Posts Tagged ‘collective bargaining’
Monday, April 15th, 2013
Locked-out workers at American Crystal Sugar plants in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa will soon be returning to work after they ratified a contract late last week.
The company locked out 1,300 workers, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), in August 2011. John Riskey, BCTGM Local 167G, said:
This means Crystal Sugar’s skilled, experienced workers will be transitioning back to the factories to start repairing the damage that’s been done over the past 20 plus months. BCTGM members thank all who have supported our stand for justice and dignity and who have helped our families survive these hard times.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the mills have continued operating with temporary, replacement workers, but the company’s operating costs have risen since the lockout began. Riskey told the paper:
The lockout was dragging the company down…somebody needed to step up to the plate and put families and communities first and especially our children….It’s time to move on.
In other bargaining news, members of the San Francisco Symphony ratified a new 26-month contract. The musicians, members of American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) Local 6, were forced out on strike in March for 18 days before returning to work when a tentative agreement was reached.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on April 15, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
Friday, April 5th, 2013
I was honored to be in New York City yesterday supporting Wendy’s workers take to the streets for a living wage. They joined hundreds of workers in other fast-food joints across New York City for the largest strike the fast-food industry had ever seen.
Their argument is simple: every worker deserves a living wage. And they understood the best way to do that is to come together to build collective power.
Their actions inspired me for two reasons. Speaking with them, it was clear their concerns were the same concerns that we fight for every day on the picket line or at the bargaining table.
These men and women work hard. Fast-food workers are being mistreated, and they’re underpaid. They feed our country. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. In New York City, workers in the fast-food industry only make 25% of the money they need to survive.
Second, it wasn’t a coincidence that they chose to strike on April 4, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Dr. King spent his last days rallying on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., who were fighting for the same respect and dignity these workers are asking for. He stood for a dream that every worker can believe in—whether he or she belongs to a union or not.
Yesterday, like those sanitation workers did 45 years ago, we carried signs that read, “I AM A MAN,” as well as “I AM A WOMAN.” It’s a reminder that while we’ve come a long way since 1968, the struggle for economic fairness never stops. And I am proud to stand with every worker who steps up to the plate in this fight.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on April 5, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Richard Trumka has been the AFL-CIO president since September 2009. He served as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer since 1995. Trumka was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1989. At the time of his election to the secretary-treasurer post, he was serving his third term as president of the Mine Workers (UMWA). At the UMWA, Trumka led two major strikes against the Pittston Coal Co. and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. The actions resulted in significant advances in employee-employer cooperation and the enhancement of mine workers’ job security, pensions and benefits.
Monday, March 18th, 2013
Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board ridiculed the absurd notion from the Missouri state Senate that somehow union members (teachers, nurses, secretaries, pothole fixers and home health care workers) are to blame for the state’s economic woes. “Oh, please,” the board responds.
In its editorial, the board points out Missouri state workers are the lowest paid in the country.
Early Tuesday morning, while some of those workers were helping roll over your grandma or grandpa at the nursing home so they didn’t get bed sores, the Republicans who lead the state Senate set things right. They gave initial approval to a bill that will make it a little harder for the unions that represent those public employees to collect fees that might be used to elect thoughtful people to elected office.
The board says that the Republicans in Missouri didn’t want to feel left out of the union-bashing that occurred in Wisconsin and Michigan, so they followed suit pushing through legislation crafted by “their corporate overlords in the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes cookie-cutter legislation written by corporate lawyers to enhance their bottom lines.”
In one of the last key legislative weeks before the spring break, the Senate:
- Raised taxes on poor people.
- Cut taxes for rich people.
- Hurt teachers, nurses and other public employees.
The S.B. 29 paycheck deception bill, which makes it harder for unions to collect fees from its members (which are voluntary), is such a “farce,” the board adds, that its sponsor, state Sen. Dan Brown (R), was unable to explain its purpose.
First responders, police and firefighters are exempt from the bill.
Call your representative now at 888-907-9711 and urge him or her to oppose paycheck deception, “right to work” for less and anti-prevailing wage bills.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 12, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jackie Tortora is an blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Early this morning, Chicago teachers organized picket lines at all entrances to William H. Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park on the city’s South Side. They were joined by dozens of students, parents and local community residents. It was the first day in 25 years that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)–the first teachers union in the country–had gone out on strike, and picketers banged drums, gobbled doughnuts, waved at passing motorists (and the driver of a passing waste truck), and chanted with militant cheeriness: “Lies and tricks will not divide/parents and teachers side by side.”
