Striking Kentucky Teamsters decertify their union

Workers who have been striking TS Trucking in Bowling Green, KY since last May have voted to leave the union representing them in the strike.

A TS Trucking Company spokesman says employees voted Dec. 14. The National Labor Relations Board tallied the votes in Bowling Green on Dec. 28. The workers voted 61-to-23 to no longer be represented by Teamsters Local Union 89.

The workers had been on strike against TS trucking since May 17, seeking better benefits and better wages.


Workers need defense v. Teamster organizers

A Dorchester (MA) man was arrested for allegedly carrying a knife for protection yesterday at the tense standoff at a Somerville garbage disposal company, where only the day before 10 Teamsters were arrested for scuffling with area riot police.

Somerville police said things were much calmer yesterday at F.W. Russell & Sons on McGrath Highway, as Teamsters union leaders and police negotiated how to “keep the peace” in the wake of a major fracas early Thursday morning.

Members of Teamsters Local 25, which is trying to unionize the 120 Russell employees, allegedly padlocked the company’s main gate Thursday and moved a truck in front to prevent Russell workers from entering or leaving the site.

Teamsters say they were only trying to help workers join their union - while police say that union members threw rocks at police when they tried to shove some members away from Russell’s gate on Thursday.

The tense Thursday showdown led to the arrest of 10 Teamsters on disorderly conduct charges; the 10 were later arraigned and released.

While things may have been calmer yesterday, one employee at Russell was arrested at the site for carrying a 6-inch knive in his hand, said Somerville Police Capt. Paul Upton.

The employee, Michael Lewis, 48, of Dorchester was “passive and not aggressive” but said he felt he needed a knife for protection due to recent incidents at the the site, said Upton. Lewis was charged with violating a Somerville ordinance.

Sean O’Brien, president of Teamsters Local 25, said the confrontation is about “protecting the rights of workers” who labor under “deplorable conditions.”

But the owner of Russell said the union is using “nasty” tactics to force reluctant employees to join the Teamsters.


Teamster organizers provoked riot police

Ten members of the Teamsters Local 25, who are trying to unionize the FW Russell Disposal Company, were arrested yesterday after a clash with police in Somerville, MA. The Teamsters were picketing the company and had padlocked the gate.

Police were summoned, but what is striking is how many police were summoned. The Somerville Journal notes: "Somerville Police were backed up by Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (a regional force from other cities) which includes a SWAT Team. Officials from Concord, North Andover, Watertown, Lexington and Woburn staged in the Target parking lot and marched to the site in full riot gear."

Despite the riot gear, Somerville's police captain told the Somerville Journal that "There is no riot. There was no riot. We do not have a riot. We have a labor dispute."

Look at the picture on the Journal's webpage and decide for yourself. Whatever you want to call it, the incident looks like something more than a "dispute." The Somerville News has more pictures, including one of a riot crew heading to the scene and bearing sticks, not to mention on-scene video.

The Somerville News report indicates that both sides of the dispute/riot/whatever escalated the situation: "Witnesses on scene said the union attempted to intimidate everyone in sight, including police and media, with curse-laden threats. A fracas erupted between Teamsters, police and Russell employees. At one point during the confrontation Russell owner Chuck Russell stood in McGrath Highway with a sombrero on and stomped on discarded picket signs." Note to Mr. Russell: If he wanted to fight, he could have done a better job without the accessories.


Firefighters keyed Teamsters riot

At approximately 1 a.m. his morning, members of Teamsters Local 25 established a picket line at F.W. Russell Disposal Company located at 120 McGrath Highway and Broadway Brake at Broadway and Lombardi Way.

Russell Disposal is the contractor providing trash removal services for the city of Somerville, MA.

Protesters bused into the scene padlocked the front gate and parked a trailer in front of it so Russell's employees could not enter and the trucks could not leave.

At approximately 8:15 a.m. Thursday morning, acting Chief Robert Bradley gave the order for police to push back the picketers who had been bused into the site. Somerville Police were backed up by Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (a regional force from other cities) which includes a SWAT Team. Officials from Peabody, Concord, Pepperell, North Andover, Watertown, Bedford, Chelmsford, Lexington and Woburn staged in the Target parking lot and marched to the site in full riot gear.

As police pushed picketers back, a scuffle broke out. Ten picketers were arrested.

"There is no riot. There never was a riot. We do not have a riot. We have a labor dispute," Somerville Police Capt. Upton said this morning.

