Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Colleges Brace for Overtime Overhaul
By Melanie Trottman, March 22, 2016, The Wall Street Journal
Schools across the country are bracing for a surge in personnel costs as they prepare for the Obama administration’s overhaul to overtime-pay rules. The Labor Department proposal, due to be released in final form as soon as this summer, would make about 5 million U.S. workers newly eligible for overtime pay by more than doubling the salary threshold that generally determines who can and can’t get it. While the rule will apply to employers of all kinds, higher-education institutions say their missions and circumstances mean they’ll be hit in ways that other types of employers aren’t. (read article)

GOP congressmen say unions threaten cybersecurity
By Joe Davidson, March 22, 2016, Washington Post
Would a labor union undermine the cybersecurity of its members? Of course not, you say. But House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) think otherwise. Further widening the divide between representatives of the federal workforce and Republicans in Congress, they recently published an op-ed in The Washington Times with the headline: “How collective bargaining undermines cybersecurity.” The letter comes as the committee, which includes Palmer, has considered legislation that strikes at the heart of federal unions. Legislation questioning the “official time” practice of allowing labor officials to be paid by the government while doing union-related business has been approved by the panel. (read article)

Garland rulings consistently side with labor unions
By Dave Boyer, March 21, 2016, Washington Times 
An analysis of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland’s judicial decisions on labor disputes has found that he nearly always sides with unions. The onlabor.org website, a blog run by Harvard Law School professors Benjamin Sachs and Jack Goldsmith, found that Judge Garland has written the majority opinion in 22 cases that considered appeals of National Labor Relations Board decisions between 1997 and this year. He sided with the NLRB in 18 of those decisions, agreeing with the agency’s interpretation that an employer committed unfair labor practices. In all of those cases, the blog said, “deference to the NLRB has had favorable consequences for labor and unions. (read article)

Labor board changes boost union wins in workplace elections
By Sean Higgins, March 21, 2016, Washington Examiner
Numerous changes to union workplace election rules by the National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency, appear to be helping organized labor as the number of elections that unions are winning has risen sharply in the last few years. The labor board presided over 1,628 private-sector workplace elections in 2015, of which the petitioning unions won 1,128 for a 69-percent success rate, according to a report by Bloomberg BNA. That’s the highest win rate for organized labor in a decade and the second highest in the last two decades. Overall, the elections netted unions 62,000 new members. (read article)

Life as an Undercover Union Organizer
By Bourree Lam, March 21, 2016, The Atlantic
In the U.S., union membership has fallen significantly in the last 50 years. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the union-membership rate was 11 percent in 2015—roughly half of the proportion of Americans who belonged to a union in 1983. One of the ways unions organize workers is by salting—when a union organizer gets a job at a company with the intent of organizing workers from within. Salting is legal, but employers tend to not be too fond of people who do it. James Walsh became a salt after college with the intent to tell a first-person story about his experiences. (read article)

CTU’s April 1 strike legal or illegal? State board would decide
By Lauren Fitzpatrick, March 20, 2016, Chicago Sun Times
The Chicago Teachers Union has threatened to walk off the job on April 1 in a one-day strike, saying their employer unilaterally nixed their raises for education and experience. Chicago Public Schools insists that any walkout, as the two sides continue bargaining, would be illegal. CPS has informed teachers who call off without a doctor’s note or written proof of an emergency that they will not be paid that day. Despite the rhetoric, determining the legality of a strike at the end of next week isn’t up to either one. That call and any consequences will be decided by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, which is already overseeing a contract dispute between CPS and the CTU. One of the sides, likely CPS, would have to ask the board to step in, said John Brosnan, a spokesman for the labor relations board. (read article)

California’s pension debt puts it $175.1 billion in the red
By Dan Walters, March 18, 2016, Sacramento Bee 
Although its 2014-15 budget was balanced, California’s state government ended the fiscal year $175.1 billion in the red, thanks largely to state retirement obligations that had to be included in its balance sheet for the first time. Under new rules by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, state and local governments must list unfunded pension liabilities as debts alongside the more traditional bonds and other forms of debt. Counties and other local governments have been rolling out their annual financial reports this year, some showing multibillion-dollar deficits for pension obligations, so the state’s report was not unexpected. (read article)

California Public Faces Hurdles in Obtaining Information About Fired Cops
By Paul Kreuger, March 17, 2016, NBC 7 San Diego
In California, state law and labor contracts between the officers’ union and the cities they work for allow that information to remain secret, even after the officer is fired. NBC 7 Investigates was denied basic information about the firing of 11 San Diego Police Department officers from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Citing the “confidential” status of “personnel information,” SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman declined to name any of the officers or reveal why they were dismissed, even if the officer’s identity was not released. The Chief’s office said it cannot make that information public because it is specifically exempt from release under the California Public Records Act (Government Code section 6254 (c)), and the California Penal Code (Section 832.7). (read article)

