Unions issue lowball estimate, expect big return

A group of labor unions and activist organizations said they will spend more than $400 million to help elect Democratic candidates to the White House and Congress this fall. The separate efforts will focus on identifying and registering Democratic voters and getting them to the polls. The AFL-CIO and other large national labor unions will spend a total of about $300 million, according to the organizations, which announced their plans yesterday.

The liberal group MoveOn.org said it would spend $30 million, and several smaller organizations said they would spend tens of millions of dollars registering minority, low-income and younger voters, who tend to vote disproportionately for Democratic candidates.

Dozens of other organizations and their subsidiaries plan to spend at least an additional $100 million combined. Those groups include abortion-rights organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily's List and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as well as environmental-protection advocates such as the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the League of Conservation Voters.

Spending on elections by outside political organizations is on the rise. In all, groups on both sides of the aisle are expected to spend more than $1 billion to influence the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis performed earlier this year. That is more money than ever.

Overall, the 2008 presidential and congressional campaigns could cost more than $6 billion. Most of the spending in the election will come from the candidates themselves and the national political parties.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain has raised far less money than either of his two potential Democratic rivals, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. But the Republican National Committee is expected to spend millions of dollars on Sen. McCain's behalf, as will several outside groups that support Republican candidates.

Exact figures for spending by outside groups are impossible to determine because much of the spending doesn't have to be disclosed. Certain nonprofit groups, for example, don't have to disclose spending on activities that aren't considered partisan. Labor unions are required to disclose only a portion of the money spent on elections.

With a $54 million budget, the AFL-CIO is likely to spend more than any organization outside the presidential campaigns and the political parties. The AFL-CIO spent $49 million on the 2004 election. Other labor unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO will spend an additional $150 million.

A separate set of labor unions not affiliated with the AFL-CIO plans to spend $100 million to promote Democratic candidates. Those unions, called "Change to Win," include the Service Employees International Union and several unions that left the AFL-CIO umbrella of labor unions a few years ago.

Ilyse Hogue, the communications director for MoveOn.org, said it hopes to help Democrats reach 60 seats in the Senate, giving them enough power to prevent Republicans from launching filibusters against legislation.

There are 49 Democrats in the Senate, plus two independent senators who tend to vote with Democrats. Democrats need to win eight more seats in the November elections. Seats held by Sens. Obama and Clinton aren't considered vulnerable to Republican takeover if either is elected president and has to leave the Senate.


Upshaw expects NFL players to decertify

A little over two years ago, the NFL tiptoed to the precipice of labor strife for the first time in two decades, then backed away when commissioner Paul Tagliabue persuaded the league's 32 owners to avoid a confrontation with the players' union and approve a settlement that included a higher-than-ever salary cap and bolstered revenue-sharing among teams.

The act was the last of significance for Tagliabue, who retired. But even on the March 2006 day when the owners voted, 30 to 2, to approve the labor settlement, it was clear that not all of the problems in that unusually combative set of negotiations had been solved. The owners had chosen labor peace but really hadn't resolved differences -- among themselves or with the union.

Now the issues are about to be revisited.

The labor settlement extended the collective bargaining agreement with players through the 2012 season; it kept the salary cap system in place through the 2011 season. But it also contained a reopener clause that enables either side to terminate the deal early. The first of the two early termination deadlines is Nov. 8, and Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he expects the owners to notify the union by then that they're ending the labor deal early. Such notification would make the 2009 season the final one in the deal with a salary cap and would leave the agreement expiring after the 2010 season. It could set the stage for a labor showdown and even a possible work stoppage in 2011.

"I think they're more dug in than they were the last time," Upshaw said of the owners in a telephone interview last week. "They've basically said they want changes and they're going to do the early opener. There's no doubt in my mind that's where this is headed. We haven't had any formal discussions about their position, but what I've gathered is they don't like the deal."

Upshaw is right about the owners' dissatisfaction with the deal, which guarantees players 60 percent of an expanded pool of revenue known as "total football revenues" under the salary cap.

"It's too expensive for the clubs," the owner of one NFL team said this week, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he didn't want to be seen as provoking a fight with the union. "It's a bad deal. A lot of people realize that now."

When the owners gather in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 30 for the annual league meetings, the main focus is likely to be another issue: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's proposed crackdown on cheating in the aftermath of the videotaping scandal involving the New England Patriots. But the labor issues almost certainly will be discussed, and they will take on increasing significance and urgency as the November deadline nears. Upshaw said he expects to receive official notification from owners after their regularly scheduled meeting in the fall.

Upshaw said he believes that the owners, if they reopen the labor deal, will give strong consideration to a lockout of the players in 2011.

"It's obvious that's what they'll try to do," Upshaw said. "If we were the ones saying we're going to terminate early, we'd have to consider a strike. [But] it's not us. We have no intention of terminating."

But before the players would allow themselves to be locked out, Upshaw said, they likely would decertify the union -- a legal maneuver that, in the view of union officials, would prevent a lockout because it could expose the owners to an antitrust lawsuit by the players.

"There's no secret there," Upshaw said, then added of the overall labor situation: "All of this is a little premature. All it does is tee things up for what's coming. November is not really a deadline. The deadline really is once we get to an uncapped year. There are two things I can't sell to the players: I can't sell to the players that they should take less [money] so the owners can make more, and I can't sell going back to a salary cap once there isn't one."

Under voting rules established by the owners in the 2006 labor settlement, it would take a three-quarters vote of the teams to keep the collective bargaining agreement going beyond the Nov. 8 reopener deadline. That makes it far easier for owners to reopen the deal than if they'd required a three-quarters vote to exercise the reopener clause.

The 2006 settlement included a revenue-sharing deal designed to transfer $895 million from high-revenue franchises to low-revenue teams over six years. Several owners of lower-revenue clubs said then that the additional funds wouldn't be enough to offset increased operating costs caused by the heftier salary cap, which has a player payroll minimum for each team as well as a maximum. The Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson and the Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown were the only owners to vote against the 2006 settlement, but some owners say opposition to the deal has grown.

Upshaw said players won't agree to a reduction in the salary cap and owners can't justify claims of hardship in an industry in which annual revenue, he said, soon will approach $9 billion.

