Entries in strike (9)


Twinkies Maker Hostess to Liquidate Company if Strikes Persist

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(IRVING, Texas) -- The end for Twinkies may just be hours away.  Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of the iconic snack, announced on Wednesday that it will liquidate the entire company if not enough striking employees return to work by Thursday evening.

“We simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike,” Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said in a statement Wednesday.  “Therefore, if sufficient employees do not return to work by 5 p.m., EST, on Thursday to restore normal operations, we will be forced to immediately move to liquidate the entire company, which will result in the loss of nearly 18,000 jobs."

The strikes began on Nov. 9, when the company imposed a contract that would cut workers' wages by 8 percent.  The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) said the contract would also cut benefits by 27 to 32 percent.

Hostess, which is privately owned by two hedge funds, has struggled in recent years with two bankruptcy filings.  The company said it "has done everything in its power to pursue a reorganization of its business as a going concern, including spending the better part of 18 months negotiating with its key constituents to obtain a consensual agreement."

"It is now up to Hostess’ BCTGM represented employees and Frank Hurt, their international president, to decide if they want to call off the strike and save this company, or cause massive financial harm to thousands of employees and their families,” Rayburn said.

If the strike continues, Hostess said it will file a motion on Friday to wind-down the company and sell all of its assets.  If the U.S. Bankruptcy Court grants the motion, the company will then begin to close all of its operations as early as Nov. 20.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chicago Strike Highlights Teacher's Pay

ABC News/Ma'ayan Rosenzweig(NEW YORK) -- Teacher pay is back in the headlines as Chicago school teachers went on strike Monday.

The average teacher salary is $71,236 in the Chicago Public School district, which includes elementary schools and high schools, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card of Northern Illinois University.  The average in the state is $64,978.

Jackson Potter, staff coordinator of the Chicago Teachers Union cautioned that the average salary figures likely include a large number of veteran teachers who retired this past spring.  More than 1,000 teachers retired, according to the latest figures from the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

While negotiations in the nation's third-largest school district are focusing on a number of issues, including job security and teacher evaluations, the complicated issue of teacher pay will always be a point of discussion across the country, said Chris Swanson, a vice president at Education Week.

"The idea that teachers have much more generous benefits packages than other occupations is complicated to get into," Swanson said.

Education Week's "Quality Counts" report published in January looked at teachers' pay parity, which measured teacher pay against 16 comparable occupations in each state.

The analysis found that public school teachers make 94 cents for every dollar earned by workers in 16 comparable occupations, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data from 2010.

Teachers in Illinois make about 91.2 cents for every dollar earned in comparable occupations, the report stated, which ranks teacher pay in the lower half of the country, as 32nd from the top.

"It's not dramatically different," Swanson said of the teacher pay in the state.

Washington, D.C., ranked last, because, Swanson said, it has a "robust" labor market in general.  In other words, teacher salaries in the nation's capital may appear high, but compared with other salary levels, teacher pay can be relatively low there.

On the other end of the spectrum, 13 states pay teachers at least as much as comparable workers, if not more.  Wyoming teachers had the highest teacher salary relative to other comparable occupations in the index: 131.4.

The report analyzed salary without looking at benefits, but Swanson said there is variability for non-teachers and teachers that may work nine out of 12 months of the year.

"There are teachers who work more than nine months out of the year or who have additional income through coaching," Swanson said as examples of the wide range of teacher pay.

Lori Taylor, a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, pointed out that the dispute in Chicago appears to be "a struggle over reforming a system that is perceived as broken."

One of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's reforms is extending the school schedule, which "is apparently very important to teachers, because they are fighting tooth and nail not to have that lengthened," Taylor said.

"You have to think the reason why people stay in those teacher jobs when the salary is not competitive is either the benefit package is amazing or their desire to help kids," Taylor said.  "Either there is a personal psychic benefit, which is the case for a lot of teachers, but never the case for everyone."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Crisis Averted: Government Ends Norwegian Oil Strike

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Norwegian government intervened to prevent a lockout in the country's oil and gas industry, according to a statement issued by Statoil ASA.

Statoil and other companies were planning to shut down oil production unless the government could enforce a compulsory arbitration between the companies and the unions that represent more than 6,000 offshore workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

During the dispute, which lasted a record 16 days, the unions demanded a retirement age of 62 instead of 65, while the companies insisted they were acting in compliance with the government's pension reforms, Businessweek reports.

Without the positive outcome, the lockout was sure to have, "vital repercussions for the Norwegian economy and also for securing deliveries to Europe," said Labor Minister Hanne Bjurstroem, according to Businessweek. A shutdown in Norwegian oil production could have caused a backlash for the U.S. and other economies as well. Norway is the world's eighth largest oil exporter, responsible for about 2.2 percent global supply, which is already stretched because of sanctions on Iranian oil.
Production is expected to return up to full speed within the next week, according to Statoil.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Triple Crown Run Threatened by Strike

Al Bello/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A top oddsmaker has posted 4-1 odds that I'll Have Another's triple crown bid will be scratched by a strike at the Belmont Stakes in a dispute between a union and the track's management.

