Tag Archives: labor

TN commission says ‘no, thanks’ to $193K federal grant

In September the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability was awarded a $193,000 federal grant that would study paid leave issues concerning caregivers in Tennessee, but — less than two months later — The Tennessean reports that the state government agency is withdrawing its application as inappropriately filed.

Jim Shulman, executive director of the commission, said the grant application was written about paid family leave and not about caregiving. While the two issues are related, the grant centered on labor and economic issues more than caregiving. He did not write the grant, but it was filed under his name and he takes responsibility, he said.

“We submitted something that was outside the scope of what this agency does,” Shulman said. “We submitted a proposal that really didn’t talk much about caregiving. We included in that a contract that wasn’t going to do what we said we were going to do. There is a problem with that.”

The withdrawal follows an editorial by state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, in The Tennessean in October. She said such feasibility studies would do “much harm to many Tennessee workers and employers” and argued mandates tied to paid leave would delay hiring, cut pay and lead to layoffs.

A House committee had previously decided against authorizing the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development to pursue federal funds for such research, she said,

“I was happy to see it was withdrawn,” Lynn said Monday. “It’s all deficit spending by the federal government, so we really can’t afford to do studies like this.”

Lynn said paid leave policies are issues between employers and employees and those workers and their families, not the government. Most companies are often flexible with workers during difficult times, she said.

The grant was among $1.55 million awarded nationally that was dedicated to research paid leave. The Tennessee grant was meant to carry out a survey on needs and availability of paid family and medical leave in Tennessee. Upon receiving the grant, Shulman pointed to the large population of Tennesseans — roughly 1.65 million — who provide care for adults.

…Craig Fitzhugh, House minority leader who submitted a letter of support for the grant application, said… the withdrawal “represents a stunning missed opportunity for the people of Tennessee. I urge those involved with this decision to consider carefully their actions and do what is best for the public — not the politicians or personalities involved.”

Note: Here’s an emailed statement from Tennessee AFL-CIO President Billy Dycus:

“It is disappointing to see the state of Tennessee take a step backward when it comes to paid leave issues. This grant would have initiated an important chance to assess the needs of all Tennessee workers and provide our leaders with a blueprint for how to address those desires. Study or no study, we are committed to ensuring that working families have access to the best possible paid leave policies and will continue to remind lawmakers of the needs of all of their constituents, not just the privileged few.”

Bill would nullify Nashville local labor preference

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Williamson County senator who endorsed the losing candidate in the Nashville mayor’s election last week has filed a bill seeking to nullify a local hiring requirement approved by the city’s voters.

Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin filed the bill (SB1434) on Monday to overturn Nashville’s charter amendment and to ban any other community from enacting a similar measure. Johnson endorsed hedge fund manager David Fox in the mayoral run-off election held Thursday. Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry, who supports the local hire provision, beat Fox by 10 percentage points.

The ballot measure earned 58 percent of the vote in Nashville’s general election in August. It requires contractors on public construction projects worth more than $100,000 to assign at least 40 percent of work hours to employees who live within the city. It also mandates that 10 percent of worker hours go to low-income residents of the city.

“More than half of workers in Middle Tennessee reside in another county,” Johnson said in his announcement of the legislation being filed. “This amendment discriminates against thousands of workers who commute short distances from adjoining counties.”
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ECD says ‘low-cost labor’ in tune with ‘high quality jobs’

State economic development officials said Thursday there’s no conflict in their agency’s goal of recruiting “high quality jobs” to the state and its marketing of Tennessee as “low-cost labor force,” reports Richard Locker.

The agency’s assistant commissioner for communications and marketing, Clint Brewer, said Thursday that “selling the state’s low-cost labor force and recruiting high-quality jobs do not conflict. Tennessee enjoys the strategic advantage of having low-cost labor because it costs less to live here than it does in most states, (and) our debt per capita is low as are our taxes.

“The cost of labor is measured nationally by comparing labor costs between states. The quality of a job is measured at the local level in the context of a state’s cost of living and the average wage within a county. A high-quality job in New York or California will pay more than that same high quality job in Tennessee. Within the context of Tennessee’s costs of living, it is still a high-quality job,” he said.

