• Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has asked Hyatt Hotels’ President and CEO to reconsider the company’s decision to fire 98 nonunion housekeeping employees at three Boston area hotels and replace them with low-wage workers from a contracting company and stated that he will direct all state employees not to use Hyatt when traveling or for other purposes while on state business if the workers are not rehired. Hyatt stated it replaced the housekeepers due to economic challenges caused by significant drops in revenues. The former Hyatt housekeepers earned about $15 per hour whereas the contract employees receive $8 per hour with no benefits. The National Employment Lawyers Association already has canceled a national meeting scheduled to take place at the Hyatt Regency Boston.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, proposed a prohibited transaction exemption which, if approved, would allow the General Motors Co., the successor company to General Motors Corp., to transfer certain assets to its voluntary employees’ beneficiary association plan to provide for post-retirement health benefits. Such a transfer is currently prohibited by ERISA provisions prohibiting certain plans from holding large percentages of plan assets in the form of employer securities. The proposal was spurred by negotiations between GM and UAW seeking a way to address the company’s legacy costs and retiree health obligations.
  • Chicago UNITE HERE members picketed local hotels lobbying for passage of a city ordinance that would require their employers, travel agents and online reservation services to inform consumers about ongoing labor disputes. The picketing and lobbying efforts are being pursued in an attempt by UNITE HERE to gain leverage in stalled negotiations with the hotels over agreements that would cover approximately 30 hotels and 6,000 hospitality workers whose contracts expired at the end of August. The proposed ordinance has won backing of the Chicago City Council Finance Committee and will be considered in full on October 8. UNITE HERE campaigned for the same ordinance four years ago but the measure was ultimately defeated in part due to concerns as to the measure’s legality.
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lauded by many union leaders as a strong worker advocate, was chosen to succeed Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. While Harkin recently stated that the committee will focus on education issues for the remainder of the year, he also intends to continue to press for Senate floor consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act which seeks to make it easier for unions to organize workers.
  • For the third time in three years, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill, backed by the United Farm Workers, that would allow agricultural employees to choose a collective bargaining representative by submitting a petition to the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, along with representation cards signed by more than 50 percent of current employees. Schwarzenegger supported his decision on the ground that he could not get behind the bill’s alteration of the secret ballot process.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards, proposes to extend its information collection pertaining to the older version of the Form LM-30, a financial disclosure report filed by union officers and employees, through 2011. In 2007, the DOL published a final rule requiring union officers and employees to report loans or payments they receive from companies doing business with the union whose employees their union represents or is seeking to represent. This rule narrowed some exceptions to the disclosure requirements contained on the previous Form LM-30 and eliminated a provision excusing union official from reporting some matters because the DOL could get the information by demanding a special report. The AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit in January claiming that the rules are arbitrary and capricious.
  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned Democratic lawmakers that the labor movement will challenge those who fail to support a public option in a health reform bill, which the union has deemed a necessary component of reform.