• NLRB still divided on supervisory status of front-line management in health care. A panel consisting of Members Liebman and Walsh, with Chairman Battista dissenting, had held that a registered nurse in charge of weekend staff at a nursing home was not a “supervisor” within the meaning of the NLRA and therefore that she was unlawfully terminated for supporting a union organizing effort. While the case was on appeal to the Eighth Circuit, Battista and Member Schaumber voted to reconsider the ruling. The new majority (with Member Liebman dissenting) found that the nurse exercised independent judgment in issuing disciplinary write-ups, sending employees home early, and in preparing an employee evaluation. She was the highest-ranking and highest paid employee on duty on weekends and was found to be responsible for patient care, employee work performance, adequate staffing levels, and dealing with patients’ families. The Supreme Court has held that individuals who exercise independent judgment in directing employees are supervisors and not “employees” under the NLRA.
    Observation: at the beginning of a union campaign, an employer in health care or any other industry should determine the “supervisory” status of its employees. Supervisors may lawfully be required to support the interests of management. The nurse at issue in this case either had not been told this, or did not understand.
  • A study of union negotiated wage increases for the first nine months of 2005 shows them slightly below those for the corresponding period in 2004. Negotiated first-year average wage rate increases were 3.1%, compared with 3.3% in 2004; second-year rate increases were at 3.3%, compared with 3.7% in 2004; and third-year rate increases were 3.2%, the same as in 2004. The percentage rate increase for the manufacturing sector (2.2%) was markedly lower than for “Construction” or for “State/Local Government.” However, lump sum settlements for 2005 increased the rate for manufacturing to 3.1%, and increased the first-year increase for “All Settlements” from 3.1% to 3.5%. Even with the lump-sum settlements included, the increases were lower for manufacturing in 2005 than in 2004. This information came from the Collective Bargaining Negotiations and Contracts service published by the Bureau of National Affairs.
  • Teamster Union members will vote for a General President and International Officers in the fall of 2006. James P. Hoffa is expected to be opposed by Tom Leedham who challenged Hoffa in 2001 for the five-year term that is expiring. Leedham has the support of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has criticized Hoffa’s performance, blaming him for pension benefit cuts and failure to root out corruption in the Union which led to the resignation of the internal “Watch Dog Committee.” (Hoffa had promised to end Justice Department oversight as a part of the Consent Decree of 1989, resulting from widespread corruption and Mafia influence.) Leedham is a former International Vice President and Director of the Warehouse Division, and is currently the principal officer for Local 206 in Oregon. Another announced candidate is Thomas O’Donnell, now an International Vice President and also President of Local 817 in New York.
  • A divided NLRB found that the Teamsters unlawfully fined unionized route salesmen who crossed another union’s picket lines at a supermarket. The applicable collective bargaining agreement for the Teamsters route salesmen promised “…the Union will not authorize any strikes, work stoppages, or interference with the activities required of employees under this Agreement.” Nevertheless, when the Teamsters crossed picket lines set up by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, they were fined $1,000 each. The contract also contained a “picket line clause” that protects employees from employer “discharge or disciplinary action in the event an employee refuses to enter any property involved in a lawful primary labor dispute, or refused to go through or work behind any lawful picket line.” The union fines were designed to support a sympathy strike, according to the Board majority opinion, for the no strike clause applied to any strike, without exception. Thus the union’s action against the member would force the member to withhold his services in sympathy with the strikers, and thus violate the Union’s no-strike agreement. Member Liebman disagreed with this analysis and would have permitted this “union discipline” as an internal union matter.
  • Change to Win Federation’s September convention designated 75% of its per capita taxes to organizing, reaffirmed earlier goals and elected officers. One of the announced goals in assisting organizing efforts was to “reflect the diversity and commitment to change of today’s workforce.” It will be an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised in what is termed “economic class warfare” along with minority, immigrant and women’s rights. Anna Burger was named Chair of the Federation’s Executive Committee. She is one of the highest ranking women in the labor movement as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU. Edgar Romney became the Federation’s Secretary-Treasurer, and was the first African-American to be Executive Vice President of UNITE.
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