SEIU contract shortens gov't work week

Net gain for overworked, underpaid union members

Hemet (CA) City Hall will start closing every other Friday starting July 11. The new schedule is the result of a new contract between the city and its largest union, the Service Employees International Union local representing workers outside the public safety agencies.

The contract offers the employees increases in neither salary nor benefits, but does provide for a day off every other week, said Deputy City Manager Mark Orme. The contract will last two years, from July 1 this year through June 30, 2010.

Under the new schedule, City Hall will open half an hour earlier at 7:30 a.m. and close half an hour later at 5:30 p.m. than current hours, except on the Fridays, when the schedule will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Employees working under the new schedule work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day over a period of two weeks.

Though the city has a no-overtime policy, the contract allows for overtime when it becomes necessary.

The overtime rate is 1 1/2 times the employee's regular pay and starts after 40 hours in a seven-day period.

There was no change to the retirement plan. The city will continue its contribution of all but 1 percent of employees' contribution to the Public Employee Retirement System, from which workers can receive 2.7 percent of their salary for each year worked starting at age 55.

The new work schedule does not include refuse collectors, but the new contract allows the union to study that possibility and report to the city on its feasibility.

Orme said the contract provides an increase in the amount of medical, dental, and vision insurance the city will cover to $805 per month for full-time employees and $402.50 for part-time employees, but other changes involving work hours will save the city an equal amount of money.

“It's a wash,” Orme said.

Another Service Employees International Union local, the one representing nonsworn employees of the Police Department, has yet to sign a contract with the city. That local is seeking improvements in salary and benefits.

Among the police employees represented by the local are dispatchers and community service officers.

The union has declared an impasse, often a step preceding a strike. However, the police employees cannot strike under California law.

The city is also in discussions with public safety unions seeking concessions to reduce budget pressures resulting from scheduled increases.

Though members of the other SEIU local got no raises with the new contract, they still qualify for so-called step increases and those already at the top step of the salary range can still get longevity increases.


Unions try to wall-off labor-state turf

Attack on political free speech a sign of the times

Union protesters say having Senator John McCain visit the GM Lordstown complex is a "slap in the face." Many of the protesters carried signs criticizing Senator McCain, the Republican Presidential candidate,while others showed their support for their candidate Senator Barack Obama. "I don't believe McCain is for the working people," said Don Hartman.

Chrissy Heinenan, of the SEIU agreed. "This is our turf . He is more interested in helping the top five percent and unions are all for saving the middle class," Heinenan said.

As soon as the pickets spotted McCain's motorcade they moved near the front of the building, hoping the Senator would get a glimpse of their protest.

The protesters say their main concerns are jobs and the economy. "He is not going to provide jobs, the guys record for voting on trade agreements close to 100 percent, he votes on every trade agreement he has a chance to vote on," said Gary Steinbeck, of the United Steelworkers.

And Michelle Forte of Cleveland concurred saying, she is also worried about the future. "My kids are just starting in their adult life and they are working for ten to twelve dollars an hour and worried they won't be able to pay their bills unless they have roommates," Forte said.


Teachers union mismanagement revealed

'The union is morally bankrupt.'

It is president versus vice president in the Chicago Teachers Union, each saying the other spent union money on personal items. CTU president Marilyn Stewart has said the union is in a financial crisis. In a statement on the CTU Web site, Stewart said that no single action has put the union in this financial situation, but that the situation is the result of years of mismanagement.

Stewart said the situation is the culmination of multiple events, including past financial practices and the loss of members.

“I am your president, and I am making it my mission to correct the financial mismanagement and loose accounting practices that got us where we are today,” said Stewart.

When former president Deborah Lynch left and Stewart took over, there was $5.4 million in the reserves, according to Lynch. Now there are reports that there was only $188,000 left in the reserves at the end of last year.

According to Lynch, the union cannot go completely bankrupt because of the union dues that are paid by teachers. But, she said, members are concerned about the financial situation.

