NLRB give OK to nurses’ firing

Overruling a prior precedent, the National Labor Relations Board decided last year that the Alexandria (Minn.) Clinic could fire 22 members of the Minnesota Licensed Practical Nurses Association over what many see as a ridiculous technicality.

The union gave a 10-day strike notice, as required by law. The notice gave the time of the strike as 8 a.m. on Sept. 10, 1999. However, when the actual walk out occurred four hours later, at noon, management seized on the discrepancy to fire the nurses.

The union took its case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, but its panel agreed with the NLRB, not the nurses. “If Congress intended to allow either party to extend the (strike) notice unilaterally, it could easily have said so — but it did not,” the appellate judges said.

The AFL-CIO cites that NLRB ruling as one of many agency decisions showing a consistent anti-worker trend during the Bush administration.

Rutgers students won’t choke on Coke

Hundreds of Coke machines and fountains from the three Rutgers New Jersey campuses are being removed along with Coca-Cola scoreboards, clocks and other Coke ads that “polluted” the university. The ban on Coke is in support of a nationwide campaign of student-labor activists to “stop the gruesome cycle of murders, kidnapping and torture of union leaders and organizers involved in daily life and death struggles at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, South America,” says the Stop Killer Coke campaign.

The decision that effectively bans the sale and marketing of all Coke products from campus was made on May 10 after a long-fought, two-year campaign led by student organizations and the faculty union.

Public support for United Airlines workers

“It is highly unusual to receive letter after letter from airline passengers and ordinary Americans, with no union affiliation whatsoever, who commend us for standing up and fighting on behalf of our members,” writes Randy Canale, president of Machinist Union District 141.

Writing to District 141 members about the union’s negotiations with United Airlines, Canale reported a “surprising … outpouring of public support that we are receiving daily in phone calls, letters and e-mail.

“They are especially offended by United’s termination of our pension plan and the attempt to wipe out our contracts in bankruptcy court,” Canale wrote.

“This isn’t about the ailing airline industry,” wrote one supporter from Little Rock, Ark. “This is about every poor bastard who put in 25 years with the expectation — the promise — that they would have something at the end of it. This is just the start, and if we don’t move to stop it now, it will happen to others.”

Canale concluded his letter with a personal message: “To each and every person who is supporting us in this struggle, I thank you as a proud American and a very, very proud union member.”

Bulls Eye on FMLA

The U.S. Department of Labor officially announced that it will make changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act, but didn’t say when these changes will be released or what they’d look like, the AFL-CIO warned in a letter to working women June 6.

Since the law passed in 1993, more than 50 million working people — half of them men — have been able to take time off to bond with new babies, care for seriously ill family members or recover from their own illnesses.

But FMLA needs strengthening, not weakening: The FMLA does not cover all workers, and the leave is unpaid. Three in four workers who needed to take FMLA leave, but did not take it, said they couldn’t afford to go without a paycheck.

However, says the message, “statistics only tell us so much. So, we need your stories to put a personal perspective on the campaign to save FMLA.” If you or someone in your family used FMLA leave and would like to share your story, e-mail

Methodists support EFCA

The General Board of Church and Society of the 8.3-million-member United Methodist Church officially offered its support for the Employee Free Choice Act and majority sign-up agreements (also known as card-check). In its May 20 statement supporting the campaign to restore workers’ freedom to form unions, the board called on “all employers to abide by their employees’ decision when a majority has signed union authorization cards or otherwise indicated their desire to be represented by a union, and to refrain from using National Labor Relations Board hearings, elections, and appeals as a means for delaying or avoiding representation for their employees.”

Labor Update is compiled by Roberta Wood ( PAI and YCL updates contributed to this update.