Archive for April, 2013

Agreement to review safety at new jail ends Alberta’s wildcat strike

April 30th, 2013

A deal has been reached to end Alberta’s wildcat strike.

Union members will report to work at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning after their executive team agreed to a deal Tuesday night with the province to end an illegal strike that began four days earlier.

The deal includes a review of safety at a new jail where the walkout began, one that will be completed “expeditiously,” the union said in a statement Tuesday evening. The deal also includes a guarantee that no individual member of the union will face retribution.

In reaching a deal, the union avoids another $500,000 fine that would have been applied if the strike were still in progress at noon Wednesday. The fine was imposed by a judge Monday evening as part of a ruling that slammed union leadership for not quickly encouraging workers to return to the job.

The walkout began Friday at the Edmonton Remand Centre when two guards, each of them union officials, were suspended for a long series of hotly worded complaints to management. The night shift stood by them and refused to work, triggering the wildcat strike.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled it illegal on Saturday, but the strike continued. On Monday, it expanded to include other professions, like social workers, court clerks and sheriffs.

The judge’s ruling Monday night – imposing a range of fines, restrictions on what the union could put on its website and reinforcing an order to “immediately” end the strike – was a turning point.

By Tuesday morning, social workers and clerks were back on the job. By Tuesday afternoon, so too were sheriffs – leaving only jail guards, and even some of them returned to work. About 42 of the current shift of 400 guards had reported for duty as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, the government said. Roughly six hours later, a deal was reached.


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Police, community coming together to protect against violence

April 29th, 2013


A brand-new training program is underway in Evansville. It’s focused on school and workplace violence.

The workshop is going on at the Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center, and the idea is to bring members of law enforcement together with people in the community.
About 50 people are participating in the workshop. They’re from churches, hospitals, school systems, and businesses and law enforcement agencies as well.
The National Tactical Officers Association is leading things and they say the main focus is dealing with the threat of an active shooter.
They say it’s important for those who aren’t police officers or sheriff’s deputies, like those working in our schools and businesses, to know what to do before officers get there if there is some kind of emergency involving a shooter.
On Monday, groups talked about lessons they’ve learned from past incidents. They’re going to learn what police do in those situations.
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Establishing a Safe Workplace – What Can You Do?

April 29th, 2013

What is Workplace Violence?

Images of shootings, robberies, and assaults first come to mind. But workplace violence encompasses any threatening behavior or verbal or physical abuse in the work environment.  Harassment and bullying can also be considered workplace violence, as well as domestic abuse when the resulting assault or threat occurs in the workplace.

According to a 2012 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, 36% of the companies surveyed said there had been incidents of workplace violence in their places of work. As employers, we have to deal with threats, intimidation, physical altercations, and other abusive behavior – not only from employees but also from vendors, customers, and relatives of employees.  Although workplace violence resulting in death remains rare, it does still occur; workplace violence is the second leading cause of death on the job and the first leading cause of death on the job for women.  Because of the danger to employees, to the public, and to the company, effectively managing employees who are in stressful situations and preventing workplace violence should be important to every employer.


As employers, we have a responsibility to provide our employees and customers a safe environment. The following tips provide some insight on policies and procedures that can help prevent violent outbursts.  While an employer cannot predict the behavior of every employee or every person associated with the company, well-thought-out procedures can decrease the chance of a violent outburst and help employees handle situations before they escalate.

Create a Workplace Violence Policy

Clearly state your company’s zero tolerance for workplace violence in a written policy and enforce the policy consistently.  A comprehensive policy prohibiting all types of violence including verbal and physical threats, fights, intimidation, physical destruction of property, sabotage of company products, extremely violent behavior, and, in some cases, even gossip and innuendo sets the standard for company behavior.


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Old Grocery Store Feud Fueling New Labor Dispute at Capitol

April 25th, 2013

A nearly two-decades old labor dispute is stirring up fresh controversy at the state legislature.

The controversial bill deals with worker benefits during labor disputes and survived its first legislative hurdle Tuesday night, passing the House Business and Labor committee on a party-line vote. The legislation would let workers locked out during contract negotiations collect unemployment benefits.