The state is evaluating its placement of foreign representatives as contracts for existing offices either have just expired or will soon in Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and China. The RFI seeks responses, by Sept. 21, for representatives in the U.K. and Western Europe, Korea, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, China and Brazil.

Haslam promotes ‘low-cost labor’ to foreign investors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — While Republican Gov. Bill Haslam often states his goal of bringing “high-quality jobs” to Tennessee, a document produced by his administration suggests he may be less interested in making them high-paying positions.

The Commercial Appeal newspaper reports (http://bit.ly/1Q9mXcR ) that the Haslam administration is touting the state internationally as a place with a “low-cost labor force” and “very low unionization rates.”

That description is part of a request for information posted on the state’s website on Monday for people and firms in Europe, Asia and South America interested in representing Tennessee’s economic development goals with foreign companies.

“Tennessee is proud to be a right-to-work state with a low-cost labor force and no personal income tax on wages,” according to the document. “Our state and local tax burdens are some of the lowest in the region. We have the lowest debt per capita in the region and very low unionization rates — factors which continue to make our state attractive for foreign direct investment.”

Clint Brewer, a spokesman for the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said the that the state’s “labor cost is low, in part, because our state’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the country, ranking 8th lowest among all 50 states.

“Tennessee’s overall cost of living is 9.5 percentage points below the national average, and housing costs are 21.1 percentage points below the national average,” Brewer said in an email. “This is a selling point for companies selecting Tennessee versus other states.”

Haslam has been a vocal critic of the United Auto Workers’ efforts to gain collective bargaining rights at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, arguing that it would hurt efforts to lure foreign companies to Tennessee.

Leaked documents last year showed that the Haslam administration tried to make the state share of a $300 million incentive package for Volkswagen to expand its plant contingent on labor talks “being concluded to the satisfaction” of the state. Haslam at the time declined to specify which scenarios would have satisfied the state.

The incentive deal struck later in the year to add production of a new SUV at the plant did not include the labor provisions.

UAW officials at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill have touted the union’s efforts in both restarting production at the factory after the Great Recession and for bringing jobs to Tennessee that would have otherwise gone to the automaker’s plants in Mexico.

And Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has made Tennessee’s anti-union stance a sales point for his state.

“We have an open-door policy and welcome companies no matter what their desires may be in terms of labor-management relationships,” Beshear said earlier this year. “We don’t try to dictate what that relationship should be. We think that’s up to the company and to the employees.”

Brewer, the economic development spokesman, said that the state’s stance on unions is a selling point abroad.

“Low-unionization rates in Tennessee are also attractive to companies even if they come from a heavily unionized country,” he said. “Our recruitment and that of other right-to-work states shows that to be true. ”

Further, from the cited CA story:

The RFI seeks responses for representatives in seven regions: the United Kingdom and Western Europe, Korea, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, China and Brazil. It asks responders for details on the services they would provide, including how they would identify companies that might be recruited to Tennessee; how they would call on companies and sell the benefits of locating or expanding in Tennessee; how many leads they would approach in a month, a quarter and a year; how they would develop a priority customer or lead list, and how often they would expect ECD staffers to visit companies, trade shows and conferences in their regions.

TNGOP swats at Ball for union support; AFL-CIO swats back

Below are two news releases, the first from the state Republican party , the second a response from the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council:

News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—An extensive ground game and targeting Senator Lamar Alexander. That’s the roadmap for unions in the upcoming November election.

Last night, on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” two union bosses highlighted their plans to push Democrats to the polls in the fall.

Leo Gerard, of the steelworkers union, and Larry Cohen, of the communications union, made the comments in response to the host’s question about what unions plan to do. In particular, Cohen discussed making Senator Alexander — who would be chairman of the Senate labor committee in a new Republican Senate majority — the “poster-child” against their efforts because of his strong anti-union stances in the U.S. Senate and defense of Tennessee’s right-to-work laws.

The TNGOP captured the conversation. (Note: It’s a Youtube video, HERE.)

With the news today of his “F-rating” on the 2nd Amendment from the National Rifle Association, Tennessee Democrats’ nominee for the Senate, liberal personal injury lawyer Gordon Ball, is going to need the help from unions in his attempt to defeat Senator Alexander. The AFL-CIO has already endorsed Ball, and now it’s clear union bosses plan to make Lamar Alexander a target this fall.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney stated, “Liberals are already starting to circle the wagons—in Tennessee and beyond. They know Senator Alexander is going to be a leader in the new Republican Senate majority and they’re desperate to get their base engaged. Unfortunately for Gordon Ball, this information just proves once more he’d be a vote for the Obama agenda in Washington.”

