Wednesday, September 26, 2012

California nursing home ordered to recognize union and hire 50 employees who worked for the previous owner

The National Labor Relations Board this week adopted the recommendations of an Administrative Law Judge and ordered owners of the Yuba Skilled Nursing Center in Yuba City to hire 50 employees they unlawfully failed to hire after assuming operations of the center in September 2011. Employees at the home had been represented by the Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare WorkersWest, before it was bought by Nasaky, Inc. Under the National Labor Relations Act, new owners of a union facility are obligated to recognize and bargain with the existing union as a successor employer. However, the union alleged in charges with the NLRB that the new owners failed to hire the longtime employees in order to avoid that obligation. After an investigation, Regional Director Joseph F. Frankl agreed and issued a complaint. Following a two-day hearing, Administrative Law Judge Gerald Etchingham issued a decisionfinding all the allegations to be true and rejecting Nasaky’s explanations for why it declined to hire most of those who had worked for the previous employer. The employer did not file exceptions and the Board adopted the Judge’s decision as a final order this week. As a result of the Board’s order, Nasaky must immediately recognize and bargain with the union and commence the process of hiring the former employees and making them whole. The amount of backpay and interest is expected to approximate $1.25 million.

Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in Wisconsin agree to settle numerous NLRB cases and keep Sheboygan store open

In a series of settlements with the NLRB, a Wisconsin supermarket chain has agreed to solve all outstanding cases with the agency by signing collective bargaining agreements with the union representing its employees, reinstating discharged workers, providing about 500 employees a total of more than $570,000 in backpay, and keeping open a store that had been slated for closure. The settlements signed by Piggly Wiggly Midwest, LLC, based in Sheboygan, resolve cases involving six stores that began in 2009 and were in various stages of litigation. As a result, the parties agreed to seek dismissal of a case pending in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Piggly Wiggly agreed to drop its opposition to the enforcement of a Board order in another case. A third set of cases scheduled for trial were resolved by a formal agreement that requires approval by the Board in Washington. A fourth set of cases still under investigation were withdrawn. The employees, represented by UFCW Local 1473, agreed to accept a reduced amount in bargaining-related backpay to facilitate the employer’s agreement to keep the Sheboygan store open. The outcome was made possible by the hard work of NLRB Region 30 field examiner Amanda Bahnson, attorneys Angela Jaenke, RenĂ©e Medved and Andrew Gollin, Compliance Officer Richard Neuman, and Deputy Regional Attorney Percy Courseault, and by the diligence and good will of UFCW Local 1473 president John Eiden and Piggly Wiggly Midwest owner Paul Butera. Charges against the employer included bad faith bargaining, making unilateral changes to wages and working conditions, unlawful discharges, and an unlawful attempt to promote a decertification petition. In May, the NLRB Regional Office in Milwaukee obtained a federal court injunctionordering the Sheboygan supermarket to restore full-time status and health insurance to employees whose hours were reduced to part-time without bargaining. The settlements were reached by the parties on August 31; the formal agreement is pending approval by the Board. Click here for website version

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Profit Soars 114 Percent at FedEx Freight

William B. Cassidy, Senior Editor | Sep 18, 2012 3:06PM GMT
The Journal of Commerce Online - News Story

LTL carrier profit hits $90 million, revenue, $1.4 billion, as shipment volume rises

FedEx Freight increased revenue 5 percent from a year ago to $1.4 billion as shipments rose 4 percent in the fiscal quarter that ended Aug. 30.

Profit soared 114 percent from a year ago to $90 million at the industrial freight arm of FedEx, which lowered its profit forecast for its new fiscal year.

That built on gains FedEx Freight made in the quarter that ended May 31, when its operating profit increased 93 percent year-over-year to $81 million.

The nation’s largest less-than-truckload carrier said higher demand for its economy service offering in all lengths of haul drew more freight to its LTL network.

FedEx Freight also benefited from cutting transit times on 6,000 lanes and a 6.9 percent general rate increase on non-contract freight that took effect July 9.

The carrier’s operating margin improved to 6.4 percent, giving the division a 93.6 operating ratio for the June-to-August quarter, the first of FedEx’s fiscal year.

The LTL operator increased its yield, a measure of pricing, 2 percent year-over-year. Yield increased at a slower rate than the previous two quarters, when it rose 4 and 6 percent, respectively.

Slower growing yield could point to a shift or an influx of freight to the division’s lower-priced economy service rather than its priority service.

FedEx Freight shrank and reorganized its LTL network last year to reflect priority and economy services offered in all lanes and all lengths of haul.

FedEx as a whole noted a shift to its deferred service offerings this summer as the global economy slowed, dampening international and U.S. express demand.

U.S. domestic average daily package volume at FedEx Express declined 5 percent, though higher rates boosted domestic revenue per package 2 percent.

FedEx Ground average daily package volume grew 5 percent, and revenue per package also was up 2 percent on higher rates, the company said Tuesday.

LTL carrier profit hits $90 million, revenue, $1.4 billion, as shipment volume rises

Contact William B. Cassidy at Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thanks to the Teamsters, CDL drivers can go to traffic school.

Good news.

AB 1888 (Gatto) would allow commercial drivers who get a ticket in their personal vehicle to attend traffic school every eigthteen months to eliminate a "point" from being placed their driving record.

This is a big deal because federal law, until recently, prevented commercial drivers from in any way masking citations or attending traffic school. The US DOT issued an advisory opinion allowing states to let commercial drivers who get a ticket in their private vehicle (not the commercial vehicle) to eliminate the point associated with the violation by attending traffic school. This could stop a driver from sliding into "negligent operators status," which could result in a license suspension and loss of employment.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Teamsters push for independent FedEx board chair

Reuters – Mon, Sep 10, 2012 5:03 PM EDT


(Reuters) - The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is urging FedEx Corp (FDX) investors to push for an independent board chair, stripping that role from the company's chief executive officer, Fred Smith, citing share performance and executive pay.

In a letter to large FedEx institutional investors, the Teamsters said on Monday they are seeking support for their proposal for independent board leadership at the company's annual meeting on September 24.

"Having Smith as CEO and chairman of the board has lead to excessive executive pay and poor performance over the long term for investors," Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said in a statement.

FedEx employees, unlike those at larger rival United Parcel Service Inc (UPS), are considered independent contractors and are not represented by the Teamsters.

"This is a corporate governance concern that we push at a number of companies that we hold shares with," said Teamsters spokesman Galen Munroe.

A FedEx spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The Teamsters introduced their proposal for independent board leadership at FedEx in 2007, and have pushed for similar action at other companies including Republic Airways Holdings Inc (RJET) and McKesson Corp (MCK), Munroe said.

About 36 percent of all FedEx investors backed the proposal for governance reform last year, up from roughly 26 percent when it was first proposed in 2007, the organization said. The percentage reached 42 percent in 2011, excluding shares held by CEO Smith and his family.

FedEx shares are up about 6 percent so far this year at $87.96 while UPS shares are little changed at $73.05.

The Teamsters said FedEx stock lagged the S&P 500 Index (.INX) as well as UPS shares over the past three- and five-year periods.

FedEx, which reports fiscal first-quarter results on September 18, cut its profit outlook on September 4, blaming a weak global economy.

The company, which has been overhauling its fleet to add more fuel-efficient planes and delay delivery of others, is expected to provide more detail on cost-cutting measures next week. FedEx has also announced a voluntary buyout.

Meantime, the CEO's pay increased by more than $7 million in fiscal 2011 to $13.7 million, "driven by massive non-equity incentive compensation," according to the Teamsters statement.

"While the company's focus has been to reduce costs by restructuring and cutting jobs, it seems the sky is the limit when it comes to CEO pay," said Hall.

Currently, the board has a "presiding director" position rather than an independent board chair position the Teamsters seek.

(Reporting by Lynn Adler in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Should the 401(k) Be Reformed or Replaced?


Published: September 11, 2012

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JOHN GREENE worked for 30 years at an Oscar Mayer plant in Madison, Wis., deboning hams and loading boxes of hot dogs. His 401(k) plan grew to $60,000, and soon after retiring he began withdrawing $3,600 a year from it, money that allowed him and his wife to take what he called a wondrous two-week trip to Scotland, his ancestral homeland.

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Andy Manis for The New York Times

LOSS The Greenes lost about 70 percent of their 401(k) savings in the market downturn. Some experts wonder if the 401(k) rules need to be revised.

But when the financial markets plunged four years ago, his 401(k) dropped to less than $18,000.

“We lost more than 70 percent,” he complained, even though a highly recommended investment firm was managing his 401(k). “They’re very risky.”

For Mr. Greene, 77, the money he withdrew each year provided him and his wife some breathing room — and comforts — on top of the $29,000 they receive annually in Social Security and pension payments.

But though it has rebounded a little, his nest egg has declined so much that he withdraws far less than he used to. The result: “We can’t do trips like Scotland anymore,” he said.

Like millions of Americans, Mr. Greene has suffered losses from his 401(k) even as such plans have largely supplanted traditional pensions and become the central pillar of America’s employer-sponsored retirement system, with 60 million workers participating in them.

Now, although Social Security and Medicare generate far more political heat, a quieter, more nuanced debate of large consequence engulfs 401(k)’s, the voluntary, privately financed plans that some see as a savior of American retirement and others see as an impediment: Should 401(k)’s be fine-tuned and expanded or should they be replaced entirely? And for many looking to retirement after the Great Recession, there is this pressing question: What to do about woefully underfunded 401(k)’s now.

David L. Wray, president of the Profit-Sharing/401(k) Council of America, an association of companies that sponsor retirement plans, said that 401(k)’s — and the Individual Retirement Account system that many people roll their retirement money into — worked well, despite some shortcomings. These 401(k) plans now hold $3.3 trillion in assets, seven times the level two decades ago. “If the goal here is to accumulate money, this system has accumulated more money than any system ever,” he said. “It’s been an incredibly effective accumulator of assets.”

But many investment experts and economists give the 401(k) system low marks. They note that fewer than half of the nation’s private sector workers are in 401(k) plans and that nearly a quarter of businesses with more than 100 employees do not offer 401(k)’s. Moreover, many Americans put only 3 percent of their earnings into 401(k)’s when investment experts often recommend saving 10 or even 12 percent.

The typical worker age 55 to 64 had just $54,000 in a 401(k) in 2010, according to a new report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, and households with workers in that age group had $120,000 in retirement savings on average, if the money rolled into I.R.A.’s was included. That $120,000 is less than one-fourth the savings recommended by many retirement experts. Moreover, the center calculated, that $120,000 would provide an annuity of a paltry $7,000 a year.

Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor at the New School and a leading critic of 401(k)’s, said, “Every good retirement system needs to have adequate accumulation for individuals, the money needs to be invested appropriately and the payout needs to meet the needs of retirees for life. Unfortunately, 401(k)’s fail in all three categories.”

She criticized giving $80 billion in tax breaks annually to 401(k) participants to nourish a system that does not provide secure retirement savings for all. Moreover, she said, 60 percent of those tax breaks go to the top 10 percent of earners — people who would probably save even without the tax breaks.

John C. Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group and an esteemed figure in the world of investing, also voiced sharp criticisms. “We have a 401(k) system that is profoundly flawed even as it has moved to the position of pre-eminence in our retirement system,” he said. “There are elements of the 401(k) system that are just unacceptable if you’re trying to build a system that accumulates for retirement.”

In his new book, “The Clash of Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation,” Mr. Bogle rattled off a list of 401(k) shortcomings, among them excessive Wall Street fees, misguided asset allocation and failure to deal with longevity risk; for instance, someone living to age 92, but emptying a 401(k) by age 82.

Mr. Bogle ridiculed how easy it was, despite withdrawal penalties, to take money out of 401(k)’s — whether for a down payment on a house, to send children to college or to buy a new rug. Likening 401(k)’s to savings plans, he said making it so easy to withdraw money was the opposite of what retirement plans should do.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

The Real Maguire - Who Actually Invented Labor Day?

While most sources, even the Department of Labor, credit Peter McGuire with the origination of Labor Day, recent evidence suggests that the true father of Labor Day may in fact be another famous union leader of the 19th Century, Matthew Maguire.

According to legend, Peter McGuire stood before the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882, to suggest the idea of setting aside one day a year to honor labor. McGuire believed that Labor Day should "be celebrated by a street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations."

Peter McGuire was a young, though well-respected, union leader. A child of immigrants, he quit school at an early age to go to work. In 1881, he founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, which would become the largest trade union of the time. Later, McGuire would join with his friend, Samuel Gompers, to found the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Through the AFL and the Carpenters, McGuire led the great strikes of 1886 and 1890, which would eventually result in the adoption of the eight-hour workday on the nation's agenda.

Recently, however, evidence uncovered at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark reveals that another respected union figure of the day, Matthew Maguire, may quite possibly be the man behind the creation of Labor Day.

In the 1870s, Matthew Maguire led several strikes, most of which were intended to force the plight of manufacturing workers and their long hours into the public consciousness. By 1882, Maguire had become the secretary of and a leading figure in the Central Labor Union of New York.

According to the New Jersey Historical Society, after President Cleveland signed into law the creation of a national Labor Day, The Paterson (N.J.) Morning Call published an opinion piece entitled, "Honor to Whom Honor is Due," which stated that "the souvenir pen should go to Alderman Matthew Maguire of this city, who is the undisputed author of Labor Day as a holiday." This editorial also referred to Maguire as the "Father of the Labor Day holiday."

So why has Matthew Maguire been overlooked as the "Father of Labor Day"?

According to The First Labor Day Parade, by Ted Watts, Maguire held some political beliefs that were considered fairly radical for the day and also for Samuel Gompers and his American Federation of Labor. Allegedly, Gompers did not want Labor Day to become associated with the sort of "radical" politics of Matthew Maguire, so in a 1897 interview, Gompers' close friend Peter J. McGuire was assigned the credit for the origination of Labor Day.

Secretary Solis' Labor Day 2012 Message