"They know exactly what they agreed to," Upshaw said. "They just don't want to pay the players what they agreed to pay them. They want the players to give back so they can make more, and that's a non-starter. I can't sell that to the players. What we're talking about is an industry that's doing well and that's going to continue to do well. . . . Anyone who looks at the numbers knows they [the owners] can't make the case this deal isn't working."


Labor-state bans privatization

Governor Carcieri has asked the state’s highest court to strike down a law passed last year that he says threatens to paralyze Rhode Island government by blocking his ability to use private companies to conduct state business. The governor’s office hand-delivered a letter to the state Supreme Court yesterday seeking an advisory opinion over whether the labor-backed “anti-privatization bill” — as it is called by critics — is constitutional. The court has tentatively scheduled a March 27 conference with Carcieri to review the request.

The question has serious implications for state workers and taxpayers.

The Republican governor included sweeping plans in his 2008-09 state budget to replace unionized janitors, food workers, prison counselors and dental workers with nonunion contractors who would presumably earn reduced salaries and benefits.

Altogether, the governor’s spending plan would replace 243 state workers with private employees, saving an estimated $3.1 million. Rhode Island is facing a deficit of at least $384 million in the coming year, the second-largest state deficit per capita in the nation, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Carcieri has consistently argued that he needs every available tool to close the massive budget gap.

The law “makes it virtually impossible to privatize any governmental services or renew contracts of existing services being rendered by private vendors,” Carcieri wrote in a letter to Chief Justice Frank J. Williams. “I believe this enacted legislation impermissibly interferes with the official duties and function of the executive branch, which includes fundamentally the administration of appropriations and faithful execution of all laws requiring executive implementation from the legislative branch.”

The law requires state departments to conduct detailed cost comparisons before awarding contracts to private firms. It also requires that “the savings to the state is substantial,” but does not define “substantial” savings. And the law gives “affected parties” — program recipients, state employees or unions — 60 days to appeal any privatization decision to a Superior Court judge.

The Democrat-dominated General Assembly has defended the law as an essential safeguard for ensuring savings.

“If the governor could prove by going through this process that he could save money, I would be standing next to him to support that,” said Rep. Charlene Lima, D-Cranston, who had introduced the legislation for 13 consecutive years before it was approved close to midnight in the final days of the previous legislative session. “I just find it incredulous that the governor, in light of the great fiscal crisis we’re facing, would be asking the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of a bill that would provide transparency and ensure that there’s a taxpayers’ savings.”

Carcieri’s move yesterday drew criticism from labor unions, which had been in closed-door “discussions” with the governor’s office in recent months to negotiate concessions the governor needs to help balance a current-year $151-million deficit. One of the issues on the table was the privatization statute, according to George Nee, secretary-treasurer for the AFL-CIO.

“We’re a little disappointed that in light of the fact that we’ve been having discussions with the governor’s office and that was clearly one of the issues that was part of the discussions, that we feel that we got a little bit sandbagged,” Nee said. “We didn’t even get a heads up that that was in the works or being contemplated.”

The negotiations also included the largest state employees union, Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

“To be honest with you, I thought we were pretty close” to a resolution, said Council 94 executive director Dennis Grilli, declining to detail the concessions. “Now this throws a wrench in the process.”

The governor’s office said that Carcieri’s request was driven largely by timing. The question must be decided before the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1.

“Given the Supreme Court’s schedule and the likelihood that the legislature will act on the budget in June, we could not wait any longer to request this advisory opinion,” the governor’s spokesman Jeff Neal said. “Ultimately, the Supreme Court justices — not the state employee unions — are the final arbiters of what is and what is not unconstitutional.”

It’s unclear how much the legal battle will cost state taxpayers.

House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox said he believes the Assembly would prevail if the Supreme Court agrees to review the case.

“The General Assembly enacted appropriate fiscal oversight legislation prompted by concerns regarding some of the administration’s previous contracting practices,” he said. “I am confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the legislation.”

But there’s no guarantee the high court will agree to hear the case.

“The alternative to an advisory opinion is a lawsuit in Superior Court and appeal to this court,” Carcieri wrote to Williams, “which would not only needlessly delay resolution of this serious constitutional question, but would also bring about a disruption in vital state services that are currently being provided by private vendors.”

Since its June passage, the law has been tested just once.

The state Department of Transportation investigated privatizing its real estate and materials divisions last summer. After spending three months investigating the use of a private firm, the department concluded privatization in those cases “was not beneficial to the state,” according to an analysis by the Senate fiscal staff.


AFL-CIO comes up short in labor-state

Gov. Deval Patrick conceded Tuesday his plan to build three resort-style casinos in Massachusetts is heading for likely defeat in the Legislature, blaming "undue pressure from House leadership." But Patrick, in his second year as governor, indicated he isn't giving up on the idea, saying he's still looking for ways to make the bill stronger.

"I have no illusions about the plans in the House for this legislation," he said Tuesday at a packed legislative hearing. "I'm simply asking that an open debate begin, rather than end, today."

The hearing could determine the fate of Patrick's bill for the current legislative session. Patrick says casinos would generate new jobs and revenue. Critics warn the proposal exaggerates the economic benefits and would bring increased crime and even worsen the foreclosure crisis if gambling addicts spend their mortgage payments on slot machines.

If the committee releases the bill with a recommendation that lawmakers reject it, it could come up for a vote as early as Thursday. House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi has pressed lawmakers to kill the bill, saying casinos would "absolutely cause human damage on a grand scale."

Patrick has said the casinos would create tens of thousands of construction jobs and 20,000 full-time permanent jobs and bring in $200 million in fees per license plus an estimated $400 million a year in new revenues.

"Casinos in Massachusetts will be neither a cure-all for all of our fiscal needs nor an end of civilization as we know it," he said to an overflowing crowd of mostly casino supporters in Gardner Auditorium.

Earlier in the day, DiMasi told a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast he could not support the governor's plan because it would ultimately harm residents.

"We will absolutely and no question have increased bankruptcies, foreclosures, divorce, broken families, increased property crimes, domestic violence and on and on and on," DiMasi said. "The cost of cleaning up the human devastation brought by casino gambling is too great."

