Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

As Republican presidential field grows, Californians ponder best choice
By Josh Richman. July 14, 2015, San Jose Mercury News
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign launch Monday means 15 GOP candidates now are seeking the White House with at least two more on the way, leaving California Republicans with an embarrassment of riches — or maybe just embarrassment, in some cases. Donald Trump was in Los Angeles last week, Jeb Bush will be all over California this week, Ben Carson is coming to Alameda County next week, but who will still be standing next June when Golden State Republicans go to the polls for what’s often a you-no-longer-matter presidential primary? And November 2016, who might appeal most or offend least in this deep-blue stronghold, which hasn’t supported a Republican for the White House since George H.W. Bush in 1988? Like everything with the GOP race, there’s no simple answer. Californians who fret about government surveillance and overseas entanglements might be hot for Rand Paul. Some might find Carly Fiorina’s Silicon Valley business record appealing. Bush could tempt those who want an immigration policy and Spanish fluency to attract Latino voters; there’s Trump, for those who don’t. (read article)

Union-busting Republican joins crowded White House race
By Michael Mathes, July 14, 2015, Yahoo News
Wisconsin’s union-busting Governor Scott Walker announced that he is joining the crowded field of Republicans jostling to be the party’s presidential nominee, arguing he can sell his conservative record to mainstream America. Walker, who vaulted into national prominence when he picked a fierce fight with labor unions, declared his widely expected 2016 White House run on Twitter early Monday before addressing supporters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. “After a great deal of thought and a whole lot of prayer,” Walker said he is officially “running to serve as your president of the United States of America.” (read article)

Worker’s Choice: A Way To Make Sure We Don’t Undo Right-To-Work
By F. Vincent Vernuccio, July 14, 2015, Forbes
On June 30, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could prohibit public sector unions from getting workers fired for not paying them. In fact, it may mandate all public employees have the right-to-work regardless of whether their state has passed such a statute. Conversely, the National Labor Relations Board, made up of a majority of Obama nominees and widely seen to be pro-union, asked for public comment in April on a case that could change right-to-work laws for private sector employees around the country. Thankfully for advocates of worker freedom, the board was forced to drop the request last Tuesday because the parties reached a settlement. If the case had gone through and the NLRB sided with the union, the board could have required these workers pay unions for certain representation, even in right-to-work states, thus negating the law. (read article)

Christie to Public Employee Unions – No Contracts, No Step Increases in Salaries
By John Reitmeyer, July 14, 2015, New Jersey Spotlight
The administration takes a tough stand on step increases, but unions argue that incremental pay is typically paid without a signed and sealed contract. Gov. Chris Christie has taken an aggressive approach to dealing with public workers and their unions since taking office in early 2010. He’s encouraged voters to reject school budgets in communities where teachers weren’t accepting pay freezes, pushed to change civil-service rules, and signed legislation that forced employees to pay more toward to their pensions and health benefits. Now that Christie has joined the 2016 GOP presidential primary field, his administration is taking another tough stance. It recently told thousands of union members whose contracts expired June 30 that they won’t be receiving annual incremental pay increases while there’s no new deal in place. In the past, the unions say workers have generally received their annual increases if their performance merited the bump — even without a contract in place. (read article)

Sanders courting postal worker endorsement
By Tim Devaney, July 14, 2015, The Hill
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is courting postal workers on the campaign trail. The surging Democratic presidential candidate met with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and more than 40 other labor leaders Monday evening. American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein called Sanders a “champion” of the postal workers. “Bernie Sanders has been an outspoken champion of postal customers, postal workers and the public Postal Service — demanding expanded services for all Americans, an end to mail delays, and an end to the closure of postal facilities,” Dimondstein said in a statement. Though the APWU has not yet endorsed any presidential candidate for the 2016 election, the union leader said there is “tremendous interest and excitement” about Sanders. “There has been tremendous interest and excitement about his campaign in the labor movement,” he said. “He has been a forceful advocate for working people for decades,” Dimondstein added. “He’s not in the pocket of big corporations. We thought it was important to hear his ideas about the 2016 campaign — especially how he plans to take on the big-money interests that are strangling our political system and our economy.” (read article)

