Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for October, 2015

Bosses Must Keep Up Dues Checkoff after Contract Expires, Says Labor Board

Friday, October 16th, 2015

in these timesIn a landmark decision called Lincoln Lutheran, the National Labor Relations Board has overruled 53 years of pro-employer precedent. By a 3-2 vote, the Board said that like most other contract terms, dues checkoff must be continued after contract expiration unless the parties agree on a new contract or the employer declares impasse and implements its last best offer.

Dues checkoff must be maintained even if workers are conducting an aggressive inside campaign.

The NLRB ruled in favor of dues checkoff in 2012, but the Supreme Court invalidated the decision, along with many others, when it declared that two Board members had been illegally appointed by President Obama. The matter had to be heard again once new members were properly appointed.

Lincoln Lutheran removes a major impediment to working-without-a-contract campaigns, where the union uses on-the-job actions to pressure an employer for a contract, while avoiding the risks of permanent replacement and decertification associated with a strike.

Under the old rules, an employer could cease transmitting union dues as soon as the contract expired and the union called its first demonstration or informational picket line. The prospect of losing all its income was a strong disincentive for many unions.

The working-without-a-contract strategy is being pursued right now by the Communications Workers and Electrical Workers (IBEW) in their contract fight with Verizon, and by the CWA in its battle with AT&T in the Southeast (see page 12). The Steelworkers are also working without a contract at Arcelor Mittal and U.S. Steel.

With a no-strike clause no longer around its neck, a union that stays on the job after the contract expires can call short-term warning or grievance strikes to throw the employer and its customers off balance. And the union can time a protracted strike for the moment it will be most damaging.

Moreover, no longer constrained by a management-rights clause, the union can demand bargaining on day-to-day decision making, and can file streams of unfair labor practice charges.

What’s ahead

As the Republican dissenters in Lincoln Lutheran ruefully warned, employers are not likely to take this decision lying down. They can be expected to come to future negotiations with artfully designed language insuring that dues checkoff will die with the contract. Sticking to their position, they will include the demand in their final offer, to be implemented after declaring impasse.

Unions will have to find ways to overcome these stratagems—for example, stretching out meetings and filing multiple information requests to prevent the employer from lawfully declaring impasse. Time will tell who will prevail in the long run.

But for now, unions involved in inside campaigns can relish the discomfort employers will undoubtedly experience when sending in their weekly dues checks.

This blog originally appeared on Public Justice on October 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Authors: Robert Schwartz is a union-side labor lawyer and author.

Top 10 Unknown Things About TPP

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Kenneth QuinnellWorking people are paying very close attention to the debate and negotiations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the massive trade deal that proponents are saying is the “most progressive trade agreement ever.” Unfortunately, at this point, too many details of the agreement aren’t public. Trade can obviously be a good thing for the country, but only if it is done the right way. And with TPP, what we know at this point is enormously problematic. Here are the 10 biggest unknowns about the TPP:

1. How will the TPP raise American wages? While there certainly are some U.S. companies that will benefit from the TPP, how will the TPP restore the connection between increased productivity and increased wages? By encouraging and rewarding more outsourcing of jobs, it is likely to put downward pressure on U.S. wages, as prior free trade agreements (FTAs) have done.

2. How will the TPP ensure labor obligations actually are enforced? Will it require an administration to self-initiate a case when another party’s labor rights violations are well known? Will countries like Vietnam and Malaysia be in compliance with the labor standards on day one? Existing trade deals allow too much discretion to delay labor rights complaints or ignore them altogether. From what is publicly known about the TPP, these and other critical labor issues remain inadequately addressed.

3. How will the TPP fix our trade balance or create jobs when it contains no mechanism to control currency manipulation? Addressing currency manipulation is probably the single most effective way the United States can create jobs, as it allows U.S. products to compete on fair terms in the global marketplace. The promised TPP tariff benefits could be undermined overnight if trading partners devalue their currency. Despite urging from Congress, all reports indicate no effective currency disciplines are included in the TPP.

4. What mechanism will ensure a level playing field between foreign investors and America’s small businesses and their workers? Foreign investors will have access to a private justice system—investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)—that allows them to bypass American courts and hold for ransom laws and regulations they think will interfere with their profits. This right creates an enormous influence that local businesses and workers simply won’t have.