Late Sunday night, the union leaders decided that, despite some progress in the nearly year-long contract negotiations, the school board had failed to satisfy the union’s 29,000 teachers and support staff in several key areas.
CTU president Karen Lewis, leader of an internal reform movement that took the union’s top offices in 2010, said the offer from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) did not preserve medical benefits and did not provide adequate job security in a system thrown into turmoil by school closures and charter school openings. CTU also objects to a new system for evaluating teachers that relies heavily on improvement in student test scores.
Lewis said the two sides are not far apart on the issue of pay, including compensation for a longer day that CPS imposed this year. Sources differ as to the amounts on the table: Mayor Emanuel said the board offered a 16 percent raise over four years; board president David Vitale described the proposal as 3 percent in the first year, then 2 percent each of three following years; and the CTU characterized neither its latest proposal nor the CPS response.
But at its heart, the strike is over the union’s deep opposition to what it calls a “corporate reform agenda” that pursues a competitive or punitive relationship with teachers, rather than a collaborative one. Examples include blaming teachers and unions for educational shortcomings, promoting private but publicly financed charter schools, focusing on high-stakes tests and tying pay to merit.
CTU has instead pushed for smaller classes, enriched curriculum, better supplies and facilities, fairer and fuller funding (including the return of some public revenue long diverted into “TIFs” to subsidize developers), more counselors and support staff, respect for teacher professionalism, and a bigger say for teachers in their schools.
That clash puts the union at odds with CPS, the mayor and President Obama–whose education secretary, Arne Duncan, boosted the corporate-reform agenda as former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s school superintendent. It also represents a more forceful rejection of such reforms than espoused by the national union, which nonetheless supports the CTU strike.
Unfortunately, CTU’s leaders have not pierced effectively through the cloud of misinformation coming from the mayor and allies (including groups with a financial stake in charter schools) to make clear what they’re for and against. Also, a new state law limits the union’s ability to negotiate many of the most important policy issues.
But Emanuel’s unpopularity among unions has lifted union support, including backing from UNITE-HERE members working in the school lunchrooms, who offered to join teacher picket lines even though the food workers’ earlier negotiation of a contract precludes their joining the walkout.
Emanuel said the strike was unnecessary, unwanted (by him), and wrong–”a strike of choice.” But one teacher tells In These Times it was virtually inevitable given Emanuel’s insulting, disrespectful attitude towards teachers and the union, his unilateral imposition of major changes without consultation and his hostility towards most public schools. I asked John Cusick, a union delegate who has taught fifth grade for 12 years at Ray School, what he thought of Emanuel calling teachers’ action a “choice,” not a necessity. After a long pause, he said, “We don’t have a lot of choices in CPS. We had no input into the longer school day. We’re given no input into how the day is structured. We’re given no input into whether the barrage of testing our students are undergoing makes sense. We have no choice in electing a school board. That’s a choice we’d like to have.”
Instead of experienced professionals having a voice, the board consists of rich people such as billionaire hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, whose businesses benefit from TIF funds that divert money from schools. Meanwhile, she sent her children to the private University of Chicago Lab School (as Emanuel now does), which she praises for its generous, well-appointed facilities. Lab is a few blocks from Ray (a fine public school that my kids attended), but worlds apart in amenities.
“We’d like to be involved in discussing class size,” Cusick adds. “We’d also like more social workers and youth guidance counselors. We’d like to be funded to the hilt like [the rich northern suburb of] Winnetka. Last year Ray had classes with as many as 41 students. Let’s have those choices.”
And beyond those strictly educational policy choices, there are the critical environmental issues–violence and poverty. “We do think there’s a crisis in American education,” Cusick says, “and it has to do with poverty, but officials offer charter schools. In ten years they’ll realize charter schools don’t solve the problem. We don’t need quick fixes. We need long-term commitment and investment.”
This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on September 10, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
Last year, In These Times detailed how the Obama’s Administration Department of Energy was helping one of its contractors, Honeywell, force concessions on unionized nuclear weapons workers in Kansas City. Now it appears that the Department of Energy for the first time is removing successor contract language that protects unionized workers as a contract shifts from one contractor to another.
Currently, more than 2,400 nuclear weapons workers employed as contractors in both Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Amarillo, Texas, are represented by the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department. “These two plants have been in existence since the 1940s. Many of the employees are second- and third-generation people who have worked there over the years for different contractors,” says IBEW Government Employees Director Chico McGill.
