Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Liberal groups critical of ALEC influencing laws, but not labor unions
By Adam Tobias, September 30, 2014, Watchdog.org
Stand Up to ALEC and other affiliated left-leaning groups opposed to the American Legislative Exchange Council bringing together lawmakers and private-sector representatives to draft model state-level legislation apparently don’t have any issues when labor unions participate in almost identical practices. A number of “living wage” laws being passed across the country — including the one in Milwaukee County — have been heavily influenced by Big Labor and are designed to generate revenue for unions through provisions that exempt companies from paying the increased wages if they force full unionization. “I think it’s very rich for the unions to criticize people for doing the exact same things they do,” James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics for the Heritage Foundation, told Wisconsin Reporter. Jane Carter, a labor economist with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said during a telephone press conference on Monday that what unions are doing is different because corporations associated with ALEC are spending tens of thousands of dollars behind closed doors on bills that benefit the rich and hurt economic growth and the middle class. (read article)

Union dues shouldn’t serve as pipeline to Democrats
By Richard Berman, September 30, 2014, Las Vegas Review Journal
As the November elections get closer, voters in Nevada will be bombarded with advertisements for candidates left and right. Throw in issue advocacy advertisements and you’d be forgiven for wishing that political money would just evaporate. America’s labor unions, which have denounced the Supreme Court for expanding the rights of nonprofit organizations to make public statements on election matters, would seem to be the bedraggled swing voter’s ally in taking back his television. But don’t be fooled: Labor unions are among the biggest spenders in national elections, employ the same “social welfare” group tactics they decry and use forced dues money in addition to political funds to push a left-wing agenda a significant bloc of their membership doesn’t support. Even in 2012, as President Barack Obama was storming to re-election, members of union households weren’t at all unanimous in their support of him and his fellow Democrats. In fact, national exit polls show that 40 percent of members of union households voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, union political action committees spent more than 90 percent of their funds backing Democrats. And while these PAC contributions are opt-in, many union members are forced to fund the Democrats’ political infrastructure while they personally support Republicans. In 2012, union member dues funded more than $170 million in spending on left-wing groups — such as the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood, and Media Matters — that provide the civic backdrop for Democratic Party politics. Members who want out can’t just un-check a box. If you prefer to vote Republican, have a moral objection to abortion, or like Fox News and don’t want to fund these groups, the rules to get your money back are onerous. And unions push the boundaries of what’s legal to keep their money and power. Typically, to get a dues rebate, union members have to forfeit rights in the workplace and may still have to pay the union certain fees. (read article)

Big labor investing in turnout for Quinn, Illinois Democrats
By Lynn Sweet, September 30, 2014, Chicago Sun Times
Major unions are pumping big money into a November ballot question about raising Illinois’ minimum wage, which in reality is a political tool to energize Democratic voters who are also more than likely to vote for Gov. Pat Quinn and other Democrats down the ticket. Last July, Quinn signed a bill putting on the November ballot a statewide advisory question about raising the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015. To help organize support for this ballot question — with the anticipated byproduct turning out voters for Quinn, locked in a tight battle with GOP nominee Bruce Rauner and other Democratic candidates — on Aug. 14 a new political committee was formed in Illinois, the Committee to Reduce Income Inequality and to Support Human Rights. In reality, this is a front group for the Illinois AFL-CIO. The officers of this new committee, Michael Carrigan and Timothy Drea, are the president and the secretary-treasurer of the Springfield-based Illinois AFL-CIO. The committee is running the “Vote Yes on ballot initiatives” campaign. (read article)

Democrats and unions rally for hiking minimum wage
By Mari A. Schaefer, September 30, 2014, Philladelphia Inquirer
A lunchtime rally at the Delaware County Courthouse on Monday was billed as a fight for increasing the minimum wage, but it took on the character of a Democratic campaign rally, with not a single low-wage earner in sight. State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who has proposed increasing the hourly minimum from the current $7.25 to $12, said the only way to raise the minimum wage is to elect Democrats. “We have 36 days to make this happen,” Leach said. Reached before the rally, Andrew Reilly, Delaware County Republican Party chairman, said an increase “would likely hurt the very people proponents are trying to help” as it would end up impacting businesses. Speakers at the rally, attended by about 60 people, said workers were the ones being hurt. The event was organized by the “Raise the Wage PA” coalition, which includes unions and community groups. Others were held in Philadelphia; Morrisville, Bucks County; and eight other towns in the state to back President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum to $10.10. (read article)

