Sunday, May 31, 2009

Union wages, nonunion wages, and total wages

There are several ways that unionization's impact on wages goes beyond the workers covered by collective bargaining to affect nonunion wages and labor practices. For example, in industries and occupations where a strong core of workplaces are unionized, nonunion employers will frequently meet union standards or, at least, improve their compensation and labor practices beyond what they would have provided if there were no union presence. This dynamic is sometimes called the "union threat effect," the degree to which nonunion workers get paid more because their employers are trying to forestall unionization.

There is a more general mechanism (without any specific "threat") in which unions have affected nonunion pay and practices: unions have set norms and established practices that become more generalized throughout the economy, thereby improving pay and working conditions for the entire workforce. This has been especially true for the 75% of workers who are not college educated.

Many "fringe" benefits, such as pensions and health insurance, were first provided in the union sector

Union grievance procedures, which provide "due process" in the workplace, have been mimicked in many nonunion workplaces.

Union wage-setting, which has gained exposure through media coverage, has frequently established standards of what workers generally, including many nonunion workers, expect from their employers.

Until, the mid-1980s, in fact, many sectors of the economy followed the "pattern" set in collective bargaining agreements. As labor law enforcement decreased due to anti-union policies of political foes, their ability to set broader patterns has diminished. However, unions remain a source of innovation in work practices (e.g., training, worker participation) and in benefits (e.g., child care, work-time flexibility, sick leave).

The impact of unions on wage dynamics and the overall wage structure is felt most in the markets where unions are seeking to organize and the nonunion employers affected are those in competition with unionized employers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How Unions Help All Workers - Part One

by Lawrence Mishel and Matthew Walters

Unions have a substantial impact on the compensation and work lives of both unionized and non-unionized workers. This report presents current data on unions' effect on wages, fringe benefits, total compensation, pay inequality, and workplace protections.

Some of the conclusions are:

Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.

Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.

Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.

The impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages.

The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.

Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.

Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.

Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).

Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job.

Unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation.

Unions are an intermediary institution that provide a necessary complement to legislated benefits and protections.

This is part one of a continuing series of articles on this subject.

Support your union - you will be helping yourself and all workers by doing it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend: Remember What It Stands For

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Study Says Antiunion Tactics Are Becoming More Common


A new study by a Cornell University professor of 1,004 union organizing drives has found that employers threatened to close plants in 57 percent of the campaigns and threatened to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent.

The study also found that employers fired pro-union workers in 34 percent of the campaigns. And it asserted that management’s antiunion tactics had helped pushed down the unionization rate to 12.4 percent, from 22 percent three decades ago.

Titled “No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing,” the report is likely to be heavily cited, quoted, praised and denounced in the debate over whether Congress should enact legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

The study found that “the aspirations for representation are being thwarted by a coercive and punitive climate for organizing that goes unrestrained due to a fundamentally flawed regulatory regime.”

The author of the study, Kate Bronfenbrenner, is director of labor education research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and has often been criticized by business groups for her pro-union positions.

Ms. Bronfenbrenner said her research had been reviewed and approved by her peers.

“I am an objective scholar,” she said. “There are no neutrals in this field of academia. I used the highest, methodological standards possible.”

She said her study was based on a random sample of 1,004 unionization elections from early 1999 to late 2003 and relied on a review of National Labor Relations Board cases and documents, as well as surveys of 562 lead union organizers.

In 63 percent of the elections, the study found, supervisors used one-on-one meetings to interrogate workers about whether they or co-workers supported a union. (It is illegal under federal law to interrogate workers about such matters.)

In 54 percent, she found, supervisors used the meetings to threaten workers.

Her study found that employers used 10 or more types of antiunion tactics in 49 percent of unionization drives, up from the 26 percent she found in a similar study 12 years ago.

Why are business owners afraid to bargain with their employees as a group?
What are they afraid of?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Point of Order: Unions And Their Members Give Back To Their Communities Every Day

Organized Labor gives MORE back to their communities than most people realize. This goes on all over the country. The fact is that we just don't publicize it. There are hundreds of donations of money amounting to thousands of dollars to community, youth groups and schools. That is in addition to a massive amount of volunteer work done for the needy each year by all of the unions in the Hudson Valley and yet - you have some local people and even some politicians, who still attempt to discredit labor.

