COMMUNITY HOSPITAL & NURSING HOME — ANACONDA
Wage increases of $0.50 to $0.75 for each of 3 years was won in contract negotiations. In addition, longevity pay was expanded and increased, as was the uniform allowance. However a $769 cap was agreed to for the employer’s share of health insurance.
BUTTE CIVIC CENTER
It took a while but it was worth the wait to ratify an new agreement that raises wages $0.15 to $0.20 the first year and $0.20 to $0.25 the second, increases the daily minimum of 5 hours work or 5 hours pay, expands the use of seniority, and eliminates a ban on honoring other union picket lines.
ST JAMES HEALTHCARE — BUTTE
The hospital had continued to lose millions of dollars, principally because of Butte’s poor economy. This did not lend itself to wage increases at all. However the Union was able to win in negotiations an increase in stand-by call pay of $0.75, an increase in employer payments for worker health insurance, and an increase in the lunch benefit of $3. The Union rejected bad proposals to change overtime, seniority and the grievance system.
NATIONAL LAUNDRY — GREAT FALLS
A new three year agreement was reached that included a $0.25 raise for each year, allowing holiday pay if a worker has a medical or dental appointment the day before or after. However there was also a reduction in guaranteed hours of work per week from 35 to 30. The Union succeeded in defeating employer proposals that eliminated paycheck deduction of dues, increased hours required to be considered for benefits, reduced overtime, and reduced funeral leave.
EAGLES BAR — KALISPELL
Contract negotiations resulted in better communication by managers of schedules and changes in work processes, longevity pay, a lead bartender position, and the elimination of language that forbids the Union to picket or take other economic action. Union members also gave some concessions in order to help the bar through rough economic times. However, everyone received an increase in pay.
HILLSIDE HEALTHCARE — MISSOULA
Six grievances were filed in 2012 including issues of unjust termination, failure of management to follow the contract on low-census layoffs and denial of PRN status. The Union outright won three of them with workers returned to their job, back pay paid, and proper enforcement of the contract ensured. One was settled to improve safety in refilling oxygen tanks. And the Union withdrew two others when workers did not want to return to Hillside. Union grievances are powerful ways we hold management accountable.
UNION CLUB — MISSOULA
Contentious bargaining led to a Federal Mediator helping to finish the new contract. For the first time in our Local we have contract language that protects workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
MT STATE HOSPITAL — WARM SPRINGS
While food service workers have seen big changes in supervisors and a remodeled kitchen, they have not seen much change to chronically low wages. On top of that, the Republican Legislature refused to ratify wage increases that were negotiated by public–sector unions. To partially make up for that, Gov. Schweitzer allowed all state agencies to use left over money to increase workers pay to 85% of market in 2012. So our members received $0.20 to $0.57 increases. We are looking forward to doing better this legislative session.
St. James Hospital (Butte), Union Club wage reopen (Missoula), Jorgensons (Helena), Hillside Healthcare (Missoula), Montana State Hospital (Warm Springs), Butte Civic Center, Butte School District.
One of the most difficult things to overcome when organizing a new Union workplace is the fear workers have of being fired.
This is understandable when you know that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has documented between 20,000 and 30,000 workers every year are illegally fired for union activity for the past decade or two.
Short of putting more teeth in the law (and we have been trying), one effective way of protecting workers’ right to organize is through a card check/neutrality agreement. UNITE HERE! has effectively used this way to organize over 80% of the housekeepers in Las Vegas.
A card check/neutrality agreement is a legally binding document between the employer and the Union that does four basic things:
(1) the employer pledges to be neutral and not threaten to fire workers in an organizing drive;
(2) the Union pledges to not picket, boycott or publicly criticize the employer;
(3) the employer will recognize the Union when a majority of workers sign Union authorization cards; and
(4) the first contract will go to an arbitrator if the two sides can’t come to an agreement in a specified time.
The trick is to get employers to agree. One common way is when the employer is building a new facility and asks the public for a subsidy, such as tax breaks, tax increment financing (TIF), donation of land, etc.
In this case, if the Union has developed political power with the government entity able to grant such subsidies, then it is often possible to leverage that power to force the developer to sit down to negotiate an agreement.
