News & Commentary

November 10, 2014

Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas has outlawed the West Bank’s largest labor union and arrested its top two union officials.  An announcement by Abbas’ office followed a series of strikes demanding more benefits, claiming that the strikes were illegal and “harmed the public interest.”  Moayad Amer, an official of the 40,000-member union, said the group is trying to get its leaders released.  ‘‘It is our right to have a union,’’ he said.  These arrests have been seen as a sign Abbas’ growing intolerance for public dissent in Palestine.

On Sunday, flight attendants from American Airlines rejected a joint labor contract covering the combined workforce of nearly 24,000 cabin-crew workers.The rejected contract included pay raises for all of the 25,000 American flight attendants, with senior US Airways flight attendants receiving a 23% raise by the end of the contract.  This rejection is a major setback to the integration process for the American Airlines Group Inc., a massive merger between US Airways and American Airlines.  The labor contract will now go to federal mediation to settle the terms.   Until the arbitration is completed and a new contract is settled, both US Airways and American flight attendants will continue to work under their current contracts, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants union said.

On the West Coast, talks between International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the union representing about 13,000 West Coast longshore workers, and the Pacific Maritime Association have escalated with accusations of work slowdowns in major West Coast ports.  The Los Angeles Daily News reports that cargo is moving “half speed” as a result of worker slowdowns accompanying the negotiations.  “They’re still working without a contract,” said Dick Schroeder, who runs Ohana Transportation in Wilmington, CA.  “I’ve been here over 50 years doing this, and I’ve been through four or five strikes down here. I’ve never seen anything this bad.”

Fox News reports that teachers’ unions “spent big on the midterm elections and lost big — dropping as much as $80 million on mostly Democratic candidates.”  The National Education Association spent $40 million on ads in various Senate and gubernatorial races. In Michigan, the NEA spent $200,000 in a bid to unseat Gov. Rick Snyder, while in Florida, the AFT spent $500,000 supporting Democratic candidate Charlie Crist’s unsuccessful effort to unseat Gov. Rick Scott. In Wisconsin, a recent battleground between state government and teachers’ unions, the teachers union campaigned hard against Gov. Scott Walker, who has now won three campaigns in four years, including a recall effort led by public-sector unions.   “The unions have had difficulties for the last few elections, not just this one,” Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at Michigan-based Mackinac Center, told “The voters are siding with taxpayers and the workers. The success of these governors and legislators was just not on the Republican side. This [election] was less of a referendum and more of a reaffirmation. Unions are going to have to adapt.”

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