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Weekly Digest – November 5, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

National Nurses United Grows
National Nurses United, formed by a merger of three nurses’ unions in 2009, has organized 20,000 new nurses in 50 new hospitals since then and grown to 190,000 members. President Rose Ann DeMoro says one advantage they have is that nurses aren’t just out for better wages or pensions, they’re out for their own safety and the safety of their patients. “You've got to fight for safety standards for the public, and you’ve got to fight in the public's interest. If unions don’t connect with the public interest, there’s not going to be unions,” she says. When nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, who are not unionized, were frustrated with the lack of adequate preparations for Ebola patients, they contacted NNU. Read more

32BJ Wins Raises at Boston University
Maintenance workers at Boston University voted "overwhelmingly" Nov. 4 to ratify a contract that will give them 10% raises over four years and help employees maintain affordable healthcare benefits. The deal was reached Oct. 30, the day before the more than 700 custodians, mailroom operators, groundskeepers and skilled trades workers would have gone on strike. “In a city that is becoming increasingly unequal, this contract will keep 700 workers strongly in the middle class,” Roxana Rivera, director of 32BJ SEIU District 615, said in a statement. Read more

Fresno Workers Reject 5% Raise
County workers in Fresno, California rejected a deal to raise their salaries by 2% in three weeks and another 3% next August. The vote, announced Oct. 30, was an “overwhelming no,” said Riley Talford, a senior shop steward for SEIU’s supervisory employees. “The offer was just unacceptable.” The workers took pay cuts of 9% or more in 2011, and the rejected agreement would have required the six Service Employees International Union units that represent about 4,500 of the county’s 7,100 employees to drop their demand for back pay from the state employment board. Read more

Minnesota Hospital Faces Unfair Practice Charges
The National Labor Relations Board has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, accusing it of “discouraging membership in a labor organization.” The Minnesota Nurses Association and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota had alleged the hospital fired one staffer, revoked work agreements, and forced employees to work weekends after they took part in an informational picket last June. The unions said Oct. 30 that workers were also “repeatedly interrogated” about union activities. A hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled for January. Read more

NLRB Dismisses Complaints About Boeing Contract
The National Labor Relations Board’s Seattle office announced Oct. 28 that it has dismissed all of the about 20 complaints against Boeing stemming from last January’s contract vote. Workers in Washington had accused the company of engaging in unlawful bargaining by threatening to move production of the forthcoming 777X airliner to another state unless the International Association of Machinists accepted a contract extension that froze their pensions. "We found that the evidence was insufficient that Boeing made any unlawful threats or that their bargaining proposals were unlawful," said Ron Hooks, director of the NLRB Region 19 office. Read more

California Recycling Workers Win Strike, Union Drive
Workers at one recycling center in San Leandro, California voted overwhelmingly in late October to unionize, while workers at another won a strike. At Alameda County Industries, 83% of workers voted to join Local 6 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The workers, hired through a temp agency, were paid $8.30 to $8.50 per hour, almost $6 less than the city’s legal living wage, and in February, after workers had filed a complaint for back pay, 18 were fired for allegedly being undocumented. Meanwhile, at the Waste Management, Inc. facility, a one-week strike by Local 6 was settled with an immediate raise of $1.48 and another 50 cents on Jan. 1. The deal will bring wages up to almost $21 in 2019. Both companies have contracts for garbage services with Oakland and other East Bay cities. Read more

Ohio UAW Lockout Ends
A five-month lockout at the Hayashi Telempu North America Corp. auto-parts plant in Lebanon, Ohio ended Nov. 3 after members of United Auto Workers Local 2387 ratified a four-year contract by 13 votes. The company will stop matching workers' 401(k) contributions and charge them more for health insurance, but it dropped its demand for a $2.25 per hour wage cut. "This was their last proposal to us,” said Local 2387 chair Darren Woods. "They were ready to make us sit for a long time." Read more

Durazo to Leave L.A. Labor Federation
Maria Elena Durazo, the first woman to head the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said Oct. 29 that she is leaving the post she has held since 2005 and moving to UNITE HERE. Under her leadership, the federation, which represents 600,000 workers, was able to push through a law requiring large hotels to pay workers at least $15.37 an hour and the expansion of the city’s rail system. "She never left the table empty-handed," said City Council President Herb Wesson. "She's one of the most effective and powerful labor leaders in the country." Durazo, 61, who headed UNITE HERE Local 11 for 17 years, will become the national union’s vice president for immigration, civil rights, and diversity. Read more

UPS Will Stop Laying Off Pregnant Women
After a former worker sued it for discrimination for putting her on unpaid leave while she was pregnant, United Parcel Service announced that it will let women stay on the job through their pregnancies. In a brief filed in Peggy Young’s Supreme Court case, the company said it had “voluntarily decided to provide additional accommodations for pregnancy-related physical limitations,” such as giving them light-duty work similar to that done by workers injured on the job. Young, who had asked for light duty after her midwife told her she shouldn’t lift more than 20 pounds, is appealing a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that favored UPS.  The case could be a key ruling on how far the Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies, said Lenora Lapidus, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights. Read more

Ex-Enron Trader Funds Fight to Pummel Pensions
Texas hedge-fund billionaire John Arnold, who in 2002 walked away from the collapsing Enron corporate scam with an $8 million bonus, has contributed more than $50 million to efforts to reduce or eliminate public workers’ pensions. His Laura and John Arnold Foundation contributed most of the budget for EngageRI, an outside group that backed Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s drastic pension cuts. The foundation, which advocates replacing defined-benefit pensions with 401(k)-style plans, also funded “pension reform” studies by the Brookings Institution think tank and the libertarian Reason Foundation, backed attempts to get anti-pension initiatives on the ballot in California, and gave New York’s PBS-TV affiliate, WNET, $3.5 million for a series called “The Pension Peril.” Read more

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