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Bargaining Wins for Public Employees in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Kentucky


Bargaining Wins for Public Employees in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Kentucky

by Mike Hall, Aug 5, 2009

Public employees across the country have been battling bruising attacks on their jobs and paychecks as cities and states sink into red ink. No more so than in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved through budget cuts what he couldn’t in state referendums voted down by voters in 2008, a drastic reduction in state services. Yet in Los Angeles, city workers—members of several unions—ratified a new contract that averts furloughs and layoffs. State employees in Pennsylvania and Kentucky also have good news after mobilizing successfully to protect their paychecks and turn back cuts in benefits.

The Los Angeles city budget, adopted in May, called for layoffs and 26 furlough days per worker—amounting to a 10 percent cut in services and pay for every city program and every worker. Since then, members of the Coalition of LA City Unions in Los Angeles overwhelmingly approved a new contract with the city that preserves city services and avoids layoffs and furloughs. The new agreement will save more than half a billion dollars over the next three years, primarily through a retirement incentive program and delays in scheduled wage increases.

Says Cheryl Parisi, chair of the Coalition and Executive Director of AFSCME Council 36:

All along, we were determined to find a better way for L.A., and we’ve done it.

The unions in the coalition include AFSCME, Los Angeles/Orange County Building & Construction Trades Council, Operating Engineers (IUOE), SEIU, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Teamsters (IBT).

AFSCME members also were successful in Pennsylvania, after some 77,000 state workers played the role of hostages in July as Gov. Edward Rendell (D) and the legislature could not come to a budget agreement by the July 1 deadline. Without a budget, workers were told they either would not get paid or would receive just partial pay starting July 17 and continuing until a budget was passed.

But on July 28, after the employees had received short paychecks and faced a payless August, more than 2,000 state employees, most of them members of AFSCME Council 13, rallied at the Capitol in Harrisburg and demanded an end to “payless paydays.”

Speaking at the rally, Lasheba Dillard, a single parent of four children and a member of AFSCME Local 2534, pleaded with the legislature to quickly act.

On behalf of my family and everyone in this situation. Please pass the budget now!

The next day, Rendell announced he would sign a bridge budget covering workers’ salaries and other items, while a full budget agreement was still being hashed out. It passed Aug. 3 and Rendell signed it earlier today. It includes funds for regular and retroactive pay.In Kentucky, state employees were facing the loss of as many as five paid holidays under a proposal by Gov. Steve Beshear (D), as that state deals with a budget deficit. Those savings, says David Warrick, executive director of AFSCME Council 62, would be just a tiny drop in the state’s deficit bucket—but a major hardship for many workers .

The savings he would get—little over $10 million—sounds like a lot of money, but when you’re talking about a $1 billion deficit, it doesn’t make much difference.

But the $300 to $600 workers would lose would be a major difference, says April Tidwell, a state child protection and permanency worker.

I don’t get a holiday from paying my bills. The governor needs to look somewhere else.

With the legislature debating the cutbacks, union members mobilized and, in just 10 days, sent 2,000 e-mail messages and made 500 phone calls to lawmakers. Many sacrificed personal or vacation time to lobby lawmakers directly. The House and Senate dropped the governor’s holiday pay-cut plan.

Unions To Take On Conservative Groups Health Care Town Halls


Unions To Take On Conservative Groups Health Care Town Halls

by Sam Stein

The nation’s largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess.

In a memo sent out on Thursday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined the blueprint for how the union conglomerate would step up recess activities on health care reform and other topics pertinent to the labor community. The document makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate. It also uses the specter of the infamous 2000 recount “Brooks Brothers” protest to rally its members to the administration’s side.

“The principal battleground in the campaign will be town hall meetings and other gatherings with members of Congress in their home districts,” reads the memo. “We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing “Tea-Party Patriots” who will try to disrupt those meetings, as they’ve been trying to do to meetings for the last month. …

(Remember the hooligans - many of them Republican Congressional staff - who harassed Florida vote counters in 2000? We can’t let that happen again!).”

A showdown between unions and grassroots conservative organizations could make for an August full of fireworks, with even more dysfunctional town hall meetings. The AFL-CIO is planning to target 50 “high priority districts,” in addition to organizing telephone town hall gatherings.

But while the union conglomerate seems poised to flex its political muscle on Obama’s behalf, it may find some friction on the policy front. Detailed in Sweeney’s memo are certain legislative priorities that are clearly at odds with what seems likely to be produced in the Senate Finance Committee’s compromise bill.

Sweeney describes it as a “requirement that ALL employers ‘pay or play,’” that the final bill have “a robust public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and drive down health costs,” and that the legislation contain “relief for company/union funds providing pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and no taxation of health benefits!”

The AFL-CIO also promises to “Redouble our efforts on Capitol Hill against taxation of benefits OF ANY KIND, for including ALL businesses in the requirement to provide coverage, and for a robust public health insurance plan option.”

