Pro-union Al Lewis: No harm, no foul

Related story: "Bob Ewegen: Colorado's pro-union editorialist"

DP's Prog sees no evil in forced-labor unionism

Are you being forced to pay union dues? Do you hate unions? And the leftist political causes they support? Yet remain trapped in a job where you are required to pay union dues? Are they taking your hard-earned money against your will?

Please call me at the phone number at the end of my column. I would like to write about you.

Amendment 47, the right-to-work initiative on Colorado's November ballot, will put an end to this horrible, horrible inequity.

Trouble is, I have yet to find anybody in this situation. I am not saying these people don't exist. I'm just saying I have yet to meet them.

I have challenged several people who have written me in support of Amendment 47 to produce these victims. I also posted this request on my blog on June 3.

In two weeks, I've received only two responses. One was from someone clearly not in this situation. The other was from a woman who claimed to have endured this grueling oppression . . . um . . . back in 1957.

"I don't remember my exact wages but my supervisor told me that I had to join the union," she wrote. "I don't even remember which union it was."

You'd think that by now, the backers of Amendment 47 would be mobilizing victims in droves to call attention to the alleged problem they are trying to fix.

They argue that they are fighting for the "freedom to choose." But who, exactly, is not getting the freedom to choose?

Given that only 8 percent of Colorado's workers belong to unions, I can understand why these victims are difficult to find.

It would be nice to write about at least one . . . just to show that Amendment 47 isn't a completely unnecessary waste of our time.

Last week, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce took the unusual step of speaking out against Amendment 47. It did so even as other business groups, including the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, are standing firmly behind it.

In exchange, the chamber wants unions to back off the half-dozen "economy-killing measures" they've proposed for the November ballot too.

Chamber CEO Joe Blake wrote to his members that his group "has been working for months on a solution that would allow both sides of this high-stakes game to fold their cards."

The Labor Peace Act, which governs how unions organize, has served Colorado well since 1943, he said. No need to change it now.

"Our research indicates that, over the long run, states with right-to-work statutes do not perform significantly better in wages, economic development or business growth than Colorado," Blake said.

The United Food & Commercial Workers also took an unusual step last week, announcing that it would "remove" two of its four proposed ballot initiatives.

One would have increased commercial property taxes. The other would have mandated annual cost-of-living raises.

"I am heartened by the recent vote from the chamber committee to oppose 47," said UFCW honcho Ernie Duran. "In the spirit of negotiation . . . we are removing two of our ballot measures immediately."

It sounded magnanimous, but removing them from where?

None of the union-backed proposals had yet gathered the signatures required to be on the ballot.

Amendment 47, however, is on the ballot.

Jonathan Coors, a 28-year- old brewery scion, is the chief organizer of Amendment 47 and seems to have just about everyone trumped in this high-stakes card game.

He doesn't have to listen to the chamber, the governor or anyone else who doesn't like his plan. He's on the ballot. They are not.

That's why we have ballot initiatives. To go around the governor, the lawmakers and the lobbyists, and bring the question straight to the people.

And when people see the words "right to work," they're probably going to vote yes. Who is against the "right to work"?

Meantime, I would sure like to hear from those of you who are paying union dues against your will. This is a divisive political battle for Colorado's business community. I sure hope it's going to help someone when it's all over.

- Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.


Labor-state union power pressures taxpayers

Oregon county gives SEIU 20% bennie hike

Curry County (OR) and one of its employee unions have reached agreement on a contract for next year, but the county and the union that represents the sheriff's department are far apart, with the next negotiations not scheduled before July 23.

The county and the Service Employees International Union have agreed to a three-year contract that will see those employees receive a 10-percent salary increase, in addition to cost-of-living raises, over the contract, Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said.

In addition, the SEIU employees will receive $1,000 a month over the life of the contract toward their health insurance payments. They currently get $848 toward the insurance.

That union is expected to ratify their contract in time for the county commission to include it in the budget at the commission's June 25 meeting, so the contract will take effect on July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

But Schafer said the earliest the contract for the Teamsters Union could be approved, with the current scheduled negotiations, would be August, with sheriff's officers not receiving increases until then.

The SEIU contract calls for a 5-percent step increase on the employee's employment anniversary in the first year, in addition to the 3.9 percent cost-of-living raise.

With the county's poor financial shape last year, the SEIU negotiators settled for no step increase for the year that ends June 30.

"This year, they'll get 5 percent to make up what they lost," Schafer said. "The next two years, they'll get 2 1/2 percent."

