Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Lee delays, countersues, files backwards class-action suit, does somersault, falls down rabbit hole

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Earlier this month, in our case involving the yellow contract retirees, Lee – after receiving several extensions – finally replied to our motion.  They did this several ways.  First, they counter-sued and seem to want to get a decision under ERISA – the federal law regarding pension plans.  Now, our suit wasn’t filed to have anything decided under ERISA; it was filed to compel arbitration.  The legal differences and reasoning behind it all gets rather complicated and I don’t care to lay out points of strategy on such a public forum, so I will let it go at that.

With their filing, Lee has gone off in a slightly different direction.  In their counter-suit, they ask the court to declare (under the ‘Declaratory Judgement Act”), that they have the right to do what they did under ERISA.  Lee doesn’t stop there though and their suit doesn’t just name the Guild – it names the retirees as defendants as well!  Lee has filed what they are characterizing as a  class-action suit and want to get the court to not only issue a declaratory judgement stating that they have the right to do what they did under ERISA; they also want the court to declare that our retirees can’t sue them in a class-action suit anytime in the future (Did somebody hear something?  Are people getting nervous?).

Most legal scholars would agree that a class-action suit involves a bunch of wronged parties suing a lone, guilty party.  It seems to me – an admitted layman – that it’s a bit of a stretch to think that one party suing a bunch of different parties is the same thing.  But there you have it.  Lee – the company that paid more for a single paper than their entire media empire is now worth – has gone backwards through the looking glass again (however, a quick look online at their new attorneys and one learns that their firm does have a department that handles such things, so who can say).

But – curiouser and curiouser – that’s not the end of it.  To make matters worse, Lee named three seemingly random retirees as “class representatives” and had them served with subpoenas.  One presumes that Lee somehow expects these three retirees, who are living on fixed incomes and who recently have had to purchase health care coverage, to be able to hire attorneys to represent them in federal court.

Then today, Lee struck again.  Going for another declaratory judgement, the corporation filed another counter-suit.  This time they filed against the Guild and our blue contract retirees and they named three more retirees as class representatives for that group as well.  What a world.

As I stated earlier, it is not my intention to discuss pending legal maneuvers, so I will just say that the Guild is busy preparing its response.

Dislocated Workers Program scheduled for Tuesday, July 19

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The AFL-CIO Dislocated Workers Program will be held in the Guild office building, 1015 Locust Street, in the 9th floor conference room – suite 916.  Our building is on the corner of 11th and Locust and parking is available in the building.

All individuals who were laid off in June – as well as those who were let go in April – are invited to attend this event.  Like we have done in the past, the Guild invites all laid off employees – union and nonunion alike – to participate in this.  The program will run from 9:00 to 4:00 and cover a variety of subjects with which  one is confronted after losing one’s job.

Representatives will be on hand from many different bureaus and agencies – on both sides of the river - with a wealth of information to assist you as you make your way forward through this difficult time.  Many subjects will be addressed:  subjects like unemployment insurance (US Dept of Labor will be here), reducing your bills (budget counselors) tax issues (the IRS will be on hand) and dealing with stress, to name a few.  Members will learn about available resources – like available tuition dollars for those thinking about returning to school – and how to access them as quickly as possible.  There will be handouts, Q and A and, hopefully, everyone will leave a bit more able to deal with their new reality.

Lunch will be provided.

Truthout announces raises!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

In 2010, after Truthout signed their first contact with the Guild, money was extremely tight (read about Truthout’s interesting history and their struggle to unionize in this website’s archives).  But unlike most employers, Truthout opened their books and let the Guild’s bargaining team look over their financial situation.  After agreeing that raises were not something that could be granted right then, a contract was bargained that called for raises when certain revenue levels were reached.  And, because Truthout’s new management team had been so candid and forthright in their negotiations, the employees were totally on board with putting their shoulders to the wheel and helping their enlightened employer turn things around.

Recently, a notice was sent to all of Truthout’s employees, notifying them that target revenues had been hit and that a 4% raise would now take effect.

Nice going, Truthout!  Way to live your values!

On Dasher, On Dancer…

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

As we head into the holiday season, here’s a gift idea for that special someone who really loves newspapers:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/58386802/newspaper-tshirt-vintage-typography-tee?ref=sr_gallery_29&ga_search_query=t-shirts&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=35&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

It took awhile, but 1984 finally got here

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I recently returned from a Tri-District (Great lakes, Midwest and Southern) Council meeting in Chicago.  TNG General Counsel Barbara Camens took advantage of our large gathering and presented a legal overview of social media and brought delegates up to date on the goings on in that arena.

Most of the horror stories regarding Facebook and MySpace pages centered on young females who were just starting out or trying to break into the teaching profession.  It was heartbreaking to learn what employers did to these poor kids when they saw pictures of them drinking and carrying on at parties.  Not just firing them but – in the case of one poor woman in Michigan – refusing to rehire her even after  ordered to do so by an arbitrator (her union grieved it) and then appealing the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court!  What makes this particular case stand out is not the fact that the woman was pictured in a halter top at a bachelorette party drinking from a phallic-shaped beer hose (okay, a little over the top) but the fact that the now-famous photo was taken without her knowledge or consent by the party-planning company and then posted on their website to advertise their business.  Two years later some students came across it and the rest is history.  It bogggles the mind; she was fired – and remains barred from earning a living in her chosen profession – for behavior at a private party, without ever giving consent that the photo be posted or even knowing that such a photo existed.

