Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – June 19, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Turkish Unions Strike to Support Protesters
Turkish labor unions staged a one-day strike June 17 to support protesters against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. Two labor groups that represent about 330,000 workers held rallies in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and other cities after a weekend in which police used water cannons and chemical weapons to force demonstrators out of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Feride Aksu Tanik of the Turkish Doctors Union said it had joined the strike “to protest against the police force that attacks children, youngsters and everyone violently, and to the detentions of doctors who provide voluntary services to the injured.” Read more

Federal Judge Rules That Interns Should Get Paid
Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III in Manhattan ruled on June 11 that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated minimum-wage laws by not paying two production interns on the movie Black Swan. Judge Pauley held that the interns had done the same work as regular employees, and that unpaid internships should be limited to cases where they aren’t used to displace regular workers and provide vocational training similar to that given in an educational environment. The decision could affect more than an estimated 500,000 unpaid interns, as many employers have used interns to save on labor costs. Read more

Second Federal Appeals Court Nixes NLRB’s “Poster Rule”
In a milder version of a May ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit held June 14 that the National Labor Relations Board could not require private employers to post a sign informing workers that they have the right under federal law to join a union. The court, responding to suits by the Chamber of Commerce joined by other business and antiunion groups, said the 2011 rule exceeded the NLRB’s authority to react to unfair labor practices. The NLRB is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court, but that might risk a further-reaching anti-labor decision. Read more

Wisconsin’s Top Court Will Hear Unions’ Challenge to Walker Law
The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided June 14 to hear an appeal of two unions’ challenge to Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 law banning most public workers from collective bargaining on any issue other than wage increases less than the rate of inflation. Last year, a county judge in Madison ruled that the law v
iolated workers’ constitutional rights to free speech, free association, and equal representation, because it would let nonunion workers get bigger raises than union workers. If the suit—by Madison teachers and Milwaukee city workers—is upheld, that ruling would apply to the whole state. Read more

Locomotive Workers Call GE Proposal “Unacceptable”
With workers at GE Transportation’s locomotive plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, facing massive layoffs, Local 506 of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers denounced a company proposal submitted June 13 as “totally unacceptable.” GE announced in April that it planned to eliminate 1,050 jobs at the plant, including 950 of the 3,500 union jobs, either by outsourcing or moving them to a nonunion factory in Texas. The union said the proposal demanded excessive concessions and would save only a few jobs. GE Transportation, which made $1 billion profit last year, said it needed to “remain competitive.” Read more

UMW Accuses Patriot Coal of Walking Out of Talks
The United Mine Workers of America says the Patriot Coal Corp. has walked out of talks intended to avert a strike against the bankrupt company. A federal bankruptcy judge ruled May 29 that the company could break collective-bargaining agreements and reduce wages, pensions, and health benefits, and Patriot CEO Ben Hatfield said “agreeing to the UMWA’s demands would sacrifice any chance of making the company viable.” The union contends that when the Peabody Energy Corp. split Patriot off in 2007, it was setting up an unsustainable company in order to get rid of long-term health-care and pension obligations.  Read more

SEIU Launches Million-Dollar Ad Campaign for Immigration Reform
The Service Employees International Union launched a million-dollar ad campaign June 11, trying to convince the Senate to support a pending bill that could help the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants become citizens. The ads will run on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, USA, and ESPN, and during the Sunday talk shows on NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC. The bill has been endorsed by President Barack Obama, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue. Former George W. Bush political adviser Karl Rove is backing a smaller ad campaign to demand tougher border security. Read more

Detroit Workers Fear Emergency Manager Will Slash Pay, Pensions
Detroit’s city unions fear that state-imposed “emergency manager” Kevyn Orr will take an ax to their incomes to meet what he says is at least a $3.5 billion deficit in the city’s pension obligations. In a report delivered to creditors June 14, Orr’s team said the city “must reduce employment costs for both represented and unrepresented workers as part of its restructuring.” “The law that was passed to impose an emergency manager on Detroit says they have to pay the banks first,” said David Sole, a retired city worker protesting outside the June 14 meeting. “We’re saying, no. They need to pay people’s pensions, wages, and city services. People should come before the banks. Read more

Oakland City Workers Authorize Strike
The two largest public-employee unions in Oakland, California, voted overwhelmingly June 13 to authorize a strike. The city’s workers have not gone on strike since 1946, but more than 94 percent of the employees in Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 approved a possible walkout. Workers in the two unions have suffered through five years of furloughs and pay cuts, and city officials offered them a contract in which they would not get a raise and would have to pay 10 percent of their health-insurance costs. Read more

N.J. Court Blocks CWA's Bid to Stall Lottery Privatization
A New Jersey appeals court on June 12 rejected the Communication Workers of America’s bid to delay privatizing the state lottery’s sales and marketing. The union claimed that Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to outsource lottery business to the Northstar consortium for the next 15 years would be illegal and cost jobs. The court said letting the contract go through before the trial would not cause the union “irreparable harm,” and promised to hear the case quickly. Read more

Workers, Parents Start Hunger Strike Against Philadelphia School Closures
Four people—two parents and two Philadelphia school-district employees— began a hunger strike June 17 to protest the planned closure of 23 city schools and the firing of 3,783 school workers, including 1,202 cafeteria workers and security guards represented by UNITE HERE Local 634. “I care about my daughter and grandson,” protester Earlene Bly said in a statement. The four say they will stay on the steps in front of Gov. Tom Corbett’s local office until the layoffs are reduced. Read more

June 19, 2013

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