Labor Briefing: January 2018

Jan. 2018

Twin Cities transit drivers demand protection against what the union calls an “epidemic” of physical assaults against them.

By BILL ONASCH

Overcoming Hang-Ups—New York Times story about a Communications Workers of America contract settlement after a long, often bitter fight opened: “Stemming the tide of rising economic insecurity for service workers, a major union has won significant job protection and increased pay for about 20,000 AT&T wireless employees, as well as a commitment to bring work back from overseas.”

One Game Ends So Another Can Be Played — Amalgamated Transit Union 1005 represents 2500 bus drivers, light rail operators, technicians, and mechanics in the Twin Cities. After months of stalling beyond contract expiration, the Metropolitan Council finally made an offer to Local 1005 in November. It included a major take-away—increased hours for part-time drivers.

Since it would delay promotions to full-time, this was no favor for most part-timers, and the deal was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership. The union then put the Council on notice—if no satisfactory agreement was in place by the first weekend in February they would strike.

That just happens to be when the Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in Minneapolis attracting tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors. This seemed to have a salutary effect. The Council dropped their part-time concession demand, agreed to three annual 2.5 percent raises, and accepted union proposals for increased security measures to protect drivers from assaults and to establish adequate numbers of restroom facilities for drivers. It was approved by 82 percent of the ranks.

Tending to Their FLOC—Whether or not you had a decorated once-living tree in your living room, you may appreciate a mostly inspiring holiday story first reported by the prolific Mike Elk in The Guardian about a victory by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. Among their mostly Latino members in North Carolina are workers planting and cutting Christmas trees.

It was discovered that one employer, Hart-T-Tree Farm, not only stole some of their wages but also exposed them to dangerous conditions including toxic chemicals. In addition to commitments to correct these complaints, the union won $330,000 in back wages owed to 54 workers.

Once Joint, Now None—One of the few substantial victories for workers during the Obama era National Labor Relations Board was the 2015 Browning Ferris decision. It established a principle of “joint responsibility” of corporations with their contractors and franchises in collective bargaining.

Among many potential advantages, that decision opened a clear legal path for the 15 and a Union movement for winning recognition and contracts in franchises of huge fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King.

In December, by a 3-2 vote, the now Republican board majority reversed that decision.

Moving With the Speed of Ivy—In November 2016, the Harvard Graduate Students Union appeared to lose a certification election at the world’s wealthiest university after more than 300 votes were rejected as invalid. But the union convinced the NLRB field office that Harvard had supplied them with incomplete and inaccurate lists of grads in the bargaining unit.

A new election was ordered, and the employer appealed that ruling to the national board. In December 2017, the NLRB commissioners upheld the new election order. No new date has yet been announced.

655 Still Growing—United Food & Commercial Workers 655 claims to be the biggest local union in Missouri. They augmented their numbers with two organizing victories in December. Bon Apetit Food Services already had UFCW contracts at several St Louis locations and didn’t contest the union’s claim to represent 300 workers at the Washington University campus. They promptly negotiated a contract, providing raises ranging from 11 to 14 percent over three years.

Their other win was a much smaller unit but a breakthrough of sorts; a Dollar General store in suburban Jefferson City voted 2-1 to unionize. This was the first union victory at any of the company’s more than 14,000 U.S. stores.

If you have a story suitable for Labor Briefing please contact billonasch@kclabor.org