Nike in political solidarity with left-wing union

Nike announced Monday that it is endorsing Dennis Doyle in his bid to unseat Beaverton (OR) Mayor Rob Drake in the May primary. Doyle, a city councilman for 14 years, will "build stronger partnerships with small and large businesses, work with citizens in an open and honest manner and use his business expertise to improve the city's operations," said Nike spokeswoman Julia Brim-Edwards.

Nike, which is outside the city limits, and Beaverton waged a high-profile legal battle in 2005-07 over public records related to annexation. In endorsing Doyle, the athletic apparel maker blamed Drake, who is seeking a fifth term as mayor, for keeping public records secret, alienating local businesses and unnecessarily spending taxpayers' dollars on legal fees.

Doyle also has received support from the Beaverton Police Association and the Service Employees International Union Local 503, along with other elected officials and community leaders.

Drake's supporters include leaders of nine neighborhood association committees; Eric Schmidt, chairman of the city's Committee for Citizen Involvement; the Tualatin Valley Fire Fighters Union Local 1660; and a long list of political leaders.


Iowa Dems eager to empower gov't-unions

A hotly contested proposal dealing with public-sector unions is on its way to Gov. Chet Culver. The Senate passed the bill 27-23 Monday evening after six hours of acrimonious debate. The measure would expand the list of topics that can be part of contract negotiations.

Culver, a Democrat, has given no indication of whether he will sign or veto the bill. His clearest statement on the proposal was Monday morning, right before the debate began, when he raised concerns that his fellow Democrats were moving too quickly.

"I believe it's crystal clear more time is necessary for all Iowans to have a chance to better understand this proposed legislation and be more involved in the process," Culver said.

Despite this admonition, Senate leaders moved ahead and passed the bill. The vote was largely along party lines, with all but three Democrats voting for it and all Republicans voting against it.

The bill has captivated the Statehouse since House Democrats released the details last Tuesday. The measure passed the House on Thursday afternoon after a marathon debate took up large parts of two days.

The Senate was set to take up the measure on that same day, but Republicans walked off the floor and refused to come back until the debate was postponed.

The most controversial element is a switch to so-called "open scope" negotiations. Current law lists a fixed number of items that can be part of contract negotiations; nearly all of the items deal with salary or benefits.

The new proposal would expand the list to include nearly anything related to working conditions, including class size for teachers and uniforms for public safety officers.

Supporters describe the bill as a minor change. They point to 27 other states that have similar rules, including Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. "This legislation lifts restrictions on what can be negotiated. It does not mandate a result to those negotiations," said Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, one of the lead sponsors.

Opponents warned that the bill would give unions too much power, which would lead to property tax increases.

However, neither side had estimates about the cost.

The debate has led to some strange bedfellows. Groups that traditionally work well with Democrats -- such as school boards and city governments -- have joined Republicans in opposing the bill. Some of those school board members and city officials are Democrats, such as Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba.

"I have always opposed, and will continue to do so in the future, all unfunded state mandates," Gluba said in a letter to legislators.

The strangest bedfellow of all may be Culver, whose statement Monday was remarkably similar to arguments made by Republican legislators.

"I applaud Gov. Culver for singing the chorus with Senate Republicans," said Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City. Culver was vacationing in Florida last week when the debate began.

The bill's biggest advocates are public-sector unions such as the American Federation of State, Council and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME. Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, framed the issue as a matter of fairness.

"This bill will allow union representatives to sit at a table with management and truly have a level playing field for the first time," he said.

The bill would revise the landmark 1974 law known as Chapter 20, a reference to its place in the Iowa Code. The law codified the right of public-employee unions to collective bargain, and stipulated that binding arbitration would be used to resolve prolonged contract disputes.

In exchange for those pro-labor provisions, public employees lost the right to go on strike.

Sen. Mike Connolly, D-Dubuque, a retired teacher, said the 1974 law was a great step forward. He said he thinks the current bill is another positive step.

"When I first started teaching, there was no collective bargaining. You would go to the board and kind of beg for a raise," he said.

The next question is whether Culver will sign the bill. His spokesman, Brad Anderson, said in a statement that the Senate's decision to go ahead with debate was "premature" and "unwarranted."

"It would be a mistake to ignore (Culver's) concerns regarding this legislation," Anderson said.

And yet, legislative Democrats said they expect Culver to sign it. They cite his background as a public school teacher and his prominence in a party that has strong ties to organized labor. "He's running on the Democratic ticket, I presume," said Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg.

What's included?

Current law says the following 16 items can be part of contract negotiations for unionized public employees. Other items can be discussed as long as both sides agree to expand the scope of negotiations.

-- Wages
-- Hours
-- Vacations
-- Insurance
-- Holidays
-- Leaves of absence
-- Shift differentials
-- Overtime compensation
-- Supplemental pay
-- Seniority
-- Transfer procedures
-- Job classifications
-- Health and safety matters
-- Evaluation procedures
-- Procedures for staff reduction
-- In-service training

The proposal passed by the Senate on Monday would expand the list to include anything that either side wishes to make part of negotiations, a provision known as "open scope" bargaining. The bill lists examples of issues that may be raised, though the list can include anything related to working conditions, such as: preparation time, class size, discipline and discharge, work equipment and uniforms, staffing levels and retirement systems.