In addition they'll get the cost of living increase determined by the Portland Cost of Living Index, which is 3.9 percent this year. But the county contract will set a maximum of 5 percent, with a minimum of 3 percent for the next two years.

Schafer said the 5-percent step increase for the SEIU will cost the county $223,245. The 2 1/2 percent steps are estimated at $170,054.

"The county can look at this and pretty much know" the total cost, Schafer said.

The county has 178 employees, with 70 SEIU members and about the same number of non-represented employees, she said.

"We have traditionally treated non-represented employees the same as the union," Schafer said.

The increases, overall, for the SEIU and non-represented employees will be $471,957.44 for the coming year, Schafer said.

"Some of that was already budgeted to add to next year's budget," she said.

"We put $350,000 aside in the general fund," Schafer said for pay increases and similar costs.

Only $90,000 of the SEIU and non-represented employee increases will come from that money, as the rest come out of Health Department and others that are not dependent on general fund money.

Schafer said there are about 38 employees not covered thus far, all in the sheriff's department – "parole and probation, jail, 911, patrol officers and sergeants."

"We're a long way from agreeing on the Teamsters' contract," she said.

Last year, when the county received safety net funds from Congress, county commissioners reserved half for the 2008-09 fiscal year in case there are no O&C funds approved this year. Those funds are being used to pay for salary increases approved for the coming fiscal year. Schafer said that if the Teamsters Union gets what it is asking for, there would have to be more employee cuts in the sheriff's department.

Officials are still uncertain whether they will receive more funds from Congress this year.


Supreme Court orders union subsidy

Typical taxpayer ripoff in labor-state

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision against the tiny borough of Youngwood in Westmoreland County has far-ranging implications for municipalities statewide trying to stretch their road-repaving budgets. For many, those jobs are about to become a lot more expensive.

Taxpayers can thank the abomination that is the state's Prevailing Wage Act, which mandates higher salaries for publicly financed projects of more than $25,000.

Pennsylvania's highest court found that milling a road to remove asphalt before repaving constitutes construction, not routine maintenance. That means Youngwood in 2005 should have paid the higher, prevailing wages for a paving contract. Typically those wages run about 30 percent more than what the job normally would cost.

The difference won't be lost on jurisdictions that don't pay the prevailing wage for road milling and repaving. Depending on the project and other factors, the going rate is $12.50 to $28.05 an hour; prevailing wages are $28.19 to $31.39 an hour.

Expect to see a lot more tarring and chipping of local roads.

Now, the state could raise the $25,000 threshold for prevailing wages and perhaps save municipalities some costs for smaller road-paving projects. But that's just a patch job.

Better for lawmakers to apply their own tungsten carbide milling machine to the uneven Prevailing Wage Act and smooth out salary discrepancies that shouldn't exist in the first place.


Gov't-union organizers unfazed by voter rejection

Dues will be deducted from paychecks eventually

Fort Collins (CO) municipal workers are moving forward with a plan to form a union after voters overwhelmingly denied a measure Tuesday that would have obligated the city to bargain collectively with employee groups.

A local branch of the Communications Workers of America is aiding in the formation of a city worker's union, despite 71 percent of Tuesday's election's votes being cast as "no" votes. A union organizational meeting is scheduled Thursday.

CWA President Don Sheridan said they plan to begin an effort to elect City Council members more sensitive to workers' interests.

"We're concerned that people are talking about issues like chickens and logos and other things that aren't as important to the community," Sheridan said of the current council.

Legal advisers for CWA are also looking into the possibility that the city violated Colorado law when city employees were paid overtime to speak at and attend what the CWA called anti-union meetings.

Mayor Doug Hutchinson said he was aware of a meeting called by Sheridan prior to the election about union formation. But he was unaware of any other meetings called or held by city transit supervisors regarding the election, as Sheridan alleges.

Hutchinson said that, to his knowledge, city employees did not receive overtime pay to attend, another Sheridan allegation. He did not attend the meetings.

Sheridan also claims time was spent educating 110 city supervisors so they could speak against the measure to employees and the community.

Hutchinson said the city acted within the confines of the law throughout the election process.

Regardless of legal fallout from the election, voters may not have seen the last of the collective bargaining issue, which contained a provision that would have forced binding arbitration if labor and management reached an impasse.

"I can guarantee to you that sometime in the future the issue will face the people again," Northern Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 3 President Scott Goff said.

The FOP has now put the binding arbitration issue before voters three times.

Goff said they are keeping an eye on the April 2011 general election as the next time they could put the issue on the ballot.

David May, the president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, which led the fight against the measure, said Tuesday he hoped proponents got the voters' message.

