UFCW, NLRB sent packing by Fourth Circuit

In another blow to the credibility of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International union, a federal appeals court has overturned a decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and ruled that Smithfield's security personnel did not mistreat employees who worked for a cleaning contractor during a November 2003 protest at its Tar Heel, North Carolina plant. The union has been using the discredited NLRB decision to bolster its claim that Smithfield abused and assaulted employees at the plant.

"These claims were based on false testimony sponsored by the UFCW to make Smithfield look bad," said Dennis Pittman, director of corporate communications at Smithfield Packing Co. "The union knew these claims were false because there was video tape evidence authenticated by a world- renowned expert demonstrating beyond any doubt that the conduct alleged by the union never happened. Yet the union went ahead with the case anyway."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit noted that the agency's failure to consider the video tape evidence as "bordering on the absurd."

The case arises in the context of an ongoing effort by the union to gain support from Smithfield's Tar Heel employees for union representation. Having lost two previous union elections and despite the fact that the government has ordered that another election be held, the union has refused to participate in another election and has instead waged a concerted "corporate campaign" against Smithfield.

"We offered the union the opportunity to come into the plant to meet with our employees, the chance to attend any meetings we held and to have a neutral third party such as the Jimmy Carter Center monitor the election and review any communication before it was sent to the employees," Pittman said. "The union refused despite the fact that 3,000 employees have written letters to the union asking for a vote."

The object of a corporate campaign is to smear a company in the press and in front of customers, consumers and the public in the hope that the public pressure will cause the company to give in to the union's demands or to harm the business to the point that its must give in or go out of business.

"The UFCW has made it clear that they would rather put us and all our employees out of business than to let the employees in Tar Heel vote on whether they want to join the UFCW," Pittman said. "The irony is that since half of our plants already have unions, the UFCW's boycott will hurt the very people they represent."

"This decision knocks another leg out from under the union's baseless claims against Smithfield," he added. "Time after time, the union has filed claims against Smithfield only to have them proven false. With this decision, another one of the union's excuses for resisting a new union vote disappears. All we want is to give our employees the right to vote. We will respect whatever decision they make."


AFSCME pickets U. Cal. for comparable pay

As buses honked in solidarity, union employees marched on Sproul Plaza in Berkeley (CA) yesterday for higher wages as their labor contracts with the university approach the Jan. 31 finalization deadline.

American Federal of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents about 12,000 workers in the five UC hospitals and 9,000 employees across the UC system, held pickets on all 10 campuses, including UC Berkeley.

In two separate demonstrations held on Sproul Plaza and near the Foothill residence hall, about 200 workers total assembled to demand higher wages and lower health care and pension costs.

The university’s policies affect all workers, ranging from hospital technicians to campus groundskeepers, said William Schlitz, AFSCME political and communications director. “I think first and foremost, it is wage equity,” Schlitz said. “We’re doing the same work as other public sector workers, but we’re getting paid less.”

The union will be negotiating two separate contracts with the university, one for patient-care providers and another for service employees.

“Management and the union are really far apart,” said Kathryn Lybarger, AFSCME member and UC Berkeley gardener.

The union is negotiating for an increase in statewide union minimum wage to $15 per hour for non-certified employees and $16 per hour for trained workers, according to the AFSCME Web site.

The university and the union are still negotiating, and no decisions have been finalized yet, said UC spokesperson Nicole Savickas.

“For a number of years, the state has not budgeted what we feel is necessary to pay our employees market-competitive wages,” Savickas said. “It’s going to take continued state funding to bring our employees’ salaries up to what they are supposed to be.”

Celiwe Jones, a protester and a UC Berkeley custodian since 2000, said she believes the administration does not respect worker seniority.

“For the first two years I was here, they had steps. But now you’re stuck,” she said.

While the struggle is specific to UC employees, it impacts the entire community, Schlitz said.

“We really believe that it is immoral for the UC system to become a mechanism to drive wages down in our community instead of doing the public mission to lift the communities up,” he said.


Some unions never get enough

State of Oregon employees represented by various local unions of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees picketed the Department of Administrative Services executive building in Salem on Friday morning.

Union officials said the workers are demonstrating to support of their statewide bargaining team, which is attempting to settle a contract dispute.

Some AFSCME locals representing state agencies had ratified their contracts, but others were still in the ratification process when DAS announced pay increases and bonuses for state managers. Several AFSCME locals rejected the contract once news of the manager increase was announced.

