Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

It’s not just right-to-work: Bills targeting unions multiply
By Jonathon Mattise and Nicholas Riccardi, March 10, 2015, Associated Press
It’s not just Gov. Scott Walker. Republican lawmakers in statehouses nationwide are working to weaken organized labor, sometimes with efforts that directly shrink union membership. Walker’s signing of right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin on Monday puts his defiance of organized labor even more at the center of his nascent presidential campaign. And the inability of unions to exact a price for the first round of legislation targeting them in 2011 is encouraging even more proposals to limit their power. (read article)

Labor unions just lost even more power
By Diana Furchtgott-Roth, March 10, 2015, MarketWatch.com
Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed legislation that made Wisconsin the 25th “right-to-work” state. Residents of the Badger State will no longer be required to join a union as a condition of employment. With half the states in the U.S. now designated as right to work, the rest will feel pressure to join to stay competitive. Illinois, for instance, is under pressure because it borders Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa, now all right-to-work states. It is now becoming increasingly easier for businesses to migrate to nearby right-to-work states. (read article)

Republican White House hopefuls pushing for union support at firefighters conference
By Steve Peoples, March 10, 2015, Associated Press
The labor union members did not boo the Republicans. Instead, hundreds of firefighters offered polite applause or silence to GOP White House prospects Tuesday at a union-backed presidential forum, a Washington event that highlighted organized labor’s evolving role in national politics. (read article)

Labor unions hardly saintly but vital to workers’ rights
By James Coffin, March 10, 2015, Orlando Sentinel
When I heard that Wisconsin had become the 25th right-to-work state, it sent a chill down my spine. But what really jolted me was the realization that I was actually bothered by the precipitous decline of labor unions in the United States. You see, I grew up in a family, in a region and in a religion that were all less than enthusiastic about labor unions. Anti-unionism is part of my DNA. And DNA doesn’t mutate quickly. I grew up hearing stories about the less-than-savory track record of unions. (read article)

Teachers union pushing for political fliers in school mailboxes
By Tom Steward, March 10, 2015, Watchdog.org
It’s not as if the teacher union’s political endorsements campaign came as a surprise. For the 2014 campaign, Education Minnesota endorsed Democrats across the board — except for three of 134 state legislative candidates — at the federal, state and local levels. In fact, the teachers union endorsed Gov. Mark Dayton months before the Republicans even picked a candidate. Every teacher knows that repetition drills the concept home. So, last fall, the Chaska Education Association in suburban District 112 tried to stuff members’ school mailboxes with the union’s political flier, reiterating the 70,000-member organization’s preferred partisan picks. (read article)

NY charter movement vies for dominance with teachers unions
March 9, 2015, 2015, Education Week
For decades, teachers unions wielded unparalleled influence over education policy, using political muscle and deep pockets to support elected allies and punish opponents. But as thousands of charter students, parents and teachers showed last week by gathering on the Capitol lawn in Albany, those days are over. The charter movement has emerged as a potent rival here and across the nation, using donations from well-heeled donors to mount increasingly sophisticated campaigns to boost charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. (read article)

Isn’t it ironic: High-priced teachers union boss rails against right-to-work Wisconsin
By M. D. Kittle, March 9, 2015, Wisconsin Reporter
Two things were inevitable Monday at the conclusion of the Badger State’s right-to-work battle: Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that most Republicans liked and all Democrats hated, making Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state, and big labor bosses fired off a string of vitriolic and ironic media releases about how the Republican governor sold middle-income workers. (read article)

Scott Walker Rides National Anti-Labor Union Trend
By John Blosser, March 9, 2015, NewsMax.com
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is riding a national trend against labor unions, and hopes it will carry him all the way to the White House. After crushing most public employees’ right to bargain with his support of the state’s Act 10, resulting in a recall election which Walker won, the anti-union lawmaker is about to sign off on a bill making Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work (RTW) state in the union. (read article)

Biden: Labor opponents looking for ‘blackshirts’ to break unions
By Ben Schreckinger, March 9, 2015, Politico.com
Vice President Joe Biden hit opponents of organized labor in remarks to a firefighters union on Monday, invoking a term closely associated with interwar European fascism in describing those who are “intent on breaking” unions. Biden denounced those blocking the National Labor Relations Board’s attempts “to enforce the basic rules of the road,” saying, “They’re not looking for striped shirts, guys. They’re looking for blackshirts, not referees.” (read article)

