Ford Workers Ratify New Contract With United Auto Workers Saturday, Nov 21 2015 

Ford workers across the country have voted in favor of a new four-year contract.

The United Auto Workers union said late Friday that the contract passed with a 51.4 percent vote.

The agreement covers 53,000 U.S. hourly workers at 22 plants, including roughly 9,400 workers at Ford’s two Louisville plants. The contract raises wages for all workers, provides an $8,500 signing bonus and promises $9 billion in investments at Ford’s U.S. plants over four years.

Those investments include $1.3 billion at the Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant.

Ford’s union workers in Louisville rejected the contract by a more than 60 percent margin earlier this week. In an interview with WFPL News on Friday, UAW Local 862 President Todd Dunn said a variety of issues contributed to the workers’ vote.

In interviews with other Louisville media, workers cited concerns about the deal’s terms for legacy employees and said Ford had yet to make workers whole after concessions driven by the recession.

Ford said it was pleased with the vote. It said the contract helps the company, employees and their communities.

Ford’s contract was the last of the Detroit automakers to win approval. Fiat Chrysler workers approved their contract in October, while the union said earlier Friday that General Motors’ contract was approved.

Featured image of Louisville Assembly Plant from Google Maps.

Ford Workers in Louisville Reject New Contract Wednesday, Nov 18 2015 

A clear majority of union workers at Ford’s two Louisville production plants have rejected a proposed new contract with the Detroit automaker, according to various media reports this morning.

More than 9,000 members of the United Auto Workers are employed at the Louisville Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant. They voted yesterday on the proposed four-year labor deal, which was negotiated by the national UAW and Ford officials.

It included an $8,500 signing bonus for union workers and $1.3 billion in new Ford investments in the two local facilities. The local UAW 862 still has a message from national UAW leaders posted on its website urging workers to support the contract.

One longtime worker at Ford in Louisville told WDRB she thought the contract failed to provide anything new for legacy employees. Others reportedly said Ford has not returned concessions workers made at the start of the recession, including better cost-of-living adjustments, according to The Courier-Journal.

The proposed contract includes two 3 percent wage increases and two 4 percent lump-sum bonus payments in the next four years.

Voting continues through Friday nationwide. According to an analysis by the Detroit Free Press, slightly more than half of the 26,000 Ford workers who have cast votes so far have voted against ratification. To be ratified, the deal will need a majority of votes from UAW workers.

Featured image of Louisville Assembly Plant from Google Maps.

Louisville Ford Workers Vote on New Contact Tuesday, Nov 17 2015 

Union workers at Ford’s two Louisville plants are casting votes on a new four-year contract on Tuesday — the same day the automaker unveiled design changes to the Ford Escape, which is manufactured in Louisville.

The contract terms negotiated by the United Auto Workers and Ford include an $8,500 signing bonus for union members and enhancements in health care plans. There are nearly 9,000 UAW workers between the Louisville Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant.

In addition, Ford has agreed to invest $9 billion in its U.S. production facilities, including $1.3 billion at the two Louisville plants. The Detroit automaker has not provided details on the upgrades.

The Louisville Assembly Plant produces the Ford Escape and the Lincoln MKC SUV.

Ford unveiled a redesign of the midsize Escape SUV in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Changes include a bigger grill to match other vehicles in the Ford lineup, such as the Fusion sedan and the Edge SUV. The company is also upgrading the Escape’s SYNC technology system to include smartphone app integration, allowing drivers to start, lock and unlock, and locate their cars with their phones.

Ford marketing manager Crystal Worthem said the Louisville plant is critical to the success of the Escape.

“The relationship with Louisville is critical,” she said. “It’s a fantastic plant and a fantastic relationship that Ford has developed and continues to cultivate.”

Local UAW officials did not return a request for comment ahead of the voting, which closes at 10 p.m. In a posting shared on the local union’s website, national UAW leaders praised the tentative contract, saying it provides “significant economic gains for all members.”

In a statement last week, Gov. Steve Beshear praised the proposed labor deal.

“The tentative agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers holds the potential for significant investment by Ford in both of its Kentucky plants,” he said. “I’m glad this agreement, while still developing, looks to continue Ford’s decades-long commitment to vehicle production and employment in the commonwealth.”

UPS Pilots’ Union Votes For Strike If Negotiations Fail Friday, Oct 23 2015 

The union representing UPS pilots says its members have voted overwhelmingly to give its executive board the discretion to initiate a strike if federally mediated contract negotiations fail.

The vote by the Louisville-based Independent Pilots Association was 2,252-8.

The vote doesn’t mean a strike is imminent. The two sides have been taking part in federally mediated negotiations. The union would have to request to be released from the talks before it could call a strike.

The pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract, which expired in 2011. The IPA represents 2,600 UPS pilots — roughly 1,700 of whom are based in Louisville.

IPA spokesman Brian Gaudet said the union is focused a variety of issues.

“It’s not like it’s down to one or two or even three things,” he said. “Again, our primary issue through the duration of these negotiations — that was punctuated with the loss of a crew in Birmingham during the summer of 2013 — is fatigue.   We need to improve these schedules and make it safer to fly with UPS.”