CEQA: California’s Environmental Quibbling Act
By Paul Taylor, July 14, 2015, LA City Watch
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970. CEQA requires extensive study and mitigations (corrections) of environmental impacts for both public and private development projects. This is typically a rather lengthy and costly process, which significantly increases the cost of housing and infrastructure in the state. California is one of just three states to subject private and public development to such strict scrutiny. Almost anyone can file a CEQA lawsuit against any new development EIR (Environmental Impact Report) they dislike. Plaintiffs win half of the lawsuits they file, and when they lose they do not pay the defendants’ legal fees. Whereas, plaintiffs get their legal fees paid by losing defendants. Petty, obsessional, partisan, arbitrary, capricious, myopic, sentimental, litigious, narcissistic, non-scientific and radical-green eco-group motivations too often prevail in CEQA issues. And, project delays and expenses only accumulate as planning agency and environmental groups pile on precedent, yet gratuitous, mitigation measures. (read article)

California’s Worst Franchisor? The SEIU.
July 14, 2015, LaborPains.org
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is currently directing its political lackeys in the California State Legislature to advance a bill that makes it harder for franchisors to change, revoke, or fail to renew contracts with their franchisees. This political fight has created a bizarre alliance between SEIU, which has spent something on the order of $50 million trying to make franchisees’ lives more difficult with union labor rules, and a handful of franchisees annoyed at provisions of their franchise contracts. The disaffected franchisees shouldn’t trust SEIU for numerous reasons—the union, after all, wants to saddle their operations with massive hikes in their number-one cost, labor. More important, though, is the fact that the SEIU has zero credibility to criticize franchisors who are interested in revoking the contracts of their franchisees. The SEIU specializes in aggressive shut-downs of independent subordinates, in California in particular. Numerous SEIU locals in California have been dismembered, abolished, or merged under pressure from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and her predecessor, the infamous Andy Stern. (read article)

Teachers’ Union Girds For Supreme Court Setback, Pledges To Grow Membership
By Dave Jamieson, July 13, 2015, Huffington Post
Faced with its gravest threat in years from the Supreme Court, one of the country’s largest labor unions is preparing for a ruling that could make it much more difficult to collect fees from the workers it represents. This weekend, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution pledging to speak individually with each of its 1.6 million members about getting more involved in the union. According to the resolution, union officials are developing a plan they hope will double the number of union activists in their ranks. The subtext of the move has to do with Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that the Supreme Court recently announced it will hear in autumn. An unfavorable ruling for public-sector unions could ban what are known as fair share agreements, which require that all workers pay fees to the union to help cover the costs of collective bargaining. A union like the AFT must represent all the workers under a given contract, so the union says it’s only fair that everyone contributes. Though the legitimacy of fair share fees was upheld by the court decades ago, Justice Samuel Alito signaled in another recent union case, Harris v. Quinn, that the conservative-leaning court might strike down fair share fees on the basis of the First Amendment. Due to the financial impact that would have, Friedrichs is widely seen as a case that could devastate public-sector unionism. (read article)

The Right’s Stealth Plan to Kill Unions: Do It County by County
By Justin Glawe, July 13, 2015, The Daily Beast
If there was an item in the Painters District Council 30 monthly newsletter regarding “right to work” in Illinois, Dave Schmidgall must have missed it. The longtime union painter, living in Peoria and approaching 50, has a mindset that many of his union brothers and sisters his age have: “It’ll never happen,” he said. Unless a union-busting lawyer from Florida and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner get their way, that is. Unable to pass a bill statewide with a Democratic supermajority in the legislature, Rauner and others are pushing for counties to enact their own “empowerment zones,” where right-to-work would become law. In Brent Yessin, the lawyer who runs a nonprofit called Protect My Check, unions have a powerful foe. Union advocates argue that collecting dues from members who don’t wish to be represented by the union is essential to keeping the organizations alive. In right-to-work states—and in the “empowerment zones” Rauner and others like Yessin are pushing for—unions wouldn’t be allowed to collect these “fair share dues” from members who opt out of union membership. (read article)

Labor-union chief has six-word statement on Scott Walker’s presidential campaign
By Robert Schroeder, July 13, 2015, MarketWatch.com
“Scott Walker is a national disgrace.” That’s the extent of the statement Monday from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the entry by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker into the presidential race. It apparently summed up the labor chief’s feelings about the Republican who’s best known for clashing with public-sector unions. The reason for the butting of heads between labor and the Badger State’s governor: Walker led the fight in 2011 to end most collective-bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s government workers. That clash with public-sector unions led to a recall election — a contest that Walker won. Walker, who announced his candidacy Monday morning, is viewed as a top-tier GOP contender for 2016. He’s second in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, behind Jeb Bush. (read article)

