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April 2012 Volume 18 Number 2
UFW, ALRB, Unions
The birthday of Cesar Estrada Chavez was celebrated with marches around the US on March 31, 2012. President Obama issued a proclamation declaring March 31 Cesar Chavez Day and urging Americans "to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez's enduring legacy." Rogelio Lona was honored in March 2012 by the White House as a Champion of Change.<< back
DOL named the auditorium in its Washington headquarters in March 2012 the Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Auditorium. Chavez, who died in 1993 at the age of 66, was praised by DOL Secretary Hilda Solis as a leader who "took the very best of other social justice movements, including lessons from Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., effective civil disobedience and other peaceful tactics, and married them with modern strategies that involved consumers, students and effecting change by working within existing institutions."
Actor Michael Pe¤a will play Cesar Chavez in a film devoted to his life and work featuring the union's slogan, Si se puede,ÿit can be done.
The United Farm Workers union plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary May 17-20, 2012 in Bakersfield. In March 2012, the UFW filed notices to take access on seven table grape farms in the Delano area.
ALRB. The ALRB is reopening a regional office in Oxnard, bringing the number of offices to four, including Salinas, Visalia and El Centro.
In Nurserymen's Exchange (38 ALRB 1), the ALRB confirmed a decision by an Investigative Hearing Examiner (IHE) to set aside the August 2, 2010 election in which the UFW received 90 votes and no union 64 votes because the employer's employment was not 50 percent of peak employment. The IHE and ALRB concluded that the Regional Director should not have allowed the election to occur.
The UFW was certified in 1975 to represent the employees of Sun World at six locations around the state. Since then, Sun World has discontinued operations at four of these sites, and recognizes the UFW only as bargaining representative for 60 workers at lemon operations near Blythe in the Palo Verde Valley.
In 1989, Sun World acquired Superior Farming's 40,000 acres in Kern county that includes major table grape operations with a peak employment of 7,000. Sun World switched from hiring grape harvesters directly to obtaining them via FLCs in 2011.
The UFW asked the ALRB to require Sun World to recognize it as bargaining representative for workers in the Coachella Valley, the San Joaquin Valley and Oxnard. In February 2012, an Investigative Hearing Examiner rejected the UFW's petition, concluding that Sun World's non-Blythe operations were not in a Single Definable Agricultural Production Area and Blythe workers did not share a community of interest with Sun World workers elsewhere in the state.
NLRB. The National Labor Relations Board received slightly fewer cases in FY2011, 25,000, than in FY10, 26,600. In FY11, there were 22,200 unfair labor practice (ULP) cases and 2,800 representation cases; there were 1,400 first-time representation elections.
The NLRB's Regional Offices issued 1,340 ULP complaints in FY11. About 35 percent of ULP charges filed were turned into formal complaints.
Unions. There were 16.3 million workers represented by unions at the end of 2011, about the same as the previous year but down from almost 18 million in 2008. Almost 15 million workers were union members, including 7.6 million public sector workers and 7.2 million private sector workers. About 37 percent of public sector workers are union members, compared to less than seven percent of private sector workers.
The median weekly earnings of union members were $938 in 2011, compared to $729 for nonunion workers.
Some 10,100 private sector collective bargaining agreements covering 2.4 million workers or a third of the unionized private sector work force expire in 2012, down slightly from 11,800 private sector contracts covering 2.9 million workers that expired in 2011.
Most analysts expect wage increases to average about two percent a year in 2012 negotiations, and predict that health insurance costs will be far more troublesome. Many employers are trying to shift more of the cost of health care onto employees, or are requiring employees to modify their behavior in order to receive discounts on the employee share of health care costs.
The 56 unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO had an average 8.4 million members in 2011, plus 3.2 million members of Working America, for workers who are not represented by a union, and 4.2 million retired union members in the Alliance for Retired Americans.
Midwestern states with large manufacturing sectors have long been union bulwarks. However, Republican control of legislatures and the recession that accelerated the shrinking of manufacturing led to a spate of state laws that would rein in unions.
Indiana in February 2012 became the 23rd right-to-work state, meaning that unions and employers cannot negotiate contracts requiring all covered workers to join and remain members of the union. As the first Midwestern right-to-work state, Indiana hopes to attract manufacturing jobs. Unions counter that allowing workers to opt out of paying dues permits "free riders" to benefit from their negotiating efforts without contributing to bargaining costs, weakens unions and holds down wages.
Wisconsin and Ohio approved laws that rolled back collective bargaining rights, but Ohio voters overturned the law, prompting a recall effort against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that will result in an election in June 2012; Walker was elected in November 2010. A federal judge March 30, 2012 voided parts of Wisconsin Act 10, ruling that eliminating collective bargaining rights for 175,000 general public employees such as teachers, but not for public safety employees, violated constitutional principles that call for equal treatment. The backlash in Wisconsin and Ohio dulled efforts to enact similar laws in Minnesota and elsewhere.
The Service Employees International Union announced a drive to organize warehouse workers in three major warehousing hubs, southern California (100,000 employees), Chicago, and central New Jersey. Warehouse workers in southern California have sued Schneider National, alleging underpayment of wages, as well as Impact Logistics and a staffing firm, Premier Warehousing Services. Schneider says that it does not employ warehouse workers.