DiMasi said he has seen strong public opposition to Patrick's plan, but those voices have not been heard as prominently as advocates.

"After six months of debate on this bill, I believe the evidence is not there, the case has not been made and time is running out," DiMasi said. "Right now, my answer is no."

A long list of supporters and opponents signed up with Joint Committee on Economic Development to testify during the public hearing, which began at 10 a.m. and stretched into the afternoon. They included clergy members, environmentalists, online poker players and dozens of union backers.

Committee co-chairman Rep. Daniel Bosley, one of the fiercest critics of casino gambling, warned that allowing three casinos could open up a Pandora's Box of trouble.

He pointed to the state Lottery -- which began with a single daily number and grew into dozens of scratch tickets, Megabucks, Mega Millions and Keno -- and said the state could quickly become just as addicted to casino money.

"The Lottery should be a cautionary tale," said the North Adams Democrat. "We love the revenues, but we hate how we get them."

Bosley's Senate co-chair, Sen. Jack Hart, D-Boston, also pointed to the Lottery, but said the state needs to weigh the potential ills of casino gambling against the potential windfall.

"We're already in the gambling industry," said Hart, who is leaning toward supporting Patrick's plan. "Do the benefits in the end outweigh the social costs?"

Passing on Patrick's bill may delay, but won't stop casinos in Massachusetts, according to Rep. Thomas Calter, D-Kingston, who represents Middleborough.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is asking the federal government to deem a site in Middleborough as tribal lands so it can use that property for a casino.

"Gaming is coming," Calter said. "The question is who is going to control it."

That was a view shared by Patrick's Secretary of Economic Development Dan O'Connell, who said the tribe will succeed in building a casino, whether the state is involved or not.

The only difference, he said, is that the state won't have the regulations or reap the revenues it would under Patrick's plan. Those safeguards include added law enforcement, some local control and extra money to help treat those addicted to gambling.

"The Mashpee Wampanoags will ultimately be successful," O'Connell said.

Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown warned that the pull of the casinos could end up hurting some of the state's traditional tourist attractions, particularly in her Cape Cod district.

"It will be good for tourism around the resort casinos, but it will be bad for other parts of the state," said Peake, who also owns a bed and breakfast.

Before the hearing, hundreds of casino supporters rallied on the Boston Common to urge lawmakers to support Patrick's plan. Many of the union members at the rally wore hard hats and carried signs saying "Casinos equal 20,000 jobs for Massachusetts and I need one of them."

Robert Haynes, Massachusetts president of the AFL-CIO, urged his members to attend the hearing and push their state lawmakers to back Patrick's proposal.

"I want to know which legislator is going to deny you a job, who's going to pay your mortgage when you can't pay, who's going to leave 20,000 workers in an unemployment line," Haynes said.


Punishing employers for legal lockouts

A proposed ban on state employees striking survived attacks from the right and the left Tuesday and now appears safely on its way to becoming law. Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colo.) signed an executive order Nov. 2 allowing employee unions to enter into "partnerships" in which appointed representatives could bargain in nonbinding fashion with department heads over issues of concern to state workers. Ritter included a ban on strikes in the order, but Attorney General John Suthers said later that the order did not supersede state law that allows strikes.

Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, introduced a bill to ban public employees - including teachers and local-government workers - from striking and included severe penalties for breaking the law, but a House committee called that measure too severe and killed it in January.

At the same time, the House passed HB 1189 by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, which simply bans strikes and imposes $50 daily penalties on workers who violate the law.

There also is a $1,000 fine on employers who order a worker lockout.

Senate Republicans blasted the measure as too soft Tuesday and, like their colleagues in the House, attempted unsuccessfully to increase penalties, expand the ban to all public employees or suspend unions that encourage strikes. None of the majority Democrats backed the proposals.

After more than an hour of failed procedural maneuvers left the bill unchanged, GOP leaders called for passage as a defense against a walkout by Colorado State Patrol workers or Department of Transportation snowplow drivers that could paralyze the state. The bill passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote and needs only final approval, which is expected today, before it goes to Ritter.

"It's not a terribly strong bill, but it's the only bill in front of us to accomplish what needs to be done," said Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs.

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the governor plans to sign the bill, which he sees as a reiteration of his executive order. He has not received substantial pressure from unions to veto the measure, despite union testimony against the bill in committee, Dreyer said.

While passage of this proposal would clear one labor issue of the table, more could be coming on the November ballot.

Labor backers are hoping to get two initiatives on the ballot, one that that would limit the reasons an employer could use to fire a worker and another that would allow state residents to sue a business that commits corporate fraud. Meanwhile, business advocates are circulating petitions for a right-to-work law that bans union shops, which require employees in a unionized workplace to pay union dues even if they don't belong to the union.

Dreyer said Ritter has not taken a stance on the measures, but is "generally opposed" to the right-to-work proposal.


Big Print decline puts dues hurt on News Union

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." This is the solid conviction that our Founding Fathers recognized. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights allows any American citizen their rightful freedom to inform their people, and be informed by their people. This law has been maintained throughout countless decades of professional American journalism, in its beginning, and possibly, to its spiraling end.

In a society where the demographic knows more about pop culture than they do about the government, and wherein its people are constantly being drowned in the pool of consumerism, it's no surprise that newspapers no longer interest the general public as much as they have in the past. Journalism is slowly falling to bits and pieces of bits and pieces and settling itself in the pit hole that can bring the existence of print media to a halt.

This problem surfaced around the 1940s, right when the percentage of newspaper readers began to decline. According to MediaManagementCenter.org, since 1967, there has been an almost 30 percent drop in the number of young to middle-aged readers. Research also showed that less than half of Americans read a newspaper a week, more read on Sundays, and the numbers continue to drop.

Newspapers are slowly going towards the end of their history. Why? The reasons are obvious. People are not buying or subscribing to newspapers because they can more easily get news through the internet. I don't blame them; receiving online news is a breeze. You can get any type of news around the world or locally through RSS feeds (formats used to frequently send types of content) in search engines such as Yahoo! and Google in a matter of seconds compared to the daily wait for newspapers. Also, there's the influence of reality television and online social networking. Living in the electronic age of iPhones and Blackberrys, people feel the need to be constantly entertained. In addition, this brings me to question the print media and its workforce. In a decade or so, do newspaper journalists think their medium will become obsolete?

