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Monday, July 16, 2007

Moving to new blog: The Union News

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Port strike talk diverts ships upcoast

Unionized office clerks were preparing to walk off the job late Sunday as labor leaders and employers participated in last-minute negotiations to avert a waterfront strike at the nation's largest seaport. If carried out, a strike by the more than 900 office workers could paralyze the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles during one of the busiest shipping months of the year. As a precaution, ocean carriers were reportedly diverting some cargo to ports in Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

The ports together handle cargo valued at $1 billion to $2 billion every day. San Pedro Bay longshoremen represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have already said that their 7,000 workers would honor picket lines put up by clerks affiliated with the ILWU's Local 63 Office Clerical Unit.

John Fageaux Jr., president of the clerical workers union, said Sunday evening that the two sides would work up until a 12:01 a.m. today strike deadline authorized by the union's rank and file.

"We're here meeting and trying to get a deal worked out, but we're ready to walk out if need be," Fageaux Jr. said.

Steve Berry, an attorney representing 14 Southern California shippers and terminal operators who hire the clerks to handle shipping and receiving paperwork, financial transactions and other front-office work, said employers had exchanged late proposals with union leaders and were hopeful that a strike could be avoided.

Employers are offering workers $38 per hour, with a 50-cent per hour raise in the first year, and have offered increased pension and health benefits, said Berry. In return, employers want more flexibility in staffing temporary workers.

If no deal is reached, picket lines would likely go up at marine terminals across both ports sometime before longshoremen report to work around 5 a.m. today.

The negotiations focused on health benefits and pension plans for workers.

Although longshoremen are working under a "no-strike" clause in their current contract, which expires July 1, 2008, they are provided some flexibility in honoring picket lines.

If a strike drags on for more than a few days, employers might seek a court injunction to force dockworkers back to work, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, which handles more than 40 percent of the nation's imports, directly and indirectly supports more than 3 million jobs across the country and is one of Long Beach and San Pedro's largest employers, with more than 7,000 people employed in longshore work alone.

Others who may be affected by a strike are port truckers, freight forwarders, importers and exporters, U.S. Customs agents and logistics workers.


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Latest strike deadline passes, no pickets at port

Negotiators for a clerical union and some of the world's largest shipping lines and terminal operators were still far apart on a contract deal early Monday and facing the possibility of a strike that could cripple the nation's largest port complex. The union's strike deadline passed at 12:01 a.m. Monday. An hour later, John Fageaux Jr., president of the office clerical unit of Local 63, a division of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, emerged from the closed-door session firm that if talks with shipping lines at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach collapsed, the union would strike.

A work stoppage could create ripple effects throughout many industries that depend on timely movement of cargo. It also would come as the ports enter their busy pre-holiday season, when shippers depend on the facilities to handle imports.

In 2002, longshore workers across the West Coast were locked out for 10 days over a contract dispute. The shutdown cost the nation's economy an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion a day.

The 15,000-member ILWU has indicated it will honor picket lines, which would effectively shut down the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The port complex accounts for 40 percent of all the cargo container traffic coming into the United States. The roughly 750 clerks who work at marine terminals at the ports handle bookings for the export of cargo and other transport documents.

"We're in the process of presenting our last, best and final offer," he said. Steve Berry, lead negotiator for the 14 marine terminal operators and other firms who employ the office clerks, said the parties were still talking shortly before dawn. He wouldn't say if any progress was being made or predict a timetable for ending discussions. "We're working hard. We just keep going," he said.

Under their most recent contract, full-time, port clerical workers earned about $37.50 an hour, or $78,000 a year. They also receive a pension, health care benefits free of premiums and 20 paid holidays a year.

Berry said late last week that employers' latest offer included raises that over the life of a three-year contract would bump the employees' hourly pay to $39.20; the union is seeking increases that would equal $53 per hour by the last year of the contract.


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Pro-union GOP U.S. Senator urged to resign

Sen. Arlen Specter voted with his Democrat colleagues to curtail workers' rights, advance union thuggery and destroy the secret ballot. Of course, the Philadelphia Republicrat, always the parser, sees it differently. The Senate last week came up nine votes short of the 60 required to end debate and bring to a vote the House-passed (and deceivingly titled) Employee Free Choice Act. The measure would have federally certified unions once a majority of workers had signed cards, in public, under union pressure and without a private vote.

