Shared Services and Other Bad Ideas

The Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186, Save Our Community Coalition, and the University of Texas at Austin Graduate Student Assembly present

Shared Services and Other Bad Ideas,

a presentation by Dr. Robert Ovetz about an incredibly bad idea proposed by a committee of business executives that would have the University of Texas at Austin spend as much as $180 million to eliminate 500 UT Austin jobs through consolidation and privatization.

When: Thursday Nov. 7 at 7:00 P.M.

Where: UT LBJ School, Sid Richardson Hall, Room 3.124

Dr Ovetz will discuss the corporatization of UT and describe how UT has engaged in “planned austerity” to funnel money to corporations and force the university community to pay for it. Join the discussion and find out how we can come together to maintain UT as a quality public university.

Bank workers of the world unite

In Brazil, private sector bank employees recently returned to work after a 23-day strike that won them a substantial pay raise.

In St. Louis, members of CWA passed out leaflets to bank employees urging them to get involved in the union’s Press One for America campaign.

The two events nearly 4,500 miles apart are not unrelated.

In a recent union hall teleconference, CWA President Larry Cohen told members that the Brazilian bank workers’ union, CONTRAF, has been in contact with CWA urging it to consider helping US bank workers to organize.

Brazilian bank employees have a strong union, but they will need some help in maintaining their strength in the face of a changing world economy.

Since 2004, CONTRAF, which has 400,000 members and represents about 95 percent of the banks’ non-management employees, has been in a running battle with Brazil’s private banks to raise pay and improve working conditions.

Negotiations have not been easy, and nearly every year union workers have had to strike to win a fair pay increase despite “years in which Brazilian banks enjoyed record profits.”

Despite the banks’ prosperity, their employees receive modest wages. The Wall Street Journal reports that Brazilian bank employees’ average monthly salary is $2,000, only slightly above Brazil’s average salary of $1848 a month.

This year, banks offered a 7.1percent pay increase, which is about the national inflation rate. Union members wanted more.

The strike ended after workers ratified an agreement that raises all wages by 8 percent, increases base pay by 8.6 percent, includes a profit-sharing plan that could increase wages by up to 2 percent, and pays workers for the time that they were on strike, all of which puts the wage increase close to the 11.9 percent originally demanded by the union.

In addition, the new contract changes work rules to protect workers from mistreatment on the job.

US banks have a presence in Brazil, but not a big one. The Bank of Brazil, owned by the government, is the country’s largest bank. But privately owned domestic banks like Itau Unibanco own a substantial share of the market.

But that could change as more US bank’s look to expand in Brazil.

“Brazil represents one of the most important strategic markets globally and our new banking license will significantly enhance our ability to meet the securities servicing needs of our clients,” said Gerald Hassle, chair, president, and CEO of New York Mellon in a press release after the bank in 2012 was awarded a license to expand in Brazil.

According to the Citigroup website, “Brazil is a major player in Citi’s emerging markets strategy.”

Citigroup through Citi Brazil already has branches in 20 cities that provide an array of services.

As US banks increase their presence in Brazil, CONTRAF leaders reasoned that if the union wants to maintain its current level of union density and strength, it may need allies in the US, which led them to contact CWA.

CWA in the meantime has been organizing a campaign to save call center jobs in the US.

The Press One for America campaign aims to pass legislation that stops the federal government from providing federal loans and grants to companies that ship jobs, including call center jobs, overseas. It would also require a call center to inform customers where the call center is located and give customers the opportunity to be transferred to a US call center.

Since customer service bank jobs are being outsourced overseas, CWA leaders decided to let bank employees know about the campaign and give them a chance to participate and learn first hand what a union can do for them.

CWA chose St Louis to begin its outreach to bank employees because the city is one of the fastest growing financial services centers in the country.

According to CWA, employment in St Louis’ financial services grew by 85 percent between 2007 and 2013.

Members from CWA locals 6300, 6350 and 6355; Missouri Jobs with Justice; and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment on October 24 leafleted work locations of Citibank, Wells Fargo, Pulaski Bank, and Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority. They also got signatures on a petition supporting HR 2909 and SB 1565, the Press One legislation.

According to a post on the CWA website, “The response to the outreach was overwhelming.”

At Wells Fargo, employees happily stopped and talked to (union) activists outside their building. At Citibank, workers came outside on their breaks specifically to ask questions; coincidentally, the company had announced that week that it intended on outsourcing 100 call center jobs in the complex.

Jeff Spraul, Local 6300 president, said that CWA plans to be a regular presence at these banks.

“We plan to be active two days a week,” said Spraul. “It’s not a one and done situation. Building a movement takes time – consistent effort and consistent determination.”

Wisconsin judge rules against anti-worker law; unions seek new ways to rebuild union power

A Wisconsin judge recently ordered officials of the state labor relations commission to stop enforcing portions of Article 10, the 2011 law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that curtailed collective bargaining rights for the state’s teachers and other public service workers.

Union members and leaders applauded the ruling, but the state will appeal it. An appeal will eventually be heard by the state’s Supreme Court, which now has a conservative majority.

Meanwhile some unions aren’t waiting on a final ruling; instead, they’re pursuing new strategies to rebuild the union movement among Wisconsin’s public service workers.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled in 2012 that Article 10 applied only to state employees and not to city, county, and school district employees.

Despite the ruling, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission continued to enforce the law, taking away collective bargaining rights of workers as their contracts expired.

The judge on October 21 found commission officials to be in contempt and issued an injunction barring them from decertifying unions representing city, county, and school district employees. The ruling however, does not restore all rights eliminated by Article 10. For instance, it does not restore the right to binding arbitration to settle grievances and other work related issues.

Even before Judge Colas made his ruling, some unions found new ways to blunt the impact of Article 10.

For example, the University of Wisconsin at Madison Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) decided that it would act like a union whether or not the law recognizes its right to exist.

Article 10 as James Cersonsky reports in Salon requires public service unions to win annual representation elections in order to remain legally recognized by an employer.

TAA recognized that such a requirement was meant to sap union resources and keep them from being effective, so the union decided to forego the elections and instead mobilize its members for collective action.

The result was a “Pay Us Back” campaign aimed at raising pay for teaching assistants and project assistants.

Members held grade-ins at administrative offices, lobbied academic departments to support a pay raise, circulated petitions, and organized a mass e-mail campaign.

