Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – November 13, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Boeing 777X Offer Divides Machinists
Workers at Boeing Airplanes in Washington voted Nov. 13 on a contract that eliminates pensions and limits pay increases—and CEO Ray Conner said the company’s threat to build the new 777X airliner in another state if they don’t accept it “is not a bluff.” “What’s at stake here is jobs for the future, jobs to build 777X for 20 to 25 years,” International Association of Machinists District 751 President Tom Wroblewski said Nov. 11, four days after he called the contract offer “a piece of crap.” Meanwhile, more than 300 Machinists and officials rallied at the union hall in Everett to denounce the contract, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill giving Boeing tax incentives through 2040 to encourage it to build the plane in Washington.

Massachusetts Domestic Workers Seek ‘Bill of Rights’
Nearly 100 Massachusetts domestic workers and their allies crowded a State House hearing Nov. 12 to push for “bill of rights” legislation. “My colleagues and I clean up to 14 houses a day and still struggle to make ends meet,” Sonia Soares of Lynn told the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “I personally have been slapped in the face, pushed, yelled at and sexually harassed.” The bill would require people hiring housekeepers, nannies, and elder-care workers to give them paid sick days, time off, and a written contract if they work more than two days a week in a home.
Walmart Strikes Spread Around Country

Walmart workers in the Seattle area staged a one-day strike Nov. 12, following a two-day strike four days earlier by workers in Southern California.  The walkouts are part of a campaign by OUR Walmart leading up to larger strikes planned for Nov. 29, the “Black Friday” heavy shopping day after Thanksgiving, with janitors at Target and other stores in the Minneapolis area saying they’ll join too. “I want people to be able to live better, you know, like the commercial says,” said Walmart striker Mary Watkins. “Nobody lives better except for the Waltons now.”

House Members Seek Probe of Black-Lung Denials
Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) have asked the Labor Department to investigate allegations that doctors and lawyers working on behalf of the coal industry have “used medically and ethically questionable tactics” to deny compensation for miners with black lung disease. The allegations focus on Jackson Kelly, a union-busting law firm in West Virginia, and Johns Hopkins Medical in Baltimore, which earlier this month suspended work reviewing X-rays of miners seeking compensation. According to the Center for Public Integrity, one doctor at Johns Hopkins “found not a single case of severe black lung” in more than 1,500 cases he commented on. CPI said that less than 10 percent of the coal miners seeking benefits under the federal black lung compensation system have gotten them.

AFL-CIO Aims Immigration Ads at GOP

The AFL-CIO launched a television-ad campaign Nov. 7 attacking House Republicans for their stances on immigration-law reform. The ads quote House members’ statements like Paul Broun of Georgia saying undocumented immigrants are “criminals and they need to be treated as such.” They’re running on the Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision in Atlanta, Denver, and other cities, and in English in Washington, DC. “We want to spur House Republicans into action on immigration reform this year, right now, and we’re going to hold Republican congressmen responsible for their hostile statements about Latino immigrants,” said AFL-CIO strategist Tom Snyder.

Williams Likely to Become UAW’s Next President

The United Auto Workers’ Reuther Caucus nominated Dennis Williams Nov. 7 to succeed Bob King as the union’s president. Williams, 60, a former welder from Illinois, has been the UAW’s secretary-treasurer since 2010 and led a five-year strike against Caterpillar in the 1990s. The Reuther Caucus also nominated Jimmy Settles, Cindy Estrada, and Norwood Jewell for vice presidents, and picked Gary Casteel, who’s leading the union’s organizing efforts at Volkswagen and Nissan plants in Tennessee and Alabama, for secretary-treasurer. The election will be held during the UAW’s convention in June; no one has won the union’s presidency without the Reuther Caucus’s support since 1970.

Anti-Union Group Behind Supreme Court Neutrality Case

Mardi Gras Gaming, the South Florida gambling complex whose challenge to “neutrality agreements” was heard by the Supreme Court Nov. 13, is being backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a powerful anti-union group. The group is also representing Martin Mulhall, the longtime Mardi Gras employee whose lawsuit against UNITE HERE Local 355 set off the case. Neither Mulhall nor the NRTWLDF would say why he opposed the union or how they came into contact. But for AFL-CIO attorney Craig Becker, the evidence is clear: The case “represents what is a longstanding effort on the part of the Right to Work Foundation to basically turn labor law upside down.”

Wisconsin Court Hears Case Against Walker Laws

Lawyers for Wisconsin labor unions told the state Supreme Court Nov. 11 that Gov. Scott Walker's restrictions on public unions deny public workers their right to freely associate with a union. The laws, enacted in 2011, prohibit unions from bargaining for real-wage increases, prohibit dues checkoff, and require workers to vote every year on whether they want to keep the union. Lester Pines, an attorney for a Madison teachers union, said the laws were “designed to make it impossible” for people to sustain unions. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a arguing for the Walker administration, said the restrictions don’t prevent union members from asking their employers for higher wages and other benefits; they just can't force their employers to listen. The court’s right-wing majority is likely to rule against the unions.

Pennsylvania Unions Picket Yuengling on ‘Right to Work’

Chanting, "Organize, don't fool around, Pottsville is a union town," more than 400 people marched in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Nov. 9 to protest against union-busting “right-to-work” laws. The group, which included representatives from about 20 unions, picked Pottsville because it’s the site of the brewery owned by billionaire Dick Yuengling, who last summer said Pennsylvania would attract more business if it banned union shops. "There's a draft of legislation in Harrisburg. It didn't go anywhere yet, but it's real and we're concerned. Dick Yuengling made his views known,” said Liz Bettinger of the United Steelworkers’ District 10.

Weingarten Urges Christie to Apologize to Teacher

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to apologize to a teacher he yelled at while campaigning for re-election. Weingarten’s letter said it was “wrong and unbecoming” for the governor to confront Melissa Tomlinson and “bully her in such a hostile and intimidating way for simply asking a question.” Tomlinson had asked, “Why do you continue to spread the myth that our schools and teachers are failing?” and Christie responded, “Because they are!… I am tired of you people.”

August 14, 2013

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