Published Monday, December 16, 2019 in The Seattle Times
By Dominic Gates and Paul Roberts
Seattle Times aerospace reporters
Nine months after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the 737 MAX, Boeing finally pulled the plug on the jet’s production Monday. The company announced it’s temporarily halting the assembly lines in Renton from January, with no specified timeline for a restart.
However, in a welcome surprise for the 12,000-strong Renton workforce, Boeing said there will be no layoffs.
“During this time, it is our plan that affected employees will continue 737-related work, or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound,” Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing has faced an unprecedented crisis, with more than 700 MAX aircraft grounded worldwide, including nearly 400 built since the grounding. Many have been in storage so long they’ll need extensive maintenance before they fly. The production stoppage will stop the parked fleet from growing to unmanageable proportions, while retaining the workforce will allow a smoother restart of the assembly lines when that time comes.
Boeing’s announcement left many details unanswered, in particular the scale of the financial hit to Boeing and the impact on suppliers. For employees, the news of a shutdown was worrying, yet came with the relief that their jobs would continue. Read entire article
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at vice.com
2019 has been a historic year for the labor movement in tech. Google contractors in Pittsburgh unionized. Kickstarter launched a campaign to form what could become the first union at a major tech company. Amazon warehouse workers, Uber drivers, and Instacart grocery delivery workers went on strike.
Tech companies haven’t stood idly by—even those that have long touted progressive values. Google, for one, hired an anti-union consulting firm IRI Consultants in the spring, and fired four workers last month who were organizing for changes at the company. Kickstarter fired two employees who were leading a union campaign at the crowd-sourcing company in September. (Kickstarter claims the workers were fired for performance-related reasons, and denies any retaliation for union organizing.)
A new report on employer opposition to union campaigns released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that employers spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year against union organizing efforts, and were charged with breaking federal labor laws in 41.5 percent of union campaigns in 2016 and 2017. While the authors of the report, who gained access to unfair labor complaints through FOIA requests, could not comment on specific cases, they say the newly organized tech industry is no exception.
“Tech companies have traditionally set themselves aside as a cutting-edge employers. But what you’re seeing increasingly is that they behave the same way as Walmarts and Targets,” Celine McNicholas, one of the report’s authors who reviewed thousands of complaints filed with the NLRB, told Motherboard.. “When faced with demands of improved working conditions and respecting workers’ voices, they turn to union avoidance consultants. They’d rather spend the money there than on addressing the demands of their workforce.” Read entire article
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2019 in The Stand
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was issued this morning, provided the final USMCA text accurately reflects the changes:
Make no mistake, we demanded a trade deal that benefits workers and fought every single day to negotiate that deal; and now we have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support.
I am grateful to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies on the USMCA working group, along with Senate champions like Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden, for standing strong with us throughout this process as we demanded a truly enforceable agreement. I also commend Ambassador Robert Lighthizer for being a straight shooter and an honest broker as we worked toward a resolution.
Working people are responsible for a deal that is a vast improvement over both the original NAFTA and the flawed proposal brought forward in 2017. For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards — including a process that allows for the inspections of factories and facilities that are not living up to their obligations.
The USMCA also eliminates special carve outs for corporations like the giveaway to Big Pharma in the administration’s initial proposal and loopholes designed to make it harder to prosecute labor violations. Read entire article
Published Friday, November 29, 2019 at fox10phoenix.com
By Gabrielle Moreira
Many people on social media expressed outrage and urged others to boycott Walmart because the retail giant reportedly does not pay its employees overtime for working the holidays and instead offers them a small in-store discount.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Walmart offered its employees a 10 percent and 15 percent in-store discount for working the holidays. The 15 percent discount is only available for employees during two days in December, according to a flyer the publication obtained.
In a statement, Walmart told Business Insider that no longer offering employees holiday pay has been its policy for a few years.