Health benefits are a promise school districts find hard to keep
By Zahira Torres, March 7, 2015, Los Angeles Times
California school districts once viewed lifetime healthcare coverage for employees as a cheap alternative to pay raises. That decision is coming back to haunt school leaders, and districts are scrambling to limit the lucrative benefit promised decades ago. The price tag for retiree healthcare obligations has reached about $20 billion statewide — an amount systems are not prepared to absorb. (read article)

Thousands protest GOP Legislature at union rally
by David Gutman, March 7, 2015, Charleston Gazette
Thousands of people came to the West Virginia Capitol building in Charleston on Saturday to hear from the leaders of America’s most prominent labor unions at a rally to protest against the agenda of the new Republican majority in the Legislature. (read article)

The Koch brothers spend big — but so do labor unions
By John Stossel, March 6, 2015, Poughkeepsie Journal
Lots of people sure hate the Koch brothers. The Kochs get death threats like this: “If I had a chance to murder a Koch brother in cold blood, I would surely take it.” Jim Dean doesn’t want to kill the Kochs, but he does want new laws to limit their influence. Dean’s brother Howard was a Democratic presidential candidate, and Dean chairs a group called Democracy for America. (read article)

A Wisconsin Whimper
By Betsy Wodruff, March 6, 2015, Slate.com
When the Wisconsin State Assembly dropped the hammer on the state’s labor movement, the State Capitol was as quiet as a library. Maybe half a dozen ragged protesters stood outside the chamber hollering weakly, but the rest of the building and the grounds were serene. After two short post-vote press conferences, Madison sailed calmly on. (read article)

USW, Shell to resume talks amid ongoing labor strike at US refineries
March, 5, 2015, Oil & Gas Journal
The United Steelworkers union (USW) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which serves as lead company for National Oil Bargaining negotiations, have agreed to return to the bargaining table in an attempt to resolve USW’s more than 5-week-long unfair labor practice strike in effect at US refineries and associated installations (OGJ Online, Feb. 2, 2015). After an extended period of halted discussions between the parties, Shell and USW decided at a Mar. 4 meeting to resume the negotiation process during the week beginning Mar. 9, Shell said. (read article)

Unions sue to halt Rauner’s move to withhold ‘fair share’ fees
By Monique Garcia and Kim Geiger, March 5, 2015, Chicago Tribune
State employee unions on Thursday sued to block Gov. Bruce Rauner’s attempt to withhold fees unions receive from nonmembers, calling his executive order a “patently illegal” attempt to weaken organized labor ahead of new contract negotiations. (read article)

Cuesta won’t limit construction projects to union labor
By Cynthia Lambert, March 5, 2015, The Tribune
With multimillion-dollar construction projects on track at Cuesta College in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, college leaders have decided not to limit what types of firms could be hired to complete the work using money from a voter-approved $275 million bond measure. By consensus, the Cuesta College Board of Trustees decided Wednesday not to pursue a project-labor agreement for bond measure-funded projects – meaning that union as well as non-union firms could be hired to complete the work. (read article)

California Republicans take on teachers’ union in package of education bills
By Sharon Bernstein, March 4, 2015, Reuters
California Republican lawmakers on Wednesday announced a package of bills to dramatically change the way public school teachers are hired, fired and evaluated, embracing controversial education reforms in the most populous U.S. state. (read article)

Senate votes to kill labor board rule that unions backed
March 4, 2015, Associated Press
The Republican-controlled Senate Wednesday voted 53-46 to kill a National Labor Relations Board rule reducing the time between a union’s request for representation and a vote by workers on it. The legislation now goes to the House, where approval is also assured. But President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure, and the Senate’s vote indicates that supporters are far from the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override him. (read article)

Shell Unveils Plan to Replace Union Labor Days Before Talks
By Lynn Doan & Zain Shauk, March 3, 2015, Bloomberg
Two days before contract talks were scheduled to resume between Royal Dutch Shell Plc and the United Steelworkers’ oil union, the company announced plans to run its second-largest U.S. refinery without union labor. Shell will have trained and deployed enough “relief workers” by mid-summer to keep the 327,000-barrel-a-day Deer Park refinery in Texas fully staffed, The Hague, Netherlands-based company said late Monday on its website. (read article)

Why private sector unions are waning
By Adam B. Summers, March 3, 2015, Orange County Register
Unions have had a tough go of things in recent years, and their setbacks are only the latest in a long-term decline. In 2011, Wisconsin restricted public employees’ collective bargaining rights. The next year, Indiana became a “right-to-work” state, passing a law ensuring that workers do not have to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Michigan followed suit in 2013, becoming the 24th right-to-work state. (read article)

 

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