Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Clinton makes pro-union pitch to voters on Labor Day

By Dan Merica, September 8, 2015, CNN

Hillary Clinton remained focused on Republicans during a two-day swing through Iowa, and told voters on Labor Day one of her biggest jobs as president will be “to defend and protect your right to organize collectively.” Clinton marked the Labor Day holiday at an event in Illinois — just across the Mississippi River from Iowa and within the Davenport media market — at an event with union organizers. Clinton promised to “make sure that some employers go to jail for wage theft and all the other abuses they engage in” and to protect union pensions. “It is going to be a fight. Make no mistake about it. It’s going be a hard election,” Clinton said at a backyard meet-and-greet on Sunday in Cedar Rapids. “The other side has said they will spend, do, and say anything to win back the White House. I have a little experience with that and I am absolutely confident that whatever they throw at me, I can throw it right back.” (read article)

Obama rips GOP candidates as anti-union

By Kevin Liptak, September 8, 2015, CNN

President Barack Obama lambasted Republican presidential candidates Monday, charging the GOP is treating American workers like a hostile force while looking out only for the rich. Obama delivered a Labor Day speech in Boston, where he traveled to unveil a new executive order he signed forcing companies who contract with the federal government to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Obama, saying he was relieved to not be on the ballot next November, hit at Republicans who he claimed were espousing policies that would erode the middle class. “We’re starting to hear a lot about middle-class values,” he said. “Some folks seem confused about what exactly that means.” Without mentioning him by name, Obama struck at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for answering a question about his ISIS strategy earlier this year by saying: “If I can take on 100,000 (union) protesters, I can do the same across the globe.” (read article)

Right-to-Work Threat in Public Sector: Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association

By Tom Crean, September 8, 2015, Socialist Alternative

In late June, while millions celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, the Court also agreed to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association (CTA), a potentially ominous development for public sector unions and unions generally. If the Supreme Court were to uphold Friedrichs, it would effectively mean that the entire public sector in the U.S. would go “right to work.” The case revolves around the question of “agency” or “fair share” fees which non-union members in many unionized workplaces are required to pay instead of dues because they benefit from the union contract. For unions, the consequences of losing the right to collect agency fees are, in the immediate sense, the potential for significantly reduced income, which means a reduced ability to represent members. Many individuals might stop paying dues on the basis that benefits are now “free.” There would also be a blow to workplace solidarity, with union members paying their dues and working alongside others paying nothing and getting a free ride. The threat of Friedrichs comes on top of a whole series of attacks on union rights by corporate America and its political servants over recent years. (read article)

Unions prep for end to mandatory dues – ‘Orientation’ bill is first pre-emptive strike against Supreme Court

By Steve Greenhut, September 7, 2015, San Diego Union-Tribune

The state’s public-employee unions are among the most powerful interest groups in the Capitol, yet an effort to sneak some language into a bill during the last week of the legislative session shows the degree to which even these lobbies fear a coming rollback in their financial power. Efforts are underway to pass a “public employee orientation” mandate in which all newly hired public employees — including public-school employees and transit workers — must attend a program sponsored by the recognized local union. The “orientation” would take place during the workday. Employees would be required to show up in person. State taxpayers would pick up the costs. Under proposed language, “The content of the recognized employee organization’s presentation shall be determined solely by the employee organization and shall not be subject to negotiation.” The unions are carving out a right to lobby new employees to join and pay dues. Put aside obvious concern at this privilege or the gut-and-amend process that would have it move along without normal hearings. This is the real eye-opener: Public employee unions haven’t had mandated orientations because they don’t need them. Newly hired workers must already pay dues to the recognized union. What’s going on? This is a pre-emptive strike against a U.S. Supreme Court case that will be decided next summer. In Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association, some Southern California teachers are challenging the fees workers must pay to teachers’ unions. It could affect all public-sector unions. Currently, the employees must pay dues, but can opt out of membership and need not pay for overt politicking. They must pay “agency shop” fees that deal with collective bargaining under the idea that all employees benefit from that work. Critics complain that these encompass most of the dues employees pay — and the unions throw obstacles in the way of employees who want to opt out of the political portion of their dues. (read article)

Can Millennials Save Unions?

