Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Golden Gate Transit District Unions Authorize Strike
By Holly Quan, August 5, 2014, CBS San Francisco
A coalition of 13 of Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District workers’ unions has unanimously voted to authorize a strike, though no date has been announced as both sides continue talks. Talks continued Monday and are set to start up again next week despite that the last contract expired July 1. The Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition which represents iron workers, ferry boat captains, deck hands and bus maintenance workers says the district wants them to pay more for health care but isn’t giving them enough of a raise to cover it. Denis Mulligan, of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, told KCBS they are offering a 9 percent raise over three years. “Even with that, it would be a net increase of our employees’ take-home pay,” he said. “Additionally we’re proposing some new lower cost health plans that would be an option for existing employees and those health plan costs premium sharing contributions would be actually be less than some of the employees are currently paying,” he said. (read article)

SEIU begins dropping efforts to force home healthcare workers to pay dues
By Perry Chiaramonte, August 5, 2014, Fox News
Just over a month after a landmark Supreme Court ruling, the Service Employees International Union is starting to drop its efforts to force home healthcare workers to pay dues. SEIU local officials in Illinois, Minnesota, and Massachusetts notified home-based childcare and healthcare providers that they will not collect union fees. The news follows the June 30 ruling against forcing their collection by the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn, a class action lawsuit filed by staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Foundation representing eight health workers in the Prairie State. “We’re just starting to see the full implication of the Foundation’s win in the Harris case,” Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, told FoxNews.com. “In recent years, Big Labor has increasingly turned to friendly governors whose campaigns they funded to unionize people who aren’t truly government employees so they can skim forced dues from government subsidies. Enforcement of the Harris precedent nationwide will end that. (read article)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Public-Employee Union Restrictions
By Carl Horowitz, August 5, 2014, National Legal and Policy Center
For three and a half years, public-sector unions in Wisconsin, to little or no avail, have sought to topple a state law to restrict their collective bargaining abilities. Their options now are nearly exhausted. Last Thursday, July 31, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 2011 law passed by the Republican-majority legislature at the urging of GOP Governor Scott Walker. By a 5-2 margin, the court concluded that while public employees may organize unions, their employers are not obligated to negotiate with them. The ruling is a clear victory for Gov. Walker, who survived a voter recall in June 2012 over this issue. It’s also a blow for fiscal responsibility at a time when many state and local governments are facing large deficits in employee benefit programs. The decision is separate from federal rulings upholding the constitutionality of the law. Union Corruption Update from the start has covered this unusually bitter tug of war between the Walker administration and public-sector employee unions. Early in 2011, only weeks in office, Governor Walker unveiled legislation that would restrict the ability of unions to negotiate with public agencies for higher benefits. The state was facing an estimated two-year $3.6 billion budget deficit, a gap largely driven by aggressive unionism. Union-negotiated health care and retirement benefit commitments were becoming unsustainable. The governor’s proposal, known alternately as the Budget Repair Act or Act 10, would require state and local workers to: 1) contribute 5.8 percent of wages or salary to retirement plans, up from virtually zero percent; 2) pay for 12.6 percent of health care coverage, up from about 6 percent; 3) accept pay hikes tied to the Consumer Price Index; 4) forgo collective bargaining over benefits and working conditions, though not base pay; and 5) enter into one-year rather than multiyear contracts. Additionally, public-sector unions would be barred from forcibly deducting dues from employee paychecks and would have to undergo annual recertification. At the same time, the proposal wouldn’t apply to police, firefighters and state troopers. (read article)

Union-Backed City Council Members Clear the Way for Referendum on $12.25 Minimum Wage
By Bre Payton, August 5, 2014, The Daily Signal
Oakland City Council members who favor a minimum-wage increase have received campaign donations and research from wage-hike activists and labor unions. Last week, the council voted, 5-3, against a moderate proposal to raise the minimum wage over time and to exempt small businesses in the early stages so they could adjust. The council did so to clear the way for a ballot measure to put before the voters in November that would raise the wage for all businesses to $12.25 beginning in March. The $12.25 increase is supported by Lift Up Oakland, an organization heavily backed by labor unions. “By putting a competing wage initiative on the ballot, it could have potentially torpedoed any increase for the minimum [wage],” said Jason Overman, spokesman for City Council President Rebecca Kaplan. Overman said Kaplan voted against the more moderate wage proposal because she believes the Lift Up Oakland idea is better. But she also received campaign contributions from some of the same groups that have backed Lift Up’s proposal. (read article)

