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Local News

Ford Expects Hiring 3,100 Jobs By End of 2012

Ford Motor Company expects to hire all the new employees for its two Louisville plants by the end of next year.

Gov. Steve Beshear joined Mayor Greg Fischer and Ford Motor President of the Americas Mark Fields in Louisville on Thursday. The politicians cheered the ratification of a new 4-year contract between Ford and the United Auto Workers union in front of around 20 local UAW members.

The contract invests $1.2 billion and adds 3,100 jobs to the Kentucky Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly Plant. Hiring for the second shift at the L.A.P. is already underway. Ford expects to have the process complete by next summer, said Fields, and Ford will give precedent for the jobs to previous local UAW members.

“Also the Folks that are currently working in Kansas City that produce the Escape, they have the opportunity per the UAW contract, to follow their product so to speak. I would say as we look at the third shift we’ll probably see for the most past a majority of those folks that will be hired will be new hires,” said Fields.

Hiring for the third shift will begin sometime next year, depending on market demand for the new Escape SUV, he said. Profits for the current Escape hit a record first half, he said.

Beshear said expanding production may help spawn additional investments.

“And I expect to see more evidence of that in the months and the years to come,” he said.

Ford officials did not say if spin-off investments were likely in Louisville or Kentucky. The company already purchases from more than 180 suppliers across this state, said officials.

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Environment Local News

Union Report on Upper Big Branch Explosion Faults Massey Energy, Suggests Evidence Tampering

The United Mine Workers union has released its own report into last year’s deadly explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine. The report is highly critical of the way non-union Massey Energy handled the disaster.

The explosion killed 29 workers, and the title of the report instantly gives a sense of how the United Mine Workers of America views the disaster: it’s called Industrial Homicide.

After the blast, the UMWA was designated an official representative of coal miners in the non-union mine. In the report, the union predictably criticizes Massey Energy, saying equipment wasn’t well-maintained and safely operated. It also faults federal regulators for not shutting the mine down.

But the report does contain two new pieces of evidence about the explosion, which evidence suggests was caused by a methane ignition fed by coal dust. The UMWA report notes the specific placement of a curtain in the mine, which could have directed fresh air directly to a methane monitor. This would have prevented the monitor from detecting unsafe levels of methane and shutting down equipment.

It also mentions the presence of a clean, undamaged methane sensor from an area damaged by the blast. The report implies the sensor could have been planted after the explosion by Massey officials who were underground at the time.

Massey Energy was sold to Alpha Natural Resources earlier this year.

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Local News

Local Union Could Decide 4-Year Contract With Ford Motors

The fate of a contract between Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers union could come down to Louisville’s local chapter, which begins voting this week on the proposed four-year contract with the company.

There have been mixed reviews on the new contract so far, and in several cities local unions have shot it down. The proposal offers workers signing bonuses and inflation protection, but it does not include several concessions lost when Ford was in financial trouble.

Ford is prepared to invest heavily in the two Louisville plants if the contract is approved. Over $1 billion dollars and over 1,000 jobs are included in the new plan over the four years.

Louisville hosts one of the largest Ford unions and is one of the last to vote whether to ratify the contract. A majority vote nationwide is needed to ratify any agreement with Ford, but it may come down to Louisville’s UAW 862, which represents around 5,000 members.

If the UAW does not approve the contract, negotiations will likely continue. The Ford union voted earlier this year to authorize a strike if necessary but UAW officials say they don’t think a strike is necessary, but will provide a three day notice if one will occur.

Voting will take place Monday and Tuesday.

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Local News Uncategorized

Frazier Exhibit Focuses On Civil War Loyalty Divisions

An exhibit opening this weekend at the Frazier History Museum focuses on how the Civil War fractured many families and communities in Kentucky.

It’s called “My Brother, My Enemy.”Curator of Collections Kelly Williams Wilkerson says Kentucky’s position as a so-called “border state” during the war caused some deep political and personal rifts

“There’s lots of divisions in Kentucky during the war, that’s what we really want to highlight, the way the Civil War touched every single family in its own unique way and how it was so incredibly divisive in the state,” she said.

The exhibit features clothing, letters and other artifacts.

It also includes the first public display of papers related to the commitment of Mary Todd Lincoln to an Illinois mental institution, initiated by her son, Robert, in 1875. The museum purchased the documents last year.