Mr. Specter was the only Republican to vote with the Democrats. And his "reasoning" was on par with his "not proven" vote in the Bill Clinton impeachment trial and Thursday's contention that rejection of amnesty for illegal aliens was "silent amnesty." Specter said his "yes" vote on the union-enabling measure did not necessarily indicate his support of the bill - only that he wanted to end debate so the Senate could "consider a great many very important and complex issues."

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President William George and Secretary-Treasurer Richard Bloomingdale didn't get the memo: They "applauded" Specter for his support.

Specter will seek a sixth term in 2010. But 26 years of such nonsense is enough. Arlen Specter would do Pennsylvania, the nation and rational thought a great service by stepping aside now.


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Obama to walk Chicago picket line today

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama is expected to walk a picket line in Chicago today. His campaign has not yet released details, but his schedule has him in Chicago all day Monday. He also said this on Friday to the Las Vegas Sun: "Next week I’ll be walking a picket line in front of (Chicago's) Congress Hotel. That’s been the longest running fight for [the union organization] Unite Here across the country. It’s been going on there for four years. I’ve walked the picket line there before and I’ll do it again."

Last month marked the fourth anniversary of the strike at South Michigan Avenue property, where housekeepers, dishwashers, bartenders and other employees are engaged in one of the longest-running ongoing strikes in the nation.


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Oregon nurses to picket for closed shop

Unionized Mercy Medical Center nurses in Roseburg, OR, went through another round of negotiations with the hospital Friday, in what has been a year-and-a-half process of trying to agree on a new contract. The 41st negotiating session was Friday, and ended no closer to a contract. The nurses will be holding an informational picket to garner public awareness and support for their cause from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday in front of the Roseburg hospital on Stewart Parkway.

The process has come to a halt over the issue of closed shop. The nurses' union is demanding that all of the hospital's 344 nurses be required to join the union, or pay "fair share" dues which are 85 percent of the approximately $60 union dues, per month. "Until the issue of closed shop/union representation is resolved, it doesn't appear that the other issues will be addressed," said Kathleen Nickel, the communications director at Mercy Medical Center.

Paul Goldberg, the Oregon Nurses Association union boss, said there was also a proposal that the nurses could pay the equivalent of the "fair share" to a volunteer group associated with the hospital, instead of to the union or possibly to another health care area at the hospital. Nickel said she has not yet heard of this proposal.

Other issues still unresolved are wages, benefits and retirement plans, and management rights. The hospital said it brought a new economic proposal to the negotiations Friday, which the union did not respond to in the meeting, due to the impasse on the close shop issue. The union countered that there were a few changes to the hospital's proposal, but fundamental issues had not been addressed.

Both sides are basing wages on what other hospitals pay, but the disagreement is over which hospitals. ONA says that the smaller hospitals in Cottage Grove, Coquille, and Reedsport, which average between three and 50 patients at a time, are too small and do not compete with Mercy, which averages on the order of 130 patients. These smaller ones should be taken out of the camparison pool, ONA contends.

They did agree on the nurses' step-increases in pay, according to Laura Garren, a nurse who is on the bargaining committee.

The nurses at Mercy voted to join the ONA about a year and a half ago, with about a two-thirds majority, and negotiations began in May 2006.

Kathleen Ross, a registered nurse who has been working at Mercy for 22 years, does not personally support the union.

"The union says that it is about patient safety and patient care, but I hear now that it's about closed shop, whether everybody has to join," she said. "I don't appreciate that, being coerced into paying for someone else's choices or being threatened with losing my job. Everything the union claims is about fairness, but how fair is that."

She does supports the nurses that want the union though, as long as they respect her right to choose.

"I do believe that the ONA and the group of nurses that asked them to come believed they needed representation to get what they wanted," she said. "I sympathize with them and by all means if they need it, I support them, but don't expect them to ask me to pay for it."

She says that there were some issues about patient safety that the administration began working out before the union came and that they have continued to work on with the union.

Garren, who has also been a nurse for over 20 years, says that "fair share" or closed shop is important because having all the nurses part of the union, gives it more bargaining power. Goldberg echoed her, citing why all the nurses must pay the union, not only those who want it.

