The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 04, 2014

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Supreme to target public unions – later

A 5-4 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 ruled that eight home health care workers from Illinois cannot be compelled to pay union dues, because their employment is dictated by individual patients they care for, not the state.

Illinois is one of 26 states that require such workers to pay union does because they are paid in part through the state, via Medicaid.

Unions won a partial, short-term victory, in that the justices did not strike down the law requiring dues payment as unconstitutional. However, conservative Justice Samuel Alito criticized a precedent, known as Abood, that granted states the right to compel union dues. Court observers say that opens the door for a test case next year which could “decimate union finances and membership” according to Politico.

Michigan’s jobless rate sixth worst

Michigan’s May unemployment rate is down from a year ago, but up a tenth of a point from April, since  tying us with Illinois for the nation’s sixth-highest rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A June 20 report from the BLS said Michigan’s current 7.5 percent jobless rate was down from the 8.9 percent rate of May 2013. However, we’re still ahead of only Rhode Island at 8.2 percent, Nevada (7.9 percent), Mississippi and Kentucky (7.7 percent) and California (7.6 percent). Michigan’s current workforce is 4.124 million.

North Dakota, booming because of its shale oil deposits, once again had the lowest job rate at 2.6 percent.

Texas had the largest number of new jobs created in May, with 56,400 new jobs, followed by Pennsylvania, with 24,700 new jobs and New York, with 23,400 new jobs for the month. Job losses occurred in Florida, Arizona and Illinois, losing 17,900, 8,400 and 2,600 positions, respectively.

The national jobless rate held at 6.3 percent in May but was 1.2 percentage points lower than in May 2013.

Compared to a year ago, unemployment has dropped in 49 states and D.C.

Murky future for jobless $ extension

The prospects for extending federal jobless benefits “is as cloudy as ever,” Politicoreports.

Democrats, and some Republicans in Congress have been working since the beginning of the year on extending 26 weeks of emergency jobless benefits for workers whose benefits have expired.  In April, the Democratic-led Senate adopted a bill to extend the benefits, but the legislation went nowhere in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says he is against restoring long-term jobless benefits because doing so wouldn’t create jobs. Well over three million jobless workers have lost out on the benefit lifeline.

The hurdles are even higher for this latest attempt to get unemployment benefits extended. House Republicans are still holding to their view that jobs must be created as part of the legislation, and Dems are tired of banging their head against the wall on the subject. Moreover, with the national jobless rate falling, Politico says that it makes the justification for extending benefits an even tougher sell for members of both parties.

The jobless extension package that failed in April would have cost $10 billion.

Supreme case doesn’t hurt picketing 

WASHINGTON (PAI)—By a 9-0 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a  Massachusetts law that erected a 35-foot “buffer zone” around clinics where abortions are performed.  The court said the buffer zones, which the state established to prevent harassment and intimidation of women by pro-life campaigners, violate freedom of speech.

Unions did not comment on the June 26 ruling, but the AFL-CIO had sided with the pro-lifers.  It had argued the state law was so broad it would restrict peaceful, legal picketing, too.

The Massachusetts law would prevent union organizers from communicating with workers “in any manner” near a business, the fed said then in its friend-of-the-court brief.  Unionists could not give workers leaflets, or talk to them, and the workers could not respond, within the buffer zone, the brief added.

It also said the 2007 Massachusetts law could impact freedom of speech for pickets elsewhere.  That’s because the law did not restrict the buffer zones.  “Public ways and sidewalks are held in trust for use of the public.  Regulations for the time, place and manner of expression” on those streets and sidewalks “must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest” and must provide alternatives, the fed had said.