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Labor Report

“As we take a break from our hectic daily lives this festive season, I ask that you join me in reflecting on all the blessings we enjoy throughout the year. Life presents us with many difficult challenges, but we can overcome them with the support and love of our families, our friends, and our steadfast coworkers. So, with the 2018 calendar soon to expire and with many new challenges awaiting us in 2019, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”
-- State Sen. Christine Tartaglione

It’s Not Too Late to Find the Perfect Pro-Labor Holiday Gift

The AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have been working hard to expand their labor-friendly holiday gift guide. The latest version of the annual guide lists a multitude of goods produced by union workers in a variety of categories, including apparel and accessories, beauty products, games, sports equipment, stocking stuffers, wine and beer, and even automobiles.

Labor organizations including Unite Here, IAM, UFCW, RWDSU, UAW, USW, IBB, IAM, IBT, BCTGM, and UFW, all have a hand in making the Holidays special for their communities across the United States and beyond. The list was compiled by Union Plus, the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department, and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers. It’s available here.

McDonald’s Owners Unite Themselves as Employees Remain in Limbo

McDonald’s franchisees may be taking a page from organized labor as they seek to challenge what they view as costly technological and operational changes that their corporate parent is seeking to impose at the chain’s independently-owned restaurants.

Bloomberg reported early this month that the franchisees, who are “a traditionally organizing-averse group” have formed a National Owners Association as McDonald’s LLC pushes to expand electronic ordering kiosks and delivery service at the franchises, as well as operational changes for drive-through service.

“The franchises say a lot of the changes aren’t proven means of improving profits, and that some previous changes imposed by McDonald’s LLC didn’t produce the intended results, or were scrapped shortly after being introduced,” Bloomberg reported.

The Owners Association incorporated as a non-profit in late November. Although it doesn’t meet the legal definition of a union, labor advocates have been quick to point out how the franchisees are seeking to advance their interests by strength in numbers, although they have historically resisted efforts by their employees to organize in support of the workers’ interests.

Although McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue, it is not the first with a franchisees association. In late October, Forbes reported that organized Jack in the Box owners called for the ouster of the chief executive and other top managers amid disputes over representation on the corporate board and financial restructuring plans.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s franchisees and their corporate parent company have been accused of participating jointly in an organized, systematic campaign to undermine efforts by restaurant workers to organize themselves in the fight for a $15 minimum wage. The Fight for $15 advocacy group earlier this year submitted internal memos and emails to the National Labor Relations Board documenting the collaboration between McDonald’s LLC and its franchisees.

In addition, McDonald’s LLC and the NLRB have been engaged in a long-running legal case to determine whether the franchisor should be classified as a joint employer and become liable for labor law violations committed by its franchises.

In July, an administrative law judge rejected a proposed settlement between the corporate entity and the NLRB, which held a Democrat majority when the case began, but is now led by a Republican majority. In September, the NLRB opened a formal rule-making process that would narrow the definition of a joint employer and likely shield corporations like McDonald’s LLC from the violations of its franchises or contractors.

Allegheny Port Authority “Bans the Box” and Removes Wage History Questions on Job Applications

The Port Authority of Allegheny County has joined many other government agencies around the country in removing questions about a prospective employee’s criminal history on his or her initial job application, according to the Post-Gazette.

The national movement opposed to criminal record inquiries has become known as “ban the box.” (On many job applications, the applicants are instructed to check a box to confirm their clean criminal history or to acknowledge their criminal past.) The goal of ban the box is to prevent employers from eliminating job seekers from consideration in the early stages of the application process before an interview.

Employers are expected to withhold criminal record inquiries until after offering the applicant a job and commencing a background check.

The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County removed the question from their job applications more than four years ago, the newspaper said.

In addition, the Port Authority eliminated questions about salary history from its job applications. Spokesman Adam Brandolph told the Post-Gazette “that question was eliminated because the agency thought that some groups, such as women, had previously been discriminated against and unfairly received lower salaries” as a result of salary history inquiries.

Last June, Senator Tartaglione joined Gov. Tom Wolf, other lawmakers and women’s advocacy groups to announce proposed legislation that would make it illegal for employers to force applicants to disclose past their salaries or wages, and would make it illegal for employers to ban employees from discussing their wages openly. Both proposals are meant to break the cycle of pay disparity between the genders. At the time, Wolf issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies under his authority from asking applicants about their salary history.

Indiana County Nurses Strike Amid Stagnant Contract Talks with Regional Medical Center

More than 300 out-of-contract nurses from Indiana Regional Medical Center walked off the job for a day late last month seeking to advance good faith bargaining with their employer. In turn, the hospital locked them out for four additional days and said it would deduct the cost of replacement nurses from the new compensation package it was offering.

The Nov. 26 walkout took place under steady rain on the outskirts of the rural Western Pennsylvania town of about 14,000 residents. The nurses are represented by the Indiana Registered Nurses Association, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s Healthcare division. Their most recent contract expired on Oct. 31. Wages, health insurance premiums, and paid time off are among the contested issues.

Public comments offered by the hospital’s leadership at the outset of the strike pinned the blame for the stoppage squarely on the nurses.

“When they called for a strike, PSEA leaders were not as concerned about access to health care for the community or that our nurses, in effect, would have to walk out on the patients they care about for the purpose of a strike that likely would have been settled if negotiations were completed before walking out,” IRMC CEO Stephen Wolfe said, according to the Indiana Gazette.

At a bargaining session before the walkout, management reportedly proposed a three-year contract with raises totaling six percent and increases in employee health plan contributions. The union was seeking a four-year deal with three percent raises annually and lower health insurance premiums.

“Union leaders said IRMC’s call to increase hospitalization costs from 2.5 to 28 percent would mean steep cuts in the nurses’ take-home pay,” the Gazette reported.

The sides have met for bargaining several times since the strike ended and were scheduled to reconvene on Dec. 20.