"This issue has been on special election ballots several times, and I think the public is saying we really don't want this," May said.

One factor that may have hurt the FOP in the past is putting the issue on a special election ballot, Goff said. By doing so, the election costs the city about $100,000 and at least one voter said that increases the burden on the FOP to convince voters.

"Any time they bring an issue at special election I think they really have to make their case," 16-year Fort Collins resident Kate Malers said Tuesday as she dropped off her "no" vote. "Especially when this election costs taxpayers an arm and a leg."

City Clerk Wanda Krajicek said adding an issue to the general election ballot it increases election costs, but not significantly.


Barack taps AFL-CIO organizer for Michigan

Related story: "Union Organizer-in-Chief?"

Dem draws on union connections

Longtime political strategist Amy Chapman of Madison Heights will head Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Michigan. Her appointment as state director was announced late Friday by the Obama campaign. Chapman has been a political strategist for 25 years and will be taking a leave of absence from Grassroots Democrats, a national organization that helps build state Democratic Party organizations.

In 1996 and 2002, she was the campaign director for the Michigan Coordinated Campaign, which helped promote the candidacies of Michigan Democratic candidates.

She has been national campaign director for the AFL-CIO; political field director for the Service Employees International Union; executive director for College Democrats of America; and political director for the League of Conservation Voters. She's married to former state Representative John Freeman.

Chapman's appointment is another sign that Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is taking steps to ensure that he doesn't lose Michigan to Republican presidential nominee John McCain. McCain has been running ads statewide and is expected to campaign hard for Michigan's working-class voters, many of whom helped him win the state's 2000 GOP primary.

Michigan has not backed a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush won in 1988, but Democrat John Kerry won the state in 2004 by just 3 percentage points.

Obama has two campaign events and a fundraiser scheduled for Monday in Michigan, with another event set for Tuesday in Wayne County, which surrounds Detroit.

He'll discuss his economic proposals with an estimated 1,200 people at 11:45 a.m. Monday at Kettering University in Flint, then go to Detroit for an early evening fundraiser followed by an 8:30 p.m. rally at Joe Louis Arena, home of the recent Stanley Cup winners, the Detroit Red Wings.

Details of Obama's Tuesday event in Wayne County have not yet been released by his campaign.

Obama didn't campaign in Michigan before the state's Jan. 15 presidential primary and took his name off the ballot because the state violated national party rules by moving its primary into January.

But he has campaigned in Warren, Sterling Heights, Grand Rapids and Troy since May 13, and has sent hundreds of Obama fellows into the state to help with voter registration and other activities.

The Michigan Democratic Party State Central Committee, which consists of over 400 party leaders, will meet Saturday in Lansing to select the remainder of the state's national convention delegates.


Police called to investigate Ala. unionist

Local work ethic tends to deter union organizers

We don't see AlaTrade officials were surprised that a union representative was passing out fliers outside a Boaz plant. Randy Hadley, of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, was notifying workers that they were having to pay for supplies in violation of their contract with AlaTrade.

Employees taking a break from work at AlaTrade in Boaz on Friday morning said the man was at the plant for a couple of hours on Thursday.

Police were called when it was thought Hadley was blocking traffic. AlaTrade’s president said Hadley wasn’t obstructing vehicles, however, and was allowed to continue.

Attempts to reach union officials were unsuccessful Friday, but one employee said she and her fellow coworkers receive a set of gloves, an apron and boots at the beginning of the week.

If they need more after that, they must pay.

“I’ve paid as much as about $20 a week,” said Windy Higgins, of Dawson.

But John Pittard, president of AlaTrade, said it isn’t true.

“We go by the contract. What the contract says, and what we do, is if they turn some in that they’re damaged or have a hole in them, we’ll replace them,” Pittard said. “Now, if they lose them, that’s a different story.”

Pittard said AlaTrade has a good relationship with the union, which has represented employees since 2005.

“Typically with the union, if they’ve got a problem, they’ll contact management and we’ll have a meeting,” Pittard said. “They have not done that yet.”

Other business leaders in Marshall County were alerted by an e-mail message from the Marshall County Economic Development Council on Friday that union organizers were distributing materials at AlaTrade’s two Boaz plants.

That comes as United Auto Workers attempts to unionize Hyco Alabama in Arab.

“We’ve had some in our manufacturers association that have been pretty concerned about it,” said Matt Arnold, president and chief executive officer of the Marshall County Economic Development Council.

Arnold said a low rate of union activity helps make the county “such an attractive place to put a facility.”

