Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

SEIU uses federal inspections to target Houston small business
By Jillian Kay Melchior, March 25, 2014, National Review
Union organizers are showing up at Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections of an open-shop business that has been targeted by the country’s second-largest union. Professional Janitorial Service, the largest non-union janitorial company in Houston, and the Service Employees International Union haven’t gotten along for seven years. The company currently is suing SEIU for $9 million, alleging that the union has repeatedly slandered it. On three recent occasions, SEIU representatives accompanied federal safety inspectors to examine PJS cleaning sites, said Evelyn Meza, the human resources manager for PJS. The inspections resulted in fines. Such an organized-labor presence on OSHA inspections at non-union businesses is becoming more commonplace, owing to a rule clarification quietly drafted in February 2013. Responding to a union inquiry, OSHA decided that third-party agents who are not affiliated with the employees or the federal government are now allowed to tag along on safety inspections. (read article)

Union ‘mercenary’ group enters Seattle minimum wage debate
By Dustin Hurst, March 25, 2014, Watchdog.org
As Seattle and its leaders contemplate raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, a group that one critic dubs a “union mercenary” has entered the fray. The Olympia-based Freedom Foundation revealed last week that the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a federally registered nonprofit organization based in New York City, is conducting surveys in the Seattle area, a sign the group is about to enter the battle over the higher wage proposal. ROC isn’t a labor union, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have nearly identical goals as organized labor. ROC poses as a pro-worker, anti-corporation group that seeks workplace justice. (read article)

Will Northwestern University football unionize?
By Sara Ganim, March 25, 2014, CNN
Northwestern University’s president emeritus said that if the players on its football team are successful at forming a union, he could see the prestigious private institution giving up Division I football. Henry Bienen, speaking last week at the annual conference for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said, “If we got into collective bargaining situations, I would not take for granted that the Northwesterns of the world would continue to play Division I sports.” Bienen, who was president of Northwestern from 1995 to 2009, made his comments during a panel discussion that included a presentation from Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association and the man who helped organize former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter to lead a unionization attempt before the National Labor Relations Board. (read article)

NLRB Revives ‘Ambush Election’ Rule to Thwart Opposition to Union Campaigns
By Carl Horowitz, March 24, 2014, National Legal and Policy Center
NLRB logoA fair election campaign operates on the principle of a “level playing field” – while neither side is guaranteed victory, each should have an equal opportunity to state its case. The National Labor Relations Board has an unusual interpretation. On February 5, the NLRB reissued a rule that would curtail the ability of nonunion employers and employees to oppose union organizing drives. This ‘quickie’ or ‘ambush’ election rule, is a near rewrite of its 2011 rule change that briefly made it onto the books before being struck down on procedural grounds by a federal court in May 2012. Here, as before, the allowable time frame for opponents of a union drive to express their views would be reduced from 42 days to as few as 10 days. Union officials say the regulation promotes fairness. Yet the effect, and one suspects the intent, is an erosion of union opponent free speech. (read article)

Gov. Jerry Brown amasses $19.7 million for reelection bid
By Patrick McGreevy and Seema Mehta, March 24, 2014, Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has built a war chest of $19.7 million to fund his bid for an unprecedented fourth term, easily eclipsing the money raised by his challengers, according to new campaign reports filed with the state. Brown has raised nearly $3 million this year and spent nearly $95,000, his report shows. Top contributors include several labor unions, Netflix Inc. co-founder Reed Hastings, Napster co-founder Sean Parker and several descendants of the founders of the Gap Inc., the clothing company where Brown’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, was once an executive. Each gave $27,200, the maximum allowed by law. Among the governor’s primary challengers, Republican Neel Kashkari reported bringing in $1.3 million in the two months since he kicked off his campaign. He has $903,478 in his political account, according to his filings. (read article)

Labor unions continue fight against Illinois gubernatorial candidate Rauner
By Kurt Erickson, March 24, 2014, North West Indiana Times
Although Illinois’ public employee labor unions failed to snuff out the candidacy of Bruce Rauner last Tuesday, their ability to generate votes for runner-up Kirk Dillard showed they are not a force to be trifled with. In the days leading up to the primary election, poll numbers showed Dillard well back of the wealthy, anti-union Rauner. But, the Hinsdale Republican nearly closed the gap as the returns flowed in. Key to the effort was convincing Democrats to take Republican ballots in order to vote against Rauner. That made for some potentially squeamish moments at polling places across the state, where voters know the election judges and the election judges know the voters’ habits from years of handing them ballots. A key issue driving the cross-over votes were public employee pension changes. Rauner has campaigned on a platform of ending state pensions as we know them and replacing them with 401(k)-style retirement plans. (read article)