“We simplified our paid time-off policies in 2016 to combine vacation, holiday, sick and personal time into one bucket,” a spokesperson told Business Insider. “As part of that change, we no longer offer holiday pay.”
Overtime pay is not legally required for people who work “on weekends, holidays or regular days of rest, unless overtime is worked on such days,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Walmart was one of several national chain stores open during Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Published Thursday, November 21, 2019 in The Stand
SEATAC — All union members and community supporters are invited to join UNITE HERE Local 8 airline catering workers at a protest at SeaTac Airport on Nov. 26 — the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year. They will join nationwide protests at more than 20 U.S. airports.
Through this march, workers will call on airlines to take urgent and necessary steps to ensure that workers who cater in-flight meals and beverages are able to escape poverty and access medical care. Over the summer, airline catering workers at SeaTac Airport voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike when released, and federal mediation of contract negotiations continues.
TAKE A STAND! — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO urges all to join airline catering workers at the action on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Meet at 5:30 p.m. at the UNITE HERE 8 SeaTac office at the IBEW 77 building, 19415 International Blvd. in SeaTac (across from Angle Lake Park). Buses will leave at 5:45 p.m. to go to the airport. Please click here to RSVP that you plan to attend.
This will be among UNITE HERE Local 8’s largest protests ever at SeaTac Airport, and, collectively, this will be the largest demonstration of workers at U.S. airports in years. Read entire article
Published Friday, November 15, 2019 in The Seattle Times
By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
After enduring a manufacturing mess that spanned six years and cost millions of dollars as it implemented a large-scale robotic system for automated assembly of the 777 fuselage, Boeing has abandoned the robots and will go back to relying more on its human machinists.
Boeing said Wednesday it is adopting a different approach that “has proven more reliable, requiring less work by hand and less rework, than what the robots were capable of.”
The robotic system entailed holding the large curved metal panels that make up the 777 fuselage sections right-side up in a cradle as the moving robots stitched the panels together, drilling holes and adding tens of thousands of fasteners.
Because this was different from the traditional build process in which the lower fuselage was built upside down, then flipped before the upper fuselage was added, Boeing awkwardly dubbed it the “Fuselage Automated Upright Build” process or FAUB.
The main system used on the forward and aft fuselage sections involved mechanics tacking the panels together then stepping back to let four robots apply permanent fasteners. Read entire article
Published October 12, 2019 in MLT News
By Cody Sexton
Local high school students received a hands-on demonstration October 10th of career opportunities in trade jobs available outside of a college education.
The Edmonds School District, through a partnership with the Foundation for Edmonds School District and Snohomish County Labor, hosted Trade Up! — a hands-on exploration in trades like carpentry, electrical work and concrete laying.
More than 70 high school students — a majority of which were juniors and seniors — attended the event on the former-Alderwood Middle School campus.
“The idea of this event is to get kids who are graduating into apprenticeships,” said College and Career Readiness Coordinator Susan Beard.
After hearing about the event’s success in north Snohomish County high schools, Beard said she was dedicated to bringing it to the Edmonds School District. According to Beard, the district has been working to educate students on alternative career paths besides earning a college degree, such as receiving non-degree credentials.
“If you have a credential, that means you have a skill set,” she said. “So, we’re really working hard to talk about credentialing versus college degrees.”
A dozen industry representatives attended the event, including Community Transit, Snohomish County PUD, Sno County 911 operators, sheet metal and electrical workers, Laborers 292, and members of the finishing trades, carpenters union and concrete masons. There were also land surveyors, waste management workers and an engineering simulators team. Read entire article
Published October 7, 2019 in The Seattle Times
By Dominic Gates, Steve Miletich and Lewis Kamb
Seven weeks after the second fatal crash of a 737 MAX in March, a Boeing engineer submitted a scathing internal ethics complaint alleging that management — determined to keep down costs for airline customers — had blocked significant safety improvements during the jet’s development.
