Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Santa Clara County’s campaign finance records provide glimpse of Silicon Valley’s political landscape

By Saurabh Datar, May 31, 2016, Peninsula Press

Santa Clara County is one of just 17 counties in California that provide campaign finance records online in a form that is easy to analyze. Those records provide a glimpse of the political landscape of Silicon Valley. The county first began requiring electronic filing of campaign contributions in mid-2014. But the data has limits. Before 2014, some groups filed electronically and others filed on paper, making it difficult to estimate how much was given before the electronic filing requirement. Yet the available slice of campaign records — from the partial data from 2010 through 2014 and the complete records since — reveals spending patterns of two powerful groups in the Valley: businesses and unions. (read article)

Unions must follow through on ballot initiatives to reform healthcare finances

By Ron Shinkman, May 31, 2016, Fierce Health Finance

The healthcare industry has been the single most vigorous creator of jobs in the country in recent years. And healthcare has created a range of jobs, from hourly janitorial gigs to middle-class nursing positions to upper-middle class physicians and executives, to CEOs paid millions of dollars a year. Many of the non-managerial jobs not only pay well, but are unionized. While unions have been slowly worn down and out in the automotive, aerospace and other sectors, they have become quite healthy, if not robust, in healthcare. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents hundreds of thousands of hospital workers in various chapters throughout the country, seems to be losing its way by creating political intrigue in which it mostly fails to follow through. A couple of years ago, the SEIU in California pushed a ballot measure that would have not only limited payments but capped executive pay at hospitals as well. In this instances, the SEIU backed off the ballot measure in lieu of cutting a deal. (read article)

Locking in lawmakers: Interest groups get positions in writing

By Laurel Rosenhall, May 30, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle

The eight-page document reads like a contract, asking candidates seeking a seat in the Legislature to pledge support for workers organizing unions. It lists priority issues — including health care, immigration and retirement benefits — and asks if the candidate will be a “supporter,” “champion” or “partner” as the union pursues its agenda in Sacramento. The answers are a secret paper trail left by politicians who have sought backing this year from the Service Employees International Union, one of the state’s most powerful labor groups. The union won’t share the completed documents with the public. But it will pull out candidates’ responses later when they cast votes as lawmakers. “We do bring the questionnaire back out and remind them that when they were running, they told our members X, Y and Z,” said Alma Hernandez, the union’s political director. “So there is an expectation that they vote” that way. By locking potential legislators into a position before they’re even elected, questionnaires may also influence policymaking in a way that excludes the public and raises ethical questions. Out of view from voters, they can create private covenants between soon-to-be public officials and the groups that will lobby them. (read article)

The fight for $8.50

By Richard Berman, May 30, 2016, Washington Times

Last week, labor union-backed activists protested McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. Their demands were familiar: $15 and a union. The protests are part of a combined effort by the labor movement to find relevance by trying to unionize the growing service sector. Despite years of friendly media coverage, and hundreds of millions of dollars spent (mostly from the forced dues of employees on fixed incomes), the protests have not succeeded in increasing unionization. The value proposition that unions offer potential members is that they’d be able to negotiate better employee pay than employees could achieve on their own. But is this view correct or just politically correct? Perhaps the starkest example of how crony unions sell out their members for increased dues is the behind-the-scenes deal they cut with Los Angeles city legislators to exempt unions from the city’s recently passed $15 minimum wage. This labor loophole is a naked attempt to sell out members to increase unionization by making it more financially attractive to employers. Unionized employees are hit with a double whammy: They have to pay union dues, and they make less than their private sector counterparts. (read article)

