Pushing anti-democratic, no-vote unionization

Four of America's largest unions have announced a political, electoral and legislative alliance pledged to "renew core American values: dignity, decency and fair treatment in the workplace."

The Communication Workers of America, the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which together represent well over 2 million workers, will develop common strategies and share resources to help elect candidates who support working families, and to advocate on public policy issues.

The new alliance, which has committed to invest resources heavily in the next two years to help achieve its goals, has identified four top priorities: Passing the Employee Free Choice Act, which allow workers to exercise their right to organize free from employer coercion; winning universal health care; and, protecting jobs by promoting fair trade.

"Only by restoring bargaining rights for U.S. workers will we be able to transform our political landscape, achieve such critical goals as universal health care and begin to rebuild the middle class," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "Our unions have long worked to promote workers' rights. This Alliance enables us to expand those efforts and resources and help build a political movement that will make real gains for working families, starting with the Employee Free Choice Act," he said.

The alliance of four of America's largest and most diverse trade unions, with wide representation in private and public sector, comes at a time when just over 12% of America's workers have union representation - yet public opinion polls show that tens of millions of workers would join a union if given the opportunity.

Passing the Employee Free Choice Act and taking other steps to return fairness to the workplace will be a top priority of the Alliance, so that all workers have a free and fair opportunity to join a union.

"It's time to take back our country on behalf of the working families who made it great in the first place," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. "Working together, we'll be stronger than ever - and there's no doubt that working people need a strong voice to speak truth to the forces of wealth and privilege that have thrown our political and economic system dangerously out of balance."

Through focused legislative, political and electoral efforts, the Alliance will also address the continued squeeze on working families. While the cost of food fuel, health care, college tuition, and other necessities are rising, wages are stagnating: Median household income fell by more than $1,000 a month between 2000 and 2006.

Working people who have health care are struggling to maintain it," said USW President Leo W. Gerard, "and thousands are being thrown out of the system every day, a system that's already consuming 16% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It's time that America met the health care challenges the way the rest of the industrialized world has by making health care universally affordable and accessible."

"This partnership will enhance our ability as a union to challenge political leaders of all stripes to do what is truly necessary to address the many critical concerns of America's working men and women," said IFPTE President Gregory Junemann. "Backed by the two million members of these four proud unions, this historic alliance will call on Washington to not only make it a crime for CEOs and CFOs to raid the retirement and pension funds of their workers, but to also reform our laws so that rogue corporations will be unable to turn a blind eye to their pension obligations by simply asking a bankruptcy judge to declare them null and void. Not only does this leave workers out in the cold after saving a lifetime for retirement, it also transfers the responsibility of paying some of these lost pensions onto the taxpayer. While Congress found a way to prevent honest, hard working Americans from declaring bankruptcy, they did nothing to prevent this kind of corporate malfeasance. We at IFPTE look forward to working in conjunction with this alliance in protecting the pensions and retirement savings of America's workers."

The Alliance announced today builds on a strong tradition of cooperation between the CWA, the UAW, the USW. In 2005, the three unions spearheaded the formation of Mobilization at Delphi, to actively defend the interests of Delphi workers against corporate executive who were determined to use the bankruptcy process to enrich themselves at the expense of workers and communities.

Since 2007, the CWA, the UAW and the USW have worked jointly on a variety of legislative issues, including EFCA, health care, trade, and promoting good-paying jobs.

The IFPTE's commitment to this new alliance strengthens the unions' efforts to win new progressive legislation that protects and advances the interests of workers.


United Way waves the pro-union flag

The United Way of Washington County-East is celebrating. The non-profit organization that serves the eastern portion of Washington County is recognizing volunteers for their tireless community service along with the individuals and businesses who contributed financially to the local chapter of the United Way over the last year. The Campaign Celebration and Volunteer Recognition Event is tonight, Thursday, March 27.

“We are pleased to hold this event every year to honor the volunteers and companies that come together to support us,” said Martha Naegeli, the executive director of UWWCE. “It is amazing to see the outpouring of generosity from our community, and it is nice to be able to recognized that.”

A different type of financial goal was in place for the United Way of Washington County-East UWWCE. A campaign board member came up with the idea of a stretch goal campaign, according Naegeli.

The stretch goal spans a five-year period that began with the 2006 campaign. In 2006, the UWWCE raised $1.45 million. The 2007 total is not complete but indications are more than $1.5 million will be raised. Within a five-year period, the UWWCE hopes to raise $2 million or more for its yearly campaign, an amount Naegeli and board members deem necessary to support the organizations of the community.

Naegeli said she is impressed with the support of the community and the totals that have come in during the last two years.

“We have great support from consistent backers of the community,” Naegeli said. “Cub Foods and Acapulco Restaurante will receive Platinum Awards this year. We have had a lot of support through the local unions of the area. They have provided significant support”

The Platinum Award is given to those who raise $10,000 or more for the UWWCE through special events.

Contributions from the local unions are up considerably this year, said Corrine Watson, a staff member at UWWCE. The increase was between 50 and 600 percent over last year’s donations. The St. Croix Education Association, Xcel Energy IBEW Local 23 and the Washington County Employees AFSCME were some of the main union contributors.

“I think the union members feel a strong sense of caring about their neighbors who may not be faring as well in their community,” Watson said.

