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Weekly Digest – July 2, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Massachusetts 1199 Members
The Supreme Court’s June 30 decision on union fees for “partial public employees” might affect home health-care workers in Massachusetts, who work under a collective bargaining system set up with the state eight years ago. The ruling would likely bolster a challenge to that system, under which home health aides pay up to $40 a month in fees. SEIU Local 1199, which represents home-care providers in the state, has won them a minimum wage of $13.38 an hour, paid time off, and a training fund since they were unionized in 2006. Read more

Christie Signs Budget Cutting Pension Payments
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a $32.5 billion state budget June 30 that will cut out more than two-thirds of a legally required payment for public workers’ retirement funds. The governor signed a law in 2010 that mandated a $2.25 billion payment to the funds this year, but he vetoed a bill to include that in the budget and slashed the payment to $681 million. Christie also vetoed bills by Democratic legislators that would have increased taxes on millionaires and corporations to raise an extra $1.1 billion for the pension funds. State and local pension funds have almost $50 billion in unfunded liabilities. Read more

House GOP Split Saves Saturday Mail Delivery
The House voted June 25 to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from cutting mail deliveries to five days a week. Several Republicans defied party leadership to support an appropriations-bill amendment sponsored by Tom Latham (R-Iowa) and José Serrano (D-N.Y.) to preserve Saturday deliveries. Latham said eliminating Saturday mail service would “make life more difficult for these many small businesses and individuals.” “This is a clear victory for letter carriers and other supporters of a strong Postal Service,” said Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
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Supreme Court Decision Unlikely to Change NLRB Rulings
The Supreme Court’s June 26 decision invalidating President Barack Obama’s “recess appointments” of three National Labor Relations Board members puts hundreds of board rulings into legal limbo—but the current NLRB is almost certain to reaffirm those rulings. The Court decision jeopardizes NLRB rulings made in the 19 months before the Senate confirmed enough Obama appointees to create a legal quorum, but its impact “is far less than it might have been,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “I would anticipate the new board reaching the same conclusions that the previous board did,” said Joel S. Barras, a lawyer who represents employers in labor litigation. If the NLRB does re-examine all those cases, however, it could be backlogged for months. Read more 

San Francisco Reaches Transit Deal
A tentative agreement announced June 30 will give San Francisco’s bus and train operators a 14.25% percent raise over three years, but will also require them to pay 7.5% of their salaries into their pensions. The deal between Transport Workers Union Local 250-A and the Municipal Transportation Agency was brokered by former mayor Willie Brown. The proposed contract got mixed reactions from drivers, who had overwhelmingly rejected a previous contract agreement in May and then staged a sickout. They will vote on it July 7. Read more 

Canada Court Rules Walmart Owes Workers for Closing Store
Canada’s highest court ruled June 27 that Walmart has to pay damages to employees who lost jobs at the store it closed in 2005 after they voted to form a union. The court held that the company, which closed its store in Jonquiere, Quebec, after its 190 workers voted to join Local 503 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, had violated a provincial law that prohibits employers from changing working conditions while contracts are being negotiated. Walmart argued that it closed the store because it was not profitable enough. Read more

NYSUT Calls Tenure Foes ‘Celebrity Dilettantes’
With former CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice plotting a California-emulating lawsuit against New York’s teacher tenure and seniority protections, NYSUT President Karen Magee is pledging to defend the system. “Earning tenure in New York simply means that, if a teacher is accused of incompetence or wrongdoing, she is entitled to a fair hearing before she can be fired,” Magee said in a June 26 statement. “If hedge-fund millionaires and celebrity dilettantes were truly interested in guaranteeing students a quality education, they would join parents and unions in fighting for fair funding for all children, not just the affluent.” Read more 

Sodexo Cafeteria Workers Regain Health Coverage
The Sodexo food-service company announced June 26 that it would again cover health benefits for about 5,000 college cafeteria workers it had reclassified as “part-time” in January in order to drop their coverage. The French-owned company had been trying to avoid the Obamacare mandate that employers with 50 or more workers buy insurance for full-timers or pay a fine, but the cutbacks fueled campus protests and an organizing drive by UNITE HERE. Read more

Teachers Protest at Gates Foundation
About 150 educators calling themselves the Badass Teacher Association demonstrated outside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Seattle office June 26, protesting the foundation’s campaign for the Common Core standards and increases in standardized testing. “We want to get corporations out of teaching,” said Tom O’Kelley, an English teacher at Tacoma’s Oakland High School. “They are trying to turn public schools into a corporate moneymaker and push out the voice of teachers, like we have no idea what we’re doing in education.” Read more 

South Carolina Longshoremen Hold Off on Strike
Longshoremen at the Port of Charleston have authorized a strike due to stalled contract negotiations, but are “nowhere near” walking out as of now, International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 president Ken Riley said June 27. The union and ILA Local 1771 had previously rejected a "best and final offer" from the South Carolina Stevedores Association, a third-party group that manages work done by the about 14,500 ILA workers at the port. Both parties have declined to discuss details of the talks, but a trade publication reported that the union wants increased pension funding and jurisdiction over work now done by State Ports Authority employees. Read more

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