Little was accomplished at a mediation session on Nov. 21, said a union spokesman. Should the two sides not come to an agreement on Saturday, another session is already planned for Dec. 13.


Andy Stern's sincerest form of flattery

I was at the New School last night to listen to SEIU President Andy Stern, who talked about the union's potentially landscape-altering plan to form a PAC to target ... Congressional Democrats.

SEIU's PAC, called They Work For US, is modeled on The Club for Growth -- an anti-tax lobby that keeps Congressional Republicans on a tight leash, Stern told me. The idea of the new PAC from SEIU -- the largest and most politically powerful health care union in America -- would be to go after Democrats who vote against their interests on economic issues.

Some Congressional Democrats -- including New Yorkers Greg Meeks, Joseph Crowley and Ed Towns -- have already sparked the union's ire by voting for free trade agreements and Republican-sponsored bankruptcy bills.

I asked him if his union's focus on Democrats was in conflict with the party's effort to take back the Congress this year.

"I don't want to take back the Congress, I want to elect people that make work pay," he said [full quote]. "Our union was the largest contributor to the Republican Governor's Association and the Democratic Governor's Association in 2004."

You can hear more from Stern here.


Some Iowa Democrats oppose excessive job growth

Today House Republican Leader Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City) called on House Democrats to let Iowans know if they intend to bring up legislation during the 2008 session which would gut Iowa’s right to work law. House Democrats will be caucusing later today.

“It’s time the Democrats start being straight with Iowans, do they intend to continue their attempts to gut Iowa’s right to work law and crush Iowa’s prosperous business climate, or will the work with Republicans to preserve this important law,” asked Rants. “House Republicans caucused last week and as a part of our agenda, all of our members will continue to be on the front lines of protecting Iowans and their liberties.”

On November 2, 2007 on a taping of Iowa Press, Sen. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal indicated that the Senate Democrats are willing to make another attempt at gutting Iowa’s right to work law. Previously, House Democrat Maj. Leader Kevin McCarthy has also seemed willing to revisit the issue. Republicans called for a direct answer from the House Democrats.

“Iowans would just like a simple yes or no answer from House Democrats. Is the Democrats 2008 agenda to force Iowans to pay union dues even if they don’t belong to the union? House Democratic leaders need to stop dancing around the question and be honest with Iowa workers,” said Rants. “Iowans deserve to hear the truth.”

Controversial measures brought up by Democrats during the 2007 Legislative session would require Iowans wages be garnished and given to labor unions even if these employees have chosen not to join the union, effectively stripping them of their freedom of choice or association.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the rate of job growth in right to work states is 65 percent faster than in non-right to work states. Gutting Iowa’s right to work law would prevent new and existing businesses from settling or expanding in Iowa.

Last year, numerous groups lined up to oppose the bill. The list includes the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, the Iowa Hospital Association, the Iowa School Board Association, the Iowa Bankers Association and the Iowa Chamber Alliance.


Long union v. union strike gives labor 'black eye'

It's a Saskatchewan labor dispute that's heavy on the irony — about 60 workers who belong to one union are on the picket line against their employer, which happens to be another union.

On Nov. 6, workers with the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada Local 481 walked off the job and were locked out. They're employed by the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. They've been unable to reach an agreement after more than two years.

After a month on the picket lines, the parties don't seem closer to reaching an agreement.

Earlier this week, CEP national representative Kate McKinley was vowing to step up the pressure on SGEU president Bob Bymoen. "Any place the SGEU sets up offices will be picketed by us from now on," McKinley said in a news release. "We have tried to be understanding and to let Bob Bymoen work in peace, but from now on, as long as he continues to reject all efforts to get back to the bargaining table, we will dog him day and night."

Bymoen told the Leader-Post that CEP's tactics are giving labour a "black eye." Both unions are members of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, the most important labor organization in the province.

SFL president Larry Hubich says it's a bad situation for labour to be in and he's trying to help resolve it. "There's been lots of phone conversations back and forth between me and the parties into the evenings and late at night and early in the morning," he said. "You know it's a delicate situation that requires delicate work."

Earlier this week, a committee with the SFL suggested bringing in a third party to mediate, but that proposal didn't go anywhere.

CEP says it wants to get back to the table, while SGEU says it's waiting to hear from CEP.

In the meantime, Hubich said, he's waiting for either party to offer an alternative to this week's option, in the hopes the dispute can be resolved soon.


Force majeure territory in WGA strike

It was an e-mail that popped into my mailbox a few days ago. It was from a friend of mine, a talent agent. Considering how few non-press-release e-mails I get these days, I pounced on it, especially when I saw the subject -- Re: Strike. "I'm getting bored with it. Can you make it stop?" the e-mail read.

