Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – August 6, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Who’s Funding Campbell Brown’s Campaign Against Teachers?
Former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown won’t say who’s paying for the lawsuit she’s organized to challenge teachers’ tenure protections in New York, telling TV show host Stephen Colbert July 31 that critics “are also going to go after people who are funding this.” Brown is the founder of the Partnership for Educational Justice and the Parents Transparency Project, which says its mission is “to bring transparency to the rules, deals, and contracts negotiated between our state and local governments and the teachers´ unions.” Both are among several “education reform” organizations largely and secretively financed by a network of hedge-fund billionaires and Republican Party operatives.
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Judge Orders End to Kellogg’s Lockout
U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays on July 30 ordered Kellogg’s to end the nine-month lockout at its Memphis plant and bring back the 220 workers affected within five days. Granting an injunction requested by the National Labor Relations Board in April, the judge said the company was using “creative semantics” to get around its contract with the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. Kellogg’s had been trying to classify casual employees as regular employees while paying them $6 an hour less with no benefits, and to leave open the possibility of replacing regular workers with casuals or laying them off and rehiring them as casuals. Read more

Boeing to Build New Jet Nonunion
Boeing Co. will build a longer version of its 787 Dreamliner airliner exclusively at its factory in North Charleston, South Carolina. The 787-10, which will have a longer fuselage so it can carry more passengers, will be the company’s first passenger jet built exclusively nonunion. A company executive said the reason was that the plane’s mid-body section was too long to fly to the union plant in Everett, Washington—but Boeing also plans to build more regular 787s at the South Carolina plant, which opened in 2009. "We are not surprised, but we are certainly disappointed," said Jon Holden, president of International Association of Machinists Local 751 in Seattle, the company's largest union.
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Labor Dept. ‘Recommends’ LinkedIn for Wage Theft
LinkedIn, the California-based social network for job-seekers and professionals, announced Aug. 4 that it had agreed to pay almost $6 million in back wages to 359 current and former salespeople who weren’t properly compensated for overtime from 2012 to 2014. A company spokesperson said the problem was that it didn’t have “the right tools in place for some employees and their managers to track hours properly.” In a settlement with the federal Department of Labor, LinkedIn also agreed to notify managers that they should keep track of workers’ overtime hours, pay them for overtime, and not retaliate against employees who raise concerns. Read more

Oakland Minimum Wage Going to Ballot
Oakland, California’s City Council voted July 29 against raising the city’s minimum wage—in order to let city voters decide on a bigger increase in November. The “Lift Up Oakland” ballot initiative would hike the city’s minimum from $9 an hour to $12.25 as of March 1, while the defeated plan would have delayed the increase until October 2015, and workers at companies with less than 150 employees would have had to wait longer. “This will be used as a tactic to defeat the other plan,” Councilmember Dan Kalb said before voting no. “I am not comfortable with that.” Read more

Army-Base Janitors Strike
About 70 janitorial workers at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia went out on strike July 29. The workers, who won a first contract and almost $300,000 in back pay after a strike in February 2013, are charging that the contractor they work for, Brown & Pipkins/Acsential of Atlanta, is refusing to bargain in good faith with their union, SEIU Local 32BJ, for a new contract. “Nobody wants to strike, but these men and women are willing to do what’s necessary to support their families,” said Jaime Contreras, 32BJ’s Washington-Baltimore area director. Read more

New England Phone Contract Expires
Workers at FairPoint Communications in northern New England remained on the job despite talks breaking off just before their contract expired Aug. 2. “We’re still miles apart. But we feel like if they bring the right game to the table that we can make a deal,” said Mike Spillane of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2326, one of the two unions representing more than 1,700 workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. FairPoint, which bought Verizon’s landline operations in the three states in 2007 and has not made a profit since then, wants to switch its future pension contributions to a 401(k) plan and to hire nonunion contract workers in the name of “flexibility.” Read more

D.C.-Area Cabbies Join Union
Taxi drivers in Maryland’s Montgomery County, just outside Washington, officially affiliated with the National Taxi Workers Alliance July 31. “The old way to do business needs to change,” said cabbie Becaye Traore, 48, as drivers are being squeezed by high leasing costs and credit-card transaction fees on one side and by competition from app-based ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft on the other. The move could add nearly 1,000 members to the alliance, an AFL-CIO affiliate, which represents taxi drivers in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Austin, Texas, and is negotiating with drivers in nearby Prince George’s County. Washington’s cabbies joined the Teamsters last year. Read more

Foreign Students Join Movers’ Strike
Trying to foil their workers’ efforts to win a first contract, management at Golan’s Moving & Storage in Skokie, Illinois, hired foreign students on “cultural exchange” guest-worker visas for the summer. But when the regular workers, who joined Teamsters Local 705 last December, went out on strike July 27 to protest practices like not being paid for their first hour on the job, most of the students—from Romania, Mongolia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Azerbaijan—joined them. The company hired a dozen-odd scabs, but the strikers have been doing roving pickets at their job sites with the Teamsters’ giant inflatable rat. Read more

Jersey Workers Push Sick-Pay Ballot Initiatives
With state legislation to require New Jerseybusinesses to give workers paid sick leave stalled, workers’ advocates are campaigning to get similar measures on the ballot in six cities this November. A coalition of advocacy groups led by the New Jersey Working Families Alliance has been collecting petitions for sick-pay initiatives in East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Passaic, Paterson, and Trenton. Jersey City, the state’s second-largest city, enacted a sick-pay law last October, and Newark, the largest, followed suit in January. Read more

August 14, 2013

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