Police had asked the Fire Department to cut the locks at 120 McGrath Highway, and it was determined fire workers would not perform that action, as it was a labor dispute and not a medical or fire emergency.

One protestor, Steve Sullivan of Local 25, said the action was taken because "The company hired goons to break it up" when some workers tried to unionize. "It was not a good scene."

Local 25 President Sean O'Brien said Russell disposal is a "classic example of exploitation of immigrant workers."

O'Brien, speaking at the Somerville District Courthouse said conditions at F.W. Russell were "despicable" and the turnover is "terrible." Even today, O'Brien said, the owner's taunting of union members while wearing a sombrero was in part to intimidate and make fun of employees who had sought the ability to unionize.

"We're not going away," O'Brien said. He said there would be a march Friday at 1 p.m. on Washington Street.

Acting Chief Robert Bradley, at the scene Thursday afternoon, watched 10 protestors eating pizza while officers patroled. "Hopefully it will stay peaceful like this," he said.

About 25 cops in riot gear walked by the protestors in formation. No violence broke out, but Local 25 members on scene shouted catcalls, calling the police obscene and gratuitous.

The ten arrested picketers were arraigned later on Thursday. Francis Barrett of Hudson, Gerald Godin of Billerica, Kevin Kelleher of Jamaica Plain, Thomas Mari of Woburn, Thomas O’Toole of Walpole, Patrick Palmisano of Peabody, Luis Rodriguez of Woburn, Steven South of Braintree, and Robert Wright of Weymouth, were all charged with disorderly conduct, and released without bail on personal recognizance.

Russell Disposal representatives have not yet made a statement to the Journal.


Union 527 political stench reaches N.H.

John Edwards is enjoying some free advertising from the sort of outside group he has repeatedly criticized on the campaign trail. The Alliance for a New America - a so-called independent organization linked to the Service Employees International Union - has run television and radio advertisements promoting the Democratic presidential candidate in Iowa.

Edwards has said that he has no connection with the group, and he has called for the ads to be taken down. He "is the only candidate in this campaign who has never accepted one dime from any Washington lobbyist or PAC and has been vocal and consistent in repudiating 527 groups and the corrupting influence of money in politics," said Edwards spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield.

But Democratic rival Barack Obama has seized on the group's activities. Referring to the ads in Iowa, Obama said last week that "all of us have to try to practice what we preach," according to the New York Times. Yesterday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sent out a fundraising e-mail citing the Alliance for a New America and alluding to an outside group working on Democrat Hillary Clinton's behalf. "The case has never been clearer - this kind of politics needs to end," the e-mail said.

A New Hampshire subplot to the spat emerged yesterday, after the Times reported that SEIU officials circulated an e-mail message in October discussing their support for Edwards, and also detailed the possible creation of a so-called 527 group. According to the Times, the e-mail message was obtained by a rival campaign.

Among the recipients of that e-mail was Gary Smith, according to a copy of the message posted on the political blog The Page. Because the e-mail was distributed among SEIU officials, it appears that the Gary Smith listed on the message is the same Gary Smith who is president of New Hampshire's local SEIU.

The e-mail was sent Oct. 8, about three weeks before the New Hampshire branch of the SEIU, also known as the State Employees Association, endorsed Edwards.

Rather than serving as a celebratory photo opportunity, the announcement of the SEA's backing prompted some union members to question the endorsement's legitimacy. At the time, two union board members who support Obama told the Monitor that the board voted 7-5 on Oct. 23 to endorse the Illinois senator. But Smith later deemed that vote improper and called for another one, which Edwards won 9-8, the board members said.

Smith was away from Concord yesterday and didn't return a telephone call.

Just because Smith was on the e-mail list doesn't mean that he backed Edwards weeks before the union decided which candidate to endorse, said SEIU Political Organizer Jay Ward. "I can't answer that for him, but I will say that there are people on this e-mail distribution from states that have not endorsed at all," said Ward, who thought that Smith was on the list because he's on the union's international executive board of directors.

"I believe that he'd gotten calls and possibly e-mails from states that had been Obama supporters also at the same time," Ward said.

The e-mail provided the notes from an "SEIU for Edwards" meeting that apparently took place Oct. 8 and was sent by David Rolf, the president of a Washington local of the SEIU. The message details plans to "spend this week moving the maximum number of states into a pro-Edwards position," and names New Hampshire as one of about 20 state "targets for an early round of endorsements."

