2016: Year in Review

Here’s looking back at some of 2016’s biggest #UnionStrong moments. We stand with you Sisters and Brothers!

NATIONAL…

scalias-death-ends-friedrichs-threatScalia’s death ends Friedrichs threat
In a case known as Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court was getting ready to impose so-called “right-to-work” status on all public employees in the United States — making dues strictly voluntary and thus weakening unions considerably. But the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February resulted in a 4-4 deadlock on the case. The threat to labor could return, however, if a similar case is filed after another anti-union justice is appointed.

unions-count-verizon-strike-as-a-winUnions count Verizon strike as a win
America’s biggest strike in four years took place in April and May as 39,000 members of CWA and IBEW struck Verizon’s East Coast landline operations rather than accept contract concessions at the highly-profitable company. The strike ended after 45 days with a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on terms the union called a win, including 10.5 percent raises over four years, and protections against outsourcing of call center jobs.

Clinton loses in the electoral college
In the general election, Hillary Clinton had the support of nearly every labor union in the country, and she won nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. But she lost where it mattered: The electoral college, thanks to narrow Trump wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

trans-pacific-partnership-dead-at-lastTrans-Pacific Partnership, dead at last
For the first time since NAFTA, a corporate-written trade deal died on the vine. The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnerhip (TPP) was one of Obama’s top priorities, but broad public hostility to the deal — and the defection of some Republicans over industry concerns — prevented ratification in Congress. Trump’s election sealed its fate.

IN YOUR STATE…

Top legislative win: Minimum wage
With unions prepared to put minimum wage increases on the ballot, the Oregon Legislature stepped up to do the job and put the minimum wage on track to 12.50 to 14.75 by 2022, depending on the region. That amounts to an hourly raise of $3.25 to $5.50 an hour for hundreds of thousands of Oregon workers.

Biggest ballot defeat: Measure 97
Despite $16 million in local and national union money, a proposal to raise taxes on the biggest corporations doing business in Oregon was rejected by voters. As a result, instead of new investment in schools, health care and senior services, the state of Oregon faces a budget shortfall next year, once again.

Biggest union organizing wins:

  • 886 support workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
  • 793 PSU grad students joined AFT/AAUP.
  • 310 hospital technicians at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
  • 165 workers at Boeing paint contractor Commercial Aircraft Painting Services joined IAM.
  • 80 DirecTV workers joined CWA Local 7906.
  • 61 alcohol and drug treatment workers at Volunteers of America joined AFSCME.

Biggest union organizing losses:

  • 205 workers at a Jeld-Wen door plant in Chiloquin rejected the Machinists union in a 52-137 vote.
  • 179 workers at Portland Specialty Baking rejected the Bakers union in a 38-123 vote.

oregon-bernie-voteOregon Bernie vote: a mandate for bolder action by Democrats?
Hillary Clinton won among Democrats nationwide, but in Oregon, Democrats showed an appetite for a bolder kind of politics — backing a candidate who rejected Wall Street money and called for universal health care, free public college tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. In Oregon, Bernie Sanders packed arenas and outpolled Clinton by over 70,000 votes, 56 to 44 percent.

Minimum wage and sick leave
Raise the minimum wage to $13.50, and give workers the right paid sick leave? Voters did it, approving union-backed I-1433 by 59-41 percent.

sound-gets-serious-transit-investmentSound gets serious transit investment
Another ballot victory was voter approval for an ambitious 25-year plan to make $54 billion worth of transit improvements in the Puget Sound region, including 62 miles of light rail and new bus and heavy rail service to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The project will mean union jobs, less congestion, and a cleaner environment.