"Those nurses (who don't want to be part of the union), whether they want to be represented by us, are legally represented by us... whether they want to pay dues, are the beneficiaries of our efforts," he said.


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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Calif. Teamsters want contract to permit strikes

While so many contract disputes center on the basic concept of money, the stalemate currently playing out in the form of overflowing trash bins in the East Bay seems to be related to another five-letter word also synonymous with labor relations - power. "I think that's what this comes down to," said Chuck Mack, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 70, which represents 481 garbage workers who have been locked out since July 2. "It's a question about power. (Waste Management of Alameda County) wants to break apart these unions, and we're not going to let them."

Waste Management demands for tougher safety policies have drawn the union's ire and concerns over the company's ability to fire workers more easily. But it's a proposed "no strike, no lockout" clause that has union leaders most worried.

Such a clause would eliminate the possibility of a strike or lockout during the life of the contract. To Local 70, however, it also eliminates its right to honor picket lines. Waste Management officials deny that, saying workers would be able to honor the local, sanctioned picket lines. However, company officials do believe it would protect the company against any collusion a union such as Local 70 may take part in with another union, such as Local 396 in Los Angeles whose contract with Waste Management expires Sept. 30.

"That's exactly what we think is going on," James Devlin, area vice president for Waste Management, said of such an agreement where both locals could strike at the same time. "How do you think people in Northern California will feel if they're being held hostage because of what's going on in Los Angeles?"

Waste Management of Alameda County locked out the garbage truck drivers and equipment operators of Local 70 almost two days after their contract expired. It has since brought in nearly 350 replacement workers to collect trash throughout the East Bay.

Along with Local 70, approximately 82 members of Machinist Local 1546 and workers from Warehouse Union Local 6 are honoring picket lines. Only one negotiating session has taken place since the July 2 lockout.

All involved freely admit salary plays little role in the dispute. Waste Management said Local 70 drivers already earn on average of more than $75,000 a year in wages plus $16,500 in health and welfare benefits and $14,000 in pension contributions, and neither side seems upset about much more financially than some changes to the health care plan.

"This contract comes down to two things," Devlin said. "This is about labor peace and safety. We are willing to overlook millions of dollars of inefficiencies in the contract because that's how strongly we believe in those two issues. We are ready right now to sign one of the richest contracts in waste management history."

Those two issues and what each side perceives to be the intentions behind them has caused trash and recyclables to pile up around the East Bay as replacement workers try to learn new routes and equipment.

East Bay cities and areas the company serves — such as Albany, Emeryville, Hayward, Newark, Livermore, Castro Valley Sanitary District, Oro Loma Sanitary District and parts of unincorporated Alameda County and San Ramon in Contra Costa County — are also considering action against the company after receiving complaints about ripe garbage.

"It's not an emergency yet," said Bill Pitcher, a division manager in Alameda County Environmental Health. "But it's not good. It's unsightly and there's an odor."

According to Devlin, however, the two issues at the crux of the stalemate are worth these problems.

For the safety issue, Devlin turns back the clock to 2002, when a Waste Management truck hit a car driven by Erich Jenkins of Tracy on Interstate 580. The accident killed Jenkins.

"I never want to go through that again," Devlin said painfully.

That's one of the main reasons the company introduced new "life critical rules" in the proposed new contract. If a driver violates one, he is suspended for five days. The second violation can result in termination. Company officials say the rules are nothing more than traffic laws everyone else on the road must follow, such as obeying speed limits in school zones and wearing seat belts.

"It's not up to the Teamsters to dictate societal rules," said Devlin, adding the workers would still retain a grievance and arbitration process to appeal any penalty.

Waste Management argues that a "no strike" clause is standard in many contracts, and Local 70 says the company is demanding its inclusion elsewhere, but the Teamsters say the proposed safety rules are more stringent that seen elsewhere.

Rob Dias, a 24-year veteran with Local 70, said, however, that the rules seem more about punishment and less about safety, while also eating away at union protections afforded members in the grievance process.

"What happened in 2002 was a tragedy," Dias said. "But it was dealt with appropriately. To push these rules and penalties on us is unfair. We believe in safety. We are safe. But these rules open up the door for some overzealous supervisor to say, "Well, you didn't do this or that, now you're fired.' That's not right either."

