deptheader-laborroundupAFSCME tries to restart bargaining. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has now given three budget addresses, but he clings to anti-worker demands and refuses to resume negotiating with the state’s largest public employees union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). For weeks, AFSCME has tried to restart bargaining with a new contract proposal based on an arbitrator’s award in Rauner’s negotiations with Federation of Police Lodge 41, which represents state troopers. Like that agreement, it includes a four-year wage freeze.

At press time, the right-wing former hedge fund billionaire has ignored the opportunity, so AFSCME for weeks took strike authorization votes statewide.

“State employees do not want to strike but the governor created this crisis,” said AFSCME leader Roberta Lynch.

Meanwhile, Rauner is fighting the union in court over his declared “impasse” in the talks, but court orders delayed that pending a full-scale trial. And he’s trying to fine the union $2 million for bargaining costs.

AFSCME represents 46,000 state workers.

Communications Workers sue Trump. The Communications Workers of America joined the lengthening list of individuals and organizations marching into federal courts to resist Trump administration schemes. CWA’s objective: Retaining federal pro-worker rules. To do that, the union in February sued to overturn Trump’s demand that federal agencies dump two regulations for every one they add, regardless of the positives involved. Putting such a bind on federal rules, CWA said in their brief, filed in U.S. District Court for D.C. on Feb. 8, could harm workers. They cited denying overtime pay and endangering job safety and health.

CWA and its allies are asking the judges to “bar agencies from following the order and to issue a declaration the order cannot be lawfully implemented.”

Anti-worker lawmakers push national Right-To-Work law, repeal of Davis-Bacon. A handful of right-wing Republicans introduced two anti-worker measures on Capitol Hill: “Right To Work” and repealing Davis-Bacon. RTW prevents unions from requiring workers they represent to share in the costs of bargaining and enforcing contracts. The Davis-Bacon Act prevents cut-rate contractors from low-balling workers’ wages on federally funded projects.

Building Trades President Sean McGarvey labeled a Davis-Bacon repeal “the Pay Cut for America’s Workers Act.”

This year, the Republican Party platform endorses both measures, and the GOP controls Congress and the White House.

The main sponsors of the bills are extremist Congressmen Steve King of Iowa and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, and Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah.

Trump Hotel workers in DC vote to unionize. By a 95 percent-5 percent margin, dozens of housekeepers at the luxury Trump Hotel in Washington this winter voted to unionize with Unite Here Local 25. The hotel, whose owner now is president, has not yet contested the vote.

Key issues are wages, working conditions and respect on the job. The local plans to organize about 80 additional workers at the hotel, which is in the historic Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue three blocks from the White House.

Union numbers, share declined last year. The number of unionists and their share of the U.S. workforce both declined in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated. Unions had 14,555,000 members in 2016, 10.7 percent of all U.S. workers. That’s down 0.4 percent and 240,000 workers from the year before.

“The truth is, collective action in America is stronger than ever,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “A movement cannot be defined by government statistics.”

Unionists are concentrated in the Northeast, the Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast, with more than half of all union members living in just seven states: California, 2.551 million (15.9 percent union); New York, 1.942 million (23.6 percent); Illinois, 812,000 (14.5 percent); Pennsylvania, 685,000 (12.1 percent); Michigan 606,000 (14.4 percent); New Jersey 644,000 (16.1 percent); and Ohio, 617,000 (12.4 percent).

Union members had huge weekly earnings edges over their non-union colleagues. The median weekly wage for all unionists was $1,004, compared to $802 for non-unionists. Union women and minority groups fared particularly well: The male-female wage gap shrank to nine cents per dollar between union men and women, with union women garnering median weekly pay of $955.

Two big unions, six labor groups oppose Gorsuch. Citing Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record in labor, civil rights, women’s rights, and related cases, the Communications Workers and the National Education Association announced their opposition to Republican President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joined by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, Pride at Work and Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement, the unions were among the 107 groups that signed an anti-Gorsuch letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose hearings are scheduled for March 20-23.

The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, which unions have long supported, crafted the letter. Other signers included the National Organization for Women, 9to5 and the National Partnership for Women and Families.

The letter cites specific Gorsuch decisions and dissents, plus his writing against the right to choice in a book, as reasons for senators to reject his nomination to the High Court.

“CWA opposes the nomination of Judge Gorsuch and calls on members of the U.S. Senate to do everything necessary to block this selection,” said CWA President Chris Shelton.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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