“This union is morally bankrupt, if not actually bankrupt,” said Lynch.

Stewart said she has made budget cuts and will continue to make more.

According to a statement online, Stewart plans on hiring a director of finance and is not offering contracts beyond the term of the president.

Stewart said that the past two presidents did offer contracts beyond their contract, costing the union in excess of $1 million to date.

Earlier this month, the budget, $3 million less than last year’s, was passed for the upcoming year.

Lynch said the hearing was out of control.

According to Lynch, when people tried to ask questions at the hearing, their microphones were turned off and others were prevented from speaking altogether.

“People unaffiliated with any party who were in the balcony counting twice said the budget didn’t pass,” said Lynch.

However, Rosemaria Genova, CTU spokesperson, said there was a healthy debate at the budget hearing and that the budget did pass.

Stewart is claiming that Ted Dallas, vice president of the union, used money to pay for personal meals and drinks. Dallas, on the other hand, is alleging that Stewart used union money on personal items such as an XM radio for her car.

A Cook County judge on June 12 postponed the CTU trial of Dallas, who will be tried at a later date for allegedly spending union money on personal items and meals.

The hearing was to decide if Dallas would be ousted of his vice president position and kicked out of the union.

Besides splitting the union, Stewart and Dallas are on the same caucus that is also being split. Which could hurt both Stewart and Dallas when the election comes up.

But Stewart said she will do what she can to fix the financial problem.

“I will do what it takes to put the Chicago Teachers Union on the path of financial stability,” said Stewart.


Labor-state school union resists privatization

Gov't-unionists struggle to save dues-flow

The signs fought for attention over the sounds of the idling engines and traffic - "Madison Taxpayer Against Privatize Busing," "Shame On You School Board" and "Our Children's Safety? Priceless!"

About 15 bus drivers, and as many school employees and community members, took their signs to the streets Friday, though their broader messages couldn't fit onto any single roadside posterboard.

While Madison Schools Superintendent James Herrholtz and the Madison (OH) School Board already have decided to privatize busing next year, members of the district's transportation department are not resigned to their fate.

"At this point, nothing will hurt," said Trina Molnar, field representative for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 238. "These members have to do something. This is their livelihood."

Because the Youngstown-based Community Bus Service promised savings worth $1.5 million over five years, Herrholtz issued an "all or nothing" proposal package to OAPSE on June 12, asking for similar savings. Five days later, he proposed privatization to the school board.

About 40 drivers will be unemployed after their contract expires Monday.
Herrholtz defends his decision, touting the savings and CBS' policy to stay local.

"Their goal is to employ homegrown drivers from the Madison area and many of the current drivers will be re-employed immediately," he said at the meeting.

"We have painstakingly evaluated and reviewed this since January and the $300,000 we are saving a year was the driving force in making the decision."

But Molnar said the union felt snubbed because the decision to privatize was made before negotiations could be scheduled.

"When you want to negotiate something in or out of a contract, you do it in negotiations," she said. "The union is a unit."

Drivers wonder about CBS' methods for cost-saving efficiency, she said, questioning if it will mean fewer stops or less personalized services.

And while most drivers have interviewed with CBS, none have received confirmation that they will be rehired in August.

John Bunner, the district's on-board trainer, said streetside protests will continue "as long as it takes."

"The board itself owed it to the Madison bus drivers, especially the ones who have years of service, to sit down and talk, but they never did," said the 19-year driver, who has interviewed with CBS.

Friday morning, toots of support frequented Route 20 near the board office and Burns Road near the high school. YMCA, Laketran and USPS vehicles honked, too.
"I'm with you guys, man," a mail carrier called as he delivered to neighboring apartments.

Steve Henderson, the eight-year bus driver who thanked him for the support, said he doesn't plan to interview with CBS.

"I'm here because what's right is right," he said. "I grew up with Howdy Doody and the Lone Ranger and that stuff, and I can't get that out of my system."