Background
• The TNGOP released ObamaBallAgenda.com to expose Gordon Ball as another vote for Barack Obama’s liberal agenda.
• Gordon Ball is endorsed by AFL-CIO, and called for another vote for Big Labor at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant after workers rejected unionization.
• While he says he’d defend our 2nd Amendment rights, Gordon Ball just received an “F-rating” from the NRA due to his support of universal background checks on law-abiding citizens and further gun restrictions.

News release from Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council
NASHVILLE, TN – It’s now clearer than ever. Senator Lamar Alexander is truly out-of-touch with the people of his own state.

The Tennessee GOP recently came out swinging at Gordon Ball, Senator Alexander’s opponent in the November election. The party alleges that Gordon will simply be another vote for “Obama’s agenda.”

However, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Gordon is focused on his own extensive agenda, which includes protecting working families in our state,” said TN AFL-CIO President Gary Moore. “Senator Alexander and members of his party are beginning to become concerned as they realize that Gordon is a very viable and strong candidate for U.S. Senate.”

This comes just as Senator Alexander introduced the “National Labor Relations Board Reform Act” last week. The truth of the matter, however, is that his ultimate goal is to eventually do away with the NLRB.

“These changes are being introduced by the same person who wanted to do away with the minimum wage and is a strong advocate of Tennessee’s right-to-work laws,” said President Moore. “At the end of the day, Senator Alexander will never have the interests of middle class Tennesseans in mind.”

“Once again, Senator Lamar Alexander proves he is out of touch with working Tennesseans,” said Ball. “He is so busy focusing on attacking me that he has forgotten the people who put him in office the first place. Wall Street did not put him in office, Main Street did.”

As Election Day gets closer, more and more Tennesseans are ready for a much-needed change in Washington.

“As we’ve said before, Gordon has made it very clear that he will represent every citizen of this great state,” said President Moore. “We are committed to helping him ensure that the truths are told about his goals and agenda, rather than false assumptions or generalizations.”

U.S. Labor Secretary Perez visits Memphis, hails Jobs Core Center

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spent much of the morning Wednesday at the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center in Memphis, reports the Commercial Appeal. He was there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a job-training program for youth, patterned loosely after the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

“I believe in second chances,” Perez, a former Department of Justice lawyer, told dozens of students and dignitaries at the center. “If we don’t give people a second chance, we’re not being very American.”

…in the carpentry lab at the center, Perez took a beating in a nail-pounding contest with student Ashley Anderson, 21.

“Ashley kicked my butt,” Perez said. “I need to tell you, I do home improvement projects on the side, not that well, but I do them. Ashley beat me, but she had a smile on her face throughout.”

The Hooks center is the fifth-highest performer among 125 Job Corps centers, a ranking based on metrics that include retention, graduation and placement rates.

State Dept. of Labor cracking down on construction industry fraud

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State officials say the Department of Labor has been expanding efforts to uncover employer fraud within the construction industry.

The efforts will help identify employers who are paying workers under the table, intentionally misclassifying workers as independent contractors and who are failing to report all wages paid.

The state Department of Labor & Workforce Development said a Nashville drywall firm accused of lying to an insurance company about how many employees were on its payroll was first to pay $300,000 in a settlement.

Officials say the fraud is typically used to avoid paying worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance tax premiums. It also gives deceptive employers an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding firms.

Part of the effort includes the hiring of additional investigators to detect the fraud.

State’s first eight workers’ comp judges named

News release from Department of Labor and Workforce Development:
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Labor’s Division of Workers’ Compensation is announcing the appointment of their first eight workers’ compensation judges.
The Tennessee Legislature passed comprehensive Workers’ Compensation reform legislation last year. The reform created a new, administrative Workers’ Compensation Court within the Workers’ Compensation Division. The new judges will begin work prior to July 1, 2014, when the new law goes into effect.

“Workers’ Comp reform will result in a system that is fair to both employees and employers and will speed up the settlement of injury claims,” said Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips. “This should result in more predictable outcomes.”

