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Weekly Digest – October 29, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

FairPoint Strikers Say They’re in it for Long Haul
Striking workers at the FairPoint telecommunications company in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont say they’re going to stand strong rather than accept $700 million in contract concessions. “Some of us are going to have to go and find some other work, but we are not going to cross this line,” said Todd Foster, an installation and maintenance worker in Waterville, Maine, as he and other strikers huddled around a fire of donated wood in pouring rain. “The money they’re trying to cut out of our contracts will go right back to the hedge funds,” said Peter Keefe, treasurer and shop steward for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327. “They want to take good jobs and bring in out-of-state, sometimes out-of-country, contractors to do that work.” Read more

D.C. Bikeshare Workers Sign Cards for TWU
More than 80% of the workers at Capital Bikeshare, Washington, DC’s bicycle-sharing system, have signed cards asking to be represented by Transport Workers Union Local 100. “Most of our grievances are kind of like, we’d like to be able to do our job better,” said supervising mechanic Fhar Miess. “It’s not so much about wages. We’re doing pretty well there. It’s more having control over our workplace practices.” Workers at New York’s CitiBike joined the TWU in August, and Local 100 is looking to organize Bikeshare workers in a dozen other states. Read more

Arkansas Minimum Wage Stays on Ballot
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Oct. 27 unanimously rejected a Little Rock billionaire’s challenge to a ballot initiative that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Jack T. Stephens, whose family is the state’s second wealthiest after the Waltons of Walmart, had tried to get the measure knocked off the ballot. He argued that the measure’s sponsor, Give Arkansas a Raise Now, should not have gotten an extra 30 days to collect signatures after they handed in petitions, because some of them had a forged notary’s signature. Under state law, the court noted, petitioners who hand in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot get the extra 30 days to collect more as insurance in case some are found invalid. Read more

Labor Group Sues Scott Walker on Minimum Wage
Wisconsin Jobs Now filed a lawsuit Oct. 27 to demand a review of the state Department of Workforce Development’s decision against raising the minimum wage. The department said there was no evidence that Wisconsin’s $7.25 an hour minimum was less than the “living wage” required by state law. The department didn't even do a “cursory review,” said Peter Rickman of Wisconsin Jobs. The group wants the courts to order a more thorough review or to issue a finding that $7.25 doesn't meet the standard for a living wage. Gov. Scott Walker opposes raising the minimum, saying many workers receiving it are teenagers and increasing it would cost jobs. Read more

UAW Local Claims Ohio Lockout Unfair
The National Labor Relations Board is considering two unfair-labor-practices charges brought by auto-parts workers in Lebanon, Ohio, who have been locked out since June. United Auto Workers Local 2387 is alleging that Hayashi Telempu North America illegally locked out workers after their contract expired, and that it also unlawfully terminated their health and life insurance benefits after the lockout began. Local 2387 members rejected a proposed contract by 13 votes on Oct. 20. Read more

Union Metal Shop Wins 7th Safety Award
Cutting sheet metal is normally dangerous work—but no one at MechOne Inc., a Colorado Springs, Colorado company whose workers make and install sheet metal in commercial air conditioning and heating systems, has been injured badly enough to miss work in its 14-year history. They are members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 9 and must complete the union’s apprentice and journeyman programs. On Oct. 22, MechOne got its seventh consecutive Circle of Safety Award from Pinnacol Assurance, a quasi-public authority that provides workers’ compensation insurance. “The upfront cost to make sure we have what we need to maintain a safe workplace gets a return in no work time lost to injuries and lower workers’ compensation insurance rates,” said co-owner Mike Daugharty. Read more

NCAA Facing Minimum-Wage Lawsuit
A former college soccer player sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its more than 300 Division I schools in federal court in Indianapolis Oct. 20, alleging that they have cheated her and other student athletes by not paying them at least minimum wage. Samantha Sackos, who played for the University of Houston in 2010-11, contends that “students who work at food service counters or sell programs or usher at athletic events” qualify as temporary employees of the NCAA and get paid at least minimum wage, so not paying the athletes who put in more than 20 hours a week violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. She is seeking unpaid wages, damages, and a ruling that student athletes must be paid. Read more

Labor Secretary Calls Christie Clueless on Minimum Wage
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez responded to Chris Christie’s statement that he was “tired” of hearing people talk about raising the minimum wage by saying the New Jersey governor has “got his head in the sand.” Speaking in Washington Oct. 23, Perez noted that the U.S. minimum is below those in Canada, Australia, Japan, and most of Western Europe. In New Jersey, 24% of all workers earning minimum wage have children, and 45% have attended college, according to the New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank. Read more

Philadelphia Plane Cleaners Protest Over Ebola
Airplane cleaners employed by subcontractors at Philadelphia International Airport rallied outside a terminal there on Oct. 22, saying that they don’t have enough protection against infectious diseases, including Ebola. Cabin cleaner Tommy Rodney said his employer, Prospect Aviation Services Inc., gives workers latex gloves that rip easily, and no training on exposure to waste and bodily fluids on the job. The workers, who are not unionized, make an average of $7.85 an hour, despite a ballot initiative passed in May that set a $10.88 minimum for employees hired by subcontractors with city contracts and leases. Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and Philadelphia Local 1199C head Henry Nicholas also attended. Read more

 “Salt of the Earth” Union Decertified
The New Mexico miners union whose 15-month strike was celebrated in the classic 1954 film Salt of the Earth has been decertified. Workers at the Chino Mine voted 236-83 in late September to end their affiliation with United Steelworkers Local 9424-3, the successor to Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Local 890. “It’s just kind of hard to stomach,” said Local 9424-3 chair Ray Teran. The mine was closed in 2008 and reopened in 2010 with mostly new workers, who he said “have no sense for unionization. They weren’t around for the struggles that their grandparents and parents went through. They don’t realize the sacrifices that took place to get to where we are.” The “Salt of the Earth” strike in 1950-52 won better pay and working conditions for the mine’s Latino workers, and the movie, made by blacklisted filmmakers, featured Local 890 president Juan Chacon and women and men who’d participated in the strike. Read more

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