Some workers at poultry companies Tyson and Wayne Farms are members of UFCW, and Mueller and Bowater employees also are part of unions.

Arnold said low unionization rates are a benefit to Alabama, which has experienced industrial growth in the last two decades.

“Unions are declining nationwide anyway, but Alabama and other Southeastern states don’t have that union mindset like you have in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, places like that,” he said. “A lot of companies are finding that the work ethic you find in Alabama and other Southern states is very helpful.”

Arnold said he spoke with an industry a couple of years ago that was interested in moving south, to Marshall County, because of its situation with unions. He cited it as a cautionary tale.

“There are companies her that would do exactly that,” he said. “They would shut their doors and walk away if a union were to come into their shop.”


Top 10 Lies in Colorado

Are unions becoming their own enemy?

The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) has just released a new Fact Sheet on the “Top 10 Big Labor Lies and Misleading Claims About the Colorado Right to Work Amendment.”
Now that it appears likely Coloradans will vote this November on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the firing of employees for refusal to join or pay dues or fees to an unwanted union [i.e. a Right to Work Amendment], union officials and other compulsory-unionism apologists have launched a $25-35 million-dollar campaign (according to their own, undoubtedly low-ball estimate) of lies and distortions to ensure the amendment doesn’t pass. [Fact Sheet .pdf]
The Fact Sheet makes for interesting reading. All a Right to Work law does is preserve the right of workers to decide for themselves whether or not a labor union deserves their personal and financial support. Big Labor always brags that it speaks for workers, but how can Big Labor know what the workers want, if those self-same workers aren’t allowed to speak for themselves? Talk about Big Brother. Big Labor is losing sight of what a union was established to be. In its zeal for more power, Big Labor is becoming what it claims to be fighting against.


Labor-state unionist in office takes care of #1

Business-as-usual presents no conflict

The project labor agreement proposal by Dan Olson — a city councilor who’s employed as a union business manager — has some wondering who is being represented: the taxpayer or the union. That ordinance, which could directly benefit the construction trade unions, will be reviewed Tuesday night by the Superior (WI) City Council.

Mayor Dave Ross has little doubt the proposal represents the union’s interests over those of the taxpayer. “I think it is a conflict of interest,” Ross said.

Wisconsin law states “No local public official may use his or her public position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value” for himself, immediate family or an associated organization.

Olson acknowledges his proposal would benefit local union workers — that’s his intent — by requiring an agreement on city contracts that would assure jobs for local labor.

“The person ultimately who would have to decide whether he or she thinks there is a violation of law here is your district attorney,” said Jonathan Becker of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. He said the proposal could lead to union jobs, but it doesn’t require them, which could make the potential benefit “remote and speculative.”

However, as an authorized representative of the trades, he “should not use his official position to gain something for the union. That’s a factual question, and I don’t know the answer to that,” Becker said.

District Attorney Dan Blank was out of the office this week and won’t be available for comment until Monday.

Olson said he has every intention of presenting the proposal from his position on the council, participating in the discussion and voting on it. He noted that he previously was criticized for abstaining on a vote that directly affected members of Local 1091, the union he represents.

City Attorney Frog Prell said he wasn’t being critical and was seeking more information about the nature of Olson’s employment after Olson brought an issue to the floor, discussed it, and then abstained from the April vote.

At that time, because Olson stood to gain nothing, Prell said he was confident Olson could have voted on that issue, which involved letting a contract on a public works project.

“If I was critical of anything, I was critical of him bringing the matter forward, speaking to the issue on the council floor in favor of a particular outcome and then bailing on the vote,” Prell said. “In my world, if you really feel conflicted on a matter, you withdraw from that matter completely. You don’t stay in the fracas. You don’t speak to issues. You don’t try to be persuasive with your nine other councilors and then bail on the vote. You’re either all in or you’re all out.”

When Supervisor Jeff Isackson of the Douglas County Board faced a similar decision concerning a resolution requiring project labor agreements on county projects, he abstained from the vote. As an employee of Lakehead Constructors, a member of the Northern Wisconsin Construction and Building Trades Council and member of Local 1091, Isackson said, “I thought it would have been a conflict of interest to vote on it.”

Prell said he would be concerned about a conflict of interest if Olson believed he had anything to gain from requiring project labor agreements on city contracts.

A citizen lodged a conflict of interest complaint in 2006 involving Councilor Tom Bridge. It was investigated by Assistant Attorney General Paul Barnett. He ruled Bridge probably violated the law when he voted for a zoning change needed for a property sale when his firm stood to gain about $823 from the $350,000 deal. Bridge’s quick action to have the vote reconsidered without his participation “largely mitigated the conflict,” Barnett wrote in the decision.