This is also the first year that Health Partners placed a contribution box on their ballots rather than having only that of the Greater Twin Cities United Way. A large contribution came from Health Partners due to this change on its campaign ballots.

Last year also marked the first year the local United Way campaigned under its new name. The change from St. Croix Area United Way to the United Way of Washington County-East took place last summer.

“This is the first campaign with our new name and it was a success,” Naegeli said. It was just easier to communicate who we are and where we work.

“It really speaks to the fact that people who don’t know there is a separate United Way don’t know to direct their money to us,” Naegeli continued. “When they see on a pledge card that there is a specific United Way for their county, for Washington County, they are going to elect it.”

The United Way of Washington County-East thrives on the contributions of local people, monetarily and in the trenches. Tonight the people who donate time to the UWWCE will also be recognized.

The Clayton Molten Award for the volunteer of the year will be handed out tonight. The award is named after Clayton Molten, who was one of the original founders of the St. Croix chapter of the United Way. This edition of the Stillwater Courier went to press before the Molten Award winner was released.

The numbers of volunteers at the United Way has held steady in recent years. Naegeli said that there is currently a plan being made to create a partnership between UWWCE and the Community Service Center in Stillwater.

“Its intent is going to be to bring new, more short-term volunteer opportunities to the area,” Naegeli said. “It’s to try to make it a more compelling and interesting thing for groups to get involved in. We are excited and putting together details now. We are renewing our focus on volunteerism in the community.”


Stern makes a move in California power-play

The president of one of the nation's largest labor unions moved this week toward ousting the leaders of its West Coast affiliate, in a power struggle that could affect hundreds of thousands of California workers and the state's strained health care industry.

Andy Stern, president of the Washington-headquartered Service Employees International Union, sent a letter on Monday - obtained by The Chronicle - that alleges misconduct by Sal Rosselli, president of the Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers West, who has been Stern's most vocal critic.

Rosselli and other leaders of the union - which has 150,000 members, many of them in the Bay Area - said the allegations appear to be a prelude to a trusteeship, under which Stern would replace the union's elected leaders with his own appointees.

The battle between Stern and Rosselli is being closely watched by all of SEIU's 600,000 California members and could have long-term effects on how the labor movement organizes, elects its leaders and negotiates contracts nationwide. It also could have a seismic impact in the health care industry, where Rosselli's union remains a potent political and economic force.

The labor leaders have clashed in recent months over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed health care plan (Stern backed it, Rosselli opposed it); over the union's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama; over Stern's efforts to reorganize SEIU's California unions; and over bargaining tactics with hospitals, nursing homes and other employers.

Rosselli insists Stern is seeking to oust him for his outspoken views. Last month, Rosselli resigned from SEIU's executive committee after accusing Stern of consolidating power in the hands of his allies while marginalizing other elected leaders. He also alleges that Stern has cut deals with corporate leaders to grow SEIU's rolls at the expense of current members' contracts.

"It's retaliatory because we are speaking out against his ideology, his direction," Rosselli said. "The simplest way I can say it is, it's top-down versus bottom-up, corporate unionism versus social unionism."

SEIU denies retaliation

SEIU officials denied any effort to retaliate against Rosselli for his views. They also insist that Rosselli's allegations against Stern are false and suggest he represents a minority view within the 1.9 million-member union.

Andrew McDonald, an SEIU spokesman, said the letter was sent in response to complaints from union members about Rosselli's actions at United Healthcare Workers West.

"The key thing is that these are very serious allegations that have come from members and so the union is taking this very seriously," McDonald said. But he added that it's too soon to speculate whether the charges could lead to a trusteeship, saying "It's premature to talk about any formal action."

The letter lists a series of charges against Rosselli - breaches of fiduciary duty, interference with collective bargaining rights, financial irregularities and unethical conduct - which are grounds for removing a union's elected leaders under federal labor law.

"Reading the document, it clearly tries to establish a basis for justifying an unlawful trusteeship with these bogus complaints," said John Borsos, the administrative vice president of United Healthcare Workers West.

The letter alleges that Rosselli created a shadow entity last year and diverted money into it to evade scrutiny by the union. Rosselli said the 501(c)3 he created to educate members and the public about health care issues was approved unanimously by the union's executive board, and is similar to entities run by SEIU nationally.

The document also charges that Rosselli conducted a deceptive and phony mail-in election last month to scare some of the Oakland union's long-term care workers from joining a new union being created as part of Stern's reorganization. Rosselli said the election was approved by the local union's board, and the results showed that 99 percent of nursing home workers and 96 percent of the home care workers did not want to leave United Healthcare Workers West.

The letter also alleges that Rosselli was colluding with the California Nurses Association and trying to form a new independent union separate from SEIU, a charge Rosselli calls outrageous.

Clashes over health care

The charges, which are unproven, are just the latest skirmish between the two men. When Rosselli resigned from the SEIU executive committee, he issued his own laundry list of Stern's alleged offenses. Rosselli's camp created an anti-Stern Web site - www. seiuvoice.org. SEIU has responded with its own Web site, www. seiufactchecker.org.

The two men were on opposite sides during California's fight last year to overhaul the state's health care system. Stern played a key role in the proposal, convincing Schwarzenegger that he could help rally labor support for the plan. Rosselli and other prominent state labor leaders opposed the plan, saying it failed to address affordability. The plan ultimately died in the Legislature.

