Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Court: NLRB is Acting Like a Union Subsidiary
By Bill McMorris, September 9, 2014, Washington Free Beacon
A Pennsylvania judge accused a federal labor arbiter of acting as an extension of a powerful labor union in a dispute with a local hospital. Federal Judge Arthur J. Schwab said that the National Labor Relations Board overstepped its bounds when it demanded personnel information from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian (UPMC) during an investigation into alleged unfair labor practices filed by SEIU. The hospital objected to three requests because they would aid the union’s attempt to organize the workplace. Schwab called the NLRB’s requests “overly broad and unfocused” and unprecedented in their “massive nature.” “The scope and nature of the requests, coupled with the NLRB’s efforts to obtain said documents for, and on behalf of, the SEIU, arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the Union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort of the Union,” the ruling states. (read article)

Wisconsin prosecutors seek ruling to restart Gov. Walker probe
September 9, 2014, Chicago Tribune
Wisconsin prosecutors on Tuesday are asking a federal appeals court to allow them to restart an investigation into possible illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker’s campaign and special interest groups during elections in 2011 and 2012. The investigation was halted in May by U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa, who ruled in favor of Wisconsin Club for Growth, which filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to halt an investigation launched in 2012 by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat. The conservative organization in February accused investigators of sidelining them from political activities, violating their rights to free speech, association and equal protection. (read article)

Democrats want Tesla to pay prevailing wage, hire locally
By Ray Hagar, September 9, 2014, Reno Gazette-Journal
Northern Nevada Democrats said Monday they want to see as many local construction workers and contractors hired to build the planned Tesla Motors gigafactory as possible. Democrats, who hold majorities in the Assembly and Senate, also said they also want Tesla to adhere to Nevada’s prevailing wage laws that govern the construction of public buildings, even though the Tesla gigafactoy will be owned by a publicly traded company and is not a Nevada public building. “The goal of making sure that Nevadans benefit from the jobs — both at the construction level and the ongoing manufacturing phase of the project — is absolutely the goal that we should pursue,” said Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno and Washoe County’s senior Democrat in the Assembly. Those points will be part of Democrats’ demands as the Nevada Legislature prepares to begin a special session at noon Wednesday in Carson City to ratify an agreement between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Gov. Brian Sandoval to bring the Tesla battery gigafactory to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. Sandoval’s office did not address the prevailing wage concerns of Democrats when asked for a response to Daly’s statements. (read article)

Top Snyder aide demands Michigan AFL-CIO head retract ‘false and derogatory statements’
Chad Livengood, September 9, 2014, Detroit News
A top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder has demanded that the head of the Michigan State AFL-CIO and two newspapers retract the union leader’s “false and derogatory statements” about him. Snyder adviser Rich Baird sent a letter Sept. 4 to AFL-CIO President Karla Swift and Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson demanding they retract Swift’s Aug. 30 commentary, claiming it contained defamatory statements. The Detroit News obtained the letter Tuesday as well as a second demand he sent the Lansing State Journal also requesting a retraction of Swift’s guest column. Baird’s second letter was sent to State Journal editors and the chief executive officer of Gannett Co., parent company of the Free Press and Lansing papers. Swift opined that she believed Baird received an unlawful double tax exemption on two homes in Michigan and Illinois for three years and claimed he committed “voter fraud” while filing to run for a precinct delegate position in Clinton Countyand remaining a registered voter in Illinois. Baird signed an affidavit under penalty of perjury that he had been a resident of Michigan for three years since buying a $500,000 home in Bath Township. Public records show Baird registered to vote in Michigan in 2013 and last voted in Cook County, Illinois, in November 2012. (read article)

Abolish public sector unions
By Charles Ortel, september 8, 2014, Washington Times
New York-An overwhelming majority of Americans favors abolishing public sector unions because we recognize these organizations are now a cancerous tumor that threatens to choke off and destroy the once vibrant heart of this nation — our beleaguered private sector. Beset by competition from lower-priced human workers in foreign countries, and threatened with replacement by ever more adept machines, private sector workers cannot afford the luxury of gargantuan, high-cost, public sector bureaucracies that succeed only in piling up operating deficits and debts. Irresistible downward pressures upon private labor incomes. Even following massive expansion of the public sector (especially transfer payments) under President Obama, private labor incomes remain the single largest generator of tax revenues for America’s numerous governments — measured in inflation-adjusted terms, these incomes have fallen since 1999 and will not rise much in future. Downward pressures upon incomes inside America and other developed nations is a lasting consequence of opening global markets and the continuing advances in technology that make it so easy outside the protected public sector to replace expensive human labor with less expensive labor and machines. (read article)

Labor attempts resurrection through conquering the franchise model
By Ryan Williams, September 8, 2014, The Hill
Labor Day always evokes wistful nostalgia from union bosses who regale the glory days of the labor movement. During the Golden Age of labor, unions were powerful organizations that made great strides for American workers; but just like tailfins and rumble seats, the union model is dated. There is an old colloquialism popularized around that same time – “a hammer only sees nails.” So while the union model may have expired, union leaders know nothing else. As a result, they are trying to rewrite U.S. labor law to force their outdated model on a modern American economy. For unions, the biggest nail that needs hammering is the franchise business model. Labor leaders realize, however, that hammering small business owners isn’t popular. Ergo, the SEIU has shifted its public positioning – proclaiming that it supports franchisees while abhorring their parent companies. Following a decision by the National Labor Relations Board against McDonald’s last month, Micah Wissinger, an attorney who brought cases on behalf of the SEIU in New York, was quoted as saying, “McDonald’s can no longer get away with reaping all the benefits and the profits while saddling their franchises with all the risks and the costs.” Around the same time, the SEIU amped up its support for a franchisee-backed bill in California, launching a paid ad campaign. Politics is politics, and diverse coalitions form around specific legislation everyday, but any business owner should be warywhen the SEIU approaches them with open arms. (read article)

Raimondo Pension Overhaul Challenges Labor in Rhode Island Race
By William Selway and Brian Chappatta, September 07, 2014, Bloomberg
When Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo pushed through pension cuts for government workers in 2011 in a bid to save $4 billion, she earned the wrath of public unions — and the support of voters like Mike Piccoli. “If they didn’t stop the bleeding now, it would have been a disaster,” said Piccoli, a 54-year-old Democrat from Johnston, a city of 29,000 outside Providence, who worked as a union carpenter before becoming disabled. “She’s the only one who did something about it.” Raimondo, 43, a former venture capitalist and Rhodes Scholar, is about to find out if her overhaul of the Ocean State’s struggling pension system, which bolstered the state’s standing on Wall Street, can be parlayed into the Democratic nomination for governor. Rhode Island holds primaries tomorrow, and the election has turned into an open race between Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, 44, and Clay Pell, the 32-year-old grandson of a former Rhode Island U.S. senator. The campaign’s focus has largely been on how to revive the state’s economy. Rhode Island’s 7.7 percent jobless rate is tied for the nation’s third-highest. (read article)

Legislature passes three of top four bills backed by organized labor
By Marc Lifsher, September 7, 2014, Los Angeles Times
Organized labor is having a good year at the Capitol. The Democrat-dominated Legislature passed and sent to the governor three of four union-priority bills. And Gov. Jerry Brown has already indicated he’ll sign at least one of them. That’s AB 1562, and it would guarantee three days of paid sick leave to 6.5 million people. Brown praised lawmakers for taking what he called “historic action” by amending and approving the legislation by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). But the Service Employees International Union was disappointed that a deal cut by the governor excluded 250,000 state-paid home healthcare workers. “The governor thought it was OK for one group of workers to go to work sick,” said Laphonza Butler, president of the SEIU State Council. Overall, labor was pleased. “We certainly had some important victories coming out of the Legislature,” said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation. (read article)

Some Retail Workers Find Better Deals With Unions
By Rachel L. Swarn, September 7, 2014, New York Times
By now, the hardships endured by retail workers at clothing stores across New York City are achingly familiar: the frantic scramble to get assigned enough hours to earn a living on painfully low wages; the ever-changing, on-call schedules that upend child care arrangements, college schedules and desperate efforts to find second jobs. Workers and government officials around the country are increasingly pushing for change. But for an example of more humane workplaces, there is no need to jet to Sweden or Denmark or Mars. We need look no farther than Midtown Manhattan, no farther than Herald Square. Ladies and gentlemen, step right onto the escalators and glide on up to the sixth floor. Allow me to introduce you to Debra Ryan, a sales associate in the Macy’s bedding department. For more than two decades, Ms. Ryan has guided shoppers in the hunt for bedroom décor, helping them choose between medium-weight and lightweight comforters, goose-down and synthetic pillows, and sheets and blankets in a kaleidoscope of colors. (read article)

The public and the labor movement can unite to raise the minimum wage
By Alysabeth Alexander, September 7, 2014, San Francisco Examiner
The campaigns to raise the minimum wage in San Francisco and Oakland have built an incredible coalition of supporters. Labor unions, community groups, and elected officials are joined by tech companies and business groups in their support of the raise. It is becoming a consensus in the Bay Area. Economic inequality has gotten out of control; and raising the minimum wage will lift up low-wage workers and benefit our entire community. This data behind raising the minimum wage makes clear why public support is so strong. If Proposition J in San Francisco and Measure FF in Oakland both pass, it will give a raise to 190,000 low-wage workers in the Bay Area, according to economists from UC-Berkeley. Their take-home pay will jump by $523 million a year, most of which they will spend in small businesses and local mom-and-pop shops. A majority of the workers who get a raise will be women–and more than half of workers of color will get a raise. (read article)

The Fast Food Strikes Have Been a Stunning Success for Organized Labor
By Jordan Weissmann, September 7, 2014, Slate
For the seventh time in nearly two years, fast food workers around the country walked out of their restaurants last week to demand a pay raise to $15 per hour and the right to unionize. In New York City, 21 workers were arrested for sitting in the middle of the street outside the McDonald’s in Times Square. Organizers said more than 50 protestors were arrested for similar acts of civil disobedience in Detroit. Another 50 were detained in Chicago. And so the most interesting—and most successful—American labor push in recent memory rolls on. The strikes, which began in November of 2012, have been organized by the group Fast Food Forward and bankrolled by the Service Employees International Union, which according to the New York Times has spent more than $10 million on the cause. These walkouts haven’t led to any unionized McDonald’s or Taco Bell franchises yet. But at this early date, it’s more useful to think of them as the spearhead of a broader living wage movement that has also seen retail workers at stores such as Walmart protest for better pay. Framed that way, the effort has been startlingly effective. For the cost of a few Super Bowl ads, the SEIU and some dedicated fast food workers have managed to completely rewire how the public and politicians thinks about wages. (read article)

Judge Finds Michigan Education Assocation Guilty of Unfair Labor Practices
September 5, 2014, Michigan Watchdog Wire
Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern has ruled that under Michigan’s right-to-work law, public employees can resign from a union at any time of the year. On that basis, Judge Stern said that the state’s largest teacher union, the Michigan Education Association, has been violating the law by enforcing its so-called ‘August window.’ “Freedom and the ability to exercise one’s rights do not come with a time limit,” said Patrick J. Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “As we have said all along, the bylaws of a membership organization do not trump state statute. The MEA, unfortunately, chose to treat its members not as professionals but as piggy banks.” Under an internal rule the MEA would not accept a member’s resignation from the union unless it is submitted in writing during the month of August. This case holds that private bylaws do not override state law. Judge Stern’s ruling came in a case in which a group of Saginaw Public Schools employees charged the MEA with unfair labor practices. The legal action, in which the employees were represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, was filed with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission on Oct 21, 2013. Stern presided over a hearing on the case on Feb. 27, 2014. (read article)

Unions Derail Campaign Transparency Efforts
By Lydia O’Connor, September 5, 2014, Huffington Post
A California bill that supporters say could have shifted campaign finance into a new era of transparency was instead involuntarily withdrawn last week — and the activists behind the bill are blaming the labor unions that united against it. Authored by Democratic state Sens. Mark Leno and Jerry Hill and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, Senate Bill 52, known as the DISCLOSE Act, failed last week in the state Assembly’s final voting period of the legislative session. The bill would have required all political advertisements to prominently display the names of their three biggest funders, rather than allowing the contributors to conceal their identities and interests by hiding behind a front group with a vague name like “Californians Against Higher Taxes.” “The California DISCLOSE Act is by far the strongest on-ad disclosure law in the country, stopping ballot measure ads from deceiving voters about who paid for them by hiding their original funders in fine print behind purposefully misleading committees and front groups,” California Clean Money Campaign president Trent Lange told The Huffington Post on Thursday. “It can be a model for the nation.” (read article)

Fast-food worker strikes aren’t what they appear to be
By Diana Furchtgott-Roth, September 4, 2014, Market Watch
Americans today will see photos of fast-food worker demonstrations on national news and think the employees themselves are going on strike. Americans will conclude that the demonstrations are a spontaneous display of employee dissatisfaction with wages. In fact, the strikes are being organized by unions and unelected worker centers that are desperate to attract new members, even at a cost of leaving millions of Americans unemployed. The Service Employees International Union’s worker center, Fast Food Forward, also known as Fight for 15, is calling the nationwide strike to demand $15-an-hour wages and a union. Most fast-food workers make more than the hourly minimum wage of $7.25. Speaking in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Labor Day, President Obama said of the Fight for 15 movement: “All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.” The push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an increase of over 100%, shows the strikes are more about style than substance. Few people go on strike to double their pay. Why doesn’t the SEIU target the retail or agriculture sectors? Don’t those workers deserve $15 an hour too? Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that fewer than 3% of American workers make minimum wage. That is because they move on to an above-minimum-wage jobs. Raising the minimum, for fast-food workers or for anyone else, would take away the ability of low-skill workers to enter the labor force. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Current Population Survey data show that 62% of fast-food workers are under 25, and 13% earn the minimum wage. Half are part-timers, according to BLS. (read article)

Three things labor needs to do to thrive
By Coco Soodek and Phil Fahim, September 03, 2014, Crains Chicago Business
Look, we need labor unions. You and I do better in every way when unions are strong. Take a look at this chart. When union membership goes down, your income shrinks. Why? Because unions push back. Unions force managers to train more, to pay more and to think more about your role in your company. Without unions, managers pay themselves and their higher-ups whatever is left in the till after bills get paid. And those managers who pay themselves more actually run less profitable companies. So, not only do we need the weight of unions to counterbalance management, we actually need unions to keep managers humble and grounded. You and I and all other consumers make up 70 percent of the American economy — we’re the job creators. When you and I make less money, we spend less. When we spend less, businesses have lower revenues, so they don’t hire as much or spend as much. And round and round and down it goes. That’s how the economy works. And that’s why we need unions.
Somehow, unions have allowed the plutocrats and plutocrat defenders to smear them as greedy, lazy parasites, divorced from reality. Union membership in the U.S. was at a 97-year low of 11.3 percent in 2013. Having a healthy union membership base is fundamental to protecting workers’ rights and to stimulating economic growth. Without adequate representation and bargaining rights, workers lose their ability to negotiate fair and livable wages for the labor they provide. The implementation of so-called “right to work” laws in several states across the country have contributed greatly to the decline in union membership, as these laws essentially strip away any collective bargaining leverage unions possessed. (read article)

Market Basket Shows Power Of Organized Labor Without Unions
By Curt Nickisch September 3, 2014, NPR Boston
As Market Basket workers restock shelves after their astonishing victory last week, Massachusetts labor leaders are taking stock, too. “Everybody’s been talking,” said Dennis Irvin, of the United Steelworkers Union Local 12012 in Melrose, at Boston’s annual Labor Day Breakfast. “It’s just everywhere, every…you know, Market Basket.” Market Basket workers should be incredibly proud of what they accomplished, Irvin said. They not only won their chief demand, to bring back their fired CEO, but they also forced the owners to hand over their shares too. “I’ve never seen anything like it, that’s for sure, and they prevailed, which is even stranger,” Irvin said, shaking his head. “They took on this and forced these people to sell their shares to this one guy. It’s amazing, totally amazing!” So amazing that Irvin says Market Basket would rank as one of the greatest accomplishments in union history in New England. A history lined with progressive milestones for child labor, the eight-hour workday and safer workplace standards. (read article)

Regulators Aid Union Effort to Kill Franchising
By Bill McMorris, September 2, 2014, Washington Free Beacon
Several key Labor Department regulators participated in a liberal conference focused on unionizing subcontractors and franchise employees. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil delivered opening remarks to a room full of union organizers and activists from the National Employment Law Project, a pro-union group partnered with the liberal millionaires and billionaires from the Democracy Alliance, in May. “I view my task as helping to work with the people in the agency and in concert with worker advocates,” he said. Weil told the gathering that the department has “undertaken a bunch of specific initiatives in particular industries,” in order to crack down on employers. The department, he said, has focused specifically on “the hotel industry, the restaurant industry, construction, the agricultural sector, [and] healthcare.” Weil’s enforcement strategy will focus not just on specific complaints from employees of wage theft and workplace violations, but in tackling the structural nature of workplace regulation, he said. (read article)

Two major unions throw support behind Gov. Cuomo
By Kenneth Lovett, September 2, 2014, New York Daily News
Two key labor unions are ramping up their efforts to help Gov. Cuomo and his pick for lieutenant governor ahead of next Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The Hotel and Motel Trades Council is sending a mailer to members praising Cuomo’s record. And the powerful health care workers union, 1199 SEIU, on Monday formally endorsed Cuomo and his running mate, former Rep. Kathleen Hochul, and prepared an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation on their behalf. The unions were instrumental in helping Cuomo secure the Working Families Party nomination in May after a brutal battle. The Hotel and Motel Trades Council flyer going out this week urges members to “vote for the real Democratic team” next Tuesday. “In four short years Governor Cuomo turned New York into national leader on major issues like gender equality, gun control, workers’ rights, and universal pre-K for all,” the flyer says. (read article)

Skilled labor in more demand than ever, unions say
By John Deede, September 2, 2014, Bakken.com
A crowd of about 2,500 people gathered in Rose Park to have burgers, hot dogs and perhaps a beer as they commemorated Labor Day. The annual celebration is hosted by the Greater Yellowstone Central Labor Council, and has been held for more than 30 years.
“It’s a solidarity movement, and a recognition of those who formed the middle class in this country,” said Darrell Johnson, the council’s president. More than 12,000 members of 22 different unions belong to the council, which has seen positive growth in the past few years. Skilled trades in Montana were mostly unaffected by the recent recession and are hiring workers every day, he said. “Virtually everyone that wants to work can work.”
Even with an influx of people looking for work in the Bakken region of the Northern Plains, men and women are still joining unions in the Yellowstone area. “We’re not really losing any members to the oil field,” Johnson said. “In fact, we’re still having trouble filling some of the positions here.” All industries, except government, added jobs in 2013, and about 12,000 jobs have already been created in 2014, according to a Montana Department of Labor and Industry report released Aug. 29. (read article)

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