Credit cycle turns against small business

By Dan McSwain, May 29, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune

It’s never been easy to raise capital for a small business. The degree of difficulty usually runs in cycles, with periods of tight credit and risk aversion giving way eventually to easing and optimism, followed by recession and another round of capital scarcity. Yet this cycle is different. Despite record sales and profits in 2015 for companies great and small, bank credit appears to be contracting for small-business owners. This certainly isn’t stopping entrepreneurs. They are responding in classic fashion: When the bank says “no,” they hit up friends, family and even pawn shops to support their ambitions. Federal Reserve data show that U.S. banks, after mostly loosening lending standards for commercial and industrial loans to small firms from 2008 through early 2013, have been tightening for the last three years, with the trend accelerating in late 2015. Such movement in standards has shifted opportunities for expansion to larger competitors. From the first quarter of 2010 through the third quarter of 2015, the share of loans going to California’s small businesses shrank from 23 percent to 15.4 percent, state officials report. (read article)

Union Bosses Trade Blows Over Philly Soda Tax

By Guy Bentley, May 28, 2016, Daily Caller

The labor movement is bitterly divided over Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s plan for a soda tax, with union leaders trading blows in the local press. Kenney proposed the three cents per ounce tax to fund pre-k education. The policy soon sparked national controversy, with Hillary Clinton wading in to support the levy. “It starts early with working with families, working with kids, building up community resources — I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids,” Clinton said at an event in the Philadelphia in May 2015. “I mean, we need universal preschool. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.” Clinton’s socialist rival Sen. Bernie Sanders hit the Democratic front-runner, accusing her of attacking the poor. “Frankly, I am very surprised that Secretary Clinton would support this regressive tax after pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000,” Sanders said. (read article)

Teachers and aides approve union at International High School

By Marta Jewson, May 27, 2016, The Lens

International High School of New Orleans employees voted 26-18 in favor of unionizing at a labor board election today. “It’s a great day for teachers in the city of New Orleans,” UTNO President Larry Carter said. Union supporters wore small buttons, while opponents wore T-shirts that read “Vote ISHNO” with letters ‘no’ in a box and on the back: “If you CAN READ, thank a teacher. If you cannot, thank a teacher’s union.” Only one collective bargaining agreement for public teachers has been negotiated in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the union, after the state took over a majority of schools and chartered them to dozens of nonprofits. The union asked International High’s nonprofit board to voluntarily recognize United Teachers of New Orleans as their bargaining agent. The board never formally responded, leading the union to request a National Labor Relations Board supervised election. At a labor board hearing two weeks ago, the school’s attorney, Brooke Duncan, argued the charter was a public school created by state law and therefore not subject to the labor board’s authority. (read article)

Can Trump make inroads with union voters?

By Jennifer G. Hickey, May 27, 2016, Fox News

A seemingly growing rift between union members and other factions of the Democratic Party could present an opening this year for Donald Trump – the NAFTA-hating, border wall-building Republican populist – to peel off labor voters traditionally loyal to the other side. “There has been this disconnect between private-sector, white workers and the new Democratic coalition,” pollster Scott Rasmussen said, adding that unions are scrambling this year to “stop the hemorrhaging.” The latest evidence of a fraying Democrat-labor alliance came earlier this month, when billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer unveiled For Our Future PAC, a $50 million partnership with the AFL-CIO and public-sector unions designed to mobilize Democratic voters in key battleground states. The announcement exposed a sense of betrayal felt among some trade unionists which could redound to Trump’s benefit. (read article)

Auto Workers Union Calls Members To ‘Unify’ Behind Hillary Clinton

By Connor D. Wolf, May 26, 2016, Daily Caller

The largest national union of automobile workers announced its endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Thursday. The United Auto Workers leadership narrowed its choice down May 19 to Clinton and her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, after ruling out Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The union still gave praise to Sanders for framing important issues, but decided Clinton is the best choice. “The primary process is at a point where it is time to unify and choose between two very good UAW friends,” UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement. “Our UAW regions have gone through an extensive process of surveying our members. Each regional director took the time to listen to their membership and give input into the campaign season.” Williams said Clinton is the candidate most likely to address the needs of union members and working families. (read articles)

UW faculty and staff labor union behind ‘no confidence’ movement sees opportunity for growth