Rosselli, who at the time was president of the SEIU California State Council, felt Stern had cut a secret deal behind his back. After the bitter dispute, Rosselli was knocked out of his position as state president by Stern's backers on the state council.

Rosselli says Stern resisted his efforts to endorse Obama for president. The state SEIU had endorsed former South Carolina Sen. John Edwards, but when he pulled out on Jan. 30, Rosselli and his union quickly voted to urge the state council to endorse Obama before the state's Feb. 5 primary.

Stern initially urged the state council to stay neutral, Rosselli said. Obama was eventually endorsed by the state and national SEIU. McDonald, the union's spokesman, disputed Rosselli's account, saying Stern fully backed the union's endorsement of Obama.

"The fact is SEIU endorsed Barack Obama and is going to work incredibly hard to get him elected," McDonald said.

Showdown at convention

The dispute between the two leaders is likely to come to a head at SEIU's convention in Puerto Rico in June, an event held every four years where members debate the union's direction.

Rosselli and a dissident faction in the union want to force a vote on a series of reforms that would lead to direct election of SEIU's top leaders - rather than the current system where delegates to the convention elect the president. The proposals would also give local unions a greater say when national leaders seek to merge them.

Rosselli's union is likely to have the second-largest slate of delegates at the convention, with 146. He views Stern's letter as an effort to intimidate the union.

"If he puts us in trusteeship, we can't go to the convention," Rosselli said. "He's trying to eliminate his political opposition."

Stern wouldn't respond to those allegations. But his spokesman said Rosselli is grandstanding to distract people from the charges against him.

"How many times is Sal Rosselli going to recycle the same tired set of allegations and misleading information about the internal deliberations of SEIU?" McDonald asked.
The players

Andy Stern
President, Service Employees International Union

He has helped turn the SEIU into the nation's fastest-growing union, but critics say he's usurped the power of local unions and been too willing to cut deals with corporate leaders.

Sal Rosselli
President, United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU affiliate)

One of California's most powerful labor leaders, he's criticized Stern for his management style and for backing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's health care plan. But Rosselli's jabs at Stern have turned off some SEIU members.


Labor-state mini-strike pays off for AFT

University of Michigan graduate student instructors will get a bump in pay and the U-M campus has returned to normal after a brief labor flare-up that halted some classes Tuesday. Negotiators for the university and the Graduate Employees Organization, Local AFT 3550, reached a tentative 3-year contract agreement late Tuesday. The union had asked for a 9% pay increase in the first year, saying that the average salary of $15,199 for a 20-hour workweek eight months of the year didn't cover living expenses.

The union agreed to a bump in salary and a cash payment which is equivalent to a 6.2% increase, followed by 3.5% increases in the second and third years.

Additionally, the university agreed to cover the total health care premiums for all employees, including those who previously shared those premium costs. The university waives tuition for most graduate student instructors.

"I'm very happy. It's a historic deal," said Colleen Woods, a graduate student and the union's lead negotiator.

Jeff Frumkin, U-M's provost of academic human resources, said university officials were "pleased that we reached an agreement and pleased with the agreement."

Negotiators began talking last year, but a deadlock triggered a one-day work stoppage Tuesday. Some classes taught by the graduate students were canceled, and sympathetic professors also canceled or moved classes.

Construction work at two sites -- Michigan Stadium and Ross School of Business -- also stopped as workers there refused to cross picket lines.


Gov't union in ugly anti-semitic protest

An emotional Sam Katz was enraged yesterday after a city hall protester carried a sign that depicted the Winnipeg mayor as Adolf Hitler. During a break from city operating budget deliberations, Katz -- an Israeli-born Jew whose parents were Holocaust concentration camp survivors -- said he would have become violent had he seen the protester himself.


"I can assure you that if I were out there at that particular point in time, that individual would not be in an erect position," said Katz, his voice choking with emotion.

"In a way, I'm disappointed that I wasn't there to confront the individual. In another way, who knows what might have happened? Maybe it's lucky that I wasn't there at the time, because I know that I would have reacted."

And if he had, he said, "It would not have been a pretty picture."

The sign -- depicting four images of Katz in a military cap and moustache to make him resemble the Nazi leader -- was brought to the mayor's attention by staff after a demonstration which saw more than 80 anti-privatization protesters converge on a courtyard outside the Main Street council building.

Steve Mack, 22, later called the Winnipeg Sun to identify himself as the protester who carried the placard with the offensive images. He stressed, however, he's not anti-Semitic and meant no harm by taking the sign to the event.

"I just went because I heard it was protesting the mayor, so I printed a placard. I took a low road and tried to mock the mayor, but it certainly wasn't a racist message," Mack said, adding he regrets "casting a shadow" over the demonstration.

"It wasn't supposed to be Hitler, but I can see how that connotation could be conceived. I am very ashamed of that."

After calling the mayor's office yesterday to apologize and talking to support staff, he said he'll send Katz a letter to say he's sorry.


"I said we'd pass on that information. But Sam has no intention at this point of calling the individual back," said Brad Salyn, Katz's communications director.

