• The newly formed Change to Win Coalition will hold its first convention on September 27 in St. Louis.  Teamsters President Hoffa in his Labor Day message promises members that the new seven-member Federation is committed to industry-wide organizing, coordinated bargaining and effective political action – asserting that the Teamsters’ organizing budget has grown by 400% and that more than 30,000 new workers were organized in the past two years. The Teamsters, Service Employees and United Food and Commercial Workers withdrew from the AFL-CIO this summer, and Coalition member Carpenters Union had earlier withdrawn in 2001. UNITE-HERE withdrew this September. The Laborers International Union and United Farm Workers remain AFL-CIO affiliates as well as Coalition members.
  • The Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal construction contractors to pay “prevailing wages,” has been suspended with regard to reconstruction in the areas damaged and destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The President’s message to Congress on September 8 informed it of his action under Section 6 of the Act and of his declaration of a national emergency. Representative Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) of the House Education and Workforce Committee was among those requesting action, stating, “Davis-Bacon Act rules are onerous and drive up the cost of any project…and the nation cannot afford that kind of inefficiency, red tape and inflated costs when we have an entire region to rebuild, largely at taxpayer expense.”
  • Things are tough all over, according to a recent study comparing the costs of health care for union versus non-union employers conducted by the Employment Policy Foundation. The Washington-based business research group found that rising health-care costs are causing pain for both types of employers. Comparisons for the period 1983 through 2003 showed that health-care costs for unionized employers had risen from a per-employee average of $1,608 to $5,374 in the twenty-year period, an increase of 334 percent. The non-union companies’ per-employee costs rose from $1,285 to $4,752 in the same period, an increase of 370 percent. The figures reflect that the rising health cost concerns are predictably beyond the control of benefit negotiators. Escalating costs of health care made all other factors in collective bargaining “subordinate,” said the AFL-CIO leader of the Federation Collective Bargaining Center. He noted that increases in wages and other benefits remain relatively low when previous levels of health benefits are to continue in place. Some employers are reported to have joined with their unions to advocate and financially support more “universal healthcare” initiatives.
  • Court strikes down California “neutrality” law, saying California employers that receive state funds cannot be prohibited from making expenditures that assist or deter employee unionization. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the California “neutrality” law in conflict with and preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. Employer associations had challenged the law, and the Court agreed that the effect of it was to chill employers from exercising “free speech rights that are explicitly protected by Congress under the [Act].” The ruling is significant from an Appeals Court noted for its liberal rulings, and should have influence in other areas of the country.
  • Union leader outlines corporate campaign tactics. At the recent convention of the American Bar Association, David Prouty, General Counsel for UNITE-HERE, provided the inside scoop. Prouty said corporate campaigns are increasingly being used to achieve acceptance of card-check and neutrality agreements; achieve first-time contracts with newly unionized workplaces; and end strikes and lockouts. He identified several tactics:
  • building coalitions with non-union groups (such as civil rights organizations, churches, and environmental groups) to pressure employers;
  • engaging in public relations campaigns designed to capture the attention of the media and the public;
  • launching legislative initiatives designed to achieve specific organized labor goals;
  • appealing to local, state, and federal regulatory agencies to bring pressure on employers;
  • taking legal action against the employers in areas such as civil rights and wage-and-hour,
  • organizing consumer-focused campaigns including boycotts and leafleting;
  • exerting financial pressure by contacting the employer’s lenders and investment partners;
  • filing shareholder proposals designed to attract attention or compel the employer to negotiate with the union;
  • and, exerting pressure internally through employee involvement.

Prouty’s remarks were reported in BNA’s Daily Report.

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