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Weekly Digest – June 5, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Connecticut Workers Win Case Against Layoffs
Almost ten years after former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland laid off about 2,800 union state workers, a federal appeals court ruled they were illegally dismissed. Rowland axed the workers after union leaders refused to accept a wage freeze, while non-union employees got to keep their jobs. On June 1, the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court ruling and said the layoffs violated the workers’ constitutional rights to freedom of association. Read more

Vegas Casino Dealers Vote to Join TWU
Dealers at two popular Las Vegas casinos, Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s, voted overwhelmingly May 31 and June 1 to join the Transport Workers Union. Dealers at Caesars Palace, which is owned by the same company, voted to join the TWU in 2007 and ratified an 8½-year contract last summer. The union began organizing casino workers in 2000. Read more
World’s Longest Hotel Strike Ends in Defeat
The 10-year strike by 130 cleaning and maintenance workers at Chicago’s Congress Hotel ended May 30 when UNITE HERE Local 1 offered to return to work unconditionally. The workers, who walked out in 2003 to protest pay cuts, will get the same $8.83 an hour they made back then if they return to their jobs. While a boycott “dramatically reduced the hotel’s business,” Local 1 President Henry Tamarin said in a statement, “we don’t see getting a contract here, and we have many more battles to fight for economic justice.” Read more

Newspaper Guild Plans to File Charges on Photographer Layoffs
The Chicago Newspaper Guild says it will file a bad-faith-bargaining complaint against the Chicago Sun-Times after the paper laid off its entire staff of 28 photographers and photo editors May 30. Guild Executive Director Craig Rosenbaum said the company told the union during talks on a new contract that no layoffs of photographers were planned. The Sun-Times plans to replace the laid-off photographers, who include Pulitzer Prize winner John H. White, by having reporters take pictures and video with smartphones. Read more
AFSCME, SEIU Vie for Vermont Home-Care Workers
With Vermont enacting a law that lets the state’s 7,000 home-care workers join unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union are campaigning to win a union election expected in the fall. AFSCME has represented various public employees in Vermont for decades; SEIU contends that it can do a better job of winning pay increases. Read more

Teamsters Say They’re Holding Cards to Win American Airlines Mechanics
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a petition with the National Mediation Board May 28 to force a vote this summer on whether they should replace the Transport Workers Union in representing American Airlines’ 11,000 maintenance workers. The Teamsters say they’ve gotten signed cards from more than half the workers, many of whom are disgruntled that the TWU signed a contract with the bankrupt airline last November that replaced the airline’s pension plan with a 401(k). The Teamsters are also trying to win over maintenance workers at US Airways, which plans to merge with American later this year. Read more
Delaware Plans One-Week Delay in Unemployment Benefits
Owing the federal government more than $70 million it borrowed to pay unemployment benefits in the last three years, the state of Delaware has legislation pending to require laid-off workers to wait a week before they can collect. State officials say the delay, coupled with raising taxes on businesses that go into the unemployment-benefits fund, will save enough money to pay back the debt by 2015. Delaware depleted its unemployment trust fund during the Great Recession, as the jobless rate reached 8.4 percent in the winter of 2010 and almost 18,000 residents were collecting benefits. Read more
Cablevision Sues to Nullify NLRB Rulings
Cablevision filed a suit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals May 30, seeking to void National Labor Relations Board rulings that the cable-TV company and its CEO, James Dolan, illegally fired 22 workers, intimidated and spied on others, and bargained in bad faith. The company contends that because two federal courts have said President Obama’s recess appointments to the board exceeded his authority, all decisions those appointees participated in are invalid. “This is just more of the same from a company that seems to think that the law doesn't apply to them,” said Bob Master of the Communications Workers of America District 1. Read more

CWA President Warns Democrats on Stalled NLRB Nomination
Communications Workers of America president Larry Cohen said June 3 that the union might stop supporting Senate Democrats who don’t push hard enough to get President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board confirmed. The union has been pressuring Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, which Senate Republicans have used to keep NLRB seats vacant. “Several Democrats would prefer not to do it,” Cohen told reporters, “but will they let these agencies die? What will they say to 80 million workers, that they don't care about workers’ rights?” Read more
Veteran Chicago Ironworker Killed in Accident
Michael Kerr, a longtime ironworker who helped build Chicago’s Soldier Field, Millennium Park, and U.S. Cellular Field, died May 16 after he was hit by a falling beam while working on Northwestern University’s new Music and Communication Building. He was 57. “He could give you a tour of the city of Chicago and know every building and its construction,” said his sister, Jacquelyn Rowles, while the Northwestern student newspaper said his “fingerprints can be found all over the Chicago skyline.” Read more

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