Identified by his sign as a "Madison Taxpayer," Ray Miller said he'll never vote for another school levy if busing is privatized.

"This is a fine example of showing our children how to treat longtime employees," he said. "They should be an asset, not a liability."

And Anna Jewell, a resident and retired Mentor bus driver, thinks he's not alone. She worries the community might become jaded; on Monday morning the board also plans to yank a bond issue, intended to build a new centralized education complex, from the ballot due to a lack of support.

"If they go through with this, I think they can kiss their new school goodbye for good," Jewell said. "What's to say the next thing they're going to do isn't privatize food service? What's next?"


City manager takes on Firefighters union

Powerful IAFF has means to get even

Early this month, Clearwater (FL) city administration decided to go to impasse with the firefighters' union in order to resolve a new one-year contract. For our part, we will continue to negotiate in good faith to resolve outstanding issues as the process for resolving the impasse proceeds.

Everyone recognizes and appreciates the importance of public safety and our public safety personnel. In recognition of their service, they receive benefits not afforded the average worker, public or private. These have been negotiated through past contracts and represent a significant expense to our taxpayers over time.

Last year, the average annual compensation was $49,000 for a Clearwater firefighter and $76,000 for a lieutenant. In addition to their regular compensation and benefits, our firefighters receive:

• Automatic 5 percent annual "step" pay raises during their first five years of service, and 2.5 percent raises every other year for the next 12 years in addition to any negotiated "general wage increase." The step increases alone equate to a 2.5 percent annual wage increase over a 20-year career.

• A $1,000 annual allowance for uniforms and replacement of personal items.

• A lump sum payment of at least $100,000 at the time of retirement from a state supplemental pension program.

• After 20 years of service, a pension equal to 55 percent of their salary, with annual cost of living adjustments for life.

• Four floating holidays that can be converted to a cash payment if not used by the end of each year.

The city is obligated to continue providing these benefits and honoring the conditions of the currently expired contract while the collective bargaining process continues.

While it's true that our professional city staff as well as office workers, treatment plant operators, mechanics and other line workers received raises of about 4 percent this year, they do not receive automatic "step" raises, supplementary pensions or some of the other benefits afforded to our public safety personnel.

We recognize the unique working conditions and 24-hour schedule our firefighters maintain. That's why they work roughly nine shifts each month and are given appropriate down time during work shifts to sleep, relax, study, exercise and recuperate from the stress of emergency calls.

In addition to the personnel benefits, taxpayers have invested more than $10-million in new facilities, vehicles, personal protective gear and other equipment for our fire and rescue personnel over the last eight years.

In October of 2007, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1158 was offered a contract that included 3 percent annual raises and other concessions in return for agreeing to several clarifications in the contract regarding management rights. That offer was never voted on by the union, and in February it was rescinded due to changing economic conditions.

If you look closely at the current contract issues, almost every union demand would result in greater expense to our taxpayers while limiting the city's ability to effectively manage the personnel and finances of the department. Among other demands, they want:

• An extended (two-hour) lunch break and no work (other than regular calls) on their scheduled shift during weekends, holidays or any day after 5 p.m. They have also proposed to limit night training and drills to six hours per year.

• Extra pay if they are asked to temporarily fill in for a lower job classification.

• To be paid overtime if they are called in to participate in training, meetings or events (even if their accumulated hours don't meet the federal requirements for overtime pay).

• Individual authority over what station they are assigned to. (Note that our busiest station has 19 calls per shift, our slowest has 2.5 per shift.)

You can see copies of the current proposals online at myclearwater.com. You can also contact our Human Resources Department for more details.

Clearwater has a truly professional Fire and Rescue Department, and I remain confident that both sides will be able to agree on a contract that reflects the best interests of everyone involved, including our taxpayers. Our citizens should expect no less.

- Bill Horne is the Clearwater city manager.


