News & Commentary

October 21, 2018

The trans-continental Marriott strike continues without flagging.  Seven thousand workers in Boston, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Detroit, and throughout Hawaii are disrupting operations at dozens of Marriott-owned hotels.  The SF Examiner describes the scene in downtown San Francisco, where more than 1,000 workers and supporters rallied Saturday.  Chief among these strikers’ concerns is job security – and union spokesperson Rachel Gumpert stressed that both automation and environmentalist efforts like the chains’ “Green Choice Program,” which encourages patrons to opt-out of housekeeping services, are already resulting in job losses.  In Detroit, Unite Here 24 representatives criticized the band The Foo Fighters for clandestinely crossing the picket line last week, which the band refutes.  Guitarist Chris Shiflett insisted via twitter that they did not stay at any Marriott hotel, and that he has consistently supported the strike.  In Hawaii, where 2,700 workers are striking, labor and management will return to the bargaining table on Oct. 26, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Negotiations are stalling between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canada Post’s management officials; a nationwide rotating strike looms.  Public officials across provinces are preparing for the work stoppage, but are also urging CUPW to reconsider.  Ontario’s minister of finance Vic Fedeli has called upon the federal government to prevent the strike and warns of “devastating” economic consequences should they not, including a disruption in the flow of online sales for 136 billion-dollars-worth of goods and services.  Particularly distressing to Fedeli is the effect of a strike on the “secure and reliable online delivery” system for cannabis.  CUPW-prairie region’s national director Gordon Fischer explains that Canada Post must go further with its current offers if it wishes to avoid a strike.  CUPW is seeking agreement on a range of issues addressing wages, benefits, safety, and job security.

In San Diego, the faculty union at Palomar College (San Marcos) has filed a lawsuit against the college’s Governing Board for an opaque process that yielded a 27-percent salary raise for college president Joi Lin Blake.  The complaint alleges that the Board’s secret, closed-door meetings violated California’s open-government rules under the Brown Act.  Blake’s salary rose from 252,782 dollars a year to 292,027 dollars, with additional benefits and pension plans; the Palomar Faculty Federation Local 6161 opposes this use of taxpayer dollars as “irresponsible.”  Governing Board member Paul McNamara is running for mayor of Escondido against incumbent Sam Abed, and the Coast News Group describes the effects of the lawsuit on that race.

In Seattle, the police union is fighting for their contract with the city, after the Community Police Commission voted against it.  The CPC is a community-oriented oversight group that was initially established in 2012 via consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.  In 2017, a suite of legislative efforts focused on police accountability made permanent the CPC and instituted two additional accountability agencies.  According to CPC, which is tasked with facilitating understanding and trust between the community and police, the new collective bargaining agreement would “undercut” their progress, roll back some of the legislative reforms, and ultimately erode public faith in the force.  While Lisa Duagaard, CPC commissioner and director of the Public Defender Association, recognizes that the police rank-and-file “deserve a contract” and “a fair wage,” she argues that the current CBA protects the police too much: it insulates some officers from new accountability standards and grants others the use of private arbitration as they contest disciplinary action.  96 percent of union members voted for the contract, which applies retroactively because the previous agreement expired in 2014, and includes between 3 and 3.85 percent wage increases.  Seattle Weekly walks through the various issues and tensions in the debate.  Sworn, entry-level officers currently earn 39 dollars an hour.

In New Hampshire, the Rye Police Association, represented by Teamsters Local 663, has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Chief Kevin Walsh.  Allegations refer to Walsh’s abusive management style, which routinely features profanity-laced tirades, and has included threats to run over a sergeant.  Attrition rates at the force are high because many have found Walsh’s leadership intolerable.  The officers seek a hearing before the town’s Board of Selectmen.

Baltimore’s Police Union has taken offense at Saturday Night Live’s unnecessarily “sharp jab” at the department last week.  Gene Ryan, outgoing president of Baltimore’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, wrote to SNL create Lorne Michaels lamenting the “grossly inapt” portrayal of the force as incompetent and abusive, hard-drinking and unconstrained.  The skit in question features two African American female officers, played by Leslie Jones and Baltimore native Ego Nwodim, as they handle a traffic stop with a white man played by Seth Meyers; the officers have clearly been drinking and are using their power to make sexual advances.  As Washington Post columnist Theresa Vargas explains, however, the police union’s response is only animating a counter-response, wherein the public expresses “just how failed [it] feels by its police department.”

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