B'nai Brith Canada has condemned what it calls the "Holocaust trivialization" at the protest, and slammed the event's organizers for remaining "passive bystanders" in letting the slur occur.

Greg Mandzuk, an official with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which took part in the protest, said later that the sign "disgusts" him.

Mike Lennon of anti-corporate group Winnipeg Is Not For Sale said no organizer of the protest knows the demonstrator or had known of the pictures until mayoral policy adviser Bryan Gray called some of them together following the event to complain about it. Lennon said while the group does not support the sign's message, protest leaders could not have controlled all signs and placards brought by the dozens of individuals to the demonstration.


Teamsters will pay for beating up protesters

A brother and sister who said that Teamsters beat them up for protesting against President Clinton during a 1998 visit to Philadelphia have settled their legal battle with the union. Don Adams, 47, and his older sister, Theresa, both of Cheltenham in Montgomery County, agreed last week to a settlement with Teamsters Local 115 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The union will pay the two an undisclosed amount to drop the lawsuit, according to attorney Joe Adams, a cousin of the plaintiffs.

Clinton was in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal at the time of the city hall appearance in 1998. A large group of Teamsters was present, along with the Adamses, who were protesting Clinton's visit.

The Adams say two union men grabbed Don Adams' sign, which read: "Liar, pervert, national shame." A scuffle ensued when he tried to get the sign back.

Adams suffered a concussion, cuts and bruises and a herniated disc. His sister was bruised but not seriously injured.

The Adamses filed federal civil rights claims against the union, the Philadelphia district attorney and then-Mayor Ed Rendell, whom they accused of instigating the attack by inviting the union to drown out protesters. They were aided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

A federal judge dismissed that suit in 2003. When their appeal failed, the Adamses brought a civil lawsuit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

The suit accused the Teamsters of assault, defamation of character and malicious prosecution.

In a written statement Wednesday, Adams said he and his sister "are declaring victory for the First Amendment and freedom of speech."

Thomas Kohn, attorney for the Philadelphia-based Teamsters local, would not comment on the settlement other than to confirm one had been reached.


UPS rolls over again for Teamsters

An overwhelming majority of about 210 workers at the UPS Freight (formerly Overnite Transportation) terminals in Alabama, Georgia, New York, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin have signed authorization cards to become Teamsters, bringing the total number of drivers and dockworkers seeking to join the union to more
than 9,600 since January 16, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa announced.

The workers are seeking to join Local 528 which includes Phenix City, Alabama, and the Georgia cities of Macon, Gainesville and Tifton; Local 118 in Rochester, New York; Local 695 in Madison, Wisconsin; Local 245 in Springfield, Missouri; Local 612 in Montgomery, Alabama; and Local 40 in Mansfield, Ohio.

"During a 90-day period, more than 9,600 UPS Freight workers have signed cards to join the Teamsters," said Ken Hall, Director of the Teamsters Package Division. "UPS Freight workers want and deserve a strong union that will give them a greater voice in the workplace, plus a good contract."

"These workers wanted to join the Teamsters and have been looking forward to this moment for some time now," said Don Toney, President of Local 528. "Once they were given the opportunity they jumped at the chance."

"This victory is going to improve working conditions and give the workers job security," said Wayne Schultz, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 695. "I'd like to thank IBT Organizer Andy Anderetti, who did a wonderful job for us."

"It's a great day for the workers who have waited so long to join the Teamsters," said Steven Mazza, President of Local 118. "We look forward to getting them a great contract that will give them peace of mind for the future."

"I would like to thank Local 245 Organizer Harvey Ritter for a job well done," said Jim Kabell, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 245. "The workers look forward to having several issues corrected at the terminal and we're glad to welcome them as Teamsters."

"This is one of the greatest organizing victories for the Teamsters, and we are proud to have these new members join us," said Larry Shaw, President of Local 40.

In addition to these workers, a majority of UPS Freight workers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, the New England area, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington state and Wisconsin have submitted cards to become Teamsters.

Victories have come in numerous large cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.


Boeing workers use secret-ballot against union

The director of the Boeing Co. engineers union soon could face his first major leadership test: a challenge to the labor group's representation in Kansas. Just months after being hired as the executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, Ray Goforth may need to convince workers at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems to keep union representation. Some Spirit employees are collecting signatures to force a vote on whether SPEEA should continue to represent professional and technical workers at the Kansas site.

The union is ready to answer a decertification vote, said Bill Dugovich, SPEEA's communications director. The Spirit employees trying to oust SPEEA have until May 11 to file their petition, which needs signatures from 30 percent of the represented workers. A vote likely wouldn't take place until sometime this summer.

"We'll respond as we have in the past by emphasizing the benefits of being part of a union," Dugovich said.

SPEEA's contract with Spirit does not expire until 2011. However, their agreement calls for the union and aerospace manufacturing company to discuss wage and benefit increases this summer.

"The negotiations are going to proceed," Dugovich said. "We're keeping an eye on what's going on in the workplace."

Spirit builds the Boeing 737's fuselage as well as the forward sections of the 747, 767 and 777 jets. The aerospace company also supplies composite barrel sections for Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.

This fall, SPEEA also is scheduled to begin talks with Boeing to negotiate a new three-year contract for Puget Sound area members.

