Friday, October 03, 2014

Maxford Nelsen: 'Living Wage' Laws Are Union Lifesavers - WSJ - WSJ

Los Angeles became the latest to join the movement when the city council approved a law on Sept. 24 requiring large hotels to pay employees at least $15.37 per hour and provide generous paid sick-leave benefits. But the ordinance includes a provision, increasingly common in similar ordinances, that permits unions to waive the requirements in collective bargaining.
This waiver enables labor organizers to approach a nonunion employer struggling to pay the new minimum with the following offer: assist them in unionizing employees by signing a "neutrality agreement," in return for which the union will use the collective-bargaining waiver to allow the employer to pay less than the new statutory minimum.
With minimum wage and mandatory paid sick-leave regulations spreading across the country, reports of unions using collective-bargaining waivers to their advantage are starting to accumulate.
In 2013 the Long Beach Business Journal cited the collective-bargaining waiver built into the city's $13 minimum wage law as an important factor in the unionization of two large hotels, the Hyatt Regency Long Beach and the Hyatt Pike Long Beach.
In February, following the passage of a countywide living-wage law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Service Employees International Union approached a local home-care business owner and offered to give her an exemption from the wage law "if she agreed to deduct union dues from all of her employees' paychecks."
A survey conducted in May by the Seattle, Wash., city auditor found that 37 of the 56 surveyed Seattle unions had waived the citywide paid sick-leave mandates in some or all of their contracts with employers.
After unions succeeded in narrowly passing a $15 minimum wage ordinance in SeaTac, Wash., the local United Food and Commercial Workers union boasted in a newsletter that the initiative "provides an incentive for employers to collectively bargain with their employees." Similarly, when asked why unionized firms are exempted from L.A.'s new minimum-wage law, Unite Here union representative Leigh Shelton complained to the Huffington Post that "because it is so hard to organize a union, we have to do it any way we can."

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