COVID unmasks inequities that unions work to overcome
Message from the President

The COVID pandemic continues to effect daily life in ways that seemed unimaginable a few months ago. With the nationwide death toll expected to be more than 100,000 by June, the number of unemployed Americans exceeding 35 million and tens of millions more working on the front lines caring for sick, working at grocery stores, maintaining supply chains and keeping other essential services going, the crisis has demonstrated how fragile and unequal our nation’s economic and social systems are.

“We may all be in the same storm, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the same boat.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard often these last few weeks and it provides an honest perspective on the enormous, sometimes painful inequities this pandemic has revealed.

Those inequities are certainly present at work with some afforded the safety of remote work, some at risk on the frontlines and still others facing the insecurity that comes with having no work at all.

At the local, we take these inequities to heart. Working diligently with employers we’ve been involved in constructing policies and procedures that have allowed them to deal with stresses caused by the pandemic while trying to ensure the continued safety, health, job and financial security of workers without compromising the integrity of our collective bargaining agreements.

In so doing, we have helped solve some serious problems by guiding employers to creative solutions that they did not originally see, consider, or fully understand. At VERSO Corporation, for example we were given access to important financial and employment data that we used to identify alternative staffing solutions that then allowed the company to avoid the staff furlough and layoff decisions they feared but thought they’d have to make.

Similar experiences resulting in similar results occurred at large and small employers across the state, including CUNA Mutual Group, the Locals largest employer, where a Memorandum of Understanding was reached that more fully addressed our concerns over job security, safety, compensation, health care, child and family care, as well as other issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also addresses other systemic issues regarding communication and transparency that became apparent during the negotiation process by establishing bi-weekly labor-management meetings to continue to monitor and evaluate COVID impacts on the workforce.

Ironically, the most difficult employer was and continues to be Aspirus Health Care. Since the beginning of April, the Local has been reaching out to the company hoping to assist. But unlike other employers, Aspirus did not respond to information requests or to our suggested proposals. They chose instead to unilaterally implement changes affecting represented employees in clear violation of the contract. Those actions finally force the Local to file Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company last week.

As frustrating as it’s been to arrive at that outcome, we are especially saddened that the company seemed to go out of its way to select specific employees to harm when more equitable solutions were possible. 

Last week the State Supreme Court ruled that the State Department of Health Services Safer at Home Order was unconstitutional. The ruling does nothing to change the Coronavirus or the impact COVID-19 will continue to have on our everyday lives. Nor does it change the approach we will continue to take with employers on behalf of the workers we represent, fighting for the equitable outcomes we desire and that workers so richly deserve. 
U.S. health insurers benefit as elective care cuts...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As Americans delay elective surgeries and avoid doctors and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare spending declines have more than offset the added costs of COVID-19 care, insurance executives and experts say, ...

Read more
Elective care cuts offset coronavirus costs
Healthcare institutions have begun to engage in furloughs and layoffs, claiming that the lack of elective procedures and general patient care delivery has resulted in a lack of revenue.

Yet, some like Aspirus Health Care, are also health insurance companies, which means they are also not paying out on claims for elective procedures and general care during the pandemic.

So why the furloughs and layoffs? Profits, perhaps? Those are good questions that Reuters Business News writers Manoina Maddipatla and Caroline Humer explore in this six-minute read, “U.S. health insurers benefit as elective care cuts offset coronavirus costs."
Local hosts first virtual Membership meeting
Local 39 hosted its first virtual membership meeting Wednesday, May 20, giving members across the state the opportunity to easily and safely participate in the actions of the Local. Given the success of this first meeting, having the option to attend virtually will be a regular feature of all upcoming meetings

The transition to virtual meetings was made in part in response to the COVID pandemic, which has caused tremendous disruption to routine operations and has made many organizations find creative ways to carry on during the crisis.

Prior to the pandemic the Local had been exploring ways to overcome other barriers to member participation in Local activities, including the long distance many members would have to travel to attend. Planning for virtual quarterly meetings having already taken place allowed the Local to transition quickly to the new format.

Meeting dates and time (below) will continue to be posted in the newsletter and all members are encouraged to attend! A link providing access to the meeting will be emailed separately to active members prior to each meeting. Members will be asked to provide name and place of employment to verify good standing and gain entrance to the meeting.
Upcoming Membership Meetings
Upcoming Membership Meetings Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of each quarter, at 5:30PM at the Union Office, 701 Watson Dr, Madison.

August 19, 2020
November 18, 2020
February 17, 2021
May 19,2021

This is your Union. Your participation shapes how this Union works -- or doesn't. Join us online!
Unions = Gym Membership
Judge puts law above partisanship - Wisconsin State Journal

OUR VIEW: Hagedorn has shown considerable independence in less than year on high court At least one justice on the seven-member Wisconsin Supreme Court is showing flashes of independence. That's good to see, and long overdue. We wish more of...

Read more
Supreme Court ruling makes Wisconsin “Wild West” of COVID time
The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision last week tossing out Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm’s “Stay at Home” order has caused chaos across the state as local health departments struggle with dealing with the spread of COVID-19 without guidance or clear legal authority from lawmakers.
The 4-3 ruling ignored the actual text of state law granting the Secretary of Department of Health Services explicit authority to issue orders such as the Stay at Home Order.

The decision laid bare the partisan nature of the State’s highest Court. Republican lawmakers and GOP-backed groups outraged over Justice Brian Hagedorn joining the minority and issuing a scathing dissent, went public with complaints they had been “snookered” into supporting him for election last year.

Justice Daniel Kelly, who last month was soundly defeated for re-election and was the deciding vote in the case, used his concurring and perhaps final opinion to personally lambast Hagedorn. His attack came despite Hagedorn’s clear adherence to “judicial restraint” and the fundamental conservative principle that judges not legislate from the bench.
CDC updates workplace guidelines
In early May, as political pressure mounted to ignore the science and “re-open” the economy, the CDC issued changes to its workplace guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The changes provide updated strategies and recommendations for employers responding to COVID-19, including those seeking to resume normal or phased business operations. The updated recommendations suggest businesses:
  • Conduct daily health checks
  • Conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace
  • Encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
  • Implement policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
  • Improve building ventilation systems

The update also includes a table outlining the engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that employers may use to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019
Is available for download from the COVID Business Response page of the CDC’s website. 
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Interim Guidance...

Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from...

Read more
HEROES Act helps right wrongs for retirees
After the economic crash of 2008, many retirees who had already performed a lifetime of work and were living on a fixed income experienced a reduction in the amount of their income. During the same 2008 downturn, many companies suffered a loss in revenue. Congress enacted legislation that assisted those companies to the point where many were making record profits before the current COVID-19 crisis. It has now been shown that some of those companies invested the assistance by conducting stock buy-backs. Unfortunately, Congress did not provide such assistance to those retirees or the pension plans where they had placed their life savings.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Congress has already provided trillions of dollars to businesses impacted but still no assistance to retirees. Congress is now considering a new stimulus package -- the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act -- to provide assistance to struggling businesses and towns. This time, the legislation includes a provision that would help struggling pension plans and the retirees who were impacted during the 2008 and COVID-19 downturns.

Most people know of a friend, neighbor, fellow worker or family member whose retirement has been impacted. In order to provide these people the financial security they worked and paid for, I am asking you to reach out to the pensioners in your local and the active employees whose benefits also have been cut and suggest they call their senators and tell them they support this bill.
Know Your Weingarten Rights!
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff. These are called Weingarten Rights.

An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.

You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview. Management does not have to remind you of this right. If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer. Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed. If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."