SPEEA represents about 24,000 engineers and technical workers across the country at companies including Boeing, Spirit, BAE Systems and Triumph Composite Systems. More than 2,300 SPEEA- represented workers would be affected by a decertification challenge at Spirit in Wichita.

Bonuses given to nonunion workers and management are causing discontent among SPEEA members at Spirit. In a survey published by SPEEA this month, about 93 percent of Spirit respondents believe they should be included in the company's bonus program. Bonuses ranked as the second most important issue, next to wage increases, for negotiations, according to the survey.

This is the second effort to get rid of SPEEA in Kansas in the past year. A right-to-work state, Kansas has proved difficult for SPEEA in terms of cultivating members. Only about 27 percent of Spirit professional and technical workers are dues-paying SPEEA members. About 94 percent of technical workers at Boeing's Everett plant belong to the union.

Last June, Boeing defense workers at the Wichita Professional and Technical Unit voted 408-353 to drop SPEEA.

Shortly afterward, four members of SPEEA's executive board forced out the union's long-time director, Charles Bofferding. Those board members later were recalled, but Bofferding was not reinstated. The union went without an executive director for six months.

SPEEA's contract with Boeing expires Dec. 1. The union, which represents more than 20,000 workers in the Puget Sound area, staged a 40-day strike against the company in 2000.

SPEEA's Goforth, who started his job in February, already has labeled some recent actions by Boeing as "aggressive." Earlier this month, the union's new director told The Herald he believes that "Boeing corporate is seeking to eliminate union protection where they can."


Big Print seeks to dump News Union

The owner of the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and dozens of other newspapers in the Bay Area acted legally when it withdrew recognition of the Newspaper Guild as the bargaining agent for newsroom employees following a consolidation of news operations, an official with a federal agency ruled.

An executive with California Newspapers Partnership, the three-company group that owns the papers, said he was pleased with the ruling from a division of the National Labor Relations Board. A Newspaper Guild official said the union would forge ahead with efforts to organize newsroom employees and the ruling could eventually help the labor group.

The NLRB ruling came in response to charges from the union that Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. and its partners acted illegally when they ceased to recognize the union. The newspaper owners withdrew recognition of the Newspaper Guild in August because the newly consolidated newsroom operations consisted of more non-union members than union members.

After the consolidation, about 130 of the 300-plus newsroom employees were unionized workers.

"The employer did not violate the (National Labor Relations) Act because the historical bargaining unit ceased to be an appropriate unit after the employer consolidated unit employees into a larger group of other employees," Barry Kearney, an associate general counsel in the NLRB's advice division, wrote in a March 19 memo to the NLRB's regional director.

The non-union employees in the consolidated newsroom operation were primarily from the Contra Costa Times and other papers that were part of Contra Costa Newspapers. The union employees were primarily from the Oakland Tribune and other papers that had been part of Alameda Newspaper Group.

"In particular, we agree with the (NLRB Bay Area regional office) that the changes made by the employer were entrepreneurial in nature," Kearney wrote. "The employer did not violate the (labor) act by withdrawing recognition from the union."

The NLRB official also said the photography, sports, features, business, regional news and online content departments of the newspapers in the East Bay and San Mateo have been fully consolidated and integrated into an organization called Bay Area News Group-East Bay.

"Our goal all along was to organize a larger unit, the BANG-East Bay unit," said Carl Hall, a local representative for the Newspaper Guild. "I don't know what the practical effect of this ruling will be."

Hall said language in the NLRB memo may help define the appropriate scope for a bargaining unit.

The NLRB ruling will be helpful for the company, said John Armstrong, president and publisher of Bay Area News Group-East Bay.

"This decision allows us to continue to move forward to produce the best newspapers within our capacity," Armstrong said.


Iowans disgusted by Dem pro-union bias

In my last column I wrote about a strong bipartisan effort dealing with Iowa health care policy. Both political parties in the House worked together, resulting in good legislation that passed unanimously.

Last week, unfortunately, was the most partisan so far this session. Quite frankly, I did not enjoy my time in the Capitol last week. At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, after the media had gone home, the majority party filed a 14-page amendment to a non-controversial bill that will dramatically change Iowa’s collective bargaining laws.

Debate on the amendment began the next day and we continued until 3 a.m. With Easter weekend approaching and debate in the middle of the night, most school, city and county officials affected by this law were on vacation and at that specific moment asleep. It was obvious that the goal was to minimize coverage of the legislation.

By the next day, mid-afternoon, Republican House members had offered 43 amendments and every single one was turned down on a party-line vote. It was obvious that a deal had already been worked out between the majority party and the labor unions who were the only groups in favor of the bill. In fact, there were multiple groups registered strongly opposed. Neither the minority party nor the public were allowed input.

Did the 24-hour debate accomplish anything? By Thursday morning Iowans became aware of the negative aspects of this legislation and the significant lack of input into the process. My e-mail inbox was filling up fast. I had school board members, superintendents, city administrators, and county officials demanding my “no” vote. Not since last year’s attempt to force non-union members to pay a share of union dues, or the previous year’s veto of our strong property rights law, did I hear such anxiety and bitterness towards a bill. People were quite angry at the attempt to pass controversial legislation in the middle of the night right before a major holiday.

This legislation will add topics to union negotiations that were previously the responsibility of management. These include staffing levels, classroom size, choice of health insurance carrier, class preparation time, and all aspects of employee evaluation. The list also includes the phrase “not limited to” that will lead to a list of negotiated items that is virtually endless.