Writers union was seriously mistaken

The wave of euphoria that swept over Hollywood following the end of the WGA strike has been replaced by a whole new set of emotions: anxiety, depression, fear, nervousness - and anger. One month after scribes put down their pickets, a March malaise has set in, with folks in town wondering when - or if - things will get back to "normal."

There are significantly fewer TV pilots, budgets for series are being cut back, feature films are being put on hold in fear of a SAG walkout, and the shifts in the TV and film skeds have meant either accelerated workloads or prolonged unemployment.

And all this is occurring as everyone is feeling the pinch of an overall economy that’s in or heading into recession.

On the TV side, dramatically fewer pilots are in production compared to most years, resulting in reduced employment for helmers and thesps already hit hard by the WGA strike. Many of those pilots that have been picked up are being hastily assembled to be ready for the May upfronts, creating extra stress and pressure for scribes and development execs.

Meanwhile, to make up for revenues lost during the strike, networks and studios are holding onto each penny as if it were their last, cutting back on development deals and being stingy with raises. "There’s a real sense that faucets are not fully open," one scribe on a top network drama said.

On the film front, the mood is a bit less glum, with reports of brisk business in the spec and book markets, as well as numerous projects just waiting to be cleared for takeoff.

What’s more, the expected flurry of post-strike films are in a holding pattern -- in part because fear of a SAG walkout this summer is causing execs to think twice about greenlights.

Thunder Road producer Basil Iwanyk said that the overall level of anxiety and stress around town is "very high," and that anyone who claims otherwise "is lying."

"Everybody is shocked there wasn’t a barrage of scripts," he said. Iwanyk, who also works in TV, said the small-screen biz is "a complete catastrophe."

As if there weren’t enough bad news, many observers worry that the meltdown of the larger U.S. economy will soon hit Hollywood hard, resulting in even tougher times. Observers cite everything from Time Warner’s downsizing of New Line to CBS supremo Leslie Moonves’ decision to ax the Eye’s annual Tavern on the Green upfront bash as evidence of the sort feeding Hollywood’s current anxiety.

"There’s a huge amount of crankiness right now, and everybody -- particularly agents -- feels like they’re getting screwed," one top lawyer said.

A studio chief laments what’s been "a very upsetting year. The pressure and the anxiety are getting to people."

A network chief, meanwhile, said Hollywood’s mood simply echoes what’s going on in the real world.

"It’s a reflection of the national psyche," he said. "We’re in a very tenuous place in this country right now, and Hollywood is no different."

In such a toxic environment, it’s easy for some to start ascribing the worst of intentions to various parties’ actions. In the same way that some execs were convinced that WGA leaders were hell-bent on striking, some writers’ reps believe the cost-cutting and downsizing taking place in Hollywood isn’t a mere matter of economics.

"The studios are punishing writers for going out," one partner at a major talent agency argued. "They want to take their pound of flesh, so they’re pushing back deals and not making new ones."

That point of view is dismissed, however, by almost all execs and even many talent reps. As annoyed as they are by the new belt tightening, many believe there’s nothing more sinister behind the reduced largess than congloms taking advantage of the fact that they have more leverage in a post-strike environment.

"The market needed a correction, and that’s what’s been happening," one rep said. "When your guy goes from $4.5 million for three years to $1.5 million for three years, that’s going to be painful. But the ultimate revenues from these deals weren’t justifying the money for what’s essentially research and development."

Hart Hanson, creator of Fox’s "Bones," also hasn’t seen any evidence of companies out to "get" scribes. He describes a "general atmosphere of parsimony in the air."

"Nobody’s getting a big fat raise, at least not easily or automatically," he said. "I feel I have to justify expenditures even more than usual. I have to say, though, I don’t get the sense of the companies ‘taking revenge.’ The strike hurt their bottom line, and they are trying, as corporations, to mitigate the financial hit they endured. There’s not the feeling of personal vengeance behind it."

A TV studio chief is less generous in responding to the notion that companies are out for payback, calling those who make such accusations "crybabies."

"I’m not trying to get back at anyone," the exec said. "This is just the ebb and flow of any market and being true to what people’s value really is."

While execs like to maintain the appearance that they have no other choice but to be frugal, occasionally one will cop to taking advantage of the fear and anxiety that has resulted from the strike. One studio chief even conceded that congloms are purposely taking a hard line, even when they can afford to be a bit more generous.

"To a degree, everyone’s involved in a game of chicken," the exec said. "I have been sort of laying down the law to see if I can get away with it. I’m telling people, ‘You’re only getting a show deal’ (with no extra coin for development). And it’s mostly been working. I’m sure that’s part of the reason people feel so crabby. But if I can get something for a little under retail price, why not?"

No wonder then that TV overall deals, while still being made, are an endangered species on most studio lots. Many of the scribes who saw their overalls eliminated during the strike are slowly realizing that they’re not going to get a new pact somewhere else (though reports of bidding wars for a few scribes make clear there will continue to be exceptions for top talent).

Even those with jobs and deals aren’t immune to the pain.

