THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE: Employees of Riverside County Dial-A-Ride vans for seniors, disabled to go on strike

Many senior citizen and disabled residents could be left without transportation by a planned strike of drivers and employees of the Riverside Transit Agency’s Dial-A-Ride service.

The local chapter of SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, voted Jan. 25 in favor of a strike by a 94-percent margin, said Tom Pate, general chairman for the union.

No strike date has been determined, but the vote allows members to do so at any time, he said.

The service — which is separate from the agency’s normal bus routes — offers seniors and the disabled door-to-door rides that must be booked in advance within its 2,500-square mile service area in Riverside County.

The union represents 166 drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and call center operators for RTA’s 110 Dial-A-Ride vans that run across Riverside County. About 1,700 passengers use it daily, RTA spokesman Bradley Weaver said.

The labor dispute comes as a new contractor is getting ready to take over the the service on Saturday, Feb. 3.

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FIREHOUSE: Pregnant FL Firefighter Denied ‘Light Duty’ Assignment

A Florida firefighter who is seven-months pregnant is being told she will have to carry out her normal duties until she gives birth.

Nicole Morris, 35, said she is struggling to endure 24-hour shifts as she nears the end of her pregnancy, TC Palm reports.

But the 2016 contract between the International Association of Firefighters Local 2201 and the Indian River County Emergency Services District prohibits her employer from assigning her to modified duty.

“Right now I’m scheduled to work until the day before my C-section,” Morris told TC Palm.

Morris, a 10 year veteran of the fire department, has about 500 hours–or two months–of paid time off saved, which she plans to spend with her newborn baby once it arrives, TC Palm reported.

She’s been given no accommodations, which her doctor insists is unhealthy both for her and the baby.

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Nurses move to kick out SEIU from UPMC McKeesport

In 2018, union nurses at UPMC McKeesport will begin negotiating a new three-year labor contract with the hospital.

But the Service Employees International Union that represents the nearly 200 nurses there faces a more immediate, existential challenge — one brought by some among its own ranks.

A group of union nurses is seeking to kick out the SEIU, which has represented employees at the hospital for decades. The nurses filed a petition in December with the National Labor Relations Board, asking for an election that would determine whether members still want to be part of the union.

The federal labor board, which requires at least 30 percent of all employees in a workplace to agree to an election, approved the petition and set the date for Jan. 30, according to labor board filings.

The attempt to decertify comes as the labor organization has been actively organizing health care workers at other workplaces across the region.

The SEIU has won 20 of 24 union elections in its push to organize hospital workers in Western Pennsylvania, according to a review of elections certified by the labor relations board office in Pittsburgh. In the summer of 2015, SEIU captured one of the biggest prizes of any union in this region when it organized about 1,400 service, technical and office employees at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.

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Hospitals now represent one of the largest union sectors of the US economy, and there is particular concern about the impact of strikes on patient welfare. We analyze the effects of nurses’ strikes in hospitals on patient outcomes in New York State. Controlling for hospital specific heterogeneity, the results show that nurses’ strikes increase in-hospital mortality by 18.3 percent and 30-day readmission by 5.7 percent for patients admitted during a strike, with little change in patient demographics, disease severity or treatment intensity. The results suggest that hospitals functioning during nurses’ strikes do so at a lower quality of patient care.

Hospitals are one of the most important employers in the United States. 35 percent of US health care workers, and 3.61 percent of all US workers work in hospitals.

Due to the importance of hospitals in providing health care to our nation, and fears that work stoppages could place patient health in jeopardy, hospitals were excluded from collective bargaining laws for almost three decades after other sectors were allowed to unionize. Once allowed to do so in 1974, however, hospitals quickly became one of the most important sources of union jobs in the United States. Over 15 percent of hospital employees are members of a union,2 representing six percent of all union employees in the United States.

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FOX 9: Nurses union holds garage sale for striking Minnesota nurses American

Behind the satisfaction of a purging items at a garage sale in Bloomington, Minn., there is plenty of stress.

“The open ended strike is a worry,” Hanna Shibeshi, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern for the past nine years, says. “I have my kids in daycare and I want to hold their spot. I’m paying for daycare but I’m not pulling in an income. I’m lucky I have a husband who is working, but it is still a financial drain.”

Shibeshi had the idea to put together a garage sale specifically aimed to help the Minnesota Nurses Association nurses on strike. Part of the profits made will help with the finances for nearly a dozen nurses who brought items together to sell. A portion of the profits, including some donations, will go towards the MNA strike fund.

Continue reading at Fox 9…

PRAIRIE BUSINESS: Striking nurses to lose health insurance coverage Oct. 1

If the open-ended nurses strike at Allina Health’s Twin Cities hospitals continues through Oct. 1, striking nurses will have to begin paying for the full cost of their health care coverage.

No new negotiations have been announced as the Minnesota Nurses Association’s strike stretched into its third week. Allina, meanwhile, has said about 500 staff nurses have crossed picket lines, joining some 1,500 replacement nurses to staff the five area hospitals, which include United Hospital in St. Paul.