5. Will the TPP ensure all parties adopt climate measures at least as strong as those the United States implements—or allow for offsetting fees at the border? If it fails to do this, then the TPP will exacerbate incentives to move production outside the United States to escape carbon reduction efforts.

6. How will the TPP adequately protect local and national control over public services? If important public services, including schools, libraries, the Post Office and water systems aren’t completely carved out of the TPP’s obligations, American taxpayers may be stuck having to pay a ransom to wrest back democratic control over expensive, low-quality, private contractors.

7. Will the TPP adequately protect against unfair competition by state-owned and state-subsidized companies? Such companies often operate at a loss simply to drive U.S. competitors out of business. They also may buy U.S. companies in order to take technology to their home country, leaving U.S. workers holding the bag. It’s not clear how small U.S. businesses will be able to use the TPP to fight back.

8. Will the TPP ensure the United States “writes the rules” of trade? For example, the reported weak rule of origin for automobiles ensures that China and other non-TPP countries will be able to benefit from the TPP without ever joining. That means China still can write its own rules. Americans need to know “who” is the “we” writing the rules, because it doesn’t appear to be working people.

9. How will the TPP “help Americans buy American”? The TPP will require many government purchasing decisions to treat bidders from the 11 TPP countries with exactly the same preferences as U.S. bidders. Won’t this actually reduce the likelihood that Americans can use their own tax money to create jobs here in the United States?

10. Will the TPP make medicines more expensive? Will the drug pricing provisions give foreign pharmaceutical companies more leverage to force Medicare to cover their products and pay higher prices for them?

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on October 14, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

AIEG And Public Justice Join In Fighting Court Secrecy - We Need You In The Fight

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
Arthur Bryant

The past year was unprecedented in the world of auto safety. The world learned of ignition switches that could fail, causing loss of control and airbag non-deployment; airbags that shoot shrapnel into the occupant compartment when deploying; guardrails that skewer cars rather than cushion their impact; and other appalling defects resulting in one fifth of all cars on the road in America being recalled.

Sadly, there is evidence that manufacturers knew of these deadly defects years before conducting recalls and that court secrecy orders helped them hide these defects and keep dangerous products on the market.

This past year, the world found out what we have known for decades: court secrecy kills. By sealing discovery and court records, including during settlements, courts aid and abet companies in keeping evidence of deadly products from consumers.

For decades, two organizations have led the fight against court secrecy: AIEG and Public Justice. These organizations are joining forces to fight the travesty of court-sanctioned secrecy hiding dangers to the public.

AIEG – standing firm against non-sharing discovery protective orders. For decades, the Attorneys Information Exchange Group (AIEG) has led the charge against protective orders that prohibit plaintiffs’ lawyers from sharing discovery documents with lawyers for other consumers hurt by the same product.  AIEG is the leading collaborative organization of lawyers representing victims of unsafe product designs, particularly automotive products. AIEG’s members commit to doing all they can to make the evidence of public dangers that come to light in their lawsuits available to other injured consumers seeking justice. AIEG members have access to the organization’s work product resources for fighting secrecy orders including samples of agreed orders, sample briefing opposing non-sharing provisions in many jurisdictions, and case law in all jurisdictions upholding the principle of discovery sharing among plaintiffs with similar cases. AIEG stands with its members in fighting restrictive protective orders that lock up evidence of public dangers.

Public Justice – Court Secrecy Project fights to keep court records open to the public. For decades, Public Justice has fought for public access to court records about dangerous products – documents used in support of motions, at trial, or issued by judges. A national public interest law firm supported by – and able to call on and work with – over 2,500 of the top plaintiffs’ lawyers in the country, Public Justice often represents public interest groups like the Center for Auto Safety or injury victims to intervene in lawsuits to open up sealed documents and files. For instance:

  • Public Justice intervened to unseal the trial transcript and exhibits showing Cooper knew of defects in its tires, working closely with AIEG members. Toe v. Cooper Tire and Rubber Co.
  • Public Justice successfully brought to light long-sealed court records about a defective Remington rifle that fires when no one pulls the trigger. Aleksich v. Remington Arms Co.
  • Public Justice helped unseal records showing a leading pharmaceutical company ghost-wrote medical journal articles to promote its hormone replacement drug. In re Prempro Products Liability Litig.
  • Public Justice intervened on behalf of the Center for Auto Safety, and persuaded the court to unseal its decision sanctioning Honda for its expert witness’s tampering with critical evidence. Davis v. City of Auburn.
  • Public Justice joined and just helped win the fight to open up court records in the Trinity guardrails litigation in Texas, in which a jury found the guardrails endanger motorists. Unites States ex rel. Joshua Harman v. Trinity Industries.
  • Now, Public Justice is battling for access to reams of sealed and redacted court records about defective power modules in potentially millions of Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep Vehicles. Velasco v. Chrysler Group, LLC.