Under the expired contract, Devlin said there was practically no recourse for habitual offenders.

"Chronic counseling, that's about all we were allowed to do," said Devlin, adding Local 70 drivers had some of the highest accident rates nationally, and the current placement workers have a 246 percent better safety record.

Dias finds that fact, along with other safety numbers the company has thrown out, hard to swallow.

"If you compare us to drivers in Seattle, San Francisco any other tight, urban area, we're as safe as any of them," Dias said.

"What's really unfortunate about all of this is when we've worked together, Local 70 and the company, to improve safety, we've made progress," said Dias, who helped create some of the safety policies in the old contract.

The Teamsters' Mack finds Devlin's notion that his union would conspire with Los Angeles union workers amusing.

"It's flattering they give us that much credit," Mack said with a laugh. "Little do they know we can barely communicate within the local here.

"Listen, while we respect our other locals, we have to take care of our people here first," Mack said. "We can't concern what they're doing down there while we're trying to get our own contract. Waste Management would be much better served to modify their contract proposal than dreaming up these conspiracies."

Ron Hererra, Mack's counterpart at Local 396 in Los Angeles, reiterated the same thing when he attended a rally for Local 70 last week in San Leandro.

"I don't understand what sense that makes," said Hererra, whose local represents about 450 Waste Management employees. "The timing of the contracts doesn't work out. They're three months apart. It would be foolish for Local 70 to be worried about us."

And while the two sides can't seem to hash out agreements on safety and labor stoppage provisions, both sides agree they would rather have a contract in place instead of lawsuits and over-filled trash cans.

"Our goal is to get this contract done and move on with life," Mack said. "Trust us, we'd rather be working."

Company officials, though, say Local 70 will not come back to work until there is a contract and it likely has the financial wherewithal to keep that word.

Waste Management of Alameda County is a branch of Houston-based Waste Management Inc., which provides waste management services throughout United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Last year the company, with 48,000 employees, reported revenues of $13.3 billion.

So while union officials claim the lockout costs the company nearly $600,000 a day — a number company officials will not confirm — the company seems steadfast.

"We're ready to go back to the bargaining table and get a deal done," Devlin said. "That's all we've ever wanted."


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Port union boss delays strike another day

Talks between shipping lines and a Los Angeles - Long Beach clerks union were set to resume this afternoon after union negotiators agreed to remain at the table despite an earlier vow to strike if a deal wasn't reached by midnight Saturday. Local 63 is part of the 15,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union but negotiates its contracts separately. The ILWU has indicated that it will honor Local 63 picket lines, which would effectively shut down the ports.

If no agreement is reached, picket lines will go up at the employers' gates shortly after 12:01 a.m. Monday, Local 63 boss John Fageaux Jr. said. The local handles the paperwork for the cargo ships that come to port.

Representatives of the 930-member office clerical unit of Local 63 of the are in talks with shipping lines and terminal operators over a new labor contract. A walkout threatens to disrupt cargo operations at the ports as they enter their busy season, when retailers import goods for the holiday season.

The employers have offered a generous wage and benefits package to what they describe as the nation's highest-paid clerical workers, said their negotiator, attorney Stephen Berry. He added that they get 20 paid holidays, 13 sick days and up to six weeks of vacation a year.


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Locals fed up with Teamsters, haul own trash

A family of 10 generates a lot of garbage, and by Saturday the Torres family of Oakland had had enough. So Alex Torres, 40, grabbed his son George, 16, loaded his pickup truck with trash until it was sinking on its shocks and headed to Waste Management Inc.'s transfer station in San Leandro. "I called three times this week, and they kept saying they were going to come. And it was starting to stink," George Torres said. "It's a big family ... we use a lot of trash."

Torres and his father joined a stream of trucks, vans, tractor trailers, rented vans and SUVs that carried loads to the Davis Street station Saturday, 13 days into a company lockout of its Teamsters union truck drivers that has crippled garbage service in much of Alameda County.

Waste Management officials could not say how many residents hauled their garbage Saturday to San Leandro, where the firm was taking what it described as a normal weekly load of residential garbage -- about a 32-gallon bag's worth -- at no charge. The fee waiver continues today, said Waste Management spokesman David Tucker, and may be extended next weekend if the lockout continues.

