Union Watch Highlights

The NLRB Is On The Offensive
James R. Grasso, January 31, 2011, The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel
When President Obama took office in 2009, one of the top priorities of his administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress was passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). EFCA would have dramatically altered the labor relations landscape by removing an employer’s right to insist on a secret ballot election for a union to be certified as its employees’ collective bargaining agent. It would have also allowed the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to make such a certification merely upon a majority of employees in the proposed bargaining unit signing union authorization cards. However, the Senate Republicans were able to prevent EFCA’s passage and it has fallen off the political agenda. EFCA’s demise and the recent election results have lulled many employers into thinking that all is quiet on the labor relations front. Nothing could be further from the truth. (read article)

Michigan’s Public-Sector Unions Fight to Keep Bloated Benefits
By Jarrett Skorup, January 31, 2011, Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Between Gov. Rick Snyder’s call for a substantial business tax cut and a $1.8 billion state overspending budget gap, lawmakers are looking for places to save. Many both in and outside government are calling for lowering government employee benefits to private-sector levels, so not surprisingly public-sector unions are gearing up for a fight. The first offensive began with a media onslaught… (read article)

Breaking the cycle of failed government reform: Address public employee productivity
By Mark Haveman, January 30, 2011, Minneapolis Star Tribune
In the early 1990s, the Clinton administration launched the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, an effort to create a government that “works better, costs less and gets results Americans care about.” Management guru Peter Drucker was asked to critique the effort a few years later. The uninspiring results were predictable, he said, because the core issue wasn’t being addressed. Results would only come, he declared, from “a radical change in the way the federal government and its agencies are managed and paid.” (read article)

Pick for Labor Board Opposed by Business
By Melanie Trottman, January 28, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Some of the same business groups President Barack Obama is courting with his regulatory review and support for a corporate-tax overhaul said Thursday they would fight his renomination of former union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Mr. Obama put Mr. Becker on the NLRB in March using a recess appointment after his nomination failed to get 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led Senate filibuster in February. That appointment expires at the end of this year. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama nominated him to a term that would expire in December 2014. (read article)

Tawdry details of Obamacare: White House quietly exempts pampered politicos, SEIU
By Dr. Milton R. Wolf, January 28, 2011, The Washington Times
Last year, we learned that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had granted 111 waivers to protect a lucky few from the onerous regulations of the new national health care overhaul. That number quickly and quietly climbed to 222, and last week we learned that the number of Obamacare privileged escapes has skyrocketed to 733. Among the fortunate is a who’s who list of unions, businesses and even several cities and four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee) but none of the friends of Barack feature as prominently as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). (read article)

Unions make up 40 percent of employees exempted from Obamacare
David Freddoso, January 27, 2011, Washington Examiner
Yesterday, the Deparment of Health and Human Services announced it had granted more than 500 new waivers to Obamacare’s requirement that health plans have annual limits of no less than $750,000. This annual limit requirement climbs to $1.25 million next year and then to $2 million. The reason these exemptions from the law are needed is that Obamacare forces all health insurance consumers to over-insure themselves and pay high premiums as a result. Without the waivers, many companies, non-profits and unions would simply drop their health plans. As of 2014, the waivers will no longer be available — at least, that’s the way the law is written. It is worth noting that there are 166 union benefits funds now exempted from this requirement, which account for about 40 percent of the exempted workers. (read article)

States rebuff federal threat over union laws
By Sam Hananel, January 27, 2011, Associated Press
Four states are vowing to fight the federal government in a bid to preserve state measures that guarantee workers the right to secret ballots in union elections. Attorneys general from Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah signed a letter Thursday pledging to defend changes to their state constitutions approved by voters on Nov. 2. “These state laws protect long-existing federal rights and we will vigorously defend any legal attack upon them,” the attorneys general said in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board. Earlier this month, the labor board threatened to sue the states, saying the constitutional amendments conflict with federal law. (read article)

Public Employee Unions: Public Enemy No. 1?
By Peter Brown, January 27, 2011, The Wall Street Journal
It’s a good bet that this year is going to be a tough one for public employee unions and their members, from tiny towns to the federal bureaucracy. Though they might not become public enemy No. 1, public workers are going to feel voters’ anger in their paychecks — and many will lose their jobs. They’re also likely to come under attack politically to an unprecedented degree. The general tenor of the anti-union rhetoric is that labor contracts are a drag on federal, state and local treasuries — and taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick. “We have a new privileged class in America,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told Politico. “We used to think of government workers as underpaid public servants. Now they are better paid than the people who pay their salaries.” (read article)

California Bucks Downward Trend on Unionization
By Aaron Glantz, January 26, 2011, The Bay Citizen
The percentage of workers represented by labor unions continued to fall nationally, but it actually climbed last year in California, according to a new report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the report, 18.6 percent of California workers had union representation in 2010, up from 18.3 percent the year before. New York had the highest unionization rate at 26 percent. Nationally, the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of labor unions was 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier. (read article)

Chamber of Commerce Launches Attack on Unions
By Paul Bedard, January 25, 2011, US News
The election didn’t end conservative threats to public employee labor unions. A Texas GOP congressman this month proposed a 10 percent cut in federal workers. And for the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched an attack on public unions. Boss Tom Donohue, in his recent State of American Business address, said, “Some unions—particularly the public employee unions—are pushing an extreme agenda that extends well beyond representing their members in the workplace.” One beef: Teachers unions want to “perpetuate the status quo in our failing public schools.” (read article)

Unions Are Aided By Obama Picks Republicans Can’t Curb
By Stephanie Armour, January 21, 2011, Bloomberg
Business groups may find the expanded ranks of their Republican allies in Congress can’t stop President Barack Obama’s appointees from making it easier for unions to recruit members. The Democratic majority on the National Labor Relations Board may soon rule on cases that would give unions greater access to company property for organizing drives. The board may also push for speedier elections after workers petition for a vote, limiting companies’ ability to muster a defense. (read article)

Will NLRB Seek Shorter Union Election Campaigns?
By Steve Minter, Jan. 20, 2011, Industry Week
When 30% of employees at a facility sign an authorization card, a union can go to the National Labor Relations Board and petition for a secret ballot election. Typically, the election occurs within seven weeks after the NLRB accepts the petition. But comments attributed to Mark Pearce, an NLRB board member, have stirred concerns in management ranks that the board is attempting, in the words of Frank Saibert, an employment attorney with Ungaretti & Harris, to “achieve through rulemaking or adjudication what it could not get through legislation, particularly the Employee Free Choice Act.” (read article)

Iowa Governor Bans PLAs on Projects that use State Funds
January 19, 2011, Associated Builders & Contractors
In another victory for merit shop construction, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Jan. 14 signed Executive Order 69, which prohibits wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) on any projects that receive state funds. The executive order, signed on the same day Branstad was inaugurated, repealed Gov. Chet Culver’s Executive Order 22, which encouraged state agencies to consider implementing PLAs on state projects worth more than $25 million. In addition to protecting state projects from government-mandated PLAs, this order also represents a repudiation of President Obama’s executive order encouraging federal agencies to require PLAs on federal projects costing more than $25 million.  The Culver order that Gov. Branstad repealed was modeled on and very similar to President Obama’s order. (read article)

Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.com, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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