• United Auto Workers (UAW) and General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Group LLC began labor contract bargaining the week of July 25 to renegotiate their national master agreements which are set to expire September 14, 2011. These meetings are the first formal talks since the 2009 government-aided bankruptcy reorganizations of GM and Chrysler. The UAW announced that its priorities this year include seeking investment commitments to maintain and expand job opportunities, raise standards for new hires and temporary and contingent workers, and to resist healthcare cost-shifting to employees and seek longer periods of company paid healthcare for laid-off workers. As a condition of the federal bailout, workers at GM and Chrysler do not have the right to strike, nor can companies lockout workers.
  • United Nurses & Allied Professionals, an independent union, representing more than 2,200 registered nurses and other professional employees at a Rhode Island Hospital, ratified a four-year contract guaranteeing job security for workers with more than five years of service. Additionally, the contract includes: incremental yearly wage increases for employees at step 10 or above; reductions to vacation accruals, overtime payments, tuition reimbursement; increases in co-payments for prescription drugs; and a guarantee that employee premium contributions for health insurance will not increase for the duration of the contract.
  • A three-year labor contract between the members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 212 and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York in Buffalo, NY was ratified on July 13, 2011, following a 12-week lockout. The contract covers 350 employees and includes, a 5% wage increase over term, a $2,500 lump-sum bonus and maintains benefits.
  • The leaders of the NFL Players Association voted to recommend a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and settlement to the players in an antitrust class action against the league, which was subsequently approved by the players and NFL team owners. The settlement ends the league’s lockout, saving the 2011 football season.
  • The United Auto Workers Local 2110 and the Village Voice ratified a new three-year contract. Employees will maintain full healthcare benefits with no employee contribution to the insurance premium and employer matching of funds to employees’ 401(k) accounts. Employees will also receive wage increases of $25 per week in each year of the contract. In exchange for the wage increases, employees agreed to forgo the employer’s 3% up-front contributions to 401(k) accounts provided under the previous contract.
  • A five-and-a-half year CBA between members of the United Mine Workers (UMW) and Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was ratified July 13, 2011. The contract is “substantially the same” as the agreement between UMW and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA) that was ratified last month. Although they do not work for BCOA, UMW workers at Alpha Natural Resources Inc. voted to ratify the agreement between UMW and BCOA and additional mining companies were given the opportunity to sign onto the contract—Alpha was the first to do so. The contract guarantees a wage increase by $1 per hour per year, healthcare will be preserved with no cuts or added costs and the pensions for current and future retirees is preserved.
  • The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) ratified a three-and-a-half year contract with major video game companies. The contract includes the first-ever “streaming” payment to performers in the form of a new cloud gaming fee. Cloud gaming allows users to play a video game while connected to the cloud — without purchasing the game. The contract provides for every principal performer engaged in a video game made available on a streaming service will be paid an additional one-time payment of 15% of the initial session fee paid. Additionally, the contract includes a 3% increase in all minimum compensation over the life of the contract and a 0.5% increase in contributions to the AFTRA health and retirement fund.
  • Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and the Air Line Pilots Association, the unions representing pilots of Southwest Airlines and Air Tran Airways, reached an agreement, in principle, on a transition plan and how the carriers will combine their seniority lists. The seniority lists governs how Air Tran pilots will be incorporated into Southwest’s seniority list — which determines pay, schedules, and days off. Importantly, the union and company negotiating teams accomplished this task without resorting to arbitration.
  • New York state reached an agreement on a five-year contract with the state’s second-largest union of state employees, Public Employees Federation. The agreement, which covers a unit of 54,000 white-collar state employees, follows the pattern set one month earlier with the state’s largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association. Under the tentative contract, base pay would be frozen for three years with 2% increases in the last two years of the contract and job security from layoffs provided for two years. In exchange, the contract raises the amount employees pay for health insurance premiums. The contract must be approved by the state legislature and the rank-and-file members of the union.
  • Local 1168 of the Communications Workers of America and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East announced that their members ratified a two-year contract with Kaleida Health. The contract covers 8,000 workers at five hospitals, as well as a number of freestanding clinics and skilled nursing homes in Buffalo, NY. Although Kaleida sought $100 million in cuts, in benefits, and a wage freeze, the unions were able to negotiate a wage increase and retain current benefits for workers. Additionally, workers will retain their pensions and maintain their healthcare coverage with “virtually no new cost shifting.”
  • Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 ratified a three-year master contract with Ride Aid Corp. covering 2,600 workers at 190 stores in Pennsylvania. The contract provides wage increases and maintains current pension benefits, but requires increased employee contributions toward health insurance premiums. This master contract also merges three separate labor agreements that covered Philadelphia, PA: Reading, PA: and northeastern PA.
  • Members of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America Local 32035 ratified a two-year contract with the Washington Post. The contract covers 920 news and commercial employees and provides a $13 per week wage increase in the first year of the contract, a $500 signing bonus for full-time workers and a $350 bonus for part-time workers who work less than 30 hours per week. After the first year, full-time employees receive a $1,200 lump sum payment, while part-time employees receive an $800 lump sum payment. The new contract also increases severance benefits for union workers whose jobs are outsourced — including at least three weeks of severance for each year worked. Retirement benefits were also increased.
  • The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace Local 2001 in Wichita, KS rejected a 9.5 year contract offer from Spirit Aerosystems Inc. 2,350 technical and professional workers at Spirit are represented by the union. The union stated that the company’s offer sought “large concessions from employees,” froze wages for a decade, and “ignored proven methods for harnessing medical costs.” The members did not vote on strike authorization and the union expressed eagerness to return to the bargaining table.
  • Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) voted to reject tentative four-year contracts with Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) that would have covered roughly 3,000 employees at the company’s Allegheny Ludlum stainless steel plaint in Brackenridge, PA and their titanium operations in Albany, OR. The mail ballot ratification vote showed the agreement was rejected by a vote of 1,358 to 824. USW said retirees concerned about their increased healthcare premiums lobbied active members to vote against the agreement.
  • Analysis of bargaining data compiled by BNA through July 25, 2011, for all settlements showed an increase of 1.4% in the average first-year wage increase from the comparable period of 2010, which showed a 1.5% increase. The median first-year increase for settlements reported to date in 2011 was 1%, compared with 1.5% for 2010; the weighted average was 1.3% compared with 1.6% in 2010. When lump-sum payments were factored into wage calculations, the all-settlements average first-year wage increase to date in 2011 was 1.7%, compared with 1.9% in the comparable period of 2010. Median increase was 1.5% in 2011, as opposed to 1.9% in 2010; the weighted average was 1.9% versus 2.4%. Of the contracts reported to date in 2011, 43% called for a first-year wage freeze, 27% called for increases of up to 2%, 23% called for increases between 2% and 4%, and the remaining 7% called for increases of more than 4%.