• Members of the UAW ratified a four-year collective bargaining agreement with Ford Motor Co., covering nearly 41,000 workers. The contract maintains the pattern set in September by the agreement between the UAW and General Motors Co., but provides larger bonuses for workers at the more profitable Ford. Under the new contract, traditional senior workers hired before a 2007 national contract will forgo raises, while tier two entry-level workers hired after the 2007 contract will receive wage increases. All workers will receive ratification bonuses, annual profit-sharing, “inflation protection” bonuses in lieu of cost-of-living adjustments, and “competitive” bonuses, which in total guarantee workers at least $15,700 in lump-sum payments during the contract term. Attrition incentives will provide $50,000 to $100,000 for eligible workers to retire by March 31, 2012. Ford will add 5,750 new U.S. jobs, in addition to the 6,250 new jobs the company had announced earlier, and will invest $16 billion to produce new models and to upgrade vehicles and components. Workers with at least one year of service will receive a $6,000 signing bonus, while workers with less than one year of service will receive a $5,000 signing bonus. Sixty-three percent of production workers and 65 percent of skilled trades workers voted in favor of the agreement.
  • Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) ratified a four-year contract with Chrysler Group LLC—Chrysler’s first contract since its government bailout and bankruptcy filing in 2009. The contract, which covers 26,000 workers, follows the pattern of the other two Detroit Three companies’ recent contracts, although with lower bonuses. Under the new contract, Chrysler will add 2,100 new jobs—on top of 2,500 added previously—and will invest more than $4.5 billion to retool and upgrade its U.S. facilities. All workers will receive at least $3,750 in lump-sum payments and expanded health care benefits. In addition, lower-paid entry-level works will receive increased hourly base wages, while traditional workers will forgo wage increases. Although the overall vote ratified the contract by 55 percent, the skilled trades workers voted to reject it. However, because the UAW International Executive Board (IEB) investigated and found that the reasons behind the rejection were predominantly economic objections, not reasons unique to skilled trades members, the IEB declared the agreement ratified.
  • The Transport Workers Union reached a tentative four-year labor agreement with American Airlines. The agreement, which covers more than 11,000 fleet service and ground service workers, would increase wages and provide other enhancements including additional holidays, sick time, and vacation. The tentative contract includes a 6 percent signing bonus, an immediate 3 percent base salary increase, and three additional 2 percent wages increases. By the end of the contract, a typical fleet service clerk would earn more than $23 an hour and a crew chief would earn more than $25 an hour. The contract also doubles the number of paid holidays form five to ten and increases holiday pay from time and one-half to double time. The union is not making a recommendation on the tentative agreement.
  • Members of the United Steelworks ratified a two-year first contract at Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, Calif., which became the first unionized car wash in the United States. In addition, workers at the currently closed Marina Car wash in Venice, Calif., negotiated and ratified a contract that will apply if that car wash reopens. The two contracts resulted from the efforts of the Community Labor Environment Action Network (CLEAN) Carwash campaign, a coalition of community, environmental, and labor groups led by the Steelworks with assistance from the AFL-CIO. In August, Sikder Inc. and M. Sikder Holdings Inc., the owners of the two carwashes, voluntarily recognized the Steelworkers after a third party verified that a majority of the workers had signed union authorization cards. The Bonus Car Wash contract provides a 2 percent increase for 30 employees, most of whom were previously making the California minimum wage of $8 an hour. The contract requires the employer to assign work hours fairly, protects workers from unjust firings without cause, and provides a detailed grievance and arbitration procedure. In addition, the contract provides protections for immigrant workers.
  • The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Local 727 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) reached a settlement with the State of Illinois, resolving a long-running dispute between the state and carpenters, decorators, and electricians working in Chicago convention venues. The dispute stemmed from a controversial law, passed in May 2010, that imposed changes on thousands of convention and trade show workers. On March 31, 2011, a U.S. district court judge ruled that portions of the law conflicted with the National Labor Relations Act. The new settlement preserves labor changes demanded by the state and includes an “exhibitor’s bill of rights,” giving trade show exhibitors greater freedom to manage their own booths without triggering union work rules. However, it provides new opportunities to union-represented workers displaced through the work rule changes. Also, it requires unions and the municipal corporation that owns and operates the convention centers to withdraw litigation seeking to void the enacting legislation, and requires the state to seek passage of alternate legislation that does not conflict with the NLRA.
  • Flight attendants represented by the United Steelworkers ratified a new five-year contract with Pinnacle Airlines. The contract, which covers 871 flight attendants represented by USW Local 772, includes significant wage increases. Flight pay will now range from $17 per hour to $33.77 per hour, based on longevity, with per diems ranging from $1.65 an hour to $1.85 per hour. The contract also includes changes regarding new equipment, scheduling, hours of service, and filing of petitions. It further provides for increases in the maximum amount of medical leave, a two-hour meal break credit, a 32 percent cap on health insurance premiums, increases in moving expenses, and a performance bonus program.
  • Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) ratified a one-year contract with the Pacific Northwest Grain Elevator Operators. Covering 4,000 workers at six grain export terminals in Oregon and Washington, the contract maintains workers’ fully employer-paid health care premiums and defined benefit pension plan. As well, the contract provides for a 3.1 percent wage increase for “registered” grain handlers and a 4 percent increase for “nonregistered” grain handlers. Although the employers and the ILWU usually negotiate three-year agreements, the new contract is only for one year due to ongoing disputes with an additional employer. That employer, EGT LLC, declined to agree to the multiemployer agreement for its employees in Longview, Wash., where violence broke out in September and a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the union.
  • Members of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) voted unanimously to ratify an agreement with the Washington Service Contractors Association, which represents the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area’s major commercial cleaning companies including Red Coats, American Building Maintenance, and Building Maintenance Services. The union had recommended ratification of the new agreement, which will increase wages 16 percent over four years for 12,000 commercial building cleaning services workers. In addition, the agreement maintains health care benefits and expands paid leave. Under the contract, the union and employers agreed to work toward a settlement during the contract term to expand health care coverage for part-time employees, who compose two-third of the workers covered by the contract.
  • Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ ratified a set of separate but similar agreements with building services contractors in Pittsburgh. The agreements cover 1,200 commercial building cleaners employed by members of a bargaining coalition including ABM Janitorial Services, GCA Services Group Inc., Humber Group, ISS Facility Services Inc., Platinum Maintenance, Quality Building Maintenance, St. Moritz Building Services Inc., and ServiceMaster. The four-year contracts provide for wage increases of 2 to 3 percent over term for workers earning higher wages within Pittsburgh proper, and increases of up to 6 percent for lower-wage workers in suburban areas. Workers with family health coverage will continue to receive it at a slightly reduced cost and many low-wage suburban workers will obtain health coverage for the first time. The union had recommended ratification but did not release a vote count.
  • Local 32BJ of the SEIU reached a tentative contract settlement with Building Operators Labor Relations, the bargaining agent for major Philadelphia commercial business owners, managers, and cleaning companies. The contract covers 2,650 building service workers and provides for an average pay increase of nearly 7 percent over its four-year term; hourly starting pay for bargaining unit members would increase from the current $16.41 to $17.54 in 2015. The contract also provides for a $600 first-year bonus and retains the existing 401(k) plan and employer-paid health coverage for all workers. Union leadership recommended that members ratify the agreement, which was reached shortly before the midnight strike deadline after almost six weeks of negotiations.
  • Members of UAW Local 578 passed a new five-year contract with defense contractor Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, Wis., after rejecting two previous contract offers. The new contract, which covers 3,100 employees and passed with a vote of 77 percent in favor, includes an 8.5 percent wage increase over five years, but requires workers to contribute more for their health insurance. The contract passed after the company agreed to remove language that would have let it use temporary workers starting in 2013.
  • The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association reached a tentative agreement on a five-year contract with Alaska Airlines. Covering the carrier’s 626 aircraft maintenance technicians, the proposed contract would provide annual pay raises, job protection provisions, and a “shared commitment” to work on minimizing health care cost increases. In an unusual occurrence, the two sides reached agreement before the current contract’s amendable date of October 17.
  • A BNA analysis of 2011 collective bargaining data through October 17 showed that the average first-year wage increase for this period was 1.4 percent, compared with 1.7 percent in the comparable period of 2010. The median first-year wage increase for settlements reported to date in 2011 was 1 percent and the weighted average was 1.2 percent, compared with 1.6 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, in 2010. When lump-sum payments were factored into wage calculations, the all-settlements average first-year increase to date in 2011 was 1.7 percent; the comparable period in 2010 reported a 2 percent increase.
  • On October 6, President Obama appointed a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate an ongoing collective bargaining dispute between two coalitions of unions representing freight railroad workers and an employer group negotiating on behalf of the carriers. The Railway Labor Act allows the president to establish a PEB if parties cannot reach a tentative agreement after mediation guided by the National Mediation Board. After the 11 unions bargaining with the railroads all declined a proffer of binding arbitration from the NMB, and following a 30-day cooling-off period, the unions would have been free to strike and the railroads free to lock workers out had Obama not appointed the PEB by October 7. Once appointed, the PEB has 30 days to hold hearings, investigate the dispute, and deliver a report with recommendations on how to settle the contract. The parties may then choose to accept the PEB’s recommendations or negotiate their own settlement.