Rauner pension plan would end union negotiations and freeze pay
By Sara Burnett, July 12, 2015, Associated Press
Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois could save billions of dollars each year through an ambitious new plan to address hugely underfunded pension systems, a proposal he describes as “fair and reasonable” for both government workers and taxpayers. But labor unions and their supporters – including Democrats who run the Legislature – say it’s the latest attempt by the Republican to attach union-busting measures to broader policy changes. The top-heavy look these models sport in their swimsuits will rocket them to the top of your charts. The legislation would prohibit state employee unions from collective bargaining on issues such as wages, vacation and overtime, and would freeze salaries for five years beginning this month. It would then offer workers the option of getting raises, more vacation or more overtime – but only if they agree to switch to a less-generous pension plan. Democratic leaders declared the plan all but dead last week, while labor unions called it “unconstitutional, unfair to workers and retirees, and a waste of taxpayer dollars and time.” (read article)

Hillary Clinton picks up endorsement from third-largest labor union
By Kelly Cohen, July 12, 2015, Washington Examiner
The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s third-largest labor group, has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. “For nearly a century, the American Federation of Teachers has worked to expand opportunity for the people and communities they serve. I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee front runner said in a statement. AFT’s endorsement is the first international labor union endorsement of the 2016 cycle so far. The union includes 1.6 million members and retirees nationwide and is only smaller than the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union. (read article)

Sanders draws early support for White House bid from long-time union allies
July 11, 2015, Fox News
Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is getting support from unions members across the county that includes a mix of long-time political backers and potential voters apparently wary of party frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Wall Street and Big Business. Sanders has already gotten support from one of the country’s most influential labor leaders, Larry Cohen, the outgoing president of the roughly 700,000-member Communications Workers of American. Cohen cited Clinton’s failure to publicly oppose giving President Obama so-called “fast-track” approval on trade deals under the pending Trans Pacific Partnership legislation, which unions argue, if approved, would send manufacturing jobs overseas. He also told The Huffington Post that organized labor is not a rubber stamp for the Democratic Party “and certainly not for corporate Democrats.” And the grassroots group Labor for Bernie 2016 has already pulled support from hundreds of union members with similar concerns. (read article)

Scott Walker’s war with unions a likely boon for fundraising in GOP race
By Ned Resnikoff, July 10, 2015, Al Jazeera America
On Monday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is expected to announce his entrance into the 2016 Republican presidential primary. It would make him the 15th Republican to enter the race, but early indicators suggest he’ll rocket to the front row of a crowded pack, propelled in large part by enthusiasm for his anti-union rhetoric. Recent polls situate Walker in the top tier of candidates, and one even has him in first place in Iowa. But polling this early in the race is an inexact art. With seven months to go until the Iowa caucus, the more important sign of a candidate’s strength is his ability to fundraise. And in that department, Walker is widely expected to shine. The second-term Wisconsin governor has long enjoyed support from some of the most influential donors in Republican politics. And their support has everything to do with Walker’s signature issue: His successful campaign to limit the power of labor unions in his home state. (read article)

NLRB Halts Effort to Undermine Right to Work
By Bill McMorris, July 10, 2015, Washington Free Beacon
The National Labor Relations Board has dropped its reexamination of right to work laws and coercive unionism after the union at the center of its case settled. The nation’s top labor arbiter submitted a request for legal briefs asking lawyers to weigh in on whether unions could charge non-members fees for grievance filings in April. The case came after a regional NLRB judge ruled that the Florida-based United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union Local 1192 violated the labor rights of a worker when it charged him fees to file a grievance claim. The call to briefs prompted speculation from legal experts that the NLRB sought to undermine right to work laws in 25 states that prohibit companies from forcing workers to pay unions fees as a condition of employment. (read article)

New Jersey public worker unions sue state to challenge pay freeze
By Samantha Marcus, July 10, 2015, NewJersey.com
New Jersey’s public worker unions have gone to court against the state to challenge a pay freeze enacted when state employee contracts expired last week. In a notice sent to unions June 29 and obtained by NJ Advance Media, the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations said it would suspend step increases — raises in pay when workers reach annual milestones in years of service — if a new agreement was not struck by July 1. Contracts for more than 50,000 state workers expired on June 30 as the heads of several public employee unions, locked in a bitter battle with the state over pensions, have said they’re not in a hurry to negotiate. The Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, which includes state corrections, juvenile justice and parole officers, and the New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association filed suit against the state and Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday, alleging the Office of Employee Relations doesn’t have the authority to discontinue the periodic pay increases awarded based on years of service. (read article)