Separately, AIEG and Public Justice have done a world of good, keeping evidence of public dangers unsealed. Together, we are redoubling our efforts in light of the widespread, continuing damage done by unjustified court secrecy orders.

We need you in this fight against deadly court secrecy.

We can’t stand idly by while courts participate in endangering the public. We need to be at the forefront of educating judges and lawyers that it is wrong to keep the lid on evidence of public dangers, the law supports discovery sharing – to provide efficient and inexpensive access to evidence for all litigants, and the law requires that the courts and their records be open to the public in all but the most extreme situations.

Doing your part:

  • Never agree to a discovery protective order that prevents you from sharing what you find with other plaintiffs. Commit to taking the time to fight restrictive protective orders. Contact AIEG’s Protective Order Committee if you need assistance.
  • Never agree to seal evidence of public dangers as a part of case proceedings or settlement. Take steps necessary to make sure public access to the documents are preserved.
  • Contact Public Justice if you become aware of dangers to the public sealed in court records – either trial evidence or information filed with the court. Seek Public Justice’s assistance in getting those records unsealed. Public Justice has fought this fight for decades and can help you in many ways – from providing sample briefs and case law to co-counseling with you to intervening on behalf of a public interest group to fight for public access.

Please don’t do nothing. We can’t have more of the same. We can’t have another year like the last one. The revelations of widespread suppression of evidence of public dangers provide an opportunity for us to educate judges and other lawyers about the disastrous effects of secrecy. Let’s not squander this opportunity. Together, we can help the courts turn the corner on this shameful legacy, and return the justice system to its rightful role in illuminating, not hiding, evidence of public dangers.

Thank you for joining us in this fight.

This blog originally appeared on Public Justice on October 13, 2014. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Authors: Arthur H. Bryant, Chairman of Public Justice, has won major victories and established new precedents in several areas of the law, including constitutional law, toxic torts, civil rights, consumer protection, and mass torts. The National Law Journal has twice named him one of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in America.

Lee Brown is the president of AEIG, the Attorneys Exchange Information Group.

Thousands rally for growing movement

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

seiuThousands of SEIU janitors are traveling to the City of Brotherly Love today to hold a massive rally in support of nearly 75,000 east coast janitors who are negotiating fair wages and benefits this fall. Across the country, thousands more are stickering up in their worksites and marching in the streets to fight for $15 and to #RaiseAmerica with good jobs.

This rally is the latest escalation in a nationwide movement to raise our communities by standing together for good jobs.

Already this year, janitors have won historic wage and job improvement increases. In March 2015, thousands stood in solidarity with Chicago and Cleveland, as they negotiated their contract, and in June we rallied again in solidarity with Detroit and Washington D.C.

More than 50% of janitors with new contracts will make more than $15 an hour by the end of this next contract. And each city has won important additional standards, like increased sick days, full-timing of work, strong non-discrimination language, and protecting employer-paid healthcare.

And we’re not done yet. 130,000 members are standing strong for our east coast brothers and sisters today. In 2016, we’re taking the fight back out West – to Minnesota and LA, Houston, Seattle and Denver. And we’re supporting our brothers and sisters in airports, security, industrial laundry, home care, child care, and in fast food.

We fight because we know our country can do better. We fight because the communities we live in are still fighting for $15 and the right to form a union. We’ve won for working people before, and we will win again. We will keep fighting until every working person in America has $15 and union rights.

This article was originally printed on SEIU in October, 2015.  Reprinted with permission.

GameStop Employees Will Be Able To Spend Thanksgiving With Family, Friends, And PlayStations

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Bryce CovertGameStop and all of its brands will keep their doors closed on Thanksgiving Day this year so that its workers can stay home and celebrate the holiday.

