Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday news round-up

  • ID trial update: yesterday saw testimony that books advocating Intelligent Design used the term "creationism" in earlier drafts and then just substituted the new term before publication (and after the Supreme Court ruled that creationism couldn't be taught in public schools).
    She said her conclusion is that creationism and intelligent design "are interchangeable, that they are virtually synonymous."

  • An Inquirer Editorial takes on Philadelphia's zoning code, which hasn't been revised since color came to TV. It's sometimes hard to get the politicians revved up for changes that lessen the power of their whims.

  • A Daily News Opinion piece takes the Transit Workers Union to task for their stance on health care costs. SEPTA needs tax-payer support, and the vast majority of tax-payers pay part of their own insurance premiums.

  • The CityPaper's "political notebook" notes a new alliance on City Council among the three Republicans. Will be interesting to see what leverage they gain from this move. Also noted here is an attempt by an organization of black clergy to draft Brady into the mayoral race (I think).

  • A larger CityPaper story looks at political wrangling in the Northeast, specifically over whether there should be restrictions on new bars opening between Northern Liberties and Old City, an area primed to be the next developers' squabble zone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Workers' rights under attack AGAIN at U-Penn

Guards' transfer sparks concern
Employee-law issues surround treatment of pro-union workers

By Elaine Wong
October 6, 2005
Daily Pennsylvanian
The suspension and transfer of five Penn security guards for attempts to solicit University support for unionization has created a controversy over employee labor rights.

The case is currently pending investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. The charges were made on Aug. 30.

Dorothy Moore-Duncan, an NLRB regional director, said that the case has been given "category 3" consideration -- which denotes a high degree of priority -- since the matter may have a significant impact on the public.

Earlier this year, the guards had tried to present a petition to President Amy Gutmann. The document contained the signatures of at least 200 guards from Penn, Temple University and the Community College of Philadelphia who have been trying to form a union.

Their main concerns, they said, are unsatisfactory wages, benefits and working conditions. All five employees of AlliedBarton Security, Penn's subcontractor for security services, were reassigned to separate posts shortly after the incident.

The Service Employees International Union, which includes 1.8 million working people and 120,000 retirees, filed a charge against AlliedBarton on behalf of the suspended guards.

Duncan said that the National Labor Relations Act states that workers are entitled to approach the general public -- in this case, the University president -- in order to voice dissatisfaction about their employment.

"It seems clear they were just exercising their basic rights they had on the job," she said.

Duncan said that although the University is not the employer in the dispute, it should still take action. The guards are properly employed by AlliedBarton.

For instance, she suggested that Penn could insist that its subcontractors protect workers' rights and provide better wages and health benefits.

University spokeswoman Lori Doyle said that while the University cares about the matter, it would be inappropriate to get involved since it is not the employer.

Following relevant investigations, the NLRB will determine whether there is merit to the accusers' claims. If that is not the case, the charges will be withdrawn or dismissed.

If the security guards' claims are found to be valid, Duncan said that they will be placed back in their former positions. The board hopes to reach a decision by the end of the month.

However, AlliedBarton spokesman Larry Rubin said that once the company inquiry into the issue has reached a conclusion, the guards in question may not necessarily be granted their former posts. That decision rests with the company's executive staff.

Rubin would offer no details on the exact nature of the guards' reassignments. He said that the company is investigating the "appropriateness" of the guards' behavior to ensure that they did not violate corporate rules.

Doris Dabrowski, an Philadelphia employment attorney, said that the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from retaliating against workers trying to form a union.

She added that determining any wrongdoings on the part of the employer would involve evaluating the employee's present working condition. For instance, if workers were discharged, had their pay reduced or were transferred to a job that was more degrading, those would be possible grounds for suspicion.

"A series of small actions could cumulatively add up to some adverse working conditions," she said.

Regarding whether employees have a right to enlist third-party help for unionizing, Dabrowski said that while labor law statutes are not specific, it is important to note that the majority of workers fall under the category of at-will employees. This status allows employers to dismiss employees at any time, except in cases where labor contracts may pose restrictions.

SEIU spokesman Andrew McDonald said that the case seems to be a likely infringement of workers' rights. The labor organization has maintained close ties with the security officers, who have been working for almost a year to join the SEIU.

The SEIU charge vs. AlliedBarton
- A charge filed by the Service Employees International Union states that AlliedBarton "suspended and otherwise interfered with and coerced its employees ... for engaging in protected concerted activity [including] presenting, on the employees' own time, a petition concerning their terms and conditions of employment to the President of the University of Pennsylvania, a client of the employer"

6:17 PM  

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