However, for the first time in their over 60 year history, the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration plans to consolidate the contracts for the two facilities into one contract which will begin at the end of 2012. And for the first time, the bid language given out to contractors does not include guarantees that require the contractors to rehire the same unionized workers at similar rates.
According to a letter sent by AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department to the Department of Energy, “The NNSA has drafted a final Request for Proposal that does not contain the provisions that would require the successor contractor to employ the existing workforce. The final Request for Proposal also does not contain the provisions that require the successor contractor to maintain the wage rates and fringe benefits that have been provided to all employees in their collective bargaining agreements.”
The Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) did not respond to In These Times’ request for comment about why it would not include these provisions in writing. However, union leaders are worried that not the absence of these provisions could open the door to contractors seeking to union bust at these facilities. AFL-CIO Metal Trade Department President Ron Ault says that he and other union leaders have met with Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss their concerns, but that the Department has failed to listen to them and address their concerns.
“They have [completely changed] 63 years of procurement history. They just threw everything in the trash,” says Ault. “They are claiming to us that they are telling the contractors that they have to offer protections, but they won’t put it in any kind of writing. They are telling us they will chop the hell out of management, but will leave most of our employees alone. It is insane. They are telling us none of our fears will come to realization, but they will give us no protection in writing.”
Ault is baffled as to why a Democratic Department of Energy would fail to give assurances to protect the livelihood of workers at this nuclear weapons plant.
“Our question is why, after 60-some years of practices—why now? Why are we doing something that gives no written protection? These people … what they do is not making McDonald’s Chicken. They are building, remodeling, and refurbishing nuclear weapons.”
Ault feels that this move is yet another sign that the Obama administration’s Department of Energy is not protecting union workers employed by its contractors. As Ault told me in an interview last November, “Nobody can screw you like your friends. We had better labor relations under [Bush appointed-DOE Secretary] Sam Bodman than Chu.”
This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on July 2, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Thursday, May 24th, 2012
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania is preparing a bill that could stealthily strip teachers’ collective bargaining rights in some of the state’s financially struggling school districts, according to members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania State Senate Education committee passed H.B. 1307, a bill allowing the state to declare school districts financially distressed and subsequently appoint an overseer to approve plans made by the school board. To the dismay of teachers’ unions, the bill would also allow public schools to be turned over to private charter companies and give the receiver the power to null and void any collective bargaining contracts.
The legislation would declare four school districts financially distressed—Chester Upland, Duquesne City, Harrisburg, and York City—and grants the Pennsylvania State Board of Education full discretion to declare any school financially distressed in the future.
As the bill advances, teacher unions see the legislation as a sneak attack against collective bargaining, prompted by fears of union attacks like those in Wisconsin.
“I think they looked at Wisconsin and the outrage that occurred when they tried to take away all collective bargaining rights for public employees at once,” says Mary Willis, a teacher and PSEA member in the Harrisburg School District. ”I think they decided that they really didn’t want to have that kind of uprising in a big labor state like Pennsylvania and I think they decided they wanted to go after it piecemeal.”
The move comes against the backdrop of a Pennsylvania schools funding crisis. Under Gov. Corbett, the state cut education funding by $860 million in the budget year 2011-12. According to PSEA, local school districts lost an average of 13.6 percent of state funding from the cuts, or approximately 3.4 percent of their overall funding. Corbett has also proposed to cut an additional $100 million in block grant funding for 2012-13. The funding cuts coincide with property value decreases in some Pennsylvania towns, decreasing the amount of tax revenue available for many local school districts.
At Willis’s district in Harrisburg—which would be declared financially distressed—schools have been forced to eliminate kindergarten classes, pre-K programs, and an emotional support program for troubled students. As of last year, the district cut more than 200 teaching positions and last year’s budget called for cutting another 153.
“There is a serious funding crisis in a growing number of our schools,” says PSEA President Mike Crossey. “But this bill isn’t a solution. The problem was manufactured largely by state underfunding in the first place. This bill is a bureaucratic power grab masquerading as a fix, and it leaves these struggling schools guessing about how to balance their budgets and educate their students.”
PSEA says that giving the state the power to null collective bargaining costs is a wrongheaded approach to fixing the state’s fiscal problems. The union argues that increasing labor costs are not behind the financial revenue shortfalls plaguing many school districts. According to “Sounding the Alarm,” a PSEA report, “Even with projected increases in pension contributions, salary and benefit costs will only increase from 62 percent of district budgets in 2009-10 to 63 percent of district budgets in 2017-18.” Instead, the union argues that the budget crisis is caused by a dramatic revenue shortfall.
