What’s wrong with America’s tipping system?

The Economic Policy Institute has produced a series of informative videos on tipped wage workers. We will continue to share them haring them over the coming week or so. In this video, Economic analyst and former tipped worker David Cooper explains that, even though there are laws protecting tipped workers, the system doesn’t work well. Laws are hard to enforce and frequently violated.

Unite Here Chief Blasts Obama Over ACA

by Bruce Vail

President Donald “D” Taylor’s union, Unite Here, released a scathing report last week about the unintended consequences of Obamacare.   (Unite Here)

President Donald “D” Taylor’s union, Unite Here, released a scathing report last week about the unintended consequences of Obamacare. (Unite Here)

Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in 2010, unions say they have pleaded with the White House dozens of times to make labor-friendly changes to the law. With the deadline to sign up for 2014 coverage looming, hospitality union Unite Here has produced a stinging new report on the failure of the White House and congressional Democrats to face Obamacare’s numerous problems.

The 12-page report, “The Irony of Obamacare: Making Inequality Worse,” began circulating last week to its primary audience of some 270,000 Unite Here members. It largely focuses on the law’s negative future impact on Unite Here’s existing joint labor-management healthcare plans, also known as “Taft-Hartley plans,” warning that union members may lose their existing insurance coverage and be forced to buy more expensive insurance elsewhere. Continue reading

Hospital Organizing in Pittsburgh

by Dave Jamieson

Reposted from the Huffington Post and Portside
March 3, 2014

[Editorial Note: This article by Dave Jamieson and accompanying image by  Justin K. Aller ( Getty Images) have a special resonance for me. In 1970 when the US Steel Tower was still the headquarters of the giant steel corporation, I was arrested at a demonstration outside the Western Psychiatric Institute in support of a union organizing drive by Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers. Since then UPMC has engulfed and devoured most of the major hospitals in the Pittsburgh area, including Western Psychiatric, and planted its huge logo on top of the US Steel Tower.  With 62,000 employees, the UPMC has eclipsed the steel industry as the largest employer.  It is currently spending millions of its subscribers' dollars in a propaganda media war with a competing HMO to become even larger.   Claiming to be a "charity" and not a business, UPMC even has denied it has any employees that could be represented by a union.

Local 1199 merged with the Service Employees International Union, and hospital worker organizing has returned to the Pittsburgh area after a long hiatus (I worked as an SEIU hospital organizer  in the Pittsburgh area in the mid 1970s, where we had only modest success, mostly in the public and nursing home sectors).  The stakes are even higher, now that the typical Pittsburgh worker labors in a medical or educational institution rather than a steel factory.  And those workers need to have the voice of union representation as did the Mon Valley steelworkers two generations ago.  - Paul Garver]

 Hundreds of demonstrators poured into downtown Pittsburgh Monday to protest low wages at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, escalating a two-year showdown between labor groups and the area’s largest employer.

The Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize service workers at the hospital for at least two years. Joined by steel and mine workers on Monday, pro-union employees of UPMC marched to the hospital’s headquarters at the U.S. Steel Tower with some specific demands: a hospital minimum wage of $15, the elimination of employees’ health care debts to the hospital and recognition of a union. Continue reading

Healthcare Costs Go Viral: Emergency Declared by San Francisco Labor

by Carl Finamore

finamore_healthemerIt’s a national epidemic finally getting some long overdue attention. To put rising costs in perspective, a dozen oranges today would cost $134 if adjusted at the same rate of price inflation that we’ve seen in healthcare since 1945.

And, it’s only getting worse. California health insurance premiums soared 185% since 2002. But we’ve heard these complaints before, it’s not new.

What is new is that the largest unions in San Francisco are doing something to reign in price gouging by insurers like California-based Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest HMO with 9.1 million subscribers.

For UNITE-HERE Local 2, one of the city’s largest unions representing 13,000 employees of restaurants and hotels in and around San Francisco, it has become a necessity. Continue reading

Workers Battle With Grocery Chains Over Obamacare Implementation

by Bruce Vail

UFCW Local 21, UFCW Local 367 and Teamsters 38 bargained with representatives from major supermarkets, including Kroger, to keep their health benefits.   (mcsquishee / Flickr / Creative Commons)

UFCW Local 21, UFCW Local 367 and Teamsters 38 bargained with representatives from major supermarkets, including Kroger, to keep their health benefits. (mcsquishee / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Unions representing about 30,000 grocery workers in the Puget Sound region claimed a victory last week in a labor contract fight that centered on the implementation of Obamacare in the area’s biggest supermarket chains.