Industry reacts to California labor legislation
By Mike Hornick, September 29, 2014, The Packer
Agricultural trade groups welcomed California Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill that would have put a mediator’s decision in a labor dispute immediately into effect, even if an appeal were filed. But Brown drew fire as well for signing a separate measure, Assembly Bill 1897. “This labor union-sponsored bill will unfairly impose significant liability onto an innocent third-party employer for violations of wage and other obligations of a labor contractor, even though the third-party employer does not control the contractor,” Western Growers president and chief executive officer Tom Nassif said of AB 1897 in a statement. “Creating liability for innocent third-party employers is unnecessary and harmful to our state’s job climate,” Nassif said. Brown’s Sept. 28 veto fell on Senate Bill 25, authored by senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat. It would have affected cases like that of Fresno, Calif.-based Gerawan Farming Inc. The grower-shipper pursued appeals following arbitration, part of an ongoing dispute with United Farm Workers. The veto preserves due process rights and court authority to stay contract enforcement while appeals pend, according to California Fresh Fruit Association president Barry Bedwell. “This bill only addressed the issue of contract enforcement while potentially limiting the legal rights of farm workers and employers, and therefore the governor’s veto was very appropriate,” Bedwell said in a statement. Western Growers also welcomed the veto. “When a state mediator imposes a union contract on an employer, as the Agricultural Labor Relations Act provides, the employer has very limited opportunity to obtain a stay of its provisions from the court pending an appeal,” Nassif said. “This legislation would have raised the barrier so high that it would be practically impossible for any employer to ever obtain a stay.” (read article)

Hearing begins for Fresno farmworkers at Gerawan Farming
By Robert Rodriguez, September 29, 2014, The Fresno Bee
An administrative law judge began hearing testimony Monday in a case that could decide whether more than 3,000 farmworkers employed by Gerawan Farming will be represented by the United Farm Workers union or not. A decision on who will represent the workers has been in limbo after a group of Gerawan workers fought and won the right in November to hold an election to try and kick the union out. But the Agricultural Labor Relations Board has refused to count the ballots until it resolves numerous complaints of unfair labor practices against Gerawan. The hearing that’s taking place before administrative law judge Mark Soble is expected to last for weeks, if not months. Nearly a dozen attorneys are involved in the hearing that could have more than 100 witnesses. Monday’s hearing was held in a meeting room in the Radisson Hotel in Fresno. Soble will determine if the unfair labor charges — which include worker intimidation and forging signatures — are true and whether the petition to decertify the union will be tossed out. If not, the ballots will be counted and the election results announced. (read article)

Jerry Brown hands United Farm Workers a setback
By Dan Walters, September 29, 2014, Sacramento Bee
What goes around comes around. Jerry Brown devoted much of his first governorship to seeking other offices, so his record of accomplishment was scant. He’s often touted a 1975 deal to give farmworkers, excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, union rights in California, supposedly settling years of strife between the United Farm Workers Union and growers. However, it merely ignited decades of new strife, which continues with Brown’s recent veto of a new farm labor bill. Brown erred 39 years ago by having the law take effect immediately and by appointing an obviously pro-UFW Agricultural Labor Relations Board, including the auxiliary Catholic bishop of Fresno, Roger Mahony, as chairman. Farmers bristled at the board’s makeup, it struggled to organize while being deluged with UFW election petitions, and the union was frustrated by not immediately gaining contracts. The UFW did score some wins during the early years, thanks to having a pro-union board and staff, but then went into a decades-long skid. UFW leader Cesar Chavez and his successors contended that Republican governors emasculated the ALRB and growers stalled on contract negotiations. The union’s critics say that as Chavez pursued other causes, the UFW failed to supply seasonal workers under contract “hiring halls.” (read article)

UAW gets backing from German unions to organize VW
By Brent Snavely, September 29, 2014, Detroit Free Press
The UAW has gained two German allies in its bid to organize Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. German union IG Metall and the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council signed a letter of intent Sept. 9 with the UAW to “Organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee workers as a UAW-represented facility and to begin the process of formation of a works council there.” A spokesman for Volkswagen declined to comment on the letter. The letter is the latest step in the UAW’s campaign to organize its first non-U.S.-owned assembly plant. “This is an alignment between the three institutions and to my knowledge there has never been an agreement such as this,” said UAW Secretary Treasurer Gary Casteel. “It gives us the support of one of the main foundations of the VW system and that is the Works Council.” The UAW, whose membership has fallen to less than 400,000 from 1.5 million in 1979, has tried and failed several times to organize Japanese-owned plants in the U.S. (read article)

