Today's News and Commentary – October 24
The L.A. Times reports that the spring mayoral race is resting largely on which candidate is “too cozy” with organized labor. A poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the L.A. Times found that city residents opposed to public sector unionism strongly favored Eric Garcetti over Wendy Greuel. A similarly labor-focused political race is also taking place in Boston between John R. Connolly and long time labor leader Martin J. Walsh. In a debate that took place Tuesday night, Connolly portrayed his opponent’s potential election as a thrilling prospect for unions, who would be happy to see “one of their own at the negotiating table”.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, during the BART cooling-off period, Governor Jerry Brown suggested that “a binding arbitration bill would be in the best interest of the state.” While BART management, the union, and the state legislature were not in agreement, Professor William Gould of Stanford, former chairman of the NLRB, recently proposed a similar solution to the “unacceptability of transit strikes” in an opinion peace. Professor Gould wrote that “simply outlawing them isn’t the way to go”, but “final and binding arbitration along with the strike prohibition” might be. He compared his suggested approach to the one employed in Major League Baseball since 1972. The Governor has not yet commented on the proposal.
The Pensacola News Journal reports that, two days after a labor strike was scheduled to begin, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395 successfully negotiated a pay raise for employees, as well as an increase in 401k contributions from the Escambia County Area Transit’s management company. The union represents approximately 150 transportation workers, who had planned to begin striking on Monday. Although the union had been operating on an expired labor contract from 2010, they agreed to postpone the strike in order to re-enter negotiations. The union was able to negotiate a three percent raise for all union workers, which will be retroactive to October 1, 2013. The workers will also receive additional three percent wage increases in 2014 and 2015. The 401k-employer contribution was increased to five percent and will increase to six percent in 2015. The contract was overwhelmingly approved by 90% of the union membership.
Businessweek reports that Amazon is facing potential labor disruptions in Germany, which is the company’s largest market outside of the United States. Amazon’s approximately 9,000 German workers have walked off the job three times this year over pay disputes. These recent labor disruptions follow allegations from temporary workers who complained that they were mistreated while working during the 2012 Christmas season.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a major Italian union, Fim Cisl, has joined the United Auto Workers in their call for Fiat and a health-care trust to agree on a price for the trust’s 41.5% stake in Chrysler so that the Italian car maker can buy the remainder of Chrysler Group LLC. This agreement would allow a merger between the two companies to move forward. The trust and Fiat disagree over the price that Fiat should pay for the trust’s stake. The trust is a type of Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association that was established in 2007 to pay out health-care benefits to union-represented retirees from Chrysler. The trust operates independently from the UAW.