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Posts Tagged ‘Union Contracts’

The Two-Tier Provision in the Chicago Teachers Union’s Tentative Agreement, Explained

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

The tentative agreement that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) struck with district management less than an hour before a midnight October 10 strike deadline has been hailed by many as a victory. Facing another round of concessionary demands, the union managed to extract $88 million from the mayor’s corporate slush fund to restore some badly needed funding to the school system. The union also managed to win an increase in compensation.

But the way that the compensation is structured—with current teachers keeping their current 7 percent pension “pickup,” and new hires receiving a salary increase in lieu of a pension contribution—has some critics decrying the deal as a solidarity-killing, two-tier contract. A pickup is the percentage of a worker’s pay that an employer puts directly into a pension fund.

The CTU’s House of Delegates meets Wednesday to deliberate over the tentative agreement and vote on whether to send it to the entire membership for ratification. If the deal is rejected, there is no guarantee that management will agree to more of the union’s demands—or even return to the table.

Two-tier contracts are an emotional subject in the labor movement. Beginning in the 1980s, employers used threats of off-shoring and sub-contracting, as well as their legal “right” to permanently replace striking union members, to force a wave of wage and benefit givebacks across many unionized industries. In order to make these cuts more palatable to the members who would have to vote on their ratification, unions negotiated agreements where current workers preserved most of their pay and benefits while future hires would bear the brunt of the cuts.

There are many epithets for this sort of thing, but the most common may be selling out the unborn. These ticking time bombs blow up years later, as the “new” hires become a larger portion of the bargaining unit and resent their veteran colleagues both for their more generous compensation packages and for the fact that the older workers signed away their younger colleagues’ right to enjoy the same. As the veterans become a minority in the workplace, there is an obvious financial incentive for supervisors to push them out through aggressive discipline. In such a situation, worker unity in future rounds of bargaining is hard to achieve.

To be clear, not all “two-tiers” are alike. The powerful New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council accepted a two-tier wage structure after surviving a 27-day strike in 1985. But the tiers only impacted workers during their first year of employment. By year two, all workers were earning the same pay rate. And, decades later, ending the tiered pay scale remained a union bargaining priority.

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) accepted a two-tier pay scale at Chrysler when the company went bankrupt in 2009. It was so severe that new hires earned only half the hourly wage of veteran employees. When members voted down a 2015 successor agreement that did not go far enough in reversing the double standard, the UAW was able to renegotiate a deal that brings newer workers closer to the traditional pay scaleover the course of seven years.

The CTU’s proposed “two-tier” is a bit more of a shell game than those concessions. The fight over Chicago’s 7 percent pension pickup has more to do with symbolism than anyone’s actual paycheck. Pension systems are complicated things that only accountants and union researchers fully understand. But basically, a pension fund needs a certain amount of money coming in every year in order to guarantee a livable retirement income for actual and projected retirees. Currently, the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund has set that target at 9 percent of every pension-eligible employee’s annual income.

Before the CTU won collective bargaining rights in the 1960s, teachers had most, if not all, of their pension contributions deducted directly from their paychecks. Over the years, the CTU was able to bargain for 7 of that 9 percent to be contributed directly into the pension fund, instead of paid as a salary increase and then immediately deducted as a personal pension contribution.

Obviously, the difference between putting 7 percent in pension contributions directly versus rolling it into salaries, and then immediately deducting it, makes no financial difference to the employer. But the 7 percent became a visible target for Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It was money they could portray to the public and the press as “extra” compensation that teachers get that other workers don’t and demand that teachers give it up. (It should be noted that Chicago teachers aren’t eligible for Social Security, so their pensions are the only thing that stand between them and an old age spent subsisting on cat food.)

Under the tentative agreement the CTU is considering, the pay for new hires would increase by an additional 3.5 percent in two successive years. It’s not entirely clear how soon new hires would be responsible for paying the full pension contribution.

Teachers at charter schools also participate in the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. Members of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS) at the UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) are currently bargaining over the very same pension pickup, and have set a Wednesday strike deadline.

I was a part of the bargaining team that negotiated the first contract at UCSN in 2013. Because we had a significant amount of bargaining leverage in the wake of a very public insider dealing scandal, we realized that those negotiations were our best shot to get the charter network to pay more than the whole lot of nothing that it had been contributing to teachers’ pensions.

We were successful. That 7 percent was a part of an overall compensation package we were going to win anyway. But by directing the employer to put it towards the pension, we politicized a different figure: the network’s starting salaries. Because charters compete in the same labor market as the district to recruit new teachers, the salaries they can offer are key. If that 7 percent had simply been rolled into base pay, UCSN would be able to quote starting salaries that appear to be larger than what the district offers, but really aren’t, giving the union leverage to raise wages in future negotiations. Now that starting salaries at Chicago Public Schools will appear to be 7 percent larger—if CTU members ratify the deal—the salaries that UCSN offers will appear even less competitive.