American Federation Of Teachers Set To Spend More In 2014 Than Any Other Election Cycle Ever
By Amanda Terkel, September 29, 2014, Huffington Post
A national teachers union is set to spend a record amount in the 2014 election cycle, focused on ousting several conservative governors who have gone after labor unions and cut spending for public education. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told reporters Monday that the union was on the path to spend more in the 2014 elections than in any other cycle, including during presidential elections. In 2008, AFT spent nearly $8.3 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. It spent more than $2.5 million in 2012, and $2.1 million in 2010, which was the last non-presidential election cycle. Weingarten said the union has two main objectives this cycle: Keeping Democratic control of the Senate, and winning six key gubernatorial races in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Connecticut and Illinois, AFT is defending Democratic incumbents. It is going after GOP governors in the other four states. (read article)

Jerry Brown vetoes farm labor bill
By David Siders, September 28, 2014, Sacramento Bee
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday that would have changed procedures in farm labor disputes to make it harder for California farmers to stall new contracts. Senate Bill 25, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would have allowed the state’s Agriculture Labor Relations Board to implement farm labor contracts secured through mandatory mediation even if employers appeal. Proponents of the bill, including the United Farm Workers union, said the legislation was necessary to avoid delays in contract disputes. Opponents argued the legislation would give labor unions unfair leverage in negotiations. The measure passed the Legislature largely along partisan lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Brown signed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act and vetoed legislation to weaken farmworker unions when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, but he has had a mixed relationship with the farm workers union since returning to office in 2011. (read article)

UAW gains allies in bid to organize VW
By Mike Pare, September 28, 2014, Colombia Daily Herald
A United Auto Workers official says the union has taken “a big step” toward gaining representation of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga employees and creation of a first-in-the-U.S. works council at the plant. The UAW, VW’s global group works council and European union IG Metall have signed a letter of intent to jointly commit to organizing the Chattanooga plant as “a UAW-represented facility” and start the process of forming a works council. “This is unique,” said Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer. “I don’t know of any formal agreement between organizations of this nature.” The letter said the parties agree to work for a definitive agreement on matters contained in a “foundation document” specifying certain issues such as a joint training program, internships and communications. Casteel said all the parties are willing to put resources to the effort including financing, though how much wasn’t specified. However, National Right to Work Vice President Patrick Semmens termed the document “a lot of double talk.” He said it papers over “the fact that Detroit-based UAW officials are colluding with a German union and works council members to force VW Chattanooga team members under union control without a secret ballot vote.” The letter of intent comes after a group of anti-UAW plant workers moved ahead with its own unionizing initiative. The group hopes to gather enough signatures to have an election at the plant for the American Council of Employees. ACE wants to counter UAW Local 42, which the union set up in June with hopes of gaining enough members that VW will recognize it. (read article)

Union push defines Santa Cruz school board race
By J.M. Brown, September 27, 2014, Santa Cruz Sentinel
For the better part of a decade since budget-driven school closures deeply divided teachers, parents and trustees within the Santa Cruz City Schools district, school board elections largely have been ho-hum — drawing either no serious contests or no challengers at all. But this year — after a blistering battle with the teachers union, upheaval over reopening a school and demotion of the board president — the race is the hottest political ticket in town and one with a lot at stake. The Nov. 4 showdown between three incumbents and two union-backed challengers has become radioactive, taking a front-and-center spot at prized endorsement forums and raising questions about fairness and transparency. At the heart of the matter is the district’s relationship with the teachers and classified unions who are fiercely working to unseat the incumbents, mostly over employee compensation. The race has become such a test of personal loyalty that some political figures, such as Vice Mayor Don Lane, have vowed to stay out of it. “I’m not seeking any new controversies,” Lane said with a laugh, but added with all seriousness that, “I think it will be helpful for people who don’t feel rooted to the issues to stay back because, when it’s over, there will be a need for people who can help heal the situation.” (read article)