The odds on no strike were prohibitively low for betters, set at 1-8 by, an online sportsbook.

Workers for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 have been authorized to go on strike at any time after they were unable to reach an agreement with the New York Racing Association regarding scheduling and wage disputes.

The NYRA, which has been in contract negotiations with the union for two years, called the lingering threat of a strike "troubling" and "extremely self-serving" in a statement issued to ABC News and questioned the timing before I'll Have Another's historic triple crown attempt.

I'll Have Another could become the first horse to win the triple crown in 34 years.

"NYRA employs approximately 130 Local 3 maintenance workers who believe their demands are more important than an historic day for 100,000 fans," the statement read.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seized control of the scandal-plagued NYRA last month after the president and general counsel were fired following state regulators' allegations that they knew the NYRA had shortchanged bettors by $8.5 million over 15 months.

If a strike is called, nearly 80 workers who maintain the track at the prestigious grounds and place horses in their starting gates would be missing from Saturday's highly anticipated race.

More than 100,000 fans are expected to flock to the Long Island race track, which has been called "The Test of Champions." Millions more will be watching on TV.

At issue is a dispute over wages. The NYRA's last best offer was a 30 percent reduction in wages and benefits, said Vincent McElroen, financial secretary of Local 3.

McElroen said NYRA has also unilaterally changed the workweek for union members at its three tracks from Monday to Friday, to Wednesday through Sunday, effectively stripping them of the overtime they used to earn for working weekend events. No races are run at NYRA tracks on Mondays and Tuesday.

"These are the changes they did without agreement to the union," he said. "We're always hopeful [there won't be a strike], but they have taken the position 'it's our way or the highway.'"

McElroen said the NYRA is using speculation of a strike before the Belmont Stakes to act like Union 3 members are "the bad guys."

"They're feeling threatened right now because of the strike authorization and that's just natural," he said. "[But] they're trying to pin it we're the bad guys.... But that's all smoke and mirrors."

If the workers don't strike and Belmont occurs on Saturday, I'll Have Another could be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed who won all three jewels in 1978.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


No More Twinkies? Hostess Workers Threaten Strike

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(IRVING, Texas) -- Workers at Hostess Brands, maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos and Wonder Bread, have threatened to strike if the company imposes “unfair” contract terms, including wage cuts.

The Teamsters Union, representing about 7,500 of the company’s 19,000 employees, said that more than 90 percent of its Hostess members voted to authorize a strike if “unfair contract terms” are approved as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.

Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Jan. 11 and is continuing to operate during bankruptcy proceedings.

The company, which operates about 36 bakeries, has proposed new collective bargaining contracts for which a hearing is set on March 5. The U.S. bankruptcy judge will have 30 days to issue a ruling, the Teamsters Union said.

Dennis Raymond, director of the Teamsters Bakery and Laundry Conference, said the vote shows that while the union’s Hostess members are willing to “take significant steps to save the company, they can only go so far.”

Hostess, founded in 1930, filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and re-emerged in 2009. The company has about $860 million in debt.

“Twice before, they have made sacrifices to help this company with no progress to show for it,” Raymond said in a statement. “They need to see their sacrifices matched by other key stakeholders and they need protections to make sure their sacrifices are not made in vain again due to mismanagement. While we remain committed to finding a solution to save the company, it won’t be done solely on the backs of our members and Hostess employees.”

A spokesman for Hostess declined to comment on the Teamsters’ announcement.

Members of 12 unions make up the majority of Hostess workers. Almost 92 percent of the union employees belong to one of two unions: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters or the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, the latter of which has about 6,000 members, according to reports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Supermarkets Could Close if Grocery Workers Strike

Jupiterimages/Pixland(LOS ANGELES) -- The "Big Three" Southern California grocery chains are bracing for a strike and possible shut down after the union representing grocery workers canceled their contract with the stores.

About 62,000 workers in the United Food and Commercial Workers union at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons could walk off the job as early as Sunday night.

The union's qualms are health-care centric.

The union is asking for the companies to shoulder more of the costs.

In the current offer from the companies, workers would have to pay $9 a week for solo coverage and $23 per week for a family, union and company officials told the Los Angeles Times.

The supermarket chains say that these measures are needed to help offset rising healthcare costs.

The union has been in negotiations with the supermarket chains for eight months. The last strike occurred in 2003, lasted four months and cost the companies an estimated $2 billion.

"The issue is just not enough money in the fund, period. We are willing to make compromises, we are willing to pay our fair share, contribute our fair share to the medical costs," said John Grant, representative for the grocery store workers union UFCW Local.

