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Union   1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Labor Unions - Page 6

"Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and fallen and bruised itself and risen again; been seized by the throat and choked into insensibility; enjoined by the courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, shot down by regulars, frowned upon by public opinion, deceived by politicians, threatened by priests, repudiated by renegades, preyed upon by grafters, infested by spies, deserted by cowards, betrayed by traitors, bled by leeches, and sold out by leaders. But not withstanding all this, and all these, it is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known." - Eugene V. Debs

Airline Shareholders, Employees Grow Spines

Employee Advocate – – April 26, 2003

Yesterday shareholders and employees blasted the Delta Air Lines management over greed, according to Reuters. Shareholders and employees morphed from timid lap dogs into pit bulls and passed several shareholder proposals. Sometimes things must hit the very rock bottom before people will do the right thing.

Management insisted on concession after concession from employees, while their own compensation ran into eight figures! As long as the employees were willing to keep giving, management was willing to keep taking.

The greed of management was so sickening that it brought employees allies from shareholders, unions, and Congress.

Mollie Reiley, Attendants Teamster official, said "What this dialogue today was about was, are we really all in this together, or once again are we expected to take cuts while making executives very rich. No one's interested in doing that, quite frankly. Our members would rather go into bankruptcy."

That is what it takes to win. Resolve cannot be successfully faked. Those not willing to put it all on the line, will forever be condemned to lick the hand of management. Their only hope will be that their master tosses them an occasional scrap.

CEO Leo Mullin became a believer and gave back over $9 million dollars of his $13 million (or more) compensation. He also offered the employees an apology. Even CEO’s can see the light, once things are properly explained to them.

Hats off to the shareholders and employees of Delta Air Lines!

Airline CEO Takes a Nosedive

Employee Advocate – – April 26, 2003

The New York Times reported that on Thursday American Airlines CEO Donald J. Carty resigned. While employees were being badgered to give up more and more pay and benefits, the CEO was secretly feathering his own nest with more millions of dollars.

Employees had already signed a round of concessions when they learned of the deception by the CEO. It appeared that executive compensation information was delayed to keep it from the employees. Employees learned of executive retention bonuses and executive pension trust funds. The workers were livid. New concession voting was called for.

The CEO made a peace offering, but it was too little, too late. He said that executives would give up cash bonuses. He also made a public apology.

The damage could not be repaired. When employees, union leaders, and some board members turned on the CEO, he packed his bags.

Lawyers Unionize

Employee Advocate – – April 10, 2003

Just how bad is the labor situation becoming? Attorneys are now joining labor unions - that’s how bad!

Doctors started joining unions some time ago. They found that they were no match for the bean counters, constantly chipping away at their compensation. They needed someone to protect their interests.

The first known group of private lawyers to unionize was in Arizona, according to The National Law Journal. They joined the Teamsters Union. Other attorneys have contacted the group; they also feel the necessity to join unions.

Even those schooled in jurisprudence have recognized that they cannot prevail against the corporate regime, without assistance. That should give you some idea of the chance the average worker has, with zero representation.

Pilots' Pension Plan to be Terminated

Employee Advocate – – March 30, 2003

The Associated Press reports that a federal judge gave US Airways approval to terminate its pilots' pension plan. The union contract and company guarantee proved to be worthless. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. will take over the plan, providing the pilots with a mere fraction of their earned pensions.

The airline has laid off a third of its workforce. And, has demanded concession after concession from its employee groups.

US Airways claims that it will save an estimated $600 million. They are not saving anything. They are taking $600 million in earned pension benefits from employees.

It often takes many years for employees to gain union representation. Then it may take more years to actually get a contract. The contract may be worthwhile, or it may be mostly window dressing. It may take many more years for employees to get a meaningful contract with worthwhile benefits. After all this, all the company has to do it whine to a judge to make the contract worthless.

Even in bankruptcy, judges have been known to approve fat pay packages for executives. If the whole system seems to be rigged, that’s because it is.

Read about CEO pay during the bankruptcy proceedings at United Airlines:

Fat CEO Pay, Even in Bankruptcy

Union Argues to Keep US Airways Pensions

Charlotte Business Journal – February 25, 2003

(2/21/03) - The pilots' union at US Airways Group is objecting in bankruptcy court Friday to the airline's terminate its pilots' benefit pension plan.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International, is challenging US Airways' assertion that it can terminate the plan without the pilots' consent and replace it with a defined contribution plan.