Mid-level scribes looking forward to the usual pay bumps that accompany the start of a new season have also received bad news in recent weeks: Forget about the raises. Because the strike resulted in far fewer episodes being produced this season, execs believe segs that will air next fall should be treated as this season’s episodes.

"Why should someone who’s rendered services for eight or 10 episodes instead of 22 be bumped up?" one studio chief asked. "Why would I want to increase costs like that? We’re dealing with things in an appropriately tougher manner."

TV actors, many of whom lost significant income because of the strike, now find themselves contending with the fallout from TV’s strike-altered production schedules. Rather than going on summer break, many shows will be in production throughout the next few months -- a big problem for thesps who had committed to do features during their now-canceled hiatuses.

"I’ve had more requests from actors looking to be let out to do feature films that I can ever remember," a studio exec said. "It’s causing a lot of challenges."

Adding to the chaos: the craziest pilot season anyone can remember.

Some networks, such as ABC, have greenlit just a few pilots this year. While that will change, nobody expects the Alphabet to be in a rush to get projects ready for the May upfronts.

At CBS and CW, however, things are proceeding almost as if there hadn’t been a strike, with plenty of projects in the pipeline. The problem, according to producers, is that CBS and CW execs want pilots or presentations delivered in about half the normal time.

"This is 100 times crazier than usual," said one frenzied studio chief. "We have no road map."

A network topper talked almostly longingly about the stability of the old system. "Pilot season was crazy, but it had a certain madness to it that created momentum," he said. "Everyone got addicted to it. Now, we’re all suffering from withdrawal pains."

While much of Hollywood’s current funk can be chalked up to fallout from the strike and the sagging national economy, several observers point to another cause -- particularly in the TV business.

Even as they caution against grand pronouncements -- "Pilots are dead!," "Overall deals don’t make sense!," "Streaming video is the future!" -- execs agree that the business is in the middle of a massive upheaval.

For example, it once made sense to sign a dozen comedy scribes to development pacts because odds were that one of those deals would result in a "Friends" or a "Two and a Half Men." But with networks measuring primetime success by a much smaller yardstick, and syndie revenue a fraction of its former self, having a large roster of comedy talent on staff now just seems stupid.

Such wholesale changes to the biz help explain the actions of Chris Barrett, owner of the Metropolitan Talent Agency. He recently revamped his business, getting rid of most of his agents and clients.

"This decision wasn’t made because of the writers strike or the de facto actors strike," he said. "This is symptomatic of a bigger situation, and became about what do I need to do over the next five years? There has been a disruption at the broadcast networks and cable delivery systems."

Some agents, however, believe execs need to be careful about just how hard a line they take with talent. Push too hard, they argue, and creative types could just end up abandoning the studio system altogether.

"The studios are being short-sighted," one tenpercenter said. "They’re biting the hands that feed them. As long as content is controlled by creators, we’re going to be in the driver’s seat."


Socialists praise UAW-American Axle strikers

I support all your efforts to fight corporate geed. I am a member of UAW local 699 Saginaw, Michigan. We had a contract with Delphi. They wanted more concessions, took away our cost-of-living adjustments, about $4,000 per year. Thank you for fighting the good fight against corporate greed (American Axle). I wish our union had the balls to do the same and go on strike. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Thank you all again. I know it’s not an easy thing you are doing. There are many people laid off as a result of this strike, I might be laid off right after Easter shutdown. If this is the case, I will be down there walking the picket line with you.

- AD, Saginaw, Michigan, USA


Workers use secret-ballot to reject Teamsters

In two separate and stunning defeats for the Teamsters, a majority of drivers at both Regional Transport Express and Central Alliance Corp. voted against Teamsters representation, in two secret ballot elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The Board has certified the results in cases 31-RC-8677 and 31-RC-8678.

Employer Defense Attorney, Clifton Smith, SPHR, of CE Smith & Associates, partnered with management, conducted all persuader activities and helped engineer the victories.

"These campaigns are about more than exposing the union's empty promises," said Mr. Smith. "To defeat the union and win an election requires a strategic plan with two fundamental components. First, an employer must identify the underlying issues that led employees to consider the union. Then, an employer must focus on engaging, educating and empowering employees to give them a real choice."


Legal lockout in St. Louis, unions fume

Three St. Louis labor unions are locked out of their jobs at America's Center. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission says the job action follows more than a year of negotiations for a new agreement with audio-visual technicians. The CVC says costs and customer complaints are at the top of their list and the main reasons they say it's time for a new type of agreement.

One union leader called the lock-out a big black eye to the St. Louis community.

The Missouri Black Expo is one of dozens of events that take place each year at america's center.

Almost everyone needs audio and video for their events and that can only be supplied by IBEW AND IATSE, the Inernational Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, since they choose the workers for the event.

Now the CVC wants all technicians to be CVC employees, although they can still belong to the unions.

And they want to end shadowing, a practice they say mandates that customers must hire local techs. But a memorandum of understanding would change that.

CVC board member Earl Wilson says race is an issue too. He says there's not enough diversity in the union ranks.

Bob Soutier, who heads the St. Louis Labor Council, agrees but says finding minority workers is a problem across the metro area but he adds, programs are in place to improve that situation.