The message goes on to say that SEIU officials planned to "discuss with the Edwards campaign what specific sort of support they'd like to see from us, given our new state-based strategy."

Later, the e-mail discusses hiring "a full-time staff person to coordinate our efforts and plan the campaign" and says that "there was general agreement that the campaign will likely involve fundraising, field work in early states, media in early states, and require full time staffing and a serious 527 legal structure for any communication beyond our membership."

Candidates are not allowed to "coordinate" with 527 groups. There are no restrictions on the amount of money those groups can raise and spend, although 527s cannot overtly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate.

In this campaign, "I suspect that where we will see (527s) pushing the boundaries and we will see them running ads that are less blatant candidate attack ads, and instead heightening the issues," said Paul Ryan, an attorney at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center.

Bedingfield, the Edwards spokeswoman, said that there was no coordination between the campaign and SEIU officials about the 527 group.

The e-mail "has nothing to do with the Edwards campaign," Bedingfield wrote in an e-mail. "Apparently . . . SEIU officials were having two separate conversations - one with the Edwards campaign to discuss perfectly legal member-to-member activities and another one internally about their own independent activities - to try to link the two conversations together is false and misleading.

"As soon as SEIU officials informed us, later on, that some of their staff would no longer able to communicate with us about the campaign, we immediately stopped all conversation with them, as we legally had to," Bedingfield added. "We found out the existence of this outside group the same way everyone else in the public did, and we stand by our position that 527s should not be involved in the political process."

Ward said he hadn't seen the SEIU e-mail before he was contacted by a reporter yesterday. As for the SEIU-affiliated 527, "the reason why I hadn't seen any of this is because we had nothing to do with them," he said.

The group - which is run by Nick Baldick, who managed Edwards's 2004 campaign - has spent more than $750,000 to reserve television ads in the run-up to Iowa's presidential caucuses, according to national news reports. An ad that began airing this week promotes Edwards's positions on, among other issues, trade deals and banning campaign money from lobbyists. Alliance for a New America - which, according to the Times, was established by an SEIU local - also paid for radio ads. The group hasn't run ads in New Hampshire, but it has distributed mailers.

"I don't think there's a legal issue here," said Wayne Lesperance, associate professor of political science at New England College. "There's a political issue, though. He has railed against these kinds of activities and organizations."

Shortly before the SEIU e-mail was distributed, Edwards announced he would accept public financing for his primary campaign, a decision that subjected him to spending limits. Edwards described the decision as one of principle, not financial need: "Washington is awash with money," he said at the time, adding that "the system is corrupt," according to news reports.

Obama, meanwhile, has questioned Edwards's commitment to getting the 527 ads off the air. "My attitude is that if you can't get your former campaign manager and political director do what you'd like, then it's going to be hard to get the insurance companies and drug companies to do what you want," Obama said in Iowa, according to the Washington Post.

As the presidential nominating contests near, outside groups are playing an increasingly large role in the campaign. Obama backers formed a group called Vote Hope 2008 to support Obama's candidacy by getting out the vote. At the time, an Obama spokesman said that Obama disapproved of the group, according to the Times.

And the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees recently endorsed Clinton and has since advocated her candidacy. In New Hampshire, AFSCME has paid for a mailer attacking Obama's health care plan as a "band-aid solution." Unlike Edwards and Clinton, Obama wouldn't mandate that individuals obtain insurance. The mailer doesn't mention Clinton and quotes Edwards commenting on Obama's plan.

"The difference is that Hillary hasn't really been very vocal on the 527s," Lesperance said. "I don't think she suffers the same level of criticism."


SEIU flaunts campaign-finance laws deliberately

Advocates of stricter campaign finance laws are raising alarms about the legal status of a labor-backed group that is blanketing Iowa with mail and advertisements supporting the Democratic primary campaign of former Senator John Edwards.

The group, Alliance for a New America, is supported by locals of the Service Employees International union that support Senator Edwards. One of his opponents, Senator Barack Obama, has derided Mr. Edwards for benefiting from the group’s advertisements even though he has often criticized such independent organizations— known as 527 groups, after a provision of the tax code— for circumventing the limits of campaign finance laws. Actively coordination of advertising expenditures by a campaign and an outside group would be a violation of campaign finance laws.

The Edwards campaign has said it has only limited knowledge of the union officials’ plans. The campaign has acknowledged talking to union officials about coordinating their endorsements and other permissible forms of support. But a spokesman for the campaign said the union cut off its communications with certain staff, who later turned out to be organizing the 527 advertising group.