As for ratification of their contract, CTU members have to decide how important the symbolism of that 7 percent is and what impact it will have on future rounds of negotiations. The shifting of that 7 percent from one column in a spreadsheet to another strikes me as a last minute ploy to give Rauner and Emanuel a face-saving narrative that allows them to say they didn’t suffer a humiliating defeat in this round of bargaining.

“This is not a perfect agreement,” said CTU president Karen Lewis. “But it is good for the kids. And good for the clinicians. And good for the teachers, and the paraprofessionals.”

This blog originally appeared at InTheseTimes.org on October 19, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Shaun Richman is a former organizing director for the American Federation of Teachers. His Twitter handle is @Ess_Dog.

Chicago Teachers Are on the Verge of Striking—This Is Why

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Chicago teachers will likely take to the streets early Tuesday in an escalation of their campaign to defend their jobs and improve the education of the students and the communities they serve. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has said it will strike if no deal is reached by midnight.

Four years ago, the CTU won a new contract with a dramatic 7-day strike that captured national attention. Although the CTU was unable in the following years to stop Mayor Rahm Emanuel from closing more than 50 schools, last April the union continued its contract fight with a mayoral-appointed Board of Education by calling for a 1-day strike over the failure of talks to renew their contract.

With the CTU and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) still at loggerheads over a new agreement, the teachers are preparing to establish picket lines once again at schools throughout the nation’s third-largest school system, taking on the Board of Education, Emanuel, the obsessively anti-union Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, and the local business class.

The fight is, in various ways, about money. The Board of Education, under Emanuel’s control, says it must cut costs since it is running a deficit. One of its proposed solutions would eliminate a longstanding agreement to pay for part of the cost of teachers’ pensions, effectively cutting teachers’ pay.

Rauner advocates a harsh and ideological strategy designed to humiliate the teachers and break their union. He has said bankruptcy might be the best option for CPS—a move that would allow a court to void union contracts.

But the strike is about more than money, too. The CTU sees negotiations as a chance to focus on the quality of education for Chicago students. The union wants to reduce class sizes, guarantee that all schools have libraries and librarians, give teachers professional support and training to teach more creatively, and provide social services and counselors who can help students resolve problems that may be interfering with their learning or leading them to drop out.

“In my 13 years of teaching, schools and students have never faced this type of assault,” said Lillian Kass, a special education teacher in CPS and a CTU delegate.

“We are going on strike to protect our students from further cuts. We need enforceable class sizes and adequate services so all students can succeed. Teachers and students have already suffered too many cuts. More cuts are not acceptable and not sustainable,” she said.

Historical backdrop

The contract dispute is linked to profound and pernicious questions regarding class and racial divisions in the city and state. The backdrop to the current conflict is the decades-long failure of the state government to follow the state’s constitutional mandate to carry the primary responsibility for financing public education.

As a result, schools are very unevenly and inequitably funded by local property taxes. The tax burden is greatest on working-class households, while businesses successfully resist paying their fair share. Chicago taxpayers suffer an additional burden: While state taxes—including taxes paid by Chicago residents—help fund teacher pensions for the rest of the state, Chicago residents alone pay for all pension-related costs for their schools.

Low-income communities, especially those that are predominately black, have suffered most from shortcomings in funding, school closings and many other CPS policies. Reinforcing the results of other investigations, a recent report by WBEZ, the Chicago public radio station, revealed that new school construction in areas of the city where the population is growing is carefully planned to maintain high levels of racial segregation, even though it would be easy to use the construction to create a more integrated school enrollment.

Community allies

Union leaders see community groups as crucial allies in the fight now unfolding. Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign (CTSC), with a dozen or more members, played an important role in the 2012 strike, says Steven Ashby, a labor educator at the University of Illinois. Ashby, who is the leader of a renewed CTSC, says the new coalition already includes more than 50 groups.

The CTU, CTSC and many other progressive groups are pushing for the city to redirect to the schools as much as possible from Tax Increment Financing (TIF), a funding tool. The money is largely a “slush fund” spent at the mayor’s discretion for business-related projects, and reformers argue that it could provide significant funding for schools.

The issues posed by the teachers’ strike involve a tangle of inherited pathologies of racism, business dominance, and corrupt local politics—together forming a Gordian knot that blocks progressive reform. The strike may not cut the knot, but it could help direct the next blows for reformers tackling the many challenges beyond the current, critically important task of educating the city’s children.

This blog was originally posted on In These Times on October 10, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

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 davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com.

