The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

News Digest

Work News for Week Ending May 30

by Brendan Coyne

Our weekly rundown of labor, money and business stories... @ Air-traffic controllers @ Laborers Union to leave AFL @ Machinists and NW Airlines @ Home Depot oversight push @ Congress on mine safety

FAA, air traffic controllers negotiations still stalled

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The nation’s air-traffic controllers union last week urged Congress to intervene in its negotiation with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Nearly two months ago, the FAA declared an "impasse" in negotiations with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) after the two parties failed to reach an accord on staffing levels and pay for new hires. Under federal law, if Congress does not act and the two sides cannot reach an agreement by June 5, some 60 days after the impasse was declared, the FAA proposal would automatically go into effect.

In a statement last Tuesday, NATCA President John Carr called on legislators to bring the Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act to a floor vote. The Act would force the FAA and NATCA into binding arbitration rather than permit the FAA to impose its plan on the air-traffic controllers.

NATCA has not indicated whether its members would undertake any walkout or other job actions were the unilateral FAA offer to be enacted.

Laborers union leaving AFL-CIO

The Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) is set to leave the AFL-CIO this Thursday, officials informed the umbrella labor group last week. Already a part of the dissident Change to Win (CTW) union coalition, LIUNA is disaffiliating from the larger organization to "place [its] full efforts and focus on growth," spokesperson Richard Greer told the Associated Press.

LIUNA is a founding member of CTW, along with SEIU, the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Unite Here. The union represents about 500,000 active workers in the US and Canada.

The Laborers union’s departure will cut about 365,000 dues-paying members from the AFL-CIO, a spokesperson for the organization told the Chicago Tribune.


Machinists, Northwest Airlines reach tentative deal, set strike vote

Preparing for the worst, the union representing about 5,600 baggage handlers and other workers at bankrupt Northwest Airlines announced it had reached a tentative deal with the company. The agreement came just hours before a bankruptcy judge was set to rule on whether Northwest could void its current contract with International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

If approved, the revised contract would permit Northwest to trim over 700 jobs, cut pay by 11.5 percent across the board, take away one week of paid vacation and three holidays each year, and halve the company’s contribution to retiree health insurance. The union has undertaken a simultaneous strike vote should ratification of the agreement by membership fail.

In announcing the tentative agreement to members, IAM District 143 President Bobby DePace said: "The negotiating committee unanimously recommends ratification of the agreement to avoid the elimination of our contract. We are not recommending ratification because the terms are favorable, but because the alternative is worse."


Union move against Home Depot execs falls short

A plan by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to challenge top executives at Home Depot fell through last week as shareholders re-elected all eleven company directors Wednesday. Days before the vote, AFSCME announced that its union’s pension plan, which holds a significant portion of the company’s shares, would withhold votes from ten of the directors to protest what it termed "their continued willingness to rubber-stamp excessive executive compensation and their refusal to tie CEO pay to company performance."

In addition, the Associated Press reported that a contingent of shareholders failed in their push for oversight of senior executive retirement benefits and CEO pay. CEO Bob Nardlli, who has been heavily criticized by AFSCME, ended the meeting after 30 minutes and refused to hear general questions from shareholders, the AP reported.


Congressional action on mine safety stalls

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a measure aimed at improving the chances that mine workers make it home at the end of the day. Under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, mine operators would be required to provide workers with longer-lasting oxygen packs and electronic tracking systems. The bill would also tighten regulatory enforcement and raise fines for violations.

But Representative George Miller (D-California) has sought to block the House version of the MINER Act, arguing that it falls short on enforcement and that provisions mandating drug and alcohol testing for mine workers imply that miners are more culpable than mine operators for some of the recent deaths.

In a statement Cecil E. Roberts, president of the union United Mine Workers of America, called on the House to pass the MINER Act despite its flaws, to provide some measure of additional safety for miners.

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Digest originally appeared in the May 31, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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