Unions for Big Businesses
By James Sherk, August 4, 2014, National Review
Would you like to own a small business someday? If so, sorry — the Service Employees International Union would rather you didn’t. The SEIU has convinced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to eviscerate the franchising model that many small-business owners rely on. Under the current model, these small-business owners pay for the right to use a corporate brand. The franchising corporation researches appealing products. It also does marketing to promote the brand. In return, the local franchisees agree to produce those products to fit certain price and quality specifications. The local franchisee handles all the hiring and employment. This division of labor cuts the risks of starting a small business, because the franchisee can focus on running the business without having to develop a market niche from scratch. A franchisee opening a new restaurant, for example, doesn’t need to market a new menu. The corporate brand has already done the work. The franchisor similarly does not have to operate thousands of local restaurants remotely. Many businesses, from Burger King to Jiffy Lube to the Hair Cuttery, use franchising. It enables many Americans to run small businesses that would otherwise never get off the ground. However, unions hate this business model. They find it much easier to organize big businesses than small ones. Unions claim they organize most workers today without secret-ballot elections. Instead, they pressure firms into accepting “neutrality” and “card check.” Neutrality means the business stays silent during the organizing drive. Workers hear only the union’s sales pitch — they learn nothing about uncomfortable subjects unions train their organizers to deflect. Card check means workers vote in public, in front of union organizers. Unsurprisingly, under these circumstances unions almost always win. (read article)

Unions Push For Minimum Wage Hike Ahead of November Elections
By Michell Moons, August 2, 2014, Breitbart California
San Diego is among a number of California cities embattled over hiking the minimum wage as Mayor Kevin Faulconer promised to veto a City Council vote Monday that approved an increase. The vote inflates the minimum wage for San Diego to $11.50 per hour, a significant rise above the July statewide raise to $9. San Diego’s City Council vote Monday to raise the minimum wage left council President Todd Gloria calling Mayor Faulconer not to use his veto, Faulconer pledging to veto, and the council having the power to override Faulconer’s veto, according to the Los Angeles Times. The LA Times predicts the vote will set “up a clash that will pit the Republican and the business establishment against the city’s labor unions and Democrat-controlled council.” Yet more than one California city has faced this battle over minimum wage, with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions pushing for a raise in Los Angeles and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Board of Supervisors in San Francisco pushing a measure for increases as well. Under current state legislation, Assembly Bill 10, the statewide minimum will rise to $10 in January of 2016. (read article)

Florida State-worker union all in for Crist
By Bill Cotterell, August 2, 2014, Tallahassee Democrat
Floridians are festive folks, with special Saturdays designated to celebrate oysters, strawberries, watermelons, even a pirate invasion in Tampa and — just yesterday — the lowly possum over in Wausau. But of all the big parties and street fairs we expect our politicians to sweat through, the Springtime Tallahassee parade is the only one where they booed the governor. Gov. Rick Scott attained that dubious distinction just six months after he was inaugurated at another big bash on Monroe Street. He was a good sport, smiling and waving with his wife, as Tallahasseeans waved back with big “Pink Slip Rick” signs. That spirit is embodied in the $1 million check that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ Washington office sent former Gov. Charlie Crist last week for his comeback campaign. (read article)

A Crazy California Union Scandal
By James Poulos, August 2, 2014, Daily Beast
Golden State agriculture workers say the union that was supposed to protect them has bullied them into a terrible contract. At their best, labor unions are something simple: they bring employees who share the same workplace into a collaborate relationship—independent not only of management, but also of any outside supervisors. At their worst, unions aren’t bottom-up organizations. They are, in effect, a new set of rules imposed unilaterally from above. Rather than helplessly obeying the dictates of management, workers are obliged to do what union bosses tell them. Even if employees actually share a close working relationship with their employers, that affinity and the agreements it produced are cast aside. If that sorry picture sounds overwrought, consider the recent actions taken by United Farm Workers in California and the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board. (read article)

Supreme Court upholds Scott Walker’s Act 10 union law
By Jason Stein, August 1, 2014, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s signature labor legislation Thursday,delivering an election-year affirmation to the governor in one of the three major rulings issued by the justices on union bargaining, election law and same-sex couples. In addition to ruling Walker’s labor law constitutional, the state’s highest court also upheld the state’s voter ID law and a 2009 law providing limited benefits to gay and lesbian couples, leaving liberals with one consolation to soften the sting of the two larger conservative victories. “Our courts have continued to give deference to our Legislature and in all three of these cases, that is what occurred. And that’s very important, because after all, that is what democracy looks like,” said GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, appropriating the slogan once chanted at the mass demonstrations against the union law. The state court’s decisions on the voter ID and domestic partner registry could still be overtaken by decisions in separate but related cases in federal court. But after more than three years of litigation, the court’s seven justices on Thursday put to rest the last of the major legal disputes over Act 10, the 2011 law repealing most union bargaining for most public employees. (read article)

John Thune bill would restore labor union transparency that Obama degraded
By Nathan Mehrens, August 1, 2014, Washington Examiner
Those who believed President Obama’s promise that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency” should have been almost immediately dissuaded of this notion early in his administration. Early on, Obama, at the behest of his labor union bosses, rolled back several hard-fought reforms that increased the information available to union members on how their unions spend members’ dues money. Obama did this even though the disclosure is mandated by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. Under this law, the secretary of labor is given the responsibility to promulgate regulations that provide for disclosure of unions’ financial activities. During most of the years of this law’s existence, however, only summary financial data was required to be reported. That changed when the now-rescinded regulations were promulgated by the Labor Department during the second Bush administration. (read article)

Big Labor’s Fast Food Unionization Strategy Unfolds
By Ryan Williams, August 1, 2014, Daily Caller
Unions have belied the true intentions of their protests against the fast food industry using terms like “dignity,” “respect,” and “$15 an hour.” Responding to questions last year on whether the fast food campaign was a desperate attempt to reverse plummeting membership numbers, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said: “This is not about growing unions. This is about our nation respecting the value of work again.” This week the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (a former union official) determined that McDonald’s Corporation and its franchisees could be held as joint-employers of workers at franchised locations. The NLRB decision sent shockwaves across the franchise industry, suddenly casting into doubt decades of legal precedent that clearly defines the distinct entities. In the wake of this pro-SEIU decision, union activists including Fast Food Forward campaign director, Kendall Fells, hedged on the SEIU’s real motives. In Fells’ words, “We’re not convinced that we want to have elections at these stores, we’re not convinced we want to have a card check.” (read article)

Unions Are Lovin’ McDonald’s Labor Ruling
By Megan McArdle, August 1, 2014, Bloomberg
The most surprising bit of news this week was a ruling out from the National Labor Relations Board, saying that McDonald’s Corp. functions as a joint employer with its franchisees and can therefore be held liable for their employment decisions. The immediate effect is to join McDonald’s to a few dozen labor disputes at individual stores. But the goal is pretty clearly much larger: making it much easier to unionize McDonald’s, by allowing unions to organize the whole company, rather than trying to eke out victories one store at a time. If this ruling stands, it will have seismic effects on the franchise model. I’m not sure this ruling will stand, of course; it seems crazy to me. Corporations that work on the franchise model do exercise substantial control over the operations of their franchisees, but at the end of the day, the franchisees are legally separate companies — and those companies are the ones that pay the paychecks, organize the schedules, hire, fire and so forth. This would hand McDonald’s legal liability for something it has limited ability to control. Oh, sure, the franchise agreement can state that owners have to obey the labor law, but franchise owners are owners; McDonald’s can’t just fire them for being jerks. It can terminate the franchise agreement, but that’s a lengthy procedure that frequently involves lawsuits. It’s not a very efficient way to enforce employment policy. (read article)

Met Opera Musicians Rally As Contract Talks In Labor Dispute Continue
August 1, 2014, CBS New York
Metropolitan Opera musicians and others say they want to work with management to avoid a lockout that would shut down one of the world’s premier opera companies. Several dozen union members rallied outside Lincoln Center Friday morning after labor talks were extended for an additional 72 hours. Tenor Nathan Carlisle said workers want to work with Met General Manager Peter Gelb to find a middle ground. He called the Met “an amazing place to work.”
With just an hour to spare before Gelb’s vow of a 12:01 a.m. Friday deadline that would trigger a lockout, the company announced it had agreed to a federal mediator’s request to extend the talks. (read article)

Longshore union shows aggression in Washington port dispute
By Perry Chiaramonte, July 31, 2014, Fox News
A labor dispute at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., that has locked out longshore union members for more than a year appears to have taken an aggressive and disturbing turn, with accusations of menacing confrontations and violent threats. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 4 have been accused of violently approaching security officers and harassing workers at the export terminal for United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., which is across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore. Even more disturbing, union members are accused of threatening to rape a manager’s daughter and harm another executive’s children. The dockworkers have maintained a picket line at the Vancouver export terminal since February 2013, when they were locked out in a labor dispute with United Grain. The accusations are documented in legal filings by Ronald Hooks, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director in Seattle. “It is a situation that has evolved, or devolved, depending on your definition,” Hooks told FoxNews.com. “It is something that both sides are going to have to work out.” (read article)

Democrats push making labor organizing a ‘civil right’
By Sean Higgins, July 30, 2014, Washington Examiner
Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and John Lewis, D-Ga., plan to introduce legislation Wednesday to amend the National Labor Relations Act to make labor organizing a civil right. The change will make opposing unionization bids legally perilous for businesses. The NLRA already protects the right to form and join a union. Ellison and Lewis’ legislation would dramatically expand the powers individual workers have under the act by allowing them to sue their employer in federal court under the Civil Rights Act. The bill would also entitle workers filing lawsuits “to remedies like punitive and compensatory damages,” according to a Tuesday press release. Currently most unfair labor practice complaints go through the National Labor Relations Board, which was created expressly for that purpose. Some labor disputes are handled by a second entity, the National Mediation Board. Big Labor has long complained the process is too slow. Sign Up for the Politics Today newsletter! Ellison’s proposed legislation would allow a worker to move their complaint from the NLRB to federal court 180 days after filing. He told the liberal magazine the Nation that labor activists needed to be able to circumvent the current process. (read article)

Making workers’ rights a civil right
By Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Marvit, July 30, 2014, The Hill
A half-century ago, labor leaders sought common cause with civil rights groups in passing legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on factors such as race, sex, religion and national origin. Most famously in that effort, the trade union and civil rights movements came together in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, whose speakers featured Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a young man named John Lewis. Now, leading civil rights figures in Congress are taking steps to outlaw a relatively new form of discrimination: against workers of all races who try to form a union. Yesterday, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and the very same John Lewis (D-Ga.) introduced a bill that will give employees who are fired for union organizing the right to sue in federal court — providing them the same legal protections as enjoyed by minorities who suffer discrimination based on race. Today, it is technically illegal under the National Labor Relations Act to fire individuals for trying to organize a union, but employers routinely break the law because the penalties are extremely weak. Even if employees win a judgment from the National Labor Relations Board, they just receive back pay and reinstatement in their jobs. Freedom House notes that U.S. laws are particularly ineffective in protecting the right to organize compared to other advanced democracies. By contrast, our civil rights protections are relatively strong and include compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the right to engage in legal discovery and to win attorneys’ fees, when one prevails in federal court. (read article)

Sen. John Thune aims at union corruption
By S.A. Miller, July 30, 2014, Washington Times
A top Senate Republican is introducing legislation Wednesday that would restore financial transparency rules for labor unions that President Obama nixed shortly after taking office in 2009, The Washington Times has learned. The bill by Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, would bring back three sets of Labor Department rules that were designed to crack down on union corruptions by required unions and their leaders to disclose more details of their finances. The rules were proposed under President George W. Bush but rescinded after Mr. Obama took office, one of several moves he made to benefit unions that were strong supporters of his presidential campaign. Mr. Thune was preparing to introduce the bill Wednesday. The South Dakota Republican said that his bill would ensure union officers act in good faith when spending members’ dues. (read article)

Micro-Unions Return to Gut Employee Rights
July 29, 2014, LaborPains.org
As part of their ongoing efforts to weasel their way into workplaces and curtail employee rights, labor unions have aggressively pursued the creation of “micro-units”—subdivisions of a workplace that a union can organize one-by-one. Since the Obama-stacked National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in the precedent-eviscerating Specialty Healthcare case that micro-units were hunky-dory, it was only a matter of time before Big Labor’s best friends in D.C. expanded the ruling. The NLRB has now done so, recently ruling in a case called Macy’s, Inc. and Local 1445, United Food and Commercial Workers Union that perfume and cosmetics salespeople constituted their own micro-unit eligible to be unionized alone. Micro-unions are part of a wide-ranging effort by unions to get dues dollars however they can, in this case by Balkanizing a workplace so that a small group of unhappy people can form their own union even if the larger group of employees has no interest in joining. (read article)

McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions
By Steven Greenhouse, July 29, 2014, New York Times
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide. Business groups called the decision outrageous. Some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard of “joint employer,” making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations. The ruling comes after the labor board’s legal team investigated myriad complaints that fast-food workers brought in the last 20 months, accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices. (read article)

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