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Weekly Digest – October 1, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

L.A. City Council OKs $15 Minimum for Hotel Workers
The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-3 on Sept. 24 to require the city’s large hotels to pay workers at least $15.37 an hour. It will go into effect next July for hotels with at least 300 rooms, and be extended to those with at least 150 rooms in 2016. It is expected to cover at least 40 hotels and 5,300 to 13,500 workers, although it exempts those where unions agree to take less. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he will sign the measure, and also wants to raise the city’s overall minimum to $13.25 by 2017. "Our position is that we need to explicitly get to $15 an hour as soon as possible," said Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Read more

Did Indiana Autoworkers Really Beat Two-Tier Contract?
Workers at the Lear car-seat factory in Hammond, Indiana celebrated winning a contract Sept. 14 that ended four years of two-tier wages—but then found out that some would be transferred to a new lower-paying plant. About two-thirds of the 450 workers who had been receiving the lower wages will be reclassified as “subassembly workers” and will make $4 to $6 an hour less than regular assembly workers, and about 130 of them will be moved to a new subassembly plant in nearby Portage. Those workers will have first priority to return to the Hammond plant as positions open up. Read more

Colorado Teachers’ Sickout Shuts Two Schools
Two Colorado high schools cancelled classes Sept. 29 after more than three-fourths of the teachers called in sick to protest a right-wing county school board’s proposed changes to the history curriculum and the way teachers are paid. Students have staged walkouts at several schools in the Jefferson County suburbs of Denver to protest the board’s attempts to have history taught in a way that promotes “respect for authority” and does not “encourage or condone… social strife,” but teachers are also irate that the board wants to base any pay increases on their perceived “effectiveness.” In nearby Douglas County, where a similar far-right faction took over the school board in 2009, teachers are now paid according to the “market value” of their subjects and grades. Read more

Machinists Move to Organize Delta
The International Association of Machinists has been pushing to organize the 20,000 flight attendants at Delta, where only pilots and dispatchers are union members. Flight attendants, fleet-service workers, and customer-service workers all voted against joining unions in 2010, after Delta merged with unionized Northwest, and the company launched an anti-union campaign. “Delta made a lot of promises during the merger,” said IAM spokesman Joe Tiberi. “Now, several years later, people have seen that those promises were not kept.” A win at the Atlanta-based airline would also be a victory for union organizing in the South, noted AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Read more

Fired Boston Hyatt Workers to Get $1M
Hyatt Hotels Corp. has agreed to pay $1 million to 98 housekeepers it fired from its three Boston-area hotels five years ago after they’d trained their replacements, contractors who were paid half as much. The settlement, announced Sept. 26, will also end a worldwide boycott organized by UNITE HERE Local 26, which backed the sacked workers even though they weren’t unionized. “I don’t think [Hyatt] could ever make up for what they did,” said one of the fired housekeepers. The deal comes as Hyatt is competing for the chance to run a 1,000-room hotel planned as part of the expansion of the city’s convention center. Read more

Devil’s Duo: Christie Campaigns for Walker
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie traveled to Wisconsin Sept. 29 to help Gov. Scott Walker campaign for re-election, and both of them celebrated their attacks on public-employee unions. “Scott and I have had similar governorships,” Christie said at an appearance in Hudson, near the Minnesota border, adding that “big government union bosses from Washington D.C.” want to “make an example of him.” “We took their power,” Walker said. The Badger State union-buster is in a close race against Democrat Mary Burke, and six of his aides have been convicted of campaign-finance violations. Read more

San Diego Ironworkers Seek Back Pay
San Diego ironworkers demonstrated Sept. 25 outside the offices of Japanese-based developer North American Sekisui House, protesting wage theft by its rebar subcontractor Millennium Reinforcing. The mostly Latino workers, who are suing Millennium, told stories about not getting paid for overtime, getting surprise pay cuts, working more than 12 hours a day without legally mandated breaks, and being pressured not to report injuries. While they are not union members, they are being supported by Iron Workers Local 229. A bill to let wage-theft victims put liens on their employers’ property failed to pass the California state Senate in August. Read more

Seattle Hyatt Workers Demand Right to Unionize
More than 100 people picketed the front entrance of the Grand Hyatt Seattle on Sept. 25, organized by UNITE HERE Local 8. Workers at the city’s two Hyatt hotels say they are being denied a fair process to form a union, despite the national chain having agreed with UNITE HERE last year to allow one. Grand Hyatt management says there was no such agreement. Read more

Albany Convention Center Agrees to PLA
The Albany Convention Center Authority’s board voted unanimously on Sept. 26 to approve a project-labor agreement with local building-trades unions. The deal will cover both union and nonunion contractors on the planned Albany Capital Center, an 84,000-square-foot facility scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2016. It includes no-strike and no-lockout causes, and will let contractors change the workweek to four 10-hour days when there’s enough daylight. Read more

Package-Delivery Schemes Undercut Wages
The U.S. Postal Service in the San Francisco Bay Area has hired permatemps for an experimental program—delivering groceries for Amazon at 4 a.m. The workers, the lowest tier of union letter carriers, make $15-17 an hour and are issued miner-style headlamps so they can find their way in the dark. While the plan uses union postal workers, it’s one of numerous schemes by companies like Amazon, eBay, and Uber to speed up package delivery in densely populated, affluent city neighborhoods while paying lower wages than the Postal Service and UPS, hiring workers as “independent contractors,” and ignoring less profitable rural areas. The companies are also taking advantage of cuts to public postal services. Read more

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