Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Labor Unions Seek To Extend Temporary Prop. 30 Tax Increase On Wealthy Until 2030

September 15, 2015, CBS Sacramento

A coalition of labor unions is seeking to extend California’s temporary tax increase on the wealthy until 2030.

A group called the Alliance for a Better California submitted title and summary with the secretary of state Monday for a proposed ballot initiative. The initiative backed by teachers, school employeesand other public employees would extend a portion of Proposition 30 passed by voters in 2012. It would extend higher income taxes on couples earning more than $500,000 a year for 12 years. A quarter-cent sales tax increase would expire as scheduled next year. Alliance spokeswoman Gale Kaufman says the money will help keep the state budget balanced by sending money to schools and colleges. Gov. Jerry Brown, who championed Proposition 30, has said higher taxes should be allowed to expire. (read article)

Can the Democrats Lose California?

By William Bradley, September 15, 2015, Huffington Post

Last week’s legislative defeat for a couple of key items in Governor Jerry Brown’s climate and energy agenda suggests a question: Could the Democrats lose control in California? Considering that I began as a columnist 28 years ago this month by asking if the Democrats can win California — Sí, se suede — it’s a bit of an ironic question. But events suggest it. I wrote here on Labor Day suggesting that Brown was going to lose on his plan to cut petroleum use in California in half by 2030, thanks to a big oil industry scare campaign of advertising and string-pulling. A few days later, he did. Brown also lost on a bid to commit California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Which in a way is even more striking. Governor Jerry Brown joined state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins to discuss their setback on climate change. Because the so-called moderate Democrats who blocked that measure in effect voted for an uninhabitable planet. It’s widely known that cuts of that magnitude will be required to avert runaway adverse climate changes. (read article)

Truckers strike continues for 10th week at CA ports, more join

By Jill Dunn, September 15, 2015, Overdrive Magazine

Truckers picketing Pacific 9 Transportation have been joined by drivers from two other Southern California drayage companies as Pac 9 enters its 10th week of strike. Carrying “We Are All Employees” signs, the recently unionized Shippers Transport Express and Eco Flo Transportation joined the protest at Pac 9’s Carson headquarters. Eighteen months earlier, the National Labor Relations Board made a settlement agreement with Pac 9 truckers. The NLRB found the drivers had been misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. The board also concluded the drivers had experienced unlawful retaliation and threats when attempting to unionize. That settlement has since been withdrawn, according to the Teamsters union. On Sept. 10, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement concluded six weeks of hearings for 38 Pac 9 truckers who say they should be classified as employees. They charge that that the company owns them more than $6 million in unlawful deductions, unreimbursed expenses, unpaid meal and rest break premiums. (read article)

Scott Walker Details Plan to Curb the Power of Labor Unions

By Trip Gabriel, September 14, 2015, New York Times

Returning to his political roots as his campaign struggles, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin called on Monday for anti-union measures that, if carried out, would greatly reduce the influence of organized labor in public and private workplaces. At an appearance scheduled for Las Vegas in the afternoon, Mr. Walker plans to call for making it illegal for federal employees to join unions, extend right-to-work policies across the nation and eliminate the federal agency that investigates unfair labor practices. “To grow the economy at a higher rate requires a comprehensive approach and reform of the labor unions is a key part of the plan,’’ Mr. Walker plans to say, according to an advance text of his remarks. Mr. Walker shot to national prominence in 2011 by ending most collective bargaining rights of teachers and other public employees in Wisconsin, an effort that drew thousands of protesters to the Capitol, while making Mr. Walker a hero of conservatives nationwide, including big Republican donors like the Koch brothers. This year, he signed a bill making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right-to-work state, which prevents private-sector unions from requiring workers to pay union dues. (read article)

Walker Promises Sweeping Assault on Labor Unions

By Eric Pianin, September 14, 2015, The Fiscal Times

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, desperate to revive his sinking presidential campaign, unveiled a plan Monday that would essentially wipe out eight decades of industrial labor relations law, dismantle major public employees’ unions and end a requirement that public works projects pay the prevailing wage to construction workers. In a speech prepared for delivery later today at Eureka College in Illinois, the alma mater of President Ronald Reagan, Walker will attempt to reboot his campaign with a hard hitting and highly controversial critique of the labor movement and the need for a major overhaul that would strip public employees’ unions of most of their collective bargaining strength. Those efforts would include dismantling the National Labor Relations Board that was created during the New Deal in 1934, and passage of a national “right to work” law among federal workers. (read article)