Madore is no more, in Clark County
Flamboyantly anti-union Clark County Commissioner David Madore — who once pushed unsuccessfully for a local “right-to-work” ordinance — lost reelection in the August primary. In the general election, union-backed candidate Tanisha Harris lost to John Blom, but local unions were still pleased to see their nemesis go.

berry-boycott-ends-with-union-dealBerry boycott ends with union deal
A three-year union boycott against Sakuma and Driscoll berries ended in September, when Skagit Valley agri-giant Sakuma Berries agreed to allow a union election and recognize and bargain a contract with the farmworkers union.

YOUR TURN

What were some of your biggest #UnionStrong moments of 2016? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

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What This Means for Unions: The NLRB Judges Decision; Walmart Strikes Lawful, Must Reinstate Workers

This week Reuters broke the news that the National Labor Relations Board Judge found the 2013 Walmart strikes lawful and they must offer to reinstate 16 dismissed employees.

The Ruling
Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey Carter said in a ruling posted on the board’s website that the U.S. retailer violated labor law by “disciplining or discharging several associates because they were absent from work while on strike”.

Walmart_strike1

The ruling was hailed by labor group Making Change at Walmart as a “huge victory” for employees, although Walmart indicated it would likely appeal the decision to the labor agency’s board in a statement:

“We disagree with the Administrative Law Judge’s recommended findings and we will pursue all of our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said (@korylundberg).

Walmart had argued that it was lawful to discipline workers with unexcused absences to participate in the protests because the strikes constituted “intermittent work stoppages” not protected under labor law.

But the judge found this case differed materially from other previous work stoppages not protected by law because, among other factors, it was not a brief strike – meaning the risk for workers was higher – and because it was not scheduled close in time with other strikes.

Judge Carter ordered Walmart to offer 16 former workers their previous jobs and make them “whole for any loss of earnings and other benefits suffered as a result of the discrimination against them”.

walmart-arrest-090513

Union Built PC spoke to a former Walmart Employee for his feedback on his victory… and when it is a victory at all:

“As a former Walmart employee about a decade ago, I remember how hard I laughed when my training had anti-union videos that seriously reminded me of cold war era propaganda.

“‘If you are approached by a Union Representative” – shows shady person approaching you in the clothing section as if he’s about to flash you – “don’t’ talk, get a manager to have them escorted off the premise immediately.’

“And I ‘loved’ receiving my evals; “Outstanding. Excellent. Outstanding. Enjoy your .10 raise.”

“I don’t bear any ill will to my former employer, but they definitely abused their workers when it came to pay. All under the banner of ‘the customer is always right’ and under the guise of corporate profits.”

This video is shown to all associates at on-boarding – it is mandatory that everyone working for Walmart understands they are “better off” without a union! This training video – boasting the care and concern Sam Walton has for its employees – actually leaked and posted to social platforms such as YouTube (see minute marks 2:34 and 6:45).

The Impact… Is it a “huge victory”?
Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey Carter also ordered Walmart to hold a meeting in more than two dozen stores to inform workers of their rights to organize under U.S. labor law.

The impact, if any, the decision would have on the efforts by Making Change at Walmart and other groups to pressure Walmart on wages and benefits is unclear. The UFCW has tried for years to organize Walmart workers and the hurdles remain high. With a consistent history of anti-union messaging presented to their employees – and a statement already issued by Walmart spokesman Lundberg disagreeing with these with intent to file appeal defend the company on the grounds their actions were legal and justified – how can we trust the meetings ordered by Judge Geoffrey Carter will be transparent and without bias?

We suppose Union Built PC will need to source out more Walmart employees who attended one of these meetings to understand just how clearly their right to organize under U.S. Labor Law was communicated.

Your Turn

What do you think of Judge Geoffrey Carter’s decision? What impact do you think it will have on Walmart Workers? How do you feel about the inevitable Walmart appeal?

Sound off in Comments, on our Facebook Page and #UnionStrong Facebook Group, and on our Twitter or LinkedIn Pages… And don’t forget to subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly eNewsletter where we regularly cover topics related to the Labor Movement and have a regular feature called #WalmartWatch.


Additional Sources: Nathan Layne, Reuters