Brown has last say in labor board dispute between L.A. County, unions
By Abby Sewell and David Zahniser, September 26, 2014, Los Angeles Times
Gov. Jerry Brown has landed in the middle of a simmering feud over who should sit on the independent panels that sort out labor disputes affecting tens of thousands of Los Angeles city and county workers. A bill that Brown could soon sign or veto would essentially override a decision by the Board of Supervisors to rework how the county’s Employee Relations Commission is appointed. Under the old system, county managers and union leaders agreed on the selection of all three commission members. The supervisors voted last fall, however, to create a new system that allowed each side to pick one commissioner, with the third selected from a list approved by both unions and management. Union leaders objected to the change, sparking a standoff that has since halted hundreds of requests for arbitration and complaints of unfair labor practices. So little business has been conducted that before last month’s commission meeting was canceled —like every one since September of last year — the agenda was filled with 31 pages of pending disputes. Labor unions responded by persuading the Legislature to write and pass a bill to restore their power to screen all three commission appointees. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s sponsor, said he wrote the measure because he was troubled by the “politicization” of the city and county employee panels. “If [county supervisors] had not made any changes, the employee board still would be meeting right now,” he said. (read article)

Austin Firefighters Union Rejects Labor Contract
September 26, 2014, Fire Engineering
The Austin Firefighters Association has rejected a labor contract with the city that was proposed after approximately three months of negotiations, reports The American-Statesman. The union and the city have been without a contract since October, after labor contract negotiations to renew the agreement that expired on Sept. 30 broke down over disputes that included how new cadets should be hired. Union president Bob Nicks said more association members voted on this contract than ever before in the organizationâ??s history. Of 773 firefighters who voted, 93 percent opposed the contract “and said no to the further erosion of our professional standards,” Nicks said in a statement to union members. That’s approximately 75 percent of about 1,040 uniformed personnel at the Austin Fire Department. “Firefighters will not sell their principles for any amount of money and that is whatâ??s called integrity,” he said in the statement. “The safety of the citizens and firefighters of Austin is not for sale, no matter how much pressure the city applies to make us capitulate.” (read article)

State, Local Laws Force Public Employees to Pay Labor Unions
By Jason Hart, September 25, 2014, Human Events
Taxpayer money goes to mandatory labor union “fair share” or “agency” fees in Washington, D.C,. and 23 states. Public employees can be forced to pay a labor union as a condition of employment in the states highlighted on the map below. Nearly half of all U.S. states allow public-sector union contracts to require mandatory dues as a condition of employment, based on a review of U.S. Department of Labor records, state labor laws and a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation study from 2012. Many of these states and local governments automatically deduct union fees from public employees’ pay, funneling taxpayer money directly to labor bosses. Although Missouri and Kentucky do not explicitly ban public-sector agency fees, DOL reports indicate no major labor union in either state takes such fees from government workers. Among the states where agency fees are permitted, statutes governing the practice are far from uniform. Wisconsin’s 2011 Act 10 labor reforms ending forced unionism for most government workers exempted public safety unions. Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work law included similar exceptions for public safety unions. (read article)

Worried about money in politics? Look for the union label
By Richard Berman, September 25, 2014, Alabama Media Group
As the November elections get closer, voters in Alabama will be bombarded with advertisements for candidates left and right. Throw in issue advocacy advertisements and you’d be forgiven for wishing that political money would just evaporate. America’s labor unions, which have denounced the Supreme Court for expanding the rights of nonprofit organizations to make public statements on election matters, would seem to be the bedraggled swing voter’s ally in taking back his television. Don’t be fooled: Labor unions are among the biggest spenders in national elections, employ the same “social welfare” group tactics they decry, and use forced dues money in addition to political funds to push a left-wing agenda a significant bloc of their membership doesn’t support. Even in 2012, as President Obama was storming to re-election, members of union households weren’t at all unanimous in their support of him and his fellow Democrats. In fact, national exit polls show that 40 percent of members of union households voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, union political action committees (PACs) spent over 90 percent of their funds backing Democrats. And while these PAC contributions are opt-in, many union members are forced to fund the Democrats’ political infrastructure while they personally support Republicans. In 2012, union member dues funded over $170 million in spending on left-wing groups like the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood, and Media Matters that provide the civic backdrop for Democratic Party politics. (read article)

Center for Union Facts says Randi Weingarten is ruining nation’s schools
By Lyndsey Layton, September 24, 2014, Washington Post
The 11-page mailing, on expensive paper stock, was sent first class to 125,000 households across the country this week. “I’m writing to you about Randi,” the letter began. “You probably don’t know who Randi is. Most people don’t. The terrible impact Randi has on America’s educational system is something that I hope you will give me a few minutes to explain.” The writer, Richard Berman, is a D.C.-based corporate communications consultant who is waging a national campaign against Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Berman has run a highly personal attack on Weingarten for the past year, paying for two billboards in Times Square that featured an unflattering two-story image of her, a full-page ad in the New York Times, radio spots and, now, lengthy mailings. He also paid workers to hand out anti-Weingarten flyers during Labor Day weekend in East Hampton, N.Y., where she has a home. (read article)

Across U.S., labor freedom grows
By Greg McNeilly, September 24, 2014, The Detroit News
Earlier this month, Michigan families and Michigan workers observed Labor Day amidst a dramatically changing labor — and public opinion — landscape. In the run-up to the yearly celebration of the American worker, Gallup released its annual poll gauging American voters’ opinions of labor unions and workers’ rights. The results painted a vivid picture of a nation becoming disillusioned with union boss politics and a people willing to embrace and advance the rights of individual workers like never before. The poll found than an astonishing 82 percent of Americans believe no worker should be “required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his or her will.” And in results that testify even louder to the advance of freedom, 71 percent of voters said they don’t just support freedom-to-work — they would actually vote to enact it if it were on the ballot. According to Gallup, support for unions even in the broadest, most friendly terms comes in at “the low end of Gallup’s nearly 80-year trend” of asking questions about labor unions. (read article)

Unions Renew Misguided $15/hr. Fast Food Minimum Wage Campaign
By Carl Horowitz, September 24, 2014, National Legal and Policy Center
Labor officials are about the last people to be impressed by evidence that hiking the minimum wage drives up entry-level unemployment. These last several weeks they’ve been putting words into action in targeting fast food restaurants. Unions, led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are retooling their campaign to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food employees, more than double the current $7.25 an hour basic federal minimum. Hundreds of protestors, though not necessarily union members, were arrested for blocking traffic on Labor Day. President Obama voiced his approval of the campaign that day in a speech. And the SEIU has called for a nationwide strike. Yet if supporters really wanted to do workers a good turn, they would focus on the real possibility that they may wind up driving a lot of restaurants out of business. (read article)

‘Perfect storm’ boosting union success
By Tammy Worth, September 24, 2014, Healthcare Finance News
Over the last decade, labor unions have had many successes gaining ground within the healthcare industry. In the coming years, the industry will see more of the same. The most recent semi-annual report produced for the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration found 71 percent of elections in 2013 resulted in union creation in the healthcare industry. The most successful unions were the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers and National Nurses United (the latter won 100 percent of its elections in 2013). While labor union activity has weakened in other industries, a “perfect storm” has given unions an advantage in the healthcare industry, said Jim Trivisonno, president of IRI Consultants and author of the ASHHRA report. The Affordable Care Act’s pressure on the industry to reduce costs and become more efficient, and the increasing numbers of mergers and acquisitions in the industry has created employment instability anxiety among healthcare employees, he said, making them more open to labor unions and their promise of stability. For leaders in the healthcare industry who may disdain labor’s claims of securing employment stability, Kate Vonderhaar, a consultant of research and insights at the Advisory Board Company, cites a number of surveys the company has conducted which support labor’s claims that employers with a unionized workforce have more employment stability than employers without unionized employees. For instance, the studies found that turnover at unionized hospitals was 10 percent in 2013, while at those without unions it was 13 percent. And employers with unions spend more money (4.8 percent of payroll) on “premium” labor compared to 3.3 percent at non-union employers. (read article)

California busybodies side with union rather than farmworkers
By Josh Kaib, September 24, 2014, Watchdog.org
The liberal busybodies on the Berkeley City Council are weighing-in again on an issue that has nothing to do with their city: Gerawan Farming in Fresno is in their crosshairs again. While the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board has steadfastly refused to count thousands of ballots collected by Gerawan farmworkers, cast nine months ago to decertify the United Farm Workers labor union, Berkeley is inserting itself in the labor dispute – on the side of the big labor union, rather than with the little, farmworkers, fighting for the right to work without a union. It is ironic that the ALRB, created in the 1970’s to provide farm workers a voice, refuses to let workers have a voice to vote to decertify the UFW, because the outcome may not fit their agenda. In July, the City of Berkeley decided to weigh in on the contentious labor issue — the same city council of liberal busybodies which in 2008 approved a measure which told Marine recruiters to vacate their Berkeley office. (read article)

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