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Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Google Express workers want to unionize for higher pay
By Kia Kokalitcheva, July 27, 2015, Fortune
More than 140 workers at Google Express, the tech giant’s same-day shopping delivery service, are seeking union representation from the Teamsters, the national labor union that already represents shuttle bus drivers for Facebook, Apple, and Yahoo, according to USA Today. Google Express warehouse workers are asking for better working conditions and treatment on the job, along with higher wages than the $13 or $14 an hour many are making. Drivers are not part of the unionization push. But unlike contract workers for startups like delivery service Postmates, and ride hailing apps Uber and Lyft, Google Express workers are employed by an outside agency, Adecco. The workers’ biggest complaint is Adecco’s employment cap that requires them to leave after two years. (read article)

Walker hits Clinton over union ties
By Jesse Byrnes, July 28, 2015, The Hill
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker criticized Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Tuesday for favoring “big-labor special interests.” In an op-ed for The Des Moines Register, the GOP presidential candidate said that Clinton’s campaign “has been defined by closed-door meetings and carefully choreographed events designed to shield her” from voters. “Much of Clinton’s time was spent in meetings with union bosses,” Walker wrote, referring to Clinton’s visit to the Hawkeye State over the weekend. “The fact that Clinton is shunning everyday Iowans in favor of big-labor special interests sends a clear message about where her true loyalties lie.” Clinton allies hit back, saying Walker “repeatedly prioritizes the needs of billionaires” over working families. “[H]is failed leadership in Wisconsin has led to stagnant job creation, a weak economy and massive deficits. No wonder he wants to talk about someone else,” Adrienne Watson, communications director for the pro-Clinton group Correct The Record, said in a statement sent to The Hill. (read article)

Illinois On The Edge: Rauner Might Use National Guard If State Workers Strike
By Connor D. Wolf, July 27, 2015, Daily Caller
With Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and public sector unions unable to come to a labor agreement, some fear the National Guard might be deployed if state workers strike. “It’s a terribly impractical and, in my opinion, inadvisable idea,” Republican state Rep. David Harris told The Southern Illinoisan. “You’re going to replace paper-pushers — with all due respect to bureaucrats — with people who carry M-16s and .45 pistols?” Harris, who was once a senior Army officer, said he would advise Rauner against such a move. The concerns first arose last week from a memo sent out by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). In the memo, which was sent to its members, the union said it was concerned the governor would use the National Guard as well as retired state workers to keep the state government open in the event of a strike. (read article)

Labor union gives Sanders rousing reception
By David Lightman, July 28, 2015, San Luis Obispo Tribune
Bernie Sanders wowed the audience at at a labor union conference Tuesday, calling them “brothers and sisters” and vowing to push an agenda they’ll like. “A strong middle class is synonymous with a strong trade union movement,” the Vermont U.S. senator told the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Business Agents conference at a Washington hotel. The Democratic presidential candidate vowed a “political revolution” that says to billionaires “you can’t have it all.” He pledged to push a “major federal jobs program that puts millions of people back to work.” He’d have the government invest $1 trillion over five years to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. (read article)

The Problem With The White House Threat To Veto The REINS Act
By Clyde Reins Crews Jr., July 28, 2015, Forbes
The House this week, and later the Senate, will take up legislation to require that Congress approve all big federal agency regulations, those with $100 million in annual economic impact. Called the REINS Act, or Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny, President Barack Obama promised a veto of the bill. Versions of the legislation go back more than 20 years. Back when it was dubbed the Congressional Accountability Act, the measure was actually more aptly named. That’s because Congress never should have delegated to unelected bureaus the sweeping lawmaking power they now possess, and this legislation shouldn’t even be necessary. But it did improperly delegate, and it is necessary. Meanwhile, the claims about the regulatory enterprise made by the administration in objecting to this bill need to be set straight. Below is the White House “Statement of Administration Policy” on the REINS Act (H.R. 367), and some quick observations in response. (read article)