NBC Labor Dispute Threatens Rockefeller Center Christmas Special

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

A labor dispute is threatening NBC’s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” telecast.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 11, which represents nearly 3,000 of NBC’s producers, writers, and technicians, vowed Tuesday to “pull the plug” on Wednesday’s Christmas special -— which includes the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree — over failed negotiations with NBC management. The union’s contract expired in March and the union says there’s been very little progress since talks began last year, describing NBC management as “increasingly hostile” in “ignoring the concerns of the union’s membership.”

“We can’t let the Grinch at NBC steal another Christmas from thousands of honest working people,” said NABET-CWA Local 11 president Ed McEwan. “This charade must stop. Christmas is supposed to be a time of goodwill, but the network’s management is trying to hide behind their fancy lights while leaving their employees in the dark.”

The union has set up a website, NBCStoleChristmas.com, to air their concerns and attempt to avert a strike during Wednesday’s Christmas tree ceremony:

NBC did not respond to a request for comment on the union dispute.

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post on December 1, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Danny Shea is the Media Editor of the Huffington Post. He is a graduate of Princeton University, where he majored in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

16,000 Workers Ratify New Contracts at AT&T - and More Bargaining News

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

This post originally appeared in the AFL-CIO blog on October 5, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

New contracts for 16,000 AT&T core wireline workers, members of CWA and IBEW, and more news from the “Bargaining Digest Weekly.” The AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department delivers daily, bargaining-related news and research resources to more than 1,200 subscribers. Union leaders can register for this service through our website, Bargaining@Work.

SETTLEMENTS

CWA, AT&T: Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) ratified a new three-year contract with AT&T. The pact, covering 7,000 core wireline workers around the country, includes a 9 percent pay increase over the term and maintains quality health care.

IBEW, AT&T: Nearly 9,000 core wireline workers in Illinois and Indiana, members of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 21, ratified a new three-year agreement with AT&T on Tuesday. Nearly half of AT&T’s 120,000 wireline workers have ratified contracts, while negotiations continue with CWA in the East, Southeast and Southwest regions.

USW, Bridgestone-Firestone: Completing the latest round of rubber tire industry bargaining, United Steelworkers (USW) members at Bridgestone-Firestone ratified a four-year agreement covering 4,500 workers at seven plants. Wages and benefits are protected, including health care for both active and retired workers. Members also ratified new agreements with Goodyear and Michelin.

UNITE HERE, Multiple Casinos: Members of UNITE HERE Local 54 overwhelmingly approved a new two-year contract with four Atlantic City casinos. The agreement with Harrah’s Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City and the Showboat Atlantic City provides wage increases for most workers and guarantees benefits will not be cut.

AFSCME, City of New Britain: AFSCME Local 1186 ratified a new contract with the city of New Britain, Conn., last week. The new contract comes just months after a four-year contract was reached, but since then, the city’s budget has suffered with the economic downturn. The new contract includes a six-month wage freeze in exchange for a no-layoff guarantee.

AFM, Grand Rapids Symphony: Members of the Grand Rapids Federation of Musicians (AFM) ratified a new two-year contract with the Grand Rapids Symphony. The 80 musicians will maintain there current pay but agreed to small cuts in benefits to avoid layoffs.

Multiple, Kennecott Utah Copper: Members of four unions have ratified a seven-year contract with Kennecott Utah Copper. The contract, covering 1,280 members of IBEW, Machinists (IAM), Operating Engineers (IUOE) and USW, includes a wage increase of approximately 5 percent each year.

Multiple, State of Rhode Island: Three of four state employee unions in Rhode Island have voted to approve the contract proposed by Gov. Donald Carcieri. SEIU Local 580, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 400 and a health care worker’s arm of the National Education Association (NEA-Ind.) voted for the agreement, which includes 12 furlough days over two years but avoids layoffs. The state’s largest public sector union, AFSCME Council 94, will tally its votes tomorrow.

NEGOTIATIONS

IFPTE, Spirit AeroSystems: The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, has reached a tentative agreement with Spirit AeroSystems. The contract would cover 783 engineers and includes a 3 percent bonus, annual wage increases and guaranteed compensation for overtime. Union negotiators unanimously recommended members vote in favor of the agreement.

AFSCME, State of Illinois: An Illinois judge issued an injunction last Monday to halt the layoff of 2,600 Illinois state workers, saying it violated the workers’ union contract. AFSCME Council 31 filed the lawsuit to prevent the layoffs of its members, many of whom are corrections officers, arguing that prison layoffs would risk the safety of the remaining corrections workers. The state and union will head to arbitration.

IAM, Daimler Trucks: The IAM is hopeful for a new contract at a Daimler Trucks plant in Oregon, which the company had previously announced would be shut down. The company put on hold plans to transfer work from Portland to Mexico and North Carolina, saying it received a new military contract, but the union says the plans changed because of the large amount the company would have to pay out for pensions if it shut down.