The exhibit opens Saturday and continues through April 8 at the Frazier History Museum.

(Photos courtesy of the Frazier History Museum)

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Arts and Humanities Local News

AFM President Discusses Kentucky Opera Talks

The Kentucky Opera could be bound for the American Federation of Musicians’ ‘unfair list’ if it seeks outside players for performances next month.

With the orchestra labor dispute still going, the opera has no easy source for musicians. Opera management struck a deal last month with orchestra players to accompany Carmen, but that deal cost the company $33,000 more than expected. The opera is seeking a simpler deal for next month’s Marriage of Figaro performances, but the union has requested the Carmen deal be replicated.

Opera director David Roth says if an affordable deal isn’t struck, then he’ll have to decide whether to seek outside players or use pianos instead of a pit orchestra.

“Have you ever heard an opera played by two pianos?” says AFM International President Ray Hair. “If you ever heard an opera played by two pianos once, I don’t think you’d  ever want to hear it again.”

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Musicians Voting on New Contract Today

The musicians of the Louisville Orchestra are voting today on a contract for the current and upcoming seasons.

The musicians and management have been at odds over the contract for months, and the impasse has resulted in the cancellation of three months of concerts. The management had previously pushed for a tiered system, with musicians signing contracts for 10, 20 or 30 weeks. The musicians countered with a proposal to cut the number of full-time players from 71 to 60 and the season length from 37 to 35 weeks.

The management had insisted on a tiered contract, saying it was the only affordable option after emerging from Chapter 11. But sources close to the deal tell WFPL the proposal being voted on today calls for 50 full-time players at the current pay rate for 30 weeks each season. It allows for more musicians and higher salaries to be added over the next five seasons. The contract will expire in 2017.

The deadline for the cancellation of December concerts is looming, and the voting on the contract will close today. If the contract is approved, the orchestra season would continue.

The contract also increases the maximum temperature under which musicians can perform and cuts the number of portable toilets the management must provide at outdoor concerts.

Both sides are under a press blackout and have declined to comment.

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Local News

“Unfair” Listing Won’t Change Orchestra Contract Talks as Season Approaches, Says Birman

The management and musicians of the Louisville Orchestra have been in talks for the next season’s contract for about a year, but as deadlines approach, no agreement is in place.

The first concert is scheduled for September 10, and rehearsals are supposed to start the week prior. But unless a contract is in place, the musicians can’t play. That’s because the Louisville Orchestra has joined Wayne Newtown and the Richardson Symphony in Texas on the America Federation of Musicians “unfair list.”

The AFM added the orchestra to the list this week. Any union members who play could face potentially career-ending punishments or fines.

“I don’t think there is a large cadre of non-union players waiting to come work for the Louisville Orchestra,” says union president Ray Hair. “Certainly the kind of skill and experience that union musicians bring to the table is not available.”

Hair says Orchestra CEO Rob Birman had hinted that the orchestra could hire nonunion musicians to play concerns. Birman says he hasn’t and the unfair listing is a tactic in the labor talks and won’t affect the tone or urgency of the negotiations at all.

“The negotiations have only one fruitful outcome, and that would be an agreement,” he says. “What we need is our musicians to return to work and to come to the table and to put a serious proposal on the table.”

Hair says the listing is meant to encourage the management to put forward a reasonable offer for a new contract. The musicians have rejected a proposal to cut the orchestra’s size and season length.

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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.

MoveOn.org 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.

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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.

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Local News

Jeffboat Union Workers Vote to Extend Strike

by Stephanie Crosby

Some 600 workers at the Jeffboat shipyard in southern Indiana remain on strike. The workers, represented by Teamsters Local 89, walked off the job Friday and voted Sunday to extend their strike.

Union President Fred Zuckerman says the one sticking point is health care in the barge maker’s contract proposal. He says costs to employees have gone up too much.

The company contends the union workers are being offered the same health care package as non-union workers, but Zuckerman says that isn’t an arguing point.

“Actually, we have a better health insurance plan and have had it for quite some time,” says Zuckerman. “So actually they have lowered, in their proposal, our health insurance plan to where it’s going to cost us more money for the health insurance for less benefits.”

Zuckerman says they’re in agreement with the company on everything else in the contract, and was surprised when American Commercial Lines presented them with a ‘last, best and final offer’ on Thursday.