Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Marin County administration cool to report calling for more openness in labor talks

By Nels Johnson, August 25, 2015, Marin Independent Journal

The public isn’t going to know much more than it already does about labor negotiations at the Civic Center under a plan pitched by administrators on behalf of county supervisors. In an analysis that takes issue with key grand jury assertions while deferring decisions on key recommendations until “further analysis,” the county administration argues that pulling the covers off employee pay talks may not result in the best deal for taxpayers. At issue is a transparent labor negotiation process used in Southern California called Civic Openness In Negotiations, or COIN. The open government program requires public agencies to hire professional negotiators and an outside auditor, issue an independent fiscal analysis of all pay and benefit proposals, and post details of tentative labor pacts at least two board meetings before they are adopted. After each proposal is accepted or rejected during closed-door negotiations, it must be publicly disclosed, along with costs. In addition, tentative agreements are made public a week before their consideration, and a final agreement placed on the agenda for discussion for two consecutive meetings of the agency board, giving time for taxpayers to weigh in. (read article)

Companies and Employment: Who’s the Boss?

August 25, 2015, The Economist

Company A hires company B to hire employees for a project. These employees work for company B, but do they also work for company A? If they are upset with the terms of their employment can they go after company A with pickets, boycotts, and protests? Does A have any direct obligations to these employees? The correct answer, in general, is that it depends. In a more specific sense it depends on the outcome of a fraught battle between a California branch of the Teamsters Union and Republic Services, one of America’s two giant rubbish-collection companies. The union is attempting to organize employees of Leadpoint Business Services, which employs sorters and other workers at a recycling plant in the Golden State. The union, however, has gone a step further and petitioned to have Republic treated as an employer as well since, it argues, Leadpoint’s supervisors act in a chain of authority controlled by Republic. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a body set up in the Depression to rule on disputes between workers and management that is liked by Democrats and loathed by Republicans, is expected to issue a ruling on the matter in the final days of August. Its rulings are binding but can be appealed against. At least three of the five members of the board, which is appointed by the president, are expected to take the union’s side. That is unlikely to put an end to the matter, if only because the implications are so large. The case has echoes of those wending their way through California’s courts, which will produce rulings on whether Uber drivers are employees, self-employed or something in between. (read article)

Will the Court continue to recognize a distinction between bargaining with government and lobbying the government?

By Bill Messenger, August 25, 2015, SCOTUS Blog

The First Amendment generally forbids the government from forcing citizens to support a private organization’s speech and expressive activities. Yet, roughly forty years ago, the Supreme Court held in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that the government can force public employees to financially support some types of union speech, but not other types. Specifically, Abood held that employees could be forced to subsidize union collective bargaining with the government, but not union political activities intended to influence government policy. The Supreme Court is now revaluating Abood’s holding in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In this case, several California public-school teachers and the Christian Educators Association, with the support of the Center for Individual Rights, urge the Court to overrule Abood because its underlying dichotomy is untenable. As the petitioners put it in their petition for certiorari, “public-sector collective bargaining is core political speech materially indistinguishable from lobbying.” (read article)

A Liberal Dose of Propaganda

By Rick Berman, August 25, 2015, Washington Times

Like a swarm of bees, back-to-school advertisements sting vacationing kids with the reminder that the first day of school is around the corner. And now given swarms of politically connected activists, parents also have something to fear with the starting of school: “progressive” agendas overrunning academic curriculums. Schools are expected to be institutions for teaching math, science, reading and writing. But activists see them as another venue to peddle their platforms on labor unions, animal liberation, vegan diets and leftist environmental policy. (read article)

New challenge to public employee unions, made simple

By Lyle Denniston, August 24, 2015, SCOTUS Blog

Editor’s note: This post examines Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case the Supreme Court has agreed to review during its upcoming Term. The blog will be hosting a symposium on the case this week. Labor unions that represent government workers are now facing a series of challenges, not least of which is the blame for pushing up the pension and other costs that state and local governments contend they can no longer afford — as in Detroit’s $18 billion bankruptcy. They also see a high-profile presidential candidate — Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker — basing much of his campaign on the pride of having beaten down those unions in his home state. But their biggest worry right now may lie in the Supreme Court, where the Justices are to take up a case against them during the new Term starting in October. There is a lot of history behind this dispute. The specific case focuses on dues charged by unions representing the public school teachers in California, but it raises much broader questions. The future of public-sector unionism itself could be at stake. Let’s sort this out, simply. Labor unions in America have definitely seen better days. Membership in unions has been plummeting for years: from a high in 1945, when one of every three workers belonged to a union, the number is now down to fewer than one in ten. Unions in the private sector have fared the worst: only about 6.6% of workers in industry belong to a union now. That has left public-sector unions, representing 35.7% of government workers, to carry the lead banner for organized labor across the United States. But the public-sector unions have been losing favor in an important venue: the Supreme Court. They now face, in the Court, at least the prospect of losing a significant chunk of their financial support. (read article)

