Today’s News & Commentary — March 6, 2015

Published March 6th, 2015 -  - 03.06.158


Lydia DePillis of The Washington Post writes that the nine-person staff of the D.C. bike shop, Capitol Hill Bikes, voted to form the District Bicycle Workers’ Union. The move came after workers of Capital Bikeshare tried to unionize last year. Capitol Hill Bikes has stated that it wants to “show solidarity” and even hired a former Capital Bikeshare worker who was fired for organizing. For Capitol Hill Bikes, however, the process has been easier. The employees are on good terms with the shop’s owner who has voluntarily recognized the union. The new union’s parent is the 3,000-member Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which DePillis describes as a “radical union with a colorful history that aims to overturn capitalism and the wage labor system.” For Capitol Hill Bikes, unionization has already led to tangible benefits. The hourly wage has increased from $9 an hour to $12 an hour and will reach $15 an hour in several months. IWW operates through a direct action model which expressly disavows traditional collective bargaining.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the West Coast ports labor dispute has caused trade and shipping routes to be redrawn across the U.S. In general, about half of U.S. cargo come through West Coast ports, including many goods manufactured in Asia. However, as a result of the labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, many supply-chain managers have started to shift cargo to ports in other parts of the continent. This could be a cause for concern for West Coast ports, truckers, and railroads as the expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled to be completed next year, is likely to divert even more business to the East Coast.

U.S. refinery operators and striking union workers may continue to be at a standoff for many months. The parties were at the bargaining table this Wednesday, but some refinery operators have already indicated that they are training replacement workers at their plants. LyondellBasell Industries recently filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that the United Steelworkers (USW) has “threatened and harassed people trying to cross picket lines.” USW has also filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Lyondell and other refiners have threatened workers and failed to bargain in good faith. Since February, more than 6,500 USW workers have walked out of more than 12 plants that make up 20% of the country’s gasoline, diesel, and other fuels. Most plants have stayed open with employers using management and nonunion workers to fill the positions.

According to The New York Times, supporters of the charter school movement and teachers’ unions were outspoken of their respective views in Albany. Charter schools argue that they are a viable alternative to failing public schools across the state. On the other hand, teachers’ unions argue that charter schools, which are privately run, publicly financed, and generally not unionized, compete with traditional public schools for space and resources. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has asked the state legislature for educational reforms, many of which call for greater charter school presence.

Major League Soccer and its player union agreed to a five-year collective bargaining agreement just two days before the start of the league’s 20th season. Veteran players won a limited form of free agency, which will allow them to move without multiple teams bidding for them. But as a compromise, players eligible for free agency need to be at least 28 years of age and have eight years of experience in the league. There will also be a cap on the players’ raises if they elect to use their free agency. On the other hand, the minimum salary in the league will increase more than 60% from $36,500 to $60,000.

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