Strike-happy nurses attempt to block scabs

The ongoing Sutter Health nurse labor strife teetered on the absurd Saturday as an unknown man, wearing sunglasses, a dark thong, knee-high socks and sneakers, ran through the Sutter Delta Medical Center parking lot, briefly joining the protesters. The brief moment of levity was followed by tense moments 24 hours later when a bus full of replacement nurses struck a picketer at the same campus, causing a debate over a controversial "10-minute rule."

Nurses at 11 Bay Area hospitals, including the Antioch facility, started a 10-day strike Friday against medical centers affiliated with Sutter Health. The nurses previously held two-day strikes in October and December.

Easter weekend got testy at the Antioch hospital.

On Sunday morning, replacement nurses had just finished a shift and were blocked from exiting the property, according to police. As the bus inched forward attempting to pass a handful of striking nurses, a husband of a nurse was "nicked" by the bus, police, nurse and hospital officials said.

"One of the guys picketing walked directly in front of the bus," Antioch police Sgt. Diane Aguinaga said. The individual was not hurt and no one was arrested, she said.

Aguinaga said a nursing labor representative told the officer that the picketers were blocking the bus during the "10-minute rule," allowing them to block the bus.

"To our knowledge, we are unaware of a 10-minute rule or law that exists giving them the right to block traffic for
10 minutes," said Angela Lombardi, Sutter Delta spokeswoman.

They are allowed to use the crosswalk, but they cannot stop the flow of traffic, she said.

"Putting a human barricade in front of a bus isn't safe," she said.

Sutter Delta registered nurse Amy Black, who has been picketing with her colleagues, said the 10-minute rule is more rule of thumb.

"We are totally within our right to block the bus coming out as long as we're continually moving," she said. "The 10-minute rule is kind of an approximation; usually, it's the standard amount of time.

"We use it to say our chants to the scabs on the bus," she said.

It was not the first replacement nurse bus incident at Sutter Delta. During the two-day walk-out in October, tensions boiled over when a bus with temporary workers arrived and a picketer shined a spotlight in the bus driver's eyes, police said. About 30 strikers then surrounded the bus, preventing it from moving. Police were called and the strikers moved when they were told to do so, Antioch police said at the time.

The incidents have been isolated to the Antioch hospital.

Meanwhile, no one has identified the mystery streaker.

"He was looking for a tan," Lombardi laughed. "Apparently, (the thong) was not flattering."

California Nurses Association spokesman Shum Preston said the streaker was not a nurse but someone who wanted to show support for the picket line.

"It was a moment of levity in a very hostile situation," he said.


Students urged to cut classes during strike

It has become a triennial tradition at the University. Every three years since 1993, the Graduate Employees' Organization has staged a walkout when its contract with the University of Michigan expires. And if there's one thing this university takes seriously, it's tradition. So as of last night, GEO was planning to go on a two-day strike this morning. It will be picketing outside of University buildings. Students, faculty and employees should honor those picket lines. Those lines will be there because of the University's ongoing failure to develop a broad solution that adequately compensates all of its employees - for longer than one contract length.

While yesterday's marathon negotiations yielded some movement, this year's biggest sticking point between the University and GEO - salary increases - was left unresolved. Although GEO has dropped its original demand of a 9 percent salary increase each year for the next three years, it is now demanding that the University increase graduate student instructors' salaries by 9 percent next year and 3 percent for two consecutive years following. The University has maintained that a 9 percent increase is too much, countering with a 3.9 percent increase next year and 3 percent increases the following two years.

GEO didn't pull these figures out of thin air. The 9 percent increase GEO is demanding would raise the median full-time GSI salary by $781 - enough to align a single GSI's salary with the cost of living in Ann Arbor, as calculated by the University's Office of Financial Aid.

It's unfortunate that the negotiations have gotten to this point. GSIs are walking out, some professors are canceling classes and students are faced with a tough choice about whether to cross picket lines. But the GSIs' demands must be addressed.

Undergraduates might scoff at the idea that GSIs need raises, especially when they already receive tuition waivers and an annual stipend. But a future degree doesn't put food on the table now. Even at a time when the state is defaulting on its commitment to adequately fund higher education, the University has an obligation to make sure that its employees receive fair compensation. GSIs are a key part of education here, and they must be treated as such.

Instead of recognizing this, the University has held firm, refusing to give in to GEO's demands without a fight. Many students and faculty are indifferent to GEO's concerns or voice the misguided opinion that fair compensation for GEO will raise tuition. Further, with other unions watching, the University is pushing GEO to the brink because it doesn't want to look like it is caving under GEO's pressure - even though the walkout could have residual and expensive effects across campus, including at construction sites.

The University is missing the point. This game of brinkmanship played each contract year only ensures that there will be more walkouts in the future. The University continues to foster employee grievances and large wage discrepancies between professors, lecturers and GSIs. Instead of being proactive and solving these problems before contracts expire, the University waits until these issues bubble over. Then it takes care of just a few of them. The rest of the problems are held over until the next contract expires, which is exactly what happened this year. And so the cycle continues.

If the University wants to end this irresponsible tradition of GEO walkouts, it must be more receptive to the needs of its employees in order to create long-term solutions rather than quick fixes. In the meantime, students can do their part too. Skip class not just because you can; use your absence to advocate change that's well past due.