A two-person flight crew was killed when a UPS cargo plane crashed in Birmingham, Ala., in 2013. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the pilots had been given adequate rest.

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A UPS spokesman said the company places the highest emphasis on safety and crew rest, and UPS will continue to negotiate in good faith. He said it’s not unusual for contract talks to take several years.

“It is not at all uncommon, given the protections of the Railway Labor Act and the complexity of pilot contracts, for them to take several years to complete,” said UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot. “Our last pilot contract took about four years, our last contract with our aircraft mechanics took about four years.”

The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations with a federal mediator early next month.

Clinton Questions Plans For Health Insurers To Merge Wednesday, Oct 21 2015 

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning that planned mergers in the health insurance industry could tip the balance of power away from consumers.

The Democratic presidential candidate said Wednesday she has “serious concerns” with the proposed acquisition of Cigna by Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem, and plans by Aetna to acquire Medicare Advantage coverage provider Humana.

Clinton says the proposed merger between Anthem and Cigna could raise market concentration in New Hampshire to “excessive levels.” She says both would concentrate competition in other U.S. markets.

“As we see more consolidation in health care, among both providers and insurers, I’m worried that the balance of power is moving too far away from consumers,” Clinton said in a statement. “These mergers should be scrutinized very closely with an eye to preventing the undue concentration that they appear to create.”

A spokesman for Humana did not return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Cynthia Michener, a spokeswoman for Aetna, told Reuters the Humana deal would lead to “positive change” in the health insurance industry.

“Aetna is focused on evolving the health care industry to a new model,” she said.

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Anthem wants to buy Cigna for $48 billion while Aetna wants to acquire Humana for about $37 billion.

Shareholders for Aetna and Humana voted overwhelmingly to approve the deal on Monday. Humana has roughly 13,000 employees in Louisville.

The Justice Department is reviewing the deals to determine if the mergers would make the companies so dominant they could create a competitive imbalance.

LISTEN: After Key Vote, What’s Next For Humana Wednesday, Oct 21 2015 

On Monday, shareholders voted to approve a $37 billion deal to sell Louisville-based Fortune 500 company Humana to health insurer Aetna, which is headquartered in Connecticut.

The vote is another hurdle cleared for the companies, but shareholders aren’t the final arbiter; federal regulators are still reviewing the terms and aren’t expected to finish their work for months.

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That’s where complications could arise. The deal, which would make Aetna the second-largest health insurer in the U.S., is happening alongside a $54 billion takeover attempt of Cigna by insurer Anthem. Analysts say they believe federal regulators are considering the two in the broader context of health insurance consolidation.

WFPL News recently spoke with Courier-Journal business reporter Grace Schneider about what’s next for Humana workers — there are about 13,000 in Louisville — and what the vote means for the overall deal.

“They expect at least 13,000 people to be working here in Louisville on the government-related businesses: TRICARE, which is for the military, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid,” Schneider says. “And if those rolls grow, they expect the employment to grow.”

Chamber Hopes Aetna CEO Will Bring Assurances At Keynote Event Tuesday, Oct 20 2015 

The leader of Louisville’s chamber of commerce hopes the chief executive officer of Aetna will deliver a calming message during the Greater Louisville Inc. annual meeting next year.

Mark Bertolini, chairman and CEO of Aetna, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the event, set for January 2016.

“Hopefully he calms the waters a little bit,” said Kent Oyler, president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.

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A proposed buyout of Louisville-based health insurer Humana by Aetna gained shareholder approval earlier this week. The $37 billion deal still needs approval from federal regulators before it is finalized.

What will become of the some 13,000 Humana employees based in Louisville is yet to be seen.

“Our position is that Humana has indicated they would not lose jobs based on this acquisition, and that is what Aetna has said,” Oyler said.

Still, there may be some changes in the employment base.

Should the deal go through, the new company would locate its government business — including Medicaid and Medicare Advantage — here. That was reiterated in a recent SEC filing in response to shareholder lawsuits.

Mayor Greg Fischer has been optimistic about the future of the workforce here. And Aetna has projected that more than half of the newly merged company’s revenues would come from its government business.

Oyler said chamber officials approached Bertolini because they thought it would be a good time to introduce him to Louisville’s business leaders.

“I think it’s very important to get the person that’s going to play a very influential role in Louisville’s economic future in front of the business community,” he said.

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Last year, Keith McLoughlin, chief executive officer of Electrolux, served as the keynote speaker for the GLI annual meeting.

The meeting is set for Jan. 26 at the Palace Theater.

Canada Does It Better When It Comes To The Middle Class. Sunday, Apr 27 2014 

Canadians pay lower college tuition, cheaper medical care and less income inequality. What is the US doing wrong?

The Guardian
If you’re a proud member of America’s middle class, you may have been startled to learn last week that your after-tax income now makes you worse off than your Canadian neighbors to the north. They can now claim the title of the richest middle class on the planet.

Let’s take a look at the bombshell that the New York Times dropped in our midst last week. It’s based on data from the Luxembourg Income Study Database, and focuses squarely on median income. Read more.