Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Labor unions, environmentalists are biggest opponents of Gov. Brown’s affordable housing plan
By Liam Dillion, May 24, 2016, The San Diego Union Tribune
Powerful opponents have emerged to fight Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to streamline affordable housing development — and their main reason isn’t about building homes. A coalition of labor and environmental organizations has come out against the proposal, arguing that the governor’s plan would harm public health because it allows housing projects to sidestep the state’s premier environmental law. “It would be a disaster for local government, local communities, the environment and the citizens of California,” said a May 18 letter to state lawmakers from the State Building & Construction Trades Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other labor and environmental groups. Brown’s plan would exempt urban housing projects that reserve a certain percentage of their development for low-income residents from detailed local government review. By making it easier to build houses, Brown believes the state can reduce California’s major housing supply deficit, which is considered the primary driver of the broad home affordability crisis. (read article)

Union Head Asks Members To Withhold Donations To Democratic Party
By Russell Blair, May 24, 2016, Hartford Courant
In the wake of a budget deal that drew a strong rebuke from unions, the state’s largest labor organization is asking its members to withhold donations to the state Democratic Party, including in the form of purchasing tickets to its annual fundraising dinner next week. Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, stopped short of saying she was calling for a boycott of the dinner, but said the group would be sitting out this year. They will instead focus on raising money for their own political action committee and are preparing a separate fundraising dinner. “Once we write that check to the party, we don’t have control over which candidates they work for,” Pelletier said. She said the move was patterned after what labor organizations are doing at the national level. (read article)

California Teamsters Oppose Marijuana Initiative
By Mike Adams, May 24, 2016, High Times
While it may sound a bit strange for the nation’s leading labor union to take a stand against any industry that promises to create thousands of new jobs and generate millions of dollars in new revenue, the California Teamsters recently said that the union does not support a ballot initiative aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana because it would cut its members out of the loop. The Teamsters union, an organization looking out for the interests of truckers and warehouse workers, has donated a significant amount of money to an anti-drug campaign that is trying to prevent marijuana from being legalized in California this November. A recent report from the Intercept shows the Teamsters recently dropped $25,000 into a fund supporting the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies—the same lobbying effort being financed by law enforcement and prison groups all across the state. (read article)

Boston tourism official indicted in connection with union extortion probe
By Laurel J. Sweet and Bob McGovern, May 24, 2016,  Boston Herald
Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s top tourism official was arrested this morning on a federal indictment charging him in connection with “union-related extortion” of the Boston Calling music festival production company, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office said, in the latest federal labor probe tied to the mayor’s office. Brissette is charged with extorting Boston Calling’s production company to hire union rather than non-union workers for the September 2014 festival. At least one other City Hall employee was involved in pressuring Boston Calling, according to the feds. (read article)

New York Uber Labor Agreement Bashed By Outside Union
By Connor D. Wolf, May 23, 2016, Daily Caller
A New York City taxi driver union bashed the machinists union Monday for reaching a contract deal with Uber over its lack of collective bargaining rights. The International Association of Machinists formed the Independent Drivers Guild to represent an estimated 35,000 drivers. The guild will provide drivers the ability to organize together but does not come with the full protections of a union with collective bargaining rights. New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai told Reuters the deal was a “historic betrayal.” Uber and other sharing-economy ventures have had a troubled relationship with the labor movement. The Service Employees International Union and Airbnb almost reached a deal but it fell through after receiving external pressure from other unions. (read article)

Labor unions oppose Puerto Rico debt-relief bill
By Vicki Needham, May 24, 2016, The Hill
Seven of the nation’s largest labor unions on Friday urged House lawmakers to oppose a bill aimed at helping Puerto Rico restructure its $72 billion in debt. The broad range of unions, including the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), said that the reworked fiscal measure would hurt workers on the island. In a letter to House lawmakers, the unions wrote that the bill “provides no economic stimulus, and in fact takes money out of the economy by reducing the minimum wage and overtime protections” for the more than 50,000 union members they represent in Puerto Rico. They urged Congress to “get back to work immediately to provide real solutions that allow Puerto Rico to negotiate a feasible debt restructuring plan, protects Puerto Rican workers and retirees, and provides economic stimulus so that the territory may achieve economic growth.” A markup of the reworked bill, which has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and from the White House, will start Tuesday evening with opening statements. (read article)

‘Gigantic’ corporate tax hike likely headed to Oregon voters
By Kristena Hansen, May 23, 2016, The Herald
A massive $2.8 billion annual corporate tax hike is likely headed to Oregon voters in November, a move that could create the most aggressive tax climate for big business of any state in the nation. The ballot proposal comes as raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations is at the forefront of a national debate — especially among Democratic progressives such as Bernie Sanders and much of Oregon’s electorate— about how to close the gaping economic disparities between rich and poor in a post-Great Recession era. The proposal’s labor-union backers are just one step from getting the measure on the ballot after submitting 130,000 signatures to state elections officials last week. They say it would tap a tiny portion of Oregon businesses while bringing a huge boost to cash-strapped public education, health care and senior services. But a long-awaited state analysis, released Monday, found the proposed tax hike would come with major pitfalls for wages, jobs and consumers’ pocketbooks. (read article)

