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WNBA labor deal would mean more money and special provisions for mothers

If the players and the WNBA Board of Governors OK the eight-year labor deal, known as the collective bargaining agreement, it will take effect this season and run through 2027.

“We approached these negotiations with a player-first agenda, and I am pleased that this agreement guarantees substantial increases in compensation and progressive benefits for the women of the WNBA,” Commissioner Cathy Engelbert of the WNBA said in a statement.

The deal, according to Nneka Ogwumike, president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, not only improves working conditions, but it also marks a progressive business model “with strategic planning and intentional marketing that will keep the WNBA front and center year-round.”

Foremost for many players will be the bag, which will represent a 53% increase in total compensation, a figure derived from salary, performance bonuses, prize money for “newly created in-season competitions” and marketing deals, according to the proposed CBA.

Top players such as the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne and the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner — who, like roughly two-thirds of the league’s athletes, plays abroad during the offseason to supplement her salary — could see their compensations for the 34-game regular season triple to more than $500,000.
(It could be argued that Griner and other stars actually moonlight in the WNBA to supplement their larger salaries in other countries, as Griner and hoops legend Diana Taurasi told ESPN in 2016 that Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg paid them multitudes more than did their WNBA teams. In fact, Taurasi skipped the 2015 WNBA season when her Russian team told her to rest and paid her the equivalent of her American salary.)
Two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne, right, and Kristi Toliver celebrate during Game 5 of the WNBA Finals in October.

Lesser stars will also see a bump in pay, to between $200,000 and $300,000, while the average compensation will be almost $130,000.

How will that compare to the NBA? Not terribly favorably. Superstars such as Stephen Curry and James Harden reportedly make in the neighborhood of $40 million annually, while a no-name rookie rakes in almost $900,000 for an 82-game season.
But before launching into “equal pay!” chants, it’s important to realize that the WNBA is not the women’s US soccer team.
Where the nonprofit US Soccer Federation administers both the US Women’s National Team and Men’s National Team in international competition, the NBA and WNBA operate on for-profit models in domestic competition between individually owned clubs. Where the WNBA got its start in 1997, men have been playing organized professional ball since the 1930s (the NBA was formed in the late 1940s with the merger of two pro leagues) and they’ve collected paychecks since the end of the 19th Century.

Mothers, posher travel and more cash

The proposed CBA announced Tuesday isn’t all about the money, however.

Indicative of the WNBA’s appreciation of its players’ distinctive needs, the CBA also includes maternity leave with full salary, an annual childcare stipend of $5,000, two-bedroom apartments for players with children, workplace accommodations for nursing mothers and, for veteran players, reimbursement of up to $60,000 in adoption, surrogacy or fertility treatment costs.

Stars such as the Seattle Storm's Breanna Stewart stand to see healthy raises under the CBA.

New rules would permit players to enter free agency more frequently — meaning more competitive salaries, as they’ll learn what other teams believe they’re worth — and limit how often a team can keep its hoopsters out of free agency by designating them “core” players.

A 50-50 revenue sharing agreement promises to bolster parity in the league, prizes for honors like league MVP and Rookie of the Year will increase and there will be new cash bonuses for honors such as making the All-Defensive First Team, the prospective agreement says.

The deal will also improve the players’ travel situation, resulting in premium economy flights for regular season travel and individual hotel rooms for each player.

“With cautious optimism and trusting the league’s renewed commitment and investment, the players demonstrated a willingness to ‘lean in’ themselves and show an even greater commitment and investment in the W,” WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson said.

CNN’s Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.

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Breaking New

Michael Bloomberg says his White House campaign unknowingly used prison labor

FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg delivers remarks where he was honored by the Iron Hills Civic Association at the Richmond County Country Club in Staten Island, New York, U.S., December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Billionaire U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday said his campaign had unknowingly used prison workers to make telephone calls on his behalf.

Bloomberg, who last month entered the Democratic Party race to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election, said the campaign had ended its relationship with a company that used prison labor for making phone calls.

“We do not support this practice and we are making sure our vendors more properly vet their subcontractors moving forward,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

Bloomberg said the campaign learned of the ties to prison labor when a reporter called. The Intercept, a news website, was first to report the use of prison labor.

Ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest American, Bloomberg has spent more on campaign ads in the last few weeks than his main Democratic rivals have all year.

He has so far failed to crack into the top tier of candidates in public opinion polls.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll conducted on Dec. 18-19 showed about 5% of Democratic-leaning voters support the billionaire former mayor of New York. Recent polls show former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren are the party’s leading candidates.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Howard Goller

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Breaking New

Labor Board sides with McDonald’s in landmark case

The case stems from a series of complaints filed against the company and some of its franchise operators in 2014, which were later consolidated. The Fast Food Workers Committee and Service Employees International Union alleged that workers who participated in strikes were punished with reduced hours and in other ways.

The central question in the case is whether McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer with its franchise operators.

