Weekend News and Commentary: March 1-2

Published March 2nd, 2014 -  - 03.02.14


The New York Times reports that The Metropolitan Opera is in talks to seek concessions from union workers, whose contracts expire at the end of July 2014.  The Met’s general manager met this week with officials of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the players in the orchestra.  The Met management “proposed curbing the opera house’s costs by reducing pension and health care benefits and changing work rules.”  Last season, the Met ran a $2.8 million deficit last season on a budget of $327 million.  Union leaders have already warned agents and artists to prepare for a lockout in case there is no agreement by the start of the next season.

The L.A. Times reports that the University of California system has reached an agreement with AFSCME 3299, the union that represents over 8,000 campus service workers.  Previously, AFSCME carried out public demonstrations at the UC Regents meetings and calling for multiple strikes, striking for two days in May 2013 and a one-day walkout in November 2014, which “cost the universities millions of dollars in hiring replacement workers and lost revenue.”  The new agreement allows an “immediate 4.5% pay increase as a signing bonus and then across-the-board 3% raises annually through 2016, plus an additional 2% each year for many employees within certain longevity and pay categories, according to UC.”  Additionally, low-wage workers will not  pay any increases for some of their health insurance coverage.

Though there are many festivities associated with tonight’s Academy Awards, the California film industry has been marred by “one of the worst periods in decades,” writes the L.A. Times.  Workers claim that studios have gone out of their way to outsource production work to Louisiana, Georgia, New York, London and Vancouver, Canada.  A report issued last week by the Milken Institute shows that California lost 16,137 film and TV jobs from 2004 to 2012, while New York gained 10,675 film and TV jobs, due to New York’s expansion of its film and TV tax credit program.

In light of Rep. Corker’s remarks after the recent VW unionization vote, Michael Hiltzik asks “Are Unions Necessary?” in the L.A. Times.   Concluding that unions are indeed valuable, Hiltzik refutes recent commentary by Evan Soltas in Bloomberg View and touts the importance of unions for American economic growth.  Hiltzik also states that “[t]o think that federal labor law has had ‘little to do’ with union decline, as Soltas puts it, is hopelessly naive.”

The Baltimore Sun reports that ongoing labor disputes at the Port of Baltimore “simmers with uncertainty.”  The paper reports that “[e]ven though [port] management and the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333 sat down for talks again last week, a solution appears as elusive as it did when the union went on strike in October after years of working under temporary extensions to a previous, expired local contract.”

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