We are about to do this very thing with the developers of the proposed Hotel Fox in Missoula.
The Hotel Fox is proposed to be a large convention hotel built on city-owned land along the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. The developers want the city to donate or sell at a much reduced price the land. They also want two TIFs and other considerations from the people of Missoula.
Our Union has organized the Missoula Community Benefits Coalition around this project. Member organizations include the Sierra Club, Bike Walk Alliance Missoula, Missoula Area Central Labor Council, Western Montana Building Trades Council, Montana Organizing Project, among others.
This coalition has worked hard over the past year to pinpoint the kinds of things we want in a Community Benefits Agreement we want to negotiate with the developers. They include:
- building design,
- accommodate alternate transportation,
- a project labor agreement,
- protection of the river,
- affordable housing, and
- a card check/neutrality agreement.
The Missoula Community Benefits Coalition has met with the Mayor, the City Council, the Missoula Redevelopment Board and staff and with the developers. We have gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition. We have run a community workshop to test the support the public has for our stand.
As of publication time it appears the developer will go ahead with the project. We may soon demand to bargain a Community Benefits Agreement with the developer, including in that a card check/neutrality agreement. With that in hand we can more successfully organize workers in the new convention hotel for Missoula.
Our Union has a saying: “One Day Longer.”
Picket in front of the Butte War Bonnet Hotel June 2011
And it means that the Union will fight one day longer than our opponents for worker rights, dignity and respect.
The saying came from what was then the longest strike in US history at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. It was a strike of 6 years, 4 months and 10 days, where over 300 Union members walked back to work having won all of their demands in part by walking 24 hour a day pickets for the entire time.
At the Butte Quality Inn and Suites our Union’s victories might not be as dramatic as the Frontier Hotel, but the Union nevertheless lasted “one day longer.”
Just ask Angie Sizemore who was fired for Union activity in June 2011. She stuck it out and fought back “one day longer” (and more) to walk back into work at the hotel this past August. She will get substantial back pay with interest too.
The Union fought back “one day longer” and survived a Union-busting effort by the hotel’s previous owner. Presumed dead over a year ago, the Union is currently in negotiations for a new Union Contract.
Hattie Cantry (right) Union President and Memebers of the Hotel and Culinary workers on strike at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. Photo by Chris Johnson
And the Union has won the following from the new hotel owners as well:
- Back pay that had been withheld by management for breaks not taken;
- Undoing mass layoffs that were not offered up for negotiation with the Union;
- Reinstating an unfairly fired housekeeper Melody Gottschall; and
- Tearing up all disciplinary write-ups arbitrarily issued by a General Manager who played favorites.
One turning point was the beginning of the hotel boycott in January 2012. The Butte community showed their solidarity by overwhelmingly staying away from the hotel.
Another turning point came on July 16, 2012 when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington DC declared that both the current owners and the previous owner of the hotel had committed significant illegal acts that violated the rights of workers. See www.nlrb.gov/case/19-CA-033164.
The hotel’s previous owner Virginia Karlsen and the management of the Butte War Bonnet Hotel conducted an illegal campaign in 2011 to attempt to bust the Union in order to more easily sell the hotel to the current owners, which occurred in September 2011. Here are just some of their outrageous actions:
- Misty Albrecht, housekeeper and our Union Steward-in-training, has a toddler son who had to have a heart transplant in January 2010. He developed life-threatening complications late in 2010 and had to be emergency life-flighted to Seattle. Although Misty kept the War Bonnet consistently informed of her situation, she was fired when she and her son returned to Butte. The reason: not filling out a written form for leave. We are waiting for an arbitrator’s ruling
- Our Union Steward, Angie Sizemore, was fired in June 2011 for allegedly speaking with a Union member about Union matters on the clock. What she did was talk to one Union member when she thought the member was on a break, and she told another member who had a grievance to speak with her after she finished her work.
- At a June 24, 2011 Union-organized picket of 50 people, management spied on and tried to intimidate participants.
- The hotel later urged Union members to not pay their dues and in August 2011 the hotel ultimately refused to recognize or work with the Union.