Labor Faces a Tough Year at Table as Economy Stalls

Worsening economic conditions are forcing unions to reopen contracts, weigh givebacks
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Jan 5, 2009 6:45 AM CST
A pedestrian talks on his cell phone while walking past an AT&T store Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
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(Newser) – Organized labor is facing one of its toughest negotiating years in decades as the swooning economy prompts employers to seek givebacks and contract reopenings, reports the Wall Street Journal. With several major contracts expiring—AT&T, United Airlines, and Goodyear, among others—2009 could be punishing for labor.

Rising health care costs at struggling companies already have prompted concessions, and calls for more are on the way, experts say, from truck drivers to telecommunications. Leading the way are state and local governments, fighting to balance budgets as tax revenues fall off. Across the country, public-sector unions have offered to reduce scheduled pay increases to help.