The appointees are as follows:

Brian Addington, Kingsport, Attorney with the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Joshua Baker, Nashville, Administrative Attorney and Legislative Liaison with the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Lisa Knott, Knoxville, Attorney with the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Pamela Johnson, Knoxville, Of Counsel with the Leitner, Williams, Dooley and Napolitan law firm in Knoxville.
Allen Phillips, Jackson, partner with Waldrup & Hall in Jackson.
Jim Umsted, Memphis, Attorney with the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Thomas Wyatt, Chattanooga, partner with Summers & Wyatt
Ken Switzer will be the Chief Judge. He is an associate with the Howard Tate law firm.

The appointments were made by the Workers’ Compensation Division Administrator, Abbie Hudgens, and were selected from recommendations from the Workers’ Compensation Interview Committee, which was composed of representatives of employees, employers, and the legal community from all three grand divisions of the state.

Rep. Stewart pushing worker safety bills

News release from Jobs With Justice of East Tennessee:
Rep. Mike Stewart (D., Nashville) has introduced legislation designed to bring greater worker safety to the construction sites in Tennessee. Stewart plans to present this legislation for action before the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee of the Tennessee House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 5, 10:30 a.m., LP 30, in Nashville.

Sen. Charlotte Burks (D, Monterey) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“The frequency of fatal and serious injuries to construction workers in Tennessee far exceeds the national average,” Stewart said. “These deaths and injuries result in permanent loss and suffering for the families of these construction workers. In all too many instances the incidents were entirely preventable if worker safety was a day-to-day reality on these job sites. Sadly, in far too many instances, that has not been the case. My bills, if approved, would make a big difference in favor of worker safety.”

The first bill, HB 2017, provides new authority to the administrator of the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) to require that contractors who appeal citations or penalties for serious, willful or repeat violations must remedy unsafe working conditions right away, no longer gaining an automatic extension until the end of all appeals. Today, unsafe working conditions can be maintained for many months, if not years, while the appeals process runs its course.

“We cannot afford to risk additional fatalities or serious injuries while a recognized unsafe situation posing a serious risk is permitted to remain uncorrected,” Stewart said. “Under the current rule TOSHA officials are often forced to settle for reduced penalties as the cost of assuring a speedy fix. This makes no sense.”

The second bill, HB 2018, creates a comprehensive system of safety on public works projects by identifying contractors with unacceptable worker safety records and barring the award of new publicly-funded construction contracts to these companies with a proven record of unsafe working conditions and performance. This new screening process will also appropriately credit companies whose commitment to safety is shown by past performance as well as by the systems they have in place for managing projects, training personnel, and preventing unnecessary injuries and deaths.
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Harold Woods, longtime Knoxville labor leader and Democrat activist, dies aged 74

From the News Sentinel:
Harold G. Woods, retired longtime president of the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Area Central Labor Council, active Democrat and community leader, died early Monday at his home of complications of liver cancer.

He was 74.

Mr. Woods’ wife, Sylvia, said he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in September 2011. After it was removed and he had radiation and chemotherapy, he was declared cancer free in April 2012. But the following July he was told he had liver cancer.

Mr. Woods tried various therapies and finally had to make a decision about whether to continue them. He decided not to, which gave him a better quality of life, his wife said.

During his 24 years as Central Labor Council president, he represented the United Steelworkers Local 309, which was at the Alcoa Inc. plant where he was employed. He continued to join union members there after he retired when they picketed over company plans.

..Mr. Woods also briefly was president of the state AFL-CIO, and organized labor representatives to lobby the state Legislature, she said.

Besides the United Way, he was active in Boy Scouts, Child and Family Service, Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Adopt-a-School and the Community Action Committee.

Among awards he received were the national Joseph A. Beirne Community Services Award by the United Way of America’s Volunteer Leaders Conference, the highest award the United Way grants a labor leader. Mr. Woods was the first in the Southeast to receive it. He also received the Jayne Thomas Grassroots Volunteer Recognition Award given by the National Association of Community Action Agencies.

Mr. Woods and his wife, also long associated with the labor movement, were honored during the Truman Day dinner of the Knox County Democratic Party in September. He was a longtime member of the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee and had hoped to seek re-election.