Kentucky defeats attack on prevailing wage

Demonstrations in nine Kentucky cities, including 3,000 unionists marching in Frankfort, the state capital, led lawmakers to kill attempts to dump prevailing wage regulations, the Kentucky Building Trades Council reported. The defeated legislation, which was supported by GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher, lost in the House Labor and Industry Committee, 11-2, with all nine Democrats and two of the six Republicans voting against it. “Blue-collar working families already struggle enough as it is,” said Building Trades State Director Larry Roberts. “We will not allow Gov. Fletcher to drag our families down the low road to low-wage jobs by repealing the prevailing wage.”

Delta pilots authorize strike

By the time you read this story, Delta Airlines may be grounded. That’s because a three-judge panel of arbitrators has until April 15 to rule on the bankrupt Atlanta-based airline’s demand to kill the contract for its 6,000 active pilots and 500 furloughed pilots.

Killing the contract would allow Delta to cut the pilots’ pay by 18.5 percent. That’s on top of a 32.5 percent pay cut in 2004.

If the arbitrators throw their contract out, the pilots will have to strike, says Capt. Lee Moak, chair of the Delta unit of the Air Line Pilots Association. On April 4, the pilots authorized a strike by a 5,295-295 vote, with 96 percent casting ballots.

Captive audience breaks out

Three school bus drivers in Clarksville, Tenn. and the Steelworkers union are in court against the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, seeking an injunction to cancel the remainder of a series of anti-union meetings, AP reports.

Drivers told The Leaf-Chronicle that they were required to attend three one-hour meetings last week in which a man named “Smitty,” who refused to give his last name, criticized unions in general and the USW and its Clarksville representative in particular.

School spokesperson Elise Shelton told AP that Smitty was contracted through Sullivan & Associates for $40,000 to give 12 one-hour “lessons” of “in-service training.” Etoile Teet, president of the Clarksville Steelworkers union and one of the plaintiffs, said his request for equal time at the meetings was rejected. The suit charges that the school system has violated the drivers’ rights to free speech and freedom to organize.

Waste Management strikes

Approximately 100 Teamster-represented sanitation workers, members of Local 813, were forced to strike garbage giant Waste Management Inc., in New York City on April 3, the Teamsters reported. The same day, another 100 workers, this time from Washington, D.C., Local 639, had to walk out. WMI was trying to cut take-home pay, eliminate retirement benefits and cut the quality of health care coverage while raising its price, the union locals said.

Company backs off firing

Ten workers who were fired after missing work to attend the historic March 10 immigrant rights march in Chicago will be reinstated, Press Associates reports. Immigrant rights supporters throughout the Chicago area had been mobilizing to attend a rally against Cobra Metal Works Corp. in nearby Elgin after Cobra terminated the 10.

The Cobra Metal Works employees will return to work April 10, thanks to an April 6 agreement reached with the Elgin-based company. Included in the agreement is the cancellation of the rally in front of the company’s facility in Elgin that was to take place on April 10. “We are glad to report that any issues with our employees have been resolved and we welcome them back to work,” the company said in a joint statement with Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, which has pledged to continue to monitor the situation at Cobra.

Workers get the crumbs

To dramatize how their health care coverage has become unaffordable, hospital workers held a “Bake Sale for Health Care” April 4 outside Fairview Riverside hospital in Minneapolis, Workday Minnesota reports.

More than 3,300 Twin Cities hospital employees are working without a contract after five hospital systems declared bargaining at an impasse over the hospital’s insistence on dumping the rising costs of health care on the workers, says their union, Service Employees Local 113.

Geri Weitzel set out cookies and candy bars on a table outside the hospital. The 15-year veteran provides health insurance for herself, her husband and their two children. Rising premiums and higher co-pays are making it unaffordable, she said. “The hospital says the insurance plan wasn’t cost-effective for them. It isn’t cost-effective for us either,” she said.

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