Now two campaign-finance advocacy groups — Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center — argue that the Alliance for a New America may be violating other campaign finance rules. An Oct. 8 e-mail message circulated between union officials that was leaked through a rival campaign and published online by The New York Time suggests that the union officials planned to create a group like the Alliance for a New America explicitly to advocate the Mr. Edwards election.

(The group’s direct mail and television and radio commercials indeed strongly support Edwards, and its main staff worked for Mr. Edwards’s 2004 Democratic primary campaign.)

Such advocacy of a candidate’s election could mean that the group falls under the restrictions governing so-called federal political committee rather than the looser rules applies to 527 groups; as a political committee, it could not accept contributions of union dues or other unlimited donations as it has. The Federal Election Commission fined several groups for violating the rules in similar ways in 2004.

“The SEIU memo raises serious questions about whether this 527 group is engaging in illegal activities,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of Democracy 21, including “whether this 527 group has failed to properly register as a federal political committee and to comply with the contribution limits and prohibitions that apply to the funds such a political committee can receive.”

Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, said, “They may simply another in long line of 527 groups that simply ignore campaign finance law, and it may be doing so with a plan to pay a fine to the FEC.”

Officials of the group did not return calls or could not be reached.

Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the Edwards campaign, said, “The email put forth by a rival campaign is an internal SEIU email about internal SEIU discussions and has nothing to do with the Edwards campaign.”

“Apparently, based on the email we received from a reporter, SEIU officials were having two separate conversations – one with the Edwards campaign to discuss perfectly legal member-to-member activities and another one internally about their own independent activities – to try and link the two conversations together is false and misleading,” he said. “As soon as SEIU officials informed us, later on, that some of their staff would no longer able to communicate with us about the campaign, we immediately stopped all conversation with them, as we legally had to. We found out the existence of this outside group the same way everyone else in the public did and we stand by our position that 527’s should not be involved in the political process.”


Carpenters Union 527 coordinates ads, too

An investment fund for philanthropist Rachel Mellon contributed $495,000 to a labor-backed group that is running ads in Iowa in support of Democrat John Edwards' presidential campaign.

A Federal Election Commission filing by the Alliance for a New America reported the donation from Oak Spring Farms LLC, the corporate entity that holds Mellon's fortune. Mellon is the 97-year-old widow of philanthropist Paul Mellon, the son of industrialist Andrew Mellon.

Rachel Mellon contributed the maximum $4,600 allowed to Edwards' campaign earlier this year.

Alexander Forger, a lawyer listed in New York city property records as holding power of attorney for Mellon, lists himself in FEC records as director of Oak Springs Farm LLC. He also has contributed the maximum $4,600 allowed to Edwards' campaign.

Oak Spring Farm LLC contributed $250,000 last year to a nonprofit political group that Edwards set up called One America.

Forger did not immediately respond to e-mail and telephone messages.

Both One America and the Alliance for a New America are "527" corporations, nonprofit groups that can carry out some political activity but have come under scrutiny by the FEC for their advertising during past presidential campaigns. They derive their name, "527," from the section of the IRS code that authorizes them.

The Alliance for a New America is a newly created organization headed by former Edwards adviser Nick Baldick. It has received most of its support from labor groups, many of them locals belonging to the Service Employees International Union. The alliance is spending about $600,000 on radio ads and about $750,000 on television ads in Iowa supporting Edwards.

Edwards is also getting support from another 527 group, Working for Working Americans, that is financed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and is running television ads supporting Edwards in Iowa.

Such groups are not allowed to coordinate their efforts with a political campaign. Edwards aides have said there has been no such coordination, and Edwards himself has called on the 527 to stop its activities. But in an interview on Radio Iowa Thursday, Edwards also said he was proud of the support from the SEIU, carpenters and steel workers unions that are backing him.

"There are some things that when a union supports you can work with them on and some things that you can't, and we have been absolutely in complete compliance with the law, both the letter and the spirit of the law," he said.

Dave Regan, president of SEIU District 1199, one of the groups financing the Alliance for a New America, said:

"We are pleased to help support this organization and have allies who believe that issues like universal health care, the well-being of the middle-class and a strong economy warrant a positive discussion."


Writers Guild authorities prep Disciplinary Committee

Television's late-night talk-show hosts are set to return to the airwaves next week, but their jokes will pretty much have to write themselves.