In addition to the $850 million state-level budget cuts and decreasing local property taxes, a big part of the revenue shortfall stems from a law forcing local school districts to pay for children that opt into charter schools without any consideration of the cost to the school district. In 2010, Pennsylvania reimbursed school districts a total of $219 million, but in 2011-12, Gov. Corbett eliminated state reimbursement for schools that send students to charter schools. Many school districts are forced to pay for children that opt into charter schools, but since the number of students that leave does not facilitate closing down schools or ending of bus routes—there are often very little savings for the public school districts in sending their kids to charter schools.
Two school districts that would be declared financially distressed under the legislation—York City and Chester Upland—have been hard hit by the requirement to pay students to go to charter schools. Both school districts had already lost 7.5 percent of their budget from state budgets cuts. On top of that, Chester Upland paid 20 percent of its budget and York City paid 9.3 percent to reimburse charter schools, according to a report put out by PSEA.
Instead of implementing the draconian financially distressed school legislation, PSEA says the state is underutilizing potential sources of tax revenue to fund schools, like taxing profits produced by fracking in the Marcellus shale, closing a loophole that allows companies to incorporate in Delaware to avoid paying taxes in Pennsylvania, and implementing a tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco. In addition, PSEA says Gov. Corbett could roll back the $475 million in tax credits and cuts in his budget proposal.
“It’s amazing—I have been a teacher in Pennsylvania for 27 years, I have never seen anything so devious in my life,” says Mary Willis. “This budget crisis is a manufactured crisis being used to go after collective bargaining and expand charter schools.”
Willis fears that if the legislation advances, it would be used to launch a witch hunt against teachers unions.
“Instead of a collective bargaining agreement, where people are laid off in a fair and equitable matter, this legislation would allow them to lay off anyone. They would go after the union leaders. I am two years from retirement and I’m at the top of the retirement schedule. Who do you think they are going to go after first?” says Willis.
PSEA spokeswoman Lauri Lebo says that at this point, the “bill could go either way,” which is why PSEA is launching a mobilization effort to defeat it. Lebo stresses more than just public education could be at stake, pointing to the fact that Corbett’s largest campaign donor is for-profit Charter School Management Company owner Vahan Gureghian.
“Corbett is trying to privatize education,” Lebo says. “This is why there is this slow strangling of teachers unions. This is what these education cuts are about. He is trying to privatize education.”
This blog originally appeared in In These Times on May 24, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the author: Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who worked previously for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE). Currently, he works at the Campaign for America’s Future in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he has worked as a staffer on the Obama-Biden Campaign and conducted research on worker owned cooperatives at the Instituto Marques de Salamanca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When Mike is not reading twenty blogs at a time, he enjoys jazz, golden retrievers, and playing horseshoes.
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
The risks are high in a trial that began this week pitting top corporate managers at Hostess Brands against the unionized workers who have produced and distributed its cakes, breads and snack foods for decades.
Hostess – maker of well-known products like Twinkies and Wonder Bread – wants bankruptcy court approval to cancel its labor contracts with several unions, most notably the Teamsters. If successful in eliminating the contracts, a strike could well ensue that threatens to kill off the company and eliminate as many as 15,000 union jobs.
Hostess has been spoiling for this fight for months, according to court documents and comments by union leaders. In January, it filed a Chapter 11 petition in federal court and immediately sought to invoke the notorious Section 1113 provision of the bankruptcy code, which would allow Hostess to unilaterally cancel its collective bargaining agreements. Soon after the filing, it was revealed that Hostess had anticipated a labor fight six months earlier by unilaterally ceasing to make any more cash contributions to union pension plans.
After some delays and fitful negotiations with its unions, the Section 1113 trial opened yesterday (April 17) in the federal bankruotcy court in White Plains, N.Y., and is expected to last two to three days, according to Hostess spokesman Erik Halvorson.
There is little indication of when Judge Robert Drain will issue his ruling, or how damaging it might be to the unions, said a spokeswoman for Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union (BCTGM), another labor organization with a lot at risk in the trial. Spokeswoman Corrina Christensen said the bakers union – which represents more than 5,000 Hostess production workers at 36 bakeries spread out across the country – is not making any comments about the case until the situation becomes clearer.
The Teamsters, by contrast, have been making a lot of public comments about the case. The union set up a special Hostess page on its website, where it has issued a steady stream of statements attacking Hostess officials, and demanding a fair negotiation of contract changes free from judicial coercion. It also reported on a vote by some 7,500 Teamster members at Hostess authorizing a strike against the company.
