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Labor Relations News Updates December 28, 2013

Today’s Labor Updates:

Some U.S. lawmakers want to follow Wisconsin’s lead, require labor unions to have periodic recertification votes

Find another union

France: Workers end action at Total’s last striking refinery – union

Minnesota Northern Tier workers may strike Dec. 31 on wages, safety issues: Teamsters


Some U.S. lawmakers want to follow Wisconsin’s lead, require labor unions to have periodic recertification votes

by Ben Velderman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The importance of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s groundbreaking collective bargaining reform law – known as Act 10 – continues to grow.

That was evident earlier this month when 81 collective bargaining units representing school employees throughout Wisconsin disbanded after local union leaders could not entice 51 percent of their members to vote in favor of union recertification, reports the MacIver Institute. Under Act 10, unions are required to hold recertification votes every year.

MacIver analysts dug into the numbers and discovered that 16,977 government workers did not vote in favor of their union – either by voting ‘no’ or abstaining from voting altogether.

The lesson from Wisconsin’s Act 10 is obvious:  Many labor unions would wither on the vine if their members were given a choice about the matter.

That lesson may have inspired recently proposed national legislation which, among other things, would require private labor unions to hold recertification elections at regular intervals, reports the Washington Examiner.

The Employee Rights Act of 2013 was introduced in mid-November by U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R – Ga.) and U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R – Tenn.). The bill has 68 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 26 in the Senate.

In addition to requiring regular recertification votes – perhaps every three to five years – the Employee Rights Act would also provide workers with numerous other guarantees, including the right to cast secret ballots when voting on labor issues. The bill would also criminalize union threats of violence against members who don’t toe the union line, according to a press release.

While the legislation would apparently not pertain to state and local public employees, the Washington Examiner editors write that it “would establish a vitally important precedent in the private sector that should be applied to all union organizations.” It would be up to the hodgepodge of state and local authorities that oversee those public employee unions to follow suit.

As the Examiner editors note, public employees have a unique position in American life: There are both government workers and taxpayers. And while the can vote for the elected representatives, few of them have the opportunity to vote in union recertification elections.

“Such elections would introduce an important new accountability factor for public employee union leaders,” the Examiner editors write.

The bill has little chance of passing, as long as the U.S. Senate remains in the hand of union-friendly Democrats. And if the legislation should somehow make its way through Congress, it’s a virtual certainty that President Barack Obama would veto it.

Regardless, the Employee Rights Act is an indication that lawmakers in D.C. – and probably in the other 49 state capitals, as well – are seeing how well Wisconsin’s Act 10 is working and considering similar action.

As columnist Matt Batzel writes, “States need to follow in Wisconsin’s footsteps to allow freedom for government employees and relief for taxpayers.”

Batzel delightfully borrows a line from the radical Occupy Wall Street protests by noting, “This is what Democracy Looks Like!”


Find another union

December 27, 2013 7:58 PM

While I fully support the decision of the Duquesne University adjunct instructors to engage in collective bargaining, I have to speak out about the group they chose to represent them. Educated people should have all the facts before making a serious choice in who speaks on their behalf. As a lifelong member of the United Steelworkers of America, I can offer some questions to pose to the sweet-talking organizers.

Ask why, when negotiating a contract with Allegheny Technologies (the world’s largest specialty steelmaker), the USWA settled for meager signing bonuses and paltry wage raises while easing language to circumvent work rules and reduce the workforce. Ask why it sold out its nonvoting retirees’ pensions by allowing the company to deduct health care costs to the tune of $260 per month per couple, and the door’s now open to increase it. Never before in any union history have retiree benefits been given away after they spent decades paying union dues. And if you file a grievance that can’t be resolved by talking, you’ll be told that arbitration is too expensive; you’re on your own.

It’s your future. You can pay into the USWA coffers until you’re no longer an asset, then get hung out to dry, or you can find a reputable union. Instead of marching on the Duquesne campus chanting “Shame!” they should be marching in front of the USWA offices.




The writer is a retired member of Steelworkers Local No. 1196.

France: Workers end action at Total’s last striking refinery – union

Fri, 27th December 2013 – 14:46

PARIS (Reuters) – Workers at Total’s 247,000 barrel-per-day Gonfreville refinery, the last one on strike over pay in France, voted to lift a two-week action on Friday, a union official said.

“We took note of the end of the movement at La Mede and Feyzin and we decided to stop the strike,” Jacky Pailloux, head of the Sud union at the Gonfreville refinery told Reuters.

“Total’s refusal to negotiate on the issue of wage claims does not mean that we give up these claims,” he added.

A Total spokeswoman had said earlier in the day that workers at the 153,000 bpd La Mede refinery near Marseille had also decided to resume work.

Striking staff, led by the CGT union, have been locked in a pay dispute with Total, which has refused to reopen talks after other unions approved a deal this month.

(Reporting by Valerie Parent and Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Geert De Clercq)


Minnesota Northern Tier workers may strike Dec. 31 on wages, safety issues: Teamsters

New York (Platts)–27Dec2013/1204 pm EST/1704 GMT

Minnesota’s Northern Tier refinery is facing a potential strike that could shut its refinery in Saint Paul Park, Minnesota, as soon as December 31, according to Teamsters Local 120, which represents about 200 workers at the plant. In a conference call with reporters and analysts on Friday, Teamster union representative Chris Riley said that the union is “committed” to a fair contract, with the membership seeking only “modest enhancements” to the contract which expires on December 31.

At issue are safety issues due to management’s proposed cuts in refinery operator job coverage and job bidding which would remove many of the experienced workers as well as some wage cuts up to 40%, said Riley.

Riley said that management is looking to rewrite the contract. The two sides, which have met more than 13 times since November 27, will also meet again Friday, December 30 and December 31.

A spokesman for Western Refining, which owns 37.8 % of the plant, was not immediately available for comment.

“Management’s decision to drive experienced workers off the job and gut hard-fought standards in our industry puts the lives of our members and our neighbors at risk,” said Joe Riley, in a statement issued by the Teamsters Thursday. Joe Riley is no relation to Chris Riley.

According to the Teamsters, Northern Tier’s refining segment represents about 72% of the company’s revenue. The company also owns or operates more than 200 SuperAmerica retail outlets in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin and supplies its service stations. These businesses would also be impacted by a work stoppage, the statement said.

In November 2013, Western Refining paid $775 million for the 37.8% stake in Northern Tier’s partner units, taking ownership if Northern Tier’s general partner.

Northern Tier’s sole refinery is the plant in St. Paul Park, which has pipeline access to cost-advantaged Bakken and Canadian crudes. The company also has stakes in pipelines, terminals, storage, rail facilities and some retail operations.

The refinery, located just outside of Minneapolis, is the smaller of two in the region, and along with Flint Hills’ larger 267,000 b/d refinery supplies gasoline and diesel. Because of its size, the Northern Tier plant often serves as a “swing supplier” of products to the region, sources said.

Refinery: St. Paul Park, Minnesota Owner: Northern Tier Energy Overall capacity (b/d): 89,500


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