Tentative Agreement Reached With Long Beach’s Largest Labor Union

By Stephanie Rivera, August 24, 2015, Long Beach Post

Long Beach officials have reached a tentative agreement with the International Association of Machinists, the city’s largest labor union, which represents employees who provide core city services, according to a press release. The agreement will allow a non-pensionable one-time payment equal to 3 percent of the employee’s’ base salary from the 12 previous months, and does not include any ongoing obligations, the release stated. “This agreement is a good deal for Long Beach because we don’t increase salaries and pensions, but instead provide some one-time support to the hard working men and women who clean our streets, fix our sidewalks, maintain our parks, and help our families in our libraries,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “I want to thank the IAM leadership for stepping up and working with us to craft a responsible and balanced contract.” The agreement also retroactively extends the current contract for a one-year period, from October 1, 2014 through September, 30 2015, making it the third amendment to the IAM agreement, which was originally approved in October of 2007. (read article)

Labor Secretary Tom Perez To Join The Fight For $15

By Dave Jamieson, August 24, 2015, Huffington Post

Fast-food workers who are hoping to raise the minimum wage will find an ally in the Obama White House this week, with Labor Secretary Tom Perez traveling to Detroit on Tuesday to show his solidarity with the so-called Fight for $15. “I’m proud to stand with the Fight for 15 movement,” Perez told The Huffington Post. “And it really is a movement. It’s for shared prosperity.” The union-backed Fight for $15 and its allies have roiled the service sector with intermittent strikes over the past three years, demanding a $15 wage floor and union recognition. The sight of large-scale protests has helped spur vast increases in the minimum wage in cities and states around the country, most recently in New York, where the state’s wage board moved to set a $15 minimum for fast-food workers. Perez’ support of the workers shouldn’t be read as an endorsement of a federal $15 wage floor — the White House and Labor Department instead back a $12 proposal recently put forth by Congressional Democrats — but the labor secretary said he views the Fight for $15 as a model for how workers can boost wages by banding together. “People are increasingly understanding that they’re taking it on the chin at work,” Perez said. “If you battle your boss alone, it’s a heck of a lot harder to succeed. But when you work in concert with fellow workers not just in your workplace but across sectors, that’s how you succeed.” (read article)

Labor unions face tricky choice in Democratic primaries

By Ken Thomas, August 24, 2015, Rutland Herald

The choice facing labor unions in the Democratic presidential race boils down to hearts or heads — Bernie Sanders, who embraces their forceful opposition to a big trade deal, or Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is a strong favorite for the nomination. Clinton has campaigned as a fighter for middle-class families and carries with her establishment support and ties to labor leaders going back to her husband’s White House years. But her unwillingness to take a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade pact vehemently opposed by labor, has made some union leaders and workers wary. Sanders, meanwhile, has made his opposition to the trade deal and a message of economic inequality central to his campaign. At large rallies across the country, the Vermont senator has championed a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a single-payer health care system, putting him in line with many unions’ aspirations. (read article)

Seattle Schools labor union contract hits roadblocks

By Michael Konopasek, August 24, 2015, KING 5, Seattle

Both sides have been negotiating since May and no deal has been reached on a union contract for Seattle educators. The state’s largest school district and its employees are still far apart on many issues with just two weeks before classes start. Members of the Seattle Education Association will meet Monday to vote on an action plan to refocus on contract negotiations. Just a few days ago, drivers on Interstate 5 saw their children’s teachers standing on overpasses in Seattle with signs calling attention to the stalled negotiations. “I’m here to support the teachers,” said parent Carolyn Leith during a demonstration on Thursday. “My heart is with the teachers. I think their fight is our fight.” The union says its members and Seattle Public Schools remain far apart on pay, guaranteed student recess, teacher evaluation processes, student testing, and other issues. “We had about 30 proposals on the table, and on Monday rejected about 20 of them,” Seattle Education Association vice president Phyllis Campano said. (read article)

Ohio unions march for mandatory union dues

By Jason Hart, August 24, 2015, Watchdog.org

Ohio looks unlikely to become the nation’s 26th right-to-work state, and the Ohio AFL-CIO aims to keep it that way. To intimidate lawmakers who may support forthcoming right-to-work legislation, the union coalition bused in protesters for a Friday march outside an Americans for Prosperity conference in Columbus. With help from local AFP activists, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have all passed right-to-work laws since 2012. Right-to-work protects workers from mandatory union dues and fees. “The purpose of the Rally is to protest the national gathering of the extreme right-wing group called Americans for Prosperity (Koch Brothers) and their anti-worker agenda to make Right to Work the law of Ohio and the entire country,” Ohio AFL-CIO explained. (read article)

Public workers v. Christie: A guide to pension, pay legal battles in N.J.