A survey that was conducted online by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, shows 62 percent of journalists said they believe their audience wants a professional brand of news from trained journalists. It found 43 percent said they do not feel confident that they will be working for a newspaper in five years, and about 30 percent were neutral on the question. According to The Newspaper Guild, just within the past seven years, newspapers account for half of all the media jobs lost, 82,800 out of 167,600 total. Print media journalists are concerned about their careers and wonder if their jobs will continue to exist.

Journalism is at its most alarming state, and in years to come, it's possible to worsen. Will there be a revolution? If not, then the continual rise of technology, computer-generated news source and the expansion of social networking will continue to stifle journalism's cry to regain its diminishing power.


New IATSE members taste reality

After a bitter organizing campaign last year, 10 stagehands based at the Orleans voted for union representation at three Boyd Gaming casinos. They sought better wages and benefits, approaching those enjoyed by their brethren on the Strip. But nine months later, the stagehands have seen the realities of the modern labor movement when a small band of workers takes on a large company intent on keeping the union out.

Contract negotiations have flat-lined, the workers’ hours have been reduced and they have been excluded from company policies, including the granting of overtime to anyone who works more than eight hours in a single shift.

Worse, the union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 720, is doing little on their behalf, workers say. They feel abandoned. Some members are so frustrated they are talking about decertifying.

“We don’t know who to blame — is it Boyd Gaming or is it IATSE or is it both?” said Chris Minkema, a stagehand who sits on the union’s negotiating committee. “We feel like we’re stuck in this void, this weird place where no one is on our side and we can’t get answers from anybody. We’ve been left out to dry.”

According to members of the bargaining unit, working conditions began to deteriorate in June, after the union won the election 10-6.

Days before the vote, the company had issued a memo on overtime, promising employees extra compensation if they worked more than eight hours in a single shift. But the lawyer Boyd hired to stave off the union, Mark Garrity, warned the stagehands that if the union won the election, the policy would not apply to them because overtime would become a subject of negotiations.

The company followed through, employees now say.

Overtime pay had been a major reason for the organizing drive, chiefly because stagehands often work double shifts in the run-up to a show or a stage production.

After the company changed its overtime policy for other workers, the stagehands sought explanations but say they ran into a bureaucratic maze. Inquiries were bounced back and forth between supervisors and human resources, they said.

“People are pointing fingers in different directions and no one is taking responsibility for it,” stagehand Chris Martini said.

Then came the cutbacks in work schedules, which was a surprise, workers said, given that Boyd had emphasized the importance of entertainment in its business plan during the union campaign. Some members, they said, saw their hours drop below the 32 a week required to maintain health benefits.

The company blamed the reductions on the sagging economy, stagehands said. The workers said Boyd hired an outside employee and paid him as a consultant to do some of the work the stagehands had performed.

“Guys are at the end of their rope,” said Paul Bordenkircher, a stagehand and a member of the union’s negotiating committee. “Guys are going broke. They’re missing house payments. Everyone is looking for other work.”

On top of it all, they said they were excluded from companywide cost-of-living increases this year. At the same time, management has stepped up on-the-job pressure, something Martini referred to as “micromanaging.”

So where was the union? Stagehands said they haven’t seen a union representative on-site in the nine months since the vote, with the exception of a single discipline incident. The local canceled meetings, sometimes without notice, workers said.

The local’s leaders spurned the notion that they had somehow abandoned the stagehands.

The local did file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board in October, protesting the change in hours and other working conditions. That case will go before a judge next month.

Union officials say they have opened their hiring hall to the stagehands and referred them to other jobs to supplement their income. Also, negotiators say they are drafting another labor complaint and continue to challenge Boyd at the bargaining table but are largely constrained by a process that favors employers.

“It’s frustrating for us too,” said Dan’l Cook, president of IATSE Local 720, which has won contracts for stagehands at 10 Strip properties. “We’d like to see some action taken. Boyd is doing the bare minimum to satisfy what’s required under the (National Labor Relations Act). And unfortunately, we don’t have the bargaining leverage we had 30 years ago.”

Indeed, the union won an election to represent workers at the Blue Man Group’s show at the Venetian in 2006 and employees still lack a contract. The show’s owner challenged the results in court. The union, with the support of the national labor board, now awaits a decision on the case from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Gordon Lafer, a professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, said labor studies have shown that between 30 percent and 40 percent of unions that win elections never attain a first contract.

Federal labor law is fraught with legal delays and loopholes that often kill organizing campaigns.

(Boyd’s actions on pay policies, for instance, are protected under labor law, because pay is now a topic of negotiation, Lafer said.)

“The more the employer plays hardball the more resources it takes from the union’s side,” he said. “It’s not enough for the union rep to come around and sit at the negotiating committee.”

As a result, many unions have turned to political pressure when talks at the bargaining table stall. But the 1,800-member stagehands local has little political muscle compared with, say, the 60,000-member Culinary Union.

Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell declined to comment on the stagehands’ complaints, but said pay was a central component of collective bargaining.

“We don’t negotiate any aspect of the contract in the press,” he said. “Obviously this being the first contract makes it complex, but we’re actively negotiating.”


Alabama workers reject UAW

Employees at the Johnson Controls plant in Cottondale voted nearly two to one against unionizing under the United Auto Workers, an official with the National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday. According to Douglas Marshall, resident officer for the Birmingham office of the NLRB, 471 of the plant’s more than 500 workers cast ballots in the election, which was conducted late Friday. The final tally showed 299 employees voting against the union and 161 voted in favor of unionizing. One vote was challenged and one vote was voided.

Representatives of the UAW could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Johnson Controls confirmed the election results but declined to comment further.

Marshall said the union has until Monday to challenge the outcome of the election.

“If they don’t file objections within seven calendar days, the results will be certified,” Marshall said.

Johnson Controls’ Cottondale facility manufactures seats and headliners for the sport utility vehicles produced at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International plant in Vance.

Unions have had mixed success when it comes to winning over Alabama auto plants.