The ethics charge, filed by 33-year-old engineer Curtis Ewbank, whose job involved studying past crashes and using that information to make new planes safer, describes how around 2014 his group presented to managers and senior executives a proposal to add various safety upgrades to the MAX.
The complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by The Seattle Times, suggests that one of the proposed systems could have potentially prevented the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Three of Ewbank’s former colleagues interviewed for this story concurred.
The details revealed in the ethics complaint raise new questions about the culture at Boeing and whether the long-held imperative that safety must be the overarching priority was compromised on the MAX by business considerations and management’s focus on schedule and cost.
Managers twice rejected adding the new system on the basis of “cost and potential (pilot) training impact,” the complaint states. It was then raised a third time in a meeting with 737 MAX chief project engineer, Michael Teal, who cited the same objections as he killed the proposal.
A version of the proposed system, called synthetic airspeed, was already installed on the 787 Dreamliner. Read entire article
Published October 7, 2019 in The Washington Post
By Eric Yoder
Federal agencies have been told to carry out Trump administration directives aimed at restricting the role of unions in the federal workplace and giving agencies the maximum discretion in taking disciplinary actions against employees, now that a court ban against many of those policies has been lifted.
The policies “are in full force and effect” and agencies should “ensure that they are fully compliant with all requirements or are taking steps to become compliant with requirements at the soonest feasible opportunity,” the central personnel agency said in a memo issued Friday.
The Office of Personnel Management’s memo came just days after a court lifted a year-long injunction in a union-sponsored lawsuit against three executive orders issued in May 2018.
Several months later, a federal district court agreed with the unions that major parts of the orders overstepped the president’s authority under civil service law.
However, in July of this year a federal appeals court held, without ruling on that issue, that the dispute belongs instead before the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which decides on disputes between agencies and unions.
Most of the provisions at issue involve topics of importance in workplaces with union bargaining units, including to limit the topics on which bargaining will be held, set time limits on negotiations and significantly reduce “official time,” which is paid time that employees may use for certain union-related purposes, and other accommodations to unions such as free use of office space. Read entire article
Press Release - September 28, 2019 by UFCW 555
This month’s scheduled two-day session with the employers’ negotiation team and the Unity Bargaining Team (joined for the first time by a federal mediator upon request from Local 555) went throughout the night on the 27th.
A Tentative Agreement was reached at ~ 9 am, Saturday, September 28, 2019. Details of the Tentative Agreement are embargoed until our members have reviewed and voted on whether to ratify the Tentative Agreement. Ratification meeting dates, times, and locations will be sent out over the next few days.
UFCW Local 555 thanks everyone for their support of our boycott campaign. Our bargaining team is happy to report that we were successful in addressing all of our concerns. Local 555 recognizes that this would not have been possible without the support of our community.
We are now asking all of our supporters to cease the boycott and resume their normal shopping habits, including shopping at Fred Meyer.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555 represents nearly 25,000 workers in Oregon and SW Washington and has grown to be the largest private sector labor union in Oregon. Local 555 members are a diverse group of workers in retail, manufacturing, and healthcare, among other industries.
Published September 10, 2019 in The Post and Courier
By David Wren
Complaints that Boeing Co. fired workers for supporting a labor union will still be heard despite a ruling this week that blocked the union’s attempts to get a foothold at the aerospace giant’s North Charleston campus.
The National Labor Relations Board said in a 3-1 ruling Monday that flight-line workers at the 787 Dreamliner plant can’t join the International Association of Machinists as their own separate group. The ruling puts an end to the union’s 18-month battle to organize 178 technicians and inspectors.
But unfair labor practice charges filed by the union against Boeing will continue to work their way through the system as the IAM tries to get five fired flight-line workers rehired.
“This is far, far from over,” said Bill Haller, the IAM’s associate general counsel.
A regional director for the NLRB last month said there’s enough conflicting evidence about the five firings to send the matter to an administrative law judge, who will take testimony under oath and determine whether Boeing violated federal labor laws.