Ken Hall, a Teamster leader who is second only to President Jim Hoffa in the union hierarchy, has not tried to minimize the potential consequences of a strike. One result of a prolonged strike could be the final financial collapse of Hostess, and the consequent loss of all the Teamster jobs, he has indicated. By the same token, Hostess lawyers have argued in bankruptcy court that it must have deep union concessions to repair the company and avoid liquidation.
Despite the threats of a strike, Hall has also made continued appeals to Hostess to negotiate an out-of-court settlement that would include some concessions. The latest of such offer came early this week but was not acceptable to Hostess, Teamsters representatives said.
Also at risk are the members of several other unions and the non-unionized employees of the company. Hostess’ third-largest labor group is the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), an independent affiliate of the United Food & Commercial Workers. Hostess estimates that it currently employs a total of about 15,000 unionized workers, and another 3,500 individuals not represented by any union. All stand to lose their jobs in a court-ordered liquidation.
Watching developments closely are pension experts from all sectors of organized labor. One of Hostess’ key demands is that it be relieved of large debts to the pension funds for members of Teamsters and the bakers union. A decision by Judge Drain to allow Hostess off the hook for these debts would be seen as a blow to the health of union pension funds elsewhere.
Josh Shapiro, deputy executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multi-Employer Plans (NCCMP), said that his group is very concerned about the case. NCCMP has filed documents with Judge Drain decrying the use of Section 1113 Shapiro said. Any court decision that would encourage corporations to abandon their union pension plans could have broader destructive effects on workers, Shapiro said.
This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on April 18, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Bruce Vail is a Baltimore-based freelance writer with decades of experience covering labor and business stories.
Thursday, August 18th, 2011
The U.S. Postal Service’s plans to cut more than 220,000 jobs—that’s right, nearly a quarter million—and break a collective bargaining agreement has its employee unions up in arms.
The financially-strapped U.S. Postal Service revealed last week that by 2015 it plans to trim its workforce by nearly one-third, close 300 processing facilities and institute its own health and retirement system to replace existing federal programs, according to several reports. About 100,000 of the jobs are expected to be eliminated through attrition.
The proposal, which requires congressional approval, has drawn concern from unions and labor observers for its potential to further erode the middle class. And it’s renewed fears that other employers will soon follow with their own cost-cutting measures.
Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat—nor collective bargaining contracts?—will stay the USPS from the swift completion of its appointed rounds. (William Thomas Cain/GETTY IMAGES)
The decision comes after the USPS has suffered continuous declines in recent years due to drops in mail volume, advertising, an increase toward online communication and private competitors like FedEx and UPS. The postal service makes most of its revenue through postage fees and receives little support from taxpayers.
As a result, the agency posted $8 billion in losses last year and $20 billion in the past four. Moreover, the postal service expects to be insolvent by next month when the fiscal year ends.
The USPS has already implemented a number of cost-cutting moves, including plans to reduce their current career workforce of 583,908. More than 110,000 jobs have been eliminated in the last four years and the AP reports that currently 7,500 administrative staff jobs are also in the process of being removed. In June, the agency stopped funding pension contributions, which it says are over-funded. Almost 3,700 post offices across the country, mostly in rural areas, could be eliminated. Saturday service may also cease.
The agency also plans to reduce labor expenses. Last week, the Washington Post obtained “white papers” (PDF link) written by the USPS that seek to withdraw its employees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, essentially because they view as it as too costly and want greater employee contributions.
The postal service also wants legislative changes that would allow collective bargaining agreements to be broken in order to implement layoffs. USPS workers represented by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) with more than six years experience are protected. The National Association of Letter Carriers‘s (NALC) contract also has a clause restricting layoffs.
There’s plenty of disagreement about whether Congress’ decision to nullify a labor contract would be unprecedented, and whether it’s merely a reflection of the current employment climate or a ploy to get an anemic legislature to find a solution. A USPS spokesman has said that “everything is on the table.”
Bill Fletcher of the American Federation of Government Employees union tells the Washington Post: “When you break a contract, basically what you’re saying is that we have left the era of good-faith bargaining and negotiation and entered into employer unilateralism.”
University of California at Berkeley labor professor Harley Shaiken told Bloomberg News that the job cuts would be “politically damaging” to the Obama administration. He adds: “It would make the federal government the largest contract breaker in the country.”