All GameStop, Spring Mobile, Simply Mac, Cricket Wireless, and ThinkGeek stores will stay closed on November 26. They’ll re-open at 5 a.m. local time on Black Friday.

“We believe strongly that our customers and associates should have the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with family and friends,” said Mike Buskey, executive vice president and president of U.S. stores, said in a press release announcing the decision. “We know this is in stark contrast to what many other retailers are doing, but we are taking a stance to protect family time during this important holiday.”

It’s the second brand to make the announcement that it won’t open on the holiday and require workers to come in so far this year: last week Staples said it would also close, reversing its decision for the past two years to be open. (GameStop closed last year as well.)

But it’s likely that many stores will once again be open for shopping on the national holiday, as 12 decided to do last year. While companies often say that their stores are only staffed by volunteers who want the extra hours, workers have reported a different story. Those at Target and Kmart said they weren’t allowed to request the day off and risked termination for refusing to come to work if they were scheduled on that day.

Others were outspoken about deciding to stay closed. Beyond GameStop, 17 shut their doors, many of them citing the fact that they wanted to respect their employees’ ability to celebrate a holiday with friends and family.

They may also have made a financial calculation. Last year’s holiday sales numbers showed that while more people shopped on Thanksgiving Day, fewer shopped on Black Friday, meaning no net increase for stores that opened on the holiday. There was also a strong consumer backlash against the idea of being open, as well as a legislative one.

This blog originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on October 8, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media.

John Kasich explains the gender pay gap: 'Do you not have the skills to be able to compete?'

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Laura ClawsonRest easy, women, and especially women of color: If you’re being paid less than your male coworkers, it’s only because you’re worth less. Ohio governor and lower-second-tier Republican presidential candidate John Kasich got a question about his state’s gender pay gap during his appearance at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and …

“Well, a lot of it is based on experience,” Kasich replied. “A lot of different factors go into it. It’s all tied up in skills. Do you not have the skills to be able to compete?”Seeming somewhat shocked at this response, Palomarez asked, “Are you saying women workers are less skilled than men?”

“No, no, of course not,” Kasich said. “I mean, a woman is now running my campaign, and she’s doing a fantastic job. The head of our welfare reform office is a woman. I understand that if you exclude women, you’re not as effective.”

No, no, of course I didn’t mean what I said. That kind of answer must be contagious, as much as we’re hearing it from Republicans lately. Alice Ollstein helpfully offers some context on just how much Kasich didn’t mean that women deserve lower pay:

In Kasich’s own governor’s office, women workers earn nearly $10 an hour less than male workers, according to an Associated Press investigation published in 2014. That gap was just $3.99 an hour under Kasich’s predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland.

So apparently Kasich understands that if you exclude women, you’re not as effective—but he’s also happy to underpay them. Gee, there’s a giant step toward equality.

This blog was originally posted on Daily Kos on October 7, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Laura Clawson. Laura has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006  and Labor editor since 2011.

Sanders’ Workplace Democracy Act And The White House Worker Summit

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Dave JohnsonSetting the stage for The White House Summit on Worker Voice, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) today introduced The Workplace Democracy Act. According to Sanders’ office, this legislation “would make it easier for workers to join unions and bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”

The Workplace Democracy Act allows the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards, also called “card check.” Companies must begin negotiating within 10 days after certification. If no first contract is reached after 90 days, either party can request compulsory mediation. After 30 days of mediation, the parties will submit the remaining issues to binding arbitration.

From the Workplace Democracy Act summary:

According to data released in early 2015 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than for nonunion workers. 79 percent of unionized workers receive health insurance from their employers, compared to only 49 percent of nonunion workers. 76 percent of union workers have guaranteed defined-benefit pension plans, compared to only 16 percent of nonunion workers, and 83 percent of union workers receive paid with sick leave compared to only 62 percent of nonunion workers.

The Workplace Democracy Act is similar to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that had majority support but was filibustered by Republicans in 2007. It was dropped in 2009 after “centrist” Democrats would not support it, thereby ensuring the success of another Republican filibuster, again despite majority support.

The White House Summit on Worker Voice

With labor under increased attack from the corporate right, the White House convened an all-day “summit” Wednesday, called “The White House Summit on Worker Voice.” (Note the choice of “voice,” not “power.”)

