Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – March 4, 2015

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Teachers Hold ‘Call Out Cuomo’ Rally in Massena
Several hundred people turned out Feb. 28 for a “Call Out Cuomo” rally in the northern New York town of Massena. The speakers, who included American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee, stood next to a cardboard cutout of Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Massena High School and criticized his plans to give schools only about half of the $2 billion increase recommended by the state Board of Regents. Cuts in state aid over the past few years have forced major staffing cuts and elimination of courses at many North Country public schools, they said. Colton-Pierrepont Central Superintendent Joe Kardash added that the governor’s proposed teacher-evaluation system would decrease local administrators' input from 60% to 15%of a teacher’s rating. NYSUT also held similar rallies in Plattsburgh and Watertown. Read more

AFSCME President Demands Apology from Scott Walker
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, on Feb. 27 demanded that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker apologize for his remarks the day before that he was tough enough to handle ISIS because he’d taken on “100,000 protesters” against his union-busting bills in 2011. “We’re not going to stand by and let Scott Walker smear hard-working Americans, simply because they exercise their First Amendment freedom to disagree with him,” Saunders said in a statement. “To compare the 100,000 men and women who stood up in Madison and called Governor Walker out for his attack on workers’ freedom to terrorists is disgusting.” He noted that numerous AFSCME members had worked in the immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, including Father Mychal Judge, the Fire Department chaplain killed when the World Trade Center collapsed. AFSCME Council 24 represents Wisconsin state workers, and numerous locals and other councils represent local government workers in Milwaukee and elsewhere. Read more

Jersey Unions to Sue Christie on Pensions
Fourteen New Jersey public-sector unions have instructed their lawyers to prepare a lawsuit against Gov. Chris Christie for illegally underfunding pensions, the state AFL-CIO announced March 3. The governor’s fiscal 2016 budget, the federation said in a statement, is the third consecutive one in which he has failed to include payments to the state’s pension fund mandated by Chapter 78, “the 2011 pension law that he negotiated, promoted and signed.” “Last year, the Legislature funded the pensions according to the law, and Gov. Christie vetoed it,” said New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer. “Last month, the court ordered that legally required funding and Gov. Christie defied it.  It’s time to return to the rule of law in our state and to protect the future of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey families.” The 14 unions suing include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 1, the state’s two main teachers’ unions, the Communications Workers of America, and the Fraternal Order of Police. Read more

Thousands Gather in Wisconsin to Protest ‘Right to Work for Less’
Thousands of people rallied Feb. 28 at the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison to protest an anti-union-shop bill expected to be passed by the state Assembly this Thursday. The state Senate approved the so-called “right to work” measure last week, and Gov. Scott Walker says he will sign it. “We know that when wages go down for some, wages go down for all, and ‘right to work’ will not create a single job,” Central Labor Council AFL-CIO president Phil Neuenfeldt told the crowd. Two other rallies last week drew about 2,000 people each. Read more

More Silicon Valley Bus Drivers Vote to Join Teamsters
Bus drivers at the company that shuttles workers to jobs at Silicon Valley tech firms like Apple and Genentech have voted 140-38 to join the Teamsters Union. The Compass Transportation drivers objected to wages that aren’t enough to cover housing costs and to split shifts, which often force them to stay on corporate campuses or in bus yards for up to eight hours without pay. “You work eight hours a day, but you are at the job 18 hours,” driver Tracy Kelly said before the vote. “We have drivers that live in their cars.” The vote came less than a week after drivers at Loop Transportation, Facebook’s bus contractor, approved their first Teamsters contact. It raised their wages by $5.75 an hour on average from about $17, included employer-paid health insurance and 401k matching, and modified the split-shift system.
Read more

CSEA Celebrates End of Lottery Outsourcing
The Civil Service Employees Association declared victory this winter, when the last contract employees left a pilot program that had them doing the same job as civil-service workers for the New York State Lottery. State officials had given GTECH, an Italian company that manages lotteries around the world, $25 million in September 2012 for the program, but the last of its 20 workers left Jan. 31, CSEA reported in its magazine Work Force. Hiring 20 state employees from the active civil-service list would have cost less than $1 million over the same period, the union said.  Read more

August 14, 2013

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