Massachusetts State budget shakes unions
By David Scharfenberg, July 9, 2015, Boston Globe
Lawmakers on Wednesday approved a $38.1 billion budget that included a significant defeat for organized labor — a measure temporarily clearing the way for greater privatization of services at the MBTA. The move put a small but significant crack in a decades-old measure known as the Pacheco law, which created hurdles to outsourcing services to non-union workers. Coming after a string of high-profile union victories in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, the blow to one of labor’s most treasured protections has raised a sharp question on Beacon Hill: How did this happen? The primary driver of the shift, observers agree, is the crisis that has engulfed the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority since a series of winter storms crippled the agency. But union leaders and lawmakers point to other factors, too: a media narrative that framed the Pacheco law, fairly or not, as an “anti-privatization” measure; a popular governor pushing for more outsourcing; and parliamentary maneuvers that cleared the way. (read article)

NLRB backs off — for now — from undermining state right-to-work laws
By Kent Hoover, July 8, 2015, BizJournals.com
The National Labor Relations Board has backed off from what critics saw as an effort to undermine state right-to-work laws. The NLRB suspended a request for briefs on whether it should allow unions to collect fees in right-to-work states from non-union workers who are represented by unions in grievance procedures. That’s because the case that prompted this request has been settled. In 25 states with right-to-work laws, workers don’t have to join a union and pay union dues as a condition of employment. In a case involving a non-union worker at Buckeye Florida Corp., an administrative judge ruled that a United Steelworkers local violated the National Labor Relations Act by making him pay a fee for representing him in a grievance case. The union appealed this ruling, prompting the NLRB to ask for legal opinions as to whether it should change existing rules against unions charging non-members a “fair share” fee for processing grievances. The union withdrew its appeal after the grievance case was settled in the worker’s favor, and the NLRB then withdrew its request for briefs on the “fair share” issue. (read article)

This Union Actually Believes In Right-To-Work Laws
By Connor D. Wolf, July 8, 2015, Daily Caller
Labor leaders often argue that right-to-work policies inherently undermine unions, but a growing movement of service-orientated unions say the claim is simply not true. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, outlaws mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment — a condition unions nationwide say is essential to their existence. Jim Perialas, however, says the trick to getting workers to pay dues is simply to offer a worthwhile service. “We are still a union to our core but we aren’t the things that unions have become,” Perialas told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Perialas is the president of the Roscommon Teachers Association. The small union broke away from the Michigan Education Association (MEA) in 2012 over policy disagreements. He says the union became an entrenched bureaucracy, worried more about its own survival than that of its members. (read article)

Independent Union Shows Unions Can Prosper Under Right-To-Work
By Tom Gantert, July 8, 2015, Michigan Capitol Confidential
In 2012, teachers in the Roscommon area school district became the first in decades to “decertify” the Michigan Education Association — fire it — and start their own independent union. Now, three years later, the president of the startup local, called the Roscommon Teachers Association, said 64 of 65 eligible teachers have voluntarily paid dues as of the recently completed school year. It probably didn’t hurt that the union’s $500 dues are about half the amount charged by the MEA, the state’s largest teachers union. “Roscommon teachers show that voluntary unionism can thrive if the union is proving its worth to it members,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, the director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “If a union provides value it does not need to worry about its members opting out and not paying.” (read article)

Free Speech vs. Compulsory Union Dues
by Larry Huss, July 8. 2015, Oregon Catalyst
Two years ago, in the aftermath of Harris v. Quinn, I wrote the following column. Last week the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Friedrichs v. CTA which will deal precisely with the issue discussed in my column. There will be a lot of legalese and make believe bandied about by the lawyers and the politicians. It is timely to reiterate in laymen’s language what the issue is really about and why “free speech” must remain free. Free Speech vs. Collective Bargaining (Non-legalese): Last week’s column dealt with the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Harris v. Quinn. This is the case in which the court ruled that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) could not require individuals who received public funds for providing home health care services to relatives to join or pay dues to the public employees unions. Since that column a number of people have raised the question with me as why there isn’t a balance between the concerns of unions that non-members should not get a free ride for the union’s bargaining efforts and individuals “free speech” and “rights of association (non-association).” (read article)

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