Teachers to go out on strike, schools shut

On the evening of March 24, as part of ongoing negotiations, the Cumberland Valley (PA) School Board presented a contract proposal to the teachers’ bargaining representatives. The union rejected the proposal within three minutes of receiving it. At 9:20 p.m., representatives from the bargaining team presented a formal notice of intent to strike to Dr. Mary Riley, acting superintendent. The strike notice said the strike will begin Thursday, March 27, 2008. “The Cumberland Valley School Board is sorely disappointed in the teachers’ union action.

“Disrupting a student’s education any time in the school year is detrimental to the learning process, but at the end of the school year, a strike is especially unconscionable. College placements, athletics, extracurricular and club activities will suffer. What should be the highlight of a senior’s high school years will now be marred by the teachers’ union, which places their wants over the students’ needs.

“When the teachers and their bargaining representatives are ready to come back to the table, the board stands ready to resume negotiations,” said John Jordan, board president.

Students should not report to classes during the teachers’ strike. Continuance of athletic events and extracurricular activities are at the discretion of coaches and advisors. Additional information and updates will be available on the District’s website at www.cvschools.org


Schools unbowed by extortionate strike threat

If teachers go on strike Monday in Nashua (NH), Steve Martin is prepared to fill in for as long as he's needed. But even though he may have to cross a picket line to get to school, he doesn't see it as taking a side in the ongoing contract dispute between teachers and the city. "Will I be a scab? I don't see it that way," Martin said, after signing up Monday to be a substitute if teachers go on strike. "I'm doing it for the students."

Martin, 51, is semi-retired, and said he still works out of his home.

He heard on the news earlier that morning that the district was looking to recruit substitutes so they could keep schools open if there is a strike.

Teachers in the city have been working without a new contract or raises since September 2006. There have been three failed contract proposals and earlier this month, teachers cut off negotiations on a fourth proposal.

Last week, the union set a strike date of March 31, giving the city an ultimatum to pass a new contract. A negotiations session is scheduled for today.

In an effort to keep the schools open, the district held a job fair at St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church to interview people from the community who were interested in becoming a substitute.

Martin was the first to show up when the doors opened at 1 p.m.

He came without any teaching experience, but had first-hand knowledge about the impact a strike can have on a school.

Martin was a student at Nashua High School during the last teachers strike in 1970, which lasted 18 days.

He said the possibility of kids having to miss several days of school was one of the things that drew him to the job fair.

"I'm not taking sides. I'm not pro-teacher or pro-city," Martin said. "It's just a matter of trying to keep the students in school."

Dana O'Gara, director of human resources, said 41 people showed up Monday.

"I would have expected more," she said.

Of those who showed up, nine had master's degrees, 13 had bachelor's degrees and 10 had some post-secondary experience, she said.

Another job fair is scheduled for today at the church, from noon-4 p.m.

There are approximately 950 teachers, but Superintendent Christopher Hottel has said some teachers have indicated they would continue to work.

Substitutes in Nashua need at least a high school diploma or a GED.

As Martin walked through the door, he filled out his application and sat down for an interview with Deb Migneault, an assistant principal at Nashua High School South.

He then filled out forms that authorized the district to conduct a background check, among other things. Martin was then fingerprinted and had his photo taken.

The whole process took about 45 minutes.

O'Gara said those who are chosen to be substitutes would be asked back to attend an orientation Wednesday.

There they will learn tips on handling a classroom and implementing a lesson plan, she said.

They will also be told they will likely have to walk through a picket line, she said.

If a settlement were reached this week, there would be no need to fill the schools with substitutes. But the district has said they need to have contingency plans in place.

Others who showed up for Monday's job fair came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were aspiring teachers looking for experience. Others were simply looking for a job, even if it's only temporary.

Brett Bicknell, 19, was one of the youngest applicants to show up. He graduated from Nashua South in 2007. He said he doesn't currently have a job but said he wanted to help out the school district.

"I'm young enough where I can relate to the high school students," he said.

Storm Bordeaux, 54, came Monday because she is trying to get into the education field. She has applied in several districts and said being a substitute would be a way to get her foot in the door.

"I've gotta do what I need to do to get some classroom experience," said Bordeaux, who said she'd like to teach middle school math or science.

Tim Sennott, 22, was laid off from his job working in a metal shop two weeks ago.

He came to Monday's job fair not just looking for an opportunity for employment but also to help out. He said the ones who would be hurt most by a strike would be the students.

"In the end I've got to do what's right for me and right for my community," said Sennott, a 2003 Nashua High School graduate.

Fred Teeboom, an alderman-at-large in Nashua, also showed up. Teeboom has drawn the ire of many teachers in the city for his opposition to the contract proposals.

Teeboom had been a substitute in 1994. But he said the lesson plans left by the teachers were inadequate and students had little respect for substitutes.

"It was terrible," he said. "A horrible experience."

Not surprisingly, Teeboom wasn't concerned about how he would be viewed by teachers for filling in for them.

"I don't look kindly on what I consider to be extortion," he said, referring to the threats of a strike.

School nurses are also part of the teachers union. O'Gara said the district is contacting local hospitals to see if there are nurses available.