The airline, based in Arlington, Va., moved last month to replace the pension plan with a new one financed by annual pilot contributions totaling $850 million for more than 3,700 pilots over the next seven years.

US Airways, which operates a hub at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, anticipates a $3.1 billion funding gap in its existing pension fund over the next seven years.

The company says it needs to replace the existing pension plan in order to successfully emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Captain Bill Pollock, chairman of the US Airways Master Executive Council, says the carrier's pilots already have agreed to annual pay, work rule and retirement concessions totaling almost $650 million.

He says those agreements should allow the company to proceed with a successful restructuring.

"By asking the court to approve a distress termination without ALPA's consent," Pollock says, "and then impose an excessively inferior pension plan onto the pilot group, US Airways is attempting to force pilots to bear an unacceptable and unjust burden that permanently harms pilots' retirement incomes."

The union filed an objection to US Airways' motion to terminate the pension plan Feb. 14.

The pilots association maintains that the dispute must be resolved through arbitration under the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline labor contracts, rather than through the court, in Arlington, Va.

The association is asking the court to deny the carrier's request to impose the terms of the defined contribution plan and to deny approval of the financial terms required to terminate the existing pension plan.

David Castelveter, a US Airways spokesman, was not immediately available for comment.

World Bank Notes Value of Unions – Press Release – February 16, 2003

Economies Perform Better In Coordinated Labor Markets

Impact of globalization spurs interest in labor standards around the world

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2003—Workers who belong to trade unions earn higher wages, work fewer hours, receive more training, and have longer job tenure on average, than their non-unionized counterparts, according to a new World Bank study on the effects of unions and collective bargaining in the global economy.

On the other hand, temporary layoffs can be more frequent in unionized firms. At the macroeconomic level, high unionization rates lead to lower inequality of earnings and can improve economic performance (in the form of lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity and speedier adjustment to shocks).

The new report—Unions and Collective Bargaining: Economic Effects in a Global Environment—says that union members, and other workers covered by collective agreements in industrial as well as in developing countries, get significantly higher average wages than workers who are not affiliated with a trade union. The wage markup can be larger in the United States (15 percent) than in most other industrial countries (5 to 10 percent). In developing and middle-income countries, the markup can be higher or lower. For example, it appears high in Ghana, Malaysia, Mexico, and South Africa but relatively low in the Republic of Korea (in 1988, before the expansion of unionism).

Other notable findings include that union membership reduces wage differences between skilled and unskilled workers and also between men and women. In some countries such as Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, unionized women workers have a greater pay advantage over their non-unionized counterparts than unionized men. In the United States and the United Kingdom, unionized non-white workers tend to get a higher wage markup than white workers, although the U.S. evidence is mixed. In South Africa, “black” unions are associated with a smaller markup than “white” unions. In Mexico and Canada, unions have been found to reduce the discrimination against indigenous people.

Globalization renews interest in labor standards

The report, which reviewed more than a thousand studies on the effects of unions and collective bargaining, finds that bargaining coordination between workers’ and employers’ organizations in wage setting and other aspects of employment (for example, working conditions) is an influential determinant of labor market outcomes and macroeconomic performance.

Countries with highly-coordinated collective bargaining tend to be associated with lower and less persistent unemployment, lower earnings inequality, and fewer and shorter strikes than uncoordinated ones. In particular, coordination among employers tends to produce low unemployment. In contrast, fragmented unionism and many different union confederations are often associated with higher inflation and unemployment.

By formalizing the labor relationship, workers, employers, and governments can use collective bargaining at the national level to provide insurance against shocks arising from international markets. In fact, countries that are more exposed to external risks (such as openness to international trade) tend to have more compressed wage structure, more centralized systems of collective bargaining and a higher relative minimum wage.

Sound industrial relations can lead to a stable economy and prevent disruption to national life. According to Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director at the World Bank, "Coordination among social partners can promote better investment climates while also fostering a fairer distribution of output".

“The need for workers, employers, and government to find solutions that cut poverty through both growth and better distribution of income is becoming increasingly urgent in an era of globalization,” says Robert Holzmann, the World Bank’s Director of Social Protection, who commissioned the new study to provide policymakers, unions, and employers in developing countries with the most recent, comprehensive research on the economic effects of trade unions and collective bargaining. Holzmann says in firms where industrial relations are of a “high” quality (in terms of a low number of unsolved grievances, low strike activity, and so on), the presence of unions tend to increase productivity levels.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines four core labor standards: (1) the progressive elimination of child labor, (2) a ban on the use of forced labor; (3) non-discrimination in employment; and (4) the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining.