More than 90% of McDonald’s locations are owned and operated by franchisees. McDonald’s says that it encourages, but cannot mandate, that franchise operators follow company guidelines on sexual harassment and conduct sensitivity or other trainings. It argues that franchisees are responsible for their own employees.

Last year, McDonald’s and the NLRB’s General Counsel Peter Robb, who was nominated to the position by President Donald Trump, attempted to settle the complaints through an agreement that would not name McDonald’s a joint employer.

At the time, the judge overseeing the case denied the settlement proposal, saying that the agreements, which would give affected employees back pay, “do not in any way approximate the remedial effect” of a joint-employer finding.

The NLRB reversed that decision Thursday, arguing that the case may not be able to determine whether McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer.

McDonald’s said it was “pleased that the unfair labor practice proceedings involving McDonald’s USA and the various franchisees across the country are now concluded through the NRLB’s decision today,” adding “we appreciate the efforts of the National Labor Relations Board and General Counsel Robb to bring this multi-year litigation to an end.”

The company added that “the settlement, which the NLRB approved in its decision today, allows our franchisees and their employees to move forward, and resolves all matters without any admission of wrongdoing. Additionally, current and former franchisee employees involved in the proceedings can now receive long overdue satisfaction of their claims.”

Matt Haller, senior vice president of government relations and public affairs for the International Franchise Association, a lobbying group, said in a statement that he was “thrilled” by the decision. “Franchise businesses are separate businesses; holding one business responsible for the actions of a different business that it does not and can not control is utter nonsense,” he said.

But the group called The Fight for $15 and a Union, which advocates for workers rights, said it will “forcefully” appeal.

“McDonald’s is walking away with a get-out-of-jail-free card after illegally retaliating against low-paid workers who were fighting to be paid enough to feed their families,” the group said in a statement. “The settlement is not valid.”

Micah Wissinger, an attorney who helped represent fast food workers in the case, said that the settlement “keeps the heat off of McDonald’s, and it keeps the responsibility decentralized,” adding that the company is trying to “sidestep any real decision.”

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U.S. economy growing modestly, labor market still tight: Fed report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy expanded modestly from October to mid-November and the outlook for growth was generally positive while labor markets remained tight across the country, the Federal Reserve said in a report on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Work crews construct a new hotel complex on oceanfront property in Encinitas, California, U.S., November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The latest temperature check of the economy, gathered from the central bank’s discussions with business contacts around the country, also said prices had increased at a modest pace.

“Outlooks generally remained positive with some contacts expecting the current pace of growth to continue into next year,” the Fed said in its “Beige Book” report.

Several Fed districts reported “relatively strong job gains” in professional and technical services as well as in health care. The picture was more mixed for manufacturing, with some districts noting rising headcounts while others said employment remained stable. One district reported layoffs.

Overall, employment continued to rise, even as tight labor markets across the country made it difficult for employers to find the workers they needed. Some contacts said their inability to fill vacancies was constraining business growth.

For example, two employment agencies in the New York district said “almost all job candidates” already are employed and are not interested in changing positions at this time of year.

Agricultural conditions were largely unchanged and remained strained by weather and low crop prices. In the Fed’s Richmond district, farmers have been hesitant to invest in land or equipment.

Parts of the Atlanta district also experienced drought conditions.

The U.S.-China trade war, now in its 16th month, has dragged on economic growth. U.S. manufacturing activity has softened and business investment has cooled as firms delay making decisions due to the uncertainty over tariffs.

Retailers mentioned higher costs, with contacts in some districts attributing the rises to tariffs, the Fed said. Some firms said they were limited in their ability to raise prices, while others were more able to pass on the costs.

Most districts reported stable-to-moderately growing consumer spending, with several districts reporting increases in auto sales and tourism, the Fed said.

However, some areas reported pockets of weakness. Retailers in the St. Louis district said the outlook for future economic conditions had turned pessimistic and that sales have been the same or slightly lower than last year. Attendance at Broadway shows in New York City dropped off during the first half of November and ticket prices were slightly lower than a year ago.


The Fed has cut interest rates three times this year in an effort to protect the economy from the trade dispute with China, slowing global growth and a slump in business investment.

U.S. consumer confidence fell in November for the fourth straight month amid concerns about current business conditions, but the index is still consistent with an economy growing at a moderate pace.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Monday monetary policy is now “well-positioned to support a strong labor market” and help the central bank reach its 2% inflation target, a hint that interest rates are likely to remain steady unless there is a sharp decline in the economic outlook.

Elsewhere in the Beige Book, some districts said the restaurant industry was particularly strained by a shortage of labor. Some restaurants in Southern California had closed because of labor and operating costs. In Minneapolis, some restaurants cut hours due to a lack of staff.

The Beige Book was prepared by the Dallas Fed with information collected on or before November 18.

Reporting by Jonnelle Marte Editing by Heather Timmons and Paul Simao

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Democratic presidential candidates court labor support in Nevada

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (Reuters) – Retired letter carrier Leslie Maxwell Burton has a message for Democratic presidential contenders campaigning in the early voting state of Nevada this weekend: She won’t vote for anyone who tries to take away her hard-won union health plan.

