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Weekly Digest - May 30, 2013

Shop Steward Loses Home After Illegal Firing
Last year, the NLRB ruled that Marcus Hedger, a 56-year-old pressman and Teamsters shop steward at a label-making plant in Illinois, had been illegally fired in 2010 for union activity. The decision said he was entitled to reinstatement and back pay—but Hedger, unable to make the payments on his home while waiting, lost it to foreclosure. That decision was one of the ones voided when a federal appeals court ruled that President Obama’s recess appointments to the board were illegal. Read more

German Amazon Workers Go on One-Day Strike
About 500 workers at Amazon.com’s logistics center in Leipzig, Germany staged a one-day strike May 27 to demand pay and working conditions similar to those at other mail-order retailers in the country.  The strike was the second in two weeks at Amazon’s German operations, which employ about 9,000 people. The company, which claims its facilities are “logistics” and not mail-order retail, is refusing to negotiate with the ver.di (United Services) union. Read more

Protesters Disrupt Cablevision Meeting
Cablevision CEO James Dolan had police eject seven Communications Workers of America members from the company’s annual meeting May 23 in Bethpage, NY, after organizer Tim Dubnau asked him too many questions about contract negotiations with 280 workers in Brooklyn who joined the union last year. The company has denied them raises given other employees. CWA organizer Chris Calabrese said Cablevision is “refusing to sign a fair contract in Brooklyn” and trying to scare its workers out of joining the union. Read more

OUR Walmart Files New Unfair Labor Practices Charges
OUR Walmart filed over 30 new counts of unfair labor practices against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board May 23. The organization alleges that Walmart fired longtime workers in retaliation for speaking out for better wages and conditions, such as Carlton Smith, a 17-year employee from California who was sacked for poor performance on May 8—not long after he’d been named “Associate of the Month.” The accusations involve actions against workers in Colorado, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington State. Read more

California Hospital Workers Stage Two-Day Strike
About 30,000 workers at the University of California’s six hospitals went on strike May 21-22. “What we hope to achieve is for the UC to take patient care seriously,” said Owen Li, a representative of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, instead of “cutting corners and prioritizing lavish salaries for executives.” The University Professional and Technical Employees joined the strike in solidarity. Read more

Unions Fear Obama Health-Care Law Will Jeopardize Benefits
Several large labor unions, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, have expressed concerns that their members will lose coverage when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next year. The law will not provide subsidies for low-income union workers who get insurance through multiemployer “Taft-Hartley plans,” which cover about 20 million people and are intended to keep them insured through seasonal or temporary unemployment. “We’re concerned that employers will be increasingly tempted to drop coverage through our plans and let our members fend for themselves on the health exchanges,” said David Treanor, director of health care initiatives at the Operating Engineers union. Read more

Food Workers Fend Off Firing in Federal Building
Four food-court restaurants in Washington’s Ronald Reagan federal building tried to fire 10 workers after a one-day strike May 21, but took them back after about 100 protesters converged on the food court. The strike was part of the Good Jobs Nation campaign to improve wages and conditions for workers at private companies backed by public spending. Read more


UAW Says Nissan Mississippi Plant Will Get $1.3 Billion in Tax Breaks
Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi might get $1.33 billion in tax credits and rebates between now and 2030, says a United Auto Workers-commissioned study released May 17. That’s more than four times what state officials said the incentives would cost when the plant was announced in 2000. The UAW has been trying to organize the plant’s 5,000 workers. Read more

Strike One-Day! San Francisco Ballpark Concession Workers Walk Out
More than 700 concession workers at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park struck May 25 before the Giants took on the Colorado Rockies. The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, are trying to get their first raise in four years from Centerplate, the company that manages the concessions, and stop it from cutting their health benefits. The Giants say the dispute is between the union and Centerplate, and Centerplate called the strike “unnecessary, unfortunate, and illegal. Read more

Federal Workers Furloughed Before Memorial Day Weekend
More than 110,000 federal workers were furloughed May 24, as the Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development closed for the day because of the budget sequester. The American Federation of Government Employees called it “a disgrace to our nation” that federal employees were “forced out of work without pay.” Read more

Weekly Digest - May 23, 2013

84 Percent of NYC Fast-Food Workers Got Cheated on Wages, Survey Says
More than five-sixths of New York City fast-food workers got cheated on their wages last year, according to a survey released May 15 by the Fast Food Forward organizing campaign. Common scams include not paying workers for time on the job before or after their official shifts, not paying time-and-a-half for overtime, and not reimbursing workers for expenses. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced May 16 his office was investigating several franchises for potential violations. Read more

Minnesota Legislature OKs Day-Care Workers Unionizing
The Minnesota House on May 20 narrowly approved a bill that would let the state’s 9,000 family child-care providers and 12,000 home health-care workers join unions. The vote came after more than 10 hours of debate in the House and the longest filibuster in the state Senate’s history. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign it. Read more

Will Missouri Governor Veto Limits on Public-Worker Unions?
The Missouri Legislature May 13 approved a so-called “paycheck protection” bill, which would require most public-employee unions to get annual permission from their members in order to collect dues or spend money for political purposes. The AFL-CIO urged Gov. Jay Nixon to veto the measure, Senate Bill 29, calling it a right-wing attempt to weaken unions. “Public workers in this state have faced an uphill fight for collective bargaining rights and are 50th in the nation in pay,” said Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Mike Louis. Read more