Currently, many of our members in various units are being encouraged by their papers to get going on social media and thus need to be aware of a few things.  First, you always need to watch what you say concerning your employer.  A smart person should just assume that they are watching and that they will not hesitate to take action.  Legality is still an open question as (National Labor Relations) Board decisions have not yet caught up with technology.  However, there is case law which protects what one can say in public communications – most notably Eastex and Jefferson-Standard, Supreme Court cases both.  Eastex – an oldie but a goodie – holds that union members still enjoy their Section 7 (of the National Labor Relations Act) rights regarding concerted and protected activities and Jefferson-Standard holds that disparagement is protected if it is not egregious AND is related to a labor dispute.  Actually, the Board has been firm on protecting employees but the circuit courts have not (another good reason to belong to a union, since nonunion employees don’t have that avenue available); as a matter of fact, just this month an ambulance service employee in Connecticut – fired for posting negative comments about her employer on her Facebook page – had her termination ruled as illegal by the NLRB’s regional office in Hartford (click here for related story).  Therefore, when communicating about one’s employer, the only way one can be sure that saying something is protected is if its about the ‘terms and conditions of employment’ as cited in the National Labor Relations Act.  You stand a good chance of not running afoul if it’s about contact talks or something similar in nature.  But making disparaging remarks and pummeling one’s employer – or their product – for the sheer fun of it is a sure-fire way to get into serious trouble.

But what if you’re not blogging or writing for your job?  Is there a fourth amendment right to privacy on the internet?  If you’re a public employee nobody seems to know.  In the very recent Quan v Arch Wireless, a case that involved reading an employee’s (the guy was a cop) text messages on his employer-issued cell phone, the Supreme court refused to issue a test and decide if such a right exists.  They said it was ‘too soon.’  And it’s murky regarding private employees too.  Common law torts, state laws and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act – which is already over 20 years old, legal assertions like ‘implied consent’ and other things litter the legal landscape making that a mess, as well.  Actually, legal experts all agree that the best protection one can have is a union contract.

Finally, everyone needs to be aware of the fact that anything you look at on a work computer – even if it’s your personal email account – is viewable by your employer and, because you’re using their server, they brake no laws by doing so.  Furthermore, recent polling suggests that 43% of employers now actively monitor their employee’s email and 66% track website visits (dude!).  A new industry has arisen with firms like Social Sentry and UDilligence, which cater to companies wanting to spy on their employees use of social media.  The employer can identify certain employees for monitoring or the firm can look for key words (party?  sick day?  union?) that may crop up.  They also patrol email usage.  Yes, it seems that we certainly do live in interesting times.

As I said, the best protection one can have is a union contract.  That, and a little common sense.  When using the internet, please be aware of where you are at all times and, although I don’t want to make anyone paranoid, watch what you say.

St. Louis local backs Lunzer, Rothman and Waggoner for leadership team – endorses Jen Towery for regional VP

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

With next years election for TNG leadership positions drawing near – and nominations just around the corner – Local 47 wasted no time Thursday in endorsing TNG President Bernie Lunzer and Secretary-Treasurer Carol Rothman for reelection. Connie Knox, current international chairperson, is not seeking reelection; Martha Waggoner is running in her stead with the Lunzer – Rothman team and the local also endorsed Waggoner’s candidacy.

Since his election in May of 2008, when he carried St. Louis 112-44, Lunzer has worked hard implementing programs dealing with a variety of issues and focusing on such things as organizing, bargaining during concessionary times and exploring alternative ownership models. He has promoted innovative ideas dealing with cooperation across sectors within the CWA and has constantly reached out to TNG locals to help them access more training and financial assistance, even as the international deals with its own shrinking piece of the dues pie. He has traveled to most, if not all, of the TNG locals and is always ready and available to fly in and assist when needed – never has an international president been so engaged. As our industry continues to evolve and we face a seemingly unending number of challenges, our union would be well-served to continue to take them on with Bernie Lunzer at the helm.

The local also endorsed Jen Towery (Peoria Newspaper Guild), who is running for a seat on the TNG Executive Council as a vice president for TNG Vice President of Region Six.

At least, this isn’t China

Friday, June 4th, 2010

where, apparently, so many workers are committing suicide by jumping to their deaths from the high-rise dorms of the Foxconn factory that the company has now installed giant safety nets between dorm buildings.  Read more about working conditions at the plant that is providing final assembly of iPhones.

Read more about the suicides

AFA-CWA to Testify on Bankruptcy Bill

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Hearings are expected in late May on legislation that would substantially reform the nation’s bankruptcy laws. The AFL-CIO is urging members of Congress to co-sponsor the “Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act of 2010.”