Why union leaders want L.A. to give them a minimum wage loophole
By Peter Jamison, July 27, 2015, Los Angeles Times
One of the most divisive issues that Los Angeles City Council members expect to confront when they return this week from a summer recess will be a proposal by labor leaders to exempt unionized workers from the city’s new minimum wage. The push for the loophole, which began in the final days before the law’s passage, caused a backlash rarely seen in this pro-union city and upended perceptions of labor’s role in the fight to raise pay for the working poor. Union activists were among the most stalwart backers of L.A.’s ordinance raising the wage to $15 by 2020, and argued against special consideration for nonprofits and small businesses. Rusty Hicks, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the union waiver would be a routine protection against challenges to the ordinance under federal labor law. “This is about staying consistent with previous provisions and crafting something that will withstand legal scrutiny and delay,” Hicks said in May. In California, he added, “we’ve seen every city that has passed a minimum wage include this kind of a provision.” A Times review of other cities’ minimum wage laws, as well as interviews with labor leaders and legal experts, suggests the truth is more complicated. (read article)

Walker’s anti-union crusade pivotal to White House run, damaging to labor
By Bob Secter, July 27, 2015, Chicago Tribune
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shapes his presidential campaign to appeal to the GOP’s deeply conservative base, perhaps nothing is more fundamental than playing up his reputation as a union slayer. “Since I’ve been governor, we took on the unions and won,” Walker proclaimed in kicking off his campaign earlier this month. “If our reforms can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in America.” In little over four years as governor, Walker has aggressively succeeded in diminishing public worker unions that were long a powerful economic and political force in Wisconsin, the first state to grant them collective bargaining rights more than a half-century ago. Walker’s anti-union record formed the launching pad for his push for the White House and has provided inspiration to other Republican governors, none more so than Illinois’ Bruce Rauner, who boasted to GOP audiences during his campaign that “I’ve been studying with Scott Walker.” Walker is bringing his campaign to downstate and Chicago on Monday. Indeed, the current budget stalemate in Springfield is rooted in part in Rauner’s insistence that any deal include a Wisconsin-like end to collective bargaining rights for public workers as well as a diminishment of clout and influence among private-sector unions. (read article)

The Future of Work in the Uber Economy
By Bill Moyers, July 27, 2015, Bill Moyers.com
The ride-sharing company Uber, besides being a rapidly growing global phenomenon, has also become the poster child for the independent contractor loophole. In a few short years, the company claims that it has spread to some 300 cities and 58 countries, striking fear into the hearts of taxi companies everywhere. Its market valuation is jaw-dropping—at $41 billion and growing, it’s higher than Facebook’s valuation at a similar point in its growth, has surpassed Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors ($34 billion) and is fast approaching the auto kings themselves, such as Ford Motor (valued at $58 billion). Not bad for a company that doesn’t actually make anything or own any cars, or directly employ any drivers — since the drivers are all treated as independent contractors. (read article)

Time is now for VA Accountability Act
By Christopher Neiweem, July 27, 2015, The Hill
Those who have violated America’s sacred trust with our veterans must be held accountable, which is why IAVA supports H.R. 1994 — the VA Accountability Act of 2015 — introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). Opposed by the labor union representing federal workers, the union argues that by reducing the appeals period for a removed VA employee, it creates an “at-will” employment scenario for which federal workers cannot receive due process. Further, the union believes this law would result in talented potential VA employees avoiding careers at the department for fear they would not receive fair treatment under the law or less protection there than at other federal agencies. (read article)

Republican bill targets unions’ power
By Sean Higgins, July 26, 2015, Washington Examiner
Republican lawmakers are taking aim at organized labor by re-introducing legislation this week to strictly limit union power to force dues from workers who oppose the union’s political agenda. The Employee Rights Act, scheduled to be introduced Monday by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., also includes several changes to the election rules for private-sector workplace organizing, making it harder for unions to win — and hold onto — recognition without genuine majority support from workers. “Our economy has undergone a significant transformation over recent years, as innovation and technological development have fundamentally reshaped the American workplace. Despite these fast-moving changes, Congress last overhauled our labor laws more than 50 years ago. Today, these outdated laws allow unaccountable union bosses to hinder growth and disregard employees’ rights. That’s why I’m introducing the Employee Rights Act, which includes a number of important reforms,” Hatch told the Washington Examiner. (read article)