One of the driving forces behind the current interest in labor standards around the world is the rapid expansion of international trade and the liberalization of financial markets that has occurred during the past decades. As globalization proceeds, differences in labor standards between countries and regions arguably become more important than they used to be. There is a concern that these differences could produce unfair advantages in internationally traded goods for countries that adopt lower standards, and also because new technology now allows jobs to be directly subcontracted to workers in low-standard countries.

For example, workers in the Caribbean carry out extensive data entry work for U.S.–based companies and transmit the finished product back to them electronically. Another example is the work carried out by skilled Indian engineers who receive initial drawings from American companies by satellite and send the final blueprints back to the United States in the same way. New figures suggest that the export revenues of India's software services market reached $6.2 billion last year, up from under $500 million in the mid-1990s.

“ When you see technology transforming the global workplace in such dramatic ways, it becomes clear that labor standards can no longer be the concern of just individual governments but also of the entire international community,” says Zafiris Tzannatos, co-author of the new report, and a World Bank authority on social protection issues, including labor markets and child labor. “You also need international engagement around labor standards because individual countries often have very different views on what constitute proper standards and what the consequences of adopting them might be.”

A recent OECD study which attempted to analyze the effects of labor standards, identified countries that have undertaken major labor market reforms in the areas of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and then to compare the performance of the economy before and after the reform.

Using this approach, the OECD report identified 17 countries that undertook significant labor market reforms over the past 20 years and compared the average growth rate of GDP, manufacturing output, and exports in the five-year period before and the five-year period after the reforms. The cross country variation of results was significant, for example, growth rates in Panama increased by as much as 8 to 10 percentage points after the reform, whereas export growth in Peru collapsed. On average, GDP grew at 3.8 percent per year before the improvement in labor standards and at 4.3 percent afterwards. Growth in manufacturing output remained practically the same. In contrast, export growth declined by 2.3 percentage points on average (from 6.6 to 4.3 percent).

The World Bank says that estimating the benefits and costs of labor standards depends on a given country’s competitiveness of product markets, political climate, the quality of its public institutions and the state of its workplace relations. There is no universal formula for measuring such complex norms in the global economy, and developing and transition economies must make their decisions based on their own local circumstances.

“ The precise link between adopting labor standards and economic performance is as yet not clear and many controversies remain, but the fact is that labor standards are now a prominent item on the international agenda and are likely to stay there for a long time to come,” says the Bank’s Zafiris Tzannatos.

The World Bank and the Trade Unions

Research on unions and collective bargaining is part of the World Bank's work to support the promotion of core labor standards. While not conditional in World Bank lending, these standards are promoted by the Bank as important elements of a well-functioning labor market. Promotion includes training programs for staff and counterparts in client country governments; the Global Child Labor Program; and work directly with trade unions.

The World Bank Group, in coordination with the IMF, has recently established a process for regular dialogue with the international trade union movement. The dialogue includes biannual high level meetings with trade union leaders from around the world. The leadership meetings are complemented by a series of technical meetings on policy issues of interest to both parties, such as pension reform, privatization, and labor market regulation. The Bank is also working to improve consultation with trade unions within client countries.

The World Bank's work on labor standards and trade unions is carried out by the Bank's Social Protection Unit. The goal of social protection interventions is to assist individuals, households, and communities to better manage the risks that leave people vulnerable. Such activities include labor market interventions, unemployment or old-age insurance, programs to reduce harmful child labor, and support to orphans and vulnerable children.

Pillowtex Workers Get New Contract

The Charlotte Observer – by Tony Mecia – February 16, 2003

No change in pay, but more in benefits

(2/15/03) - KANNAPOLIS - Workers at Pillowtex Corp. overwhelmingly approved a new three-year labor contract in balloting that concluded this week, a union representative said Friday.

More than 99 percent of union members approved the contract, which covers about 4,100 textile workers in the Carolinas, said Anthony Coles with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

It calls for no changes in pay, and workers retain the same number of sick days and holidays they had previously, Coles said. The company had sought to reduce the number of sick days and holidays, he said.

The company also agreed to increase contributions to 401(k) plans, increase disability benefits and pay health insurance premiums for six weeks in the event of a temporary layoff, Coles said.