Olson doesn’t deny that he stands to gain a small benefit if the council adopts the ordinance, but said that isn’t his primary objective.

“The bottom line is to get local labor,” Olson said. “... The local dollar turns over seven times in a community, and if we’ve got local people working on those jobs, they live here, they pay their taxes here, they buy their $4 gallon of gas here, and they buy their groceries here. There’s that cycle and that’s what I’m doing it for.

“As far as my position as a business manager, there is no doubt that I would get a small compensation in the form of working dues,” he said.


Mark Udall: Putting union dues growth first

Related story: "Rep. Mark Udall, Colorado DINO"

Democrats' fascistic authoritarianism exposed

How unfortunate is it that the Democratic Party has decided to overlook the best interests of working-class voters and eliminate democracy in the workplace?

Virtually every Democratic candidate this year, including Mark Udall and Barack Obama, are pushing for the passage of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which is a massive handout to organized labor. EFCA would eliminate the private-ballot vote when unionizing a workplace and put in place a system where workers could be intimidated and pressured into signing petitions for unionization.

This system would allow union-membership — and thus union revenue from dues dollars — to soar nationwide. Those dues dollars would be funneled right back into the campaigns of the unions’ Democratic supporters.

Udall should join the 87 percent of Americans who oppose this legislation and support supervised private ballot elections instead of pandering to his union funders.

- Lois Dunn, Grand Junction, CO


Judge forged Teamster official's signature

Ex-judge in fed custody while on paid leave since Jan. 18

The Scott County (IA) judge charged with fraud, forgery and identity theft dismissed traffic tickets for a woman he has provided legal counsel to and has financial ties with, documents reveal.

Kyle Williamson, 41, of Bettendorf dismissed the tickets while serving as a part-time magistrate judge in September, records show. He was named a full-time associate court judge in October. He has been on a combination of paid leave and suspension since Jan. 18, as authorities launched a criminal probe.

The tickets were issued to Stefanie Mucha, 25, of Blue Grass, Iowa. Mucha could not be reached for comment. Williamson’s attorney, Al Willett, could not be reached for comment.

According to documents in Scott County Court and the Scott County Recorder’s Office:

Mucha was arrested twice for no proof of insurance in Bettendorf in January and Davenport in June 2006. The address listed on the tickets was 301 1st Ave., Donahue, Iowa. The house is in the name of her deceased grandmother.

Mucha was arrested in June 2007 for driving while under suspension on Interstate 80 in Scott County. She listed the Donahue address as her home.

Also in June, Williamson filed a counterclaim on behalf of Mucha in a small claims dispute over electric work at the house in Donahue. He requested the case be moved from small claims to district court to allow for a higher monetary limit.

Williamson’s limited-liability company, Chicken Little Enterprises, took out a mortgage on the house at 19 Valley View Drive, Blue Grass, Iowa, in July 2007. The mortgage, signed by Williamson as organizer of Chicken Little, was for $185,000.

The owner of the house is Andrew Seibert, who lives in Baldwin City, Kan. He could not be reached for comment.

On Sept. 8, 2007, Mucha was picked up for driving under suspension and insufficient headlights in rural Scott County. Her address on that ticket was 19 Valley View Drive. She was booked into the Scott County Jail on a warrant for failure to appear in court on one of the previous charges.

On Sept. 11, Williamson dismissed the charge of driving under suspension from three days earlier, with court costs. He found her guilty of insufficient headlights and fined her $10 plus costs. He set aside the judgments on her two 2006 tickets for no proof of insurance, dismissing them with court costs. And, he dismissed the June 2007 charge of driving while suspended.

On Oct. 26, Williamson, acting as Mucha’s attorney, moved to dismiss Mucha’s small claims case to move it to district court. The filing was made three weeks after Williamson was appointed as associate court judge and two weeks before he was sworn in. The case was never refiled in district court.

In May, Mucha listed her address as 19 Valley View Drive on her grandmother’s estate case.

Williamson took the bench in November. He spent 10 weeks there before authorities launched a criminal probe into his activities. He is accused of forging the signatures of community leaders, lying to his bank and to his clients and stealing from at least one fellow attorney, according to state and federal authorities.

He faces a six-count indictment in U.S. District Court in Davenport, charging him with bank fraud, identity theft and forgery. He faces two counts of falsifying documents in Scott County District Court.

The forged signatures include those of Scott County Sheriff Dennis Conard, the president of the Teamsters Union and Judge Mary Howes, who led the committee that selected him as one of three finalists for associate court judge last fall.

