Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – July 23, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Only 6 Minutes a Shift for Bathroom?
Teamsters Local 743 has filed a complaint againstChicago's WaterSaver Faucet factory with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the company disciplined 19 workers because they averaged more than 6 minutes a shift in the bathroom. Management installed a system last winter that required workers to swipe a card when they used a bathroom. “The company has spreadsheets on every union employee on how long they were in,” said union representative Nick Kreitman. “There have been meetings with workers and human resources where the workers had to explain what they were doing in the bathroom.” WaterSaver CEO Steve Kersten said he thought workers were sneaking into the bathroom to talk or text on their cell phones. Read more

McDonald’s Workers Say They Were Fired for Union Activity
Nine McDonald’s workers who say they were fired fortheir union involvement and organizing activitiesare asking the National Labor Relations Board to rule that the company is responsible for the actions of its franchises. The nine, backedby the Fast Food Workers Committee, worked at McDonald’sin Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, but the company claims they weren’t its direct employees. “McDonald’s claims that it has no influence over the wages and working conditions of its employees, but it effectively controls workers’ pay, hours, and schedules by controlling every other variable in the business except wages,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel of the National Employment Law Project. “A decision in this case should leave no doubt that McDonald’s is an employer and put an end to its self-serving charade that it is not.” Read more

Oregon SEIU Stops Collecting Nonunion Health Workers’ Dues
SEIU Local 503, Oregon’s largest public-sector union, has stopped collecting "fair-share" dues from home-health workers who didn’t join the union. Executive Director Heather Conroy said she made the decision out of an “overabundance of caution” after the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling that Illinois home-health workers who weren’t members didn’t have to pay such fees. About 3,500 of Oregon’s 14,000 home-health workers and about two-thirds of its 1,700 "personal support workers” are not union members. Read more

Ontario City Locks Out Bus Drivers
The city of Guelph, Ontario locked out its 205 transit workers July 21 after they overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer. “Money and benefits aren't the issue,” said driver Art Van’t Wout, a former vice-president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189. “It’s the contract language that's the problem.” The rejected deal would have given workers raises of 6.8% over the next four years, but would have reduced maintenance technicians’ hours and lowered long-term disability payments. Local 1189 president Andrew Cleary said another issue was that bus drivers wanted a bathroom—when they stop at a restaurant to use the toilet, he said, people post their photos on social media and comment that they’re not doing their jobs. Read more

Unions Seek Buyers for Atlantic City Casinos
In a last-ditch effort to prevent three Atlantic City casinos from closing, UNITE HERE Local 54 is trying to find buyers for them and preserve almost 8,000 jobs. The owners of the Showboat and Trump Plaza have said they will close by September, and Revel will be put up for sale at a bankruptcy court auction next month. "The workers aren't lying down for this," said Local 54 president Bob McDevitt. "They haven't accepted that they are no longer needed as employees in the Atlantic City casino industry." Read more

Colorado Cop Fired for Union Activity Gets $525,000
Patrick Cillo, a decorated former police officer in Greenwood Village, Colorado, won $525,000 in damages and penalties July 16 after jurors found the city acted with “evil motive” when it fired him. The Denver suburb’s former police chief claimed that he had fired Cillo and several other officers in 2009 because they had illegally entered a sexual-assault suspect’s motel room while chasing him, but Cillo filed a federal lawsuit in 2010 claiming that the real reason was that he had organized his fellow officers to join the International Union of Police Associations Local 305. Read more

California Trades Train Unemployed for High-Speed Rail
With construction of the high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco slated to start this summer in California’s Central Valley, building-trades unions in the Fresno area are training unemployed people in the area for apprenticeships as electricians, operating engineers, ironworkers, surveyors, cement masons, and more. The first 22 students in the program graduated last fall, and its goal is to train 325. "The single largest public infrastructure project in the history of California is coming right through the middle of our community," said Blake Konczal, director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board. "We would be fools not to grasp it with both hands and try to make sure that our local residents who are unemployed get access to those jobs." Read more

U.S. Unions Protest Greyhound Owner in Scotland
Members of theAmalgamated Transit Union traveled to Scotland to join British transport unions protesting at FirstGroup’s annual general meeting in Aberdeen July 16. The company, which got its start taking over British public-transportation systems privatized in the 1980s, owns Greyhound and BoltBus. The company plans to raise CEO Tim O’Toole’s pay by 86%, to more than $3.2 million a year—while ignoring Greyhound terminal workers’ bid to get a raise from less than $11 an hour to $15. Read more

Chicago Cabbies Want Fare Increase
Chicago’s United Taxidrivers Community Council, which is trying to organize the city’s cabbies, issued a plan July 21 to raise fares by 25%. “We’re trying to fix a broken taxi industry. Drivers are not making enough money,” said UTCC secretary Peter Enger. Many drivers make less than minimum wage, and the city hasn’t raised fares since 2005. The plan would also reduce fines and cap increases on what drivers pay to lease cabs. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2012 taxi “reforms” let owners raise lease rates by up to 40% and increased maximum fines to $750. AFSCME District Council 31, which is also trying to organize drivers, says Emanuel’s changes reduced cabbies’ average incomes by more than 25%, to barely $20,000 a year. Read more

With Pot Legal in Washington, UFCW Organizes Workers
Workers at a medical-marijuana dispensary in Puyallup, Washington have voted to join United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 367, becoming the first union cannabis-industry workers in the state, which legalized recreational pot sales July 1. The effort to organize is part of a nationwide UFCW campaign, “Cannabis Workers Rising,” said Local 367 secretary-treasurer Daniel Comeau. The union says it will work with dispensary owners in a “shared commitment to find regulatory solutions for the industry.” Read more

Unions Back September Climate-Change Demonstration
Several major Northeastern unions have endorsed a protest march about global warming scheduled for Sept. 21 in New York. “Let’s be clear, climate change is the most important issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives,” said John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists. The unions on the list include Local 1199 SEIU, AFSCME’s District Council 37, the New York State Nurses Association, the Amalgamated Transit Workers and Transport Workers Union, SEIU 32BJ, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3. The AFL-CIO has not taken a position, and the endorsers do not include the Laborers and the United Mine Workers, who have opposed environmental initiatives they believe will cost their members jobs. “Local 3 has taken a big lead in solar projects and restoration projects,” says IBEW instructor Partha Banerjee. “Instead of talking about climate change’s impact on traditional jobs, we talk about how there has to be a serious priority on green jobs.” Read more

August 14, 2013

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