As a result, UW Madison recently announced a 4.67 percent pay increase for teaching assistants and project assistants, which raises their pay to the same level as research assistants.

“We realize this is a fairness issue and have been in discussions with graduate assistants  for about a year,” said Darrell Bazzell, vice-chancellor for Finance and Administration, to the UW News,

“This is just the start,” said a posting on the TAA website. “We will continue to fight for more take home pay, including seg fee remission. We win when our union is strong, and when we demonstrate our worth and our power on this campus.”

Meanwhile 5,000 workers at the University of Wisconsin Health Center in Madison are using political leverage and a grassroots campaign on the job to ensure that high quality patient care is maintained and workers continue to have a voice on the job after their current contracts expire.

UWHC workers were specifically targeted in Article 10, which means that when current contracts expire, UWHC administration will no longer be required to bargain collectively.

Three unions, AFSCME Council 24, AFT Wisconsin Science Professionals, and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, have joined together to form 5,000 Strong, a grassroots campaign aimed at maintaining the workers collective voice on the job.

According to a report by SEIU Wisconsin Healthcare and AFSCME Council 24, collective bargaining in addition to providing fair wages and benefits has given workers a voice in decisions affecting patient care, which has “strengthened the culture of quality care at UWHC.”

5,000 Strong is mobilizing members to assert their collective voice.

Members in July urged the Madison Common Council, the city’s city council, to approve a resolution supporting the recognition of the workers’ unions at UWHC.

On the day that the resolution came up for a vote, union members packed the council’s chambers. Some spoke in support of the resolution.

“The state is trying to impose a radical change on something that has been working very well,” said Willie Backes an AFSCME member and a senior respiratory therapist at UWHC. “They are trying to force an ideology on us and ‘fix’ something that isn’t broken.  This poses a huge threat to quality care and hurts Madison, the region and the entire state.”

Backes noted in is remarks that UWHC has once again been rated Wisconsin’s top hospital.  But that tradition of excellence is in danger if employees are denied a voice on the job. “We think Act 10 was a terrible mistake for everyone,” said Backes. “But it makes absolutely no sense for an independent authority that doesn’t rely on taxpayer support.”

UWHC receives no state revenue.

5,000 Strong in September also won the backing of the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

The goal of the city and county resolutions and 5,000 Strong’s grassroots mobilization is to convince UWHC to”recognize our unions  as the voice of the employees and commit to continue policies embodied in collective bargaining agreements.”

5,000 Strong notes that Dade County recently took action to maintain rights that union members have won through collective bargaining.

I”t’s time for UWHC to do the right thing, said a posting on the 5,000 Strong website. “Work with our unions to give their employees a voice and protection on the job.”

More green jobs is key to reversing global warming

Environmentalists and union leaders on October 18 gathered at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburg for a roundtable discussion on how the two movements can work together to reverse global warming and create good paying jobs in a green economy.

“In our union, we have seen firsthand that we can have both good jobs and work towards a clean, green environment,” said Leo Gerard,  USW international president. “But we also have seen the pain that comes when these jobs get shipped overseas. A bright future for young people is one where we have a sustainable environment and a healthy economy that is built around domestic manufacturing that helps us achieve our clean energy goals.”

The roundtable, organized by the BlueGreen Alliance, was held in conjunction with the Power Shift conference, a gathering of young leaders of the environmental justice movement.

On Friday evening, Gerard addressed the conference. “Global warming is here, and we can work and get it fixed together,” said Gerard as reported by the Associated Press.

The key, according to Gerard and other USW leaders is to build a strong alliance that demands more public and private investment in green energy and technology and keeping the jobs created by those investments here in the US.

Keeping these new green jobs in the US will create new job opportunities for workers displaced by the transition from old, dirty energy to new, green energy.

“America’s workers are a key stakeholder in the clean economy,” said Tom Conway, USW International vice president. “If we double-down on investments in home-grown clean energy technologies like wind and solar, we’ll see the benefits multiply in domestic manufacturing and the construction and installation of these projects.”

A new report by the International Energy Agency shows that wind power, one of the more promising green energy sources, could play an increasingly important role in supplying the world’s energy needs, but doing so will require significant new investments.

According to the report, wind power could supply as much as 18 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050. It currently provides 2.6 percent. But to achieve this increase, it will take $150 billion per year in new investments.

The report said that improved technology has made wind turbines more efficient, which makes it possible to install them in places other than windy locations such as seasides or mountain ridges.

One way that the US government could encourage more investment in wind energy is by reauthorizing the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which increases the demand for wind turbines.  PTC is set to expire at the end of 2013.

“To compete, we need certainty. We need sustainability,” said Brad Molinick, a member of USW Local 2635 at the Gamesa wind turbine plant in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. “We need to put in place a longer extension to the tax credits. This is the manufacturing of the future.  There’s this opportunity, and we could really take off and bring manufacturing back to America, but we need certainty.”

Another investment that could improve the environment and create green jobs is for manufacturers to invest in lowering their energy consumption.

A new report by the BlueGreen Alliance finds that doing so will make companies more competitive by saving them money and at the same time create more green jobs.

The report estimates that a 21 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2020 will save manufacturers $47 billion a year.

According to the report, investments in energy consumption (add) value to . . . companies, (free) up capital that would otherwise be spent on energy inputs, (preserve) existing jobs, and (create) new jobs in the construction and retrofitting of (existing) facilities.”

Conway said that unless the US acts boldly to develop its green industries it could be left behind, and if creating good paying jobs in the green industries is not part of the agenda its hard to see how we can achieve environmental justice.

“If we commit to alternative energy without investing in jobs, it doesn’t do us any good,” said Conway.  “We need to be the ones building the supply chain.”

BART strike ends

Negotiators for two unions announced late Monday night that the four-day strike at San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is over.

“Tonight the hard working men and women who keep the Bay Area moving, can go back to work making BART the most efficient and successful system in the country,”
said John Arantes, BART Chapter President of SEIU Local 1021, whose members maintain and repair BART’s trains and equipment.

“We will go back to work and continue our efforts to keep the Bay Area moving,” said Antonette Bryant, president of ATU Local 1555, whose members operate the trains and staff the stations.