Most troublesome is the stipulation that an unelected adjudicator has final decision-making power in a dispute between employer and employees, removing a potential challenge in court. The adjudicator is not accountable to the voters and many do not even live Iowa. Many also have a background as a public employee. Do you think their final decision will be unbiased and sensitive to the community and tax payer?

For example if a union negotiates a classroom size, schools could be forced to hire new teachers and build new facilities, not because of the demands of a school board or citizens, but because an unelected adjudicator ordered it. If the District doesn’t have the money, it will be required to raise property taxes if it has the capability to do so.

You can see why I had many constituents, in their contacts with me last week, describe this legislation as “catastrophic,” “devastating,” and “potentially the largest property tax increase ever.” These descriptions were typical and originated from local officials all over the state. Universities, municipal utilities, and municipal hospitals are also included in this legislation, hence tuition rates, utility rates, and health care costs could also be affected.

Our collective bargaining laws have always been a balance between employer and employee; management and labor. This legislation destroys this balance, something with negative consequences beyond this session and the next. When legislation happens without ANY input from the minority political party or the affected citizens, bad things are bound to happen. I have been on both sides of the bargaining table and this legislation is not good policy. The original collective bargaining law was a work of bipartisanship, this was the exact opposite.

The only recourse is for the Governor to veto this bill. I would suggest a call to him at 1-515-281-5211 or an e-mail at chet.culver@iowa.gov. If you like this legislation I respect your view, but I am convinced that this will be the disaster of 2008.


Nurses try to get out of SEIU

The Service Employees International Union faced an apparent revolt Wednesday as several hundred nurses at the three St. Rose Dominican hospitals in Las Vegas filed a petition to switch to a rival union — even as the SEIU negotiates a new contract on the nurses’ behalf.

The rival California Nurses Association would not disclose the number of signatures on the election petition it filed with the National Labor Relations Board. But organizers said the number exceeded the minimum required under federal labor law — 30 percent of an eligible bargaining unit. That means at least 330 of 1,100 registered nurses at St. Rose signed.

Supporters said the purpose is to gain more clout through a union that represents only nurses. They also were responding to what they referred to as failures on patient-care issues in SEIU-negotiated contracts.

SEIU officials countered that the petition stemmed from a small group of dissidents and an unusually aggressive union that had misled members. The SEIU also called the move illegal, citing a provision in the AFL-CIO’s constitution barring representation fights.

The battle is the latest chapter in what has been a tumultuous year for the SEIU, which represents 17,500 health care and public service employees in Nevada.

Two internal elections last year revealed a rift in the union. In the first, members considered unfriendly to the executive director, Jane McAlevey, won seats on the union’s executive board. Those results, however, were thrown out.

In the second election, McAlevey and union staff successfully campaigned for a different slate of candidates. A vocal faction accused McAlevey of essentially rigging the election and has filed a complaint with the Labor Department. Mc-

Alevey has dismissed the faction as small and ostracized.

The union’s presidential endorsement process — which resulted in the union’s backing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — exacerbated feelings of distrust.

The international union passed endorsement decisions to state SEIU councils in October, but many suspected that international leadership supported former Sen. John Edwards. The international’s secretary-treasurer, Anna Burger, bolstered suspicions when she called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office to complain about his son, Rory Reid, chairman of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Nevada campaign.

The union’s local staff botched an attempt to poll members on their preferences for president, leaving executive board members without a clear sense of rank-and-file support. The executive board then voted to endorse Obama, who lost to Clinton.

The SEIU had hoped to emerge from those unpleasant times and reassert itself at the bargaining table, beginning with the St. Rose contract affecting 2,200 nurses and support staff.

In 2006 the union rallied under the banner of patient care, winning enforceable staffing ratios and a ban on mandatory overtime at the St. Rose hospitals.

“We are at the table now to make the best even better,” Shauna Hamel, the union’s executive vice president, said in a statement.

In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday, McAlevey sought to use this year’s talks to spark public debate about the quality of health care in Nevada. She did not mention the California Nurses Association challenge, which did not become public until the following day.

At issue in the St. Rose talks is the management practice of “daily call-offs,” or canceling shifts with little to no notice to employees, McAlevey said. The union says the practice hinders patient care.

“For anyone to tell us there’s not a need for more full-time workers in the valley’s hospitals — that person should be put into a crazy ward,” she said.

But St. Rose nurses who support the CNA said the high standards achieved in their latest contract are not being enforced and the SEIU has failed to assist in that enforcement. Nurses also say they are impressed by the gains of the CNA in its talks with St. Rose parent company Catholic Healthcare West in California.

The CNA represents 80,000 nurses nationwide — 10,500 of whom are employed by Catholic Healthcare West — and has fought bitter organizing battles with the SEIU for years. The CNA bested the SEIU in December to represent 500 nurses at St. Mary’s Regional Health Center in Reno.

At St. Rose, the SEIU fought the CNA by asking members of the bargaining team to sign a petition demanding they “reject any false promises from forces that seek only to divide our strength.” Hamel said a second petition supporting the SEIU’s bargaining contains a majority of nurses, in addition to ancillary staff.

