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Labor Report


Thousands of United Airlines Workers Vote to Unionize

Catering employees at United Airlines voted overwhelmingly to unionize during a recent election under the jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board, the independent federal agency that coordinates labor-management relations in the railroad and airline industries.

About 72 percent of participating workers voted to join Unite Here, according to the union’s Oct. 23 news release. The new bargaining unit will organize about 2,700 workers. Almost 2,200 were eligible to participate in the election and about 1,700 voted. The election lasted five weeks.

According to a Bloomberg report, the catering workers were the last group of “front-line” United employees to seek labor representation. The airline has about 88,000 employees, with about 80 percent represented by unions.
The catering employees work in six company-operated kitchens in Cleveland; Denver; Honolulu; Houston; Newark, New Jersey; and San Francisco, where they prepare meals for in-flight distribution.

“The United workers also join the 15,000 airline food workers who have led the ‘Fed Up’ campaign across the U.S. airline industry. A majority of these employees will enter into collective bargaining by the end of 2018 and together are demanding a fundamental change in the industry that will finally bring an end to poverty in the kitchens,” the Unite Here news release stated.

Other airlines use contractors to perform similar duties, but United acquired the kitchen operations in its merger with Continental in 2010.

“I am so thrilled that we’ve won our union,” Newark-based employee Lakisha McIntosh said via Unite Here. “My co-workers and I have fought so hard for this day because we know that we deserve to be equal with all the other United employees. … Winning our union means that we are one step closer to the equality, safety, and respect that we deserve.”

Unite Here represents about 300,000 hospitality workers in the U.S. and Canada, including nearly 18,000 catering workers employed by airlines and airline contractors.
The airline reportedly told Bloomberg it is “committed to treating all of our employees with dignity and respect, and the outcome of this election does not change that.” The company also cited its “strong track record” of working with unions.

Pittsburgh Police Take 2-Year-Old Wage Fight to PA Supreme Court

The Pittsburgh police union and the city its members protect and serve took their long-running contract dispute to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Oct. 24 as the sides argued over a 2-year-old arbitration award.

In 2016, arbitrators determined that a new four-year contract for members of FOP Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 would include no raise in the first year and raises of one percent, two percent and two percent in the ensuing years, according to the Post-Gazette. The FOP balked, claiming that the wage increases failed to satisfy the requirements of Pittsburgh’s Act 47 status as a financially distressed municipality. That state law requires the city to provide “competitive wages.” The union has argued that the raises as awarded did not meet the legal standard.

Under another term in Act 47, the FOP attempted to appeal the award directly to Commonwealth Court, but that appellate court rejected the claim and ordered the union to file its case at a lower court. The FOP appealed the Commonwealth Court ruling to the state’s Supreme Court and presented arguments to the seven-justice panel in Pittsburgh.

“Today we are seeking economic justice for the city of Pittsburgh’s police officers,” FOP attorney Richard Poulson told the court.

An attorney representing the city reportedly argued that the arbitration award conforms to Act 47 in that the law calls for both budget restraint and competitive wages.

Pittsburgh emerged from Act 47 status in February. Its rank-and-file police officers earn about $44,700 to start and max out at $66,700 after 15 years, according to the newspaper. Supervisors not represented by the FOP earn more.

USPS Cost Savings Fall Short of Projections as Operational Losses Mount

Almost four years after the United States Postal Service launched a sweeping plan to consolidate its mail processing operations at the expense of letter delivery times, all in an effort stem its chronic operating losses, audits reveal that cost savings have fallen woefully short of projections while additional expenses associated with the program have exceeded budget estimates.

The independent Office of the Inspector General reported that the Postal Service’s management projected annual cost savings of $805 million for its Operational Window Change initiated on Jan. 5, 2015. But the inspector could only identify about $91 million in OWC-related savings for 2016 and ’17 combined (5.6 percent of the projected amount), as well as about $233 million in additional “cost avoidance.” These outcomes followed the $81 million in savings for 2015 identified by the inspector in a prior audit.

Meanwhile, additional transportation costs exceeded the budgeted level by more than $200 million in 2015. Transportation costs for ensuing years were not addressed in the new audit report.

The report does not enumerate changes in staffing levels or facility closures that have resulted from the program. But it found that premium pay cost reductions (the result of moving employees from night shifts to lower-paying daytime shifts) saved $15.5 million in 2016, only a fraction of the projected $65.7 million annual savings. The Postal Service did not provide a 2017 premium pay savings figure to the inspector. Mail processing overtime costs have increased by nine percent, or $68.4 million, under OWC, according to the report.

Overall, Postal Service employment has remained relatively steady since the outset of OWC, but the project followed years of dramatic employment declines at the Postal Service. There were 798,000 USPS workers in 1999, 488,000 in 2014 and 503,000 last year.

According to the Postal Service’s operating losses continue to grow as employees await the report of a federal task force that spent four months examining the USPS with the goal of recommending ways it could capitalize on a growing demand for parcel delivery. The task force concluded its work in August.
From April through June 2018, the Postal Service reported a loss of $1.5 billion, compared to $1 billion for the same quarter last year.

Last June, the administration proposed selling the Postal Service to the private sector after implementing operational reforms to improve its financial stability.

More Women in the Workforce Aren’t Leading to More Women Bosses

The ratio of working-age women who are participating in the labor force continues to grow, yet the number of those in leadership positions has remained virtually unchanged in recent years, according to two recent Wall Street Journal reports.

An Oct. 20 article reported that labor-force participation among women aged 25 to 54 has risen to 75.2 percent, an increase of two points compared to 2015. Meanwhile, their unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since the 1950s (The unemployment rate does not reflect individuals who are out of work and not seeking employment.) The share of women in the labor force had been in decline for most of the prior two decades.

“A plenitude of jobs and a gradual rise in wages is drawing women back into the labor force, including those at the low end of the skill spectrum. For female high-school dropouts aged 25 and over, participation has risen to 33.8% from 32.1% three years ago, even as participation for college grads stagnated,” the WSJ reported.

Yet, an Oct. 23 op-ed written for the paper by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated, “Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and just one in twenty-five is a woman of color. Progress isn’t just slow – it’s stalled.”

Sandberg based her conclusions on a newly released annual report by Women in the Workplace, an organization she co-founded. The report resulted from a joint, multiyear survey by and McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm.


Unionized Dodgers, like Yankees, Choose Marriott Despite Hotel Workers’ Strike

The Los Angeles Dodgers struck out hours before the first pitch was thrown in the 2018 World Series that began on Oct. 23. The Boston Herald reports that the visiting National League pennant winners effectively crossed the picket line of a striking hotel workers union as the players made their way into Boston’s Ritz-Carlton, which is owned by Marriott International.

The Dodgers, who are members of the Major League Baseball players union, didn’t literally cross a picket line because they entered the business through the back door, the paper wrote.

“Jackie Robinson is rolling over in his grave right now that members of his team are crossing the picket line,” Brian Lang, president of Unite Here Local 26, told the Herald. “The Dodgers ought to take his (retired) number down ... He stood up for justice.”

Workers at seven Marriott properties in Boston and those at other company-owned hotels in Detroit, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and two cities in Hawaii walked off the job earlier this month seeking better wages, working conditions and harassment protections. The 8,000 strikers are represented by Unite Here.

The MLB Players Association declined to comment to the Herald, according to the paper.

The Dodgers aren’t alone in their preference for the luxury hotel. When the New York Yankees played in Boston earlier in the playoffs, they also stayed at the Ritz, despite the ongoing strike. But when the Houston Astros went to Boston for the American League Championship Series, they booked a different hotel.