Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – October 30, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Kentucky Auto-Parts Supplier Recognizes UAW by Card Checks
Faurecia Interior Systems Inc. has agreed to recognize the United Auto Workers at its plant in Louisville, Ky.. A majority of the 172 workers signed cards in favor of the union, UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel UAW said in a statement Oct. 25. “Faurecia also deserves recognition for agreeing to use the majority recognition process, forgoing the approach of anti-union employers who force their employees into a divisive, disruptive and outdated election process," he added. The plant, which opened in 2011, produces the interiors for vehicles manufactured by Ford and General Motors.

Kellogg Locks Out Corn Flakes Bakers
The workers who bake Apple Jacks, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, and Froot Loops got locked out Oct. 22, in a long-running dispute between the Kellogg Company and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers' International Union. Kellogg locked out 226 employees at its Memphis plant after the workers refused its “last and best offer,” said BCTGM Memphis president Kevin Bradshaw. The key issue is the company’s insistence on expanding its use of temporary workers. “They bought Pringles for $2.8 billion cash. This is just corporate greed,” said Bradshaw.
 
Stealth Bill Would Allow Cuts to Current Pensions
A little-publicized bill in Congress would change federal law to let pension plans reduce payments to people already retired. The measure, aimed at troubled multiemployer plans, would give plan trustees the authority to cut pensions pre-emptively to 110 percent of the amount the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation pays to retirees whose pension fund went broke, a maximum of $14,157. Multiemployer pension plans now cover 10 million workers, but some, such as the Teamsters’ Central States Fund, are in danger of running out of money, as the deregulation of trucking drove most union firms out and drastically reduced the number of union workers contributing.
 
Detroit Manager Says He Wouldn’t Have Agreed to Pension Deal
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr testified Oct. 29 that he probably wouldn’t have agreed to a deal to preserve retired city workers’ pensions. He said he’d been prepared to negotiate with creditors, but when a lawyer for the United Auto Workers—one of several unions challenging Detroit's bankruptcy, on the grounds that the city did not negotiate with creditors in good faith before filing for Chapter 9 protection in July—asked if he’d have agreed to keep hands off pensions, Orr replied: “Probably not.” He also said he believed federal bankruptcy law superseded the Michigan state constitution’s prohibiting public pensions from being impaired.
 
Fatal Accident Speeds BART Settlement
The tentative Oct. 21 agreement that ended a second strike by Bay Area Rapid Transit workers came two days after a maintenance train driven by a trainee struck and killed two track inspectors in the suburb of Walnut Creek. "When that happened over the weekend, they realized this thing had to end," said Amalgamated Transit Union international president Larry Hanley, whose union represents BART train drivers and station agents. “Management backed off the vast majority of the work rules.” BART track inspectors are represented by a union that was not on strike.

Latino Construction Workers More Likely to Die on Job in NYC
Construction workers killed in on-the-job accidents in New York City are most likely to be Latinos and immigrants, according to a study released Oct. 24 by the Center for Popular Democracy. The study, based on fatal falls investigated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 2003 to 2011, found that while 41% of construction workers in the city identify themselves as Latino, 74% of those who died were either U.S.-born Latinos or immigrants. Safety violations are more common at job sites run by smaller, nonunion contractors—which are more likely to hire immigrant day laborers, the report said.

D.C. Cab Drivers Work With Teamsters
Cab drivers in Washington, D.C. have formed a group affiliated with Teamsters Local 922. The new D.C. Taxi Operators Association isn’t a formal union, but members hope it will give the city’s 6,000 cab drivers a collective voice. “For far too long, taxi drivers in Washington, D.C., have not had a strong voice to provide input about regulations and policies that affect their livelihoods,” Local 922 President Ferlien Buie said in a press release. The average driver earns between $25,000 and $30,000 per year, with many working seven days a week and 16-hour days, the release said.

IBEW Seeks to Organize Connecticut Nuke Workers
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is seeking to unionize about 350 operators, mechanics and maintenance workers at the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, Connecticut. John Fernandes, business manager with IBEW Local 457, said the organizing effort has been going on for several months, as workers are dissatisfied with benefit cuts and getting paid different rates for the same jobs. The plant’s owner, Dominion, which opposes unionization, has filed a case with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that a union election should involve a larger share of the 1,100 employees.
 
Oregon Labor Board Voids Ban on Union E-Mail
The state of Oregon broke labor laws in 2011 when it temporarily forbade government employees from using their work e-mail to send union-related messages, the state’s Employment Relations Board ruled in October. Service Employees International Union Local 503 had challenged the ban, imposed by the Department of Administrative Services after its contract with Local 503 expired but before a new one had been negotiated. The board ruled that while management had a legitimate right to control the use of state computer systems and to make sure employees are actually working, e-mail is one of most important ways employees communicate about wages, benefits, and working conditions.
 
Anchorage Mayor Vetoes Repeal of Anti-Labor Law
Anchorage, Alaska’s city Assembly voted Oct. 22 to repeal a law limiting city workers’ pay raises and right to strike—but Mayor Dan Sullivan immediately vetoed the repeal. The vote was 7-4, with two members who had voted to enact the law in March switching positions. Sullivan also vetoed a measure putting repeal on the ballot for the next municipal election in April.  Assembly members who supported repeal are arguing that the mayor does not have the legal right to interfere with referendum scheduling.

August 14, 2013

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