Union bosses benefit from the income inequality they bash

By Jason Hart, September 14, 2015, Missouri Watchdog

In a campaign season when economic inequality has become a powerful populist message — on both the left and right — there’s still one place where huge pay gaps are apparently acceptable: in organized labor. Responding (here and here, for example) to Watchdog investigations into pay inequality between union leaders and rank-and-file members, union supporters insist workers shouldn’t care that union bosses are paid six figures — because executives at huge corporations are paid more. Concerns about chief executive officer pay are stoked by union coalition AFL-CIO, whose annual Executive Paywatch report decries the “grotesque inequality” between low-skill workers and heads of businesses in the S&P 500 index. Executive Paywatch is promoted heavily by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and frequently cited by opponents of right-to-work, who see CEO pay as an argument for forcing workers to pay unions whether they want to or not. The average corporate CEO was paid $216,100 last year, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trumka, who was paid $322,131, was not even one of the nation’s 100 highest-paid union bosses. (read article)

Why Right-To-Work Advocates Are Focused On The Supreme Court

By Connor D. Wolf, September 14, 2015, Daily Caller

The National Right to Work Foundation urged the U.S. Supreme Court in a legal brief Monday to finally end forced union dues in the upcoming Friedrichs case. The Foundation advocates for right-to-work polices by offering free legal assistance to workers. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, bans mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. This is exactly what the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could potentially do for government workers. “Drawing on decades of experience in the field of labor law, Foundation attorneys have filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to outlaw forced dues in the public sector,” Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement. “In order to protect the rights of public servants who choose not to associate with a labor union.” (read article)

Dan Walters: California’s ‘split roll’ is a debate, not reality

By Dan Walters, September 13, 2015, Sacramento Bee

What’s in a word? How about billions of dollars? Make It Fair is a labor-union-backed organization that wants to change Proposition 13, California’s landmark property tax limit. It has been circulating a chart claiming that since it passed in 1978, the proportion of property taxes paid on “commercial” property has declined from 45 percent to 28 percent, while “residential” property’s burden has risen from 55 percent to 72 percent. This seeming disparity is the core of the coalition’s pitch for creating a “split roll” that would preserve Proposition 13’s tax limits for residential property but make commercial properties subject to assessment upgrades and raise their property taxes. Split-roll legislation, Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, was introduced, but would need votes from at least a few Republican legislators to go before voters, and that makes SCA 5 a nonstarter. But back to those words “commercial” and “residential.” (read article)

Late labor effort on ‘fair share’ union fees stalled for session

By Christopher Cadelago, September 10, 2015, Sacramento Bee

A labor union-inspired push to deal with the potential financial fallout of an unfavorable U.S. Supreme Court decision is not expected to occur in the final two days of the Legislative session. Labor groups had approached Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration for sign-off on a late-session measure that would set aside some required time to meet with employees to discuss the benefits of union participation. The idea behind the meetings, or conferences, is to discourage employees from withdrawing from unions if the U.S. Supreme Court rules next year that nonunion members cannot be compelled to pay “fair share” fees in lieu of full union dues. Labor officials fear that if the right-leaning court rules that way unions would experience a drop-off in membership and a significant loss of funds. Brown’s office, which is not commenting, told multiple opponents of the effort that the governor’s staff wants more time than the expiring session allows to discuss the issue with the stakeholders before deciding on a possible remedy. (read article)

Rauner, union agree to extend contract as negotiations continue

By Monique Garcia, September 10, 2015, Chicago Tribune

publican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state’s largest government employee union have agreed to another extension of their labor contract as negotiations continue on a new agreement. Under the deal, the contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that was initially scheduled to expire July 1 will remain in place until an impasse is reached or a new deal is struck. An earlier extension was scheduled to expire at the end of the month. Both sides have agreed that a work stoppage, slowdown, strike or lockout will not happen unless they hit an impasse. Rauner and the union have been locked in a contentious fight over a new contract as the governor is trying to dramatically scale back benefits, which is viewed as another front in his battle to curb the influence of organized labor in Illinois. If the governor’s office declares negotiations have reached an impasse, it would allow the administration to try to impose the terms of its “best and final” offer. The union has the right to appeal that move to the Illinois Labor Relations Board. (read article)

Unions file new Wal-Mart labor complaint related to store closure

By Nathan Layne, September 10, 2015, Reuters

Unions filed a second labor board complaint against Wal-Mart Stores Inc related to its temporary closure of a California store, claiming the retailer discriminated against activist workers by not transferring them to nearby stores. The retailer says the closure of the California store – and four others at the center of the first complaint – was justified by the need for extensive repairs. It says it has offered 75 percent of employees who sought a transfer an opportunity to do so. The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the AFL-CIO and an organization of Wal-Mart workers submitted the latest complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the UFCW said. The ongoing dispute dates back to April, when Wal-Mart closed five stores in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and California citing the need for extensive plumbing and other repairs, affecting some 2,200 workers. (read article)

N.J. labor unions ask U.S. Supreme Courtroom to listen to Christie pension funding case

