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Union leaders worry about new fish consumption standards

OLYMPIA – Washington state is rushing toward water quality standards that will be too strict and cost jobs without being backed up by good science, leaders of unions with workers in aerospace, timber and paper industries claimed Monday.

But a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said the union leaders are jumping the gun because no decision has been made. What many call the fish consumption standards are still under review, he said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

9th Circuit says unions can revise their lawsuit over two Idaho laws

Union groups are getting a chance to revise their lawsuit and add new defendants in a challenge to two Idaho laws targeting organized labor, the AP reports, following a ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The Building and Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO and the Southwest Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO won their lawsuit in U.S. District Court, overturning both laws, but the state appealed to the 9th Circuit. Before the high court could take up the appeal, lawmakers ditched the criminal penalty for one of the laws, changing the arguments before the appellate court; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

City union tentatively agrees to contract

Spokane Mayor David Condon has reached his first tentative contract deal with a major city union.

The Spokane Managerial and Professional Association mailed ballots to its 250 members this week on a proposed three-year contract, said Carly Cortright, the association’s president.

The union’s leadership, which represents mostly salaried city workers, agreed to the deal early this month. Members have until June 9 to drop ballots in the mail. If membership accepts the contract, the Spokane City Council would have the final say.

The union’s contract expired last year. The new deal would be retroactive to Jan 1. Negotiations started in September.

Federal judge overturns both of last session’s new anti-union laws

A federal judge has invalidated both the new anti-union laws pushed through by Idaho GOP lawmakers last session, saying they violate federal law. The two measures, SB 1007 and 1006, both expansions of Idaho's Right-to-Work law, sought to ban "job targeting programs" and "project labor agreements" and proposed steep penalties for violations; an injunction in July blocked SB 1007 from taking effect.

Both bills were sponsored by Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, who acknowledged that there was "a lot of talk about" legal issues with the bills, but said, "I thought that we were OK." Goedde said, "We had instances where the carpenters union from Portland was disrupting work, and I think that was the real emphasis behind the effort." He said the issue was brought to him by former state lawmaker Dean Haagenson of Coeur d'Alene, who is with the Inland Empire Associated Building Contractors. The Inland ABC, which filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the two bills, already has filed a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit, saying it should have been allowed to intervene as a full party in the case.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill wrote in his 39-page decision that the various programs targeted by the bills weren't, as the Inland ABC argued, "a form of compulsory unionism." Wrote Winmill, "Nothing about a job targeting program … makes union membership compulsory. Because Idaho is a right-to-work state, membership in any local in Idaho is entirely voluntary."

John Littel, regional political director for the Carpenters Union, said, "We were pretty surprised about how much momentum there was to really, I think, try to take a bite out of the unions, and specifically the carpenters." He added, "Regardless of what a legislator thinks or feels about a union's right to exist or not, these are protected activities." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Council approves union deals, despite Condon’s objection

Mayor-elect David Condon likely will have to win a second term if he wants to tinker with the pay and benefits of nearly half of the City Hall work force.

The Spokane City Council on Monday approved three-year contract extensions for Local 270 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and for the city’s prosecutor’s union a full year before their existing labor contracts were set to expire.

The deal for Local 270, which was tentatively agreed to by Mayor Mary Verner, will freeze salary levels in 2013, 2014,and 2015. Retirement, medical and other benefits won’t change, nor will an already approved 5 percent raise for workers with at least 4 years of experience in 2012.

Irony alert on postal protest

This just in: Members of the postal unions and community supporters are planning a protest on Sept. 27 in every congressional district, asking the honorable congresspersons to do everything in their power to save the Postal Service.

That includes a demonstration outside Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' office at 10 N. Post tomorrow from 4 to 5:30 p.m, the Washington Labor Council says.

And how did we find out about this? By e-mail.

So maybe we have a first-hand demonstration of what's at the heart of U.S. Postal Service's problem.

To be fair, the editors in Spokane mentioned that we did get a notice last week about the protest by mail. But we apparently only received one…perhaps postage was too expensive to send more?

Spokane City Council candidates debate union rules

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

The city recently has lobbied the Legislature to amend state law regarding binding arbitration so that if contract negotiations stall between the city and a union representing firefighters or police officers, an arbitrator could consider additional factors when setting wages and benefits, such as a city’s ability to pay and to maintain a reserve fund. Do you support this change to state law?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Judge blocks anti-union law, says practice proposed for ban is protected by fed law, saves money

Here's a link to the 22-page decision from U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill granting a motion for a preliminary injunction to block a new Idaho anti-union law from taking effect; Winmill issued his decision on Friday. At issue is SB 1007, the "Fairness in Contracting Law," which otherwise would have taken effect Friday and sought to ban unions from using dues funds to subsidize members' wages to help contractors win project bids.