This struggle goes back to a 1996 labor dispute between the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 and two grocery store chains.

That year, UFCW workers at King Soopers voted to go on strike, and in response, Safeway also locked out its own UFCW-represented employees. The chain was trying to prevent what’s called a “whipsaw strike,” where actions against one employer are intended to force other companies to the negotiating table.

A court eventually found that the Safeway workers were entitled to unemployment benefits during the lockout because they hadn’t directly initiated the action. And that ruling subsequently led business groups to seek a law change at the state legislature so that now workers can’t collect benefits during a so-called “defensive lockout.”

Business groups argue this arrangement makes sense because without unemployment benefits, a union has to make strike payments to more workers, giving them greater incentive to return to contract talks.


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DoubleTree Hotel Workers Allege Illegal Interference With Unionization Process

April 22nd, 2013

Employees of the Harvard-owned DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Boston filed charges of unfair labor practices on Wednesday alleging that management illegally interfered with their unionization process. The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, follow a March petition by workers that announced their intention to begin the process of deciding whether or not to join UNITE HERE! Local 26, the state branch of a national union that represents more than 250,000 workers.

Brian Lang, the president of Local 26, said that hotel management had violated labor laws in three ways and that he was “very confident” the NLRB, which investigates and adjudicates labor disputes, would rule in the workers’ favor after an investigation.

First, Lang said that hotel management prohibited union organization in the hotel. Second, he said that they spied on workers engaged in union activity. Finally, he said that management cut the hours of Andrew Pattison after identifying him as a union supporter.

Pattison had led the petition effort in March, Lang said.

“He was one of the leaders,” Lang said. “It’s against the law [for hotel management] to retaliate like that.”

Pattison, who works at the hotel’s Scullers Jazz Club, said that his hours were cut from 40 per week to 10 to 15 per week two weeks after he participated in the petition delegation.

“They’ve had a couple of different excuses, but it’s clear to me and to everyone else that they did this to punish me for standing up,” he said.

Pattison said that he thought hotel management was trying to intimidate workers.

“I think they’re trying as hard as they can to really scare people, and we’re still fighting and showing them that they can’t scare us, and they can’t stop us,” Pattison said.


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North Pocono union, district back at table

April 20th, 2013

The North Pocono Education Association was digging in for a potentially lengthy labor dispute on Friday, the day after a Lackawanna County Court judge ordered a temporary halt to the union’s strike.

John Holland, a regional field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said he remains hopeful for a contract agreement, but the union has notified the district that teachers intend to strike on Sept. 9.

“We’re in it for as long as it takes to get a fair and equitable contract,” Mr. Holland said. “I don’t care if it’s another year, two years or three years.”

Teachers had been on the picket lines for only a few hours Thursday morning when Lackawanna County Judge Terrence Nealon signed the temporary injunction order in response to a complaint by school officials. Students returned to school Friday.

In their argument for the injunction, district officials argued that the strike was illegal because union leaders did not respond to the district’s request for “final, best offer arbitration” or allow 10 days to elapse after the offer was made, as required by state law.

Union leaders hope to get the temporary injunction order lifted at a hearing Tuesday. If that happens, they could strike again before Sept. 9.

District and union officials met on Friday and were planning to negotiate again in the near future, perhaps as soon as Monday. Both sides had different feelings about Friday’s session.


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MINN. LEGISLATIVE NOTEBOOK: Senators remove lockout benefit extension plan

April 20th, 2013

ST. PAUL – Minnesota senators removed extended unemployment benefits for workers locked out by employers in labor disputes during a Friday bill debate.

The provision was a Democratic response to a 20-month lockout by American Crystal Sugar Co., as well as a pair of Twin Cities orchestra labor disputes. American Crystal employees and performers in one orchestra recently voted to accept contracts their employers offered.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, used the American Crystal example, saying Minnesotans would pay if unemployment benefits were extended two years as the provision sought.

“We all know who pays for that,” he said. “You and I are going to pay for that at the store.”