UAW unionized Mercedes supplier ZF industries in 2000, it but tried unsuccessfully to unionize the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International plant in Vance in 1999 and 2000. The union continues to operate an organizing office in Vance.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Engineers attempted to unionize the Vance plant in March 2006. The effort failed, but the NLRB ruled that Mercedes officials illegally monitored the conversations of employees known to be pro-union. Mercedes denied the charge.

A vote by employees of Mercedes supplier Ai3 on whether to unionize under UAW has been on hold since December 2006, when the union filed a lengthy complaint against the company alleging unfair labor practices. Marshall said the case is ongoing.

Dara Longgrear, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, said he would prefer area plants remain nonunionized and instead use open communication between management and workers to resolve issues.

Longgrear said most plants have such communication policies, but he respected the right of workers for them to decide the union issue for themselves.

“Given the facts, it’s in the employees’ interest to remain union free, but ultimately it’s the employee’s decision,” Longgrear said.


Rhode Island turn-around group gains

Arlene Violet was there, working the crowd in a pair of black pajamas decorated with a golden dragon and Chinese lettering, a souvenir of a recent trip to Singapore. “Hey! How are you!” the former talk-show host and Rhode Island attorney general said as she shook a hand in the back of the hall.

Harriet Allen, the Charlestown town councilwoman who once sang during a council meeting to get her point across, was there, too. So was Chris Prata, the North Kingstown gadfly whose stingingly satirical Web site, www.nkspending.org, has drawn the wrath of the North Kingstown School Committee’s chairman. And Terry Gorman of Lincoln, founder of the group Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, one of whose members made news last week when he challenged the citizenship of two Spanish-speaking customers in his Providence heating-supply store.

They were among some 200 people who came to The Towers on Saturday for the annual winter meeting of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition, whose anti-tax, anti-casino, anti-union agenda has drawn increasing attention around the state.

So was Lisa Nelson, a 45-year-old Westerly woman who until a few days earlier had been director of product management for the cardiovascular section of Heartlab. Then she lost her job as Heartlab, a division of the Belgium-based company Agfa, laid off 29 workers in Westerly as part of a company-wide “savings plan.”

“So I’m particularly concerned with how we attract better jobs,” Nelson said.

NELSON, LOOKING businesslike but far from stuffy in rimless glasses and a pink sweater over a white blouse, was taking part in her first meeting of the coalition. In a room filled with men in jackets and ties and women in dresses and suits, she appeared to be one of the younger attendees, often by a matter of several decades.

“It’s an important time for people of all ages to get involved,” she said.

She was there with her father, A. Barclay Robertson, 83. Robertson, also of Westerly, has been a coalition member for about 2½ years and has gotten to know the organization’s chairman, Harry L. Staley. He’s liked what he’s seen.

“They are an organization whose only real purpose is to make Rhode Island a better state,” said Robertson, dapper in a brown herringbone sport coat over a tan sweater and beige shirt. “More business-friendly. And educationally a better state.”

Nelson, too, was interested in making Rhode Island a place that could attract good-paying jobs, like the ones just lost at Heartlab. With the level of engineering talent already on hand, and modern technology, she said, the state could be a leader in health care and other industries.

“There’s nothing preventing even a little state like Rhode Island from doing big things,” she said. “We can serve the globe from Rhode Island. And we do better customer service than some parts of the globe.”

Nelson said she was taking the opportunity of her layoff to work with the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce on a jobs program and to get an online degree from Northwestern University in medical informatics, which is healthcare-industry information technology. It would go with her MBA and her computer-science undergrad degree.

And she was checking out the coalition.

“There are a lot of reasons that I want to get involved at the state level,” she said. “Heartlab was taking up 80 hours a week of my time, so I didn’t have any energy to share with the state. But now I do.”

WE’D BEEN CHATTING while the attendees breakfasted on muffins and cubed melon, coffee and coffeecake. Staley greeted the crowd with the note that “RISC is no longer just a shoreline coalition; it is a statewide coalition.” The group founded in 2003 in Westerly and Charlestown as the Rhode Island Shoreline Coalition; it changed its name last year to reflect its growing reach and membership.

Now, he said, its 4,000 members come from 26 of the state’s 39 cities and towns.

Nelson took notes diligently on scraps of paper.

James T. Beale Jr., the coalition’s president, took the lectern and talked about the state’s business and tax climate and its “serious” budget deficit. He noted Journal stories on the salaries of Rhode Island’s 75,000 state and municipal employees, more than 1,600 of whom made over $100,000 in 2006. The crowd chuckled when he asked, “By the way, does that combined total of 75,000 government employees strike any of you as much too much for such a small state?”

“Wow,” Nelson said under her breath.

Thomas C. Wigand, a member of the board of the coalition, spoke of the need to improve Rhode Island’s schools. He said that ordinary people must push for school vouchers, taking a cue from teachers’ unions that “demand what they want and they’re relentless until they get it.” That’s how the public can get what it wants, he said: “We start demanding it and we’re relentless and then the change will come.”

And Harriet S. Lloyd, vice president of the coalition, talked of the social costs of gambling, of the group’s opposition to the Narragansett Indians’ attempts to build a casino and of efforts to make gambling seem more palatable by calling it “gaming.”

“Gaming or gambling, whatever the name, wherever the casino,” Lloyd said. “Only one outcome is certain: They win, we lose.”

Thunderous applause.

“She’s right!” Robertson told Nelson. Nelson nodded at her father.

ALL THIS WAS just a warm-up, speeches that set the table, mostly in low-key tones, for the morning’s big-name speakers. Now came the red meat, starting with Arlene Violet.

“This sort of sounds like Rhode Island blues,” said Violet, who also is a member of the coalition’s board. “Rhode Island has been sick for so long that many of us have become inoculated to its sickness.”

State and local employees, their family members and “pals,” she said, form “an incredibly large voting bloc” in Rhode Island. And to such people, the answer to every problem is “to raise taxes. … Instead of stopping the gravy train, we’re adding more cabooses to the train!”

Nonprofit agencies that do a good job in one area, she said, move into fields like housing “to extend their fiefdoms.” And the government’s response? “It’s not just a chicken in every pot. We’re giving you the kitchen, the kitchen sink and the whole house!”