For the summit, the Council of Economic Advisors released an issue brief titled” Worker Voice in a Time of Rising Inequality,” that begins:

The rise of wage and income inequality in the United States over the last 40 years has been well-established. However, the factors that may have contributed to the fall of earnings at the bottom of the wage distribution relative to the top continue to be the subject of research and debate.

Research suggests that one important factor may be institutional changes in labor markets, perhaps the most notable being declining union density. … in the middle of the 20th century, as union membership rose and remained high, lower-wage workers earned a larger share of total income. However, in recent years this trend has reversed, with union membership falling and the share of income going to the top 10 percent increasing at the expense of lower- and middle-income groups. In the 21st century, the decline in the number of unionized workers has coincided with overall rising inequality.

The brief cites research showing that union members get higher pay, have better working conditions, job training and higher safety standards, are much more likely to get benefits like health insurance and that these gains spill over to nonunion workers in the same workplaces.

The summit continues through the day and can be viewed online here.

In honor of today’s White House summit, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka penned an op-ed, “No PR campaign will save Walmart from being ‘exhibit A’ of bad worker policies“:

Americans are increasingly fed up with an economy that rewards wealth over work, a message that’s made it all the way to the top. That’s why when the White House hosts a Summit on Worker Voice on Wednesday to highlight the power of working people standing together to demand better jobs and better lives, one notable corporation has been excluded – Walmart.

Walmart is the embodiment of our broken economic system. The company pays poverty wages, has discriminated against women and minorities, harms our environment, wreaks havoc on the global supply chain and continues to lead a race to the bottom where workers are treated like numbers on a balance sheet instead of human beings with families to sustain. Walmart’s motto: “Save Money. Live Better” seems only to apply to its heirs, who haveamassed more wealth than 42 percent of the poorest American families combined.

Trumka listed some of the things Walmart is still doing to suppress worker rights, including closing stores for “plumbing issues” when workers in those stores begin organizing. Trumka called this just “the latest in a long line of incidents to silence the voices of workers.”

Time For Everyone To Get On Board For Labor

Labor is under attack by the corporations and the conservatives and Republican party they fund. It is important for all Democrats and progressives to get behind the Workplace Democracy Act, and not let it disappear without the public at least being fully informed of its benefits and who is blocking it.

This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on October 7, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal comput

Adjuncts Win Union Contract at Maryland Institute College of Art

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Bruce VailThe national movement to unionize part-time faculty at U.S. colleges and universities has secured an initial beachhead in the Baltimore area with ratification of a first contract between Service Employees International Union Local 500 and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Voting on the ratification concluded in mid-September and a formal signing ceremony for the pact is set for October 8, labor representatives report.

It’s the first union contract for any bargaining unit of part-time faculty, or adjuncts, in the city’s greater metropolitan area, where thousands of such workers are employed at about a dozen similar private and public educational institutions. The overwhelming ratification vote of 91-7 came following a protracted contract negotiation initiated when a union organizing drive won collective bargaining rights for about 300 MICA adjuncts in April of last year.

But the strong vote in favor of ratification probably came from union members “more excited about finally having a contract than the specific terms of the contract itself,” comments Joshua Smith, a MICA adjunct who served on the union negotiating committee. The three-year contract falls short of member expectations in several key areas, he concedes. Yet many members also recognize that settling on a first contract is a “vital step forward” to realizing the union’s long-term goals.

A desire for an across-the-board wage increase was frustrated, for example, by MICA administrators who would only agree to an indirect approach to a modest raise in pay, Smith says. The new contract adapts an existing pay scale—ranging from a low of $3,329 for a three-credit course to a high of $5,040—to allow adjuncts to more easily advance up the scale, while also providing an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), Smith says.

“The pathway to advancement is easier, plus the COLA, so there is something for almost all the members. But the base is still too low and [the union has] to attack the pay inequity between veteran, part-time and full-time faculty” in the future, says Smith. (The full text of the agreement is available online at the SEIU Local 500 web site.)

