The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Work News for Week Ending July 31

by Brendan Coyne

Our weekly rundown of workers' rights, labor, workplace safety and related stories... @ Paid sick days @ Northwest mechanics @ Post 9/11 fed workers @ Mass. wage veto @ Workers may buy Hoover @ Hilton unionized

*A correction was appended to this news digest after initial publication.

Coalition seeks mandated paid sick days in San Fran

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Several workers’ rights groups have banded together in San Francisco to seek legislation forcing employers in the city to provide paid sick leave for their workers. The organizations are pushing city lawmakers to pass a law guaranteeing one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours of paid work.

In e-mailed statements and comments to reporters, the coalition contends that workers who do not receive paid sick leave fail to seek proper medical care and ultimately endanger their health and need more time off from work than they otherwise would.

A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research concluded that more than three-quarters of low-wage workers and nearly half of all workers in San Francisco receive no paid sick time.

Northwest, mechanics union ready to talk

After dealing with a nearly year-long-strike, Northwest Airlines has agreed to resume contract talks with the union representing its mechanics, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) announced last week. Neither side has attached conditions to the negotiations, which are scheduled to start August 15.

AMFA members employed by the now-bankrupt Northwest walked off the job last August after contract negotiations broke down. The company hired temporary workers to replace its picketing employees and has since made many of them permanent.

Report: Bush used 9/11 to undermine federal workers rights

President Bush’s administration used the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 to drum-up support for a much-criticized and partially illegal new federal payroll and personnel system, according to a report from the Naval Postgraduate School.

The new system, portions of which have repeatedly been blocked by federal courts, would drastically alter long-existing pay-grade and job-assignment rules for hundreds of thousands of workers at the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense.

According to the NPS study, the administration used the terror attacks first to create the Homeland Security Department and then to advance pre-existing plans to fundamentally alter the federal civil service system. The first targets have been DHS and DoD workers. Though their unions have won several rounds in court, the NPS study found that the White House’s attempt to re-cast the debate as one about security rather than workers’ rights was largely successful in the public and legislative arenas.

A federal court found that the proposed National Security Personnel System (NSPS) illegally abrogates existing contracts and cripples collective bargaining rights. The NSPS applies only to the Defense Department’s workers but its policies and intent are nearly identical to the administration’s proposed program for DHS workers, which another judge has twice ruled against.

Last Tuesday, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s finding that proposed DHS labor relations regulations permitting the agency to ignore all or some of negotiated contracts were illegal.

Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill repealing funds for large portions of the NSPS found to be illegal in federal court, a coalition of Defense Department unions announced. The bill has not yet reached the Senate floor.

Mass governor vetoes minimum-wage increase

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney vetoed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $8 an hour by 2008.

In a statement to legislators, Romney said he agrees with the need to increase the state’s minimum wage but had not reached an agreement with them over the amount. Wage-increase supporters in the state legislature are hoping to override the governor’s veto, the Associated Press reported.

Workers look to buy Hoover vacuum company

One of the nation’s best-known vacuum cleaner companies is on the market, and a group of its employees is looking to make the purchase.

Members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1985 want to buy Hoover Co. through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), the Associated Press reported last week. Workers have been using ESOPs more aggressively in recent years in an attempt to stem job losses, though such plans are usually accompanied by wage and benefit concessions, National Center for Employee Ownership executive director Corey Rosen told the AP. Hoover workers already accepted a 32 percent pay cut to finance an ESOP feasibility study and to put purchasing plans in motion.

Union wins concession from Hilton

The nation’s largest hotel-workers union reached a tentative deal last week with Hilton Hotels that may give employees the right to unionize without having to go through a lengthy election process. As part of the agreement, the company and the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, a group affiliated with Unite Here, will enter a five-year "Partnership for Growth" that both sides hope will bring about better cooperation, according to a joint statement.

Under the partnership, the two sides will focus on collective bargaining to achieve labor agreements in cities across the nation, the statement said. Additionally, Unite Here has agreed to use the company as its "hotel-management company of choice," meaning it will receive preferred status for meetings and other union uses.

Hilton said it will not automatically agree to card-check authorization at all of its non-union hotels, but will examine the feasibility of doing so on a case-by-case basis.

The deal came about as part of contract negotiations at two New York City hotels. Under the terms of the six-year contract, which must still be ratified by Council members, Hilton workers will get a 4 percent raise in each of the next three years and a 3.5 percent raise for each of the contracts last three years. In addition, the two sides agreed to resolve back-pay and workplace-safety issues, Reuters reported.


Minor Change:

In the digest item, "Report: Bush used 9/11 to undermine federal workers rights," the original reporting stated that federal courts have repeatedly ruled against the proposed National Security Personnel System. In fact, one federal court has found that the proposed National Security Personnel System (NSPS) illegally abrogates existing contracts and cripples collective bargaining rights. Another court has twice ruled against a nearly identical proposal for DHS workers.

 | Change Posted August 3, 2006 at 11:23 AM EST

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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

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