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-MI, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL, would place restrictions on corporations that use the bankruptcy system as a backdoor way to slash wages and benefits for current workers and break their promises to retirees.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA has been invited to testify next month. TNG and IUE-CWA members also are among those who have been harmed the most by current bankruptcy laws. Through the years, the bankruptcy system has changed from one of “last resort” for corporations facing potential ruin to one in which the system is subverted by corporations who use accounting tricks to reorganize and often evade labor costs.

This week in labor history

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Today in Labor History

for the week of April 26, 2010

April 26
The U.S. House of Representatives passes House Joint Resolution No. 184, a constitutional amendment to prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age. The Senate approved by the measure a few weeks later, but it was never ratified by the states and is still technically pending – 1924

On the orders of President Roosevelt, the U.S. Army seizes the Chicago headquarters of the unionized Montgomery Ward & Co. after management defies the National Labor Relations Board – 1944

April 27
First strike for 10 hour day, by Boston carpenters – 1825

James Oppenheim’s poem “Bread and Roses” published in IWW newspaper “Industrial Solidarity” – 1946

President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment. The order listed “sexual perversion” as a condition for firing a federal employee and for denying employment to potential applicants – 1953

April 28
Coal mine collapses at Eccles, W.Va., killing 181 workers – 1914

119 die in Benwood, W.Va. coal mine disaster – 1924

United Wallpaper Craftsmen & Workers of North America merges with Pulp, Sulfite & Paper Mill Workers – 1958

American Federation of Hosiery Workers merges with Textile Workers Union of America – 1965

Congress creates OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The AFL-CIO sets April 28 as “Workers Memorial Day” to honor the hundreds of thousands of workers killed and injured on the job every year – 1970.

First “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” promoted by the Ms. Foundation, to boost self-esteem of girls with invitations to a parent’s workplace – 1993

April 29
Coxey’s Army (pictured above) of 500 unemployed civil war veterans reaches Washington, DC – 1894

When their demand that only union men be employed was refused, members of the Western Federation of Miners dynamited and destroyed the $250,000 mill of the Bunker Hill Company at Wardner, Idaho – 1899

April 30
An explosion at the Everettville mine in Everettville, W. Va., kills 109 miners, many of whom lie in unmarked graves to this day – 1927

May 01
Mary Harris “Mother” Jones born in County Cork, Ireland – 1830

Cigar makers in Cincinnati warn there could be a strike in the Fall if factory owners continue to insist that they pay 30 cents per month for gas consumed at work during mornings and evenings – 1883

Eight-hour day demonstration in Chicago, and other cities, begins tradition of May Day as international labor holiday – 1886

Nineteen machinists working for the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad gather in a locomotive pit to decide what to do about a wage cut. They vote to form a union, which later became the International Association of Machinists – 1888

The Cooks’ and Waiters’ Union strikes in San Francisco, demanding one day of rest per week, a ten-hour work day and a union shop for all restaurants in the city – 1901

Mother Jones’ 100th birthday celebrated at the Burgess Farm in Adelphi, Md. She died six months later – 1930

New York City’s Empire State Building officially opens. Construction involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, and hundreds of Mohawk iron workers. Five workers died during construction – 1931

Congress enacts amendments to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, extending protections to the employees of state and local governments – protections which didn’t take effect until 1985 because of court challenges and regulation-writing problems – 1974

The Federal minimum wage rises to $2.00 per hour – 1974

International Molders & Allied Workers Union merges with Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union – 1988

Woodworkers of America International merges with International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1994

International Leather Goods, Plastics & Novelty Workers Union merges with Service Employees International Union – 1996

Rallies in cities across the U.S. for what organizers call “A Day Without Immigrants.” An estimated 100,000 immigrants and sympathizers gathered in San Jose, Calif., 200,000 in New York, 400,000 each in Chicago and Los Angeles.  In all, there were demonstrations in at least 50 cities – 2006

May 02
Chicago’s first Trades Assembly, formed three years earlier, sponsors a general strike by thousands of workers to enforce the state’s new eight hour day law. The one-week strike was unsuccessful – 1867

Birth of Richard Trevellick, a ship carpenter, founder of American National Labor Union and later head of the National Labor Congress, America’s first national labor organization – 1830

First Workers’ Compensation law in U.S. enacted, in Wisconsin – 1911

Pres. Herbert Hoover declares that the stock market crash six months earlier was just a “temporary setback” and the economy would soon bounce back. In fact the Great Depresssion was to continue and worsen for several more years - 1930

In Germany, Adolph Hitler issues an edict abolishing all labor unions, part of his effort to ban any political opposition – 1933

Sources:
Toil and Trouble, by Thomas R. Brooks; American Labor Struggles, by Samuel Yellen; IWW calendar, Solidarity Forever; Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor, edited by Robert E. Weir and James P. Hanlan; Southwest Labor History Archives/George Meany Center; Geov Parrish’s Radical History; workday Minnesota; Andy Richards and Adam Wright, AFL-CIO Washington DC Metro Council (graphics research).

Newsroom cuts seriously affecting diversity

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Richard Prince, of the Maynard Institute, writes about this disturbing trend in his blog.  Here’s the link:

www.mije.org/richardprince/asne-releases-diversity-figures