arizona.

Arizona went for Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and the state is not in the presidential spotlight yet for 2008 other than being the home base of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.


SEIU seethes as County privatizes shuttered libraries

Jackson County (OR) commissioners have voted to hire a private company to reopen libraries shut by loss of federal timber payments.

Commissioners approved a five-year contract Wednesday with Library Systems and Services LLC of Maryland to run the 15 branches at reduced hours. "This has been a fairly difficult process," said Commissioner C.W. Smith. "This has been a fairly painful process. We took a lot of criticism from the community. It's not perfect, but it's a good beginning."

The company plans to hire 50 to 60 people and could open the branches before the end of October if Internet connections can be re-established quickly, said company president Frank Pezzanite. The county will pay $3 million a year for LSSI to run the libraries, plus about $1.3 million a year for utilities, maintenance and other costs.

Voters rejected two levies, one in November and one in May, that would have generated almost twice that much, $8 million annually, to keep the libraries open.

Under the contract with LSSI, the Ashland branch will be open 40 hours a week, based on an operating levy approved by city voters. Branches elsewhere will be open from eight to 24 hours a week.

The county's libraries closed April 6 after a funding safety net for counties that receive a share of national forest timber revenues expired. Libraries in neighboring Josephine county also closed, and there is no immediate prospect of reopening them.

Commissioner Dave Gilmour said the county still must figure out a permanent solution to fund the libraries, possibly by creating a special library district.


Disenfranchised county workers outraged by union's tactics

An "underhanded" and "sneaky" election process deprived dozens of Nevada County employees the right to vote in a recent election that made union membership - and union dues - mandatory, the workers charged Monday. A group of 35 angry workers voiced confusion and outrage over the August election in a meeting at the Eric W. Rood Administrative Center in Nevada City, saying they never saw the notices of the impending vote.

So far, county employees have received one check with the new membership fees of $40 deducted. About 640 people are in the two bargaining units affected by the vote, and slightly more than half were union members before the vote, an affected employee said.

"It left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. It was just kind of snuck in," said Mike Sherman, an employee in the welfare department who didn't hear of the election until after ballots were cast. "I object to unions. I absolutely have no say where the money goes," said Gerry Schwede, who has worked as a county mental health therapist for five years.

But the International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Local No. 39, acted according to state law by giving five days notice of the election, said Bob Losik, a representative from the state Mediation and Conciliation Service.

For 23 years, county workers have contracted with IUOE, but this is the first time they have voted for mandatory membership, said Gary Winegar, a business representative for Local No. 39.

Before the election, nonmembers weren't paying their "fair share" and were "getting a free ride," Winegar said. Workers who disagreed targeted Winegar with angry outbursts before he left, citing negotiation appointments in another county.

Obscure posting?

State law requires posting election dates in a conspicuous place five days prior to an election, Losik said.

Notice of the election was posted on the county's cafeteria bulletin board on Aug. 10, a Friday. The election followed on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

Winegar sent e-mail notices to people reminding them to "vote for agency shop," according to a message made available to The Union; some anti-union workers commented during the meeting that they did not receive the e-mail notification.

An agency shop, also called a union shop, is a place of employment where workers must pay union dues whether they are a member of a labor union or not.

Disgruntled workers argued the posting on the cafeteria bulletin board over the weekend does not constitute proper notification. The five days of required posting should not include the weekends, when most employees don't work. Workers from the library, the county animal shelter and mental health departments said they saw no notice of an election in their workplaces - and didn't vote.

Others said they don't read the cafeteria bulletin board. Some said they heard of the election through word-of-mouth, but were told it was only for union members.

Prior to the election, about 340 out of 640 people in the bargaining units for professional and miscellaneous employees were union members, said Claire Tallman, an information systems analyst affected by the change. August's election requires all of them to pay union dues regardless of whether a person wants to join the union, Tallman said.

The county employs about 900 people. Law enforcement and managers fall under different union categories, Tallman said.

Workers "disenfranchised"

Several county workers have filed an objection to the election with the State Supervisor of Elections and have sent letters to the county and a union representative from Auburn.

"We feel that the majority of the employees have been disenfranchised by the deception of a flawed and possibly illegal process for conducting a binding vote," wrote Marc Mikan, an employee of the county roads department in a letter to Winegar and county Human Resource Director Gayle Satchwell.

State code requires the county to follow mediators' direction for an election and posting notices, but must maintain a distance from union issues, county personnel director Satchwell said.

"We've been advised to stay out of this issue altogether because it's not a county issue, Satchwell said.


SEIU strikers surprised by permanent replacements

Striking security guards in The City’s commercial buildings returned to work Thursday as a sign of good faith during contract negotiations, but at least four of those workers returned to find that their jobs had been permanently filled.

The guards, who work for Universal Protection Services, were told to report to the company’s main office for reassignment when they showed up for work Thursday after striking for three days. Union officials say the move was illegal, but a company spokesman said the replacements were justified because the strike was illegal.