Cleveland area’s major labor unions support sin tax renewal
By Jay Miller, March 24, 2014, Crains Cleveland Business
The area’s major labor unions are backing the sin tax. In a press release, Keep Cleveland Strong, the campaign supporting passage of Issue 7, announced that both the Cleveland Building & Construction Trades Council and the North Shore Federation of Labor are backing the renewal of the tax on alcohol and cigarettes. The tax has paid for the construction, and will continue to pay for maintenance, of Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, the two sports facilities that make up the Gateway complex. “Those buildings were built by union labor, and the repairs going forward will be done by union men and women,” said Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the North Shore Federation. “It means jobs, but it also means that we will protect and preserve our very valuable reputation as a major-league city — which is important on multiple levels.” The federation is comprised of 146 labor unions. (read article)

UC hospital strike averted by tentative contract agreement
By Larry Gordon, March 23, 2014, Los Angeles Times
A strike planned this week by 13,000 UC hospital technical workers was averted with the announcement Sunday of a tentative four-year contract agreement. The pact between UC and the AFSCME 3299 union concludes more than a year of tense negotiations and means that UC’s five major medical centers and numerous health clinics around the state will operate as normal Monday. Up until the agreement, the union for respiratory therapists, operating room technicians and radiology workers had threatened to start a five-day strike Monday and the university had been prepared to hire replacement workers, potentially costing millions of dollars. The last-minute settlement after a burst of final talks echoes what happened last month with another unit of the same union. That earlier pact avoided a strike of about 8,300 custodians, gardeners and food workers at UC campuses and hospitals. AFSCME 3299’s two units are considered the most vocal of UC’s labor unions and often stage noisy protests at UC regents meetings. The union held a two-day strike in May and a one-day walkout in November. The two settlements with AFSCME represents a big step in UC President Janet Napolitano’s goal of bringing an era of labor peace to the university; seven other unions, including nurses, previously settled contracts with UC since Napolitano became president six months ago, officials said. (read article)

Naperville Illinois police union’s labor lawsuit dismissed
By Marie Wilson, March 22, 2014, Chicago Daily Herald
An unfair labor practices lawsuit the Naperville police union filed against the city more than three years ago has been dismissed, ending a dispute that began when the city laid off six officers in November 2010. The dismissal clears the city of the complaint filed by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42 that it did not bargain in good faith during contract negotiations that ended with the approval of a three-year deal shortly before the layoffs. The union had said the possibility of layoffs did not come up during negotiations and the final agreement was based on what the city offered. But city officials said layoffs were discussed during contract negotiations and the city refused to approve a provision that would have guaranteed no officers would be let go. Now that the suit has been dismissed, both sides say they have a better relationship than they did when the layoffs occurred. (read article)

New chief of California employment department is appointed
By Marc Lifsher, March 21, 2014, Los Angeles Times
A member of Gov. Jerry Brown’s inner circle and a veteran labor union lobbyist has been recruited to run California’s troubled Employment Development Department. Patrick William Henning has been serving as the governor’s chief deputy appointments secretary since 2011. Now he faces a bigger challenge: turning around a massive 8,800-person bureaucracy that runs the state’s unemployment and disability insurance programs and labor statistics services. The vast department also collects a variety of payroll taxes, making it one of the largest tax collection agencies in the nation. The announcement that Henning, 41, of West Sacramento, had been hired as director of the EDD got an upbeat greeting from some of the department’s frequent critics. “I’m very optimistic that he’s going to be doing good things over at the EDD. I think we’re on the right path,” said Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), who last week won approval from a legislative committee to conduct a formal audit at the department. (read article)

Candidates jump on issue of state collecting union dues
By Dan Boyd, March 20, 2014, Albuquerque Journal
Gov. Susana Martinez’s battle with labor unions over the state’s practice of collecting union payments from worker paychecks is shaping up as a hot campaign issue. The Republican governor’s re-election campaign sent out a fundraising appeal Wednesday, asking for contributions that could be used to help counteract the influence of labor unions. “The union bosses have made it clear they will spend big money here to defeat me and stop our progress,” Martinez said in her email to supporters. That came after a Journal story quoted Martinez telling business leaders earlier this week that her administration’s effort to stop the union fee collection has led to an impasse in contract negotiations between her and several unions. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union in New Mexico called the governor’s comments a “declaration of war.” Meanwhile, one of Martinez’s possible Democratic opponents also jumped on the issue Wednesday, calling it a tactic intended to distract from the governor’s track record on job creation. “Governor Martinez has fired her first shot in her re-election campaign, and it is aimed straight at New Mexico’s workers,” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Lawrence Rael said in his own email to supporters. (read article)