Not for the first time, she paused for applause. And then Violet, who quit as a nun so she could run for attorney general in the 1980s, urged her audience to “do your penance” by running for office.

“I wish I could promise you you’d get into heaven,” she added to laughter, “but I don’t know where I stand.”

Now she turned serious again.

“I’m begging you to be part of the new two-year revolution,” she said. “They used to say, ‘Uncle Sam wants you.’ Well, I guess this is, ‘Aunt Arlene needs you!’ ”

Nelson joined in the standing ovation that followed.

NOW IT WAS the turn of the event’s main speaker, Governor Carcieri.

“Tough act to follow,” he said.

The governor had arrived with his wife, Sue. They had attended a wedding the night before, he said, and would be at another that afternoon. But the coalition’s work was important, he said.

“As a state, we’ve created an environment over decades that we’re driving the money away,” he said. Now, he said, he was trying to fight the unions and a Democrat-dominated legislature to turn things around at the State House.

“You’ve got to get involved,” he told the crowd. “You need more people up there, whether they’re independent or Republican,” who would work with him.

Other speakers had offered the idea that Democrats might also be “enlightened” — indeed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sat in on part of the session, and North Kingstown Sen. James Sheehan and Bristol Rep. Douglas Gablinske attended, all three of them Democrats.

But Carcieri said the State House’s political culture made such a thing impossible.

“They may be enlightened when they get there,” he said to chuckles, “but the second day, the lights go off.”

Carcieri, too, received a standing ovation as he finished.

STALEY TOOK THE lectern again to close things out. And now he, too, seemed energized as he pleaded for his listeners to seek public office, so there would be no repeat of 2006, when almost half of the General Assembly’s seats went uncontested in the general election.

“It is no longer acceptable for me to say it’s your job, or for you to say it’s my job,” he said. “It’s our job…

“You are the right people to do this in your community. And if you’re not the right people, you know who they are.”

One more standing ovation followed.

As we got up to leave, I asked Nelson what she thought.

“I think he’s talking to me,” she said. “I think he’s talking to all of us.

“More people need to stand up and get involved. And I think that’s what’s inspiring me.”

Had she decided to run for office? Sounding like a politician already, she replied, “There’s nothing I can announce today.”

But if I were a gambling man — or is that a gaming man? — I’d say that on Saturday, Harry Staley found himself at least one of the candidates he’s looking for.


Teachers picket job fair, discourage applicants

One year later, Amy Seo was back in the exact same place. Seo, a fourth-grade teacher at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, was standing with her colleagues outside of Nashua High School North Tuesday holding an "informational picket" at the district's annual job fair. This is the second year in a row that teachers have picketed at the job fair, which the district uses to recruit new teachers and other employees.

Holding a sign in support of a new teachers contract, Seo said she first came to Nashua 10 years ago because it was the best place to work.

But with teachers now having worked without a new contract or raises for a year and a half, she can't say that anymore."To see (the city) have to go through this is pretty disheartening," she said.

The last teachers contract expired in September 2006.

And as potential new employees walked in and out of the job fair, they got an earful from the teachers lining the entranceway.

"They don't appreciate you here," yelled one teacher.

Teachers later started up a chant of "No contract is not job fair."

Their signs also told the story.

"H.Q.P. – Highly Qualified Picketer."

"Welcome to Nashua . . . get used to begging."

A new contract doesn't appear to be on the horizon.

Last week, representatives from the teachers union cut off negotiations with the school board.

There is an emergency meeting of the union's board of directors and building and safety committee members scheduled for today. Bob Sherman, president of the union, said the discussion would focus on possible next steps.

Sherman wouldn't rule out an illegal work stoppage.

"Sometimes it's taken a drastic action of some type in order to get things settled," he said.

At a meeting last month, teachers voted to give its union leadership the authority to call for a job action or a strike. State law prohibits such actions.

Sherman said teachers picketed the job fair again this year to make sure applicants know about the situation in Nashua. Teachers showed up in shifts and stood outside.

As they walked out, some of the applicants said the contract situation was news to them. Jessie Durso, 25, came hoping to land a job as a third-grade teacher.

Durso, who graduated from Plymouth State University, said she had no idea that teachers had gone this long without a new contract. She said the language on some of the signs concerned her.

"I mean, 'Not a good place to work'?" she said, pointing to one of the signs, "That's kind of scary."

Durso said she is applying in other school districts, including Salem, Concord, Hudson, Timberlane and Milford.

Charlie Reynolds, vice president of the union, was holding the sign Durso was referring to. He said the contract situation has gone on for far too long.

"I think it's deplorable," he said.

"We need to draw a line in the sand and take a stand for what we believe in," he added.

The school board and union have come to agreement on three separate contracts.

The board of aldermen shot down the first two contracts. The third proposal was approved by the aldermen, but didn't have enough support to get the funding needed.

In what she called an attempt to reach a compromise, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau issued a line-item veto of the contract, taking out the 2.75 percent raises that would have been retroactive to January 2007.

Teachers argue that leaves them without any kind of pay increase for 18 months, something no other union in the city has been asked to do. Teachers have also agreed to make health-care concessions.

Ira Millstone came to the job fair Tuesday hoping to learn more about how to get his teacher certification.

Millstone, 40, works in the business field, but is looking to make a career change. His degree isn't in education, but the state offers an alternative certification process.

Millstone said he didn't know about the contract situation.

"This definitely gives you something extra to think about," he said, but it wouldn't necessarily stop him from taking a job in Nashua. Millstone said he would be willing to take a pay cut to become a teacher.

A police officer was at the fair, making sure that those going to the job fair could get through.

Superintendent Christopher Hottel said teachers are certainly within their rights to picket the job fair, but said it's an unfortunate situation.

"Job fairs are very important to us," he said. "We're trying to get the best teachers here."

Hottel said that a particular area that needs to be addressed is recruiting more ethnic minorities to work in the schools. The current workforce doesn't reflect the student body, he said.

"There's a diverse population in Nashua," he said.

"We've got to be showing that at some point in our staff."

District administrators said they continue to make preparations for a possible work stoppage. Good Friday is this week, and Hottel said he has been monitoring the personal days that have been submitted.

"The day seems to be under control," he said.

