The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Work News for Week Ending June 13

by Brendan Coyne

Our weekly rundown of labor, money and business stories... @ Violence prevention bill @ Mine safety legislation @ Airline worker job cuts @ Cops help break picket line @ Steelworkers, Sierra Club alliance @ House abandons air-traffic controllers

Workplace violence prevention bill made law in New York

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Being a public employee in New York may become a little bit safer following the passage and signing of a measure requiring tighter security in state workplaces.

According to government information compiled the Public Employees Federation (PEF), between 1993 and 1999 about 800 workers were murdered at work each year and another 1.7 million assaulted. Homicide is the third leading cause of work-related deaths among men and the leading one among women.

The Workplace Violence Prevention bill mandates that all public entities in the state with 20 or more employees develop and implement plans to prevent violence at the office.

The measure was backed by several labor organizations, including the Service Employees International Union and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The groups participated in a large-scale campaign around the issue.

Congress moves on mine-safety legislation

Congress has finally approved legislation aimed at making mining just a little bit safer. Forty-six miners have been killed at work this year, 33 of those at coal mines, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006 requires mine operators to give miners more emergency oxygen packs, increase training of local rescue teams and provide better communication and tracking equipment. In addition, the measure nearly quadruples the maximum fine amount MSHA can levy for individual violations, from $60,000 to $220,000, and doubled the yearly cap from $250,000 to $500,000.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill last Wednesday; the Senate had done so last month. President Bush is expected to sign the measure.

Northwest baggage handlers agree to cuts, strand flight attendants

Baggage handlers and other ground workers employed by bankrupt Northwest Airlines approved a new contract that would cut about 700 jobs and trim pay by an average of 11.5 percent. In addition, the deal will take away three paid holidays, reduce sick-time compensation, permit the company to hire some contract workers and halve Northwest’s contribution to health-insurance payments.

The decision by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) to accept Northwest’s deal leaves flight attendants and a small group of ground workers as the only unionized Northwest employees who have refused givebacks. Last Tuesday, about 80 percent of flight attendants rejected approximately $195 million in concessions and kicked off a four point plan to seek better transparency and accountability from corporate air carriers.

Cops escort non-union workers across San Diego picket line

Hundreds of picketing members of the Carpenters union forced San Diego police to help non-union workers enter a construction site last Friday. The union members had gathered outside the grounds of a future Bloomingdales early Friday to protest the use of a non-union construction firm for portions of the project. Police escorted about 50 of the non-union workers inside, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

In total, about 200 members of Carpenters Local 1506 participated in the protest, the Union Tribune reported. The union local is based in Los Angeles and belongs to the organization’s Southwest Regional Council.

Steelworkers, Sierra Club form alliance

Promising to fight for "good jobs and a clean environment," the nation’s largest private sector union and the biggest environmental advocacy group last week unveiled a "Blue/Green Alliance." The joint organization will focus on three major issues: global warming, fair trade and reducing toxic emissions, through community and internal organizing.

At a press conference announcing the new initiative, the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers of America (USW) said their priorities included gaining support for the Kyoto treaty on global warming, higher automobile fuel-efficiency standards and greater worker and environmental protection in trade agreements.

The Alliance is based in Minneapolis and will work in Minnesota and three other states initially: Washington, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Organizers will be based in USW offices in those states.

The groups said the Alliance will expand into as many as ten other states over the next two years.

House rules shoot down help for air-traffic controllers

The Federal Aviation Administration unilaterally imposed a new contract on the nation’s air-traffic controllers last week that will cut pay by as much as 30 percent and reduce pensions. The action came despite a majority of the members of the House of Representatives having approved legislation to force the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association back to the bargaining table and provided them access to binding arbitration.

Sponsored by Republican Steven C. LaTourette (Ohio), the measure was brought to a floor vote under what us known as a "suspension of the rules of the House." The move, which LaTourette has requested, allows an expedited vote, but requires a bill to gain a two-thirds majority for passage. LaTourette’s bill failed that by a handful, with 271 members for a 148 against. Thirteen Congress members did not vote on the bill.





The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Digest originally appeared in the June 13, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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