“Right to Work” Group Charges Union Under Indiana Law
The National Right to Work Foundation has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against an Indianapolis paper company and Graphics Communications International Union 17M. The group complains that six employees of the Domtar Paper Co. are being forced to pay union fees, violating Indiana’s 2012 law that bans contracts that require nonmembers to pay. The union’s contract with Domtar, negotiated before the law went into effect, expired in March. Read more

Medical-Marijuana Union-Bust? UFCW Accuses Maine Dispensary Chain
The United Food and Commercial Workers filed a complaint May 13 with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the Wellness Connection of Maine of illegally firing workers for union activity. It also alleges that the Wellness Connection illegally retaliated against workers who complained to state regulators about unhealthy working conditions at its cultivation center and its four dispensaries, which serve more than half the state’s 4,000-odd legal medical-marijuana patients. The UFCW’s Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division has previously organized dispensary workers in California and Colorado.
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Portland, Oregon Says City Park Rangers Can’t Join Union
The City Attorney’s officein Portland, Oregon May 13 filed formal objections to Portland’s 15 park rangers joining Laborers Local 483, on the grounds that 11 of them are temporary workers with “no reasonable expectation of permanent employment.” All 15 rangers signed cards seeking to join the union, hoping that it would help get the 11 temps pay of more than $11 an hour, health insurance, vacations, and the ability to keep their jobs for longer than 1,400 hours of work. Read more

Oregon Security Guards Join SEIU, Win First Contract
Security guards in Portland, Oregon approved their first contract with the metropolitan area’s four main private security contractors May 4. The agreement, with Securitas, ABM, G4S (formerly Wackenhut), and AlliedBarton, sets a wage floor of $9.50 an hour for security officers in Portland and $9.25 outside the city, dramatically improves health benefits, and gives annual raises of 25 or 30 cents an hour. The about 450 guards covered became members of Service Employees International Union SEIU Local 49 last August. Read more

BART Demands Extended Wage Freeze
Four years ago, workers for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system agreed to a wage freeze and to pay more for health care and pensions—and as talks open on a new contract, BART is demanding another wage freeze and more givebacks. “We’re farther apart now than we were in 2009,” said Peter Saltzman, attorney for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555. The contracts with the five unions expire June 30. BART has spent $400,000 to hire an outside consultant to handle the negotiations. Read more

Second Appeals Court Rejects Obama’s Recess Appointments to NLRB
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held May 16 that President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.  The 2-1 ruling also invalidated several NLRB decisions, such as letting nurses at a New Jersey rehabilitation center form a union, because they were not made by at least three legitimate board members. It echoed a January decision by the D.C. Circuit that the president can only make recess appointments during breaks between sessions of Congress, not during adjournments within sessions. Read more

Unions Mobilize to Revive Paralyzed NLRB
With the National Labor Relations Board facing complete incapacitation, labor unions are pressuring Senate Democrats to do whatever it takes to confirm President Obama’s nominees. Two of the five seats are vacant, so the board might be left without a quorum when chair Mark Pearce’s term expires in August. Republicans in the Senate have filibustered President Obama’s previous nominees for the vacant seats, and two federal courts have ruled that his recess appointments were illegal. “We communicated that it's absolutely unimaginable that we'll have four years of this president, Obama, and not have a NLRB that can make decisions and not have a Democratic majority on the NLRB,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America.
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UNITE HERE Opposes Pritzker Nomination
UNITE HERE has become the first labor union to oppose Penny Pritzker’s nomination as Secretary of Commerce. Pritzker, an owner of Hyatt Hotels, was one of President Obama’s top financial backers. “Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst hotel employer in the United States, leading the industry in outsourcing practices that destroy good jobs and hurt housekeepers,” the union said in a statement issued May 20. Pritzker’s confirmation hearings begin Thursday, May 23. Read more

European Companies Sign Bangladesh Safety Deal; U.S. Firms Don’t
Ten major European garment companies have signed a building-safety agreement for factories in Bangladesh, but U.S. brands have resisted. H&M, the largest producer of apparel in Bangladesh, signed on May 13, and was joined by Benetton, which made clothes in the Rana Plaza factory that collapsed April 24 and killed more than 1,100 people. The companies agreed to hire independent inspectors to evaluate fire and building safety. But the only U.S companies to sign on have been Abercrombie & Fitch and PVH, the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, which signed last year. The Gap objected because the agreement would expose it to “legal liability.” “What Gap wants is an agreement that can’t be enforced,” responded Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium in Washington. Read more

Walmart Rejects Bangladesh Safety Deal
Saying it would interfere with “supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government,” Walmart has refused to join European clothing companies’ plan to monitor factory safety in Bangladesh. The Arkansas-based retailer said the plan was “unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals,” and that it would inspect the 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh itself within six months. Read more

Walmart Accuses California Unions of Trespassing
Walmart on May 10 in California sued the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart. The company complained that in-store protests, such as one last August where demonstrators sang Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” were part of a pattern of trespassing that illegally disrupted its business. Walmart filed a similar complaint against the UFCW and OUR Walmart in Florida in March. Read more

Unions’ Future Might Be White-Collar
As white-collar employers lay workers off and force the remaining ones to work longer hours, more professionals—from lawyers to insurance agents—are turning to unions. Though organizing them can be difficult, said Gary Chaison, a professor of labor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., professionals “represent the frontiers of unionization in America.” Read more

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