Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – February 20, 2015

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Walmart to Raise Its Minimum Wage to $9
Walmart, the largest private employer in the country, announced Feb. 19 that it would increase its minimum wage to $9 an hour by April. The company said that will mean raises for about 40 percent of its 1.3 million workers, about 500,000 people. Christine L. Owens, head of the National Employment Law Project, said the move was “clearly the result of years of organizing by Walmart employees.” OUR Walmart, a group for store employees organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers, has demanded that the company raise wages to $15. “Few could have envisioned a group of workers forcing Walmart, ruthlessly committed to cost-cutting, to unilaterally raise wages,” Owens added, although she said the company’s pay was still low and workers’ hours inconsistent and insufficient. Read more

Ohio Retirees Fear Fed Law Will Force Severe Pension Cuts
The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, signed last December by President Barack Obama, was intended to save some of the nation’s most severely underfunded pension funds, but it could mean dramatically lower benefit checks for a million or more retirees. In order to keep multiemployer pension funds—common in trucking and construction, where people work for many different employers—solvent, what they pay retirees under 75 could be reduced by up to 60%. Joe Mardula, 62, a retired truckdriver and Teamsters member from Akron, Ohio, said his $3,000-a-month pension could be cut to as low as $1,200. “My [ex-wife] and I would have to split that, too,” he added. Thomas Morneweck, executive secretary-treasurer of the Tri-County Labor Council in Akron, said he got “the big picture” on the funds’ financial state, but “allowing cuts to pensions would be unprecedented…. You don’t want to start down that road. It’s a slippery slope. The cuts keep coming. There’s no stopping them.” Read more

Kentucky County Rejects ‘Right-to-Work’
Kentucky’s Marshall County has become the first in the state to reject so-called “right to work” laws. In response to several other counties passing ordinances banning the union shop, the county’s Fiscal Court on Feb. 17 unanimously approved an anti-right-to-work resolution, drafted by Kentucky AFL-CIO president William Londrigan and local union member Howard “Bubba” Dawes. The Kentucky AFL-CIO filed suit last month in federal court challenging the other counties’ ordinances. “They’re even reconsidering in some of those counties that they might have done something that was illegal already," Dawes said. Marshall County is in the state’s west, between Paducah and the Tennessee line. Read more

Connecticut FOX Newsroom Votes to Join NABET
Employees in FOX CT's newsroom voted 35 to 17 on Feb. 18 to join the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. The union, a division of the Communications Workers of America, succeeded on its second try after a one-vote loss in 2003. The Hartford-based station had been the only last non-union local TV news operation in Connecticut. NABET staffer Carrie Biggs-Adams called the vote  “a pretty impressive testament to the desires of the people of the workplace,” saying management had run “a full-court press” to convince workers to vote no. Read more

Conn. Unions Give Gov’s Budget Mixed Reviews
Connecticut labor leaders gave mixed reviews to the $19.7 billion budget Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed Feb. 18. State AFL-CIO head Lori J. Pelletier praised the governor for keeping his campaign promise to avoid layoffs, preserving aid to local governments, and maintaining contributions intended to solidify the state pension fund. But the Better Choices Coalition, an alliance of state employee unions and social services advocates, criticized his proposed cuts to health care, including ending Medicaid for 34,000 parents and eliminating state-funded home care for elderly people who don’t require a nursing home. The budget also restricts hiring new state workers. Read more

August 14, 2013

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