There are endless ways that we can all help each other in the Hudson Valley if we support each other.

Support the unions, support the middleclass and support good wages. The return on that support is the best investment you can make for the local community.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mayor Grinch Out of Control

Everyone knows the story of the Grinch. What is going on now in the City of Kingston is TRULY UNBELIEVABLE.
Jeanne Edwards, an employee of the Department of Public Works who filed a sexual harassment suit against the city last year has been laid off by Mayor James Sottile.

Ms. Edwards received the bad news in a letter on Friday from Kathleen Thomas, executive secretary in the city’s Civil Service Office stating that “Recent changes in the economy have forced us to make some difficult decisions here at the city of Kingston. “Therefore, it is with regret that I inform you that we are eliminating your position as code enforcement officer effective May 29, 2009.”

“I think that this is a disgraceful move coming from a mayor with a disgraceful history regarding his workforce,” said Troy Ashdown, the vice president of the CSEA local that represents city public works employees. “This mayor acts unstable at times, and once again we are seeing that.”

It sure looks like something is terribly wrong. If you have been following the history here - the Mayor tried to cut Edwards to part-time in his budget proposal last January.

The Common Council did the math and realized that the savings to taxpayers from cutting Edwards to part-time would amount to SAVING ONLY PENNIES.

Many residents spoke out in favor of keeping Edwards in a full time time position and in the end the Common Council voted to fund her position at full time in the budget they approved.

If the position was budgeted for - how can the Grinch steal Christmas again after the fact?? Something smells rotten here.

Edwards, Troy Ashdown and other union leaders of the CSEA are calling the action retaliatory and said that they will pursue legal action against Sottile for her being laid off.

Edwards is one of two city employees Sottile has laid off recently. The other was in the Parks and Recreation Department. A common practice in retaliatory layoffs is to combine or bundle the real victim in with another employee or employees.

“I am not looking at names,” Sottile said. “I am looking at positions. The task that she (Edwards) does will be done by somebody else.”

Ashdown said Edwards layoff may add fuel to the sexual harassment suit filed by her and two other women who worked for the Department of Public Works at the time. That is an additional cost that will far exceed the cost of the already budgeted position.

Does this really make any sense?
Oh and well,well,well - Sottile is on vacation this week, golfing in Florida.

According to the Kingston Freeman:

Alderman Thomas Hoffay said on Friday that he was not aware Edwards had been laid off and that he was under the impression the city’s retirement incentive and voluntary furlough programs had eliminated the need for job cuts.

This gives their (union) argument some credibility when it is just one person getting something in the mail,” said Hoffay, D-Ward 2.

Sottile, a fellow Democrat, responded by saying Hoffay “doesn’t understand the finances of the city.

“Unfortunately, all indicators are ... that (what has been done so far) isn’t enough,” the mayor said.

Alderman Michael Madsen, D-Ward 9, described himself as “speechless” when told Edwards had been laid off. Asked if he thought the move was retaliatory, he said: “How could any conscientious person think otherwise?”

Alderwoman Ann Marie DiBella, one of two women on the Common Council, declined to comment about the layoff. “I just as soon stay out of it,” the Ward 5 Democrat said.

That is NOT an acceptable answer.
Her mouth is always going about everything else. Let's hear it now. Speak up, step up and be heard - even if it means you must- God forbid - question the Mayor Grinch.

It is very well known how hard that is for YOU to do.

Where too are the rest of the members of the Common Council on this issue? The people expect an answer. Is this how Ms. Edwards would have been treated if you were in charge? If this involved your own sisters? Wives? Mothers?

Your silence is deafening.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Earth To Glenn

The Ulster County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee has approved contracts for ancillary workers in both the Ulster County Sheriffs Department and the Ulster County Community College.

Committee Chairman Alan Lomita noted that the three and a quarter percent wage increases were already anticipated for and included in the County budget.

The number of workers involved was much smaller than other County employees units and the increases were right in line with what has been approved in the past for the larger groups.

To his credit, Lomita reasoned that, “I didn’t really think it was fair to use them as sacrificial lambs.”