Boeing said in a written statement that it “does not tolerate any form of retaliation” and disagrees with the regional director’s decision, but is fully cooperating with the labor board’s investigation of the charges.
“Each of these employees was discharged or otherwise disciplined for violating well publicized, longstanding and objectively reasonable safety and conduct policies, such as falsification of company records, failing to come to work and walking across an active runway despite direct contrary instruction,” the company said. Read entire article
Published September 1, 2019 in The Spokesman-Review
By Shawn Vestal
On this Labor Day, amid a longtime downward trend in national union membership and following a recent Supreme Court decision celebrated by union busters, it’s interesting to note that it’s a relatively good time for organized labor in Washington.
Union membership has been growing in this state for the past three years. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show an increase of 150,000 union members in Washington from 2016 to 2018, about a fifth of all workers in the state. That’s one of the highest rates in the country.
A new report from the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center makes the case that union jobs are contributing to both workers’ and the overall health of the state in a variety of ways that go beyond the obvious matter of wages. And, as unions adapt to the needs of a younger generation of workers trying to negotiate the gig economy, public support is rising; A Gallup poll released last week showed 64% of Americans support labor unions, a rise of 16 percentage points since 2009.
It is, in other words, not a bad time for labor.
“I think there is some reason for optimism,” said David West of the research center, a project of South Seattle College. Read entire article
Published August 19, 2019 in BloombergLaw.com
By Hassan A. Kanu
A machinists union scored a partial but significant win in a high-stakes battle to unionize Boeing’s South Carolina facility, thought to be a bellwether for labor’s potential to organize workers in the southern U.S.
Federal investigators concluded there’s merit to nine unfair labor practice charges filed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers against Boeing Co., according to the union. The list includes allegations that six workers were illegally fired last year in retaliation for openly supporting the union, according to IAM officials.
The IAM won a union election on a 105-64 vote last year to represent a smaller group of technicians after losing a previous bid to unionize most of the more than 2,000 employees at the North Charleston plant. That was considered by advocates to be a significant achievement for labor, illustrating the potential for organizing even under “right-to-work” laws that limit union finances in much of the South. Boeing is still fighting that election, arguing that the union “gerrymandered” a slice of the plant’s employees after failing to persuade a majority of workers across the facility to organize under the IAM banner.
A National Labor Relations Board regional director’s decision to approve the charges isn’t a final ruling on the allegations. However, it indicates that the federal government found evidence supporting IAM’s claims and believes the company may have committed legal violations. The two sides will now go before an NLRB judge, who’ll hear arguments and issue a ruling. Read entire article
Published August 17, 2019 at CNN.com
By Sarah Westwood and Yon Pomrenze
Workers at the Pennsylvania petrochemical plant where President Donald Trump spoke Tuesday were told that if they didn't attend the event, they either had to use paid time off or receive no pay for the day.
At least some of the workers who attended the speech were instructed not to protest the President, who told the crowd of workers at the Royal Dutch Shell plant he would be imploring their union leaders to support his reelection.
The instructions to the workers came in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by CNN's Polo Sandoval from a congressional source. That source was given the memo by a person in Beaver County, Pennsylvania -- the site of the plant.
"Your attendance is not mandatory. This will be considered an excused absence. However, those who are NOT in attendance will not receive overtime pay on Friday," read part of the memo.
Shell spokesman Curtis Smith confirmed workers were told they would also miss out on some overtime pay if they skipped the event. Shell said it did not write the memo. Read entire article
Published August 6, 2019 in the Everett Herald
By Joseph Thompson
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray listened to local labor leaders in Everett on Monday to get their take on a bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize and collectively bargain.
The four-term senator touted the Protecting the Right to Organize Act with representatives from the Snohomish County Labor Council and the Teamsters, Machinists and other unions. The bill would impose penalties on companies that violate worker rights laws and boost protections for employees who protest or seek union representation. Murray said the bill is needed to help working-class Americans.