The St. Rose talks are one of many steps the SEIU plans this year as it recovers from its failure to deliver a victory for Obama. The union will reassert itself at the bargaining table and the polls, and is already sharing its story across the Southwest, McAlevey said.

As part of a national initiative to organize workers in right-to-work states, SEIU Nevada members have traveled to Texas and Colorado to bolster unionizing drives. Nevada has the highest union density — 15 percent — of the nation’s right-to-work states.

The union will vet judicial candidates for the first time at a membership forum next month. (The union represents clerks in the Clark County court system.) It is also planning a role in targeted Clark County Commission and state Senate races, local arenas in which it has been successful in the past.


Curbing non-union school construction

Construction on two new elementary schools could begin around the first of May and the new South Point (OH) Elementary and Burlington Elementary School buildings ready for students by the start of the 2009-10 school year, said Superintendent Ken Cook.

The school district has forwarded bids for the two schools totaling $15.1 million to the Ohio School Facilities Commission in Columbus until next month. The state is putting up most of the money for the two new schools.

“The commission only meets once a month,” Cook said. “With their approval, we’ll move forward with the project.”

Students moved into new schools at South Point High School and South Point Middle School earlier this year while Burlington Elementary School students moved into the former high school building in December.

While South Point Elementary students are staying in their current building until the new school opens, Burlington Elementary students had to move to a new school. The school building in Burlington, a focal point for the community, is being torn down so a new school can be built on the site.

“They’re adjusting very well,” said Stephanie Hill, a Burlington kindergarten teacher said Tuesday. “They’re enjoying the gymnasium. They like the (bigger) cafeteria, too. It has a big kid feel to it.”

“It makes me sad” to see the old school torn down, but glad that a new school will be built to take its place, she said.

The former middle school building also has been torn down and will be the site of South Point Elementary School.

Under a project labor agreement with the Tri-State Buildings Trade Council, 80 percent of the people to work on the new schools will be from the Tri-State through local union building trades, Cook said.

“The students are adjusting well to the new buildings,” he said. “It’s been a positive. The technology at the new schools gives teachers tools they didn’t have before to work with.”

It will take 12 to 14 months to build the new schools, Cook said.

The district rejected the first round of bids for the new elementary schools before signing the project labor agreement similar to one approved last year by Ironton school officials for new schools in Ironton.


Privatization prompts union concerns

The Alameda County Medical Center's Board of Trustees approved a new three-year contract with Healthcare Security Services Inc. to provide security for John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro, as well as the centers' Fairmont campus and Eastmont Wellness Center.

Alameda County Sheriff deputies had provided security at the psychiatric hospital since a patient killed staff physician Dr. Erlinda Ursua in November 2003.

Brook Demmerle, a work site organizer for SEIU Local 1021, said some of the 300 employees at the psychiatric hospital her union represents fear for their safety without the sheriff's deputies on duty because a high percentage of patients at John George have criminal histories, and there have been attacks on staff members in the past.

"The staff here is very concerned with replacing the sheriff's department," Demmerle said. "There's a reason why the sheriff's department was brought to the hospital in the first place."

Earlier this week about 75 mental health workers, nurses, clerks and other employees at John George protested the county medical board's pending approval of the new contract.

The new $3.6-million, three-year deal will save the medical center approximately $380,000 per year. According to the board staff report, Healthcare Security Services Inc. has specific experience in serving mental health facilities. The new contract is scheduled to go into effect May 1.


Union-repressed Catholic teachers in sick-out

A teacher sick-out in support of unionization closed St. Nicholas-St. Mary’s Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre (PA) today and provoked harsh criticism from the Diocese of Scranton. The Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT) organized the sick-out in its ongoing effort to reverse Bishop Joseph Martino’s January rejection of teacher unionization. The association has previously staged two other separate one-day sick-outs that closed Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre and Holy Cross High School in Scranton.

The union issued a statement pointing out the teachers at St. Nicholas-St. Mary’s had been unionized for 24 years before Martino restructured the education system last year, eliminating small local school boards that negotiated with the union and creating four regional boards. In January, three of those boards rejected SDACT’s request to represent teachers, and the union has staged numerous rallies, pickets and the sick-outs in an effort to reverse the decision.

In its statement, the union repeated its claim that Martino is ignoring a century of Catholic Church support of unions, and said teachers “regret the inconvenience suffered by the parents” and “apologize to the students for disrupting the educational programs in progress.”

But the diocese struck back with a stinging statement calling the sick-out “abandonment of the classroom” and part of a “useless campaign.” The diocese dubbed it “grossly unfair treatment of students and parents,” and said it “exposes once again the vain and desperate attempts by SDACT’s leaders to maintain their positions of power and the extra financial compensation they derive from union dues.”

The diocese insists employees will get fair representation through the new Employee Relations Program, which creates “employee councils” composed of representatives elected by the workers. Wednesday’s statement said the program “will ensure dignity and justice for teachers and other school employees.”

The union has called the Employee Relations Program a “company union” because teachers were not given a choice.

The diocesan statement calls the sick-outs “desperate tactics” that “actually confirm the wisdom of Bishop Martino’s decision to preserve his responsibility to manage our Catholic Schools.”

The union is also set to conduct informational pickets outside Holy Redeemer and high schools in Scranton and Williamsport this morning before classes begin.