Winmill ruled that the law directly conflicted with federal law, which protects such "job targeting" programs. Plus, he wrote, "There is some evidence that job targeting programs may have resulted in financial savings on state and local public work projects." The bill passed amid a flurry of anti-union zeal in this year's Idaho Legislature, reportes John Miller of the Associated Press; click below for his full report.

Court considers blocking new anti-union laws

A federal judge is now pondering whether Idaho's newest anti-union laws should be blocked while they're challenged in court, the Associated Press reports; the two laws, intended to weaken the power of labor organizations in Idaho, were passed during the 2011 legislative session and are scheduled to take effect July 1. Two unions are challenging the measures as unconstitutional; U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill is expected to rule this week on a request for a preliminary injunction; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

WA Lege Day 89: Union rally and budget debate

Protesters gather near the World War I memorial on the state Capitol Campus Friday.

OLYMPIA — The last of four days of protests in and around the Capitol over a proposed "all-cut" budget will feature thousands of labor union members joining other demonstrators on the north steps at noon.

How many thousands isn't clear, but the steps were already filling up at 11 a.m., as buses dropped off more demonstrators on the Capitol campus. The unions brought their own "marshalls" to keep some semblance of order, and a healthy complement of state troopers is visible inside and outside the building.

Sometime this afternoon the House is expected to begin debate of the 2011-13 budget that demonstrators don't like. There are actually two budgets, the House Democrats' version that was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee, and the House Republicans' alternative, which the GOP will likely try to swap out through a striking amendment.

If there aren't other amendments as well, it would be a very rare budget indeed. All this is a way of saying that although the debate is scheduled to start today, it's not possible to predict whether it will finish today, too. The House is scheduled to be in session on Saturday as well.

Meanwhile, the Senate is running through a long list of appointments and bills that are not part of the budget.

State wants to reopen union contracts

OLYMPIA — Thursday’s worse than expected revenue forecast prompted Gov. Chris Gregoire to order state employee unions back to the bargaining table to renegotiate contracts.

With a proclamation, Gregoire invoked a state law that allows her to ask the unions to reopen existing contracts. A separate declaration by Office of Financial Management Director Marty Brown about the forecast for the 2011-13 biennium says the contracts reached for those years are also unfeasible and must be reopened.

Most of the major contracts for 2011-13 are still under negotiations, a spokeswoman for Gregoire said.

Gregoire had resisted declaring an emergency and trying to renegotiate the current contracts during the past session.

Other unions show support for Kirkpatrick

Division in the Spokane Police Department has been made clear by the March no confidence vote held by the Spokane Police Guild.

Some supporters of Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick within the department responded by printing and wearing the button pictured above, and it appears she has the support of smaller groups within the department that are members of other unions.

“The chief has always been more than fair,” said Mike Smith, staff representative of Local 270 of the Washington State Council of City and County Employees. Smith said Local 270 opted not to hold a confidence vote in response to the Guild’s decision because “this is totally their issue.”

Smith said Local 270 represents about 60 police records specialists, radio operators and other clerical workers in the department.

Two other unions in the department, the Lieutenants and Captains Association and the police employees of the Managerial and Professional Association, wrote Kirkpatrick letters of support.

“The Lt’s and Capt’s Association is supportive of our administration,” wrote Capt. Steve Braun in an e-mail to Kirkpatrick on March 18. “We believe in the agreed upon mission, vision and values of the Spokane Police Department.”

Ban On Union Pay Deductions Upheld

Item: Supreme Court upholds ban on union payroll deductions/AP

More Info: The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law banning local governments from letting workers use payroll deductions to fund their union’s political activities, a decision that could strike at organized labor’s ability to raise funds at local levels. Five labor unions and the Idaho state AFL-CIO successfully argued in lower federal courts that a 2003 Idaho law forcing cities, counties and school districts to eliminate a payroll deduction funding union political action committees violated the First Amendment. “Idaho’s law does not restrict political speech, but rather declines to promote that speech by allowing public employee checkoff for political activities,” Chief Justice John Roberts said as the court voted 6-3 to overturn those rulings.

Question: Unions in Idaho don’t seem to have much clout. Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?