Teamsters said the company was actually charging customers to drop off trash, but Tucker said only people bringing in more than a normal amount of waste had to pay.

"If people were trying to bring in tires or couches, we wouldn't pick that up on a normal basis," Tucker said.

About two dozen Teamsters hurled insults at replacement workers driving Waste Management trucks in and out of the gates, trailed closely by video camera-wielding security teams in cars. But the locked-out drivers curbed their vitriol when it came to the everyday folks dropping off trash, encouraging them to honk their support instead.

One union member, 22-year-old Janée Bayol, offered people a map to Berkeley's transfer station, asking them to take their refuse up Interstate 80 instead of giving it to a replacement worker. Some took the map; others rolled past, windows tightly closed.

"We can't stop them," said Jim Fried, Bayol's father and a Teamster who has worked at Waste Management for 10 years. "That's the customer we've got to work for again. We understand. We've all got garbage piling up."

Derek Dison, a private ceramic tile contractor, said he wasn't going to change his plans.

"I'm not going to go to Berkeley," he said. "That's extra time, and for me, time is money. . . . I have a load to dump, and I'm going to dump it."

But some drivers followed Bayol's request, including Ray Perez, 38, a union sheet metal worker who was hauling waste from the Eichler he is restoring in Castro Valley and who made a U-turn at the gates in San Leandro.

"I'm in a hurry. I got my friends with me. But I gotta help them out," he said. "What's another 10 minutes?"

Waste Management locked out 500 drivers July 2, describing it as a pre-emptive measure against a possible strike, and has brought in 300 replacement workers. Service in Oakland, nine other cities and unincorporated areas of Alameda County has been spotty at best, despite the company's assertions that it has resumed weekly trash pickups for its 200,000 customers. Many people complain their garbage hasn't been picked up since June.

On Friday, the dispute spread to central Contra Costa County, where Teamsters with another local honored a picket line the union put up around Waste Management's Walnut Creek headquarters.

Tucker said the work stoppage had prevented the pickup of green waste and recyclables in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda and Pleasant Hill. It's unclear when service will resume, he said.

The Alameda County Teamsters' contract with Waste Management expired June 30. The company says it wants more freedom to discipline drivers for safety violations in the next pact, as well as a no-strike clause.

The Teamsters outside the San Leandro transfer station said any safety problems at Waste Management came from an inexperienced management team, not the drivers.

"This is corporate America at its arrogant worst. We didn't talk strike. We didn't want to strike," said Tony Capra, 56, who has worked for Waste Management for 38 years. "It's all about what they can get and not for the good of the company."

"They're trying to break the union, that's what it is," said Mike Sandroni, 51, a worker of 36 years.

Tucker said the company has no beef with the veteran employees so long as they do the job safely.

"It makes no sense for us to want to take a seasoned group of men and women and cast them aside. . . . We want those drivers who are seasoned, who know the area, to do a good job," he said. "If you don't break the rules, there's no concern."

Garbage continues to pile up in some places, albeit in an uneven fashion. Residents in some neighborhoods, such as the Montclair area of the Oakland hills, reported no interruption in service at all, while trash bins in other neighborhoods overflowed.

Tucker said the uneven service was the result in part of replacement employees still struggling to learn Oakland's streets. He recommended that customers pull their trash off the sidewalks for now, and put it out again on normal delivery day.

"We understand that might be an inconvenience for some, but to minimize any accumulation on the streets that's what we would recommend," he said.

But for the Torres family, any more waiting would have been too much. George Torres said it was a relief to have dumped the family's accumulated trash, but it wasn't the way the teenager wanted to spend his weekend.

"It's a long process going over there on Saturday," he said. "We should be barbecuing and doing something at home."


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Cincy-area SEIU janitors vote to strike

Energy filled the room as janitors with the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, agreed to give their bargaining committee the power to call for a strike. It's a decision that could mean some 1,200 janitors leaving office buildings around the Tri-state to clean up after themselves. Since negotiations began in March, people in the community have also stepped forward to show their support of the janitors.

Included is Pastor Gregory Chandler. "I'm encouraged that they mean what they say, and I believe they are going to stand together," Chandler said. "And we're going to stand with them."

Janitors say living off as little as $26 a day is difficult, especially when they don't get healthcare.

"I'm a diabetic and sometimes I have to worry about paying my rent or buying my medication," Linda Watson, a janitor with the S.E.I.U. explains. "That shouldn't happen if I get out there and work every day."

Saturday's vote doesn't mean a strike is definite, it simply gives the union's bargaining committee one more option during negotiations. At this point, another round of talks are still scheduled for the end of July.

WCPO called the eight companies with whom the union says it is negotiating. None were available on the weekend.


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Boston SEIU janitor organizers protest, picket

Janitors left their mops and buckets and took to the streets of Downtown Boston on Friday to protest what they call a wage gap, slim benefits and lack of respect in their workplaces. Organizer Mark Pedulla rallied over 100 SEIU Local 615 workers at State Street. A giant puppet head with dollar signs for eyes bobbed in the center of the crowd. At Downtown Crossing, activist Pablo Gaston readied his small crew to meet the parade. "We're here to raise the issue and let them see the janitors," he said.


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Oregon state police managers sue for union perks

Seven sergeants with the Oregon State Police have filed a class-action lawsuit against the agency, arguing they should be hourly employees paid overtime for their work. The lawsuit filed in Marion County Circuit Court this week involves sergeants stationed across Oregon, including men stationed in Marion, Clackamas, Klamath, Columbia, Jackson and Clatsop counties. According to the lawsuit, the sergeants are paid a salaried wage as though they are supervisors, but their primary duties are not managerial.

"In fact, many average in excess of 75 percent of their time performing, as their primary duty, job duties which are considered the primary duty of troopers under their supervision," Eugene attorney Rhonda Fenrich said in a May 7 letter to the Oregon attorney general's office. The agency has confused the issue by ordering the sergeants to account for all their time as either "supervisory-field" or "supervisory-non-field," Fenrich said in the letter.

Because of that, sergeants who perform normal trooper activities such as responding to a drunken driver or ticketing a speeder track their time on the call as "supervisory-field," even though they haven't supervised anyone, she said.

The lawsuit asks that the state police be forced to pay its sergeants for all unpaid overtime, as well as 30 days penalty wages.

Lt. Gregg Hastings said state police commanders are aware of the lawsuit.

"Because it is an ongoing situation, we can't comment on it, but we are working on it," he said.


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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Alameda Teamsters halt trash pickups outside County

A man whom investigators said was angry with Waste Management for locking out its workers was arrested Friday in Castro Valley on suspicion of shooting at a garbage truck, as trouble and picketing grew in the garbage collection labor dispute. The battle between Waste Management of Alameda County and Teamsters moved east on Friday, as members of the union representing drivers at Valley Waste Management chose to honor picket lines set up in Walnut Creek, Stockton and Sonora.

Nearly 70 members of Teamsters Local 315 decided not to cross the picket lines formed by members of Teamsters Union Local 70 in Walnut Creek. Waste Management of Alameda County locked out the 481 members of Local 70 on July 2 after the union's contract had expired.

"We knew there was a possibility (Local 70) was going to extend their picket lines," said Dale Robbins, secretary/treasurer of Local 315. "We didn't have much notice, but our members chose to honor those picket lines."

In Castro Valley, investigators said the man arrested in the shooting incident is a retired former shop steward for a trucking company.

Alameda County sheriff's deputies arrested John F. Boyle, 62, of Castro Valley, who admitted to shooting a projectile at the window of the truck Friday morning. The Sheriff's Department received a call at 10:30 a.m. reporting possible shots fired as a Waste Management driver was picking up garbage on Nichandros Street.

"The driver said he saw the guy stick a
gun out of the window of that two-story house," said neighbor Bruce Fearns, referring to a home at the end of the street.

Boyle was taken to the sheriff's substation in San Leandro, and was later arrested after cooperating with investigators.

"He's admitting to firing a projectile, not necessarily a firearm, at the window of the truck," said Sgt. J.D. Nelson. Boyle was being held at the sheriff's station pending further investigation.

Waste Management spokesman David Tucker said he did not know the amount of damage caused in the incident.

Monica Devincenzi, a spokeswoman with Waste Management, said 160 workers did not report to work Friday in Walnut Creek, Stockton and Sonora.