“I know here in Everett you know the importance of unions,” she said. “A lot of people talk about the economy being great, but I see too many people where it’s not working — people who go to work every day and don’t get the salaries they need and don’t get the support they need. Today we have an economy that works for those at the top and who invest in Wall Street, and corporations that are nameless. But the average workers are feeling less and less secure in this economy and we need to right that.”
The Senate bill has 40 co-sponsors, including fellow Democrat Maria Cantwell, Washington’s other U.S. senator. Murray said she doesn’t expect the bill to gain ground in the Senate without prior success in the country’s other legislative body. Read entire article
Published August 4, 2019 at MSN.com
By Chris Roberts
Even before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes claimed 346 lives, Boeing flight tests had revealed problems similar to those encountered by pilots on the ill-fated 737 MAX flights.
Company officials learned that its MCAS anti-stall system -- which is at the center of both accidents -- activated within minutes of takeoff, repeatedly pushing the nose of the aircraft down even when the plane was operating in normal conditions at lower speed.
This discovery, recounted to AFP by two former Boeing engineers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggested that mastering the MCAS was important for safely flying the MAX.
The MCAS should have been closely vetted by regulators, and procedures for operating the system should have been included in plane manuals and highlighted during pilot training.
But none of that happened.
Before the Lion Air disaster in October, the MCAS was not even named in the official documents given to pilots. Read entire article
Published August 4, 2019 in The Observer
By Chris Roberts
What do good economic times in America mean? Building. Signs of a strong economy mean a forest of construction cranes in every city and small armies of contractors and workers digging, drilling and dying in the heat in increasing numbers, according to a recent study.
Anyone who has ever worked an outdoor job is well aware that the environment is a significant occupational hazard. You can’t really work on a roof or frame a house in the rain, but you can in the sun. In growing states like Texas, where the heat and the sun are merciless, working means sweating—and, increasingly, sweating until you die.
Between 1992 and 2016, 783 American workers died because of exposure to excessive heat, and nearly 70,000 were “seriously injured,” according to federal figures. Heatstroke, in case you didn’t know, is extremely bad even if you survive. Your organs can fail and you can suffer brain damage. One hot day at work can quite literally ruin, or at least negatively shape, the rest of your life.
Construction workers account for about 6% of the total workforce in the United States—a figure that does fluctuate during economic boom and bust cycles—but has accounted for 36% of heat-related deaths since 1992, according to a study published on July 22 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Read entire article
Published June 20, 2019 in The New York Times
By Michael Corkery
Inside Walmart’s corporate offices in Brazil, one local contact was known as the “sorceress” for the ability to obtain government permits quickly.
In India, concerns about bribery were met with a “wink and a nod” by Walmart’s local business partner. In China, money was funneled to a local landlord for “government relationship consulting services.” And in Mexico, cars and computers were donated to governments in communities where Walmart was planning to build new stores.
For more than a decade, Walmart used middlemen to make dubious payments to governments around the globe in order to open new locations, United States prosecutors and securities regulators said in a settlement agreement on Thursday. But even as employees frequently raised alarm, the company’s top leaders did little to prevent Walmart from being involved in bribery and corruption schemes.
That lack of internal control led to a seven-year inquiry that culminated on Thursday with Walmart’s Brazilian subsidiary pleading guilty to a federal crime. The guilty plea, and the $282 million in fines that Walmart has agreed to pay, capped one of the biggest investigations ever under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for American corporations to bribe overseas officials.
“Walmart profited from rapid international expansion, but in doing so chose not to take necessary steps to avoid corruption,” Brian A. Benczkowski, an assistant attorney general, said in a statement.