Williamson is in federal custody. He had been on paid medical leave since Jan. 18 but is now on paid suspension, officials said. He makes $113,214 a year as an associate court judge. Other judges are filling in for him.


SEIU's California purge continues

It's Andy Stern's way or the highway

Veteran labor leader Courtni Sunjoo Pugh was named executive director of the Service Employees International Union California State Council, the union announced. Pugh, 37, of Los Angeles, has 15 years of experience working on political issues and served as political director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and as California political director for SEIU, a union representing 650,000 workers in California.

She succeeds Dean Tipps, who was executive director for more than 20 years.

Pugh worked on numerous presidential, gubernatorial, congressional and state legislative campaigns on behalf of labor. She has also worked on projects on behalf of Asian American, Pacific Islander, immigrant and other minority groups.

"We are committed to finding real solutions to California's budget problems, expanding access to health care for all Californians and making sure that more jobs in California pay enough to support a family," Pugh said.

Her appointment was made by the SEIU's state council executive board.


1199/SEIU faces dues hit on Cape Cod

Cutbacks have union reps concerned

Cape Cod (MA) Hospital has notified an employees' union it intends to eliminate about 17 full-time positions, including jobs held by cleaning staff, shuttle bus drivers, nursing assistants and food service workers. The hospital is looking to save $800,000 through a combination of layoffs and not filling currently vacant positions, said David Reilly, spokesman for Cape Cod Healthcare Inc., the parent company of Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals.

Cutting back

Cape Cod Hospital plans to eliminate 17 full-time positions. The layoffs would be in the following areas:

* Maintenance
* Environmental services or cleaning
* Shuttle bus drivers
* Anesthesia technician
* Medical assistant
* Diagnostic cardiology transcriber
* Nursing assistants
* Food services

The job loss affects only Cape Cod Hospital, which is feeling the brunt of a multimillion-dollar revenue decline.

The 16.9 positions are "full-time equivalents," meaning each is the equivalent of a 40-hour-a-week job. But the job loss could actually affect more than 17 individuals, since several of the jobs are shared by part-timers.

'The entire health system is feeling the pressure," said Jerry Fishbein, vice president of 1199 SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, whose union represents the workers whose jobs will be eliminated.

As required by collective bargaining stipulations, the hospital gave the SEIU a "30-day notice" of its intent to lay off the employees.

The next step is for the union to meet with hospital officials to see if they can whittle down the list, said Fishbein, whose union has 1,200 members at Cape Cod Hospital. "At the end of the day, there will undoubtedly be some layoffs. We certainly think the numbers should come down. It's process of negotiation."

Last month, Cape Cod Healthcare CEO Steve Abbott announced that the organization had suffered a $17.6 million revenue loss in seven months.

The company responded by laying off 11 employees, mainly in mid-management and clerical positions, requiring a dozen senior executives to take a 10 percent pay cut and asking employees to consider early retirement.

The latest round of proposed layoffs would be the first to affect employees who provide direct patient care. That concerns some employees and union representatives.

"Cutting back on the nursing assistants is a big problem for us," said Stephanie Francis of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The two nursing assistant jobs scheduled to be eliminated could require nurses to pick up the slack and spread themselves thinner among patients, she said. Such a move would be in direct opposition to the Patient Safety Act being proposed on Beacon Hill, which requires a certain ratio of nurses to patients, Francis said.

Abbott, who is retiring this summer, has blamed some of the hospital's financial woes on the rise of off-site, privately run surgical centers and on an independent physician association, Physicians of Cape Cod, that he says is making fewer referrals to Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals and their affiliated laboratories and services.

By sending patients to private organizations for procedures that receive lucrative reimbursements, the physicians in the I.P.A. are forcing the nonprofit hospitals to absorb more and more of the cost of serving the community, Abbott said.

The proposed layoff of an anesthesia technician is directly related to a decline in the number of surgeries being performed at Cape Cod Hospital, Reilly said.

The SEIU is working with the hospital to preserve jobs by distributing "choice cards" that inform residents that they have the right to ask their physicians to refer them to Cape Cod Healthcare specialists and services, Fishbein said.

The SEIU also supports proposed legislation that would subject private surgical centers to the same regulations to which hospitals must adhere, he said.

The head of Physicians of Cape Cod, Paul Brough, has said physicians are encouraged by insurers to refer to lower-cost but high-quality specialists. The problems facing Cape Cod Hospital are probably more a sign of the tough economic times than referrals to Cape Cod Healthcare's competitors, he has said.