Labor’s concerns about healthcare and other issues will be in the spotlight as most of the 18 candidates seeking the nomination attend the state party’s annual fundraising reception in Las Vegas on Sunday and spend time courting union voters around Nevada.

Union support is crucial for Democrats in Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucuses. The third state to hold its nominating contest, Nevada’s union membership is the higher than the national average, with about 14% of workers in 2018 compared to the 10.5% unionization rate nationwide.

Most unions have not yet endorsed a candidate. Democrats are courting them intensely, offering plans to protect their contracts, raise the minimum wage, expand healthcare and, in diverse states such as Nevada, promising to ease the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Labor-friendly candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are facing a tough sell with some union members who fear losing their negotiated benefits under the U.S. senators’ proposals to eliminate private insurance and transition all Americans to the government’s Medicare health insurance plan.

“If they come in and try to strip everything away, that’s just going to make people mad,” voter Maxwell Burton said.

Democrats also will need labor support to hold onto Nevada in the November 2020 general election. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Republican President Donald Trump in the battleground state by just 2.5 percentage points in 2016.

In addition to fundraising, unions can mount large grassroots operations, with members knocking on doors, holding rallies and boosting turnout by bringing friends, families and colleagues to the polls.

Union participation is so valuable to Nevada Democrats that they are holding early caucus voting in union halls next year, and the party’s state chair is a former union organizer.

Leaders from Nevada’s largest labor organization, the 60,000-member Culinary Union Local 226, said they have made clear to the Democratic presidential field that protecting their health plans is a top priority. Members of the state umbrella group AFL-CIO and the president of the Laborers Union Local 872 have also echoed those concerns.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who held a 10 percentage point lead over Warren and Sanders in a Nov. 4 poll by the Nevada Independent, will join his leading rivals at the state party event.

Biden has promised to preserve union health coverage, aggressively prosecute employers who violate labor laws and increase access to unions for working people.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Senator Kamala Harris, who also will attend the reception, have marched on union picket lines and vowed to protect union health care as well.

Warren, appearing to respond to union concerns, promised on Friday to protect union health coverage under Medicare for All.

Representatives from labor would participate in a commission charged with setting up the program, and non-profit union clinics would be allowed to continue to provide care, she said in her latest plan.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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GM strike over as workers approve new labor deal

The rank-and-file members voted 57% in favor of the deal, according to the union. The labor contract was reached between union and company negotiators on Oct. 16, but strikers remained on the picket lines until it was ratified.

GM plants will resume work as soon as possible, with some workers returning over the weekend and others on Monday, according to two company sources familiar with plans.

The strike by nearly 50,000 hourly GM workers started Sept. 16, nearly six weeks ago. It is the largest against a US business since the last GM strike 12 years ago. But that strike was over in less than three days. This strike is the longest auto industry work stoppage in more than 20 years, and the longest nationwide auto strike in 50 years. GM has lost about $1.75 billion due to the walkout, according to an estimate from Anderson Economic Group, a Michigan research firm.

The deal was reached between union and company negotiators more than a week ago, although members stayed on the picket line until the ratification process could be completed.

Strikers have received strike benefits of only $275 a week. That’s far below the more than $30 an hour that veteran UAW members make.

The new contract will pay the hourly workers an $11,000 signing bonus, which should help them recoup much of their lost wages, although GM was offering a signing bonus even before the strike started.

Under the deal, wages for most veteran workers will rise by 6% during the four-year life of the contract to $32.32 an hour. The union also won a way for many temporary workers to be hired as permanent employees as well as a quicker end to the two-tier wage system instituted after the 2009 bankruptcy than was in the previous contract language. The union also got the company to drop its demand that workers pay a larger percentage of their own health care costs.

Terry Dittes, the union’s chief negotiator, said that the strikers’ “sacrifice and courageous stand addressed the two-tier wages structure and permanent temporary worker classification that has plagued working class Americans.”

GM also praised the deal and the workers.

“We delivered a contract that recognizes our employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company, with a strong wage and benefit package and additional investment and job growth in our US operations,” said a statement from GM CEO Mary Barra.

But the union failed in its efforts to save three plants — an assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio, and transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and Baltimore, where GM halted operations earlier this year. The union wanted GM to shift some of its production from Mexico, where the company built more than 800,000 cars and trucks last year, back to US plants, but GM refused.
While most of the autoworkers at those three plants have found jobs at other GM factories, many had to relocate to take those jobs. Anger among both union leadership and rank-and-file about those plant closings raised doubts about whether this labor deal would pass. But after nearly six weeks on the picket lines, workers were apparently willing to accept the closings for a chance to get back to work.
The union announced it will now focus on reaching a new labor deal for workers at Ford. The union had put negotiations with Ford (F) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) on a back-burner while it sought the deal with GM (GM).

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