The investigation, which was conducted by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, came after The New York Times revealed in 2012 that Walmart had made suspicious payments to officials in Mexico and then tried to conceal them from top executives at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. And even when the issues reached the main office, an internal investigation essentially went nowhere. Read entire article
Published June 18, 2019 in The Stand
By Peter Starzynski
The Olympia-based Freedom Foundation has been making frivolous claims about the success of the anti-union campaign it has been running for the better part of five years and trying to position itself as the preeminent corporate backed, right-wing organization attacking unions along the West Coast.
Nothing could be further from the truth. After five years and more than $20 million spent, the Freedom Foundation (aka Opt Out Today) has been a massive failure.
In the fall of 2014, the Freedom Foundation, under then new CEO Tom McCabe, launched its so-called “opt-out campaign” in Washington by targeting home care workers, badgering them about their union membership and trying to persuade them to stop paying union dues.
Despite the organization’s tax-exempt status, which strictly prohibits spending for political purposes, McCabe made it very clear that the Freedom Foundation’s mission is to win elections for extreme right-wing politicians in order to push a pro-corporate agenda.
That year at a political fundraiser for Republican state Sen. Lynda Wilson, McCabe said, “When I got to the Freedom Foundation – it was about 13 months ago – I told my staff, ‘we need to fight unions.’ Because unions have corrupted [Washington], they have ensured that [Washington is] the bluest state in the country. And I told my staff, all these things we’re fighting for, whether it’s property rights, whether it’s lower taxes, whether it’s less government spending, whether it’s agencies that are duplicating efforts — all of that stuff cannot be accomplished until the power of unions has been dissipated, until we reduce that power of the union, until frankly we defund it.” Read entire article
Published Thursday, May 30, 2019 in TheHill.com
By Rebecca Klar
California is one step closer to protecting "gig economy" workers' rights, moving forward a bill that tightens regulations on company's like Uber and Amazon that classify some workers as independent contractors.
The state Assembly on Thursday passed a proposal by a 59-15 vote that would restrict corporations' ability to bypass labor laws.
The bill now heads to the state Senate.
The new law would benefit workers across a variety of fields, but the problem has seemingly grown with the rise of service apps.
"This kind of started with Uber and Lyft, but now we’ve seen a proliferation of this business model that is essentially built around this classifying workers as independent contractors and cheating those workers out of basic protections in the law," said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation.
The labor federation sponsored the bill.
"It's becoming a bigger and bigger problem, especially here in California and all around the country," Smith said.
If passed, the bill known as AB5 would codify into law the decision in the California Supreme Court Dynamex case. Last month's court decision ruled that businesses should follow the "ABC" test to decide if a worker is an employee.
Based on the Dynamex ruling, to deem a worker an independent contractor, a company must prove three points, according to Vox,: the worker is free from the company's control, the worker is doing work that isn't central to the company's business, and the worker has an independent business in that industry. Read entire article
Published Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in PewTrusts.org
Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press
Public-sector unions, struck last year by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended their ability to charge non-members fees, suffered another blow this month when the Trump administration blocked hundreds of thousands of Medicaid-funded home health aides from deducting union dues from their paychecks.
California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state and, separately, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sued the Trump administration earlier this month over the new regulation, which they say also will stop the workers from making payroll deductions for health insurance premiums and training costs.
In their suit, the state attorneys general, all Democrats, said the rule will disrupt their longstanding labor arrangements and make it harder for home care professionals to work together to improve their jobs and better serve their elderly and disabled clients.
The move comes after the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling last June held that it’s unconstitutional to require a government employee who is represented by a union but not a member to pay so-called agency fees to support union operations, including lobbying. The ruling didn’t affect Medicaid-funded home care workers, because the court already had banned unions from charging them agency fees in its 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision.
The new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule forbids states from diverting Medicaid dollars meant for providers to third parties, such as other companies or organizations. It’s expected to affect payroll deductions for home care workers who don’t have a conventional employer, because they’re paid by the state but hired and fired by their clients. Read entire article