"We're trying to intensify the pressure on" Waste Management, said Chuck Mack, secretary/treasurer of Local 70. "The company has refused to respond to requests by cities and mayors and maintain their stance on this lockout, so we did this to add pressure."

Both Robbins and Mack said they did not know if the picket lines would remain at the three locations, nor how long workers would honor them.

Valley Waste Management collects recyclables and yard waste in Walnut Creek, unincorporated Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, Danville, Alamo and Lafayette. It has about 60,000 customers in those areas.

Devincenzi said the company offered to shuttle trucks to workers so they would not have to cross picket lines, but the offer was refused. She said the company is researching whether the picket lines are illegal since Walnut Creek, Stockton and Sonora do not have any affect on the Alameda County dispute.

Devincenzi said the company is evaluating options about what to do about missed collections on Friday. She said those people affected would likely get a phone message from Waste Management telling them when to expect collections.

Robbins said there is one way to assure a quick return by Valley Waste Management workers: "If (Waste Management) ends the lockout, our members will be back at work Monday."

Meanwhile, police have determined that security vehicle driver Christopher Peoples was at fault for hitting a man believed to be part of a Waste Management protest on Wednesday.

Police received a call at 8:24 a.m. that a security company vehicle attempting to follow a garbage truck out of Waste Management's headquarters had hit pedestrian Donald Welch at the intersection of Davis Street and Doolittle Drive.

Authorities said no charges were filed and that the matter would be handled in civil court. They were unable to give any more information about the men involved or whether Welch received any injuries.

Waste Management of Alameda County locked out the 481 members of Local 70 on July 2, two days after their contract expired. About 82 members of Machinist Local 1546 also are locked out and workers from Warehouse Union Local 6 are honoring picket lines.

At stake are what the union says are unfair safety provisions it feels are aimed more at punishing workers and making it easier to fire workers than providing for safety. Waste Management said the new regulations are necessary for community safety.


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Nurses union strike looms in San Diego

Contract talks continued yesterday evening between Sharp HealthCare and its nurses, even as both sides prepared for a three-day strike set to begin Monday at the nonprofit company's seven hospitals in San Diego County. Sharp asked doctors to postpone elective procedures at its hospitals for the duration of any strike and made arrangements for out-of-town replacement nurses to fill jobs vacated by strikers, said Dan Gross, Sharp's executive vice president for hospital operations.

The hospital chain also might ask ambulances to bypass some of its emergency rooms and deliver patients to other hospitals, Gross said. Sharp emergency rooms would remain open to walk-in patients. Sharp has discussed its plans with other San Diego County hospitals and county health care officials, he said.

Leaders at the United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals said that they've met with their members to discuss plans for picketing. Nurses have begun assembling 1,000 protest signs. The union represents all of Sharp's 3,400 staff nurses. About 1,600 nurses are dues-paying members of the union.

It's unclear how many nurses would walk off their jobs, but Sharp nurses union president Corinne Hollings said she expects at least 1,000 would participate.

A strike could affect operations at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center; Sharp Coronado Hospital; Sharp Grossmont Hospital; Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women in San Diego; and Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, as well as Sharp Cabrillo Skilled Nursing Center, Sharp Mesa Vista psychiatric hospital and Sharp Vista Pacifica chemical dependency hospital, all in San Diego.

Negotiations restarted yesterday morning, which was one week after the nurses union notified Sharp of its plans to stage a three-day walkout beginning at 7 a.m. Monday.

Sharp managers and union leaders have been trying to agree on a contract for nearly three months. The previous three-year contract expired June 30, but nurses continued to work under its terms.

As of yesterday, the two sides continued to disagree on staffing levels, the handling of quality-of-care complaints and health insurance coverage for retirees younger than 65, union representatives said.

Temporary nurses, hired through San Francisco-based Health Source Global, were expected to begin arriving in San Diego on Saturday evening, Sharp spokesman John Cihomsky said. The nurses are being hired for five days, he said, and would work the entire week if a strike occurs. Striking nurses would not be called back to work until July 21.

Health Source's Web site said yesterday that replacement nurses would earn $3,150, or $52.50 an hour for 60 hours of work. “See your friends and tour San Diego at the best time of year,” the site urged.

Sharp will cover travel and lodging costs for the replacement nurses, and the company will pay a fee to Health Source for providing the workers, Gross said.

