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Strike likely averted at East Coast ports (Read More…)

Fri Dec 28, 2012

The union for longshoremen along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico has agreed to extend its contract for 30 days, averting a possible strike that could have crippled operations at ports that handle about 40 percent of all U.S. container cargo, a federal mediator announced Friday.

The extension came after the union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines resolved one of the stickier points in their months-long contract negotiations, involving royalty payments to the longshoremen for each container they unload.

Negotiations will continue until at least midnight Jan. 28. Some important contract issues remain to be resolved, but the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, George Cohen, said the agreement on royalties was “a major positive step forward.”

“While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming 30-day extension period,” he said.

The terms of the royalty agreement were not announced.

The master contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance originally expired in September. The two sides agreed to extend it once before, for 90 days, but it had been set to expire again at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

As recently as Dec. 19, the president of the longshoremen, Harold Daggett, had said a strike was expected.

A work stoppage would have idled shipments of a vast number of consumer products, from electronics to clothing, and kept U.S. manufacturers from getting parts and raw materials delivered easily.

Business groups expressed relief that the two sides had agreed to keep the ports open.

“A coast-wide port shutdown is not an option. It would have severe economic ramifications for the local, national and even global economies and wreak havoc on the supply chain,” said National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay.

Major ports that would have been frozen included the massive terminals serving New York City overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and critical seaports in Savannah, Ga., Houston, and Hampton Roads, Va.

New York Shipping Association President Joseph Curto said avoiding a strike is critical “to thousands of workers who depend on port activities for their livelihood.”

Other ports that would have been affected by a strike are in Boston; the Philadelphia area; Baltimore; Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Port Everglades, Fla.; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; and New Orleans.

Longshoremen on the West Coast have a separate collective bargaining agreement.

Posted by Admin on 12/28 at 01:31 PM

Right-to-work comes just in time for Michigan (Read More…)

Commentary: New law could stem state’s economic decline
December 13, 2012|Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Anti right-to-work protesters gathered outside of Michigan’s state capitol building in Lansing earlier this week.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Democrats tend to be pro-choice on abortion, but they don’t want to give workers any choice about union membership.

Witness the howls of rage this week when Michigan’s Republican legislature ruled that workers won’t be required to join a union or to pay fees to unions as a condition of employment.

Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill on Tuesday, so Michigan will join neighboring Indiana as a so-called right-to-work state on April 1, 2013. Only police and firefighters will be exempt. Read Wall Street Journal story “Unions Dealt Blow in UAW’s Home State.”

By state statute, the new law cannot be overturned by a referendum because it contains an appropriation ($1 million for the law’s implementation and worker education activities). Opponents are considering a citizens’ initiative to overturn the law, and United Auto Workers president Bob King has suggested that he might try to recall Republican legislators and Governor Snyder.

However, this approach didn’t work in Wisconsin, where unions spent millions of members’ dues in a futile attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker, who eliminated collective bargaining for public workers.

Michigan is the 24th right-to-work state, following Indiana, which became the 23rd state on Feb. 1, 2012. So far, over 200 companies have announced they will move to Indiana or expand existing operations in the state, and 90 cited the right-to-work law as a factor.

The right-to-work law comes none too soon to stem Michigan’s economic decline. At 9.1%, Michigan has the sixth highest unemployment rate in the nation, and likely would have lost more business to Indiana and other right-to-work states if the legislation had not passed.

Workers are voting with their feet, migrating from unionized states to right-to-work states. where by law they cannot be required to join a union as a condition of work. As a result of population shifts in the 2010 Census, nine congressional seats moved to right-to-work states from required unionization states in 2012. Winners included Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina, while losers were New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and New Jersey.

Since the recovery began, in 2009, right-to-work states have created more than twice as many jobs as unionized states. Recall that it was unionized General Motors and Chrysler that needed federal bailouts in 2008 and 2009, not Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and BMW, located in right-to-work states in the South.

Between October 2011 and October 2012, right-to-work states (not including Indiana and Michigan) increased nonfarm payroll employment by 1.5%, in comparison with 1.3% in other states. That’s a difference of 19%.

Michigan union members are likely happy with the new law. They will be able to choose whether they want to pay 1% to 2% of their salaries in union dues.

Posted by Admin on 12/14 at 02:23 PM