According to a statement by Local 1021 the tentative agreement “prioritizes rider and worker safety” and provides a “reasonable raise.” The statement also said that the unions compromised on pension and health care costs and that the new work rules in the agreement “allow for innovation and input from workers.”

Union members will need to ratify the agreement before it becomes effective.

Management’s last-minute demand for work rule changes triggered the strike, which began on Friday, October 18.

The work rule demand came just when it appeared that the two sides had reached an agreement that could have avoided a strike.

Traditionally, the strike has been the key to workers’ power, but in this instance BART management seemed to be goading workers into going on strike, perhaps with the goal of either weakening or busting the unions.

BART’s strategy began to reveal itself six months ago when it hired Thomas Hock as a consultant to lead the negotiations.

According to the East Bay Express Hock had an anti-union history:

Last year, transit workers in Phoenix and Tempe staged a six-day strike against Veolia Transportation. Arizona’s cities have privatized their bus operations, and Veolia holds the contracts. Hock led his company’s campaign against its workers. It was a bruising fight that required the intervention of federal authorities.

In hearings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Veolia was found to have engaged in “regressive, bad-faith, and surface bargaining,” and numerous other unfair labor practices prior to the Phoenix bus strike. Hock was in charge at the time.

When negotiations began, BART demanded big concessions even though ridership and revenue had increased.

Instead of engaging in serious collective bargaining, BART launched a sophisticated media campaign aimed at demonizing its union workers.

The results were predictable. No agreement was reached, and a four-day strike began in late June. It ended after a judge ordered a 60-day cooling off period, and the two sides returned to the bargaining table.

BART, however, continued its anti-union media campaign, and serious bargaining didn’t begin again until another strike deadline approached.

Some progress was made as both sides made compromises, but on Sunday, October 13, BART cut off negotiations, made a final last best offer, and told the unions to take it or leave it. BART’s actions appeared to be aimed at provoking a strike.

The unions refused the offer but instead of striking urged management to return to the bargaining table, which it did.

Three days later the two sides reached an agreement on economic issues, but just when the unions thought that they had a deal that they could take to their members, BART demanded work rule changes that it knew workers wouldn’t accept.

“The rules (that BART wanted to change) we’re focused on protecting basic (worker) rights,” said Pete Castelli ,executive director of Local 1021.  “Like the 8-hour workday.  Like past practice language that protect our workers from punishment and retribution when they report favoritism, sexual harassment, and other problems in the workplace.”

Some of the changes that BART demanded also involved the introduction of new technologies, some of which put the safety of workers and passengers at risk,

“After telling the public that their main goal at the bargaining table was saving money to buy new trains, BART management blew up negotiations by insisting that
employees sacrifice workplace protections in exchange for economic well-being,” said Castelli. “This was a poison pill for workers: choose between your paycheck and your
rights.”

The union sought to avert a strike by proposing that a final decision on these last-minute demands be left to a neutral arbitrator.

Management refused, forcing a strike on October 18 that shut down public commuter services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Improving safety for riders and workers had been one the unions’ priorities during negotiations, but management refused to take the issue seriously.

But a tragic accident on the day after the strike began drove home the importance the safety issues.

Two people inspecting BART tracks were killed when they were hit by a train being used to train management personnel to operate trains during the strike. A trainee was at the controls but, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the train was on autopilot when the accident occurred.

A day after the accident, the unions made a counter proposal to end the strike.

According to the unions’ statement:

The new counter proposal allows for the continued use of new technology in the workplace but protects workers from changes in work rules that would lead to unsafe conditions.

At the same time, BART workers say, they will insist on retaining work rules protect their members from workplace accidents, like the one that occurred yesterday, and that safeguard the riding public.

The accident appears to have caused BART management to take the safety issues more seriously, and the two sides reached an agreement a day after the unions made their counter proposal.

Details about the agreement that settled the strike have not been made public;, but union leaders said that the agreement addresses the safety issues.

“We are proud to bring a tentative agreement that prioritizes rider and worker safety to our members for a vote,” said Des Patten, president of Local1021’s BART Professional Chapter. (The agreement) preserves important workplace protections that enable workers to continue working with management to improve a rapidly growing system.”

Accenture’s track record: a brief history lesson

The Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186 in a recent broadcast to members said that it obtained a draft of the University of Texas at Austin’s Shared Services Plan, which the union describes as a blueprint for consolidating and privatizing campus services.

Among other things, the plan calls for the consolidation of IT, human resources, and financial services that would eliminate 500 of the 2,500 jobs in these departments.

The Shared Services Plan is part of larger plan entitled Smarter Systems for a Greater UT, drafted by the Committee on Business Productivity.

The committee is composed of 13 business executives and led by Steve Rohleder of Accenture.

The Shared Services Plan estimates that the proposed consolidation will save $30 million to $40 million a year over the next ten years, but in order to realize these savings, UT will need to invest $160 million to $180 million to build new services and reporting capabilities, redesign processes and jobs, provide training, and enhance technologies.

According to Seth Hutchinson, TSEU’s organizing coordinator, Accenture and some of the other corporations represented on the committee will likely bid on the multi-million contracts needed to implement the Shared Services Plan.

A brief history lesson might be in order before UT commits millions of dollars in public funds to a plan drafted by Accenture and its cohorts.

Back in the mid 1980s, the Texas Attorney General’s child support program was not meeting its goals.

Then Attorney General Jim Mattox called in Arthur Andersen, one the US’ big five accounting firms, to conduct a review of the program and recommend improvements.

The review was conducted by Arthur Andersen’s consulting division, which eventually renamed itself Andersen Consulting and established itself as an independent company. In the early aughts, Andersen Consulting rebranded itself as Accenture.

Among other things, Andersen/Accenture recommended that the Child Support Division build a new computer system.

Since the child support system was antiquated and the federal government was requiring all states to build new systems anyway, the attorney general decided to follow the Andersen/Accenture recommendation.

Coincidentally, Andersen/Accenture bid on and won the contract for the design and development of the new system that would come to be called TXCSES.

Work on TXCSES began in 1991 and was supposed to be completed by 1993.

But the project took four years longer than planned. The Texas State Auditor’s Office reported in 1997 before implementation of TXCSES that the delay was partially due to “problems with design of the system and unresolved issues between (Andersen/Accenture) and the Office of the Attorney General.”