By Jonathan Timm, September 7, 2015, The Atlantic

In 2008, Emma Bell Bern had just graduated from college and was ready to start living on her own. Leaving behind the rural college town of Galesburg, Illinois, she set off for Chicago for her first big-city experience. She got a job as a barista at a Peet’s Coffee and Tea on the city’s North Side. Bell Bern liked working at Peet’s. Founded in Berkeley in the 1960s and known for its laid-back atmosphere, the company encouraged her to develop in-depth knowledge about their selection of coffees and teas from around the world, taste everything she could, and develop her palate. “It was a little bit of a culture cult, but it spoke to me,” Bell Bern told me. “I like to learn, and I’m attracted to specialty knowledge, so I thought, ‘This is something I can excel in, that not everyone knows about.’ I was into it.” Bell Bern kept her job for several years, eventually becoming a shift manager and one of the longest-tenured employees at her store. She wasn’t without complaints, but she enjoyed her work, liked her coworkers, formed relationships with regulars, and made enough money to get by. (read article)

Despite decline in power in Wisconsin, labor unions plan to have a voice in 2016 elections

Associated Press, September 7, 2015, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Labor unions, which have seen a decline in power in Wisconsin in the last four years, say they will have a voice during the 2016 election, and they plan to speak up on issues like minimum wage and fair scheduling. Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of AFL-CIO Wisconsin, told Appleton Post-Crescent Media that unions are more politically engaged than ever before, partly due to changes in collective bargaining rights passed in 2011 and the more recent approval of right-to-work laws this summer. “Union members understand what’s at stake right now in 2016 more than they ever have before,” Bloomingdale said. “Families are at a breaking point in terms of their ability to sustain healthy communities. People are angry about this and ready to take action.” She said union members plan to speak up on issues such as minimum wage, income inequality, paid family leave and fair scheduling. Their message was delivered at Labor Day parades and other gatherings statewide Monday. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership has steadily dropped in Wisconsin in the last 10 years. In 2004, 16 percent of workers belonged to unions, compared with 11.7 percent in 2014. (read article)

Labor unions hold back on endorsements for Hillary

By Tim Devaney, September 7, 2015, The Hill

Labor leaders are “playing hard to get” with Hillary Clinton in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many of the nation’s top unions are sitting on the sidelines, content to let Clinton sweat it out while they withhold endorsements. Some labor officials are frustrated with Clinton for not coming to their aid in the fight over trade legislation in Congress, while others are skeptical of her commitment to their issues. The face of the labor movement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, has not endorsed Clinton while seemingly courting her biggest rivals in the Democratic primaries: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Vice President Biden, who is weighing a run for president. “Say you’re in love with a girl and want to marry her. She’s playing it cool. So you figure the best way to make her jealous is to flirt with someone else,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “Trumka wants to marry Hillary, but until she’s willing to make stronger commitments to labor he’s going to flirt with Bernie and Biden,” Bannon added. “That will get Hillary’s attention.” The AFL-CIO noted that it is not uncommon for the labor organization to abstain from endorsing Democratic presidential candidates in the primaries and wait until the general election to get involved. (read article)

On Labor Day, consider the injustice of forced union dues

By Mark Mix, September 7, 2015, Washington Examiner

As you watch your children board the school bus for the first day back to classes, consider this: That school bus driver is likely forced to pay fees to a union as a condition of driving that bus. Why? Because he or she works in one of the 25 forced-unionism states in America; states where it is lawfully permissible to force a worker to pay fees to a union as a condition of employment. You’re not alone if you think this sounds absurd. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly 80 percent of your fellow Americans agree: No worker should be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Big Labor union bosses in your state enjoy a special privilege allowing them to expand their ranks through compulsion. Union bosses can impose a monopoly bargaining contract, which virtually always includes a forced-dues clause that requires every employee (even the ones who did not vote for the union) to pay tribute to the union bosses, just for the privilege of having a job. (read article)