A statement sent out under the name of MICA President Sammy Hoi glossed over the pay issue and stressed the non-economic features of the contract:

The agreement covers a wide range of subjects including changes to compensation, creating a professional development fund, establishing standards governing the appointment and re-appointment of part-time faculty, and creating an evaluation process that will foster continued excellence in teaching. …

As an important step in promoting sustainability in higher education, this contract reflects MICA’s commitment to leadership and to the part-time faculty in the MICA community. MICA and Local 500 look forward to continuing to work together in the implementation of this agreement and building a strong, professional relationship that will advance the interests of our students and the MICA community as a whole.

Debra Rubino, MICA’s Vice President of Startegic Communications adds: “President Hoi, along with all of the senior administration, are very satisfied with this agreement.”

Hoi’s emphasis on the inclusion of adjuncts in the broader academic community is a reflection of union demands that part-timers be treated as professionals, Smith adds, and has been a consistent theme of adjunct organizing throughout the country. Locally, the demand is a feature of an ongoing organizing campaign at nearby Goucher College, where part-time faculty are awaiting a National Labor Relations Board decision on the outcome of a closely contested union election there in late 2014.

Assumedly addressing the Goucher union fight, the MICA organizing committee said in a statement, “This MICA contract should cause other institutions of higher education in Baltimore to think twice about their opposition to collective bargaining process. The time for formal negotiations on the status of adjuncts at MICA was long overdue, and, now that they have taken place, the college is better for it. … A strong, active Part Time Faculty Union is a platform for involvement in the future of MICA and the education of its students. Any administration should welcome that.”

The statement can also be read as a message to other colleges and universities in the region. Stirrings of union support for an adjuncts union are evident at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, and also at the University of Baltimore, Smith says. Furthermore, a coalition of unions including the Maryland State Education Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and SEIU Local 500 is agitating for legislation to ease unionization of the state’s community college system.

Finalizing a first contract at MICA is important to these efforts as well as to the MICA instructors themselves, Smith concludes, by demonstrating that adjuncts can establish new collective bargaining units despite official opposition. Baltimore’s culture of treating adjuncts as second-class academic citizens needs to come to an end, he says, and the MICA contract is a hopeful sign that the end is coming in to sight.

This blog originally appeared at InTheseTimes.org on October 5, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Bruce Vail is a Baltimore-based freelance writer with decades of experience covering labor and business stories for newspapers, magazines and new media. He was a reporter for Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Labor Report, covering collective bargaining issues in a wide range of industries, and a maritime industry reporter and editor for the Journal of Commerce, serving both in the newspaper’s New York City headquarters and in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

Demand Paid Sick Leave for All Employees to Ensure a Healthier and More Productive Workplace

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

grace baehrenIt’s a familiar situation: being sick and at work—or having a sick family member who requires care. While most of us would prefer to stay home and get well or provide care, for the majority of American workers taking a sick day means taking a pay-cut. Not only is the idea of losing pay unappealing, but many American workers simply cannot afford the loss. For some, taking an unexpected day off may even mean risking termination.

Up until now, the push for paid sick leave has been limited to the state and city levels of government. Progress was made with 4 states and Washington, D.C. mandating a paid sick leave accrual system for all employees, and multiple localities passing similar city ordinances (see our state and local paid sick leave laws page).

But now, change is happening at the federal level. On Labor Day, September 7, 2015, President Obama announced an executive order establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors. The order requires federal contractors to provide their employees with up to 7 days of paid sick leave per year beginning in 2017.

Additionally, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or “FAMILY” Act (House, Senate), is proposed legislation that aims to extend paid sick and family leave to all employees in the United States. These standards would provide all employees with at least some partial income, based on a monthly income benefit standard and subject to a capped amount, when such periods of leave are necessary.

If the foreseeable public health benefits aren’t enough to convince you that paid sick leave is beneficial for the workplace, take a look at this letter to Congress signed by over 200 business professors from universities throughout the United States. Among the benefits of paid sick leave discussed in this letter are more productive and engaged employees, as well as long term cost-saving for businesses who offer paid leave.

We need employers and employees everywhere to urge Congress to make legislative changes that support workers, families, employers, and our nation’s economy. Tell your members of Congress to support the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act and make paid leave a reality for all!

About the Author: The author’s name is Grace Baehren. Grace Baehren is a student at The University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law and an intern at Workplace Fairness.