After sitting out the first two months of the Hollywood writers' strike, the hosts have agreed, under pressure from their network bosses, to go back to work. But members of the Writers Guild of America -- including the folks who supply the hosts with most of their laugh lines -- are still out on picket lines this week, and no new rounds of negotiations are scheduled.

As a result, the shows are likely to look very different from what viewers are accustomed to. The guild's strike rules are extremely broad and vague, prohibiting the late-night talk-show hosts, most of whom are guild members, from doing anything that constitutes "writing services." That means the hosts are technically forbidden from writing and performing the traditional opening monologue, plotting out sketches in advance, or creating fictional characters that would perform on the shows.

Producers of the late-night shows are hoping to fill that void with more and longer celebrity interviews. But those are proving hard to book, especially for the first night that the shows return to air, according to celebrity publicists and people who work on the shows. Many of the most prominent actors are reluctant to be the first to cross the picket lines to appear on late-night TV.

Meanwhile, producers are also struggling to plot out the rest of the hour-long shows while hewing to the guild's rules. Because of the ambiguity of the rules, the guild is encouraging late-night producers to be in frequent contact with guild authorities to vet potentially rule-breaking bits, says Chris Albers, a monologue writer for "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" who is out on strike and a former president of the guild.

Mr. Albers says the guild likely would permit a more free-flowing monologue, in the style of Jack Paar, who hosted a version of "The Tonight Show" from 1957 to 1962 and opened the show each night with a more personal approach than the current crop of hosts use.

He also says that audience participation would probably make the cut. But he says anything traditionally written by writers -- David Letterman's "Top Ten List," for example -- and anything based on ideas developed by writers before they went on strike are unacceptable.

Because of the gray areas in the strike rules, it is entirely possible that there will be violations. In that case, the guild would bring the case before the Writers Guild Disciplinary Committee, says Sherry Goldman, a spokeswoman for the guild.

Mr. Albers says he has been in frequent contact with producers and writers of the East Coast late-night shows. None has figured out exactly how they will fill their first hours back on the air, he says.

The shows plan largely to rely on extemporaneous speeches from the hosts and extra banter between the hosts and the band directors (about the strike itself, among other topics), according to people who work on the shows. Since much of the "writing" on these shows consists of generating ideas for skits and segments, which are loosely scripted and then partially improvised on air, producers say it is unclear how much forethought is technically permissible.

Other ideas being batted around by producers that they believe don't violate strike rules include man-on-the street and audience interviews; clips from YouTube and other video Web sites; and footage of political candidates, particularly the Democrats, many of whom have declined to cross picket lines in support of the guild.

In all, seven shows will be returning to the air in the next two weeks: CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"; NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien"; ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live"; and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," which stars Stephen Colbert.

Mr. Letterman's independent production company Worldwide Pants Inc., which wholly owns both CBS talk shows is in discussions with the Writers Guild of America to reach an interim agreement that would allow the shows to return with their writers. Mr. Letterman has signaled that either way, the shows will be returning on Jan. 2.

Much is riding on the outcome of the negotiations between Worldwide Pants and the guild. If the two sides are able to reach a settlement, Messrs. Letterman and Ferguson would have a tremendous advantage over the other hosts, both in being able to draw on their writers but also because they would effectively become the only late-night outlets available to celebrities eager to talk up their coming projects without having to cross picket lines.

Being writer-less is expected to put a particularly heavy burden on the "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." These shows, which return on Jan. 7, have a greater dependence on scripted material. The shows, which also are more focused on politics than their broadcast-network counterparts, have some prepared material on the election in the can. That would likely be supplemented by unscripted grist from Messrs. Stewart and Colbert. "The Daily Show" may also be able to rely on help from some of its correspondents, most of whom aren't in the guild.

A number of prominent actors with major movies arriving in theaters this winter have pledged their support to the writers and said they refuse to appear on the talk shows. The Screen Actors Guild has its own negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the body that represents the networks and studios, coming up this spring, and many of their interests align with those of writers.

Late-show producers have spent the past two weeks scrambling to book guests, including reaching out to musical acts, nonunion celebrities and B- and C-list actors, according to people who work on the shows. So far only one show has announced guests for its first night back on air: If he returns Jan. 2, Mr. Letterman will host Donald Trump.

"We've been on the phone with publicists for the last six weeks," Debbie Vickers, executive producer of the "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," said in a conference call with reporters last week. "I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but we'll be able to do the shows."

