July 2017 Labor Briefing

By BILL ONASCH

A Bundle Including DirecTV—After mass informational picketing, the Communications Workers of America won a renewed contract for 17,000 AT&T workers in California and Nevada that includes modest wage and benefit improvements and, for the first time, covers employees of the satellite television competitor with cable the carrier acquired in 2015.

Follow the Food—Workday Minnesota reports from Rochester: “More than 500 food service workers who were outsourced last year in a controversial decision by Mayo Clinic have reached a tentative agreement with their new employer, Morrison Healthcare, their union announced. Food service workers from across multiple Mayo facilities in Rochester, Albert Lea, Faribault, Fairmont, and Mankato were represented on the bargaining team that has worked for months leading up to July 1, when the final food service workers officially transition to Morrison.

“In a unique arrangement, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota food service workers joined with food service workers represented by the AFSCME Council 65 and Teamsters Local 120 unions to bargain the first contract with Morrison.” All of these workers will receive at least modest raises. Those previously employed by Sodexo, who just recently joined SEIU, get boosts of up to 42 percent.

New Life for Free-Loaders?—Public sector workers are excluded from the national Taft-Hartley Act covering most in the private sector. The ruling class is trying to impose a new law through the courts. The first cynical campaign by the boss groups National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Liberty Justice Center to use First Amendment rights to defund public sector unions ended with the death of Justice Scalia—deadlocking the Supreme Court over the case known as Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Since the confirmation of Trump’s replacement for Scalia, the champions of what would in effect become a national “right to work” law for government employees have selected a new case from Illinois, which is expected to be acted on in the September Court session.

They’ve Got the Power—The Los Angeles Times reports that 9000 unionists in L.A.’s Department of Water and Power have negotiated a five-year agreement providing raises amounting to 22 percent.

No Right to Pay Dues?—Agricultural labor is also excluded from Taft-Hartley. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, an AFL-CIO affiliate, has sometimes used this to their advantage in organizing secondary boycotts in support of union recognition and contract negotiations. They have at times had organizers and hiring halls in Mexico to protect the rights of migrant farm workers.

July 2017 FLOC

FLOC members demonstrate outside shareholders meeting of Reynolds American tobacco company in May 2015. From http://www.floc.com.

The North Carolina legislature, which has long outlawed public sector collective bargaining, is now trying to cut off dues to FLOC. The Raleigh News-Observer reports: “It may get harder for farmworkers in the state to win job benefits negotiated by unions. A measure the legislature approved Wednesday night would prevent farms from transferring workers’ dues directly to unions or labor organizations. The proposal also would prohibit farmers from settling workers’ lawsuits by agreeing to union contracts. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the only farmworker union in the state, said it is the measure’s target.”

In Sickness and Wealth—There have been some advances in legally protected benefits for workers. Workday Minnesota reports: “Some 150,000 workers in Minneapolis and St. Paul will start accruing earned sick and safe time Saturday, July 1, thanks to ordinances approved by their city councils and protected by a veto from Governor Mark Dayton. Advocates say it is a victory for all of Minnesota and should lead to similar policies in other communities.

“Starting Saturday, workers will accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. They may use their paid time for illness or medical care for themselves or their families. They may use it for ‘safe time,’ to seek counseling, legal support or to relocate in the event of domestic or sexual violence or stalking. The ordinances also cover parents needing to stay home because of the closure of childcare centers or schools.”

The mentioned veto spiked a “preemption bill,” a tactic now widely used in Republican-controlled legislatures to prevent local ordinances beneficial to workers. Dayton’s veto also cleared the way for enactment of a Minneapolis minimum wage that will reach $15 an hour in incremental raises affecting 71,000 workers.

A Blurred Picture—At the deadline for this column, 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists were working on a day-to-day basis after contract expiration while continuing to negotiate with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios, broadcast, and major cable networks.

Stop Thief!—City officials in Los Angeles are demanding the fast-food Carl’s Jr. company pay $1.5 million in fines and restitution for paying workers less than the city’s minimum wage. The then CEO of the parent company of Carl’s Jr. was Trump’s initial nominee for Labor Secretary, but he withdrew when he appeared to be short of votes in the Senate.

If you have a story suitable for this column please contact billonasch@kclabor.org.