Why public sector labor unions are a bad idea

Disruptive, hyper-political, special-interest gov't-unions

Yesterday, fellow Seattle Examiner Eric Earling made a good point about public sector labor unions over at his other hang-out, SoundPolitics.com. The state's most powerful public sector unions, via the Evergreen Progress PAC, are going to bring their guns to bear on the Rossi campaign.

Earling rightly points out the inherent conflict of interest here. Many of these unions are at once engaging in contract negotiations with the governor and helping her campaign for governor by attacking her opponent, Dino Rossi.

Think maybe the unions will get a favorable contract?

This is how the cycle works: state workers are forced to join a union, even if they don't want to -- the unions collect mandatory dues from state worker paychecks -- the unions use that money to support campaigns for the very elected officials with whom they bargain for contracts -- not surprisingly, the unions tend to get favorable contracts that usually result in higher membership dues that in turn provide the unions with more money to fund "friendly" elected officials. Add a growing state workforce, repeat cycle, and stir. What's the basic ingredient here? Your tax dollars.

As the Gregoire and Rossi campaigns trade salvos, KING 5 News said that the Building Industry Association of Washington (whose members tend to support Rossi) is "Olympia’s most powerful special interest lobbying group." I disagree. For starters, BIAW has largely been playing defense when it comes to legislation. Furthermore, the current legislative makeup is not exactly friendly towards BIAW's agenda.

But BIAW gets its political money from VOLUNTARY member dues and contributions. Nobody is forced to join the association. Not so with the unions. Moreover, their money is private. Public sector unions are using tax dollars (albeit laundered filtered through payroll) for their political purposes. Other groups have to raise political money through voluntary contributions.

If people want to start pointing fingers at "Olympia's most powerful special interest lobbying" groups, look no further than the alphabet soup of public sector unions--SEIU, AFSCME, WFSE, etc. Yet when was the last time you heard the media refer to government employee unions as a "special interest"? They have an enormous, guaranteed cash flow that they use to finance political activity aimed towards growing the state workforce and expanding government in general. If that's not a powerful "special interest lobbying group," I don't know what is.


Union is not good for the employees

Value received for union dues called into question

Dear Editor: Let me get this straight: The union is complaining about a maximum cost of $36.65 per month for dental coverage? While I am blessed to not belong to the union, I know that many employees pay over $80/month for union dues. Are they really getting their money's worth? When the bond measure failed, the union was more than happy to take the credit for that.

Unfortunately, the previous administration apparently believed them and thought VHS would have a better chance of getting the public's support if the union was given everything they asked for. However, when VHS tried to sell the hospitals and the union supported them, the public still voted “no.” The union's “contract” (which has never been signed!) drove HS into bankruptcy. Now, please, remind me, why is the union good for the employees?

Barbara Peterson, Hemet, CA


Gov't-union mobster gets Big House

Criminal element exploits unionists

Salvatore "Hot Dogs" Battaglia, former president of a union of 15,000 New York City school bus drivers, was sentenced yesterday to four years and nine months in prison as a penalty for extortion and receiving bribes, according to a story published by the New York Times.

In January, Battaglia, 61, admitted taking payoffs in exchange for keeping his Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union out of certain bus companies. The payoffs were linked to Matthew Ianniello, former acting boss of the Genovese Crime Family.

Two other union officials earlier pleaded guilty to related charges. Ianniello also acknowledged wrongdoing.

Ianniello acknowledged in 2006 that he had arranged illegal payoffs for the union leadership. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Ann Chiarovano, who directed the local's pension fund, pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about mob influence in the union local. She was sentenced to five months in prison. Julius "Spike" Bernstein, secretary-treasurer of Local 1181, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and cooperated with the federal investigation.


Teamsters threaten Chicago funeral home strike

Union blames greed

Area funeral home employees face a work interruption soon as contract talks were deadlocked Friday with their employer, Service Corporation International. The company is seeking concessions from employees of its Alderwoods Group Inc. The employees, who are represented by Teamsters Local 727, are being asked to take a 20 percent pay cut.

'There's only one reason a profitable, growing company to demand a 20 percent pay cut from its loyal employees,' said Teamsters Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer John Coli. 'Pure, unadulterated corporate greed.'

'We're hoping for a show of conscience by SCI management, but we are not optimistic at this late hour,' Coli said. 'Unless they change their attitude, they will inflict anguish on their employees, communities and families.

'Fortunately, we know we have the strong support of our communities and our clergy, no matter what happens,' Coli said.

A strike could have repercussions beyond the 25 employees at the six Alderwoods homes in Chicago, Stickney, Wilmette, Des Plaines and Arlington Heights. The area's 82 Service Corporation International employees would not have to cross Alderwoods picket lines under their current contract with the Teamsters.

The contract between the Teamsters and SCI expires on June 30 at midnight. Management has proposed that talks reconvene Monday afternoon to discuss final offers. Little progress has been made, even on minor non-economic issues.

The homes are: Mt. Auburn in Stickney, Oehlers Arlington Heights, Oehlers Des Plaines, Weinstein-Devon in Chicago, Weinstein-Wilmette and Zefran in Chicago.

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


News Union ranks thinned in Calif.

Journalism Guild takes a dues hit

Bay Area News Group East Bay undertook company-wide job cuts Friday, affecting every department, including the newsroom, advertising, circulation and production. Separately, Bay Area News Group-East Bay said it will notify a local labor union that it intends to reduce the newsroom rank-and-file workforce by nearly 13 percent. BANG-East Bay operates numerous papers in the East Bay and San Mateo County.

BANG-East Bay would not specify the total number of job reductions across the company.

The company also said it plans to lay off 29 out of 226 employees in a newsroom operation whose journalists voted this month to be represented by the Newspaper Guild.

The publications affected by the restructuring are owned by California Newspapers Partnership, whose managing partner is Denver-based Media News Group Inc.

"We are not immune to the financial challenges facing the economy in the East Bay and the newspaper business in general," John Armstrong, president and publisher of BANG-East Bay, said in a prepared release.

The union-represented journalists who are being laid off will be notified on or before July 11, the company said.

"It's a really sad day for our newsroom," said Sara Steffens, an East Bay journalist and a labor organizer for the union. "We'll be meeting next week with MediaNews labor relations attorneys to discuss the next steps."

Like virtually every other newspaper operation in the country, this paper has been hammered by a slump in advertising revenue and a defection of readers to the Internet.

BANG-East Bay is forecasting a 10 percent drop in revenue over the next 12 months, on top of a 17 percent revenue decline in the fiscal year that ends on June 30.

"In my nearly five decades in this business, I've never experienced a downturn so deep and so broad," Armstrong said.

BANG-East Bay's newspaper operations include the Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, East County Times, Oakland Tribune, The Argus in Fremont, The Daily Review in Hayward, The Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton and The San Mateo County Times.


Teamster dues go to Congressional lobbyists

Union lowballs estimate, but reporters rarely check the facts

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters spent $242,000 in the first quarter to lobby on trade and currency measures, the extension of unemployment insurance benefits and the economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year, according to a recent disclosure report.

The union also lobbied on the expansion of collective-bargaining rights to public safety employees and a credentialing program designed to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access to U.S. seaports.

In addition, the Teamsters lobbied on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, outsourcing of aircraft maintenance, the reauthorization of agriculture programs, and federal loan guarantees for refineries and biofuel production plants.

The Teamsters also lobbied on patent reform proposals, immigration reform and funding for the departments of Labor, Defense, Health and Human Services and other agencies, according to the disclosure form filed April 21 with the House clerk's office.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has 1.4 million members in industries ranging from airlines and railroads to food processing and warehousing.


Unionists go door-to-door for EFCA

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