No nursing jobs have been affected by layoffs yet, Francis said. But she said she heard there is another round of layoffs coming.

"All options continue to be on the table," Reilly said.


SEIU raiders swarm Stockton, CA

Organizers' strongarm tactics resisted

In a bid to overthrow the Stockton City Employees Association and to take over its membership, representatives of a competing union paid unannounced visits over the weekend to several Stockton employees' homes, employees said.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 organizers lobbied employees in those visits to disband their association and to join SEIU, employees said. The city group represents about 475 civilian employees. SEIU represents more than 1.9 million members in North America, including many San Joaquin County government workers.

Joe Rose, an attorney for the city association, wrote on an association Web site Monday that SEIU organizers "spent their weekend swarming the homes of SCEA members in a hasty effort to overthrow" the association.

An SEIU official declined to comment on the organizing effort or to confirm that one existed.

Randy Lyman, an SEIU spokesman based in Oakland, said he was unfamiliar with the situation in Stockton but that home visits are common in organizing campaigns.

"Visiting people at their homes is kind of standard," he said.

It was unclear how the employees' addresses were obtained, though employees' names are public and addresses typically can be found in any number of public databases. The city does not release addresses, an official said.

Marilyn Akers, a Stockton revenue collector, said she was in her pajamas when two SEIU representatives came to her door. Akers said she told them she was busy and that, when pressed, "I ended up slamming the door in their face."

She said, "I'm still really upset that my personal information was given out." She said she would not elect to join SEIU.

The takeover bid - which would require a vote by the association's membership - comes during contract negotiations between the association and the city. The employees' current contract expires in December.

Once a contract is adopted, SEIU and any other union would be barred for three years by state law from attempting a takeover.

Bjo Day, an office assistant at Cesar Chavez Central Library, said SEIU is recruiting employees and that "we are exploring our options."

She said Stockton employees could benefit from a union with a "stronger arm," but that home visits are invasive and could alienate those SEIU hopes to win over.


Writers union out on strike v. Sony

Related story: "Sit Down, Shut Up And Walk Out"

Sony on Friday responded to the walkout by the writers for Sony Pictures TV's upcoming animated series for Fox "Sit Down, Shut Up." The writers, who are members of the WGA, left the show Thursday, claiming that they were misled by Sony TV that they would be covered by the WGA, while the studio had made arrangements with another union, IATSE.

The conflict highlights the ongoing tension between the two unions over jurisdiction in primetime animated series. The writers on all other animated Fox series, produced by 20th Century Fox TV, are represented by the WGA. (20th TV also co-produces "Sit Down," but Sony TV, which developed the comedy with studio-based writer Mitch Hurwitz, is the lead production entity.)

Sony TV is producing "Sit Down" through its animation division Adelaide Prods.

"The producer, Adelaide Prods., has been a signatory to the IATSE bargaining agreement for at least 10 years, and has been producing animated programming under that agreement," Sony said in a statement. "All of the deals made with the writers were specifically negotiated with their agents specifying that this program would be covered by the IATSE bargaining agreement."

Other industry sources also confirmed that the writers and the their reps had been informed early in the process that the show will be covered by IATSE, not WGA.

"The writers of 'Sit Down, Shut Up' are Writers Guild members, and they want the show to be covered by a WGA contract," the WGA said in a statement. "We have been in conversations with Sony, and hope this will be settled soon."

The labor dispute comes three months after the end of the WGA strike, during which the guild eventually dropped its attempt to win first-time jurisdiction guarantees over animation and reality TV.

"Giving up animation and reality was a heartbreaking issue for me personally," WGAW president Patric Verrone, himself an animation writer, said at the guild's end-of-strike press conference.

The walkout threatens to push back the production start for "Sit Down," which is slated to launch as part of Fox's Sunday lineup in midseason.

"This is all about the battle between IATSE and WGA," one studio executive said of the "Sit Down" fracas. "It's all bad, and the net result is the losers are the network and the viewers."


UAW strikers roll over at General Dynamics

Strike boss: 'A point has been proven.'

The nine-week-old strike at General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Marion has ended following a labor union’s ratification late Friday of a new contract. Almost two hours after the 4 p.m. meeting began, votes were counted and tallied: 70 percent of the members favored a new contract GDATP offered Thursday.

The new contract featured pension and medical benefits that were improved over a May 6 proposal, according United Auto Workers/United Defense Workers of America Local 2850 President Gary Blevins.

Additionally, the new contract has a 48-month term, expiring in June 2012, instead of the 42-month duration in the May 6 contract proposal that was voted down in large part because it would end in November 2011.