UFCW preps labor-state casino strike

More than 200 video lottery employees at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester, WV could go on strike Saturday. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 23 voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reject Mountaineer’s final contract offer and authorize the strike.

Kevin Kilroy, UFCW Local 23 director of public affairs, said the workers have been covered by an extension since March 1, the contract expiration date. After the vote, however, a 72-hour notice of termination for that extension was sent out, meaning that if an agreement is not reached, the strike will go into effect at 12:01 am Saturday.

“Membership is very upset,” said Kilroy. “The wage offer was substandard, in some cases substantially.”

Kilroy said that the wage offer was not comparable to the wages earned by employees at other local establishments, including Wheeling Island Racetrack. Depending on employee classification, Kilroy said that some workers at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, PA, which is owned by a sister company of Mountaineer, already make more, even though that facility has only been open about a year.

Kilroy added that some of their members are earning wages that qualify them for food stamps, school lunch programs, energy assistance, and the children’s health insurance program. “Instead of the good paying jobs we were all promised, it’s actually a drain on the taxes,” Kilroy said.

Another point of contention is the health care offered, which Kilroy said 25% of their members do not take advantage of because they cannot afford it.

Kilroy said that some workers pay as much as 31 percent of health care costs, while management only pays 17 to 18 percent.

“I don’t know why that is. It’s a bit curious,” said Kilroy.

Marshall Berman, the attorney representing Mountaineer in the negotiations, said that wages are set by local management and that it is hardly surprising if wages differ in geographical areas.

“Our position is a sound position,” said Berman. “We are paying exactly the wages called for in the union’s contract with us ...We regard their statements as being suspect at best.”

Berman said that Mountaineer has been working with unions for 30 to 40 years and that “it is inevitable” that a situation like the current one will occur.

“The union is always going to find something to complain about,” Berman said.

Berman said the negotiations are taking place through a federal mediator and that both parties are at the call of that mediator. “We are prepared to negotiate with the union anytime, anywhere,” said Berman.

Kilroy said the union is also prepared to return to negotiations. “We’re open for discussion, and we’re ready to bargain,” said Kilroy.

When asked if Mountaineer could reach an agreement with the union in time to avoid a strike, Berman replied, “We would hope so.”

If a strike were to occur, Berman said that Mountaineer would cover the workers with supervisors, managers, and other Mountaineer employees, adding that the UFCW Local 23 workers represent less than 10 percent of Mountaineer’s workforce.

All departments at Mountaineer would remain open. “For our customers, it will be business as usual,” Berman said.


Gov't-worker Teamsters issue strike threat

Lower Southampton (PA) public works employees and clerical staff are on the verge of a strike if a contract agreement with the township isn't reached soon, a union official said Wednesday night.

Negotiations have been in the works for eight months and the union employees have been working without a contract since Dec. 31. Issues key to reaching an agreement include health care premiums, longevity pay and raises.

Employees and their supporters — including more than 60 fellow members of Teamsters Local 107 and 830 — packed Wednesday night's supervisors meeting.

“We've done everything in the book [to work out the contract],” Shawn Dougherty, secretary-treasurer and business agent for Teamsters Local 107, told the board. “Nobody wins in a strike. Not only are they taxpayers, they are voters.”

“We want a contract!” the public shouted.

“Contracts are not negotiated out here,” Supervisor Connie Birrane told the public.

Negotiations are expected to continue on April 4 and Dougherty hopes an agreement can be reached then. As of Wednesday, no strike deadline was set.

Neither the board members nor union representatives wanted to comment since they are still negotiating. Supervisors Birrane and Mark Hopkins are part of the negotiating team for the township.

Throughout the meeting, employees sat holding signs that read “We want a fair contract,” “Stop the politics with our future” and “Stop the politics with our jobs. Settle now!”


Inter-union spat slows construction project

Construction at a Bellevue building site was slowed Wednesday as workers declined to cross picket lines put up by Bothell's International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302. But the manager at the site -- Bellevue Towers, a pair of high-end glass condos at Northeast Fourth Street and 106th Avenue Northeast -- said he expects all workers will be back on the job Thursday.

Local 302 says two concrete-pouring companies, Kent's Brundage-Bone Concrete Pumping and Seattle-based Ralph's Concrete Pumping, have illegally interfered with employees' exercise of their self-organization and collective-bargaining rights.

The pickets, which were at the site briefly Wednesday morning, said Local 302 has filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board against those two companies.

The companies hired former members of Local 302, who left that union over contract issues and were taken in by another union, Seattle's Laborers Local 242.

Victor Rennie, program superintendent at Hoffman Construction Co., said "only a small percentage of the usual workers" were on the job at Bellevue Towers on Wednesday.

"The cost (of the picketing) was a good share of the day. I don't anticipate further costs," he said.

Rennie said the picketing doesn't concern a union grievance against an employer -- circumstances under which union workers typically refrain from crossing a picket line.

Rather, he said, it's "nonstandard picketing -- fighting in the family. It's like Mom and Dad are in a spat, so the neighbors have to move out."

He said workers should check with their unions' business agents to determine whether they can cross the picket lines.

Most can, he said, so he expects workers to be present in full force Thursday.


Nurses strike, 3rd time in 6 months

Related Posts with Thumbnails