The Texas Sunset Commission in a 1998 report said that the cost of TXCSES was originally estimated to be $24 million but ballooned to $75 million.

The commission also reported that “TXCSES is a major source of problems associated with delays in (child support) payments to the families” and that “one year after implementation there were 865 outstanding requests (by users) to change TXCSES.”

One of TXCSES’ design flaws was that it had to be taken off line for up to 30 hours at the end of the month for periodic batch runs. The shutdowns delayed payments going to families at the end and beginning of months.

In another report, the commission noted that after the Andersen/Accenture-designed system was implemented, the child support program failed to meet five of the program’s six key productivity measures.

After TXCSES came online, only a handful of Andersen/Accenture staff remained on the job. Nearly all of the work it took to fix TXCSES was done by state employees, who the commission said were underpaid and worked in a department that was understaffed.

It took state workers three years to fix TXCSES, but finally in 2000, the child support program was able to meet or exceed its productivity measures.

Five years later, another state agency decided to contract with Accenture to redesign the way that Texas provided health and human services.

In 2003, the state legislature passed HB 2292, which among other things called for the consolidation and privatization of Texas’ health and human services.

Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth sponsored HB 2292, and she had help from a former staffer named Chris Britton drafting the bill.

After HB 2292 passed, Britton went to work for Accenture.

In 2005, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) awarded to Accenture an $899 million contract to redesign its services as required by HB 2292.

In 2007, DHHS fired Accenture because wrote State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Harlingen Valley Morning Star., “it failed miserably to provide services or save money.”

After the firing was announced, the Corpus Christi Times ran an editorial describing some the redesign failures:

The promised $646 million in savings never materialized from the deal that would have transferred the job of determining eligibility for social services to private call centers. Instead, thousands of families complained of abandoned phone calls, long waits, lost records, abruptly canceled coverage for children’s health insurance, and faxed applications that disappeared.

Accenture’s work took a farcical turn when hundreds of faxed applications for services ended up in a Seattle warehouse.

Accenture’s farce descended into tragedy with the death of 14-year old Devonte Johnson, who died of stomach cancer. His mother’s application for insurance from the Children’s Health Insurance Program was inexplicably mishandled by an Accenture call center causing a delay in his treatment.

After Accenture’s contract was terminated, DHHS’ then Executive Director Albert Hawkins told legislators that the cost of the redesign project was $500 million and that the agency had paid Accenture $186 million. When asked whether the state had realized any savings, Hawkins could not identify any.

According to Sen. Lucio, “the Accenture contract . . . cost the state $100 million more than budgeted, while fewer children and families received the needed benefits.”

Once again, state workers had to step in and clean up Accenture’s mess.

Hutchinson said, TSEU wants to ensure that state employees at UT won’t have to do the same.

“Silence and lack of involvement does no good,” said Hutchinson to UT workers. “The only response that has any chance of stopping this is plan is to stand up and fight back in defense of our jobs, our livelihoods and our future. It is time to get involved. Join the union!”

Miners’ campaign wins health care funding for Patriot retirees

After more than a year of mobilizations that included non-violent direct action, the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) succeeded in making Peabody Energy take responsibility for providing health care to thousands of the company’s retired miners.

The UMWA and Peabody on October 10 reached an agreement that requires Peabody, the world’s largest private sector coal company, to pay more than $400 million to cover health care benefits for retired miners in danger of losing their benefits because of the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal, a Peabody spin off.

“I am very pleased that we have been able to reach this agreement with Peabody and Patriot,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. “This is a significant amount of money that will help maintain health care for thousands of retirees who earned those benefits though years of labor in America’s coal mines. This settlement will also help Patriot emerge from bankruptcy and continue to provide jobs for our members and thousands of others in West Virginia and Kentucky.”

Since Patriot filed for bankruptcy in 2012, the UMWA has contended that Patriot was set up to fail, so that Peabody could avoid its responsibility to its retired miners.

When Peabody spun off Patriot in 2007, it saddled the new company with 43 percent of Peabody’s pension and retiree health care liabilities but provided only 11 percent of its productive assets.

When Patriot filed for bankruptcy, it looked like the Peabody retirees would lose their health care and see their pensions cut. Working miners were also looking at a big pay cut and loss of benefits.

But UMWA fought back by organizing the Fairness at Patriot campaign.

The campaign mobilized thousands of retired and active union members to attend rallies, picket, write letters, testify, and engage in non-violent direct action that resulted in arrests.

The union also sought the support of civil rights groups, religious leaders, and other unions.

In April, thousands of UMWA members and their supporters massed in Charlestown, West Virginia to demand fairness at Patriot.

The union also organized constant demonstrations and rallies at Peabody’s headquarters in St. Louis.

Hundreds of UMWA members, civil rights activists, religious leaders, and leaders and activists of other unions were arrested at sit-ins at the headquarters.

At times, the UMWA efforts looked futile.

In June, a bankruptcy judge approved a Patriot reorganization plan that cut pay and benefits for miners and under funded the retirees’ Voluntary Employees Benefit Association, which provides health care to Peabody retired miners.

Despite the judge’s ruling, the UMWA continued its Fairness at Patriot campaign and eventually reached an agreement with Patriot that restored some of the pay and benefit cuts for those still working in the mines. It also required the company to continue to contribute to the miners’ pension fund.

But the VEBA was still under funded, leading UMWA to announce that the fight for fairness at Patriot was still on.

The union continued its mass rallies and demonstrations at Peabody and continued to receive support from its allies.

Finally on October 10, Peabody and the UMWA reached an agreement.

The union would call off its mobilizations and Peabody would pay $400 million over four years to the Patriot VEBA.

In a statement about the settlement, Roberts said that the agreement will sustain health care for retirees for the time being, but legislation in Congress is needed for a long-term solution.

“This settlement, as significant as it is, still does not provide the level of funding needed to maintain health care for these retirees forever,” Roberts said. “That is why we are continuing our efforts to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress that will put these retirees under the Coal Act, meaning their long-term health care benefits would be secured at no additional cost to taxpayers.”

HR 2918, introduced in the House by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), would accomplish this goal. Currently the bill has 24 co-sponsors from both parties. SB 468, a companion, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and currently has six co-sponsors.

The union will also continue to pressure Arch Coal, which also jettisoned its retiree obligations onto Patriot, to follow suit with Peabody.