The hosts are returning under pressure from their network bosses and out of loyalty to their nonwriting staffs, whom the hosts themselves have been paying out-of-pocket since the start of the strike. While the return of the shows will ease a major anxiety of the media companies -- how to promote their coming films -- the hosts have vowed to use their prominent platforms to advocate for the guild.

There are growing divisions within the writers' guild over how to respond to the return of the late shows, with some prominent members arguing the guild shouldn't strike an independent deal with Worldwide Pants, or that the guild should only agree to a binding contract, not an interim deal. These hard-liners are pushing to picket the shows when they return next week and are encouraging celebrities to refuse to appear as guests, said two active guild members.

The hosts have had limited contact with their writing staffs since the start of the strike. As networks prepared to announce their return last week, each host took some pains to reach out to his head writers to explain those decisions, according to writers on each of the shows. Two talk shows returned to air earlier in the strike, NBC's "Last Call With Carson Daly" and the syndicated daytime talk show "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Both drew strong protests from the guild.

In 1988, the last time the Writers Guild of America went on strike, Johnny Carson was in much the same position that Mr. Letterman is now. Mr. Carson tried to negotiate a separate agreement with the guild, and when the guild refused, he returned without his writers at the beginning of May, performing monologues and largely keeping to the conventions of his broadcast. Within the month, the guild agreed to an independent deal with Mr. Carson's production company, Carson Tonight Inc., and Mr. Carson's writers returned to work.


Union infiltrates labor-state GOP

How influential is the Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 on the Republican Party? Republican voters in the primary election should be aware. Outgoing Republican Chairman Bill LeFew appointed several union members as precinct committeemen in Nunda Township (IL), who promptly ousted the township chairman. LeFew appointed a Union 150 member to the treasurer’s executive board. The appointee wasn’t even an elected precinct committeeman. That individual is a key player in Dan Regna’s campaign.

The Operating Engineers Union contributed to Democrats over Republicans at a rate of three to one. Unions are important and integral parts of American business and labor. Politically, however, Republican voters should be cautious of Republican Party members and candidates that align themselves with organizations that lean heavily democratic.

- Jan Baker, Algonquin


Machinists strike drags on into week 8

Union workers and Philadelphia Mixing Solutions have not reached an agreement on a new contract — yet.

Members of Local 2367 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union began picketing the company in North Londonderry Township seven weeks ago. The previous eight-year contract expired Nov. 4.

The two sides met for three hours with a mediator on Wednesday, union business manager Tom Santone said. “There has been no progress,” he said after the meeting. “The language they have put on the table we’ll just never agree to. We wouldn’t be able to protect our workers.”

Justin Hocker, vice president of operations for Philadelphia Mixing Solutions, disagreed with Santone, saying the company had provided a fourth revision to its proposals. He added that the company has accepted several of the union’s most recent counter-proposals.

“The company’s current proposal provides for over five weeks of paid vacation per year, 10 paid holidays, an average wage of $22 per hour, all of which the union continues to decline as they continue to strike,” Hocker said.

He said the company remains “extremely flexible” and is willing to meet with the union as often as necessary.

Another meeting is tentatively scheduled for next week, he said.

Fourteen workers continued to picket in front of the company along Route 422 yesterday.

The union proposed a three-year contract to counter the company’s one-year proposal. The company wants one benefits package for all of its employees.

The company makes mixing and aerating machines for chemical processing, water and wastewater treatment, mining, process technology and other industrial mixing applications.


Writers peddle outdated union strike script

This is how strikes play out in the movies: Concerned only with profits, selfish owners send their poor, downtrodden workers into unsafe mines, factories, mills or slaughterhouses until one day a brave employee finally says, "Enough!"

At great financial and personal risk, this individual convinces just about everyone that it's time to show the bosses up for the greedy SOBs they are, and they all walk out.

Management tries to break them, and the strikers do suffer, but their bond is too strong and in a few months the bosses cave, giving labor their much-deserved healthcare, wage increases and yoga classes on Thursdays. OK, maybe not the yoga classes. But the other stuff for sure. Best of all, it all wraps up in about two hours.

In real life Hollywood, strikes are different.

On Nov. 5, the roughly 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America, West, of which I am a member, and Writers Guild of America, East, who represent most TV and film writers, went on strike.

