Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – August 27, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Minnesota Home-Care Workers Vote Union Yes!
Minnesota home health-care workers, first allowed to form unions by a state law last year, have voted to join the Service Employees International Union. Results announced Aug. 26 showed that about 60% of the 5,800 workers who voted endorsed the union. The SEIU can now negotiate with the state over wages and benefits for the estimated 27,000 eligible workers, those who care for people on Medicare. “We are now not invisible. We are 27,000 strong,” said Debra Howze, a home care worker in north Minneapolis. Read more

Anti-Union Group Goes After Exclusive Representation
Irked that Minnesota home-care workers want to join unions, the National Right to Work Committee and Legal Defense Foundation, the group behind the Harris v. Quinn lawsuit, is now trying to eliminate exclusive representation. The group has filed a suit, Bierman v. Dayton, which argues that a union should not be allowed to represent anyone who has not joined, even if it was elected by the majority of workers. It is contending that if a union negotiates on behalf of public workers who aren’t members, it is violating their constitutional right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” A federal judge in Minnesota on Aug. 20 denied its request for an injunction against home-care workers joining unions. Read more

Some St. Louis Unions Join Ferguson Protests
Carrying a sign reading, “Mike Brown Is Our Son,” the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists marched Aug. 16 in Ferguson, Missouri, calling for justice for the 18-year-old who was shot and killed Aug. 9 by a police officer there. Unions have not been the “lead organizations” in organizing peaceful protests in the St. Louis suburb, said Mark Esters, an organizer for the Communications Workers of America, but some have encouraged members to attend, including CWA Local 6355, which represents state employees, and the SEIU, which represents janitors and has been organizing fast-food workers through the Show Me $15 campaign. Others, primarily the area’s building trades unions, have been reluctant, Esters said. Read more

Casino Closings Imperil Atlantic City Workers
With three Atlantic City casinos scheduled to close in the next three weeks, more than 6,500 people are about to lose their jobs. The shuttering of the Showboat Hotel and Casino, the Revel Casino Hotel, and Trump Plaza will eliminate about one-fourth of the casino jobs in New Jersey, and will be another blow to the county that already has the highest unemployment rate in the state. “It’s horrible,” said Sarah Rivera, a Showboat employee who is in her mid-40s and has worked the card, dice, and roulette games for more than 25 years. Read more

Airport Contractor Fined in Baggage Worker’ Death
California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health on Aug. 20 fined a contractor at Los Angeles International Airport $77,250 for five safety violations related to the death of a baggage worker. Cesar Valenzuela, 51, was killed Feb. 21after he was thrown from the baggage tug he was driving, which did not have functional seat belts. The agency found that Menzies Aviation, Valenzuela’s employer, had policies that illegally discouraged the use of seat belts in some areas of the airport. It also cited Menzies for reporting the fatal accident as a heart attack. Read more

Montreal Threatens to Fire Pension Protesters
A high-ranking Montreal official said Aug. 26 that some workers who disrupted a city-council meeting to protest pension cuts “have lost their jobs, and don't yet know it.” Several hundred workers invaded the council chambers Aug. 18 to protest a provincial bill that would force them to contribute dramatically more of their pay to cover pensions. A spokesperson for Mayor Denis Coderre said the comments by security director Anie Samson were reiterating the mayor’s position. Chris Ross, head of the city firefighters association, said Samson's comments "have done little other than to poison an already unstable relationship."  Read more

Trades Recruit Teens in S.F. Construction Boom
With San Francisco experiencing one of its biggest construction booms since the rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake, building-trades are recruiting teenagers for the industry. “We have a real need in the building trades to replenish our workforce,” said Mike Theriault, secretary-treasurer at the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, as many workers are aging while the amount of work is surging. Developer Lennar Urban and Young Community Developers, a neighborhood job-training group, organized a workshop for about 45 high-school students at a first-of-its-kind construction and trades exposition at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. “When you walk out of that building at the end of the day, you’re able to look over your shoulder and say with pride, ‘I did that,’” Glaziers painting instructor Chris Fallon told them. Read more

California Operating Engineers Reach Contract Deal
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 reached a tentative contract agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown Aug. 21. The two-year deal adds a $250 bonus to the offer the 850 members rejected when they authorized a strike in June, a 2% raise retroactive to July 1 and a 2.5% increase next July 1. The operating engineers, who run heating, cooling, and water systems for state facilities, were the last of the 12 state workers’ unions in California to reach a deal. Read more

Teachers Lose Case at Philly Religious School
The National Labor Relations Board’s Philadelphia office said Aug. 22 that it had no jurisdiction over a religious school that told teachers it would no longer recognize their union. Teachers at the Perelman Jewish Day School, who had been represented by the American Federation of Teachers since 1976, filed unfair-labor-practice charges earlier this summer. “We will appeal the decision,” said Pennsylvania AFT President Ted Kirsch. “It’s still immoral and unethical for a Jewish school to do this — it’s just wrong.” Read more

Machinists Mull Uniting Plane Factories’ Locals
Textron Aviation and the International Association of the Machinists are considering merging the Beechcraft and Cessna Aircraft factories in Wichita, Kansas into one bargaining unit. “We're exploring that with the company," said Machinists President Thomas Buffenbarger. Textron, which already owned small-plane manufacturer Cessna, acquired its competitor Beechcraft in March. IAM Lodge 774 represents about 2,500 workers at Cessna, while Lodge 773 represents more than 1,600 at Beechcraft. Read more

August 14, 2013

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