Hottel has said administrators, school volunteers and other employees will also be asked to help run the schools in the case of a strike. The district has a list of 200 regular substitutes it could also call on.

New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Lyonel Tracy said Monday his department is working closely with the school district to make sure the necessary criminal background checks are being done.

If schools are kept open, administrators need to make sure there is actual learning going on, he said.

"Students can't just be assigned to study halls," he said.


AFSCME school workers pan privatization

More than a dozen school cafeteria workers — many wearing green AFSCME union T-shirts with gold lettering — gathered at last night's School Committee meeting in Salem (MA) and said they worry for their jobs if the school lunch program is privatized. Three private companies have submitted proposals to take over the school food program, which has been running a deficit for several years. Superintendent William Cameron Jr. said the proposals will be reviewed, and no decisions have been made.

School lunch workers and a small group of parents have publicly opposed such a move, saying it will cut jobs, lower food quality and decrease personalized service for the students.

"All of us are very hardworking, and we know every kid — and their allergies," said Jyll Hudson, a "lunch lady" at Salem High School. "It's not our fault that there are financial problems in the city.

"I'm the (health) benefit holder in my family, so this is a huge, huge worry for me," said Hudson, an eight-year employee of the schools.

The school cafeteria workers, who are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, arrived early to last night's meeting at Collins Middle School and talked about changes to the lunch program that they believe created some of the problems.

"They closed the snack bar and put in vending machines," said Sue Coiro, who has been a Salem lunch worker for 14 years. "I've seen all these changes and all these food directors."

Joan Pelletier, who has been a Salem lunch worker for 26 years, said the food service program used to be a money maker.

"Now they've gone the other way, penny-pinching so the meals are boring and hardly meet nutritional standards," Pelletier said.

Already, some improvements are underway, they said.

"The vending machines just got taken out at the high school, and we reopened the snack bar," Hudson said, "and today I made $500. If we had been doing that the last few years. ... It's just frustrating."

Cameron announced in early February that the schools sent out a request for proposals to outsource the food program, and possibly custodial services, as well. The request was later revised to give preference to companies that will hire the existing school lunch employees.

Food service workers say a private company would pay less. They said they currently make roughly $15 an hour.

"We have families to support, too," Hudson said.

A small parent group has tried to propose alternatives and visited Cambridge last week to learn about its school lunch program, which uses grants and farm-to-school programs. They invited all members of the School Committee to join them; member Jim Fleming went with them.

"We're hoping it's not over and we're not giving up yet," said parent Cindy Theriault, whose daughter attends Horace Mann Laboratory School. "There are grants out there no one is applying for and other ways to promote the lunch program."

The Salem schools have faced a $5.8 million midyear budget deficit, and 33 school aides, clerical workers, custodians and other employees were laid off in February. Already, the School Committee is anticipating tight funds for next year's budget, so Cameron said the schools need to look into saving money in every way possible.

"We can't make informed decisions without being informed," Cameron said when he announced the move in February to seek proposals.

"These are your front-line people," City Councilor-at-large Tom Furey said of cafeteria workers and custodians. He spoke at last night's School Committee meeting during the public comment period. "Those are the people you want to keep, even in the midst of a crisis."

Aramark, Whitsons and Chartwells (Compass Group) were the three companies to submit proposals.


Tactical ULPs pay off for union in Casino War

Foxwoods Resort Casino and the United Auto Workers union reached a settlement Monday on dozens of unfair labor practice charges filed against the casino during the run-up to a union vote by casino dealers last November. The UAW won the election, which allowed the union to represent 2,600 table game dealers. Foxwoods is appealing the election results.

As part of the settlement, a dealer who was fired will be reinstated with back pay and Foxwoods management will rescind other disciplinary actions against dealers. In addition, notices will be posted at the casino explaining employees' rights regarding union organizing, the UAW said.

The union filed a series of unfair labor practice charges that accused casino management of using threats and intimidation to persuade workers to vote against the UAW.

Foxwoods and the UAW reached the settlement on the eve of a hearing on the unfair labor practices complaints before the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford. The hearing scheduled for today has been canceled because of the settlement, the UAW said.


SEIU overspends political cash

SEIU leaders said they are planning on focusing on “member-to-member” contacts throughout Pennsylvania, choosing not to air advertisements for Obama at this time. “We think in Pennsylvania, the more workers can talk to workers, the more influential we can be,” said Anna Burger, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, in a conference call with reporters Monday.

There are more than 75,000 SEIU members in the Keystone State, and the union is setting up eight sites across Pennsylvania. The focus has been on registration through Monday, the deadline for residents to register to vote or change their party affiliation. The next step will be educating members.

While SEIU aired ads for Obama, shortly after announcing their national endorsement, before the Ohio primary, they are not planning to go on television or radio in Pennsylvania at this time. “But that could change,” Burger said.

“We think the candidates are spending so much on the air, it's more important for us to be on the door and on the ground,” she said.

After a compressed primary schedule earlier this year, union officials said the extra time has allowed them to ensure their membership rolls are up to date and to better organize themselves in the field, which lessened the need for media buys. Burger said members have been spontaneously reaching out to union officials, interested in the race and getting involved.