I joined the guild, which represents most television and film writers, in 1994, and have written for Politically Incorrect -- for which I was nominated for an Emmy -- Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen Show, among others. I have also written a number of articles for Human Resource Executive magazine.

There are a number of issues, but the big one is compensation for new media, which currently means the Internet. The producers (the bad guys, in my script) want to put television shows and other entertainment on the Internet and either not pay or pay very little to the writers (the good guys) who wrote and/or created it.

(By the way, if you don't think the Internet is a major source of entertainment, particularly for the much-coveted younger demographic, tell that to your kids via an IM. My guess is the response you'll get will be, "LMAO.")

The reasons a strike wasn't averted are complicated but the results are not.

According to one estimate, the Southern California economy lost more than $135 million by mid-December -- and that was just in sales of Fiji water. But this strike is different from most if, for no other reason, one of the picket sites was designated a "singles" area, for those looking to hook up with someone who was also out of work. And no, I'm not making that up.

There are a number of other differences, too. For one, as a group we're a lot pastier-looking than most strikers and we don't exactly invoke fear in the other side, unless it's fear that they won't get to see how "Grey's Anatomy" turns out.

In addition, at least initially, there wasn't a great deal of hostility; the closest I've seen so far was some guy in a 1980s Honda Civic flipping us off, but my guess is he's not the president of one of the studios.

In fact, except in a few cases -- Ellen DeGeneres and Carson Daly are two examples -- the word "scab" is scarcely used on the picket line. Instead, writers talk about their projects, sports, how boring picketing is, the presidential election, strike rumors and something funny they saw on the Internet.

As the strike drags on, however, there are signs the goodwill between the two sides may be deteriorating.

On the picket lines, there's a feeling that the other side isn't playing fair, having recently broken off negotiations, with no new ones scheduled. Plus, it's getting harder to smile as executives drive on to the lot everyday, a latte in their hands and their Bluetooths flashing, knowing that you're paying your mortgage with your savings.

The strike is affecting their bottom line, but not as immediately as not getting a check for a few months. The studios' recent public relations strategy to portray us all as overpaid isn't exactly endearing either.

The real challenge for both management and the union will be when the strike ends. Everyone will likely be happy, at least at first. But it's just as likely there will be lingering anger on both sides, or at the very least the small talk will be strained. ("So, what's new with you?" "Not much, spent my life savings to stay afloat. How about you?" "Got addicted to prescription pain killers as the stress of wondering if there'd be enough work to keep me employed went on for months.")

Getting past this may take a lot more than a session with Dr. Phil.

Until then, I'll continue to picket -- and like my striking brethren throughout the history of the labor movement, I will leave the house in the morning with these inspirational words from my wife: "Honey. Don't forget to bring sunscreen. It's supposed to be 80 today."


Writers strike past point of diminishing return

Hollywood studios released an online message Friday saying striking writers have now lost more in salary and benefits than they had hoped to gain by walking off the job.

In the message posted on ts Web site and YouTube, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers claimed losses by writers in the eight-week strike have exceeded $151 million.

That's the price tag the Writers Guild of America put on its proposed three-year deal with studios.

"The strike continues because the union's leaders are focused on jurisdictional issues that would expand their own power, at the expense of the new media issues that working writers care most about," the alliance said in a statement.

Compensation for work distributed via the Internet and other digital media has been central to the contract dispute. The guild also has called for unionization of writers working on reality shows and animation.

The guild did not issue an immediate comment when asked for its response on the Web posting.

The strike that began Nov. 5 has also been costly for other industry workers. Production has been shut down on dozens of TV shows, with losses for crew members exceeding $250 million, according to the alliance message.

The alliance Web site features a constantly updated ticker with the studios' estimate of writers' losses. The figure is based on West Coast guild data from 2006, the site said.

Talks broke down Dec. 7 after the union rejected an alliance demand that a half-dozen guild proposals be taken off the table, including jurisdiction over reality and animation writers.

While negotiations with the writers union are at a standstill, studios are preparing to begin contract talks with the Directors Guild of America, perhaps next month.

Digital compensation also is expected to be a key issue for directors.

Whether a deal by directors will affect the writers dispute is unclear. The guilds traditionally have followed a practice of pattern bargaining, with one contract considered a template for others.

But the writers guild has said previously that it wishes the directors well, but noted they "do not represent writers. Our strike will end when the companies return to negotiations and make a fair deal with the WGA."

The directors guild has gone on strike only once, for just five minutes in 1987.


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