Pillowtex declined to comment on the specifics of the plan. Spokeswoman Karen Cobb said the company was pleased that workers ratified the agreement.

The previous contract expired Jan. 31.

The contract covers union and nonunion hourly manufacturing workers at five N.C. plants, in Kannapolis, Concord, Rockwell, China Grove and Eden; two S.C. plants, in Mauldin and Union; and plants in Virginia and Alabama.

Pillowtex emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year only to face renewed financial difficulties.

"The workers understood the economic situation of the company and the times in which we're living in right now," Coles said.

Uranium Plant Strike

Associated Press – February 6, 2003

PADUCAH, KY. (AP) - Hourly workers at the nation's only plant that enriches uranium for commercial nuclear power walked out Tuesday in protest over wages, health care and pension issues.

The strike affects about 620 workers, about half the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant work force of roughly 1,250, leaving managers to run the plant.

United States Enrichment Corp. operates the plant for the Energy Department. It maintains it will still meet customer demands.

The contract of Local 5-550 of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International expired Friday but had been extended to give the union time to vote on the latest offer from USEC.

``We have expressed a willingness for the last eight weeks that this has been going on to reach a mutually acceptable resolution,'' said Leon Owens, president of the local union. ``The problem has been the company's unwillingness to address union issues.''

About 97 percent of the membership voted Friday to reject the five-year contract offer, Owens said. Elizabeth Stuckle, spokeswoman for Bethesda, Md.-based USEC, said Tuesday the company has offered to meet with a federal mediator and is willing to work with the union.

``We still hold open that offer to them,'' Stuckle said. ``We did not walk away from the table.''

``We feel like we've made a very fair and competitive offer to the PACE union,'' she said.

Owens said the union and management are too far apart for a mediator to be useful. Union leaders say the company's salary increases will not offset increases in health care costs and say they are not satisfied with the pension proposal, which would not change from the previous contract.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said he supports the union's decision to strike.

``USEC has failed in their negotiations with the PACE union. I thought the union people were pretty reasonable in their requests,'' Bunning said during a teleconference Tuesday morning.

``Unless you're in the room (bargaining room), you really don't know what the heck's going on. It seems to me that USEC is playing hardball with the union. I don't think that's a very good thing to do at this time.''

Bunning said he told a union representative that he ``thought we should settle this as quickly as possible.'' Some workers contend the company should provide lower health care premiums than offered in other industries because workers are around potentially dangerous radioactive elements. The government has paid out millions to former and current workers who likely developed cancers because of on-the-job exposure at the plant.

``The wages offered are sub-par and not enough to keep up with the cost of living,'' said Steve Atherton, 45, an electrician at the plant for 12 years. ``As far am I'm concerned, there should be free health care because of what you are exposed to in there.''

But Stuckle said the industry standard is for workers to pay about 20 percent of health care premiums _ even at plants more hazardous than the Paducah plant. Workers in Paducah pay 10 percent of the health premiums, but under the new contract would pay 19 percent by 2007 after annual percentage increases, Stuckle said. USEC is offering lump-sum payments of $250 to offset the cost increase in each of the five years.

Stuckle said USEC would continue operating ``safely and reliably'' with the plant's salaried work force. ``We will continue all essential work at the plant,'' Stuckle said.

Kevin Choate, a 15-year worker at the plant, said he wonders how that will be possible if the strike continues more than a few days because the process to enrich the uranium is so comprehensive.

``You have 600 people maintaining it, with them gone, you can figure it out,'' Choate said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have inspectors on site for the first 72 hours of the strike. Extra inspections are possible in addition to routine inspections to shut down the plant or issue orders if necessary, said Jan Strasma, a NRC spokesman.

``We want to make sure the personnel filling those positions are trained and qualified,'' Strasma said. USEC took over management of the plant's enrichment operations in 1993. The last strike at the plant was in 1979 when it was run by Union Carbide Corp.

Naturally occurring uranium contains only small amounts of the isotope uranium-235, which is needed to support chain reactions in nuclear reactors and weapons. The metal must be refined to boost the concentration of that isotope, a process called enrichment. Most nuclear power plants require uranium containing about 5 percent U-235 to other isotopes of uranium; nuclear weapons need about 90 percent. USEC, a privatized federal corporation, ceased uranium enrichment at its southern Ohio plant in 2001 and consolidated operations at Paducah.

Atherton said in the past some employees voted for contracts that they did not feel were acceptable to keep the plant open, but this time they are willing to fight.