Western Washington state locals of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters have been bargaining for months with representatives from Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons, all among the largest supermarket chains in the country. In addition to the elimination of health insurance coverage for 8,000 part-time workers, the initial demands from the grocery retailers included extended wage freezes and selective elimination of overtime pay, according to Seattle-based UFCW Local 21. The workers were within hours of beginning a strike before a last-minute deal was reached on October 21. Continue reading

Labor’s Love Lost Over Obamacare?

 
Steve Early

Steve Early

Like many labor negotiators, I looked to health care reform for legislative relief from endless haggling with management over employee benefit costs. My own union and others worked hard for passage of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) three years ago. Despite its failure to take health insurance issues off the bargaining table, as a more preferable Medicare-for-All system would do, Obamacare was widely cheered by labor.

Union members were told, correctly, that the ACA would expand Medicaid access for millions of lower-income Americans and make private insurance coverage more consumer-friendly for everyone else. Organized labor also expected the new law to aid union bargaining by leveling the playing field among all employers, much like the minimum wage and other protective labor legislation does. Continue reading

IBEW Chimes In with Obamacare Concerns

By Bruce Vail

In a new ad campaign, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) asks the President to close Obamacare loopholes that would leave many construction workers without coverage.   (From the IBEW website)

In a new ad campaign, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) asks the President to close Obamacare loopholes that would leave many construction workers without coverage. (From the IBEW website)

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) added its voice last week to the growing number of labor unions with complaints about how President Barack Obama is handling implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

The 725,000-member IBEW released a white paper on July 11 calling for changes to how the law treats multi-employer plans (also known as Taft-Hartley plans). These plans, which are jointly administered by unions and their employers, are endangered by the ACA because it will discourage employers from participating in the plans, and place some existing union employers at a financial disadvantage. The health insurance of more than 350,000 IBEW members covered by such plans is at risk, says IBEW spokesperson Jim Spellane. Continue reading

As Obamacare insurance exchanges near launch, labor braces for impact

by Don McIntosh

wikimedia.org creative commons

wikimedia.org creative commons

Organized labor — entirely left out of the legislation that became known as Obamacare — has spent years behind the scenes patiently pleading withthe Obama Administration to be allowed to benefit from the law’s implementation. Now, four months before the law’s mandated state insurance exchanges launch, it appears that while some union members will benefit,many others may actually be harmed.

The state-by-state health insurance exchanges, which launch Oct. 1, 2013, are the linchpin of Obamacare’s plan to cover the uninsured. The exchanges will benefit a minority of low-wage union members who don’t currently have employer-provided health insurance. But they may harm many other union members who are covered through union-affiliated multi-employer health trusts — which are prevalent in construction and in low-wage industries like grocery and janitorial.

The harm would come chiefly because union members and their employers won’t have access to individual subsidies, or to small-employer tax credits, for insurance purchased on the exchanges. But their nonunion competitors will.

Continue reading

Some unions protest Obamacare’s impact on Multiemployer Health Plans

by Kay Tillow

obamaThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, also known as Obamacare, presents challenges to the multiemployer plans through which some unions bargain collectively to provide health care insurance for their members.  These plans, often called Taft Hartley Plans, currently cover about 26 million workers, families, and retirees.  Unless there is a major regulatory change made by Health and Human Services, these union negotiated plans will be struck a harsh blow once the exchanges go into effect in 2014.

A quiet effort by many unions to persuade the Obama administration to make this change is now becoming very public.

Continue reading

How Low Can Part-Timers’ Hours Go?

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Say you’re an employer with an employee who works 30 hours a week. If you have 50 employees or more come next year, you’ll be required either to provide her with health-care coverage, which the Affordable Care Act will by then mandate for all employees who work at least 30 hours a week, or you’ll have to pay a $2,000 penalty for failing to cover her.

Or, you could just cut her weekly hours to 29. That way, you won’t have to pay a dime, in either insurance costs or penalties.

This thought, not surprisingly, has crossed the minds of quite a number of employers. Right now, the average number of hours an employee in a retail establishment works each week is 31.4. And a whole lot of Americans work in retail—just slightly over 15 million, according to the latest employment report, out Friday, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not all of them work hours that hover just over 30, of course, but the UC Berkeley Labor Center has calculated that 10.6 percent of workers in retail establishments that employ 100 or more individuals put in between 30 and 36 hours each week. As retail establishments that employ between 50 and 100 workers may well employ a higher percentage of part-timers than their larger counterparts, that figure of 10.6 percent is likely to rise when those additional employees are factored in.

Continue reading

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