“The membership would be facing cold weather, Christmas, and taxes,” Blevins said last month. “That would put the membership in a bad position to negotiate. They could bring a really trashy contract and we would be under pressure.”

Blevins was optimistic at mid-day Friday that the strike would be over within hours on ratification of a contract later that afternoon.

During the meeting Friday, union members opposing the new contract said privately it was too similar to the previous failed agreement, but many seemed resigned to what they said was a likelihood that the contract would pass.

GDATP human resources officials will telephone workers over the weekend about when to return to work.

“The company will stagger people in, hold meetings with them so they can bury the hatchet and make it a productive workplace again. That’s what matters now,” Blevins said.

The strike, according to Blevins, served its purpose.

“A point has been proven,” he said. “We’ll stand up for ourselves and fight the fight.”

That has been a theme of the strike for Blevins who repeatedly said it was not all about the money.

“We don’t want to roll over and lose what past memberships have worked so hard for. There are respect issues,” he said earlier this month. “Respect is a big thing.”

The strike began April 11 after General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products officials and the United Auto Workers/United Defense Workers of America Local 2850 voted down a new contract. On May 10, the unions declined to ratify the second proposal.

The strikers said the contracts weakened seniority provisions, cuts pensions, raised insurance premiums and employees’ costs for prescriptions drugs.

General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products employees this week received the second letter in 10 days from a company official that purported to show the company’s wages and medical insurance premiums as comparing favorably with other Smyth County industries.

A copy of the letter from Jim Losse, vice president and general manager for advanced materials, was sent to the News & Messenger by an unknown source this week and validated Thursday by GDATP Senior Communication Director Gail Warner.

“It was sent to all of our employees in Marion,” Warner said.

The letter presents an increasingly rare glimpse into the position of a company that declined from the start of the strike to answer most questions and became even less responsive to a reporter’s requests for information as the strike stretched toward summer.

“As you know from my letter last week,” Losse wrote in his June 9 letter, “our primary objective in the negotiations is to ensure that we have a labor agreement that is fair to our employees AND supports the long term viability of Marion Operations. When I met with all of you in October and set the stage for the future and when Mike Mulligan our President was with us in January, we told you that in order for our business to continue to be a viable player in the aerospace and defense market, we must become significantly more productive and more competitive.

“One element of competitiveness is reaching a fair agreement,” Losse’s letter continued. “Why do we think this agreement is fair? We look to local market data, as well as competitors, to see how our current wages and benefits stack up. The data below shows how your wages and benefits compare locally today.”

The letter said Marion GDATP production hourly wage is $15.70 and overall average wage is $16.41. “Today’s Local Comparables (average),” attributed to a survey of Smyth County employers, is $13 to $14, the letter said.

GDATP’s medical premiums paid by employees is $5 per week for single coverage, $10 per week for family coverage, while the local averages are $17 single and $46 family, the letter said.

Smyth County Economic Profile released in December 2007 said the average weekly wage for all industries, was $556, giving an hourly wage based on a 40-hour workweek of $13.90.

“The company pays $394.51 for single and $890.99 for family coverage premiums per month,” the letter said.

The medical insurance comparables could not be immediately corroborated.
Union president Gary Blevins did not respond to the letter in detail Friday but said, “it’s the company’s way of selling” its position.

Losse’s May 30 letter to employees contained the first company verification of strikers’ repeated claims that GDATP has brought in temporary outside workers to continue plant operations during the strike.

“We acknowledge that you have the right to strike, but the company and the salaried workforce have a responsibility to continue to work to serve our customers and contracts,” Losse wrote. “Actions, therefore, are being taken to meet the needs of our customers and to ensure that we maintain a viable business base until we reach an agreement. You’ve already witnessed the arrival of temporary replacement workers. We will bring in more as needed to meet production schedules. This weekend, we will begin placing ads in local papers to recruit workers from the local area. You also have the right to participate by returning to work. That’s a choice you have to make as an individual.”

Losse’s letter was one indication that some union members are more ready than others for the strike to end. “The agreement was accepted and unanimously endorsed by the Union bargaining committee. However, to date this has not resulted in a ratified agreement,” his letter said.

An anonymous letter signed “A loyal but dissatisfied UAW member” received by the News & Messenger last week contained an appeal for accepting a new contract that suggested money was an issue for some.

“Ratifying this last offer is not giving in – it’s making the best out of a failing economy and harder times ahead. We implore the union members to stand up for what you believe and let’s get back to work while we still have something to go back to.”


SEIU-COPE for someone like Obama

Related Posts with Thumbnails