Farmworkers in Washington on strike, urge boycott

Migrant farmworkers at the Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington state’s Skagit Valley are on strike for a fair wage and fair treatment and are asking supporters to boycott the farm’s berries and products such as Haagen Dazs strawberry ice cream that use the farm’s berries.

Most of the striking farmworkers are indigenous people who trace their ethnicity back to the Triqui and Mixteco civilizations of southern Mexico.

“Many of us have been coming to Skagit County to pick strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries for Sakuma Brothers Farms for years,” reads a statement by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), the workers’ union. “Every year that we have been coming to Sakuma Farms we have tried to ask for better wages, housing, and treatment from the Sakuma family. After years of trying to change the conditions, we felt it was necessary to organize into the union that we are today to make a lasting impact.”

In July the workers joined together to form Familias Unidas and demanded fair pay for the work they do. The workers also objected to the poor housing conditions in the labor camps where they live during the harvest.

The strike began in July when a supervisor fired Federico Lopez, a farmworker who was talking to other workers about joining the union.

The strikers demanded an increase to the piece rate that they were being paid.

The owner agreed to rehire Lopez and negotiate with the workers. The negotiations resulted in an agreement that the workers thought was fair.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports that the two sides agreed to a piece rate based on a test pick conducted by the workers.

The results of the test pick showed that the piece rate should be $0.48 per pound of berries, but the owner was only willing to pay $0.40 per pound.

Since then, the workers have engaged in a number of work stoppages to protest unfair pay and other problems on the job.

One of these problems is wage theft. They point to a recent review of pay stubs by workers showing that their pay was shorted.

The owner admits that some pay checks were short, but attributes the error to a computer glitch.

The union, however, accuses the owners of “systematically” miscalculating their wages.  “These ‘miscalculations’ or ‘glitches’ have been happening for years,” said the Familias Unidas statement.

The workers also say that their living conditions are bad. The shacks where they live during the harvest provide scarcely any protection from the elements.

They are also overcrowded. NBC Latino reports that shacks that are supposed to house six have as many as 14 workers crowded into them forcing some to sleep on the floor.

The strikers also say that they are often the target of racist comments and treatment by their crew bosses.

The strikers recently won a victory in court.

The owners stationed private security guards at the labor camp. The guards, said the owner, were for the workers’ protection.

But a judge ruled that the guards limited the freedom of association rights of workers and ordered them withdrawn.

The owners are now refusing to negotiate with Familias Unidas and are conducting a public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the union.

They recently fired Ramon Torres, who Familia Unidas members elected as their leader, and said that the firing was because Torres had committed an act of domestic violence.

Torres’ wife, who called the police after Torres shoved her during an argument, discounted the domestic violence charge.

After Torres was fired, union members again went on strike and have continued to maintain their strike.

The workers want a contract that states in writing what the Sakuma Farms owners say they are already doing.

“They tell the public that they are paying a fair wage, $12 per hour, and providing us with good working conditions just like is required by the contract they have covering the wages and working conditions of the guest workers,” said the Familias Unidas statement. “If that is true, why won’t they put that in writing in a contract with us?  That is all we are asking; an enforceable contract that guarantees what they say they are already doing.”

Houston coffee workers on strike

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 455 at the Maximus Coffee Group plant near downtown Houston have gone on strike after negotiations failed to produce an agreement on a new contract.

Maximus, which roasts and distributes coffee beans and makes specialty and private label brand coffee for a wide range of customers including Starbucks and Folgers, is seeking concessions from the workers that would reduce pay by between 25 percent and 50 percent, increase workers health insurance premium costs, and reduce overtime pay. The company also wants to stop contributing to the workers’ 401(k) savings plan.

“I’ve worked at this plant for 41 years and for Maximus Coffee since 2006 when they purchased the plant from Maxwell House,” said Robert Barnes.  “I haven’t gotten a real raise since 2009, and don’t know how I’ll be able to support my family if my wages and benefits are reduced.”

Barnes is one of 250 Local 455 members who are on strike against Maximus.

Texas is a right to work for less state, so not all of the workers belong to the union, but about 90 percent are union members and are on strike.

The strike began at midnight on October 10.

Maximus is trying to keep the plant open by using supervisors and temporary workers.

The company has told its customers that production will not be interrupted by the strike, but it’s difficult to tell whether the company’s assurance will hold up.

Workers on the picket line said that the smell of coffee is still coming from the plant, but they haven’t seen any steam, suggesting that the plant is not operating near full capacity.

Rick Alleman secretary treasurer for Local 455 told the Houston Chronicle that the concessions that Maximus is seeking could cost some workers from between $10,000 and $15,000 a year in pay.

“Maximus Coffee workers in Houston are simply trying to protect middle class jobs and their benefits after working hard to make their company profitable,” said Bill Hopkins, Local 455 president. “I hope this strike sends a strong message to the company and moves the negotiation process to a successful conclusion.”

Maximus Coffee Group is privately owned by the de Aldecoa family. As such, it is not required to report a financial statement. Cortera Business Directory estimates that Maximus’ annual sales range from $25 million to $75 million.

Sue Mann, special assistant to Hopkins, told the Houston Press that Maximus concession demands were not the result of a business downturn. By all accounts, Maximus was doing well before the strike and had picked up some new business.

Mann attributed Maximus’ concession demands to greed and to the company’s assessment that the workers wouldn’t fight to protect their wages and benefits.

“I think (Carlo de Aldecoa Bueno, president of Maximus) didn’t believe that these workers would take him on,” said Mann to the Houston Press. “This plant hasn’t had a strike before, and that’s a good thing. But at some point you have to either stand or let whatever happens happen.”

1984’s Big Brother alive at Nissan auto plant in Mississippi

A report by the Mississippi NAACP and a prominent international labor attorney shows anti-union tactics used by Nissan management in Canton, Mississippi to be eerily similar to those of the notorious Big Brother, the fictional dictator of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

According to Choosing Rights by Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, and Lance Compa, an international labor law scholar at Cornell University, “Nissan (at the Canton plant) has sustained a campaign of psychological pressure against organizing rights.”

