New accord on Solidarity Charters

Faced with a split in labor’s political operations, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win reached a new agreement May 8 on letting Change to Win union locals get Solidarity Charters.

The pact, announced by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Change to Win Chair Anna Burger, recommits the CTW unions to paying per-capita dues for locals that rejoin — or remain in — AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils.

The resolution is important, Burger and Sweeney said, so locals and their members from both federations can work with each other on the ground during the 2006 campaign, a key reason the charter program was established in the first place.

To run the political operation, the two federations will create a National Labor Coordinating Committee, chaired by AFSCME President Gerald McEntee and vice-chaired by CTW Secretary-Treasurer Edgar Romney. “Political directors and staff from the organizations will work in close collaboration on every aspect of the program, and the organizations will share the costs of joint activities,” a statement from the two federations said.

Service Employees President Andrew Stern, another CTW leader, reminded CTW locals the Solidarity Charters will exist only through the end of this year, adding: “Change to Win has no plan to seek renewal of the program beyond that date.”

Bay area teachers OK new contracts

Teachers in San Francisco and Oakland, without contracts for nearly two years, have ratified new agreements this month.

San Francisco teachers, paraprofessionals, substitutes and retirees voted by 95 percent to approve a three-year pact providing an 8.5 percent raise. The United Educators of San Francisco said the agreement recognizes the teachers’ demands for safer schools, fair pay and equal protection for all members. Other gains include improvements in school safety, guarantees of pest-free schools and strengthened asbestos safeguards.

Last week teachers in Oakland also ratified a new contract with a 6.25 percent pay increase. Three years ago, when the district was in serious financial difficulties, teachers had accepted a 4 percent pay cut.

Health care was a major issue. After this year, Oakland teachers will pay one-half percent of their salaries toward health premiums.

The Oakland Education Association says issues of continuing concern include teachers’ rights in involuntary transfers, possible cuts in counselors and the growth of charter schools in the district.

Berkeley mechanics win long strike

After a 10-month strike, service workers at Berkeley Honda are celebrating a new five-year contract defending pensions, health care and workers’ rights.

The dispute started when the dealership was sold last June and the new owners forced 25 service workers to reapply for their jobs, replacing half with lower-paid recent technical school graduates. The remaining workers, represented by the Machinists and Teamsters unions, struck the dealership. Area labor and community organizations sprang to their aid, forming the Berkeley Honda Labor and Community Coalition which organized twice-weekly rallies in front of the dealership’s doors.

The Berkeley City Council endorsed a boycott. “It’s extremely unusual for a strike to be settled so favorably in the 10th month, and it’s really based on the leadership of Berkeley community members, the strikers, local elected leaders and Machinists Local Lodge 1546,” Sharon Cornu, head of the Alameda County Central Labor Council, said in a statement.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood ( Marilyn Bechtel and Press Associates Inc. contributed.