When asked if Obama could win the union vote in Pennsylvania, with polls showing Clinton at a 15-point advantage, Burger said she thought “we can narrow the gap.”


Big Print reporters toe the News Union line

How bad does economic reporting get in a presidential election year? Consider this performance by The New York Times two weeks ago. Exhibit No. 1: All the papers, not just the Times, made a huge deal out of job losses during the last two months of 22,000 and 63,000. The latter figure, the Saturday Times exclaimed, is "the biggest monthly loss in five years." In fact, five years ago - January to August 2003 - non-farm payrolls fell by 444,000. Did that massive job loss in 2003 mark the start of recession? Of course not.

Yet New York Times writer David Leonhardt declared an "End to the Good Times" on March 8 by claiming three consecutive months of job loss (it was actually one or two months, depending on which survey you use) proves "recession . . . is now unavoidable."

If that were true, then 2003 . . .

(cont'd from front page) should have been the start of a really nasty downturn. Indeed, Times columnist Paul Krugman, in an interview with Rolling Stone that May, announced the economy "is, for all practical purposes, in recession - whatever they say officially." The economy has added 8.2 million payroll jobs since then.

Today's hysteria looks even more absurd if you dig into the data. Only half the unemployed in February had actually lost a job, and a fourth of those were temporary layoffs. The rest either quit or did not have a job before.

And half the unemployed were out of work for fewer than 8.4 weeks - down from an average of 8.7 weeks during the prior four months. Only 17.5 percent had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more - down from 19.3 percent in November.

Finally, only 4.8 percent said they were unemployed - well below the 5.8 percent average since 1960. Adding discouraged workers - those who say they've stopped looking for a job out of frustration - just lifts that jobless rate to 5.1 percent.

Exhibit No. 2: Peter S. Goodman's March 2 Times business feature asking, "Is a Lean Economy Turning Mean?"

Like Krugman and Leonhardt, Goodman tried to change the subject - from unemployment to the percentage of the population over the age of 16 that is working at a civilian job. But a drop in that employment-population ratio does not prove, as Goodman imagined, that it is "tougher than ever to find a job." It may just mean more people prefer to go to school, take care of children or retire - or serve in the military.

Goodman made much of the fact that "62.8 percent of all Americans age 16 and older were employed at the end of last year, down from the peak of 64.6 percent in early 2000." So what? Some 405,000 more young people were on active military duty in 2007 than in early 2000 - and only civilian jobs get counted among the "employed." There are also more aging baby boomers retiring.

Besides, early 2000 was the pinnacle of the high-tech stock bubble. Looking at 1993 to 2000 (the Clinton years) as a whole, 63.4 percent of the population was employed in civilian jobs - insignificantly different from last month's figure of 62.7 percent, despite the enlarged armed forces.

Exhibit No.3: In a March 5 report, claiming low unemployment rates are "deeply misleading," Leonhardt suggested that full-time jobs have become so scarce that hundreds of thousands were supposedly forced to work in part-time jobs. "Over the last year," he said, "employment has risen by 100,000, but . . . there are also 600,000 more people who are working part time because they could not find full-time work."

In fact, the number of full-time jobs rose by 445,000 over the last year, while the number of part-time jobs fell by 297,000.

Moreover, the "part-time" category includes anyone who worked fewer than 35 hours during the survey week - often because they work in occupations with variable hours, like construction or retailing. Those working short hours "for economic reasons" (including bad weather and seasonal jobs) still add up to just 3.3 percent of all workers, and most aren't looking for a 9-to-5 schedule. The number of part-timers who said they "could only find part-time work" has fallen since December and is only 13,000 larger than a year ago.

Exhibit No. 4: In that March 5 report, Leonhardt frets about "the percentage of prime-age men (those 25 to 54 years old) who are not working . . . In January, almost 13 percent of prime-age men didn't hold a job, up from 11 percent in 1998 [and] 11 percent in 1988."

Only 2.5 percent of men who aren't in the labor force claim to have looked for work or to be discouraged from looking. Yet Leonhardt claims "various studies" show that "these nonemployed workers . . . would, in fact, like to find a good job" but "can no longer find work that pays as well."

This conflicts with other information that's readily available. For example, the University of Chicago's famed General Social Survey shows that the percent of Americans satisfied with their jobs has hovered near 86 percent for decades, while the percent who are "very satisfied" with their jobs rose from 44.9 percent in 1996 to 49.4 percent in 2006.

One of Leonhardt's two named sources is Jay Stewart of the Bureau of Labor Statistics - yet Stewart's research undercuts the "no good jobs" claim. In a 2006 study in the journal Demography, Stewart uncovered a "cadre of men who spend large amounts of time not working. In an average year, about 85 percent of male nonworkers are men who will end up spending nearly one in five years not working, and 68 percent will end up spending one in three years not working . . . In the years that they do work, these marginal workers tend to work fewer weeks."

How do these lazy fellows survive between rare jobs? For some, it's the European way - abusing disability benefits and other government aid. Stewart cites "convincing evidence that the liberalization of the [disability insurance] program in 1984 resulted in an increase in the nonwork rate." Stewart found that even more of these chronic nonworkers depend on wives, parents and other family members.