The company’s anti-union campaign consists of surveillance and intimidation of union supporters, a ubiquitous set of television monitors that broadcast pro-company messages, which from time to time include subtle and not so subtle anti-union messages, and retaliation against and isolation of union supporters. On company premises, management has censored the pro-union message while allowing only anti-union propaganda to be presented in company sponsored meetings.

The report goes on to say that, Nissan also implies that if workers choose to become union members the plant will be shut down and work moved elsewhere.

These tactics, say the report, violate internationally recognized labor standards that Nissan claims to support and practice

The findings of the report are based on extensive interviews with Nissan workers. The UAW commissioned the report, but UAW staff and officials were not present at any of the interviews.

The authors offered Nissan a chance to reply to the charges against it and published those replies in their report.

While pay and benefits at Nissan’s Canton plant exceed those of most industrial jobs in Mississippi, workers have a number of concerns that led some to contact the UAW and ask for its help in forming a union.

Some of these concerns include, on-the-job favoritism, health and safety problems, lack of input about how to improve their jobs and production, and the company’s tendency to blame workers unfairly for product defects.

Nissan at Canton also relies heavily on temporary workers who make $12 an hour, well below the rate of full-time workers.

Perhaps most galling is the fact that workers in Canton make $2 an hour less than Nissan workers in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Pro-union workers hoped to address these collective concerns through collective efforts, but Nissan has tried to thwart their efforts.

One way that Nissan tries to blunt organizing is by broadcasting an anti-union message on television monitors throughout the plant.

“Every negative thing about Detroit or the UAW goes on the monitor,” said Rafael Martinez in an interview with the authors. “They want to make us think that Chevy is in trouble, and it’s all because of the UAW. Everything is negativity, negativity, negativity. They cherry-pick the news they want to present. Nothing is on there when UAW members get a bonus or a UAW plant adds a shift.”

These messages are presented in continuous loops that makes them inescapable.

Nissan also holds captive audience meetings where attendance is required. At these meetings only anti-union messages are allowed.

“I was one of the people who called the UAW in 2004,” said Rosalind Essex to the interviewers. “A bunch of us were upset about the way some things were going on in the plant, the way they treated people. After union reps came and talked with some of us, the company set up roundtable meetings for everybody. We had to go to these meetings.”

“My section’s roundtable was during the morning shift.” said Jeff Moore. “First the plant manager showed a slide show on how the UAW messed up the auto industry, and if they come here they will mess up Nissan. Then the department manager talked about UAW plants downsizing while Nissan is putting new vehicles into Canton, like if we have a union they will pull out production. It was completely biased.”

Workers also say that Nissan has taken note of who the union supporters are and keeps track of them.

“Whenever anybody asked a question (at the roundtable meeting), the HR rep took notes,” Moore said. “It was obvious they were keeping track of people’s ideas about the union. A lot of people had questions but they didn’t ask because they were afraid the company would retaliate.”

Nissan’s actions, write Johnson and Compa, violate Principle 3 of the United Nation’s Global Compact, a set of principles that socially responsible businesses agree to abide by and to which Nissan purports to adhere.

Principle 3 states that “businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”

Union supporters at Canton aren’t asking for anything more than what Nissan claims to stand for. They want an open and honest discussion about the benefits of union membership and the right to choose whether to belong to a union without interference from the company. In short, they want fairness at Nissan.

More adjunct faculty vote to join unions

Adjunct faculty at two universities in September voted to join two different unions. At another university, a union election has been delayed by the lockout of government employees who supervise union representation elections.

Adjuncts at Duquesne University’s McNulty College voted 50-9 to join the United Steelworkers (USW); however, the university has said that it will not recognize the union pending its appeal of an earlier ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.

By a vote of 128-57, adjunct faculty at Tufts University in the Boston area voted to join SEIU, and they expect to begin negotiating a new contract soon.

Instructors at Bentley University near Boston also voted in a union representation election. Their ballots were supposed to be counted on October 4. But the shutdown of the federal government has caused staff at the NLRB who would normally count the ballots to be locked out.

After instructors at Duquesne petitioned for a union election, administrators appealed to the NLRB seeking to stop the election from proceeding arguing that the school’s affiliation with the Catholic Church exempted it from US labor laws. The NLRB denied the appeal, but the university has continued to press its case for an exemption on religious grounds.

The university’s case was undercut recently by the Association of Pittsburg Priests. The association on October 8 published a letter in the Pittsburg Post Gazette reaffirming its support for the adjuncts’ effort to seek a living wage and to organize a union.

“We believe that it is both appropriate and necessary to question and challenge recent assertions by Duquesne University that it should be granted a ‘religious exemption’, from the sanction and procedures of US labor law in order to block adjunct teaching faculty’s ability to organize, form a union, and collectively bargain,” reads the letter.

The challenges facing part-time faculty at Duquesne were driven home by the recent death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, who taught French at Duquesne.

After teaching for 25 years, Vojtko’s contract was not renewed last spring.

She died on September 1 of a heart attack. At the time of her death Vojtko was 83 years old and living in poverty.

The situation for adjuncts at Tufts is not nearly as drastic as their counterparts at Duquesne.

Their pay is higher than most adjuncts, and they have some health care benefits.

But they still face job insecurity, and the Tufts administration has been seeking takeaways.

Their pay has been frozen since 2008, and the university has changed their pay structure.

Andy Klatt, a Spanish instructor at Tufts told Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Education that the organizing drive was a defensive move.

“The university has already started taking things away from us,” said Klatt to Flaherty. “We’re  relatively better off than others, but there certainly seems to be a desire on  the part of the university to cut us down to size.”

Flaherty reports that when bargaining begins, the union will seek more job security, a raise, and equitable pay per course.

Tufts joins a number of urban based institutions of higher learning where adjuncts have voted to join SEIU.

Their effort is part of SEIU’s metro strategy, which seeks to use the power of already existing SEIU locals in metropolitan areas such as Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington DC to attract and organize adjuncts in their respective areas.

SEIU created Adjunct Action to carry out the metro strategy.

Bentley University is another of the institutions where Adjunct Action’s campaign has taken hold.

Adjuncts last spring petitioned for a union election because like other adjuncts across the country they don’t know from semester to semester whether they will have work or if they do, how much work they will have.

Bentley adjuncts also want better pay and affordable health care. Adjunct faculty have access to the university’s health plan, but Bentley doesn’t pay anything for the premiums.

