Entries in Union (6)


Hostess Union Mediation Fails; Company to Proceed with Liquidation Plans

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It appears the company that makes Twinkies and Wonder Bread will close after all. Hostess says its mediation to reach a new labor agreement with its bakery workers failed and it will move ahead with liquidation plans.

On Monday, Judge Robert D. Drain of the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York pushed Hostess and its workers to reach an agreement with the help of a mediator to save the jobs of more than 18,000 employees. The company said last week that it would wind down operations after bakery workers decided to continue their strike that began Nov. 9.

By Tuesday evening, Hostess announced the last-ditch mediation had failed. Now the folks who make the popular snack brands will lose their jobs.

The brands could survive under another baker, however. Other companies could step in and by some of Hostess' most famous brands such as Twinkies.  According to the New York Times, Flower Foods and Grupo Bimbo, the world's largest bread baker, are two potential buyers.

Many of the union workers are angry their negotiators didn't accept something that might have saved their jobs. Chris Schiaffarelli worked as a truck driver at the Hostess plant in Elmsford, NY. He's a Teamster, but he says the bakers union had a lot of guts in this dispute.

"The bakers union showed a lot of guts standing up for what they believe because although I'm a Teamster, I know we narrowly passed this latest contract, and I did not want it and I don't believe anybody wanted it," Schiaffarelli said of the contract negotiations Hostess settled with the Teamsters in September. "I know the drivers that I worked with on the last contract had sacrificed greatly. We gave $110 back on our base salary, paid $30 into our benefits."

After 22 years working for Hostess, Schiaffarelli says he's worried about finding another job in this economy.

"I've been working for Hostess for 22 years, and it's definitely devastating to find out that you're unemployed after so long," he said. "I'm 51 years old currently, and I currently just feel … it's going to be difficult."

Now the company plans to continue with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning in which Judge Drain will decide if the company can liquidate its assets.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


American Airlines Resumes Talks with Pilots After Scares and Delays

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Delays and plane maintenance issues have finally led American Airlines management and the pilots' union back to the bargaining table for the first time in weeks.

After a tumultuous week of seats becoming loose, flipping over mid-flight in one case, American Airlines announced it was resuming stalled contract negotiations with its pilots' union.

Wednesday, another safety issue put American Airlines under the microscope because of a mid-flight maintenance scare when a plane's landing-gear warning light jammed after take-off.

Flight 1862 from Dallas to St. Louis had to return for an emergency landing 10 minutes into the flight Tuesday. The passengers were told to brace for a crash landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Jim Faulkner, an American Airlines spokesman, said the flight turned back to the airport without incident around 8:40 a.m. local time. Passengers were put on another plane to St. Louis.

"When they said assume the position, it was scary," passenger Elaine Krieger said.

Some passengers were left to wonder whether the landing-gear concern was real, well aware of the airline's recent trouble with labor.

"Some people are cheering as we landed, and the rest of us are thinking, 'Is this a scenario they created, or was it real?'" passenger Jeff Estes said. "Are they really heroes, or are they guys just creating a job action?"

Former American Airlines pilot Ron Carr said pilots would not go that far, but it's clear he said that despite union denials, pilots are using their ultimate power in the cockpit to delay flights by forcing even small maintenance issues, like a broken coffee pot, to be fixed before takeoff.

"I think there's a lot of things that could be written up on an aircraft," Carr said. "You have a, a very complex machine that's being operated and there's always going to be something that's not quite right that could be written up."

Carr, who is currently an assistant professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, added that he did not think any pilot would resort to "sabotage" as that would be a safety issue.

"That would be very stupid on their part to pull a stunt like that...they would not do anything of that nature to jeopardize, or purposefully, to cause a problem to cause a delay. That's not going to happen, in my opinion," he said.

If pilots are using their authority to delay flights, it is a tactic that seems to be working for pilots who have put pressure on American by doubling delays and inconveniencing customers.

Thomas Horton, CEO of American parent AMR Corp., said Tuesday in a statement that he was pleased that "intensive bargaining" was scheduled to begin this week.

"It has been a very challenging couple of weeks for our company. As you know, our operations have experienced significant disruption, affecting our customers, our people and our owners," Horton said.

Nearly half of American Airlines' fleet of Boeing 757s -- 47 jets -- were taken out of service earlier this week to make sure that no more of its coach seats came loose in flight, as they now have three separate times. As of Wednesday morning, many of the planes are now back in service as the airline said the loose seats were a result of human or mechanical error and not sabotage.

The airline said a saddle clamp was improperly installed on the planes where the seats disengaged. The latest reported incident of loose seats occurred on a flight from Vail, Colo., to Dallas Sept. 26, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

Flight 443 from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to Miami had to return to JFK Monday when the loose seats were discovered, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The earlier reported incident took place Saturday night when seats came unbolted on American Airlines Flight 685 from Boston to Miami. The flight was diverted and made an emergency landing at JFK.

The FAA said in a statement Tuesday that it was looking into the first two incidents and that the airline's initial inspection of each aircraft had found other rows of seats that were not properly secured.

"Preliminary information indicates that both aircraft had recently undergone maintenance during which the seats had been removed and re-installed," the FAA said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Southwest Flight Attendants' Union May File Charges over Pilot's Rant

Southwest Airlines(NEW YORK) -- The Southwest Airlines flight attendants' union may file a discrimination charge against the airline after one of their pilot's cockpit microphones became stuck open and an obscenity-laced rant about the physical attributes of flight attendants was broadcast across the entire Texas airspace.