The Union Minimum Wage Windfall
By Michael Saltsman, May 19, 2016, The Wall Street Journal
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s $15-an-hour minimum wage into law in April—it will rise to that figure by 2022-23 from $10 today—he wasn’t merely advancing organized labor’s political agenda. He was giving its members a substantial pay raise, no collective bargaining required. This sort of direct union pay benefit from a minimum-wage hike is unusual. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the median weekly earnings of a union member in 2015 were $980, or more than three times what an employee would earn working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Union support for a minimum-wage boost that doesn’t directly affect its members is motivated by other factors. Taxpayers in California are on the hook to fund pay raises for the roughly 45% of affected employees who work in the public sector. According to the Sacramento Bee, the state’s Department of Finance pegs the salary cost for state-employee pay raises alone at $235 million in fiscal year 2022-23. (read article)

The Democrats’ Green/Blue Divide
By Steven Malanga, May 19, 2016, City Journal
Blue-collar union leaders—already furious over the Obama administration’s scuttling of the Keystone XL pipeline and Hillary Clinton’s vow to shut down the coal industry—took another hit earlier this month, when the Democratic Party announced the formation of For Our Future PAC, a voter-turnout initiative in partnership with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has long waged war against projects that the trade and construction unions hoped would create jobs. The New York Times portrayed the reaction to Steyer’s involvement in the new $50 million super PAC as a “rift between labor and environmentalists” within the Democratic Party, but that’s nothing new: trade unions and environmentalists have long been at odds. (read article)

Autoworkers Union Expresses Support For Whoever Isn’t Trump
By Connor D. Wolf, May 19, 2016, Daily Caller
Leadership within the autoworkers union told reporters Thursday that it will support whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is over Republican pick Donald Trump. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has remained one of the few national unions to not endorse anyone for president. UAW President Dennis Williams said union leadership will support either Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders depending on who wins the nomination.“The officers and I have had a lot of discussions about both Hillary and Bernie because both of them bring a lot to the table,” Williams said. (read article)

Unions Squabble about New Super PAC
By LaborPains.org/team, May 18, 2016, Labor Pains
Some of America’s major labor unions have decided to form a (surprise, surprise) pro-Democrat super PAC for the 2016 election. Led by the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and National Education Association (NEA), the so-called For Our Future PAC is projected to raise about $50 million to boost the Democratic nominee—with unions free to opt in for $1 million. The new super PAC would not be the first funded by labor unions. But it represents a departure because in the past union-run super PACs have been funded almost entirely by the unions themselves. Unions have donated frequently to liberal super PACs outside the labor movement, but non-labor donors have seldom contributed to union-run super PACs. The new super PAC is intended to reverse that flow. (read article)

New labor rule spawns fight over attorney-client privilege
By Pat Murphy, May 18, 2016, New England In-House
Management-side lawyers claim the new federal rules bolstering disclosure requirements for third parties that advise employers in opposing union-organizing campaigns impermissibly interfere with the attorney-client relationship. The U.S. Department of Labor last month announced long-awaited amendments to its so-called “persuader rule,” which apply to certain arrangements, agreements and payments made on or after July 1. But Boston lawyer Michael F. Kraemer, who represents employers in a variety of labor matters, including union avoidance, said he thinks the true objective of the rule has nothing to do with transparency. “The stated reasons for the [persuader rule] change are hogwash,” Kraemer said. “This is all about negating attorneys providing advice in union avoidance situations, and if the rule [is found to be] valid, it may very well do that.” (read article)

Local reaction to new overtime pay rule
By Dennis Valera, May 18, 2016, LocalNews8
A local labor union is on board with the Obama administration’s finalized overtime pay rule, while a local economist can see the pros and cons to it. As the business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 648, David Anderson always makes sure overtime is included on his workers’ contracts. Having been a single dad and at times relying on overtime pay, it’s easy for him to support overtime pay. “If you work eight hours a day, you should get eight hours pay. If you work 10 hours a day, you should get 10 hours pay,” he said. The U.S. Department of Labor finalized a new rule that raises the salary threshold at which workers are exempt from overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. It goes into effect on Dec. 1 and the Labor Department estimates an additional 4.2 million workers will be affected by this change. (read article)

CEO-worker pay gap stays wide despite wage hikes: unions
By Ross Kerber, May 17, 2016, Reuters
Chief executive officers of S&P 500 companies on average made 335 times more money than U.S. rank-and-file workers last year, down from a multiple of 373 in 2014, according to a union study released on Tuesday. The figures are issued annually by the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. federation of labor unions. Pay disparities, which have persisted despite a steady U.S. economy that has reduced the joblessness rate to around 5 percent and raised wages somewhat, have fueled political debate even as large institutional investors support most executive compensation plans. The average production and non-supervisory worker made around $36,900 last year, up from roughly $36,000 in 2014, according to the AFL-CIO, based on U.S. government reports. Union leaders said the figures showed how pay decisions do not favor the average worker. “The income inequality that exists in this country is a disgrace,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. (read article)

Union Leaders: Stop Fucking Up
By Hamilton Nolan, May 17, 2016, Gawker
As this campaign has worn on, there have been increasingly worried grumblings from America’s labor unions that a significant chunk of their members might peel off and vote for Donald Trump. Major unions have decided to counter that prospect with a large, coordinated $50 million-plus campaign to both turn out the labor vote and attack Trump. The plan is for a coalition of unions, including the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, to fund the campaign, along with billionaire Democratic climate change activist Tom Steyer. Until now a bunch of building trade unions have sent angry letters to the AFL-CIO, which they are part of, objecting to the involvement of Tom Steyer in this anti-Trump project. (read article)

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