``I'd like to see the plant flourish and stay here,'' Atherton said. ``We've got to take a stand and do what's right for the community and employees here.''

Striker Killed by Police Car

Associated Press - by Mary Esch – January 14, 2003

GE Workers Strike Over Health Insurance

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - General Electric Co. workers picketed at plants around the country early Tuesday as thousands joined a two-day strike protesting an increase in health care co-payments. In Kentucky, a striker was struck and killed by a police car.

Union officials said about 20,000 employees from the International Union of Electronic Workers/Communications Workers of America and the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America were participating in the strike, which officially began at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

The worker who died was hit at about 5 a.m. as she walked between gates at the GE manufacturing plant in Louisville, Ky. The woman, whose name was not immediately released, was carrying a picket sign as she walked in a dimly lit area, said Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for Louisville Metro Police.

She died at the scene. Louisville authorities say the car was from the police department in nearby Hollow Creek. Mitchell had no further details, and a message left at the home of the Hollow Creek mayor was not immediately returned.

"The lady was out here doing something she believed in," said Dave Riddle, who was picketing at the same plant. "Rising health care in America is putting the crunch on everybody, and it cost her her life."

It is the first national walkout at GE since 1969, when workers were off the job for about 14 weeks.

"It's real cold; it's supposed to get down to zero out there," said Carmen DePoalo, business agent for IUE Local 301 in Schenectady, as he waited for strikers to gather at the union hall for picketing outside the GE Power Systems main gate. "Those people in 1966 and 1969 suffered the cold to pave the way for our future."

At the plant in Schenectady, where General Electric was established in 1892, and a nearby research and development lab, about 2,000 second-shift workers left work at 11 p.m. Monday and the third shift did not report for work, Local 301 President Jose Fernandez said.

At GE's aircraft engine plant in Lynn, Mass., workers went on strike at 11 p.m., said Jeff Crosby, Local 201 president. About 300 people rallied in front of the plant.

On Jan. 1, GE said it increased certain co-payments for employees participating in the GE Health Care Preferred plan by about $200 per employee in 2003. The company said GE's average health care cost per employee is expected to be $2,350 higher in 2003 than in 1999.

Since 1999, GE's total health care costs have risen 45 percent, from $965 million to $1.4 billion in 2002, GE said.

"It is difficult for businesses to stay globally competitive while sustaining the double-digit percentage increases that we have seen in recent years and expect for the foreseeable future," said Bill Conaty, GE's senior vice president for human resources.

Union officials said the copay increases will cost the average worker an additional $300 to $400 annually, and that GE is posting record profits and doesn't need additional payments from workers.

The strike affects 48 locations in 23 states, union officials said.

GE Union Calls 2-Day Strike

Reuters - January 9, 2003

Company's largest union sets walkout beginning Jan. 14 over increase in medical insurance costs.

(1/703) - BOSTON (Reuters) - General Electric Co.'s largest U.S. union on Tuesday called a two-day national strike beginning Jan. 14 as workers battle the conglomerate over a $200 to $400 increase in their out-of- pocket medical expenses this year.

The first national strike at GE since 1969 will affect an estimated 14,000 workers who belong to the International Union of Electronic Workers, Communications Workers of America, union president Edward Fire told Reuters.

"This is one of those things where we feel we have to draw the line with [GE], and that's exactly what we're doing," Fire said.

The union, whose members work in most GE operations ranging from manufacturing to broadcasting, said GE has increased employee out-of- pocket health care expenses, on average, by $400 per year. The company said the annual increase on average was only $200 per employee because employees can lower their costs by choosing generic drugs over brand names, for example.

The IUE-CWA workers represent about 5 percent of GE's global work force. GE said it counts 13,900 IUE-CWA workers in its employee ranks. Union estimates have ranged from 14,000 to 17,000 workers.

GE spokesman Gary Sheffer said the company continues to pay more than 80 percent of employee health care costs. He said co-payment increases effective Jan. 1 will cost employees, on average, about $200 more a year.

He added that GE has absorbed most of the skyrocketing cost of providing health care to employees. GE's average health care cost per employee was expected to be $2,350 higher in 2003 than it was in 1999, Sheffer said.

Since 1999, GE's total health care costs have increased more than 40 percent to $1.4 billion a year, the company said.

The IUE-CWA strike will begin with the third shift on Jan. 14 and will end just before midnight on Jan. 15, Fire said. The strike will affect 48 GE locations in 23 states, the union said.