Workers for three different security companies that contract with Service Employees International Union Local 24/7 walked off the job at 14 San Francisco buildings Monday, and were joined Tuesday by workers at seven more buildings. The guards have been working without a contract since June 30, and are demanding higher pay and family health care.

In all, an estimated 140 workers participated in the strike, but decided Wednesday evening that they should go back to work as negotiations got under way Wednesday.

But when Robert Ravare and three other workers showed up to work Thursday morning, they were told their positions had been permanently filled.

“A couple of the bosses from Universal came and told me I had been permanently replaced,” Ravare said Thursday. “I was to report to them at 11:30 to try to find me a replacement area.”

The practice of permanently replacing striking workers is legal if the strike is a general or “economic” strike, said Joseph Grodin, a law professor specializing in labor at the UC Hastings College of the Law.

The union, however, claims it was holding an “unfair labor practices” strike, protesting company practices of threatening workers with their jobs if they participated in union action.

“If it is an unfair labor practice strike, then the employer must take the people back, assuming they make an unconditional offer to return to work,” SEIU lawyer Orrin Baird said Thursday.

But a spokesman for the group of 20 security companies in negotiations with the union said the strike was illegal in the first place.

“It is the belief of the companies that the union acted illegally in the brief strike activity, and they are in the process of filing multiple charges at the federal level,” Sam Singer said Thursday.


Workers' decertification vote would end 7 month strike

Striking Maremont Corp. workers in Loudon, TN have been off the job and on picket lines for seven months. Friday, the employees vote to either keep or get rid of their union - IAM Local 2545 - as a collective bargaining agent. Both striking and non-striking workers will vote whether to decertify the union.

Contract negotiations failed, and workers went on strike in February. A decision to keep the union would keep the strike going.

10 News and wbir.com will report the results of that vote when they are available.


Week 9: Prideful union bosses stick to strike

Striking members of Local 313 IUE CWA will meet Saturday at Corning West High School to discuss the status of negotiations with Dresser-Rand Co. Glenn Painter, chief plant steward, said today that the meeting will also include an update on court proceedings this week in Bath on an injunction Dresser-Rand is seeking to limit the number of pickets at sites in Painted Post, NY. It is scheduled to last from 10 a.m. to noon.

Painter said there will be no vote Saturday on what Dresser-Rand called its “final offer” to the union, which was rejected by the membership on Aug. 2.

The 400 union workers from the Painted Post plant of Dresser-Rand have been on strike since Aug. 4, when their previous three-year contract expired. The strike will enter its ninth week on Sunday.

Painter said the union members are “outraged” by a newspaper ads placed locally by Dresser-Rand on Thursday and Friday outlining the company’s position on the negotiations.

“The outrage is that the Dresser-Rand leadership team has decided to wage a media war with the local (union) to try and sway the community support,” Painter said. “The community has been well behind the local’s endeavor to get a fair contract.”


Jumbo unions put politics and legislation first

The Change to Win federation set future plans for strategic organizing campaigns and approved a 10-cent-per-capita assessment for politics for the 2007-2008 election cycle, CTW Chair Anna Burger said.

In a press conference Tuesday after the federation's day-and-a-half convention in Chicago closed, Burger also said CTW's Strategic Organizing Center would step up its services to the member unions, training organizers, coordinating campaigns and marshaling financial resources, among other things.

But the political assessment was a new move, given CTW's prior emphasis on organizing, rather than politics - point which led seven unions to split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. The seven - Carpenters, Laborers, Service Employees Teamsters, United Farm Workers, United Food & Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE -- felt the older labor federation put too much emphasis, relatively, on politics.

The new emphasis means in some states, CTW is setting up its own statewide political/organizing operations, while in others its unions' locals signed "Solidarity Charters" with AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils for joint operations.

"In some of these states, the AFL-CIO operation"--the state fed or CLC--"is our operation," Burger stated. She singled out New York, Nevada and California. As for the Solidarity Charters in general, she added: "Wherever locals want to work together they can, and where they don't want to, they won't."

The 10-cent surcharge, which may raise up to $14 million over the two years, will go for education campaigns centered around politics and several issues, notably including health care and the right to organize. "The way we focus on organizing and politics is very different" from the AFL-CIO, Burger added.

The convention resolution approving the assessment, and laying out the federation's overall plan for the next two years, says the money will be used "to build a state-of-the-art coordinated political program to ensure the election of a pro-labor president in 2008 and pro-labor majorities in the Senate and House in order to pass the Employee Free Choice Act."

The bill would help level the playing field between workers and bosses in organizing drives and bargaining for first contracts. It passed the Democratic-run House this year by a bipartisan 241-185 margin, fell victim to a GOP filibuster in the Senate, though it won a majority there, too.

"Passage and signing of EFCA will serve as the focus of all of Change to Win's political work leading into 2009," the resolution said. Besides the political assessment,
the resolution set out other goals for Change to Win for the next two years.