According to reports on Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee is considering compromise legislation that will contain no public option for insurance and would tax health-care benefits of the most generous plans.

UPDATE: AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka sends out a scathing statement about the town halls, hitting on Sweeney’s themes and calling the events corporate funded.

Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud ## as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.

Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.

Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents ## not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction

We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone - on all sides of the issue - deserves to be heard.

Expanding our website service area to include West Virginia


At the suggestion of Clem Guttata, we are going to expand our news & views coverage area to include West Virginia.

You can help by emailing relevant information to

New Jersey Learns About the Real Chris Christie


New Jersey Learns About the Real Chris Christie

by Seth Michaels, Aug 4, 2009

As the critical governor’s race approaches this fall, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has launched a new website, The Real Chris Christie, to take a closer look at the Republican challenger and where he stands on key issues.

Chris Christie, who got a political appointment as a U.S. attorney after raising more than $350,000 for George W. Bush, is running as a ”reformer,” but voters need to know what Christie would do as governor. Where does he stand on the critical issues facing New Jersey?

The Real Chris Christie looks past the rhetoric and examines where Christie stands on critical issues like the economy, health care, education and workers’ rights, as well as ethical issues and his long-standing support of Bush.

Here are some important facts available at The Real Chris Christie:

Christie wants to cut corporate tax rates at the expense of critical health, education and housing programs for working families.

Christie is proposing changes to health care that would allow insurance companies to deny claims and refuse to cover preventative care like mammograms.

Christie opposes funding for pre-K programs for young children.

Christie opposes paid medical leave for workers, project labor agreements and collective bargaining.

Christie has awarded no-bid contracts to friends and political allies.

Visit The Real Chris Christie to find out more. It’s an important resource as we approach the Nov. 3 election.

Virginians Prefer Welfare to Work? Ally of Gov. Candidate Says So


Virginians Prefer Welfare to Work? Ally of Gov. Candidate Says So

by Seth Michaels, Aug 4, 2009

In a meeting with Republicans on Thursday, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins—a key ally of gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell—audaciously claimed that Virginia businesses are closing because Virginians “preferred welfare to work.”

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, in a conversation with Republican leaders in western Virginia, Mullins claimed a Wise County insurance company closed two offices because it couldn’t recruit enough employees from a local community college. Mullins contended it was because Virginians would rather be on welfare than get a job.

What news has Mullins been reading? Is this the kind of cluelessness Virginia can expect from Republican leaders?

Virginia’s workers are demanding an apology from Mullins and McDonnell. Mullins’ comments are an insult to hard-working Virginians who are facing the toughest economic crisis in decades—a crisis brought about by stagnant wages, disappearing jobs and rapidly rising inequality.

According to the Recorder, Mullins made another absurd claim. Although the nation’s economic crisis resulted from eight years of Bush administration mismanagement, he had this to say to Virginia voters:

If you’re not better off now than you were eight years ago, you had better vote Republican straight ticket.

Mullins is flat-wrong about Virginia’s workers. Virginia voters are sick of this out-of-touch attitude toward the economy, and they chose change last year. They need leaders who are going to work to fix the economic crisis, not dismiss it.

New Registered Apprenticeship Grants for the State of Maryland


Congrats to these building trades for their successful grant awards from DoL.

Marianne Kreitner, Director

Constituent Services

US Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

The U.S. Department of Labor today awarded $6,499,992 to assist national industry and employer associations and labor-management organizations in advancing Registered Apprenticeship through the development of innovative programs that utilize an updated 21st century Registered Apprenticeship framework.

The state of Maryland has been awarded the following:

Grant Amount

Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association of the United States and Canada
Beltsville, MD

Finishing Trades Institute
Hanover, MD

United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada
Annapolis, MD

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
Upper Marlboro, MD

International Masonry Institute
Bowie, MD

Registered Apprenticeship is an ‘earn while you learn’ model that provides a combination of on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs are sponsored by joint employer and labor groups, individual employers, and/or employer associations. Currently the Registered Apprenticeship system includes a network of approximately 30,000 program sponsors nationwide, offering nearly 1,000 different career opportunities.

The grants will fund the development and adaptation of innovative national apprenticeship guideline standards that incorporate competency-based progression or hybrid-style progression (a combination of traditional time-based programs and competency-based models). Funds will also be available to support the development and use of interim credentials to track an apprentice’s skill progression; as well as the use of technology-based learning to provide related technical instruction. Funds will also be used to support partnerships with the workforce and education communities. Finally, funds are also available to train staff, apprenticeship instructors and members on these revised and innovative program designs

For more information on Registered Apprenticeship and the array of Department of Labor training and employment programs visit For more information contact:

Adri Jayaratne

Senior Legislative Officer

Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs

U.S. Department of Labor

P: (202) 693-4600

F: (202) 693-4644