Labor for Bernie Activists Take the Political Revolution into Their Unions
By Rand Wilson and Dan DiMaggio, March 17, 2016, Labor Notes
Last June a small group of volunteers kicked off a network called “Labor for Bernie.” Their goal was to build support inside their unions for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Since then, Sanders has come a long way—racking up primary wins in nine states, including a major upset in Michigan. The all-volunteer Labor for Bernie operation has come a long way too, growing to include tens of thousands of union members.So far they’ve helped Sanders win the endorsements of more than 80 local unions and four national or international unions, including the Postal Workers (APWU), Communications Workers (CWA), and National Nurses United. (read article)

Donald Trump’s Working-Class Appeal Is Starting To Freak Out Labor Unions
By Sam Stein and Dave Jamieson, March 17, 2016, Huffington Post
Over the course of five weeks, Working America, the non-union affiliate of the AFL-CIO labor federation, did extensive canvassing in union-dense, blue-collar areas of Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They called it a “front porch focus group.” The idea was simply to listen — to let likely 2016 voters sound off about their thoughts and concerns headed into the presidential election. What they discovered, among other things, was a lot of support for Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner. For months, this enthusiastic backing of the obnoxious billionaire had generally baffled the chattering class — not to mention the GOP and Democratic establishment. But to Working America canvassers, it made plenty of sense. (read article)

Where Would Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland Stand on Labor Issues?
By David Moberg, March 17, 2016, In These Times
Despite hardline Senate Republican opposition to meeting with, let alone voting on, any potential replacement for recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, on Tuesday, President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia after his recent, unexpected death. Garland is a highly qualified, well-respected judge, first appointed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton to the D.C. Circuit Court and confirmed by a vote of 76 to 23 in the Senate. Garland has been under consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court previously; he has a reputation for judicial restraint (quite unlike Scalia’s highly ideological attempt to use the Supreme Court to re-write the nation’s law). It’s hard to give him a clear political label, but Garland does not seem to be as progressive on workers’ rights issues as Scalia was reactionary. (read article)

Ethics of pension ruling questioned
By David Garrick, March 16, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune
New ethical questions are being raised about a recent state labor board ruling against San Diego’s 2012 pension cutbacks. The man who wrote the ruling is a former San Diego labor leader who publicly opposed the city’s voter-approved measure to reduce city employee retirement benefits, a potential conflict that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith says highlights that the ruling was based on politics instead of the law. An attorney for the state labor board said “there is no reason to believe any improper conduct occurred” and that previous efforts to help pass or defeat proposed laws aren’t grounds for recusal or disqualification. (read article)

Delaware House panel OKs pro-union bill
By Matt Bittle, March 16, 2016, Delaware State News
More than 100 people packed the House chamber Wednesday as the Labor Committee debated a Democratic-backed bill that gives unions greater control over state-funded construction projects. The committee voted to release the legislation to the floor, despite facing a hostile audience that booed at the meeting’s closure. Rep. Michael Ramone, R-Pike Creek Valley, was the only committee member to vote against releasing House Bill 283. The bill is officially known as the Veterans, Skilled Workers and Community Workforce Act. It mandates 30 percent of workers on state projects come from the representative district where the work takes place and also would require 5 percent of the workforce be made up of military veterans. (read article)

Union Election Analysis Shows Evidence of NLRB Thumb on Scale
By LaborPains.org Team, March 15, 2016, Center for Union Facts
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), stocked with appointees loyal to Big Labor, has made a series of rulings and procedural changes that have eased the ability of union organizers to win unionization elections over the past few years. Bloomberg BNA conducted an analysis of union elections from 2015, and found that the board’s favors to Big Labor are paying handsomely for Richard Trumka and his cronies. BNA also found that the trend of unions winning more often when bargaining units were smaller continued. (read article)

Labor Secretary Perez Takes Time Out to Campaign for Hillary, Unions
By Bill McMorris, March 15, 2016, Washington Free Beacon
Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, is coming under fire from critics and union watchdogs for joining a union-backed campaign to double the minimum wage on the taxpayer’s dime. Perez travelled across the country from Detroit to Milwaukee to lend his support to labor giant Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its Fight for $15 campaign, according to a release from conservative research firm America Rising Squared. Brian Rogers, the group’s executive director, said that the frequent travel raised questions about Perez’s political ambitions and work as a regulator. (read article)

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