Sheffer said GE expects to meet its customer needs during the strike. He pointed out that the two-day strike will cost union workers, on average, $400 in lost pay and benefits, which he said was more than double what they'll be paying for increased health care co-payments in 2003.

The union said GE's total health care costs, as a percentage of profit, were lower in 2001 than in 1999.

"Stated differently, worker productivity is more than making up for health care cost increases without workers being forced to give up more of their hard earned money," the union said in a statement.

GE's increases cover four co-payments across a broad range of services, including prescription drugs and hospital visits, for employees enrolled in the GE Health Care Preferred Plan. About 70 percent of GE's U.S. employees, including the IUE-CWA workers, are enrolled in the plan.

"This is not so much a strike to go to the wall, so to speak, with GE on this issue," Fire said.

"The difficulty we face with this company is a culture of greed, obviously. They came to us and said we're going to make your members choke down an additional, on average, $400 a year in health care cost shifting. Almost simultaneously with that, [GE Chairman Jeff] Immelt was telling Wall Street we're going to set another record for 2002 in terms of profits."

Just Like Working For You-Know-Who

The Recorder – by Alexei Oreskovic – December 4, 2002

(12/3/02) - With the Homeland Security Act now signed into law, employment attorneys are poring over the 475-page piece of legislation to figure out the rights of the workers assigned to the new agency.

One area that's already causing a great deal of concern among some lawyers is the appeals process for workers who believe they've been unfairly fired or suspended from their jobs. According to attorneys who represent federal employees, the new Department of Homeland Security strips workers of basic due-process rights by denying them access to the administrative review system available to most federal employees.

"They've taken their rights away. It's as if you were suddenly classified as a prisoner of war, when you're a valued employee of the federal government," says Mary Dryovage, a San Francisco attorney who represents federal employees.

While collective bargaining and union representation issues were widely debated during the Homeland Security bill's passage through Congress, other aspects of the law are only now coming into focus. For many attorneys, the potential changes to the appeals process represent a major setback for the rights of government workers.

"Union rights are important, but on the other hand I think your right to job security is even more important," says Edward Passman, who represents federal employees at Washington, D.C.'s Passman & Kaplan.

"If you were terminated and you're not in a position of filing [a discrimination] complaint, you're going to be in deep trouble. You might not be able to contest it."

Currently, most of the 1.8 million employees in the government's executive branch have the right to appeal adverse disciplinary actions to an independent agency called the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. The MSPB's 70 administrative judges and three-member appeal panel hear cases involving job termination, demotion in pay or rank and suspensions of more than 14 days.

According to the MSPB's annual report, the agency reversed 291, or 9 percent, of the 3,160 disciplinary actions that were appealed to it in 2001.

When 170,000 federal employees are folded into the Department of Homeland Security next year however, they won't necessarily have recourse to the MSBP anymore. The act specifically guarantees Homeland Security employees MSPB appeal rights in whistleblower cases. And it guarantees access to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for cases involving discrimination.

All other appeals would be handled within the Homeland Security Department, say attorneys familiar with the act, under a new system to be created by Tom Ridge, the secretary of the agency, and the director of the Office of Personnel Management. The act mandates that the new appeal process regulations can be issued only after consultation with the MSPB, but offers few guidelines beyond that.

A representative for the Office of Personnel Management said it was too early to comment on the structure of the Homeland Security Department's appeals procedures. Proponents of the department have repeatedly stressed that to operate effectively, the new agency must have increased flexibility with personnel issues.

In a July 26 speech, President Bush explained that the secretary of the Homeland Security agency "must have the freedom to get the right people in the right job at the right time, and to hold them accountable. He needs the ability to move money and resources quickly in response to new threats, without all kinds of bureaucratic rules and obstacles."

But he assured the audience that "the notion of flexibility will in no way undermine the basic rights of federal workers."

While the exact details of the new agency's appeals system are still unclear, many attorneys who represent federal employees say they don't expect it to be a favorable forum for workers.

"Without an outside fact-finder, the only kind of appeal that would be left to employees who are facing demotion or termination would be an appeal within the agency up the chain of command," says Robert Atkins, a solo employment attorney in Berkeley, Calif. "By restricting it to the in-house review, you're going to assure in almost every case that the discipline will stand."

According to employment attorneys, the loss of an independent appeals process means that government workers could be exposed to workplace abuses ranging from political patronage to retaliation.