Hourly pay rates for Sharp's staff nurses run $34 to $41 an hour, he said.

Sharp also has asked nurses who work in non-clinical positions to help fill jobs vacated by strikers.

Sharp would deploy extra security personnel if a strike occurs to help ensure that people on picket lines stay off hospital property, Cihomsky said.

The company also plans to transport nurses across picket lines in vans or buses with darkened windows to hide their identities, he said. Enclosed canopies would be put up to cover hospital entrances.


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Sunday strike deadline set by Longshore boss

Waterfront office clerks have set a midnight Sunday strike deadline as union leaders and employers move closer to a labor showdown that would have national implications. More than 900 front-office clerical workers are set to walk off the job in Los Angeles and Long Beach beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday if a new 3-year contract is not reached this weekend, prompting fierce last-minute negotiations, a union leader said Friday. The clerical workers, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, staff the front offices of most harbor-area shipping lines and marine terminals.

Because picket lines are expected to be honored by the more than 7,000 ILWU longshoremen working in the nation's largest seaport, a strike by the smaller union could have a devastating economic impact. Together, the ports handle cargo valued at $1 billion to $2 billion every day.

Negotiators are set to return to the bargaining table later Friday as both sides seek compromise on job protections and health care benefits for workers, said John Fageaux Jr., president of Local 63's Office Clerical Union.

"(Negotiations) have really slowed down in the past few days, so we had to set this deadline," Fageaux said.

Employers are offering workers $38 per hour, with a 50-cent per hour raise in the first year, and have offered increased pension and health benefits, said attorney Steve Berry, lead negotiator for the employers.

In return, employers want more flexibility in staffing temporary workers.

Clerical workers, who have been working without a contract since July 1, previously authorized their leaders to call a strike if talks reached a stalemate.

Current negotiations do not directly affect longshoremen, whose contract expires July 1, 2008. They plan to begin bargaining early next year for a separate contract with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents a consortium of shippers and terminal operators throughout the West Coast.


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NC company wants union election, UFCW refuses

Thousands of employees at Smithfield's pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina are sending a strong message to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union today: Let us vote. Let us decide if we want union representation. A delegation of employees from the plant delivered nearly 3,000 letters from fellow employees to a Raleigh, NC post office this afternoon. The letters, addressed to the president of the UFCW, urge the union to formally request a new union election at Tar Heel.

This is the first time that employees have come together to make a strong statement about the ongoing effort to unionize the Tar Heel plant. Since June 2006, Smithfield has offered to hold a secret ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The UFCW has refused. Instead, it has attacked Smithfield and tried to pressure the company into recognizing the union without a vote by the employees. The NLRB cannot schedule a new election until it is formally requested by the union.

Sarah Hayes, a crew leader at Tar Heel says the employees have the most at stake in this battle. "If we are going to get a union, it should be our choice," she said. "This is a free country and it's only right that we have a chance to make our own decisions. We are the ones who are going to have to pay the dues."

Chauncey Morgan, a Tar Heel employee who has worked on the kill floor for nearly five years, says employees have grown tired of the union controversy and are ready for the issue to be resolved. "The union is causing a lot of controversy and we need to end it," he said. "It's time for the employees to stand up and vote."

Dennis Pittman, director of corporate communications at Smithfield, said it was time for employees to make their voices heard. "Our employees deserve the right to vote on whether or not they want a union, and the volume of letters sent to the UFCW clearly demonstrates that employees want to cast a vote and make this decision," Pittman said. "We hope the UFCW will listen to the employees and respect their desire to have a new union election as soon as possible."

After hearing from employees who had grown weary of the ongoing effort to unionize the plant, Smithfield encouraged employees to consider writing letters to the UFCW. Smithfield supplied sample letters to the employees, and approximately 70 percent of eligible employees sent a letter to the UFCW.

"This is not about whether or not our employees support the union. It's about giving employees the right to vote," Pittman said. "If everything the union said about Smithfield was true, it seems like it would be eager to hold an election. Why is the union afraid to let the employees vote?"

To ensure a fair election, Smithfield has offered to pay half the cost of an independent, outside observer -- like the Jimmy Carter Center, which has overseen elections around the world -- to oversee the process.

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