Monday, July 30, 2007

Of Glass Houses & Septic Tanks: AFL-CIO Negotiates Less-than-Living Wage Increase with its Unionized Staff

You know the old adage about living in glass houses and throwing stones, right? Or, what about the one that says something to the effect of the grass is always being greener over the septic tank?

Well, see if you can answer this riddle:

What do you call an employer who switches health care providers on its unionized employees, stalls negotiations well beyond the expired contract, has multiple tiers of employees (many without grievance protections, even though they pay unions dues), and negotiates paltry increases of 2.75% in the first year of the contract, 2.85% in the second year of the contract, and 2.75% in the third and final year of the contract?

If your answer is the AFL-CIO, that Big Kahuna of the two labor federations here in the U.S., you're right!

Well, here's another one from the Pathetic Union Department (PUD)...

It seems the AFL-CIO, has recently negotiated a renewal contract with the union representing its "professional staff," the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (a division of the Communications Workers of America)...and what a contract it is!

According to a fluff piece (see note below) put out by the Bureau of National Affairs (subscription required), the AFL-CIO's previous contract with the Guild expired last October 1st but talks were 'postponed' until January 2007 due to the the mid-term elections.
Note: As the BNA normally doesn't do 'fluff pieces', we thought the piece was a bit too fluffy, so we did some research and found that the WBNG also represents numerous classifications of workers at the BNA, including its writers.
According to the BNA report, Amy Lampkin, the union's unit chair at the AFL-CIO, stated that once negotiations resumed in January, following the mid-term elections, the federation and the union quickly reached a tentative agreement on Feb. 6. The contract, however, was not put up for ratification until now because the parties had to work out details of health care coverage under a new provider.

Lampkin said that the AFL-CIO bargaining unit employees had received their health insurance through ULLICO (click here and here for a brief synopsis of the scandal-ridden, union-owned insurance carrier), but the insurance company got out of the health insurance business last year. She said that the parties agreed to a new carrier--United Healthcare--but had to work out details of "make-whole" language that was negotiated. [Apparently, this was necessary because the new health benefits are inferior to the the previous ULLICO benefits.]

The contract also contains a modicum of job security language for workers with more than 10 years with the federation, but nothing mentioned for workers with less than ten years who would be subject to being laid off if union funding to the AFL-CIO is cut again. This was apparently negotiated following the hypocritical way the Sweeney administration handled the 2005 lay offs at the AFL-CIO, angering some within the House of Labor. (See AFL-CIO layoff articles here and here.)

In terms of wages, the AFL-CIO agreed to a paltry 2.75 percent retroactive to Oct. 1, 2006, when the prior contract expired, followed by increases of 2.85 percent Oct. 1, 2007, and 2.75 percent Oct. 1, 2008. Which, given that the AFL-CIO is located in Washington, D.C., where the cost of living should be considered inhumane, the AFL-CIO's increase is less than a 'living wage' increase! [Perhaps the Carpenter's union could loan the WBNG some of their homeless protestors!]

And, last but not least, the AFL-CIO apparently agreed to continue the WBNG's "union security" provision (withholding union dues from all employees after 30 days of employment, or causing them to be terminated), even though the AFL-CIO has the "unlimited right to discharge" (aka fire) employees within six (6) months of their start date.

This, of course, means that those employees are (gasp!) "at will" employees and can be fired by the AFL-CIO for cause, little cause, or no cause at all!

Say what?!?...Yep! Here it is in their own words (er...writing):

  1. The Employer shall have the unlimited right to discharge a new employee who has not concluded a probationary period of six (6) months, beginning from the date that the employee begins work, provided that on or before the two (2) month anniversary date and on or before the four (4) month anniversary date the progress of the new employee will be evaluated and the Guild will be notified in writing if any problem or problems appear to be developing. After one (1) month on the payroll, if an employee is discharged during the probationary period, he or she shall be given at least one (1) week's notice, or one (1) week's pay in lieu of notice. The probationary period shall end on the last working day before the six (6) month anniversary of the employee. An employee's probationary period may be extended by agreement of the Employer and the Guild.
  2. Employees with more than six (6) months of service shall not be subject to discharge except for just and sufficient cause.
  3. Employees with more than six (6) months of service shall be given two (2) weeks' notice, or two (2) weeks' pay in lieu of notice, of any discharge.
  4. The Guild shall be notified in writing, simultaneously with the employee, of any discharge.
The union has also bargained that the employer (the AFL-CIO) can have multiple tiers of employees--namley, temporary, fund and project employees (aka "casual workers"), as well as part-time employees, consultants, and affiliate staff.

To be fair to the labor behemoth and its staff union, there are some very rich provisions of the labor agreement that provide for 35-hours of work per week, a large amount of paid-time off, a semi-rich life insurance plan, as well as a host of other asundry items that are not found in too many other collective bargaining agreements.

Of special note: However rich the perks appear to be though, it should be realized that all of them are funded through the (in many cases, forced) union dues of union members paid to their unions, then given to the AFL-CIO through its per capita tax scheme.

In the (paraphrased) words of the immortal Erma Bombeck: The grass is always greener over the septic tank...

But, then again, the stink is also stronger too!


4rx said...

Do you think that these percentages show exactly the real facts?, I don't know if it is truth I want to know where you found this statistics..

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