By Samantha Marcus, August 21, 2015, NewJersey.com

All over New Jersey, public workers and Gov. Chris Christie have waged court fights over everything from pensions to pay raises. They’ve fought in lower courts, the state Supreme Court, and, in one case, state troopers say they’ll be asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. They’ve been after each other’s legal throats after the Republican governor did not fully fund public worker pensions as the state promised to under a 2011 reform deal he cut with Democratic lawmakers. And a new legal bout erupted over a pay freeze enacted after the latest state worker contract expired without an agreement. It’s getting so you can’t tell the public employee lawsuits without a scorecard. So here it is…. (read article)

Michigan union finds new way to fight teachers’ efforts to leave it

By Sean Higgins, August 21, 2015, Washington Examiner

A Michigan teachers union is trying to undermine its members’ efforts to use their rights under the state’s new right-to-work law, a conservative nonprofit group said Thursday. The Mackinac Center charged that the Michigan Education Association arbitrarily changed the address that teachers must mail if they want to invoke their right to opt out of the union under the new state law. The union quietly changed the address two months before the 30-day period during which it accepts the letters. People who sent letters to the union headquarters in East Lansing received letters in response explaining that the requests would only be accepted if mailed to a separate post office box. The procedural change was quietly announced at the bottom of the “members only” section of the union website and became effective June 3. The union accepts the letters only during August, so a person who missed the announcement also could easily miss the deadline by the time he or she received the letter rejecting the initial request. (read article)

Union Takes a McDonald’s Challenge Overseas

By Noam Scheiber, August 19, 2015, New York Times

McDonald’s long ago went global. Lately, the anti-McDonald’s campaign has started following it around the world. The union-led effort to raise wages and organize workers at fast-food chains in the United States is expanding its focus beyond organized protests at home — its key point of leverage for almost three years — to highlighting McDonald’s actions abroad in hopes that foreign regulators will bring further pressure to bear on the company. The efforts are intended to build on the success of the anti-McDonald’s campaign in raising wages for fast-food workers in the United States, particularly in New York State. But it is also a tacit acknowledgment that the campaign’s second major goal, a union for workers at McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants, remains elusive. (read article)

California farmworkers rebel against union founded by Cesar Chavez

By Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, August 19, 2015, The Washington Times

Fifty-three years after Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers in California, the labor union is facing resistance from laborers at the largest U.S. peach farm, who are rallying against union representation and the state bureaucrats who refuse to count their votes to decertify the collective. Gerawan Farming, a 12,000-acre peach farm in California’s Central Valley, began a standoff with the UFW after the union demanded a new contract in 2012. The next year, co-owner Dan Gerawan’s workers petitioned the state to hold an election on whether to decertify the union. Workers gathered petition signatures to conduct a vote by secret ballot to determine whether 3,000 Gerawan laborers wanted the UFW as their collective bargaining representative. The vote’s results are being held in confidence by a state board, as the UFW insists that Mr. Gerawan violated rules and pressured his employees to vote out of the union. While state regulators hear the complaints, the UFW — through a state process known as mandatory mediation and conciliation — has been trying to impose a contract on Gerawan Farming that would allow the union to collect 3 percent of every worker’s checks as dues. The farm challenged the UFW contract in court and lost. However, an appeals court in April ruled in the farm’s favor, declaring that the state’s process is unconstitutional and that a state agency cannot impose a union contract on workers without the farm’s consent or the workers’ votes. (read article)

County approves labor agreements with two law enforcement unions

By Matt Fountain, August 19, 2015, San Luis Obispo Tribune

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved labor agreements with two of the county’s law enforcement unions, both of which provide for about 2.5 percent wage adjustments. The board approved on consent resolutions recognizing new memorandums of understanding with the Association of San Luis Obispo County Deputy Sheriffs and the District Attorney Investigators Association. The deputies union, as well as its bargaining unit for mid-level management, which includes about 142 employees, includes a 2.5 percent general wage increase retroactive to Jan. 1, when their previous agreement expired, and another 2.5 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2016, according to a staff report. The wage increases are expected to cost the county an additional $747,297 for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year and total ongoing costs of $1,000,513 in the future. Under the agreements, those employees will continue to shoulder half the share, not to exceed 2 percent, of any pension rate increases. The contracts are effective through Dec. 31, 2016. (read article)

