Labor wars
February 10, 2019

After negotiations between Denver Public Schools and the local teachers' union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA), failed to reach a new salary agreement Saturday, the union announced plans for a strike beginning Monday.

At issue is the school district's method of awarding bonuses as performance incentives; the union is pushing for lower bonuses and higher, more consistent base pay. "Faced with a smoke-and-mirrors proposal that continues to lack transparency and pushes for failed incentives for some over meaningful base salary for all, the DCTA strike will commence for the schools Denver students deserve," the union said.

"We're disappointed that the DCTA walked away from the table," Denver Public Schools tweeted late Saturday. "We presented an updated proposal that responds to what we have heard from teachers, aligns to our values of equity and retention, honors the ProComp ballot language, and significantly increases the base pay for teachers."

While Monday classes have been canceled for many preschoolers in the district, most Denver schools will remain open Monday, operated by administrators and substitute teachers. Bonnie Kristian

July 8, 2017

The threat to good, American jobs at Western Michigan University is not immigrants or even robots but a team of brush-clearing goats for hire. The goats' efficient landscaping work was raised the ire of a labor union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which argued in a formal grievance the goats are stealing union workers' jobs.

The university says the goats are the most cost-effective and sustainable way to clear the brush. "For the second summer in a row, we've brought in a goat crew to clear undergrowth in a woodlot, much of it poison ivy and other vegetation that is a problem for humans to remove," a school representative said. "Not wanting to use chemicals, either, we chose the goat solution to stay environmentally friendly."

As for how many humans the goats can realistically replace, The Washington Post calculates a single worker equipped with a tractor can clear as much brush as 3,600 goats in one month of work. With just 20 goats munching at Western Michigan, the union is fighting for a fraction of a job. Bonnie Kristian

October 1, 2016

Friday evening was supposed to mark the beginning of a new season for the Philadelphia Orchestra, an occasion celebrated with a black tie gala featuring an orchestral performance of works by Bernstein, Gershwin, Ravel, and Respighi for a crowd of about 1,000. But after 20 minutes ticked past curtain time, attendees discovered the orchestra's 96 musicians had walked out on strike.

At issue are the musicians' salaries, which have been subject to fewer raises than usual since the orchestra went into bankruptcy in 2012 and maintains an operating deficit to this day thanks to sluggish fundraising numbers. On Friday, the musicians were offered a minimum annual salary of $128,544 with a 2 percent raise in the first year of a two-year contract, but they insist on a 3 percent raise and object to having a lower base pay than the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which starts players at $152,672.

The Philadelphia musicians called an earlier deal they were offered — which, even with fewer raises, would give each player a salary roughly four times the median individual income in America — "regressive" and marched with signs calling on orchestra management to "retain the artistry." The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra are also on strike for similar reasons. Bonnie Kristian

February 10, 2015

On Monday, newly inaugurated Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed an executive order banning public employee unions from requiring state workers to pay the equivalent of dues. Rauner is the latest Republican governor in the Midwest to try to weaken public service unions, but he's unlikely to get any lasting legislation through the Democratic-controlled legislature.

The executive order, which takes effect immediately, will prevent non-union public employees from having to pay "fair share" contributions to unions that negotiate for their pay and benefits. The dues will be put in escrow for now, pending an expected court challenge. In Illinois, about 42,000 state employees are represented by unions, while about 6,500 of them have opted not to join. Peter Weber

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