D.C. Councilmembers To Introduce Bill Guaranteeing 16 Weeks Of Paid Family Leave

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Bryce CovertOn Tuesday, seven city councilmembers in the District of Columbia will introduce a paid family leave bill that would create the most progressive system in the country and serve as a model for other cities that might be interested in paid leave. If it eventually gets passed and signed into law, it would be the first city-level program in the country.

The bill, spearheaded by Councilmembers David Grosso (I) and Elissa Silverman (I), would pay out 16 weeks of wages during a leave for a new baby or to care for a sick family member for those who both live in the District as well as those who live elsewhere but work there. That’s in line with the district’s current 16 weeks of unpaid but job guaranteed leave, but more generous than the 12 weeks in Congressional Democrats’ paid family leave bill and what’s offered in the three states that have implemented paid leave programs, which range from six to eight weeks.

Workers would also be able to avail themselves of a generous benefit. They would get fully reimbursed for the first $1,000 of their weekly pay, and then if they make more than that would get 50 percent of the next $1,000. The federal leave bill that’s been introduced by Democratic lawmakers, for instance, only replaces two-thirds of workers’ income, capped at $1,000 a week, and the three states that have implemented paid family leave have similar policies. “For the lowest-wage workers and even those in the middle class, especially in jurisdictions with a very high cost of living like Washington, D.C., it’s very difficult to make ends meet on a salary, and it’s impossible to make ends meet on half of a salary,” explained Kitty Richards, who works on Councilmember Silverman’s staff and was involved with the paid family leave bill. “We’ve seen that low-wage workers really struggle to take leave that’s paid out at a low rate.”

The funding structure for the program would also look slightly different given some of the unique circumstances in D.C. The district can’t mandate what the federal government offers its employees, so workers who either reside outside of the District or those who work for the federal government will have to pay into the fund through a payroll tax. But all other employers within the district will also pay a small tax — probably around 1 percent — into the fund.

D.C. has already passed some policies near and dear to progressives’ hearts: it raised its minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016, passed paid sick leave in 2008 and then strengthened it in 2014, and guaranteed eight weeks of paid family leave for city government employees late last year. (Tuesday’s paid family leave bill will also propose extending city employees’ paid family leave to 16 weeks to match all other employees’.)

Those efforts, particularly paid leave for city employees, inspired Grosso to find a way to implement paid family leave for all workers in the area. “Always in the back of my mind was, ‘How can we extend this to the private sector as well?’” he said.

His quest got a boost last year when the Department of Labor awarded the district with a $96,000 grant to study implementing paid family leave. That money allowed D.C. to get an accurate read of the costs and benefits of implementing a program. It also helped propel the effort forward. “Grants from the federal government are creating momentum and excitement and policy expertise around the issue,” noted Richards.

They’ll need that momentum moving forward to make sure the bill becomes reality. After its introduction Tuesday morning, it will get referred to committee and then will come hearings and input before it actually gets a vote. At least four councilmembers have already signed onto the bill with Grosso and Silverman, but they’ll have to work to get everyone on board. “It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint,” Silverman noted. “Getting to the introduction is kind of like getting to the half marathon mark.”

“The main issue is to make sure that what moves forward is a really strong bill, that we don’t just pass something but pass something that’s really strong,” said Rebecca Ennen, development and communications director at Jews United for Justice, a group that has been deeply involved in pushing the bill forward.

Then Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) would have to sign it — she’s believed to be supportive — and the fund would have to be set up and fully funded before any District residents can actually take paid leave. If things go quickly and smoothly, Grosso estimates that the bill could be on the mayor’s desk within six months and, if it were signed, residents could start taking leave a year later.

Success won’t just mean guaranteeing benefits for D.C. residents. Those involved hope that the bill and the program design can be replicated elsewhere. While three states have paid family leave, the U.S. is an outlier among nearly the entire world for not guaranteeing paid maternity leave and among developed countries for not guaranteeing paid paternity leave. “I think we have the opportunity to set a standard here in the District and be a model,” Silverman said.

Grosso agrees. “We’re hoping to bring national attention to this so we can be a model for other jurisdictions getting this done at the local level,” he noted. While the vast majority of paid sick leave bills have passed at the city level, all paid family leave programs have been statewide. But D.C.’s effort might inspire other cities to take it up.

 

This blog originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on October 6, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media.

 

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