What do these nonworking men do? Stewart found that "household work and education account for only 31 percent of the time freed up by not working. The remaining 69 percent is spent in leisure and personal care activities."

The U.S. job market has sometimes been better than it was in the past two months, but it has also been much worse (as in 2003) without telling us anything useful about the future.


Right To Work state suffers SEIU break-in

With the prospect of no raises and probable layoffs, Pima County's newest labor union will face some tough challenges when its representatives take their seats at the bargaining table for the first time next month. Last week, the county and members of the Service Employees International Union agreed on a "meet-and-confer" process that gives the union an advisory role in setting workplace policies, grievance procedures, pay and benefits.

The first meeting should take a place in a few weeks, just before County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry releases a recommended budget that is expected to include no raises and that may include layoffs in some departments.

Huckelberry also has proposed privatizing the home-care workers who make up more than a quarter of card-carrying union members, though the plan was delayed after workers and clients objected.

Union President David Mitchell, a social worker in the Public Defender's Office, said the union recognizes that the county is facing difficult times.

"The economy, more likely than not, is in a recession, and that will impact our negotiations," he said. "We could still go in and demand exorbitant raises, but that doesn't make any sense. What we have to do is sit down and work as closely as possible in a number of areas related to the fiscal issues."

Despite the constraints, Mitchell said the meet-and-confer agreement is historic in giving county employees a formal voice in a right-to-work state.

A rival union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had a similar agreement with the county for years, but meetings tended to be called as needed, rather than following a set process.

Gwyn Hatcher, Pima County's human-resources director, said county officials don't know what effect the new process will have.

In January 2007, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance authorizing the creation of a meet-and-confer process, and in April, county workers voted to make the Service Employees International Union their authorized representative.

The arrangement is not exclusive — individual workers and other unions still can meet with management — but the meet-and-confer process creates an official channel for workers to raise grievances, lobby for policy changes and ask for better pay and benefits.

The agreement calls for a group of five employee and five management representatives to meet regularly. The meetings will be subject to Open Meeting Law, and minutes from each session will be available to the public and will reveal who supported any recommendations approved by the committee.

Those recommendations will have to be approved by the county administrator and ratified by the union membership before going to the Board of Supervisors for a vote.

County workers can't engage in collective bargaining under Arizona law, nor can they strike.

Mitchell said union members want to use the meet-and-confer process to suggest ways to make county services more effective and efficient, as well as to address "bread-and-butter" issues.

"We have a commitment to participating in innovation and quality," Mitchell said. "This gives us the ability to sit down with management and talk about how to provide better services and do the best job possible."


Dues-drain in battleground labor-states

The number of union workers nationwide was on the increase last year, but it fell in Ohio and Michigan, primarily because of the loss of manufacturing jobs. Union membership across the country was on the decline for years, but last year 15.7 million members were recorded, up 0.1 percent from the year before, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report yesterday.

In Ohio, about 4,000 members were lost last year from 730,000 the year before, a decline of 0.5 percent. In Michigan, the loss was 7 percent.

Labor experts cite a loss of manufacturing jobs and the rise of the service sector as being responsible.

"They face an uphill battle," said Marick Masters, a professor of business administration with the University of Pittsburgh. "They're losing manufacturing jobs to overseas markets, but also, more jobs exist now in industries that lack a demand for unions."

Paul LaPorte, senior economist of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said manufacturing states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana will continue to lose union jobs.

Some unions in Ohio, however, are gaining members.

Service Employees International Union added 7,367 in 2007, said spokesman Jennifer Farmer.

"This was an important year in the union's history," she said. The union typically grows each year, but considers 2007 one of its best years in the past decade, she said.

Similarly, the United Food and Commercial Workers union is growing.

"We've been doing some advertising, gotten some contacts from people looking to join," said Jeff Stephens, president of UFCW Local 911, which has 8,500 members in the Toledo area. "We're hoping to grow next year."

Economists said 2007 was a positive year for unions nationwide.

"Maybe they've begun to stop the hemorrhaging and reverse the trend," said Mr. Masters.


Teachers unions are not perfect

I find it funny that Mr. Hoff talks about our Teachers Union as if they are not interested in our children's education and only in lining their pockets. He suggests that the union only wants to make smaller class sizes so that they can add more "dues" paying teachers.

It has been clearly shown in many studies that smaller class sizes help children to achieve higher test scores, improve student behavior and study techniques that last even after the child is put into a bigger classroom.

So I guess this does affect the quality of education.

And if I'm not mistaken the Union is here to protect the teachers which in turn does benefit our children.

Fighting for higher pay, benefits, planning time and vacations does benefit the children. What kind of teachers will we be able to hire if we cannot be competitive with the rest of the country?

We want high quality teachers that are not overstressed or overburdened and living below the poverty line.

And to say "what does the Union do with the considerable dollars it has collected?" is unfair.

It is very easy to say "Well the Union President doesn't seem to be in poverty!"

In fact Mr. Hoff, I don't know where every penny of the union dues go, and I would bet that neither do you.

But I would sure find out before I started spreading innuendos.

I'm not saying that the union is perfect, and yes, the quality of our children's education is severely lacking, but I hardly think the solution lies solely within the teachers union.

- Kandi Woodward, Parent of FWPS Children

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