“Better pay, benefits, and job security for adjuncts will directly transfer to a rising quality of education for our student body,” said Elaine Saunders, an instructor to The Vanguard, the Bentley student newspaper. “Also, we have had support from full-time faculty who care about the disparity because they know we are equally dedicated to our students.”

Voting on union representation began in September, but  since 1,600 NLRB staff have been forced off the job by federal government shutdown, ballots have not been counted.

Sweden’s pension funds drop Walmart investments; Portland suspends further investments

Citing Walmart’s systemic abuse of workers’ rights, four state-managed Swedish public pension funds became the latest in a growing number of public pension funds divesting themselves of Walmart stocks and bonds.

Prior to the divestment decision, Handels, the Swedish union of retail workers, wrote a letter requesting a review of the funds’ Walmart investments to determine whether they matched the funds’ social responsibility goals.

“It’s a welcome and wise decision,” said Lars-Anders Häggström, head of  Handels to The Local, “Our union members have expressed astonishment when they found out their pension savings were invested in Walmart. If we influenced the AP Funds’ decision today, we are of course delighted.”

Closer to home, the Portland, Oregon City Council has voted to stop investing in Walmart at least until the end of 2014. City Commissioner Steve Novick said that the city council took the action because of the retail giant’s “voluminous” record of poor corporate  behavior.

Sweden’s public pensions, known as the AP Fund, are an amalgamation of six different funds worth a total of $140 billion. Four of those funds had invested in Walmart.

The AP Fund has an Ethical Council whose mission is to ensure that  the funds invest in companies that act responsibly toward the larger community.

In its letter to the Ethical Council, Handels said that Walmart had stifled employee efforts to improve their working conditions through organizing and collective action.  Walmart’s interference, according to Handels, is a violation of the workers’ right to freedom of assembly and association established by the  United Nation’s International Labor Organization.

Walmart recently fired workers like Carlton Smith of Los Angeles and Colby Harris of Dallas for participating in legal unfair labor practices strikes and for organizing fellow workers. Smith and Harris are both members of OUR Walmart, a group of Walmart associates organizing for change on the job. Other members of OUR Walmart have also been fired or disciplined for trying to improve working conditions and for speaking out for change.

The Ethical Council had opened a dialogue with Walmart in an attempt to find common ground that would allow the funds to continue to hold investments in the company, but after extensive talks, the council reported to the funds’ managers that “Walmart continues to fall short of (the) dialogue(‘s) objectives.”

“We welcome this important decision by Sweden’s pension funds, and the work of our affiliate union, Handels, in making it happen,” said Phillip Jennings, the general secretary of UNI, a worldwide confederation of commercial worker unions. “This is yet more evidence that Walmart values its profits over the human rights of its own workforce.

“The world’s pension funds are deserting Walmart in droves, and rightly so,” added Jennings. “It is about time the company showed the sort of responsibility that should come with being the world’s biggest employer.”

In 2006, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, which at the time was worth $240 billion, divested itself of Walmart of  $400 million worth of the company’s stock. According to Stacy Mitchell, writing for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, the Norwegian decision was based on a report by its own ethical council.

After examining Walmart’s practices in North America, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and China, the council concluded that  continuing to invest in Walmart would make the fund complicit “in serious, systematic or gross violations of norms” including the forcing employees to work overtime without compensation, discrimination against women,  hazardous working conditions, and “aggressive anti-union tactics.”

In June 2013, PGGM NV, which manages the public pension fund in the Netherlands, added Walmart to its exclusion list and dropped its $183 million investment in Walmart from its portfolio because the company would not address PGGM’s concerns about Walmart’s poor labor relations.

According to a PGGM press release, “The policy pursued by Walmart in the US restricts employees’ opportunities to organize themselves in trade unions. This is not only contrary to fundamental principles and rights at work (ILO), but also contrary to the codes Walmart has compiled for its own suppliers.”

In Portland, the City Council voted unanimously on October 2 to temporarily cease investing in Walmart.

Commissioner Novick, who proposed the investment ban, cited the company’s bribery of Mexican leaders, its aggressive anti-union actions, and its decision to reduce health insurance benefits for employees.

The city, however, did not divest itself of Walmart investments.  In fact In September, it purchased $20 million worth of Walmart bonds.

Unions mobilize members to fight federal lockout

Unions representing locked out government workers are mobilizing members to urge leaders of the US House of Representatives to allow a vote on a Senate resolution that will end the shutdown of the federal government.

More than 800,000 federal workers have been locked out since the shutdown began on October 1.

The shutdown is the latest blow to a federal workforce charged with protecting lives and property, ensuring the health of the nation, providing essential social services, and promoting the quality of life.

David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said that federal workers have endured the brunt of the sacrifices caused by “manufactured” budget crises.

Federal workers’ pay has been frozen for three years, last spring federal workers were furloughed to help pay for the sequestration budget cuts, and they are constantly confronted with the possibility of permanent layoffs.

Now because a minority members within in the House of Representatives whose goal, according to Cox, is “anybody’s  guess,” have refused to vote on a Senate resolution that would keep the government operating, half the government workforce has been locked out and the other half is expected to work without a paycheck.

AFGE is mobilizing locals across the country to organize members to attend meetings with members of Congress to urge them to support an up or down vote on the Senate resolution.

AFGE members and other unionized federal workers will be at an October 4 rally in Washington organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

In urging members to attend October 4 rally,  Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said that federal employees have suffered enough.

“Federal employees have mortgages and kids in college and elderly family members that need care,” said Kelley. “Because of the sequester cuts, which were also the result of this Congress not doing its job, many of them have already been sent home from work without pay over the last few months. And now, they are out of work and don’t know when they will be able to go back to do the important work they do for the public.”

In addition to supporting an up or down vote on the Senate resolution, NTEU is mobilizing members to support H.R. 3223, a bill that the House of Representatives will take up on October 4.

If passed, the bill will ensure that furloughed workers will be paid once they are allowed to return to work.

“Remind your members of Congress that you have already had your pay frozen for three straight years and many of your colleagues have been required to pay more toward their retirement benefits,” said a message to members on the NTEU website. “Moreover, many of you have been furloughed several days this year already as a result of sequestration.”

What is sometimes lost in the media coverage of the shutdown is the important services that federal employees provide and the impact that the shutdown is having on these services.