The No. 1 issue in this year’s midterm elections
By Nicole Goodkind, March 20, 2014, Daily Ticker
As the race to midterm elections heats up, the defining issues that politicians will run on are becoming clearer. In a special Florida election this month to fill the seat of late congressman Bill Young, Republican candidate David Jolly won by campaigning against President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). It appears that Obamacare will be a large force in future campaigns. There is one issue, according to The Center for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, that will take precedent over Obamacare in the upcoming elections: labor unions. “We need to protect government workers from having their paychecks looted by unions—we need to pass laws like they did in Wisconsin saying if they want your money, they have to ask you for it,” says Norquist. Norquist argues that Republicans assumed that private sector unions were on the way out and that nothing could be done about public sector unionization – until recently. Republicans control the executive and legislative branches in 24 states and “they can change the rules on public sector unionization,” he says. According to Norquist, the popularity of private sector unions is also shifting. (read article)

Union Leaders Gird for Battle Against Republican Running for Governor of Illinois
By Monica Davey, March 19, 2014, New York Times
With the selection of a multimillionaire businessman to be the Republican candidate for governor in Illinois, union leaders have begun bracing for one of their starkest campaign battles of the year over the fate of public sector labor unions, pensions and pay. The first-time candidate, Bruce Rauner, has been denounced by union leaders, some of whom say they fear he will try to be the next Mitch Daniels, the former Republican governor of Indiana who ended collective bargaining for state workers by executive order, or a knockoff of Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Republican who led efforts to cut collective bargaining rights for most public employees in his state. “He’s clearly a man obsessed with destroying unions,” Roberta Lynch, deputy director of the local council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said on Wednesday, a day after Mr. Rauner won a closer-than-expected race against three veterans of Illinois politics. “He’s trying to stir up resentment of public employees — teachers, police officers, firefighters.” (read article)

Union frustration adds to Dems’ woes
By Kevin Bogardus, March 19, 2014, The Hill
Parts of the labor coalition are fed up with the White House over ObamaCare and the delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and they are making clear that they are reluctant to help Democrats in their push to save their Senate majority. Without the get-out-the vote muscle of unions, Democrats will have a hard time improving the weak turnout that has often hurt them in midterm election years. Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said his members have been frustrated with Democrats for some time. “I certainly think that it’s going to affect turnout. … You have people that are disillusioned and angry; they either vote a different way or they don’t vote at all,” O’Sullivan told The Hill. “You can sense my temper getting up. Our members are no different than I am. They’re not happy. Is that going to have an impact? I would say, bet your ass it’s going to.” Last week, O’Sullivan and other building trade union leaders joined with the American Petroleum Institute to blast the Obama administration for stalling on the approval of the Keystone pipeline. Some in labor anticipate the creation of new jobs for their members in building the pipeline and want action now. (read article)

It’s not the Unions — it’s the Labor Laws
By Doug Altner, March 19, 2014, American Thinker
Despite two years of courting by the United Auto Workers union, Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently rejected UAW representation in a 712 to 626 vote. This is a major blow to organized labor, whose numbers are dwindling. “When you see what the UAW did in Detroit, you have to worry about what it will do here,” says Mike Burton, a leader among VW workers who opposed the union. Burton’s distrust of the UAW reflects the broader history of union antagonism toward businesses. Unions are infamous for bogging down businesses with counterproductive work rules, damaging industries with frequent strikes, instilling an “us versus them” attitude among employees, and strong-arming employers into giving more and more raises and benefits regardless of the long-term consequences to the company. Why can unions get away with such hostility? Unions per se are not the problem, but it is a problem that labor laws grant unions coercive powers they wouldn’t otherwise have. (read article)

Labor Union Backpedals on Obamacare Support
By Christine Rousselle, March 19, 2014, Townhall.com
Labor unions initially were some of the largest voices in support of Obamacare, but now like the rest of the country, their support is waning. UNITE HERE, a labor union with over 300,000 members, released a new report on Friday critical of Obamacare, saying that the law is actually harmful to workers and increases inequality. The report, titled “The Irony of ObamaCare: Making Inequality Worse,” claims that the law has had a slew of “unintended consequences” that hurt American workers. Outlining the implications of Obamacare, the report predicts that employers will continue to cut workers’ hours in order to avoid providing mandated coverage for full time employees. Moreover, it observes, “if employers follow the incentives in the law, they will push families onto the exchanges to buy coverage. This will force low-wage service industry employees to spend $2.00, $3.00 or even $5.00 an hour of their pay to buy similar coverage.” Perhaps of greatest concern to UNITE HERE, the ACA threatens to ‘strangle’ competition and place union-created health care plans into a “death spiral” because participants in those plans, i.e. the union’s members, will not receive subsidies as many who buy coverage through the health exchanges will. UNITE HERE is not the only union who has backpedaled on their support of Obamacare. Other unions have expressed displeasure with the botched rollout and the disastrous effects the law has had on workers. (read article)

 

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