On Labor Day, James Sherk Counts the Cost of Government Unions

September 7, 2015 By The Federalist Staff

On this special Labor Day edition of Federalist Radio, Ben takes a look at government unions and their impact on the modern American economy. James Sherk, a Labor Policy Expert at the Heritage Foundation, reports that today, “there are more union workers in the U.S. Postal Service than in all of the auto industry.” Though unopposed to the free association of labor, Sherk says, “Government employment shouldn’t be a ticket to the easy life.” Later Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and David Dewhirst, litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, join the program. The two provide a legal snapshot of the court cases challenging entrenched public sector unions at the state and national level. (read article)

Cop Union Boycotts Obama’s Labor Day Address

By Katie McHugh, September 7, 2015, Breitbart

They boycotted Obama’s Labor Day breakfast address in Boston. “Our members are enraged at his lack of support of law enforcement. It’s clear that he has an agenda, and unfortunately the police are not part of his agenda,” Jerry Flynn, the association’s executive director, told the Boston Herald: Let’s face it, eight people killed in a nine-day period, eight police officers, and his silence up until recently has been deafening. And the real sad part of this — and when I went to the White House in the first term with Joe Biden — he said to me that he would be the voice of law enforcement. Well, as much as I love and adore Joe, his voice has been silent as well. So it’s not an Obama problem. It’s an administration problem. This is a horror show. This is an epidemic of lawless people trying to kill police officers for no apparent reasons. Case in point is the lieutenant who was pumping gas in Houston. Over 7,000 people were at that church, and where was he ? Why wasn’t he there instead of a unity breakfast? (read article)

Dan Walters: Unions are strong in California now, but face peril

By Dan Walters, September 6, 2015, Sacramento Bee

Only a sixth of California’s 15 million wage and salary workers belong to labor unions, most of them government workers. On this Labor Day, it would be fair to say that without public employees, California’s 16.3 percent unionization rate, a bit above the national average, would be more like Oklahoma’s 6 percent. While union members are a fairly small portion of the workforce, and have declined a bit in recent years, their leaders swing a big stick in the Capitol. The Legislature’s Democratic majority is in almost complete thrall to the state’s unions, particularly those representing teachers, cops, firefighters and other public employees. Many union-friendly legislators come straight out of union leadership positions. Labor Day is not only a holiday for unions to celebrate, but the first day of the last week of the 2015 legislative session. And dozens of union-supported bills are floating around the Capitol, including some concepts still looking for landing sites. (read article)

Labor needs to stop using environmental law to kill jobs

By George Skelton, September 6, 2015, Los Angeles Times

It’s not polite to call out union leaders on Labor Day, but let’s be frank: Some are costing workers jobs. Yes, of course, unions historically have expanded the middle class in America by demanding and obtaining better pay and benefits for their members. We’re better off because of them, especially in the private sector. But in this state we’ve got a widely abused law called the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. And labor is one of its biggest abusers, contributing to California’s reputation as a lousy place to invest and do business. Signed 45 years ago by Gov. Ronald Reagan, CEQA gradually became the bane of developers and other entrepreneurs. It requires them to undergo a long process of detailing their projects’ environmental effects. True, the act deserves credit for helping to clear the air, keep the water clean and prevent greedy developers from building on dangerous earthquake faults. (read article)

Labor Day: 3 reasons unions should be celebrating this year

By Claire Zillman, September 6, 2015, Fortune

Things are looking up for the labor movement. Considering union membership rates alone, the labor movement has little to celebrate on Labor Day—a holiday that began as a way to honor union workers and commemorate their alliance—or on any day, for that matter. Unionization has been on a steady decline over the past three decades. During that time, industries where unions held significant sway—manufacturing, for instance—diminished in size, states enacted laws that limit unions’ power, and developments in labor law have made it more difficult for workers to organize if their employers are against it. The total number of unionized workers has dropped by 3.1 million from 1983—the earliest year with comparable data—to 14.6 million last year. That’s up from a low of 14.3 million in 2012, but the percentage of all workers who are union members continues to slip. But thanks to a few developments in recent months, unions have reason to be a bit more festive on Labor Day this year. Here’s why… (read article)