The APWU, the NALC and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association have opposed the post office proposals and viewed it as an attack on their bargaining rights. The unions say that labor costs aren’t the source of the USPS’s budget crisis.
The labor groups instead point to a congressional mandate from 2006 known as the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The measure requires the postal service to pay for the healthcare benefits of future retirees for the next 75 years, all within a 10-year period at the rate of $5.5 billion annually. It is the only federal agency with such a requirement. The payments started in 2007 and unions cite the pre-funding plan as the reason why the postal office has declared its inability to pay the future healthcare costs by September.
NALC President Fredric V. Roland wrote in an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun that the postal service would have been profitable during the downturn and losses would have been minimized if it weren’t for the pre-funding mandate.
The unions, however, are not asking to remove the legislative requirement but are instead pressing legislators to support a bill that would allow payments to be made using funds from a pension surplus. H.R. 1351, introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), would address the budget crisis, maintain bargaining rights and avoid further cuts, the APWU and NCLA said.
“This responsible business move, with zero taxpayer involvement, would leave pensions and retiree health benefits fully funded well into the future while putting the USPS budget back on sound financial footing,” Roland said.
Meanwhile, a job that had been a staple for the middle-class mobility is being threatened, echoing similar reverberations in the private sector where Verizon workers are currently on strike. The USPS is scheduled to begin negotiations with the letter carriers union this week and the smaller National Postal Mail Handlers Union next week.
*This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on August 17, 2001.
About the Author: Akito Yoshikane is a freelance writer and reporter for Kyodo News. He regularly contributes to the In These Times blog covering labor and workplace issues. He lives in New York City.
Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Members of the UAW and Puerto Rico’s Servidores Públicos Unidos (SPU)/AFSCME Council 95 and other public employees celebrated May 17 when Gov. Luis Fortuño signed into law a bill reinstating collective bargaining for public employees.
Unlike legislatures in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, which are trying to take away workers’ rights, Puerto Rico’s House and the Senate passed this bill unanimously.
Gov. Luis Fortuño signs a bill restoring collective bargaining rights to Puerto Rico’s public service employees.
Says SPU President Annette González:
This law is very important for workers since in essence it includes two clauses that allow us to attain two fundamental goals: Restore the acquired rights through the restitution of collective bargaining contracts [and] negotiate the economic aspects that will do justice to workers and their families.
The law ends a policy imposed in March 2009 when the administration enacted a fiscal emergency law that mandated a two-year freeze on the economic clauses of all collective bargaining agreements. The new law extends the non-economic clauses of the contracts until 2013 and allows workers to negotiate for salaries, benefits, bonuses and other economic aspects.
This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on May 18, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.
Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
A complaint issued on April 20th by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Boeing Co. is a victory for all American workers—particularly aerospace workers in both Puget Sound and South Carolina, officials with the Machinists (IAM) said.
NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon issued the complaint, which alleges that Boeing’s decision in 2009 to locate a Dreamliner 787 final assembly line in North Charleston, S.C., represented illegal retaliation against IAM members who work for the company. The NLRB is seeking a court order requiring Boeing to operate the second 787 line, including supply lines, with union workers in the Puget Sound
“Boeing’s decision to build a 787 assembly line in South Carolina sent a message that Boeing workers would suffer financial harm for exercising their collective bargaining rights,” said IAM Vice President Rich Michalski.
Federal labor law is clear: It’s illegal to threaten or penalize workers who engage in concerted activity.
The decision by Boeing to locate the assembly line in South Carolina followed years of 787 production delays and an extraordinary round of mid-contract talks in which the IAM proposed an 11-year agreement to provide Boeing with the labor stability it claimed was necessary to keep 787 production in the Puget Sound area.
The board’s action reinforces the fact that “workers have a right to join a union, and companies don’t have a right to punish them for engaging in legal union activities,” said Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists District Lodge 751 in Seattle, which represents Boeing workers.
Taking work away from workers because they exercise their union rights is against the law, and it’s against the law in all 50 states.
The board’s complaint comes in response to an unfair labor practice charge filed in March 2010 by District 751. Wroblewski added:
Had we allowed Boeing to break the law and go unchecked in their actions, it would have given the green light for corporate America to discriminate against union members and would have become management’s new strategic template to attack employees.
“A worker’s right to strike is a fundamental right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act,” the NLRB’s Solomon said.
We also recognize the rights of employers to make business decisions based on their economic interests, but they must do so within the law.
About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and has worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on April 20, 2011. Reprinted with permission.