Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – May 8, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Seattle Mayor Muddles Minimum Wage
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray unveiled his plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour May 1, and a local weekly described it as “so complicated reporters can’t understand it.” Workers will have to wait three to seven years to get the full $15, depending on the size of the business they work for, whether they get tips, and whether the employer provides health care—with some health-insurance plans counting as pay. The mayor and some union leaders said the delays were necessary to win business support and pass the City Council. Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant says supporters of the $15 minimum will push for a ballot initiative if the Council enacts a bill with too many loopholes.

Hawaii Raises Minimum to $10.10
Hawaii lawmakers voted Apr. 29 to raise its minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2018. The bill also sets a minimum for tipped workers, who will get the $10.10 plus tips if their total pay comes out to less than $17.10; if they make more than $17.10, their employers can deduct a 75-cent tip credit from their wages. The vote makes Hawaii the third state to raise its minimum to $10.10, after Maryland and Connecticut.

…But Senate Filibusters $10.10 Bill
A bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 failed in the Senate Apr. 30, after a motion to stop a Republican filibuster didn’t get the 60 votes it needed. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 over the next 30 months, with annual cost-of-living increases after that. The federal minimum was last raised in 2007, from $5.15 to $7.25.

Judge Clears Way for Vote Detroit Debt Plan
Federal bankruptcy judge Steven W. Rhodes on May 5 signed off on a proposal for Detroit to begin paying off its $18 billion debt, clearing the way for a vote on the plan by the city retirees, employees, and bondholders affected. The Detroit Fire Fighters Association and the Detroit Police Officers Association have not agreed to settlements. “At this point, what is being proposed is nothing more than cuts in benefits and wages,” said DPOA president Mark Diaz. Two smaller police unions announced settlements May 5, saying that they might end up worse off if a “cramdown” plan was imposed without their consent.

Can Workers Talk Union on Company E-Mail?
The Communications Workers of America has asked the National Labor Relations Board to reconsider whether employees can use company e-mail to try to organize a union. The union, representing workers at a California call center for the deaf, wants the board to overturn a Bush-era ruling that employers can prohibit any personal use of company communications devices. The NLRB’s Los Angeles office supported the CWA, saying that employees have a right to communicate with each other on the job as long as they get their work done on time.

Philly Convention Center Saws Off Carpenters, Teamsters
The board of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority voted unanimously May 6 to implement new work rules and cut off jobs for unions that don’t agree to them. The rules would let exhibitors at the Philadelphia center pick workers and foremen on union jobs and require workers to be tested for drugs. Four of the six unions involved—the Laborers, IBEW Local 98, Riggers, and Stagehands—have approved them, but the Carpenters and Teamsters have not. “We won't be run out of this building and go away,” said Carpenters secretary-treasurer Ed Coryell Sr., who adds that the changes would take work from his members. Board members said a brief strike by the Carpenters May 1 had encouraged them to impose the new rules.

Massachusetts Teachers Protest Privatization Plan
Teachers in Salem, Massachusetts protested May 4 against the city’s plan to have a private company, Blueprint Schools Network, take over running grades 3-5 at Bentley Elementary School. The Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Teachers, which organized the rally, also passed a resolution at its state convention denouncing the move. Joyce Harrington, president of the Salem Teachers Union, said the school board’s plan was “pretty draconian” and a “rush to judgment,” as it came 18 months into a three-year plan to improve the Bentley School.

‘Independent Contractor’ Law Cuts Michigan SEIU Membership
SEIU Healthcare Michigan lost 80% of its membership in 2013, following the passage of a state law that defined home-based health aides as “independent contractors” who can’t join a union. The union reported that membership fell from 55,000 in 2012, before the law went into effect, to about 11,000 at the end of 2013, and the amount of dues it collected dropped by 37%. SEIU Healthcare had represented roughly 42,000 Michigan home-based aides, who had voted overwhelmingly to join the union in 2005 when the state ruled they were eligible.

Machinists Ratify First Contract at Boeing Supplier
Workers at AIM Aerospace in Sumner, Washington ratified their first union contract April 25, winning raises averaging 5.6%. The four-year deal, which covers 280 employees who joined International Association of Machinists Lodge 751 last summer, also limits the number of temporary workers the company can use. The workers are composites manufacturing specialists who fabricate air ducts and other components used inBoeing and Airbus jets.

UAW Seeks International Oversight at Nissan Plant
The United Auto Workers on April 28 officially requested that the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development investigate Nissan’s observance of international labor-rights standards at its Canton, Mississippi factory. The UAW is trying to organize that plant, where workers say they are subjected to relentless anti-union messages from management and TV monitors. The OECD guidelines say the governments of its member states should protect the right to organize.

August 14, 2013

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