Local News Politics

May Day March Scheduled for Sunday

Several local organizations will participate in a May Day march and rally on Sunday. The march will culminate at the Chow Wagon on Witherspoon Street and feature soapbox speakers as well as entertainers.

Kentucky Jobs with Justice representative Attica Scott says this is the latest in a series of local demonstrations against legislation in Wisconsin and Ohio that restricts union collective bargaining.

“What is amazing about the progression of these rallies and now leading up to this march is that we’ve seen it grow, this is this ground swell of this movement happening and so what people are doing is saying let’s stand up and stand in solidarity together today so that we make it clear to our elected officials that you don’t need to bring any of that around here,” she says.

Scott hopes the rally will help spread awareness not only of worker’s rights issues, but also for the plight of immigrants. She says she would like to see comprehensive and progressive immigration legislation passed in Kentucky and other states.

Local News Politics

Indiana House GOP Approves Fines for Boycotting Democrats

Republicans in the Indiana House have approved $250-a-day fines against boycotting Democratic legislators.

Most House Democrats skipped Thursday morning’s floor session, extending their stay at an Urbana, Illinois hotel into an 11th day. The boycott is blocking action on labor and education bills the Democrats oppose by denying the House quorum.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says Democratic leader Patrick Bauer has told him the boycotting members will not return Friday. Bosma says he will hold off on formall censuring them as he had discussed earlier.

The fines will begin Monday. Such charges have been threatened in previous House walkouts, but have been waived when the minority party returns.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

Local News Politics

Rally To Be Held In Frankfort Against Wisconsin, Indiana Legislation

by Dalton Main

Kentuckians will rally Saturday in Frankfort in support of protesters in Wisconsin and Indiana, who are fighting legislation they say will hurt labor unions. Similar rallies will be held in state capitals across the nation. and several other organizations are promoting the rallies. Keith Rouda with MoveOn hopes the event will show solidarity across the nation among people striving to protect and further unionized labor.

“They’re attacking us all; and we’re very concerned about kind of a nationwide trend that’s happening, because …you know… we’re kind of in support of the folks in Wisconsin, but the same thing or similar things is happening in Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey, Oklahoma, kind of across the nation,” he says.

Through this show of solidarity, Rouda says he hopes to prevent the spread of legislation similar to what is being fought over in Wisconsin.

Local News Next Louisville

Fischer Receives Union Nods

Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer accepted endorsements from 29 labor unions Monday. But Fischer’s Republican opponent Hal Heiner says the candidate is not being completely honest with those groups.

Among the unions endorsing Fischer are the United Auto Workers, Boilermakers and Teamsters. Local Teamsters vice president John Stovall says he supports Fischer because the Democrat opposes privatizing city services.

“[The] City of Louisville, right now, and the school board has criteria for people being hired—criminal background checks and all that,” he says. “When you go to privatization, you take all that away. You have to take the company or the management firm that’s running that, that they hire good people—you don’t know.”

In a debate in July, Fischer said he could not categorically rule out privatization if it would save the city money. But, he also said he opposes it and would try to cut costs in other ways first. In the same debate, Heiner said privatizing some services can save money. His campaign spokesperson says Fischer is being duplicitous with unions.

Fischer also again stated his support for two bridges over the Ohio River while accepting the union endorsements. Fischer said two bridges and other construction projects will put union members to work.

“Imagine a future here in the short term, where we go from the arena to Museum Plaza, the bridges, the new VA hospital…that’s a good picture,” he said. “We can do that as we move forward. It’s about jobs.”

On Tuesday, Fischer said he supports building an east-end bridge first, then a downtown bridge years later. Heiner has said the east-end bridge must be built first, but he supports delaying or modifying the downtown bridge and reworked Spaghetti Junction to save money. Independent Jackie Green favors shelving the project while public transportation is improved.

Local News Next Louisville

Firefighters And Police Split On Mayoral Candidate Endorsements

The Louisville firefighters union and the local Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed opposing candidates in the Louisville mayor’s race.

The firefighters are supporting Democrat Greg Fischer. The police, however, favor Republican Hal Heiner. FOP President Dave Mutchler says he was not happy that Fischer said he would retain Chief Robert White if elected.

“We were a little bit miffed that Mr. Fischer would make personnel decisions in the midst of a campaign. We kind of felt that those types of decisions—putting department heads in place—are for the mayor to make,” he says.