One was "continuing to realign our unions into the same industries" for the same groups of workers and increased emphasis on organizing in its core industries, Burger said. "We adopted a set of strategies around organizing and structure," she added.

Those strategies would lead to new and larger industry-wide organizing drives, Burger and other CTW leaders--including UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor and UFCW President Joe Hansen--said in an earlier interview.

One such organizing drive, already under way, will focus on 90,000 port workers nationwide, most of them in Los Angeles-Long Beach. The Teamsters are leading that, but CTW's Strategic Organizing Center is providing training, coordination of the use of financial clout--such as investment dollars--research and also helping member unions trying to find new organizers. The center will get 75 percent of CTW's $18 million budget, said Burger, whom the group's board elected to a new two-year term in August.

Other strategic industry-wide organizing drives will be in construction and transportation, but have yet to start.

"Change to Win affiliates have dramatically shifted resources in organizing and are restructuring their organizations for growth," the resolution says. Hansen said in the morning session that since the 2004 Southern California grocery workers' lockout-and-strike--which pushed his union to totally reorganize its operations--it has changed to devote most of its budget to organizing.

"We doubled our organizing staff and put tough standards out there" for organizers to meet, Hansen explained. "We raised organizing spending by 28% and we're looking to hire 50 more organizers." But he identified one key area where the Strategic Organizing Center can help its member unions: Finding qualified organizers to run nationwide campaigns, such as those CTW plans.

"We couldn't have big campaigns. We didn't have the capacity," he admitted. So The center helped UFCW's national grocery workers' drive--and that drive led to this year's settlements with the three big grocery chains that forced the 2004 confrontation.

Those settlements, in Southern California, St. Louis and elsewhere, brought excellent contracts, including rollbacks of the 2-tier wage system and health care cuts the grocery chains won in L.A. in 2004. "We didn't have a national strategy then. We have one now, and Safeway, Albertson's and Kroger knew it. They realized that if anything happened in Southern California, it would quickly spread. The results there, in Cincinnati, Texas and St. Louis bear that out," Hansen said.


Medical workers picket UCLA

Workers at the UCLA Medical Center picketed Thursday in an effort to draw attention to contract negations with the University of California regarding wages, benefits and pensions. The contract for the UC’s approximately 11,000 patient care technical employees, who generally perform technical and administrative work in hospitals, expires Sept. 30.

Wages for these employees are 30 to 50 percent lower than those of workers doing comparable jobs at other hospitals, according to a statement released by Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The UC has similar goals to those of the union – such as increasing salaries to “market-competitive” levels, but the university depends on limited funding from the state, said Nicole Savickas, a spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President.

“From a university perspective, we have to consider all employee groups, and our emphasis is increasing salaries in an equitable manner,” Savickas said.

According to Savickas, there have only been six meetings between the UC and the union since bargaining began in August, which has not given the university enough time to reach a compromise.

While the issues being negotiated are numerous, Lakesha Harrison, president of AFSCME Local 3299, said there are several the union considers very important.

These include a $15 minimum wage, an end to increasing health care premiums, a free health care plan and more employee input regarding pension plans.

One of the main causes the union is fighting for is a step pay system, which would directly tie salaries to seniority. According to Harrison, step systems are already common practice in most hospitals.

Harrison said the step system would create fairer compensation for those workers who have been employed by the university for many years.

These employees are currently compensated according to a range system, Savickas said. Workers are paid minimum, medium and maximum wages depending on several factors, including location, job title, department, duties and flexibility, she said.

Ludwin G. Paredes, a secretary and nurse assistant at the UCLA Medical Center who attended the demonstration, said he and other workers want the respect from the university that a larger salary and greater benefits would demonstrate.

Pilar Burgess, a unit support associate who has been working for the UC for 20 years also present at the protest, agreed that workers need more support from the university.

She is most personally affected by health care benefits, including increasing copays, she said.

“I really want this management to think about what they do to us because this is going to hurt our families, ourselves and our coworkers.”


SEIU noisemakers irritate City of Brotherly Love

The protesters you may have seen marching down 15th Street yesterday dressed entirely in purple -- the color of the Minnesota Vikings! -- were from the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ. Ha ha, BJ.

The protest yesterday was for, uhm, fair wages. Seems like a good thing to protest for. The union's contract with building owners and cleaning companies expires Oct. 16 and a strike will be authorized "if necessary."

Still, I'm a little disgusted at SEIU's underhanded, immoral tactics. Some of the union workers yesterday (like the ones in the photo) had Thunderstix, the ridiculously annoying noisemakers sometimes given out at baseball games and other various sporting events.

Those things should be illegal. They're pretty much the most irritating things on the planet, and if the union wants to keep using them, then the public needs to turn on them. Drop the Thunderstix, get fair wages. Deal?


Mass. Governor signs no-vote, anti-democratic union authorization law

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