By Pat Schneider, May 26, 2016, Madison.com

Public labor unions may not have much power in Wisconsin these days, but a local at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been trying to flex its muscles recently. United Faculty and Academic Staff (UFAS) circulated the resolution of no confidence in UW System leaders that was overwhelmingly endorsed by the campus faculty senate earlier this month, setting off a series of union-led actions across the state. Chad Alan Goldberg, the UW-Madison sociology professor who drafted the resolution and helped marshal forces in support, is president of UFAS, Local 223 of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin. (read article)

Labor law comes under scrutiny in US courts

By Milton J. Valencia, May 25, 2016, The Boston Globe

There was nothing subtle about the labor battle between an electric workers union and a Louisiana utility. Workers fired high-powered rifles at company transformers. They drained oil from company machinery. They blew up a transformer. And the Supreme Court ruled that their actions didn’t violate federal law because they were part of union activity. That early 1970s ruling — known as the Enmons decision — helped set parameters for acceptable union activity — a question now at the heart of a federal inquiry into union actions in Philadelphia, Buffalo, and, most recently, Boston. In the Boston case, three Teamsters members were sentenced last year to federal prison for threatening to “shut down” events run by businesses that hired nonunion workers. (read article)

Long Beach harbor commissioners approve labor agreement

By Andrew Edwards, May 24, 2016, Press Telegram

A new labor agreement will give union members living in Los Angeles and Orange counties a significant advantage when it comes to being hired to work on Port of Long Beach contracts. Long Beach’s Board of Harbor Commissioners, which sets policy for the Long Beach port, voted Monday night to approve a new project labor agreement covering some $717 million worth of capital projects expected to be accomplished over five years. Port officials announced the commission’s vote Tuesday morning. The deal allows nonunion contractors to rely upon five “core employees” for port jobs, but firms would otherwise have to hire workers from union halls affiliated with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. In exchange for union members getting the inside track on hiring, the workers belonging to the participating unions agree not to go on strike or otherwise hinder projects covered by the agreement. (read article)

UW professors consider forming faculty labor union

By Rod Palmquist, May 24, 2016, Daily UW

This past winter, a popular article circulated on social media platforms with the headline, “Adjunct professor hoping some student leaves behind warm pair of gloves.” In the article, originally published by satirical newspaper “The Onion,” a 41-year-old faculty member hoped one of their students would forget a pair of Gortex gloves after class, since they couldn’t afford to pay for a pair themselves on an adjunct lecturer’s salary. Although intended as amusing social commentary, the spoof hits a little too close to home for many non-tenured faculty at the UW.  For Carrie Matthews, a full time lecturer in the English department, living on her nine month salary from the UW is increasingly difficult. (read article)

Labor Unions Searching for Strategies to Join the Gig Economy

By Daniel Wiessner & Dan Levine, May 24, 2016, Insurance Journal

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trumpeted an agreement reached earlier this month to represent New York Uber drivers, saying it “gives organized labor an opportunity to shape the new economy in a way that supports and values workers and their families.” But not everyone in the U.S. labor movement is cheering. The deal falls short of actual union representation, and it has revealed sharp divisions among labor advocates about how to address a central reality of the so-called gig economy: The classification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees. (read article)

How to bring back labor without relying on unions

By Paula Dwyler, May 24, 2016, Chicago Tribune

National anxiety over the decline in middle-class living standards is driving this year’s presidential contest like no other issue. Donald Trump promises a return of manufacturing jobs as the solution, but he misleads voters into thinking those jobs are coming back, when they aren’t; his trade-deal bombast will only make things worse. Polls show his message resonates well with blue-collar voters who believe unions had a lot to do with creating the America he promises to make great again. Both Democratic candidates, meanwhile, say they would take steps to bolster unions without acknowledging their negative effects and weaknesses. “I believe when unions are strong, America is strong,” Hillary Clinton told the Service Employees International Union convention on Monday, adding that “unions helped build the strongest middle class right here” in the U.S. (read article)

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