• Change To Win announces “Make Work Pay” campaign. Anna Burger, chair of the Change To Win Federation, announced that the major new campaign, set to begin April 24, will target industries in more than 35 cities as part of CTW’s “Year of Action.” When one CTW union in a given city has an organizing campaign, members of all CTW unions in that city will work together to rally the support of community activists, politicians and others. CTW plans to focus its organizing efforts on the core industries of affiliates, which include retail and food processing, hospitality and leisure, health care and social services, construction, transportation and warehousing, and property services. Three major campaigns in which the new organizing strategy will be put to the test are UNITE HERE’s “Hotel Workers Rising” campaign against the Hilton chain, UFCW’s on-going campaign against Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, and the SEIU/Teamster joint “Driving Up Standards Together” campaign against First Student and Durham School Services bus companies, which are owned by a British parent.

    Burger announced the “Make Work Pay” campaign during the CTW’s organizing convention, which was held March 20-22 in Las Vegas. Last year, the CTW’s overall theme was “Year of Decision.”
  • Are unions the antidote for class action lawsuits? Class action lawsuits are filling a void created by the decline in union representation – so says Andrew Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union. According to Mr. Stern, employees are turning to class action lawsuits to gain “collective power.” In a moment of nostalgic reflection, Stern noted that when unions were strong, employers were able to avoid lawsuits because issues could be resolved through collective bargaining and grievance procedures. (There you go employers. Unions are the solution to your class action fears. Bet you didn’t know it was that simple, did you!)
  • AFL-CIO stewards to stump for Employee Free Choice Act. The Act (S. 842) would allow unions to be recognized based upon a card-check procedure, instead of an election supervised by the NLRB. After the stewards complete training, they will be asked to distribute political literature in workplaces and help identify political candidates who will commit to supporting the Act during the 2006 mid-term elections – in return for an AFL-CIO endorsement, of course. AFL-CIO member unions collectively plan to train 500,000 stewards. In the meantime, the AFL-CIO’s organizing department is said to be developing fresh new materials on organizing and bargaining rights of employees, designed to help the stewards and others appeal for new legislation to assist organizing efforts. To read a copy of S. 842, click HERE.
  • Supreme Court won’t review NLRB decision nixing casino’s ban on employee talk about wages and working conditions. The NLRB had held that it was a violation of the NLRA for the casino to fire one employee and suspend two others for discussing tip-sharing, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit had upheld the NLRB’s decision. The casino had an unwritten rule prohibiting such discussions, as well as written rules prohibiting discussion of discipline, salary, or other sensitive information around guests or outside the employee’s department. The Supreme Court’s refusal to review, issued February 1, does not necessarily mean that the Court agrees with the lower court and with the NLRB, but it does mean that the NLRB decision will stand. The case, Double Eagle Hotel and Casino, highlights the NLRB’s longstanding enforcement position that the mere existence of such rules may violate the NLRA, even if the rules have never been enforced. Employers should review their no-solicitation/no- distribution policies and any other policies that restrict employees’ right to discuss wages, and other terms and conditions of employment, to ensure that the policies are not overly broad. To read the NLRB decision, click HERE. To read the 10th Circuit decision, click HERE.
  • Change To Win, AFL-CIO compete to form nurses’ alliances. The AFL-CIO announced the formation of RNs Working Together, a new alliance of almost 200,000 registered nurses who will focus on organizing nurses and bargaining on their behalf, with emphasis on adequate staffing, nurse/patient ratios, and forced overtime. The nurses are members of the United American Nurses; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers; the Communications Workers of America; the American Federation of Government Employees, the United Steelworkers; the Office and Professional Employees International Union; and the United Auto Workers. The alliance, which must be approved by the AFL-CIO Executive Committee, is hoped to be one of the first Industry Coordinating Committees formed since this concept was approved at last summer’s convention.

    Two weeks later, the Change To Win Service Employees International Union followed suit, by announcing the Nurse Alliance of SEIU. This group will remain a part of the SEIU, but will have a separate staff and a budget of $6 million. Unlike the AFL-CIO alliance, the Nurse Alliance of SEIU does not seek to unite nurses who are members of different unions. Instead, this alliance is intended to coordinate the efforts of SEIU locals that represent approximately 110,000 nurses nationally. Additionally, RNs who wish to join or support SEIU but are not represented by the union may become direct members of the alliance. In conjunction with the announcement, the union also announced a new 12-state campaign called Value Care, Value Nurses, which is intended to improve the quality of nursing care and to recruit more people to become nurses through grassroots advocacy and meetings with elected officials and hospital administrators.
  • National Construction Alliance Led by Laborers and Operating Engineers – Five international unions - the Laborers International Union, the Operating Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the Bridge Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers – have broken ranks with the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (“the Department”) and joined with the Carpenters Union to form the National Construction Alliance. The Laborers and Operating Engineers, neither of whom have formally withdrawn from the AFL-CIO, led the formation of the new alliance. The six unions represent about two million of the eight million unionized construction employees in the United States.

    The Carpenters left the Department in 2001 after a dispute over the AFL-CIO’s organizing and spending policies. Although the Laborers and Operating Engineers are still members of the fold, they have been seeking reforms at the Department, including a return to membership-weighted voting on the Department’s Board of Presidents, changes in the way jurisdictional disputes are resolved, changes in budgeting aimed at reducing per capita tax and the department’s staff, and the resignation of the current Department president and secretary-treasurer.
  • IAM Wants to be First to Organize Alabama’s Non-Union Automobile Manufacturing Industry – Top-scale production employees at the Mercedes Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama make $26.44 an hour, while maintenance employees top out at $30 an hour. So why would these employees ask the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union (“IAM”) to help them form a union? Spokespersons for the union organizing committee say they are seeking a “voice in the workplace” and cite as their motivation cuts in health benefits for retirees, forced overtime, treatment of temporary workers and the absence of seniority rights. Auto industry analysts are watching this campaign with interest six years after the UAW’s two failed attempts to organize employees at the Tuscaloosa plant.
    Mercedes officials say they will remain neutral during the organizing campaign. Interestingly, both the union and employees on the organizing committee acknowledge that Mercedes’ Alabama employees do not trust a card-check process as the method for selecting a bargaining representative. The union said employees asked the IAM for help because the union promised to request an NLRB-supervised election. 
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