Last year, more than 200 employees submitted personal days for Good Friday, citing religious reasons. School was cancelled for the day.

Hottel said he's on alert each morning, in the case that there is some sort of action. He has advised parents to check media outlets in the case that school is cancelled.

Some community organizations have offered to help care for children in such an event. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua has made plans to open at 7:30 a.m. and remain open until 9 p.m. if school is closed.


Leftish solon backs News Union

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown threw his support Tuesday behind a union of editorial workers seeking a new contract at the Dayton Daily News. "I stand with you as you fight for this," the Ohio Democrat told a crowd of about 75 people that included editorial workers, city officials and labor leaders. Editorial workers marched outside the newspaper, carrying signs that read "Brown's in Town" and "Part-timers Are People Too."

Employees had been working under a contract that was ratified in 1986. Talks on a new agreement broke off Dec. 6, and employees are working under the company's latest contract offer.

The Dayton Newspaper Guild represents 147 workers, including reporters, copy editors and photographers.

The union says minimum base pay has not increased for 14 years and the company wants to freeze wages and deny part-time workers affordable health care. The minimum pay for a first-level reporter is $25,650. The Akron Beacon Journal, a newspaper of similar size, has a minimum base salary of $30,056.

In a statement, Emily Chambers, Cox Ohio Publishing's vice president of human resources, said employees are eligible for annual pay raises and/or bonuses and that the company's total compensation package is among the best in the region.

The Daily News, published by Cox Ohio, has a daily circulation of 121,240 and a Sunday circulation of 166,094.


Meager tax savings from gov't-union buy-outs

The city of Erie (PA) has a new contract with its blue-collar workers that provides a retirement incentive, just as the previous contract did. Workers who retire with at least 25 years of service will receive a payment of $300 a month until they reach 65, or earlier if they are eligible for Medicare. The payment would be in addition to their regular pension. The minimum retirement age is 55. City Solicitor Greg Karle said the incentive will provide a savings to the city by creating vacancies that can go unfilled.

"To the extent you fill a vacancy, it would be filled by someone at a lower wage." he said.

He said the consensus is that four or five workers will take advantage of the incentive.

"It doesn't appear there will be a wholesale departure under the provision," he said.

Four workers received the incentive under the previous contract, which expired Dec. 31, 2006, he said. The incentive under that contract was $275 a month.

Al Rush, business agent for Teamsters Local 397, which represents the workers, said the payment could help defray the cost of health-care payments for workers who could not otherwise be able to retire.

"The cost of health care stops them from retiring," he said. "This might be enough for them to be able to afford to retire."

City police and firefighters receive paid health care during retirement; blue- and white-collar workers do not.

Teamsters Local 397 ratified the new contract Friday. It covers the years 2007 through 2010. Workers can take the incentive until July 1, 2010.

The city's contract with its white-collar workers, represented by Local 2206 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, does not contain a similar incentive provision. Those workers' previous contract, which expired Dec. 31, 2005, did.

The city's other two unions, representing police and firefighters, also have had retirement incentives through a reverse Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Under the plan, police and firefighters could retroactively "retire" for as many as three years before leaving their job and then receive a lump-sum payment in pension benefits when they leave work.

The city eliminated the program in late 2006 after the state Auditor General's Office told the city it had to reimburse the state nearly $900,000 paid to the city's pension funds for those employees who retired under the program. The two unions are fighting the elimination. The city is also disputing the auditor general's ruling.


SEIU faces dues hit in labor-state

Jordan Hospital in Plymount (MA) laid off six members of its managerial staff as part of a reorganization last week and expects to tap into the ranks of union employees in the weeks to come to offset financial losses. Hospital spokesman John Looney said last week’s layoffs come amid news that the hospital earned nearly $2 million less than expected last fiscal year and has lost $2.5 million in the first five months of this year.

Two members of the hospital’s marketing department, two nursing supervisors and two members of the hospital’s support staff lost their jobs Thursday. Looney called the layoffs unfortunate but necessary.

“It was the last option we considered. Jordan Hospital would not be taking this step if it was not necessary to maintain both short-term and long-term financial stability,” Looney said. “We continue to assess the staffing necessary to support the reorganization. There will likely be more reductions.”

Looney said any future layoffs would come from within the ranks of the non-managerial staff. The 150-bed hospital has 1,250 employees. Most are members of two bargaining units – the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Service Employees International Union.

A spokesman for the nurses said the union has been informed that some layoffs are imminent, but it remains unclear how severe the cutbacks will be. The nurses’ union is in talks with Jordan officials to minimize the impact of the layoffs on caregivers

SEIU leaders were told Friday that this hospital is exploring a variety of cost-saving measures to avoid layoffs. “To ensure quality care for our patients, 1199SEIU feels other cost-saving options should be explored before any further reductions in staff take place,” SEIU Vice President Enid Eckstein said

Looney said the layoffs would not jeopardize any programs or services at the hospital. Nor would it impact Jordan’s magnet hospital status, a recognition given only to hospitals that adhere to the most rigorous standards for the highest patient care.

Looney said the financial problems can be traced to last fall, when expected revenues came in at $2.3 million. The hospital has projected a $4 million gain for the year.

And since the new fiscal year started Oct. 1, the hospital has lost another $2.5 million, Looney said.

“This is the result of declining Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, managed care contracts that do not keep pace with the increasing cost of providing health care, the provision of costly free care services and declining inpatient and outpatient volume,” Looney said. Volumes can decline even in an expanding market, Looney said, when rising deductibles make patients think twice about seeking hospital care.

“The point here is Jordan Hospital needs to be responsive to changes in volume and reimbursement and as such needs to assess staffing at all levels on an ongoing basis,” Looney said.


UFCW faces dues hit in Winnipeg

A Maple Leaf Foods hog-processing plant in St. Boniface will shut down this summer under a Manitoba-wide shakeup that could see many of its approximately 650 employees take jobs at the company's factory in Brandon. Confirming rumours held for the past year, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. said yesterday its Warman Road carcass-cutting plant will be phased out of operation between June and September while the Brandon facility undergoes a $50-million expansion that will add about 400 positions there by the end of next year.