Staff, September 9, 2015, Suffield Times

New Jersey labor unions representing hundreds of academics, nurses, cops, firefighters and different public staff are asking the U.S. Supreme Courtroom to drive Governor Christie to make billions of dollars in funds to the state’s troubled pension system. Two separate petitions filed final week with the nation’s highest courtroom might be New Jersey public staff’ final probability at securing extra funding for his or her retirement system after dropping a battle towards Christie on the state’s highest courtroom in June. The pension system has greater than 773,000 staff and retirees as beneficiaries, though not all stay in New Jersey. The unions argue that the New Jersey Supreme Courtroom dominated in Christie’s favor this summer time so as to extract itself from a thorny political query. The state is beset by a weak financial restoration, rising prices and pension issues which were constructing because the 1990s, a collection of issues the state courtroom acknowledged however stated it couldn’t resolve. (read article)

Los Angeles union official condemns the sharing economy over Labor Day

By Payton Alexander, September 9, 2015, Watchdog.org

Rusty Hicks is a union official. He doesn’t like innovative companies like Uber and Airbnb. Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Los Angeles branch, wrote an op-ed over the Labor Day weekend in the Los Angeles Daily News disparaging the rise of the sharing economy, claiming that startups like Uber and Airbnb are cheating their contractors out of fair wages. He couldn’t be more wrong: these disruptive innovations have opened opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people that would not have been possible otherwise. “In the spring of this year, the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association conducted a statewide poll on a variety of issues. One of them considered the growing use of ‘independent’ contractors as replacements for employees,” writes Hicks. “As you might expect, when California voters were asked how they felt about the trend, 49 percent approved of it and 37 percent disapproved.” He goes on to note how support for them vanishes when pollsters add that by using contractors rather than employees, companies “avoid any responsibility for health benefits and fair wages.” (read article)

Why women may be the new face of labor unions

By Aimee Picchi, September 9, 2015, CBS News

Given the steep drop in the percentage of workers in a union, organized labor has clearly had a tough decade. Yet within those numbers is a surprising trend: The share of working women who are union members is holding relatively steady, giving women a rising share of representation within the labor movement. Last year, more than 45 percent of all union members were women, a share that jumped from just one-third in 1984, according to a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The changing face of the labor movement has come slowly over the past few decades, led by changes in male-dominated sectors and a push in some traditionally female occupations to unionize. For instance, some industries that males have heavily dominated, such as manufacturing, have been shedding jobs. It’s possible that women could represent a majority of unionized workers by 2025, noted Ariane Hegewisch, study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). (read article)

Sustain Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Missouri anti-union bill

Editorial, September 9, 2015, Kansas City Star

A controversial “right to work” bill, which is expected to take center stage in the Missouri General Assembly’s veto session next week, is part of a long-term effort by right-wing interests to cripple union strength around the nation. It bodes poorly for Missouri workers and the state’s economy and must not be passed over Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto. Republican lawmakers, who have been schooled on right-to-work legislation as they are wined and dined at events hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council and other corporate-funded groups, managed to pass a bill this session after several years of trying. It would enable workers not only to refuse to join a union — which is their right under federal law — but to also avoid paying union fees. Right-to-work laws first caught on in the South in the 1940’s and were in part motivated by pro-segregationist and anti-Communist fervor. They are now a favorite cause of certain “free-market” groups and have been passed in half the states. (read article)

What Browning-Ferris Means to Union and Non-Union Employers

By David Rosen, Galit Kierkut, and Charles Kaplan, September 8, 2015, National Law Review

In a controversial 3-2 ruling, the National Labor Relations Board has overturned three decades of its own precedent and redefined joint employment in a manner that promises to create a sea of change in labor relations and business relationships. A fundamental concept in employment and labor law is defining the “employer.” The National Labor Relations Act provides that an “employer” has a duty to bargain in good faith with the labor union representing its workers, must comply with the resulting collective bargaining agreement, and may be subjected to picketing and strikes by its employees. However, companies that have business relationships with the employer generally do not have these duties and, in general, unions cannot lawfully engage in picketing, strikes, and other industrial action against them, unless they are considered “joint employers.” In Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015), the Board significantly revised and broadened its standard for determining joint employer status under the NLRA. In a sweeping departure from the current rule, the NLRB announced that joint employer status will now exist when an entity controls the terms and conditions of employment of another business’s employees, or has “indirect” control of such terms and conditions of employment, or where the entity has merely reserved the right to take such control. (read article)

Labor unions vow to play a role in 2016 elections

Associated Press, September 8, 2015, Wisconsin Gazzette

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)

Union Members To Biden: ‘Run Joe, Run’

By Connor D. Wolf, September 8, 2015, Daily Caller

While speaking at the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, Vice President Joe Biden was urged by a crowd of union members to finally announce his bid for the presidency. Biden was joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. The crowd cheering for Biden wore union colors and gear. If he does decide to run, Biden could shake up a field of candidates many within the labor movement have been hesitant to endorse. Trumka even walked with Biden in the parade, according to The Boston Globe. “He’s a friend, he’s a brother, he’s a great champion of working men and working women, and I gotta say, it’s an honor,” Trumka told the crowd. “We’ll work together, we’ll stand together, we’ll register together, we’ll vote together and we’ll win together.” (read article)

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