The only committee member to vote against the increase was Republican Minority Leader Glenn Noonan. He stated that the County could not afford to give this group the three and a quarter percent wage increases given the current economy.

Earth to Glenn, the money was in the budget for this already.

It is easy to try to pick pocket the little guy for what probably amounts to a personal burden of .06 cents a year to each taxpayer and make believe you are a fiscal genius.

In a multi million dollar budget, we think you could save somehow, someplace and sometime without taking it out of the mouths of the working people - especially after the money was put aside for it.

Some of our "leaders" have only two talents - fighting with the other party and taking away from the working person.

......and both of those acts are getting old.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Global Investors Managing $372 Billion in Assets Endorse the Employee Free Choice Act

Investors in the U.S. and Abroad Consider Passage of the Act an "Economic Imperative"

May 11, 2009 - New York, NY - Yesterday, an international coalition of major institutional investors, managing $372 billion across the global economy, sent a letter to Senate and House leaders endorsing the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 560 and H.R. 1409).

The investor endorsement brings a new business voice to the debate over U.S. labor law reform, breaking sharply with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other corporate trade associations lobbying against the bill.

"As investors, we believe constructive labor relations are essential for improving productivity, efficiency and workplace safety," said Steven Heim, Senior Vice President and Director of Social Research and Advocacy for Boston Common Asset Management, LLC.

"We believe the proposed legislation would help appropriately rebalance labor-management relations and better protect workers if they face unlawful conduct by employers when exercising their workplace rights."

In their letter, the investors underscored the economic considerations in their endorsement of the legislation, noting that "the decline in unionization in the United States, exacerbated by a variety of anti-union responses from companies and weaker U.S. labor law, has damaged the fragile relationship between management and employees and depressed the prospects for sustained economic recovery."

"The Employee Free Choice Act is an investment in our shared economic future," said Adam Kanzer, Managing Director and General Counsel at Domini Social Investments LLC. "The Act will help to stabilize our economy, both in the United States and abroad, by establishing a more balanced relationship between labor and management. Today, American workers are producing more and receiving less. This is an unsustainable trend that creates material risks for employees, investors and the global economy.

By more effectively protecting workers' fundamental human rights, the Act would help to reverse these damaging trends."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ulster County Residents - Check Your Shorts

Last night, the Dutchess County Lawmakers approved the installation of their Electrical Licensing Board. The actual licensing law was approved in the fall of 2008. The board will have its first meeting this month to elect a Chairman and begin to lay out their plan to issue licenses.

Ulster residents should be aware that the only place left now in the ENTIRE Hudson Valley Region for the uninsured, unqualified, unlicensed, fly by night electricians (some who know just enough to be dangerous) to make a living is in - where else - Ulster County.

Be very careful when hiring an electrician after next month. Ask for insurance. Ask for qualifications. Ask for an IBEW electrician to do the work.

The influx of unqualified electricians into Unlicensed Ulster County will increase dramatically by June.

When you ask for an IBEW electrician to do the work, the contractor is GUARANTEED to be an electrical license holder in the Hudson Valley and will use ONLY electricians who are certified by NYS as Journeyman Electricans.

When you lights go out or worse yet, your house goes up in flames - you will wish you did.

The next thing you should ask for is an explanation from your Ulster County Legislators about why they are letting you hang out to dry like this.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Which Side Are You On?

This is what it takes for people to demand respect and justice at their workplace. The Employee Free Choice Act would have already given these workers the right to bargain for better conditions and wages with their employer.

Notice the politicians at the end supporting the workers efforts to organize.

How many Hudson Valley politicians who look for the support of labor and working people during election time would REALLY show their face and voice their support when the workers need them?

The fact on that is all would give some and some would give all, but most would give nothing.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Corporate Greed Gets The Welcome Mat In Kingston

Looks like there are already some issues at the new Walgreens under construction in Kingston.

Seems that Walgreens has challenged the IBEW to a "duel" by using a contractor that undermines the wages and benefits of electricians in the area. Here we see that sometimes even local contractors can be greedy and pay their workers low wages. This should be a good one.

The Mayor obviously forgot to mention to Walgreens that he wanted to create good, well paying local jobs. Looks like it's gonna be a hot summer.