America’s biggest labor union may have just hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign
By Luchian Lopez, July 25, 2015, Reuters
In a possible setback for Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO’s political committee has recommended the nation’s largest labor union federation delay endorsing a candidate for the 2016 presidential race as it seeks to push her to be more supportive of its policies on issues such as trade and wages. The committee on Monday voted unanimously to support the proposal, three union sources told Reuters. The recommendation will be presented at a July 29-30 meeting of the executive council of the federation, which will make the final decision. It could reject the recommendation and still go ahead with an endorsement, though one of the sources said that is unlikely. (read article)

Unions count on Legislature to move their agenda
By Dan Walters, July 24, 2015, San Diego Union-Tribune
Only a sixth of California’s wage earners are members of labor unions, but they carry a very big stick in politics. Unions are the largest single source of legislative campaign funds in the state, a recent Sacramento Bee compilation revealed, and among Democrats, their hegemony is even more pronounced. Not surprisingly, therefore, a Legislature dominated by labor-backed Democrats sees a large number of union-sponsored bills. This year is no exception, and when legislators return to Sacramento in August for the final month of their 2015 session, they will find dozens of union bills awaiting disposition. A small sample… (read article)

Santa Clara Co.’s Largest Employee Union Ratifies Contract
By Susan C. Schena, July 23, 2015, Gilroy Patch
Santa Clara County’s largest employee union on Wednesday ratified a labor contract reached with the county late last month, union officials said. The four-year tentative contract with Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents more than 9,000 county workers, includes an annual 4.5 percent increase in wages for the first year and 3 percent annual increase for the remaining three years, union officials said. Employees would not have to contribute more to their pension or health care plans, according to union officials. On June 25, the union voted to hold a strike on June 30, alleging that the county was not addressing multiple concerns surrounding unfair labor practices, economic inequality, public safety and an insufficient amount of workers. Four days later, the county obtained a court injunction that stopped roughly 500 essential workers, which included emergency dispatchers, social workers and jail employees, from participating in the strike. The county and union reached a tentative agreement on June 30, hours before the strike was scheduled to begin. (read article)

Harassment Ruled a Protected Union Activity
By Mary Theroux, July 23, 2015, Independent Institute
In an advisory to employers, the California Chamber of Commerce provides this not-very-useful recap of a recent National Labor Relations Board decision: Employers have an obligation to investigate and take appropriate corrective action for employee misconduct; at the same time, employees have a protected right to discuss union activities. In a 2012 decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) put employers between a rock and a hard place when these two issues intersected: If one employee harassed another in the course of discussing union activities, the employer could not discipline the harasser. However, the employer was then open to a lawsuit from the harassment victim for failing to act. Recently, the NLRB issued a new decision opening the door slightly for employers to take corrective action against this type of harassment. An employer may terminate an employee for lying about misconduct, even if the underlying behavior constituted a protected union activity (Fresenius USA Manufacturing, Inc. and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 445. Case 02– CA–039518 June 24, 2015). So, in other words, the employer remains in a Catch-22: subject to a lawsuit for failing to protect an employee from the harassment of another who can work “discussing union activities” into his or her harassment. (read article)

Rules govern union access to farms for ‘heat sweeps’
By Bryan Little and Carl Borden, July 22, 2015, AgAlert
The United Farm Workers labor union has recently engaged in a flurry of activity. UFW public communications call these actions “heat sweeps during harvest,” meaning they may continue throughout the summer and fall. Key to this activity is taking access to California farms. How, you may wonder, can UFW gain access to farms? It can do so under a regulation adopted by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board promptly after its creation in 1975. The California Supreme Court upheld the access regulation in 1976. Under the regulation, UFW is allowed worksite access to farm employees by providing their employer with a copy of a Notice of Intent to Take Access, or an NA form, and then filing with the ALRB two copies of the NA, along with proof that the copy was provided to the employer. The access regulation was created on the premise that it would protect the organizational rights of employees and labor unions, but the regulation does not limit its application to situations where a union’s purpose is to try to organize employees or otherwise seek their support. Its operative language merely says, in effect, that a union may take access to “meet and talk with employees.” Indeed, the ALRB NA form does not require a union to declare any purpose for seeking access. (read article)