Unions

GE Plans To Close Bloomington Plant, Cut 300 Jobs

Jun 16, 2016
Rafael Castillo / https://www.flickr.com/photos/miggslives/

GE Appliances announced Wednesday it plans to close a Bloomington plant that employs 329 people. The decision comes after GE says demand for side-by-side refrigerators made at the facility declined 76 percent since 2008.

The closure is subject to negotiations with the union, which could start this week. If GE and the union reach an agreement, the company estimates about 94 percent of the affected employees will be eligible for retirement. All employees will receive a benefits package.

During union negotiations last year, workers asked for stronger plant closing benefits.

An employee rights complaint by a former Valparaiso Menards clerk led this week to a labor victory for all 45,000 of the home improvement chain's workers across the Midwest.

The issue was over mandatory arbitration, which is legal -- companies can require employees settle complaints out of court, but they have to make sure employees know what rights they're giving up.

NLRB.gov

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered an Indianapolis-based construction staffing firm to allow workers to discuss unions and compensation on the job.

Commercial Trade Source, or CTS, is one of few companies to fight this battle at the federal level. It's effectively a temp agency, providing skilled workers for construction projects nationwide.

Until now, CTS policy forbade workers from discussing wages or unionization on the job -- whether through conversation, flyers or union-branded clothing.

Work Share Bill Dies Without A Vote

Jan 19, 2016
State of Indiana / http://in.gov/

It’s hard to find issues at the Statehouse that both the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the unions agree on.  But instituting a work share program is one of them.  In spite of this, work share legislation was shut down Tuesday without even a committee vote.

Work share programs allow companies to reduce hours instead of laying people off. Employees can then claim partial unemployment benefits to help compensate for the cut in hours. 

Ken Walton / https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenwalton/15726458855/

The common construction wage is a kind of minimum wage for construction workers on public projects.  The wage is set for each project by a local board.  In a statement announcing he signed the bill repealing the common wage, Governor Pence says wages should be set by the marketplace, not government bureaucracy. 

He says repealing the system puts taxpayers first.  But opponents of the repeal say ending the common wage will create more economic disparity, driving more public projects into the hands of out-of-state workers.

Kyle May / https://www.flickr.com/photos/kylemay/

The Senate Wednesday narrowly approved a bill eliminating the state’s common construction wage after senators spent more than three hours over the past two days debating the issue of repealing Indiana’s minimum wage for construction workers on public projects.

Opponents of the bill such as Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) note that the common wage helps support job training programs and ensures public projects are properly built by well-trained, highly paid workers.

Steve Baker / https://www.flickr.com/photos/littlebiglens/

A Senate committee Tuesday approved a bill repealing the state’s common construction wage while also adding new requirements for contractors on public projects. 

An amendment added in committee would require contractors to have training programs and liability insurance, and bars them from paying employees in cash. 

It also prohibits local governments from passing their own version of the common wage.  Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), who authored the amendment, says it ensures workers are well trained and public projects well done.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

It may not sound like music to your ears, but for James Ratican, the administrator for a construction apprenticeship and training program in Anderson, a construction site is a concert.

“It’s like an orchestra playing and everyone has to be on the right key …That’s a little bit of the music and that bass will kick in when that diesel hammer fires off," Ratican says.

The program is operated by a local chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers. On this day, students are learning how to operate cranes and pile drivers.

Vegas Thornton / https://www.flickr.com/photos/vegast/395958569

The Indiana House easily approved legislation repealing the state’s common construction wage, and the bill’s support in the Senate looks strong.  So pushing the issue to summer study committee could be opponents’ best remaining hope.

Set by local boards, the common construction wage is a sort of minimum wage for public construction projects. 

Pete Rimsans is the executive director of the Indiana State Building and Construction Trades Council, a workers group leading the charge to keep the common wage. 

INPERF annuity changes rile retirees

Sep 24, 2013

Public sector unions say Indiana public employees stand to lose thousands of dollars in retirement benefits under a change proposed by the Indiana Public Retirement System Board.  The unions are asking the legislature to halt plans to hand over control of a part of the state’s public employees’ pension system to a private company.

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