Thousands of nurses walked off the job on Labor Day, striking largely over issues related to Allina’s plan to end their union-only health plan and transition the nurses to the corporate plan that covers other Allina employees.

Allina’s September contribution to those union plans ends Oct. 1. After that, if Allina’s striking nurses want to stay on their current plans, they have to sign up for COBRA and shoulder the entire cost of their health care until they return to work.

Minnesota Nurses Association spokesman Rick Fuentes said the union cannot tell how many nurses would decide to go back to work because of the higher cost, but “(coverage) is a concern, and the nurses are talking about it.”

Nurses’ health insurance has been the major point of conflict in contract negotiations between the MNA and Allina Health, which began in February. This, along with workplace safety and staffing issues, also led to a weeklong strike in June, which cost Allina $20 million.

Shortly before the current strike began, union negotiators agreed to phase out the nurses-only plans by 2020. But sticking points remained.

Minneapolis-based Allina expects many nurses to return to work at or by Oct. 1, though not specifically due to health care or economic necessity, company spokesman David Kanihan said. “The number (of returning nurses) has grown pretty steadily since the strike began, really, and I think what that indicates is that a growing number of nurses do not support this strike as a way to settle our differences,” Kanihan said.

About 375 staff nurses have worked through the entire strike and an additional 128 have returned to work in the past two weeks, Kanihan said. Union spokesmen have questioned that number, saying that they cannot verify it.

But “we know it down to the single digit,” Kanihan said. That’s because Allina has to track every employed nurse who decides to work, because they have to be put back on the schedule and payroll. “There’s no reason the union should have that information or need to verify it.” Since the open-ended strike began, Allina has continued to run its five striking facilities at normal capacity using staff and replacement nurses, Kanihan said.

According to union spreadsheets, individuals on the most popular union-only plan going on COBRA would pay $1,060 a month for coverage, while families would pay $2,545. The usual monthly premiums on these plans are $144 for an individual and $456 for a family.

On Allina’s most popular plan — one of three they say they want nurses to choose from — the monthly premium is $86 for a single employee and $434 for a family, according to union spreadsheets. This is what the nurses would pay if they were on the corporate plan and not on strike.

Although the premiums are cheaper on the corporate plan, the problems for the nurses union stem from higher deductibles, fewer provider choices and other issues, the union says.

Other options for striking nurses could be to go onto a spouse’s insurance plan — if possible — or buy temporary insurance through the MNsure health care exchange or a broker, Fuentes said. “Essentially, they have a choice,” Fuentes said. “It’s not like October 1 they have a huge deadline.”

COBRA coverage, once purchased, is also valid retroactively for up to 60 days. So, some nurses may choose to gamble that they will stay healthy, waiting until the day they head into a doctor’s appointment to begin paying for insurance through COBRA, Fuentes said. “It’s very likely some will try to do that. … But some, obviously, won’t want to take that chance and will (purchase coverage upfront) anyways,” Fuentes said.

Nurses are eligible for a special enrollment period through MNsure because their employer sponsored coverage is ending, according to a union handout to help nurses decide what health care options are best for them if still on strike at the end of the month.

For Allina to continue covering their share of the nurses’ health care costs, now-striking nurses must work at least one shift before Oct. 1, Kanihan said.

Continue reading at Prairie Business…

FORBES: Thanks To ‘Fight For $15’ Minimum Wage, McDonald’s Unveils Job-Replacing Self-Service Kiosks Nationwide

As the labor union-backed Fight for $15 begins yet another nationwide strike on November 29, I have a simple message for the protest organizers and the reporters covering them: I told you so.

It brings me no joy to write these words. The push for a $15 starter wage has negatively impacted the career prospects of employees who were just getting started in the workforce while extinguishing the businesses that employed them. I wish it were not so. But it’s important to document these consequences, lest policymakers elsewhere decide that the $15 movement is worth embracing.

Continue reading at Forbes…

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: These Minnesota Workers Want Nothing to Do with the SEIU

Patricia Johansen says the union first began badgering her—and frightening her—in 2014. Ms. Johansen is a personal-care assistant who spends her days tending to her disabled granddaughter. She lives in Minnesota, where a state-run program, called PCA Choice, pays qualified assistants a modest Medicaid subsidy to help ease the burden of caring for loved ones.

In 2013 Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law that declared personal-care assistants—some of whom, like Ms. Johansen, care for their own family members—to be public employees, but only for purposes of collective bargaining. For the Service Employees International Union this was an opportunity to expand its reach. Mr. Dayton essentially had given the SEIU a green light to unionize these assistants.

Then Ms. Johansen says the phone calls started, encouraging her to vote “yes” in a coming unionization election. Organizers also showed up at her door. She describes them as “pushy” people who tried to get into her home to “persuade” her. This scared Ms. Johansen, a senior citizen who lives alone with her granddaughter. She says she told the union many times that she had no interest in joining.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal…