Labor Briefing

By BILL ONASCH

  • Trump Close to White House—The highest profile current real estate project of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is the conversion of the historic Washington, D.C., Old Post Office, within sight of the president’s residence, into a luxury hotel. Trump does not own the new Trump International Hotel—he is leasing the property from the federal government. That makes the renovation work subject to prevailing wage rules—essentially union scale—mandated by the Davis-Bacon Act. Politico ran a story alleging at least one sub-contractor on the lucrative project was paying workers considerably less than prevailing wages–and had pay stubs from workers to verify the claim. The Labor Department says they have an “open investigation” of the charge. But since the complaints involve a sub-contractor, it’s unlikely the former reality TV star’s company will be liable for any damages.
  • Craps In Atlantic City—UNITE HERE was able to negotiate tentative agreements at four of the five remaining casinos around the Boardwalk but a thousand union members are on strike at the Trump Taj Mahal. The GOP presidential candidate no longer has any stake in the property but is well compensated for use of his name. No body would pay to use the name of the current owner—the notorious corporate raider Carl Icahn—but he is said to be on Trump’s short list for the next Treasury Secretary. The issues are basically everything in the contract. The strikers, singing and chanting, greet would-be customers 24-7.
  • Honeywell Lockout In South Bend—On May 9, Honeywell locked out more than 300 workers in UAW Local 9 at their South Bend aircraft component plant and brought in temporary strike-breakers to assist white shirts in partial production. The main issue in dispute is health insurance. Other nearby UAW Locals have helped maintain a lively picket line and the locked-out workers have been able to collect state unemployment benefits.
  • Kept From Their Appointed Rounds—As we go to press, Canada Post, the crown corporation running the country’s postal services, has served the legally required notice that they will lock-out their 50,000 employees belonging to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The dispute over the company’s “final offer” center on pensions and job security.
  • Nurses In Motion—Affiliates of National Nurses United have conducted two strikes of limited duration, settled one contract just before a strike deadline, and 345 SEIU ancillary workers at one of the properties where nurses were striking rejected a concession laden company offer. The two strike targets that remain to be settled are about 5,000 nurses at Allina hospitals in the Twin Cities region and 1,800 at a Kaiser facility in Los Angeles. The tentative settlement was reached for 300 RNs at Watsonville, California Community Hospital which, according to the NNU website, “nurses were able to successfully address significant staffing concerns, and achieve economic improvements, and protection of their health coverage.”
  • Rope Line—175 workers at two Bridon American plants in Exeter and Hanover Township Pennsylvania went on strike June 27. The company, manufacturing wire rope used in the oil drilling and fracking industries, feigned surprise that the workers, represented by UAW Local 1612, rejected the “generous” final offer. Union Shop Chairman Brian Rothenberg told the local paper, Citizen Voice, “We would never negotiate in the press but clearly, the men and women who work at Bridon have felt that the health care and wage issues are not sufficient.” The union is maintaining 24-7 picket lines.
  • Public Service Matters—That was the slogan of dozens of Washington State Employees rallying in front of the Labor & Industries Department in Olympia. The Olympian reported, “Washington Federation of State Employees, the state’s largest union, organized Tuesday’s rally—the first in a series around the state—to raise awareness about setbacks in the public sector workforce over that past decade and the importance of the upcoming labor contract.” The AFSCME affiliate is bargaining for 30,000 workers who have never recovered from a negotiated cut in wages and benefits in 2010. Many fall in to the definition of working poor. Currently, 600 leave state service every month.
  • 15 Now On Minneapolis Ballot—Both AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions backed a successful petition effort by the 15 Now Minnesota coalition to put the $15 city minimum wage on the Nov. 8 Minneapolis ballot. If approved, Minneapolis would join more than 30 cities nationwide with similar minimum wage ordinances, including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
  • VW’s Labor Policy Like Their Emission Tests—Rivet reports, “Volkswagen is being accused of going back on its pledge to recognize the United Auto Workers union at the automaker’s only U.S. plant, which is in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The unions’ secretary-treasurer has released a 2014 document that states VW would recognize the UAW union as the representative of its members, in exchange for the union dropping a challenge to the outcome of a union election at the plant. “About 160 skilled trades workers voted to be represented by the UAW during last year’s election. The union says the written 2014 agreement stemmed from negotiations at a meeting led by Volkswagen’s then-chief financial officer, who has since been named chairman amid the company’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.”
  • Not Just Cursing the Darkness—Nursing assistants, house-keeping employees, dietary workers, and laundry staff voted overwhelmingly for union representation at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Delaware County Memorial Hospital, near Philadelphia. They will now bargain for contracts through Local 1199C—an AFSCME affiliate.

Photo: UNITE HERE local 634 members, in protest of the police killing of Philando Castile, a Black school cafeteria worker in Minnesota, rally outside Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia