Union Update

Air Line Pilot, March 2004, p.36

Federal Judge Issues New Ruling on Union Financial Reporting

Union efforts to fight off new burdensome financial reporting regulations have been dealt a blow. On January 22, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a final 54-page opinion ruling on the merits of the AFL-CIO’s challenge to the Bush administration’s revision of the LM-2 union reporting and disclosure requirements.

Judge Kessler upheld the authority of the Secretary of Labor to issue the new LM-2 form and rules under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. In this latest ruling, Judge Kessler revised and scaled back her Dec. 31, 2003, ruling, which established a 1-year injunction on implementation of the new regime, which was originally set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

The new implementation date is July 1, 2004, or 90 days after the Department of Labor issues a fully tested version of its electronic reporting software, whichever comes later. For unions, such as ALPA, that use a calendar-year fiscal reporting system, the new LM-2 rules will not be implemented until Jan. 1, 2005.

In her decision, Judge Kessler ruled that Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has the statutory authority to revise the LM-2 form and rules to include the new form’s onerous itemization and aggregation requirements for financial data, because the statute invests in the Labor Secretary the exclusive authority and discretion "to determine the level of ‘detail as may be necessary’ for accurate disclosures."

Judge Kessler rejected the AFL-CIO’s argument that the LMRDA authorizes the requirement of only a much less intrusive annual financial report, similar to those traditionally filed by corporations and nonprofit entities. She also concluded that the new LM-2 form and rules do not violate the Administrative Procedure Act because they are "reasonable, adequately explained, and not arbitrary or capricious."

Judge Kessler did conclude, however, that the proposed Jan. 1, 2004, effective date for the new LM-2 regime was arbitrary and capricious, because it did not give unions with a fiscal year beginning on January 1 enough time to comply with the new rules, particularly in light of the Labor Department’s failure to produce the electronic-reporting software that unions would need to use to transmit and file the financial data.

Judge Kessler noted that the reporting software would not be ready until March 31 and that making the required auditing and computer changes necessary to comply with the new rules would be difficult and time-consuming work for many unions. The Court observed that unions might have to redo all of their tracking and financial calculations if the Labor Department’s software turned out to be incompatible with the systems that the unions had already put in place.

Further, the Court noted, Secretary Chao had "claimed no particular need for extraordinary urgency" and failed to explain how unions that use a fiscal year beginning January 1 could possibly make such far-reaching changes in less than 2 months, especially when these same regulations, with only minor modifications, have been in place for the last 43 years.

AFL-CIO Expands Strike Against California Grocery Stores

Union leaders and the AFL-CIO announced in January that the labor movement will extend nationwide its efforts to hold the line for affordable health care in its fight with grocery chains in southern California. The announcement was made at a meeting of union leaders from more than 50 cities and United Food and Commercial Workers officials.

The record mobilization includes community support and intense education of Safeway shoppers. The announcement follows the breakdown of yet another effort to persuade Safeway—the lead grocery chain in the dispute—as well as Ralphs and Albertsons to abandon their extreme demand for the effective elimination of healthcare benefits.

"We expect an overwhelming response among consumers and the community, because shoppers understand that Safeway is mounting an attack on healthcare standards that will affect all working families," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. "America’s workers and grocery shoppers draw the line at corporate greed and profiteering at the expense of basic healthcare coverage for workers."

"Safeway’s CEO Steve Burd would like the public to believe that the strike and lockout is about a few dollars per paycheck," said UFCW Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen. "But these grocery chains’ demands will lead to the end of affordable family health care. We won’t let them put enormous profits before people."

"We will win this strike for all California families and all working families. Health care is that important for everyone," said John Burnett who is a 25-year Kroger/Ralphs employee and member of UFCW Local 1167.

"Steve Burd doesn’t know what it’s like for working families—how we worry about making sure our kids will have the medical care they need," Burnett says. "Burd has yet to realize that affordable family health care is worth fighting for. But he will."

Huge, profitable companies—Safeway/Vons, Kroger/Ralphs, and Albertsons—offered a dramatic, permanent cut in healthcare benefits and a two-tiered pay scale in the latest contract. Even though these companies reaped great profits in recent years and can afford the benefits their workers need, Kroger, Safeway, and Albertsons stores argue that they need to cut benefits to remain competitive.

"Clearly, these big grocery chains have miscalculated the strength and resolve of the grocery workers and misjudged American shoppers who honor the workers’ fight. The 13 million members of the AFL-CIO stand behind the 70,000 striking and locked-out UFCW grocery workers in southern California and will do whatever it takes to make sure that these striking and locked out workers hold the line one day longer than their employers," concluded Trumka.

Unions and Business Back Plan for Jobs, Energy Independence

With the United States badly lacking federal policy to create good jobs, a new report finds that the Apollo Project—a jobs-and-energy plan backed by union, environmental, business, and political leaders—would create approximately 3.3 million skilled jobs with a $300 billion, 10-year public investment in sustainable energy such as hydrogen fuel systems and related transportation, construction, and manufacturing.

New Energy for America, released January 14 at a Washington, D.C., press conference, finds that the Apollo Project’s proposed tax subsidies and direct government investments would more than pay for themselves in energy savings and returns to the U.S. Treasury—and position the United States to take the lead in fast-growing markets.

The report follows the latest U.S. Department of Labor jobs figures that show the nation lost manufacturing jobs for the 41st consecutive month in December 2003.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the United States is more than 1.6 million jobs short of the more than 1.8 million new positions the president’s Council of Economic Advisers promised would be created by the Bush administration’s tax breaks for millionaires.

Seventeen unions, including members of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, support the new Apollo Project, named after President John F. Kennedy’s successful lunar exploration program.