And Homeland Security workers who want to appeal an adverse action might have a tough time finding a lawyer. Several attorneys who currently represent federal employees say they'll be less likely to represent Homeland Security agency employees. "So long as the decision making stops at some kind of an internal fact-finder, I'm not sure that I'll recommend to clients that it's worth their while to pay me to represent them," says Atkins.

"Right now the best we can do is try to protect employees that are being fired under the existing law before this goes into effect," says Dryovage.

Workers Strike Over Pension Fund

Asheville Citizen-Times – by Clarke Morrison - November 30, 2002

(11/25/02) - ASHEVILLE - Workers at Dave Steel Co. who picketed the plant Monday said they were forced to go on strike because of plans by management to eliminate the union pension fund.

Shopmen's Local 812 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers rejected the company's contract proposal Friday and voted to strike.

"The biggest sticking point with us is the pension plan," said Jeff Pruitt, local president and a fitter at the company's plant on Meadow Road. "The company is wanting to cease participation, and we're not going to give that up."

The company wants to replace the union pension plan with a 401(k) plan that employees contribute to, said Jeff Dave, executive vice president at Dave Steel, which has 56 unionized shop workers and 34 non-union people working in the office.

"We're trying to give the employees more choice," he said. "We're not taking anything away from them at all. I'm not embarrassed at all about the wages and benefits we offer our employees."

Dave said the 401(k) offers employees the flexibility to design the plan to meet their needs and contribute the appropriate amount. The union pension fund puts the company at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting employees because employees must work at the company five years before they are eligible for benefits, he said.

But employee Dwight Carney said a 401(k) is far less attractive because employees are not guaranteed to get their contributions back when they retire. And while the union pension fund continues paying the retired employee until he dies, the 401(k) only pays until it runs out.

"If the money gets stolen out of a 401(k), that's my retirement gone," he said. "With a pension fund, it's a guaranteed thing.

"They (Dave Steel) are making a lot of money. They are making more money every year. They haven't contributed any more to the pension fund in the past few years."

Also at issue in the contract dispute is the amount of money contributed to the pension fund. Edward Cottongim, general organizer for the union, said the average industry contribution to union pension funds is 85 cents per hour worked by employees, compared to 55 cents per hour at Dave Steel.

He said the employees would remain on strike for "as long as it takes" to get a contract that is fair to workers.

But Dave said the company plans to remain in operation.

Three of the company's shop workers crossed picket lines and reported for work Monday, and he said the company was willing to hire nonunion workers if necessary.

"We feel that with time we hope the shop employees will see that what we are offering is of great benefit for them and better than what they have," he said. "But should we not be able to reach an agreement with Local 812, we will do what's necessary to continue operating and meet our production commitments."

No negotiations on the proposed contract have been scheduled. Dave Steel fabricates structural steel for the industrial market.

Florida Power’s Union Contract Offer

Florida Power – Press Release - November 25, 2002

(11/22/02) – ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Nov. 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- After two months of negotiations on a new labor contract between Florida Power and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the company today presented a final offer to the union's negotiating team. The competitive package assures that Florida Power will continue as one of the top employers in the Southeast. "This package will ensure our employees continue to enjoy one of the best wage and benefits programs in the Southeast, while allowing the company to better deliver quality services to our customers," said Bill Habermeyer, Florida Power CEO & president. "This package accomplishes both goals."

The company's package offer represents many hours of work by the company and union representatives and includes:

  • annual wage increases of 3 percent for 2003 and 2004 and a 3.25 percent increase for 2005;

  • increased pay rates for some union job classifications; new union jobs created;

  • pension plan and medical coverage for current union employees will remain the same;

  • and the union employees' medical benefits upon retirement do not change.

The IBEW represents approximately 2,100 Florida Power employees who are expected to vote on the three-year contract offer next week. The union members will be voting to accept or reject the company's offer.

Dockworker Contract Agreement Reached

Seattle Times – by Frank Vinluan - November 25, 2002

(11/24/02) - West Coast dockworkers and maritime companies last night agreed on a six-year contract, bringing to a close a bitter labor dispute that shut down ports and prompted federal intervention. Federal mediator Peter Hurtgen announced the agreement in San Francisco, where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) had been bargaining under his auspices for the past six weeks.

Hurtgen said the agreement provides substantial improvement in wages and benefits for the 10,500 union members. It also allows technology changes and dispute-resolution changes that ensure that ports "modernize and increase in both efficiency and productivity," he said.

