NLRB tosses Columbia’s objections, certifies UAW for grad students. After a three-year fight against its own teaching and research assistants who voted to unionize with the Auto Workers, Columbia University must bargain. The National Labor Relations Board last month tossed out Columbia’s objections to the 1,602-623 vote to unionize with the United Auto Workers as the Graduate Workers at Columbia-UAW.

The Columbia election is important because the NLRB declared TAs and RAs are “employees” under federal law, opening the way for union organizing drives at other private universities nationwide.

“We are excited about the board’s decision upholding the overwhelming result of our democratic vote,” said Olga Brudastova, a research assistant in Columbia’s Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. “Now we can focus on bargaining improvements in a fair contract.”

Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which includes New York, added, “Confronting the major challenges facing U.S. higher education – winning debt-free college, increasing STEM funding, protecting diversity and inclusion on campus and more – will require the power and strength of workers’ collective voices, especially in the era of Trump.”

Carey Salt Steelworkers win $7.3 million in back pay. About 100 current and former workers at Compass Minerals in Cote Blanche, La. – the old Carey Salt mine – won $7.3 million in back pay.

The settlement resolves issues in a seven-year-old Unfair Labor Practices strike over Carey’s refusal to pay overtime and refusal to bargain in good faith, union president Leo Gerard said.

“This situation was a result of the actions of Carey Salt’s former management,” he added. “We’re proud of the way we’ve been able to work with the company’s current management team to reach a fair and equitable settlement.”

Analyst defends OT rule as GOP attacks labor law. In February, Andrew Stettner, an analyst for the Century Foundation, defended the Labor Department’s rule expanding worker eligibility for overtime pay, even as majority Republicans on the House panel he addressed used the rule as an excuse to attack the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates overtime and minimum wages.

Stettner went to bat for raising the minimum and expanding overtime at a House Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing, but chair Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) omitted Stettner’s comments in a hearing summary, instead calling the FLSA outdated and pushing for “flexibility” in assigned hours and duties – code for substituting comp time, at the employer’s discretion, for pay.

Stettner defended the law because the GOP wouldn’t let the Labor Department testify. He called business concerns about the overtime pay expansion “overblown.”

When the Bush administration raised the overtime pay limit, it also added overtime exemptions by revising definitions of who are “professionals” or “supervisors” ineligible for overtime pay. The expansions were so huge that even newspaper editorial assistants – copyboys and copygirls – were exempt from overtime pay.

Nurses campaign for patients, working conditions at top D.C.-area Catholic hospital. Nurses this winter took their campaign for better patient safety and better working conditions to a top D.C.-area Catholic hospital: Holy Cross, in Forest Glen. Md.

In a two-hour demonstration, members of National Nurses United aired its case outside the hospital entrance. NNU is trying to organize nurses at the hospital, stressing the effect of poor patient ratios on care and on the nursing staff.

“Providing a safe and high quality standard of care is the priority for registered nurses,” said Susan Yeh, a nurse at the hospital. “When Holy Cross Hospital management puts profit before patient care, nurses have been moved to work to transform our hospital so that we can provide the highest quality of care possible for our patients.”

Management also uses intimidation, harassment and reprisal to frustrate workers, NNU said. The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled for NNU on multiple labor law violations.

Teachers OK’d for vote at New Orleans charter school. In a 2-1 party-line vote, the National Labor Relations Board recently approved the United Teachers of New Orleans’ right to a union representation election at a top charter school, the International High School.

The decision is significant because opponents of the vote argued the charter schools are an arm of the state, and thus outside the authority of federal labor law. The American Federation of Teachers has been trying to organize charters nationwide. After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana trashed the city’s public school system and teachers’ union by converting 95 percent of New Orleans schools to charters and firing virtually all public school workers.

The board’s Regional Director wrote, “the employer charter school is not exempt as a political subdivision” under labor law.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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