Here is the handbill that HVLR obtained that is being passed passed out on the streets of Kingston. A little detective work by the IBEW shows just how far and deep corporate greed goes.

Are You Paying Too Much At Walgreens?

Walgreen Co., owner of Walgreens Pharmacy, has agreed to pay $35 million to settle a federal lawsuit accusing it of defrauding Medicaid by switching patients onto more expensive drugs.

The Federal Government sued Walgreens based on the testimony of whistleblower Bernard Lisitza. Lisitza, a pharmacist, accused the company of secretly switching patients to more expensive versions of the heartburn drug ranitidine (the generic form of Zantac), the Parkinson's drug selegiline (a generic version of Eldepryl) and a generic form of the anti-depressant Prozac. By making minor changes, such as giving patients tablets instead of capsules, the company was able to collect more money in Medicaid reimbursements.

These changes were widespread, Lisitza said, and not made for any medical reason.

"Switching between tablets and capsules to deliver medications might seem harmless, but when that is done solely to increase profit and in violation of federal and state regulations that are designed to protect patients, pharmacies must know that they are subjecting themselves to the possibility of triple damages, civil penalties and legal fees," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

The violations allegedly took place in 42 states and Puerto Rico and resulted in the public health program paying up to 400 percent more than necessary.

While stopping short of admitting guilt, Walgreens agreed in the settlement to enter a five-year compliance agreement to make sure that no more medically unnecessary drug switches happen from now on.
The agreement will be overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Walgreens will also pay $18.6 million to the U.S. government and $16.4 million to various state Medicaid programs.

This Handbill is brought to you by IBEW Local 363 in an effort to inform the public in regard to Walgreens and not to stop any employee or any person working for any employer from working or making deliveries and not to organize Walgreens employees.

Kingston consumers should pay close attention about this "bait ansd switch" trick with their medicine and prescriptions.

Paying 400% more for your medicine is nothing to sneeze about.

Walgreens Pharmacy / Bad Neighbor!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When Is Lunch?


Section 162 of the New York State Labor Law provides as follows:

Time allowed for meals

Every person employed in or in connection with a factory shall be allowed at least sixty minutes for the noonday meal.

Every person employed in or in connection with a mercantile or other establishment or occupation coming under the provisions of this chapter shall be allowed at least thirty minutes for the noonday meal.

The noon day meal period is recognized as extending from eleven o'clock in the morning to two o'clock in the afternoon.

An employee who works a shift of more than six hours which extends over the noonday meal period is entitled to at least thirty minutes off within that period for the meal period.

Every person employed for a period or shift starting before eleven o'clock in the morning and continuing later than seven o'clock in the evening shall be allowed an additional meal period of at least twenty minutes between five and seven o'clock in the evening.

Every person employed for a period or shift of more than six hours starting between the hours of one o'clock in the afternoon and six o'clock in the morning, shall be allowed at least sixty minutes for a meal period when employed in or in connection with a factory, and forty-five minutes for a meal period when employed in or in connection with a mercantile or other establishment or occupation coming under the provision of this chapter, at a time midway between the beginning and end of such employment.

The commissioner may permit a shorter time to be fixed for meal periods than hereinbefore provided. The permit therefore shall be in writing and shall be kept conspicuously posted in the main entrance of the establishment. Such permit may be revoked at any time.

In administering this statute, the Department applies the following interpretations and guidelines:

Employee Coverage. Section 162 applies to every "person" in any establishment or occupation covered by the Labor Law. Accordingly, all categories of workers are covered, including white collar management staff.

Shorter Meal Periods. The Department will permit a shorter meal period of not less than 30 minutes as a matter of course, without application by the employer, so long as there is no indication of hardship to employees. A meal period of not less than 20 minutes will be permitted only in special or unusual cases after investigation and issuance of a special permit.

One Employee Shift. In some instances where only one person is on duty or is the only one in a specific occupation, it is customary for the employee to eat on the job without being relieved. The Department of Labor will accept these special situations as compliance with Section 162 where the employee voluntarily consents to the arrangements. However, an uninterrupted meal period must be afforded to every employee who requests this from an employer.

For additional information or assistance, contact the nearest office of the Division of Labor Standards under the heading of NYS Department of Labor, Albany NY.