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Weekly Digest – June 12, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal for Picketing Ban
The U.S. Supreme Court June 10 refused to review a California court decision that the state’s laws letting unions picket on private property are constitutional. The owners of the Ralphs supermarket chain had filed a suit against the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 8 in 2008 to stop them from picketing in the parking lot of a store the union was trying to organize. The company argued that the law gave unions special free-speech privileges and a “free pass to trespass,” but the California Supreme Court held last December that unions have a right to peacefully publicize a labor dispute, and a business’s entrance “often is the most effective point of persuasion.” Read more
Walmart Striker Speaks Out at Stockholder Meeting
A striking Walmart worker and a Bangladeshi labor activist got into the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting June 7 to speak out against its labor practices. OUR Walmart member Janet Sparks of Louisiana, one of about 100 workers who went on strike that week, noted that CEO Mike Duke made over $20 million last year, “more than 1,000 times the average Walmart associate,” and Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity said “the time for empty promises is over.” The company, which bused thousands of workers into Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the event, called the protests an insignificant publicity stunt. Read more
Collapsed Philly Building Had Numerous Safety Complaints
The Philadelphia building that collapsed June 5 and killed six people was being demolished by a cut-rate nonunion company that ignored basic safety standards, including bracing outside walls and having workers wear hard hats. Patrick Gillespie, head of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, said two brick workers on a job next door had reported problems to both the city and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration the day before. City officials said they had been receiving complaints about the site for more than a month, but they rely on OSHA to inspect demolition work in progress—and the agency has only 13 inspectors for the Philadelphia area. Read more
California Gov’t Workers Get Small Raise
California's largest public-employee union reached a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown June 11 that will give them a 4.5 percent raise sometime in the next two years. The 95,000 workers in Service Employees International Union Local 1000 will get a 2 percent pay increase in July 2014 if the state “achieves certain revenue targets,” and the full 4.5 percent in July 2015. The deal, which disappointed many workers, could set a pattern for California’s nine other public-employee unions. Read more

Teamsters Force Union Vote at US Airways
Mechanics and maintenance workers at US Airways will begin voting next month on whether to stay with the International Association of Machinists or join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters before the airline merges with American Airlines. The about 4,000 workers will vote over the phone or via the Internet between July 8 and Aug. 12. The Teamsters are also trying to win maintenance workers at American away from the Transport Workers Union.
Read more

Texas Helicopter Workers Reject Contract
Workers at Bell Helicopter’s plant in Hurst, Texas voted overwhelmingly June 9 to reject the company’s three-year contract offer. The proposed contract would have led to hundreds of the about 2,500 workers there getting laid off, members of United Auto Workers Local 218 said, and would have also eliminated pensions for new workers. The workers returned to work the next morning without a contract. Read more
Fort Belvoir Janitors Win Back Pay
The nearly 70 janitors at the Army’s Fort Belvoir base in Virginia will get more than $300,000 in back pay and benefits, the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ announced June 6. The private contractor they work for, Atlanta-based Brown & Pipkins/Acsential, agreed to pay up after the Labor Department found workplace violations, including firing five workers for union activity. Brown & Pipkins underpaid workers, didn’t give them required holiday pay, and hadn’t paid health and welfare benefits since September. Read more
West Virginia Power Workers Stay with Union
Workers at FirstEnergy’s Harrison Power Station near Clarksburg, West Virginia, voted 92-51 June 6 to stay with Utility Workers Union of America Local 304. The union, formed in 2010, had never won a contract, and some members filed to have it decertified after the local rejected FirstEnergy’s first contract offer. The local is still trying to get a contract, but won $1.25 million in back pay in an unfair-labor-practices settlement in March. Read more
Oregon Machinists Vote Against Joining Union
Workers at Precision Castparts, a Portland-based manufacturer of airplane and gas-turbine parts, voted 1,258 to 932 against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, according to preliminary results announced June 7.  The company hired the Burke Group, a leading anti-union consultant, and management hinted that jobs might be moved to Mexico if the workers joined a union. IAM spokesperson Frank Larkin said the union would keep trying, because “it's not unusual for an organizing campaign to sustain several elections before representation is achieved.” Read more

UAW’s King Says Unions and Progressives Must Stick Together
The passage of a “right-to-work” law in Michigan last winter makes it essential for organized labor to work with groups supporting women’s rights, increasing education funding, and immigration reform, United Auto Workers President Bob King said June 8 at a forum at Michigan State University. “It’s only through the power of coalitions that we can win the justice we deserve,” said King. “All of us need to fight for the right to collective bargaining, because without it, we’re not going to have a middle-class society. We’re not going to have a democratic society.” King also predicted that less than 5 percent of the UAW’s Michigan members will leave because of the law. Read more
SEIU Protests Google’s Treatment of Security Guards
Several dozen Service Employees International Union members picketed Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters June 6 in support of the Internet behemoth’s security guards. The guards are employed by contractor Security Industry Specialists. Security guard Manny Cardenas said that even though he makes $16 an hour, his hours are so irregular from week to week that he sometimes makes less than $1,000 a month and had to put his daughter on Medicaid. Read more

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