Both unions say their candidate would be better to work with than current Mayor Jerry Abramson, with whom they have clashed over pay and contract issues. Firefighters union president Craig Willman says he likes Fischer’s approach working out such disputes.

“He’s already been a better candidate than the previous mayor we had in dealing with negotiations and the obstructions that we’ve had to deal with and long, contentious negotiations which we were able to not find any resolve in,” he says.

The firefighters’ decision was made based on interviews conducted last spring and meetings with Fischer held afterward. The FOP conducted new interviews.

Local News Next Louisville

King Unveils Ten-Point Labor Plan

Democratic mayoral candidate Jim King says he has a plan for improving Metro Government’s image in the labor market.

King Wednesday unveiled a ten-point plan that he says will help working families. With Metro Government having recently faced court battles with police and fire unions, King says a cornerstone of his plan is to negotiate with unions and keep labor disputes out of court.

“Louisville has gained some notoriety with employers outside of Louisville as being a town that has a labor culture that requires litigation as opposed to negotiation,” he says.

King says he will also continue several causes he championed in the Metro Council, including prevailing wage laws and requirements for hiring local and minority workers for publicly-funded projects.

The Abramson administration did recently settle out-of-court in a pay dispute with two city employee unions.

Several other points of the plan are extensions of ordinances King sponsored in the Metro Council, including standards for wages and requirements for hiring local and minority workers for publicly-funded projects.

Local News

City Agrees To Furlough Settlement With Unions

Louisville Metro Government will pay back some two thousand city employees for furlough days taken in the last two years.

The city imposed the furloughs for all non-emergency employees to help close a budget shortfall. Many members of the Teamsters and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees took the furloughs, but union leaders contended they violated their contracts.

The mayor’s office says the unions agreed to the furloughs, but AFSCME President Greg Frazier says he only agreed to hold a vote on the cost-cutting measure.

“Agreeing to take it to the membership and agreeing to take the furlough days are two different things,” he says. “I don’t have the right as the president of the union to agree to something like that.”

The unions filed grievances after the furlough days. An arbitration firm ruled in favor of the unions, and the city has decided to pay about one million dollars to the union workers. Carlton says personnel funds for the current fiscal year will likely be cut to accommodate the payout.
“It’ll play out in less overtime, leaving positions vacant longer, not hiring replacements for people, hiring people at lower salaries when someone leaves,” he says.

State of Affairs

Employee Free Choice Act

TUESDAY, July 7, 2009
Employee Free Choice Act
Organizing to protect workers’ rights has a long, weathered history in this country and unions continue the fight to this day. Legislation currently before Congress called the Employee Free Choice Act, supported by unions, has left some employers wondering if workers’ rights will truly be protected. If passed, workers will be able to form unions more easily but ballots cast to do so, will be public not private. Join us on Tuesday as we discuss the potential impact of the Employee Free Choice Act on businesses and workers in Kentucky.

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Local News

275 Louisville Assembly Plant Workers Laid Off

275 workers at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant are being laid off today.

The workers on Ford’s Explorer line are being cut as the vehicle is taken out of production.

Local United Auto Workers Union Building Chairman Steven Stone says the union tried to prevent the layoffs, but employment will be boosted when the plant begins manufacturing a new fuel-efficient vehicle in 2011.

“They are predicting to run multiple shifts out there, so I’m sure every single one of those that are laid off will be back,” he says. “I’m sure of that.”

Stone says the laid off workers will receive some health benefits and about 70% of their salaries for one year. A Ford spokesperson did not return a phone call for comment.

Local News

GE Union To Vote On Wage Freeze This Week

On Wednesday, union workers at General Electric’s Appliance Park plant will vote on a wage freeze.

In exchange for the freeze on 2100 workers’ salaries, GE says it will hire 100 new workers and keep all product manufacturing in Louisville until June 2011, when the workers’ contracts expire.

Union leaders have declined to comment publicly, but GE spokesperson Kim Freeman says the promises of new workers and job security can’t be made without the wage freeze.

“Considering that we lost $72 million last year, it just wouldn’t make good business sense for us to invest in new a product or bring additional employees into Appliance Park because our cost structure is just too high,” she says.

Freeman says union members seem receptive to the idea. The plant’s 2000 salaried workers have been under a pay rate freeze since 2008.