The six-year contract is a length twice that of past contracts. It will pay the average longshoreman somewhere around $100,000 per year, The Associated Press said. Wages were the last of three issues the two sides agreed to in recent days, after pensions and the process for arbitrating disagreements on the docks.

"It's been so emotional for such a long time," said Joseph Miniace, PMA president, last night from his office.

Miniace said he had slept six hours in the past four days.

"It was a big stool, and all the legs fit together," he said.

He handed the phone to Jim Spinosa, ILWU president, who said the exhausting push had led to an agreement that the union leadership fully supported.

"I'm just glad that it's over, to be honest with you," Spinosa said. "You look to the future, and there's just a lot of work."

Spinosa said a caucus of about 100 rank-and-file West Coast members would meet Dec. 9 in San Francisco to "validate and ratify" the agreement. They would then fan out to 29 major Pacific ports and urge their colleagues to approve the deal.

"We feel that what we have will improve West Coast productivity and keep trade coming here," Spinosa said.

The two sides had been bargaining since May. The issue of technology-related jobs emerged as the major stumbling block, and in late September, talks deteriorated into a nearly two-week lockout of workers as employers accused the union of slowing work as a bargaining tactic.

The lockout, the first waterfront-work interruption since 1971, shut down the West Coast's 29 shipping ports and halted Pacific Rim trade just as shippers were gearing up for the holiday season. The West Coast handles nearly $300 billion worth of goods annually.

The lockout prompted President Bush to intervene under the Taft-Hartley Act, which allows federal intervention if a labor dispute threatens the nation's security or economic health. The ports were reopened by court order, and both sides were brought back to the bargaining table under federal mediation.

"This agreement is good for workers, good for employers, and it's good for America's economy," Bush said in a statement issued last night.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Duke Layoff and the IBEW

The Charlotte Observer – October 27, 2002

(10/26/02) - As many as 50 of the planned layoffs at Duke Power Co. will come at unionized power plants and maintenance garages in the Carolinas, a union official said Friday.

The Charlotte-based utility, a division of Duke Energy Corp., has told the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that 40 to 50 workers will be cut at stem station in Belmont, Rockingham County and Anderson, S. C., as well as at garages in Durham and Greensboro, said Done Coble, business manager for Local 962. The union represents facilities with a total of 1,300 worker, though not all those employees are part of the union.

Duke Energy on Thursday said it would eliminate 1,500 employees and 400 contract worker as it battles a weak economy and plunging returns in its wholesale energy division. The company said cuts would include 300 to 400 Charlotte-area jobs Spokesman Tom Williams on Friday said the company wouldn’t comment on layoff negotiations.

Duke Shooting, Brawl Update

Associated Press – September 19, 2002

MARION, Ill. (AP) - Seven union members have pleaded innocent to mob action charges stemming from a July brawl with nonunion replacement workers at a southern Illinois work site.

Each man was released on $10,000 bond on Monday after the hearing in Williamson County Circuit Court. In a grand jury indictment issued Friday, the men are accused of attacking nonunion worker Joel Plunk and damaging several vehicles. Each man faces one count of mob action, which is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

The brawl happened on July 12 when roughly 50 union members fought with out-of-state, nonunion workers who were replacing a 1,300-foot section of the Texas Eastern gas pipeline.

Terry Green, the union members' attorney, said his clients intended to conduct a peaceful demonstration and were unarmed. He said the nonunion workers were armed with guns and two-by-fours.

``Fighting broke out only after an out-of-state worker, who the government has not yet charged with any wrongdoing, pulled a gun,'' Green said.

Williamson County State's Attorney Chuck Garnati could not be reached by The Associated Press for comment Monday night.

Green said three of the union members charged in the incident were hurt. Joel A. Groves, 38, of Marion, was shot in both legs. James R. Schumaker, 42, of Stonefort, and Kevin P. Skuta, 26, of West Frankfort, were beaten on the head.

The other men charged were Donnie McGee, 45, of Patoka; Gary A. Leeper, 54, of Carbondale; William E. Ruemmler, 38, of Ewing; and Cale R. Sullivan, 22, of Thompsonville.

Green called several of his clients heroes, saying more people would have been hurt if they had not pulled guns away from nonunion workers.

The trial is set for Dec. 9.

Shooting, Brawl at Duke Project

Labor Unions - Page 5