It has been a roller coaster of emotions for everybody in Hollywood this fall. The anxiety in the weeks leading to the writers strike turned into desperation when the eleventh-hour negotiations between the guild and the studios fell through and the walkout began. Then the nervous euphoria of the first days, marked by big rallies and small victories for the strikers like the shutdown of a couple of location shoots, turned into anguish when the work stoppage entered its second week with no talks in sight. That soon was replaced by cautious optimism when the two sides went back to the table. Now, it's mostly boredom, especially on the conglomerates' side.

"I'm as bored as I can be," one studio executive said. Development execs went from a dozen back-to-back meetings a day to a couple at best. Network and studio staffers' days are filled with catching up, reading, screening and office cleaning.

At some places, there also is brainstorming for the future. For example, 20th Century Fox TV employees are being asked to come up with ideas aimed at reinventing the business. ABC Studios is holding seminars to educate employees about other areas of the business. And while the development season is in limbo, some agencies already are working on staffing strategies for whenever the season resumes.

For literary agents and writers, the boredom has been mixed with a great degree of stress and anxiety.

Five weeks into the strike, TV writers are in force majeure territory. Some of them might be losing their overall deals at this moment, but because all pacts have been suspended, they won't know that until after the end of the strike. Talk about a joy kill!

And there is the daily uncertainty about what exactly is going on at the secret talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Every piece of news from first-, second- or fifth-hand sources is devoured; every word in the two sides' carefully crafted end-of-day statements is dissected; everyone is trying to dismiss pessimistic forecasts and focus on the only good news these days: that the two parties are still talking.

All that high anxiety is leading to increased intake of Ambien and Lunesta and probably more frequent visits to psychiatrists. So expect a lot of movie and TV pitches about therapy and depression next year, right after the big screen is hit by the onslaught of bad movies expected as a result of hastily greenlighted projects whose scripts needed more work.

Many of them will have pretty good actors in them, too. With film production gradually grinding to a halt, even small, low-budget indies that normally barely register on most actors' and agents' radars are now able to attract higher-profile thesps.

With all the drumbeat around, I'm still holding out hope that if the studios and the writers sit tight for a few more days, they might be nearing a point of no return.

With the holidays so close, it will be hard for either side to break off talks and take off for their vacation homes. Nobody wants to be the Grinch who stole Christmas for the thousands of crew members who are out of jobs for the holidays and without hope for the future.

Let's not forget -- 'tis the season for miracles. The first night of Hanukkah produced one: The two sides started real talks and began making progress.

Now it's Christmas' turn.

So I took that "Make it stop" e-mail and forwarded it to Santa.


'No-strike' agreement bores striking writers

We're disappointed to report that talks between the AMPTP and WGA have broken down yet again. Quite frankly, we're puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing WGA negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike. Union negotiators in our industry have successfully concluded 306 major agreements with the AMPTP since its inception in 1982. The WGA organizers sitting across the table from us have never concluded even one industry accord.

We believe our New Economic Partnership proposal, which would increase the average working writer's salary to more than $230,000 a year, makes it possible to find common ground. And we have proved over the last five months that we want writers to participate in producers' revenues, including in theatrical and television streaming, as well as other areas of new media. However, under no circumstances will we knowingly participate in the destruction of this business.

While the WGA's organizers can clearly stage rallies, concerts and mock exorcisms, we have serious concerns about whether they're capable of reaching reasonable compromises that are in the best interests of our entire industry. It is now absolutely clear that the WGA's organizers are determined to advance their own political ideologies and personal agendas at the expense of working writers and every other working person who depends on our industry for their livelihoods.

Instead of negotiating, the WGA organizers have made unreasonable demands that are roadblocks to real progress:

-- They demand full control over reality television and animation. In other words, they want us to make membership in their union mandatory to work in this industry - even though thousands of people in reality and animation have already chosen not to join the WGA.

-- They demand restrictions designed to prevent networks from airing any reality programs unless they are produced under terms in keeping with the WGA agreement. This would apply even to producers who are not associated with the Guild. Their proposal artificially limits competition and most likely would not withstand legal challenge.

-- The WGA organizers are demanding the right to ignore their bargained "no strike" provision, allowing them to join in strikes of other labor organizations.

-- Their proposal for Internet compensation could actually cost producers more than they receive in revenues, thereby dooming the Internet media business before it ever gets started.