At a recent media conference on the shutdown carried by C-Span, some furloughed employees explained the impact.

Amy Fritz of the National Weather Service builds computer models that helps predict and track tropical storms and hurricanes.

“I can’t go to work now,” said Fritz. “It’s hurricane season and if something should happenI can’t do my job.”

Fritz, who holds two masters degrees, said that without a paycheck, she will have a hard time repaying $130,000 in student loans she took out to finance her education.

Marcello Del Canto, a budget analyst for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, said that because of the shutdown, millions of people who need substance abuse and mental health services can’t get them today.

Carter Kinsey, a scientist with the National Science Foundation, said that she is proud to be a federal employee, but that the shutdown and other recent sacrifices demanded of federal employees is “very discouraging.”

She is concerned that the sequestration and shutdown will make federal work unattractive to highly qualified people like those with whom she works.

Steve Hopkins of the Environmental Protection Agency said that he went into government work to provide a service mandated by Congress, but now he can’t do it because a minority in Congress won’t act to end the shutdown.

He added that recent furloughs at his agency caused by sequestration cost employees an average of $2,500.

“President Obama has promised that he will not negotiate to end this crisis, and we strongly support that position,” said AFGE’s Cox. “Recent similar standoffs have been resolved largely on the backs of federal employees, taking away our pay, retirement, and jobs.  This time, we expect the administration to hold firm, and resist the temptation to give in by cutting federal retirement or Social Security.  There is no justification for using federal employees to pay ransom.”

NC educators plan job action for Nov. 4

Fed up with state cuts to public school budgets, a group of North Carolina educators are planning a job action on November 4 to protest the cuts.

The teachers organizing the job action have created a Facebook event page called “Nov. 4th Teacher Walkout Day.”

Teachers were denied a pay raise by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican controlled General Assembly, but the walkout is about more than a pay raise. It’s about the state’s wavering commitment to public education and public schools.

The new state budget reduces state funding for public education by $500 million, siphons public funds to private schools, and increases public school classroom sizes.

The state’s main teacher association has distanced itself from the movement.

In a statement about the planned walkout , the North Carolina Association of Educators said that the planned job action “is the consequence of the General Assembly and Governor McCrory for failing to live up to their constitutional requirements to enact budgets and policies that provide for a sound, basic education for all students in North Carolina’s public schools.”

But the job action is “NOT an NCAE endorsed or sanctioned activity.”

NCAE said that it would continue to hold politicians accountable for their budget cuts.

Some news reports have labeled the planned walkout as a strike, something forbidden by North Carolina law.

But organizers of the walkout characterize it as a job action that could take many forms.

“Take a stand on November 4th and get your voice heard in any way you feel comfortable,” reads the description of action on the organizers’ website.  “For some it may be taking a personal day and marching downtown.  Others may prefer to overload stakeholders in our state and education with emails and calls.  Make calls to news sources and government agencies or passing out fliers explaining the condition that our students and educators are facing. The goal is to get the word out and have our voices heard.  We encourage all citizens to speak out particularly on this day, November 4th.  Parents, students, retired teachers, teachers who have left the profession… all are welcome to participate in this event!”

The group’s Facebook page is filled with comments about the reasons that some teachers will be taking part in the action.

But they all can be tied back to the state leaders’ public education budget cuts, which lift the cap on class sizes, eliminate 9,000 educator positions in public schools, eliminate 10,000 Pre-K slots for young children, eliminate incentive pay for advanced degrees, and divert $50 million in public funds to private schools.

The budget also does not include a pay raise for teachers.

“We haven’t had a substantial pay raise since 2008,” said a special education teacher last summer to NEA Today after the budget was passed. “I work a second job. I’m going to have to look at my finances and see if I have to work more [hours] at my second job. I understand the need to be fiscally responsible, but at the same time you can’t say, ‘Oh we’re going to be fiscally responsible with education, but not with other things.’ It needs to be fair.”

According to NEA Today, many North Carolina teachers work a second job to make ends meet.

Since 2005, North Carolina teacher pay has been in a race to the bottom.

In 2005, state average teacher pay ranked 27th nationally. By 2012, it had plunged to 46th, making it much more difficult to attract a highly qualified educators to the profession.

As can be expected, community reaction to the job action has varied widely.

Some have criticized it, but others have embraced it.

“We spend $12,000 to educate a student and $40,000 to incarcerate that poorly educated student,” said the Rev. William D. Burton in a comment on the Facebook page “If teachers were given $40,000 per yr. per student, we may not need any prisons at all!”

” I am a retired educator who is heartbroken for the teachers and their students,” said Carolyn Pruitt. “All the decision makers want is data collection… When do the teachers get to plan and teach? When do the children get to learn? And don’t even get me started on the lack of funds and  reduction of valuable teacher assistants.”

NBC loses fight to misclassify workers

A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board restored wages, benefits, and the right of union membership to 100 writers, photographers, and editors at NBC.

The NLRB on September 26 upheld a ruling two years ago by the NLRB’s Region 2 office in New York City. The Region 2 office found that NBC had erred when it misclassified the workers.

Five years ago, NBC told the workers that it was consolidating their work and creating new non-union jobs–content producers.

But the workers continued to do the same work for lower pay and fewer benefits.

CWA-NABET, the workers’ union, responded by initiating a case with the NLRB.

“The NLRB decision means that NBC workers and their families finally are getting justice,” said Jim Joyce, president of CWA-NABET. “NBC must restore the wages, benefits and bargaining rights that these workers lost. It’s a great day for fairness.”

The labor board’s ruling also applies to workers hired after the company imposed the new job classifications.

Joyce also noted how important it is to have a fully functioning NLRB.

“The NLRB is now back to issuing important decisions and giving workers a path to justice,” said Joyce.

Republicans in the US Senate at the behest of US Chamber of Commerce had been holding up President Obama’s appointments to the NLRB, effectively crippling its ability to enforce labor law.

A coalition led by CWA and the Democracy Initiative successfully broke the Republican filibuster that kept the Senate from voting on the appointees.

“This (decision) shows the value of having a fully functioning, five-member NLRB. CWA and our coalition partners made that possible,” said Larry Cohen, CWA president.

Those affected by the NLRB ruling are content providers at NBC and NBC owned stations in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.