News & Commentary

November 9, 2015

The United Auto Workers union and the Ford Motor Company reached a tentative agreement on Friday that includes unique bonuses for Ford workers, reports the Detroit Free Press and the Wall Street Journal.  The details of the agreement will not be released until later this morning, but UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles described it as “one of the richest agreements in the history of UAW-Ford.”  Although wages and benefits will be similar to those under the earlier General Motors contract, each Ford worker will receive both a $8,500 signing bonus if the contract is ratified and a $1,500 advance on the profit-sharing checks set to be distributed early next year.  Voting on the GM agreement finished on Friday.  Although the GM contract passed overall, a smaller group of skilled trade workers voted down the contract.  Because both production and skilled trade workers must separately ratify the contract, UAW leaders have more work ahead of them to resolve the split.

Reuters reports that the NLRB has declined to review Target’s claim that an NLRB regional director erred in approving the creation of a pharmacy workers’ union at one of Target’s New York City stores.  The pharmacy employees had formed the first union at Target in the company’s history. Target had argued both that the pharmacy workers should not have been able to form a “micro union” that excluded other store employees and that the union should not have been approved while Target was in the process of selling its pharmacy operations to CVS Health. In a one-sentence ruling, the NLRB declined to review this claim. A 2011 NLRB decision, Specialty Healthcare, upheld by the Sixth Circuit on appeal, created a new standard for forming micro unions: they are appropriate when their members share “a community of interest.”  A Target representative indicated that the company might seek review of the NLRB’s decision in federal court.

In the wake of the NLRB’s recent decision to reconsider its 2004 ruling that graduate students at private schools are not entitled to collective bargaining, the Boston Globe reports that efforts to unionize graduate students are on the rise at Yale, Harvard, and other northeastern universities.  Last month, Yale’s Graduate Employee and Students Organization delivered a petition to the university’s administration, asking for recognition and for negotiations on pay and benefits, mental health services, and racial and gender equity.  At Harvard, a group seeking to unionize is — with the assistance of UAW — attempting to expand its membership to include a simple majority of graduate students by gathering signed pledge cards.  University representatives, on the other hand, are working to persuade graduate students that it would not be in their best interest to unionize and that the relationship between a university and its students “is, and should remain, fundamentally an academic relationship.”

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