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Today’s Labor Updates, March 19, 2017


NLRB Judge Sides With Workers In FirstEnergy Dispute.

By Adam Lidgett

Law360, New York (March 16, 2017, 4:15 PM EDT) — A National Labor Relations Board judge Wednesday ordered a FirstEnergy Corp. unit to either reinstate retiree benefits or increase pay for workers at a Pennsylvania plant, finding the company violated the National Labor Relations Act by adopting benefit cutbacks included in a contract offer without implementing the pay increases meant to offset these cuts.  Administrative Law Judge Andrew S. Gollin said because FirstEnergy Generation LLC proposed wage and shift differential increases as part of a package to compensate for the elimination of retiree health benefits, it was obligated to implement those proposed increases when it took the benefits away.

“I find that by implementing the elimination of ‘in-the-box’ retiree health benefits without implementing the general wage increases, the equity adjustments and the shift differentials, respondent implemented a change in terms and conditions of employment not contemplated in its second comprehensive offer of settlement,” Judge Gollin wrote. “Respondent either could have maintained the ‘in-the-box’ retiree health benefits or implemented the proposed increases to wages and shift differentials.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 272, AFL-CIO filed the underlying charges alleging FirstEnergy Generation, a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstEnergy, committed unfair labor practices affecting the unit employees at its Shippingport, Pennsylvania, power plant. FirstEnergy Generation operates the plant, known as the Bruce Mansfield facility.

The judge agreed with the general counsel’s position that the company was obligated to implement proposed increases to wages and shift differentials contained in a second comprehensive offer of settlement, because they were presented as part of an overall package to compensate the union for the elimination of “in-the box” retiree health benefits.

The judge said the company shall, upon the union’s request, either reinstate the health benefits and “make whole any affected individual for any loss suffered” from a loss in coverage that came from the benefit elimination or implement general wage increases, equity adjustments and shift differentials proposed in its offer of settlement dated Sept. 17, 2015, retroactive to the date it implemented the dropping of the benefits.

The complaint against the company also alleged that it violated the NLRA when it subcontracted scheduled maintenance work historically performed by unit employees without providing the union with notice and an opportunity to bargain over the decision to subcontract or its effects.

The judge ordered the company to cease and desist from making unilateral changes to wages, hours or employment conditions of the bargaining unit employees without first giving the union a notice and an opportunity to bargain the subcontracting of bargaining unit work.

A FirstEnergy spokesperson said the company disagreed with the decision and is evaluating potential next steps. The NLRB declined to comment.  Representatives for the IBEW did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

FirstEnergy is represented by its own David S. Farkas and Brian West Easley and Allyson C. Werntz of Jones Day.  The union is represented by Marianne Oliver of Gilardi, Oliver & Lomupo, PA.  The NLRB general counsel is represented by David Shepley.

The cases are FirstEnergy Generation LLC and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 272, AFL-CIO, case numbers 06–CA–163303 and 06–CA–170901, before the National Labor Relations Board.

–Editing by Alyssa Miller.

March 15, 2017

Trump’s Labor Budget May Set Off Political Fireworks

From Daily Labor Report  By Ben Penn

A White House budget blueprint expected March 16 is likely to contain cuts in Labor Department funding that could reignite a political debate over President Donald Trump’s job growth promises.

“You can’t really be serious about creating jobs” if you cut appropriations for DOL job training programs such as apprenticeships, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the House labor appropriations subcommittee, told Bloomberg BNA. “It’s just a lot of loose talk.”

The administration has said the president’s “skinny budget” release will seek to offset a $54 billion boost in defense and security spending by cutting domestic agency funding. The DOL is considered primed for an overall reduction somewhere around 10 percent for fiscal year 2018.

It remains to be seen whether the White House will specify funding at the subagency level this week or save that for a full budget request later this year. The Employment and Training Administration could be perceived by the White House as having the most fat to trim. But it may also be seen as the agency best positioned to deliver on the president’s vow to be “the greatest jobs producer that God ever created.”

Currently, the Employment and Training Administration receives about 75 percent of the DOL’s $12.2 billion in overall discretionary funding. That money is largely filtered to state unemployment insurance programs and thousands of job training providers and not spent in Washington.

Potential reductions at enforcement agencies will also be closely monitored. A spending proposal that trims the Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety and Health Administration could give Democrats fodder to blame Trump for failing to protect workers from minimum wage and overtime violations and dangerous working conditions.

Can Tax Cuts Bring Jobs?

The administration would likely seek to deflect such criticism by pointing out other White House initiatives, unrelated to the DOL, that would create jobs.

“The idea is to find budget cuts that will help pay for the tax cuts,” Diana Furchtgott-Roth, who served on Trump’s DOL transition team, told Bloomberg BNA. “I don’t see the budget cuts as affecting jobs. I see the tax cuts as having more influence on jobs created as companies come back to the United States.”

Furchtgott-Roth was the department’s chief economist from 2003 to 2005 and is now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a free-market-oriented think tank.

Absorbing Reduced Budget

The president’s opening bid likely won’t resemble what Congress ultimately appropriates, but Republicans have traditionally sought to decrease WHD and OSHA spending. In past GOP administrations, some of that funding was transferred to the Office of Labor-Management Standards for heightened scrutiny of alleged union corruption.

Subagencies tapped for budget cuts will be searching for ways to limit the effect on personnel, Mark Wilson, who held a range of senior DOL positions under the four presidents preceding Barack Obama, told Bloomberg BNA.

“The agencies are going to be working on doing whatever they can to maintain their employment levels but cut wherever they can on contracting, travel and other unnecessary expenses to the extent they can,” said Wilson, who is now chief economist and vice president of employment policy at the HR Policy Association.

Still, at the end of the day, the two chambers of Congress will dictate the allocations, and a proposal to significantly decrease workforce training funding would be contentious, said Jane Oates, former DOL assistant secretary for employment and training under Obama.

The ETA’s job training programs receive more bipartisan support than other DOL programs and affect constituents across every district.

“You’re going to have lots of people who are going to look at these cuts and say, what does that mean for jobs in my state?” Oates, now vice president for external affairs at the Apollo Group, told Bloomberg BNA. “So it’s not going to be an easy sell.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at

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