Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – June 26, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Bay Area Transit Workers Authorize Strike
The two largest unions in California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system have voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike, officials said June 26. With their contracts expiring Sunday night, the unions—Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represent 2,375 workers—are asking for improved job safety and a 23 percent raise over three years. Management is offering raises of 1 percent a year if the system makes enough money, and wants employees to pay more for pensions and health insurance. BART workers have voted to authorize strikes three other times in the last 15 years, but have not walked out since 1997. Read more

Supreme Court Takes NLRB-Appointment Case
The Supreme Court on June 24 agreed to hear the Obama administration’s appeal of a lower-court decision nullifying its recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The Court will rule on whether the President can make appointments without Senate approval whenever the Senate is in recess, as has been done for decades, or only during the break between annual sessions, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held in January. The D.C. Circuit voided the NLRB’s pro-union ruling in a dispute between the Teamsters and a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in Yakima, Washington, saying that Obama had illegally appointed three board members. Read more

Airport Screeners Say TSA Is Violating Their Contract
Five months after the Transportation Security Administration signed its first contract with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union says the agency is violating the agreement. AFGE, which represents the nation’s 45,000 airport screeners, says TSA management has violated provisions on performance evaluations and vacation time, and unfairly disciplined workers for wearing shorts on hot days. “After the contract, morale was up, with people thinking, ‘We finally have rights,’” said Stacy Bodtman, a screener at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who was on AFGE’s contract-negotiating team. “Now it’s back down.” Read more

Walmart Fires Strikers
Walmart has fired at least one worker who went on strike and joined protests at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting earlier this month. Lisa Lopez of Tampa, who appeared in an OUR Walmart video posted on YouTube in May, lost her job June 21, officially for bringing a company rulebook into the deli area she worked in. “I think they don’t want me to actually let people know what’s really going on at Walmart as an associate,” she said. OUR Walmart had filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board that the company’s previous disciplinary moves against Lopez were retaliation for her union activism. Read more

Walmart Sues to Stop Texas Protests
Walmart filed a lawsuit in Fort Worth, Texas’s county court June 14 to prohibit what it calls “confrontational and abusive” demonstrations at its stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The defendants include the United Food and Commercial Workers, OUR Walmart, North Texas Jobs with Justice, and Dallas JwJ organizer Gene Lantz. Walmart filed a similar suit in Florida in March, trying to get a court-ordered ban on union supporters picketing, talking to workers, or handing out flyers on its property, including parking lots. Read more

7-Eleven Stores Charged With Wage Theft
Nine owners and managers at 7-Eleven stores on Long Island and in Virginia were charged June 17 with stealing tens of millions of dollars from their workers. According to the indictments, the nine hired immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines who were here illegally, had their paychecks made out to false identities, and pocketed as much as three-fourths of their wages. The scam affected more than 50 workers, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said. Read more

How Fast Food Companies Steal Workers’ Pay
Thousands of American fast-food workers are cheated out of thousands of dollars in pay every year. A recent study from New York City found that 84 percent of fast food workers complained that their employers regularly force them to come in early or stay late without pay and don’t pay them for overtime. Another scam is altering timesheets to deny them credit for hours they worked, says Wilma Brown, a former Burger King worker from Kansas City. Companies like Burger King and Domino’s Pizza insist that paying workers fairly is their franchisees’ responsibility, not theirs—a system detractors call the “it wasn’t me” business model. Read more

Progressive Groups Urge Senate to Confirm NLRB Nominees
Three of the nation’s leading civil-rights, environmentalist, and gay and lesbian organizations have launched an ad campaign urging the Senate to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board. In ads placed in Washington political publications, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said the board is the only protection for workers in states that don’t ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; the Sierra Club said. “We can’t hold big polluters accountable or protect the rights of American workers and consumers if we’ve got no cops on the beat”; and the NAACP said a strong labor relations board is “absolutely crucial to protecting the rights and concerns of racial and ethnic minorities as well as all Americans that work under the opportunities and protections offered by labor unions.” Read more

Michigan Bakers Protest NLRB Delays
More than 50 people picketed outside the Panera Bread restaurant in Kalamazoo June 21 to protest the Senate’s failure to confirm new members of the National Labor Relations Board. Several came from Panera restaurants along Interstate 94 in southern Michigan, who last year became the first workers in the chain to form a union. “I can’t go to arbitration because there’s no NLRB,” said Kyle Schilling, a Panera baker who claims he was fired on trumped-up grounds in May for supporting the union. “If U.S. workers don’t stand up for their rights, they will be taken away.” Read more

German Labor Leader Says VW Has to Accept Union at Tennessee Plant
The United Auto Workers got a boost in their efforts to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant. The factory is the only VW plant that doesn’t have a “works council” that represents employees on pay, benefits, and other issues, and Stephan Wolf, a top official of the company’s works councils, said it will block the planned expansion of the Chattanooga plant unless a similar labor panel is set up there. Under U.S. labor law, that would mean the workers must be represented by a union. Read more

June 27, 2013

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