The change is also part of a shift of operations to the firm's nearby Lagimodiere Boulevard ham-boning plant, where a $25-million upgrade will add about 400 jobs in the near future.

"As Brandon's capabilities ram up, we'll ramp down our production at Warman as it's transferred to Brandon," Rick Young, Toronto-based president of Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, said last night after addressing employees in Winnipeg.

"It's very important for the pork industry here in Manitoba," he added, noting the changes bring the firm's investments in the province to $120 million since last year. "It means securing a very strong future for the Manitoba pork industry."

While nearly all of the Warman facility's approximately 50 salaried staff will be allowed to move to other Maple Leaf factories in Manitoba, its 600 hourly-wage employees -- earning $11.40 per hour for general labour to up to about $17 for skilled work -- have less certain prospects.

They will, however, be given opportunities with the Toronto-based company in Winnipeg and Brandon.

Maple Leaf managers will begin negotiations in the next couple of days with United Food and Commercial Workers officials to sort out details on the needs of unionized staff and "how every single person will be handled, and with a commitment that everybody is treated fairly and respectfully through this process," Young said.

"The plan there has not been finalized. It's part of a process of negotiating a closure agreement with their union, and we begin that process immediately. It will address things like severance eligibility, and how they can apply for opportunities that are being created here in Winnipeg as well as opportunities in Brandon."

UFCW Local 832 president Robert Ziegler could not be reached for comment.

The Brandon plant upgrade will add a full second shift to its cutting operations, which had sent carcasses for processing to the Warman Road facility.


AFSCME workers suspended in labor-state

Three Franklin Township (NJ) employees have been suspended amid allegations they falsified a public record to come to the aid of a fired public works employee. Public works employees Frank Panzino and Thomas Zuccarini and construction code office clerk Dorothy Fabrizio have each been charged with hindering in an apprehension or prosecution, submitting a fraudulent document for public record, purposely creating a false impression for benefit, tampering with public records and agreeing to aid another in planning or committing an offense.

The three, in conjunction with public employee union representative Margareth Howardell and former public works employee Richard Kelly, are alleged to have conspired to help Kelly get his job back. Howardell and Kelly also face the same charges of which Panzino, Zuccarini and Fabrizio are accused.

An attorney representing four of the accused said the charges are false and "specious."

While employed with the township, municipal officials indicated Kelly allegedly dumped construction material debris at the public works facility on Broad Street in Malaga. He was caught and advised to properly dispose of the material.

Instead, officials said, he took the material to his personal property.

The five agreed to mail a certified letter to Franklin Administrator William Krebs containing a receipt from the Gloucester County Improvement Authority indicating that Kelly's debris had been removed "knowing that the receipt was not that debris material of Richard Kelly," according to court documents filed by the Franklin Township Police Department last week.

The GCIA operates the county landfill in South Harrison Township.

Township officials, including Solicitor Samuel Ragonese, declined to elaborate on the charges.

"We conducted an investigation, and based on that investigation, there were a series of charges against current and former employees," Chief Michael DiGiorgio said.

Attorney Mark Belland, of Northfield, said his clients Panzino, Zuccarini, Fabrizio and Howardell are being discriminated against as a result of their union activity.

Belland said his clients are all representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He said they acted as responsible union officials by trying to help Kelly get his job back and that the receipt provided to Krebs was legitimate.

"It is illegal for the township to retaliate against them for their protected union activity," Belland said.

He said he plans to file an "unfair practice" charge with the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of his clients for "this illegal action."


Lawsuit filed in Teamster murder-parole case

A former Illinois parole board member has filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Lisa Madigan and other state officials, alleging they falsely accused him of trading his vote to free a notorious mob hit man. A Sangamon County judge cleared Victor Brooks last year of charges he voted to free Harry Aleman in 2002 in exchange for help landing Brooks' son a job as a singer in Las Vegas. Former Corrections Department executive Ron Matrisciano was also cleared of related charges.

Brooks contends Madigan, her assistants, state police officials or former colleagues on the Prisoner Review Board wrongly accused him or provided false information to investigators. He is seeking more than $2 million, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

A Madigan spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday. Aleman remains in prison serving 100 to 300 years for killing a Teamsters official.


SEIU strike threat for bargaining purposes

The union that represents 800 registered nurses at Altoona (PA) Regional Health System will issue a 14-day strike notice Thursday after members voted Tuesday in favor of their negotiating committee’s recommendation not to approve a proposed contract. The union doesn’t want to strike, but officials hope that serving notice with the National Labor Relations Board will get the hospital back to bargaining to work out a deal the union says went awry hours before its expected completion Monday.

Union members would need to take another vote before they could strike.

On Monday night, the hospital board rejected its negotiating committee’s recommendation to ratify a contract that was finished, except for details on staffing levels, mandatory overtime and nurse input to work out — “derailing” six months of negotiation, unionists said.

The board’s refusal to let the union charge “representation fees” of 87 percent of normal dues to nurses who don’t join the union seems to have been key to the derailment.

“A lot hinged” on that decision not to grant “union security,” said Monica Liebal, a hospital spokeswoman who works in the human resources department. The leadership of the medical staff and the board agreed that nurses need their “freedom of choice,” she said.

Without the “open shop,” the hospital would have had to terminate those who refused to contribute, Liebal said.

The union opposes an open shop because “we want everybody to stand together,” said Paula Stellabotte, a member of the union negotiating team. “We want to talk as one voice,” as befits the “democratic process” that resulted in unionization last May, she said.

Hospital management recently received a petition signed by 119 nurses calling for the open shop.

“We are pleased that they wish to give the RNs freedom of choice,” said Monica Morroni-McMahon, who signed the petition.

“Why do I need a union to represent me, when I feel I’ve been treated adequately?” asked Morroni-McMahon, a 26-year hospital veteran.

The union wanted the “agency shop” for the fees it would generate, said Ron McConnell, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

“Do the math,” McConnell wrote in an e-mail. “If 400 full-time RNs choose not to join the union, that equals more than $1 million in dues/fees for [the Service Employees International Union] over the life of a three-year contract.”

Regular dues are 1.8 percent of salary, capped at $72 a month, while fees in lieu of membership are 87 percent of dues, officials indicated.


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