Born in Ireland but Made in the USA … of Brick and Block

By Courts Monitor publisher, Sara Corcoran. Originally published in CityWatch LA.


President of the Bricklayers Union, James Boland, seen here with Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran.

President of the Bricklayers Union, James Boland, seen here with Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran.

As President of the Bricklayers Union in Washington D.C., James Boland, an immigrant from Ireland, is proud of his heritage and history with labor. As I took a brief stroll around his office, I noticed photos of prominent politicians, spanning generations and a 49ers football helmet that caught my attention.  As a former resident of San Francisco, President Boland got his start in the bricklaying world like every other member, as a former bricklayer. Having worked his way from the bottom to union management, Mr. Boland has a firm grasp of the issues that are facing the U.S. construction industry. 

“The Bricklayers Union is important to me because I’ve spent my entire life as a member,” he noted. “As the longest union in continuous existence,” he continued, “the Bricklayers Union is very distinguished and has great persistence…The Union formed when the Baltimore and Philadelphia bricklayers locals merged in the mid-19th century to improve working conditions and relocated to Washington DC.” 

Read the entire interview here.

Court Funds Tied To Worker-Pension Increases



In case anyone needed the top budget issue explained, reporter Katie Orr at Capital Public Radio makes it clear: “At the most basic level, California’s budget allocates money to state programs for the year. But Gov. Jerry Brown also wants to use it to push his agenda.” She notes that “… Brown is proposing a funding increase of $160 million for the trial courts this year, but wants court employees to contribute more to their pensions.”
Other experts equate tying funds to pension contributions is like using federal money to increase the age for legal consumption of alcohol and other issues. She does not include an immediate response from labor or employees who might think it odd to tie their pensions to keeping courts open.

Brown Budget Targets Employee Pensions

Court-community reviews of Gov. Brown’s new budget are mixed, with state Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye terming it “encouraging” in a statement but labor advocates worried about plans to increase court employees contributions to their pensions. Meanwhile, along with a $60 million increase from his previous plans, Gov. Brown is framing the budget as a two-year process, meaning some real decisions might come after his Nov. re-election bid.
CCM staff photo

CCM staff photo

Discussions are no doubt being held to figure out what the next four weeks will bring. But the Contra Costa Times is among those noting lawmaker support for more courts funding, reporting that “… the chief justice had backing from state legislators, who recently proposed restoring more than $200 million in court funding in the upcoming budget year. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and the judiciary committee chairman, said Brown’s courts budget is still ‘far short’ of the hundreds of millions of dollars it needs to handle its caseloads and keep courthouses open and running.”
Missing from the discussion so far: re-opening any of the closed courts or re-hiring any of the nearly 4,000 court workrs laid off over the past few years.

June Budget Challenges Union Talks

With next month’s state budget deadlines looming, several union contracts remain in limbo – including the “California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment” group. If they miss next month’s deadline for an agreement-and-funding decision, they will have to wait until August to resume discussions. Union officials told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that an unexpected shift in top management has delayed the agreement, but that time is growing short.
Missing the deadline this year would be especially irritating, not only because the state has a surplus budget for the first time in years but because many state-worker unions are getting raises that kick in July 1.

Gov. Brown Vetoes Limits On Court Outsourcing


In a move bound to be greeted as anti-labor by union leadership, California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have required any courthouse-job outsourcing to include proof that it would actually save money. In effect, unions representing court workers had argued that outsourcing simply moved public money into private pockets.
In his veto announcement Monday, Gov. Brown said the bill went too far and required “… California’s courts to meet overly-detailed and — in some cases — nearly impossible requirements when entering into or renewing certain contracts.” He also said “flexibility” was part of his decision.
As Courthouse News noted in its coverage, the bill was primarily backed by the California Court Reporters Association and the Service Employees International Union and was considered a response to Placer County Superior Court’s firing of its entire court reporter staff and replacement with private contractors. Read the CN story here.