RI organized labor

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Labor Day marks the end of summer. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay reminds us that this holiday that honors workers once meant much more in Rhode Island.

About 700 unionized Rhode Island Verizon workers involved in a labor dispute with the company have been ruled eligible for unemployment compensation by Scott Jensen, director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

In a decision mailed to workers and Verizon officials yesterday, Jensen ruled that the labor dispute is a lockout by the company, rather than a strike. Rhode Island has not allowed strikers to collect unemployment benefits since the 1980s, but workers involved in lockouts are eligible to collect, according to Michael Healey, DLT Spokesman.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The union representing Rhode Island Hospital nurses and other medical professionals has rejected the latest contract proposal from the Lifespan hospital network, owner of the hospital.

``Our focus now is to continue fighting for a fair and reasonable agreement that represents the sacrifice and commitment that front-line caregivers bring to their job every day,’’ said Helene Macedo, president of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5808.

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For  workers and unions, there hasn’t been much to celebrate on Labor Day in recent years. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says things may finally be looking up.


Work is the fulcrum of social mobility in our country. In Rhode Island, lawmakers have approved an increase in the minimum wage. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says that falls far short of what’s needed to help the working poor.

Democrats claim to be the party of working people. Come campaign season, Democratic candidates boast at every turn that they care about ``working families’’ more than Republicans, the party Democrats brand as the tool of the rich and the one-percent.

President Obama scored a victory for his trade plan today when the U.S. Senate approved a measure that would give the president the authority to negotiate international deals, but he did it without help from Rhode Island two Democratic senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Reed and Whitehouse were on the losing end of a 60 to 37 Senate vote. Both Rhode Islanders cited concerns that trade deals hurt American workers. Thirteen Democrats joined with 47 Republicans to push the trade pact to a final vote, which is likely to occur tomorrow.

Rhode Island’s two U.S. House members, Democrats David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, will both vote against President Obama’s plan to `fast track’ the Trans-Pacific Partnership when the issue comes before the House, which  is expected this afternoon.

``Any agreement that promotes fast track trade to advance the TPP without through review and congressional input is a bad deal for Rhode Island  workers,’’ Cicilline said in a statement.


Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, were both on the winning side as President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats derailed one of the president’s top priorities, voting to hold up so-called fast track trade authority unless other provisions designed to protect American jobs are included in the legislation.

One interest group that is already lining up support for a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium in Providence: Organized labor.

Scott Duhamel, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island Building Trades Council emerged from a press briefing this afternoon by James Skeffington, president of the team and quickly said the building trades unions are planning to be vocal backers of the deal.

``We are all in, 100 percent,’’ said Duhamel. ``This may end up being our number one legislative priority this year.’’

The Teamsters Union Local 251 and Rhode Island Hospital management have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract that the union says will bring $19 million in improved wages and benefits to workers at the Lifespan hospital network.

The agreement was reached late Friday evening, according to a statement by the union bargaining committee posted on social media.

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO’s COPE (Committee on Political Education) convention that was held in Providence last Friday decided to put the labor organization on record against Republican Allan Fung’s campaign for governor.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The primaries are over and now it’s time for the main event. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay parses the Rhode Island campaign for governor.

Rhode Island voters will make history in November by choosing either Republican Allan Fung or Democrat Gina Raimondo as their next governor. Raimondo would be the first woman governor;  Fung would be the first Asian-American.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has delivered his final state budget proposal and given his final State of the State speech. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay parses Chafee’s Last Hurrah.

The cliché says: show me your budget and I’ll figure out your priorities. When it comes to Gov. Chafee’s final budget, that may be a trite description, but it’s true.

The disputes over State General Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s pension investment strategy rages on. The latest  salvo comes from Gretchen Morgenson, the respected financial columnist for the New York Times.