-- They insist that writers receive a piece of advertising revenue - even though the producers that pay them don't receive any of this revenue in the first place.

-- They want a third party to set an artificial value on transactions, rather that allowing the market to determine the worth of each transaction. This would result in producers having to pay residuals on money that the producers never even received.

These are the terms the WGA organizers demand for ending the strike - money that doesn't exist, restrictions that are legally dubious, and control over people who have refused to join their union.

Besides betraying a fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of new media, such as a streaming proposal that would require us to give them more money than we make ourselves, the WGA organizers are on an ideological mission far removed from the interests of their members.

Their Quixotic pursuit of radical demands led them to begin this strike, and now has caused this breakdown in negotiations. We hope that the WGA will come back to this table with a rational plan that can lead us to a fair and equitable resolution to a strike that is causing so much distress for so many people in our industry and community.

- Statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers


Feisty nurses union knows no borders

Registered nurses at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center in Reno voted Thursday night to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, one of the nation's feistiest and fastest growing labor unions, the Oakland-based CNA said Friday.

The vote was 252 to 141 in a secret ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, according to the CNA, which said it will begin representing 500 nurses at the hospital, part of the San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West hospital system. The union says it now represents more than 10,000 RNs at 26 CHW hospitals.

The CNA/NNOC has grown by more than 350 percent in the past decade, it said, and won elections to represent 24,500 RNs at 72 hospitals since 2001. It now has more than 75,000 members in all 50 states, although only about 65,000 are represented in contract negotiations, according to spokesman Chuck Idelson.

Nevada has become the fourth state, joining California, Illinois, and Maine, where the CNA/NNOC represents RNs in collective bargaining. Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro predicted the Dec. 6 vote "will be the harbinger of more victories to come in the state, where there is a booming interest in CNA/NNOC."


GOP aspirants answer Labor question

The following are the responses of five of the leading Republican presidential candidates to eight questions posed by New Hampshire Business Review. All candidates were given a 150-word-per-answer limit. Responses were edited down to that length if they exceeded it. Three of the other leading candidates – former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- did not participate, despite repeated requests.

Q: What specific changes in federal policy– such as minimum wage or union recognition – would you favor or oppose?

TANCREDO: I don’t believe in the minimum wage and cannot unilaterally change it as president. The government does not have any right to determine what is appropriate for employers to pay their employees. Concerning unions, people should be free to choose whether or not they want to participate in a union.

PAUL: I oppose federal regulation of small businesses. I have always voted against raising the minimum wage, and I oppose union-boss power grabs such as the “card check” bill. As president, I would stop federal agencies like OSHA from imposing costly regulations on small businesses and trampling on the due process rights of business owners. I support repealing federal laws that force workers to join or pay dues to a union.

MCCAIN: Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has repeatedly made the point that the difference between the United States and other, less successful, nations is the flexibility of our economy. In many cases, unions are at odds with that needed flexibility.

Now, one might argue that they have virtues that balance the rigidity they impose on our businesses and industries. In practice, union leadership often forgets that their mission is to improve the lives of the rank and file. Instead, such union leadership is transformed into another special interest sinecure.

My home state is a right-to-work state, and it has proven beneficial for Arizona. I have fought for years for the protection of the fundamental right to work and of common-sense labor standards, by seeking a national right to work policy, opposing closed-shop mandatory union hiring, and fighting laws that require employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

HUNTER: Labor unions have made significant contributions in the areas of worker and consumer safety as well as fair compensation for American workers. Their contributions should not be overlooked. However, with the exception of public safety employees, who by the nature of their job cannot strike, I do not believe that membership in a union should be compulsory.

While unions still have a role in today’s workplace, underhanded tactics that take away a person’s right of free association cannot be tolerated. Entering a union should be a choice, not a mandate. Further, dues paid by a union member should not be used in political contributions without the knowledge and permission of that specific union member. Mandated dues should focus on providing core union services, not on political campaigns that are often divisive.

ROMNEY: I believe that hard-working Americans have the right to choose whether to join a union and should not be required to pay union dues if they do not join. No American should feel compelled or be required to join a union as a prerequisite of employment.

Furthermore, the resources of the federal government should not be used to solicit or collect dues for politicized organizations. Therefore, as president, I will work to overturn existing federal policy that permits automatic paycheck deduction for federal employees’ union dues. I also support protecting workers’ right to have the protection of a secret ballot when voting on the decision to unionize.


AFSCME pickets U. Cal. Berkeley

Related Posts with Thumbnails