Illinois Senate votes to override Rauner’s veto of union arbitration bill

By Doug Finke, August 19, 2015, Illinois State Journal-Register

Bruce Rauner, the Illinois Senate voted Wednesday to override his veto of a bill that could send labor talks with state employee unions to binding arbitration. The Senate voted 38-15 to override the veto. The chamber needed 36 votes to override. Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, whose district includes large numbers of state workers, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the override. He said he was simply voting the wishes of his constituents. “I represent more state employees than any other member of the General Assembly,” McCann said. “Approximately 99.9 percent of the points of contact I received from my constituents over the last several weeks, literally thousands of points of contact, they asked me to vote to override.” McCann said he saw evidence of robocalls being made to his district asking people to contact him and urge him to support the governor. “I didn’t choose any special interest; I chose taxpayers today,” McCann said. “The state employees are taxpayers. They work for a living.” However, the Rauner administration issued a statement criticizing senators who voted to override the governor’s veto. (read article)

Here’s what the United Steelworkers says could happen if the U.S. Steel contract expires

By Justine Coyne, August 19, 2015, Pittsburgh Business Times

With the labor contract between United States Steel Corp. and the United Steelworkers set to expire at the end of the month, both the company and union are facing a number of options. If a deal isn’t reached by the Sept. 1 deadline, the options are: agree to extend the old contract, continue to work without a contract, the union could strike, or the company could initiate a lockout. Because there hasn’t been a labor dispute at U.S. Steel (NYSE: X) in many years and given the market conditions, the USW has been asking employees to become informed on what may happen in the event of a work stoppage. “Your bargaining committee will not do anything to jeopardize members’ jobs, and we will do everything we can to avoid a work stoppage,” the USW posted in an update on its website.”Still, often the best way to avoid a strike is to be prepared for one.” (read article)

Unions: Raise the Minimum Wage . . . And Then Give Us a Waiver

By Charlotte Hays, August 18, 2015, Independent Women’s Forum

The latest trick: campaign to hike the minimum wage to unrealistic levels and then get an exemption from that very same minimum wage hike. Labor unions in at least half dozen communities that have raised the minimum wage have fought for union waiver provisions. You’re thinking, “But this doesn’t make sense.” But it does. In a column headlined “The Tony Soprano Enabling Act,” columnist Walter Russell Mean explains how it works: The unions have said it gives them more flexibility in negotiations and shields employers and cities against lawsuits. But the real answer, silly, is the exemptions create an incentive to force companies like hotels and fast food chains to recognize labor unions precisely so they can keep labor costs down. The Wall Street Journal has also explained how it works: The carve-outs are increasingly drawing the ire of business groups representing the hotel and tourism industries, among others. They say such exemptions are a way for unions to organize or gain negotiating power by using the ability to opt out of the wage law as leverage to achieve other goals. (read article)

Whatever labor unions want …

Editorial, August 17, 2015, San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego’s redevelopment agency, reconstituted as a nonprofit public-benefit corporation called Civic San Diego in 2012 with the statewide end of tax-subsidized redevelopment, has been the dynamo behind the booming resurgence of downtown since 1975. It attracted billions of dollars in investment that in turn created tens of thousands of jobs. It helped build nearly 7,000 units of affordable housing. It has been, in other words, a success story. It doesn’t need “fixing.” So it is distressing to see that unnecessary and counterproductive legislation sponsored in Sacramento by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, may be nearing approval. It was passed by the Assembly in May and is awaiting a hearing in a Senate committee. The Gonzalez bill, AB 504, would give the City Council, not Civic San Diego or the Planning Commission, final say on virtually all downtown development. It would thus throw greater uncertainty into developer proposals, add new bureaucratic hurdles and slow the entire approval process. This bill is the epitome of state meddling in local government matters and there is simply no reason for it. (read article)

Labor unions get 58% approval from Americans, highest rating in 7 years

By News Staff, August 17, 2015, New York Daily News

Americans’ approval of labor unions is the highest in seven years, but nowhere near the levels reached during the heady days of the 1930s, according to a new poll. Last year, 58% of people approved of unions, the highest point since 2008, when 59% gave their support, a Gallup Poll released Monday said. In 1936, 72% of Americans supported unions. But the rate began dropping in the late 1970s, falling to an all-time low of 48% in 2009, the poll said. (read article)

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