BCTGM, Kellogg Inc.: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers has reached a tentative three-year agreement with cereal maker Kellogg Inc. The contract would cover 1,450 workers at four plants, represented by Local 3-G in Battle Creek, Mich., Local 50-G in Omaha, Neb., Local 252-G in Memphis, Tenn., and Local 374-G in Lancaster, Penn.

UAW, Deere and Company: UAW has reached a tentative agreement with agricultural equipment maker Deere and Co., covering 9,500 workers and 17,000 retirees. The proposed six-year contract will be voted on by 15 UAW locals.

Multiple, City of L.A.: The Los Angeles City Council approved a plan to offer early retirement to 2,400 city workers. The plan would offer cash bonuses to workers who retired early, in an attempt to save money and avoid possible layoffs. The Coalition of City Unions must vote to ratify the plan before it returns to the city council for final approval.

CNA/NNOC, Temple University Hospital: Nurses at Temple University Hospital postponed a three-day strike, which was to start Friday. The members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP-CNA/NNOC) overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by Temple University Hospital.

Multiple, Republic Airways Holdings Inc.: Flight attendants and pilots for Midwest Airlines, represented by the Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) and the Air Line Pilots (ALPA) respectively, continue to negotiate over seniority lists with the Teamsters (IBT), which represents crews of Midwest’s new owner, Republic Airways Holdings Inc. Midwest’s legacy crews face layoff by Dec. 1, when the Boeing 717 jets they fly will be grounded.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided for your information only. As it is compiled from published news reports, not from individual unions, we cannot vouch for either its completeness or accuracy; readers who desire further information should directly contact the union involved.

About the Author: Belinda Boyce. Before joining the AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department as research analyst, I worked for six years in the AFL-CIO Organizing Department: three years in Voice@Work and three years in the Center for Strategic Research, working on organizing, issue, and political campaigns. I attended Penn State University, where I became a rabid fan of Nittany Lion football, and later graduated from Florida State University College of Law.

Deal or No Deal on Union Contracts

Friday, July 17th, 2009

People want to join unions because it enables them to negotiate for better wages, better working conditions, and, ultimately, a better standard of living.

As I’ve argued in the past, the U.S. needs to reform the arduous course of forming unions in order to rebuild the American middle class. But we also need to focus on the process of negotiating itself. Recent research by Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner at Cornell University finds that employers frequently continue the campaign of delays and intimidation that lead up to union elections during the negotiation of the union’s first contract. As a result of employers’ often illegal refusal to bargain in good faith, more than half of workplaces still lack a collective bargaining agreement a full year after a union is elected. In 37% of workplaces, there is still no contract two years after the union election. For one in four workplaces, there is still no contract more than three years out. If unions are effectively blocked from achieving anything on their members’ behalf, there is little point in forming a union in the first place.

This discouraging record of contract negotiation explains why the Employee Free Choice Act not only makes it easier to organize a union, but includes measures to ensure that employees and management agree on a first contract swiftly. Under EFCA, if negotiations on a first contract drag on for 90 days without being resolved, either the union or management can refer their dispute to a federal mediator. If the mediator is unable to reach a deal within an additional 30 days, the dispute will go to binding arbitration with the arbitration agreement binding for two years.

While the Drum Major Institute has been strongly critical of binding arbitration in cases where individual employees or consumers face larger and better equipped corporate opponents on what amounts to an uneven playing field, the process is more likely to produce a fair result when unions and companies meet each other as equals over the bargaining table. Indeed, a recent Economic Policy Institute summary of how first contract arbitration works in Canada observed that “with the guarantee of a contract at the end of the process, both sides would focus on actually negotiating instead of stalling or filing unfair labor practices charges.”

When both working people and their employers genuinely aim to come to an agreement about workplace issues, collective bargaining can be a democratic and rational process. Reforming the rules to make mediation and arbitration an option for first contracts will help to ensure that good faith negotiations carry the day.

Amy Traub: Amy Traub is the Director of Research at the Drum Major Institute. A native of the Cleveland area, Amy is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago. She received a graduate fellowship to study political science at Columbia University, where she earned her Masters degree in 2001 and completed coursework towards a Ph.D. Her studies focused on comparative political economy, political theory, and social movements. Funded by a field research grant from the Tinker Foundation, Amy conducted original research in Mexico City, exploring the development of the Mexican student movement. Before coming to the Drum Major Institute, Amy headed the research department of a major New York City labor union, where her efforts contributed to the resolution of strikes and successful union organizing campaigns by hundreds of working New Yorkers. She has also been active on the local political scene working with progressive elected officials. Amy resides in Manhattan Valley with her husband.

This article originally appeared on DMI Blog and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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