Lawsuit: Idaho Taxpayers Shouldn’t Have To Pay For Union Work

By Connor D. Wolf, September 5, 2015, Daily Caller

In the hopes of stopping taxpayer funded union work in its state, the Idaho Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging an agreement that allows the practice among Boise county teachers. “They’re paying teachers to do union work,” Foundation President Wayne Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s unfair to the students going to school, expecting to get an education.” Government officials doing union work instead of their actual job is a common practice. Its known as official time on the federal level and release time in states. The Foundation hopes its lawsuit will have a huge impact with other public sector unions across the state. (read article)

California union fees case spurring late-session talks at Capitol

By Christopher Cadelago, September 4, 2015, Sacramento Bee

Education unions want Gov. Jerry Brown to embrace a late-session measure they hope would shield them from possibly debilitating financial effects of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision. For years, the unions have openly fretted about a court case, brought by Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, challenging the constitutionality of so-called “fair share” fees teachers pay in lieu of full union dues. Union officials contend the fees are needed to cover contract negotiating costs for all teachers. If the court rules that nonunion members cannot be compelled to pay the fees, unions fear a drop-off in union membership and a significant loss in funds. A decision is expected next year. The California Teachers Association, which is fighting the case, has characterized it as an attempt to incapacitate unions. Up against the clock in the Legislature, the labor groups are pushing for a bill that could give unions some time – a half-hour – to meet with employees to voice the benefits of union participation. That, some believe, could prevent workers from fully withdrawing from their ranks if the court rules against fair share fees. (read article)

The NLRB closes a labor loophole

Editorial, September 4, 2015, Los Angeles Times

Labor advocates have long complained about companies evading their responsibilities as employers by outsourcing essential work to contractors, which they then require to hire and manage employees almost as if they worked for the company directly. The National Labor Relations Board pushed back against the practice in a ruling last month that is likely to result in more companies being treated as joint employers of contracted employees, and thus partly responsible under federal law for correcting labor violations and negotiating union contracts. With that, the NLRB in effect ended three decades of narrow, work-site-specific decisions and returned to a broader pre-Reagan administration standard. Business and franchise groups complain that this portends the end of their world, but it shouldn’t — and the board should make sure it doesn’t. If the ruling works as intended, it will simply make it harder for companies to exploit the contractor system to keep labor costs down. There is a legitimate place in the economy for contracting firms and franchisers, but not when companies use them to circumvent workplace liabilities and responsibilities, or block union organizing. (read article)

California teacher shortage: would you want to be in a classroom?

By Stephen Frank,  September 2, 2015, Watchdog.org

By the end of next week, all California public schools will be open. The students will be facing unionized classrooms, “restorative justice,” new curriculum, teachers without full credentials, and 106,000 teachers counting the days, within ten years, of retiring. Is it any wonder why the state is facing a teacher shortage? Even getting volunteers through Teach for America, an effort to bring young teachers into the inner city is failing. From an Aug. 12 Los Angeles School Report: “Teach for America–Los Angeles announced today that 80 instructors from its program will be working at schools in the Los Angeles area this year, a 20 percent reduction from last year. The reduced numbers are directly related to the nationwide teacher shortage, something Teach for America is also experiencing.” How bad is it? The report goes on to note, “The organization received over 44,000 applications for the 2015-2016 school year, but last year received just over 50,000 applications.” (read article)

Ruling Clears Way for Unions

By Melanie Trottman, August 27, 2015, Wall Street Journal

Contract workers and other temporary employees will be able to more easily unionize following a landmark ruling Thursday by a U.S. federal labor regulator. The ruling from the National Labor Relations Board will ripple through the fast-food, construction and other industries that rely heavily on contract workers and employees of franchisees. Previously, such companies were considered by law to be a step removed from many of their workers when certain labor disputes arose. The decision, which came in a 3-2 vote on a single case before the board involving sanitation workers, is the latest to attempt to tackle the core question of who counts as an employee in a modern economy that is increasingly reliant on shift work, contract workers and other temporary employees. (read article)

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