A strike is not guaranteed but the union issued a 72-hour notice on Thursday night which canceled the contract and left the door open for a strike.

But if those compromises are not met, the grocery stores could see their workers pick up their pickets, forcing a closure or extreme reduction in services.

Ralphs said that, in the event of a strike, staying open would not be an option at first.

"If there is a strike, Ralphs will initially close all of our stores," said spokeswoman Kendra Doyel in a statement. "During a strike, it is difficult to create a good shopping experience for our customers and a good working environment for our employees."

Ralphs' 250 stores in Southern California would close, the Orange County Register reported.

Albertsons spokeswoman Christie Ly said in a statement that up to 100 Albertsons stores could close while officials at Vons say they would remain open.

"We are disappointed by the (UFCW) Locals' decision to give the employers 72-hour notice of the cancellation of the contract extension," Vons said in a statement. "Doing so needlessly alarms our employees and our customers. Vons and the other employers intend to remain focused on the negotiation process and urge the unions to do so the same."

Grant said the union shares the stores' wishes for a compromise.

"We're at the table now and we tend to stay at the table all through the weekend. We are waiting for the company to do the same," said Grant.

In this time of record unemployment, some marvel at the possibility of workers intentionally discontinuing work.

But for these workers, the costs of continuing to work under the current policy could be more deleterious than a strike.

In a statement released on Friday, Albertson's said: "We have contingency plans in place in the unfortunate event that there is a strike. One of the lessons we learned during the 2003-04 labor dispute is that it doesn't make good business sense to try to operate all our stores during a strike. At this point, we believe up to 100 stores could close for some or all of the strike. Any decision to reopen closed stores will be based on the business conditions at that end of a strike. We hope it does not come to this. We've been bargaining almost non-stop since Aug. 29 and we feel that we were moving toward our goal of reaching an agreement that is fair to both sides."

And while the union also hopes to reach an agreement, it is also preparing for the worst.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Verizon Employees to Return to Work Monday

PRNewsFoto/Pierce Promotions(NEW YORK) -- Verizon Communications announced Saturday that its 45,000 employees on strike will return to work on Monday.

The strike ended without the workers earning new collective bargaining rights. The wireline employees will restart work with the same terms of their contracts that expired on Aug. 6.

Marc Reed, Verizon’s executive vice president of human resources, said, “We agreed to end the strike because we believe that is in the best interest of our customers and our employees.  We remain committed to our objectives, and we look forward to negotiating the important issues that are integral to the future health of Verizon’s wireline business.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Verizon Strike: A Sign of the Times as Americans Go Wireless

Stephen Yang/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Verizon strike -- 45,000 union workers pitted against one of the giants of telecommunications -- showed no outward signs of ending today, and analysts said it may be a sign of the times, part of a seismic shift in the way people now link electronically with the rest of the world.

The strikers, members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, say they are trying to protect their pensions and health care benefits, which Verizon wants to cut.  As the strike continues, Verizon customers from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. who need their landlines fixed, will have to wait for fill-in workers to come to their rescue.

But the simple fact is there are fewer and fewer landline customers.  The industry says 27 percent of Americans no longer have landline phones -- a number that has jumped in the past few years.  They've moved solely to cellular service; the wireless business is booming for Verizon and other market giants.

"The wireline business is slowly but surely dying," said Roger Entner, the founder of Recon Analytics in Dedham, Massachussetts.  "Wireline is losing money."

"Verizon is trying to lose as little as possible," he said.  "On the other side, what the unions are trying to do is defend what they have."

Verizon Wireless is not part of the strike; it is a separate company, 45 percent owned by Vodafone Group.  Significantly, it is a nonunion operation.

"Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to try to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle-class workers and their families," said the two striking unions in a statement.

"We've put important issues on the table, and we're willing to negotiate," said Verizon spokesman Richard Young.  "However, the unions were unwilling to negotiate on anything that's critical."

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam sent a letter to company management that was made public, in which he said that corporate profitability had been declining for a decade, along with the number of landline customers.

"We're asking our union-represented employees to help us on a variety of issues that could streamline our processes and further reduce our wireline cost structure while keeping their overall compensation and benefits among the best in corporate America," McAdam said in the letter. "It is clear that some of the existing contract provisions, negotiated initially when Verizon was under far less competitive pressure, are not in line with the economic realities of business today."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


British Airways Crew Votes for More Strikes

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(LONDON) -- It's possible yet another strike at British Airways could come at a very inopportune time. 
British Airways cabin crew has voted to hold more strikes in their long-running dispute with the airline, raising the prospect of possible walk-outs during a busy spring that includes the royal wedding and the Easter holiday.

The union did not immediately announce new strike dates after revealing that its members voted eight-to-one in favor of taking further action, saying it would continue to seek talks with British Airways management, first.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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