Unions at Work: Postal Service Arbitration, Calif. County Strike

Jan. 2, 2019, 1:31 PM

Keep up-to-date with our weekly roundup of union initiatives, bargaining developments, leadership changes, and other labor news.

Arbitrator to Decide Postal Contract

The American Postal Workers Union, which represents about 200,000 workers, and the U.S. Postal Service are heading to arbitration after a union committee expressed concerns over a tentative agreement.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein said in a posting on the union’s website that he believed the agreement he reached with USPS management after months of bargaining was “fair and positive for the members.” However, the union’s Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee “had some serious concerns with the tentative agreement” and asked the union’s leaders to reopen negotiations, Dimondstein said.

“Our future wages, benefits and working conditions will be determined by an outside arbitrator. During this period both sides can continue discussions and, if possible, reach new tentative agreements,” he said.

The union’s membership includes maintenance workers, truck drivers and people who repair vehicles, clerks who sort mail, and workers at the Postal Service’s retail centers, Dimondstein told Bloomberg Law in June, just before talks began. A top goal for the union is to persuade the Postal Service to convert workers in non-career positions—which offer less generous benefits and job security—to career status, Dimondstein said at the time.

Strike Ahead for Calif. County Employees?

Members of a union that represents about 700 employees of Stanislaus County, Calif., could go on strike Jan. 3.

Local 521 of the Service Employees International Union has been bargaining with the Central Valley county since April and the most recent collective bargaining agreement expired June 30, Kate Selover, the local’s president, told Bloomberg Law. Members voted to authorize a strike because they’re frustrated that the county hasn’t kept up with its neighbors on training, pay, or work issues, Selover said. Neighboring counties such as Merced and San Joaquin “are swiping employees” as a result, leading to retention problems, she said.

The local already held a strike Nov. 5, Selover said. It represents a wide variety of mental health professionals, along with other county employees such as animal control specialists and librarians.

The county and the union plan further bargaining on Jan. 2, Tamara Thomas, Stanislaus County’s director of human resources, told Bloomberg Law. “We are hopeful that the parties will come to an agreement,” she said.

Entertainment Unions to Share Contracts

Some entertainment industry unions will begin sharing contract language and codes of conduct in an effort to combat workplace harassment, according to an AFL-CIO statement. The 12 unions—united under the AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees—include SAG-AFTRA, the Actors’ Equity Association, and the Writers Guild of America, East.

The entertainment industry has come under scrutiny in the #MeToo era for its use of extensive nondisclosure agreements and forced arbitration in contracts. The practices inspired a flurry of legislation in California where Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed off on laws outlawing secret harassment settlements without the claimant’s permission and non-disparagement clauses in contracts.

Nine of the unions agreed to the change during a Dec. 13 meeting. The unions also will share codes of conduct and best practices in combating harassment. The signatories will convene regularly to ensure compliance with the pledge, the AFL-CIO said.

Indiana Local Lands 6% Bump

Public workers for the City of Elkhart, Ind., are getting a 6 percent raise in 2019.

The city and Local No. 1484 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees discovered that a collective bargaining agreement covering roughly 30 workers was about to renew for 2019 without a raise. Mayor Tim Neese (R) called on the Elkhart City Council to pass the one-time pay bump while a longer-term contact is worked out.

The City Council on Dec. 27 passed a resolution providing the employees, including public works and utility workers and first responders, with the 6 percent increase. Neese said it was the workers’ first pay raise since he became the mayor in 2016.

—With reporting from Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio, and Andrew Wallender in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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