A Houston TV station obtained a recording of the audio in which the pilot bashed gays, women, "grannies" and overweight people. The conversation took place at about 7:30 a.m. CT on March 25 and was broadcast over the Houston air traffic control radio frequency, blocking communication between air traffic controllers and other pilots for more than two minutes.

"Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are deeply disappointed and angered by the insensitive, and unprofessional comments demeaning flight attendants," the union wrote in an online statement.

The pilot was suspended without pay, but has since returned to work after undergoing diversity training. Southwest tried to dismiss the rant as a "private conversation" and an isolated incident.

"We also are dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines' management," the union wrote. "The official response from Southwest's spokespeople and leaders has only added 'insult to injury.'"

The general consensus among airline workers is that this was an isolated incident and will not spark changes to the airline industry training standards said Brian Wozniak, the general Chairman for the International Association of Machinists District 142 which represents flight attendants at Continental Airlines.

"I've talked to a lot of our crews today. They are a little outraged at the individual maybe, but not at the system itself," he said.

Wozniak said in the 35 years he has spent in the industry he cannot recall "anything even remotely that derogatory."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Office of Management and Budget Employees to Push to Unionize

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As soon as Friday employees of the Office of Management and Budget will file a petition to unionize, ABC News has learned.

Peter Winch, deputy director of field services and education for the American Federation of Government Employees confirmed to ABC News that his organization, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has been meeting with employees of the OMB in the past few months to discuss their work conditions and desire to have more say over the conditions of their employment.

Enough employees -- more than 30 percent -- are interested for a union to be formed, he said. The union would be for mid- and lower-level employees.

Winch said that while the employees generally like their work at OMB, even with long hours and working on weekends, “there have been reorganizations they would have liked to have had more voice over.”

The next step will be for the employees to file a petition for an election with the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s Washington D.C. regional office. That filing could come as soon as Friday though the move could come on Monday.

Winch expressed concern that ABC News would report the story -- first learned from other sources -- before the union could officially inform OMB management.

The federal government is required to stay neutral on any petition for its employees to join a union.

Asked for comment, Kenneth Baer, OMB communications director, told ABC News that the Obama administration “is a strong supporter of the right of workers to organize. It is up to the people working at any bargaining unit to decide if they want to join a union or not. Whatever the decision of these employees may be, we are committed to working together to serve the President and the American people.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


State of Labor: Wisconsin Showdown Puts Unions Back in National Spotlight

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's been nearly three weeks since the showdown began between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, and state Democratic lawmakers over a budget bill that would strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Public employees have protested inside and around the state Capitol building in Madison, putting their cause squarely in the national spotlight and raising the profile of the labor movement to a level not been seen in decades.

The Wisconsin teachers' union and state workers unions have agreed to reductions in their benefits but only on the condition that they be allowed to keep their collective bargaining rights.

Walker has dug in his heels, saying the state fiscal situation is so dire that he has no room to negotiate.

But the standoff between Republican lawmakers and unions is not unique to Wisconsin. Similar fights are taking place -- or brewing -- in Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, where governors have made it clear that they are looking to cut the benefits and wages of public sector employees as a solution to their massive budget deficits.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie -- in his campaign to reform education and bring the state's massive budget deficit under control -- has made his battle against the state teachers' union one of the signature elements in his stump speech.

In an extensive profile in the New York Times Magazine, reporter Matt Bai said Christie had found "the ideal adversary" in public sector unions.

"Ronald Reagan had his 'welfare queens,' Rudy Giuliani had his criminals and 'squeegee men,' and now Chris Christie has his sprawling and powerful public-sector unions — teachers, cops and firefighters who Christie says are driving up local taxes beyond what the citizenry can afford, while also demanding the kind of lifetime security that most private-sector workers have already lost," Bai wrote.

Given the divide between the two sides, and the battle for public opinion, union activists and labor historians say that the stakes are enormously high.

Joe McCartin, a history professor at Georgetown University and the director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said what is happening in Wisconsin has "caught almost everyone by surprise.

"Certainly [it] has elicited a reaction unlike any in a generation around the defense of workers' rights, to collectively bargain," said McCartin.

But McCartin said that the labor movement had lost strength compared to a generation ago, a story told in the raw numbers.

According to a January report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership in 2010 was 11.9 percent of the American work force, down from 12.3 percent in 2009. The number of employees belonging to a union declined by 612,000, to 14.7 million.

Nearly 30 years ago, that percentage was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers. In the mid-20th century, 35 percent of the work force was in a union.

But Daniel DiSalvo, a political science professor at City College of New York who studies the U.S. labor movement, said the distinction between public- and private-sector unions is important when looking at the numbers.

While private-sector union membership has declined steadily, public union membership has remained strong. More than one-third of government workers (about 7.6 million of them) belong to a union, compared with 7 percent of private-sector workers (or 7.1 million), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Even with declining membership, the rise and increase in political power of public sector unions has helped stabilize ... the labor movement," DiSalvo said. "The heart and soul right now of the labor movement is public employees."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


California Pot Growers Join Union

(NEW YORK) -- A union in Northern California is lighting up controversy with its recent decision to unionize a group of medical marijuana growers.  The Teamsters Local 70 Union in Oakland signed up nearly 40 new members earlier this month.  All members work at a medical marijuana company called Marjyn Investments LLC, which contracts with medical marijuana patients to grow their pot for them.  The Marjyn employees, who do everything from gardening to cloning the plants, are now the nation's first group of unionized marijuana growers, though their business of cultivating cannabis remains a crime under federal law.  Teamsters organizer Lou Marchetti is the man who signed up the growers and negotiated a two-year contract for them. They'll now receive a number of benefits, including paid vacation and set pay increases.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Photo Courtesy of ABC News

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