Senators complained that professional athletes whose teams locked them out would have been covered by the additional unemployment payments.

Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, offered to amend his bill to reduce the unemployment extension to a year and exclude pro athletes from added benefits. His effort lost 33-31.

The amendment to remove the lockout provisions from a larger bill passed 34-31. Rep. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, offered the successful amendment.


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Democrats Want Benefits For Locked-Out Workers

April 19th, 2013

DENVER (AP) — Workers locked-out by employers as a defensive maneuver during labor disputes would get unemployment benefits with a bill advanced by House Democrats.

The proposal given initial approval Friday is reviled by Republicans who argue the state shouldn’t finance union labor disputes. Democratic Rep. Dominick Moreno, the sponsor of the bill, says it’s about “shared economic consequences” in failed labor negotiations.


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UIC Graduate Workers Hold Strike Authorization Vote

April 19th, 2013

Graduate workers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are voting on whether or not to authorize a strike after negotiations with university officials over a living wage fell short of their demands Wednesday night, according to members of the Graduate Employees Organization.

The voting process to authorize a possible strike began Thursday and will continue through Monday, which is the end of the union’s next bargaining session with UIC’s administration.

“I don’t think most of our members want to strike,” said Neri Sandoval, a graduate assistant in UIC’s Department of African-American Studies. “I think it’s something that, I believe, is an outcome of a series of events the university has led to.”

The strike authorization vote comes after nearly a year of slow contract bargaining with a reluctant administration, union members said. It formally filed its intent to strike on April 5.

Becky Bivens, an art history teaching assistant who sits on the union’s marketing committee, said UIC lists on its own financial aid website that the cost of living in Chicago every year is about $17,950, yet some graduate workers get paid just a little more than $14,000.

Bivens said she gets paid $14,565, but that’s before tuition differentials and general fees.

She said she pays an $1,800 tuition differential per semester, which “they don’t tell you when you’re admitted.”

A tuition differential is a fee paid in addition to base tuition in order to participate in a particular degree program at UIC, according to the university’s website.

“The tuition differential is kind of a sneaky way to charge tuition anyway,” Bivens explained.

On top of the tuition fee, Bivens said she also pays an $850 general fee per year.

“Nobody knows where (the money) goes,” Bivens said. “It’s a huge problem with institutional transparency.”

Graduate students also have to pay for books, materials, and other life expenses, putting many of the workers below the poverty line, union members said.


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State Patrol, union seek arbitrator for dispute over radio system

April 18th, 2013

LINCOLN — A formal complaint over a problem-prone state emergency radio system is headed for a potentially long arbitration process.

After agreeing “in principle” to work out a labor grievance informally last month, that deal has fallen apart.

Now, the union that represents state troopers and their employer, the Nebraska State Patrol, are working to select an arbitrator to rule on the grievance.

Such arbitrators, which typically cost $150 to $175 an hour, act as judges in deciding labor disputes in a courtlike process that can last four to five months.

State taxpayers will pay half the arbitrator’s bill; the union, the State Law Enforcement Bargaining Council, will pay the other half. Each side pays its own attorneys’ fees.

The union filed a labor grievance alleging that troopers were being forced to use “unsafe” equipment in violation of the union’s contract.

The union has alleged numerous failures with the state’s new $17.3 million emergency radio system, including during dangerous standoffs and pursuits. The union contends those incidents have jeopardized the safety of law enforcement officers and the public.

Under state rules, a union can ask for arbitration if it isn’t satisfied with the state’s response. But the union had offered to put that process on hold and discuss concerns informally with the State Patrol.

An attorney who represents the troopers union, Gary Young of Lincoln, said problems arose when working out details with State Patrol attorneys.

Young said he had not anticipated difficulties after meeting with Col. David Sankey, the patrol’s superintendent. But, during a later meeting with patrol attorneys, Young said the union was rebuffed in its request for greater access to information about the radio system and its problems from system managers and radio supplier Motorola.

That greater access was being offered in exchange for putting the arbitration process on hold.

“All we were asking for was the information the patrol itself had access to,” Young said. “They’re obviously apprehensive about doing so.”


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