Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

You’re Killing Me: Regulations, Government Unions, And Taxes Quash Small Business

By Chuck Devore, August 18, 2015, Daily Caller

Since our founding, the American Dream has been entwined with self-employment — whether as a farmer, a shopkeeper, a doctor, or an inventor — Americans have been at home in our “commercial republic.” The mounting tide of often opaque federal and state rules is making it tough for small business. A California study estimated that regulatory compliance costs in the Golden State dinged the average small business for $134,000 per year. This has contributed to what Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack.com, a firm that links consumers to businesses, said is, “a crisis of entrepreneurship in the United States (with a) broad collapse of self-employment across industries and states…” with “Small business owners … frequently frustrated by unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles.” This has contributed to an ongoing decline in business starts. (read article)

Rauner on union bill override: ‘Let me do my job’

By Tina Sfondeles, August 18, 2015, Chicago Sun Times

A day before the Illinois Senate will discuss whether to override a bill that would allow for labor arbitration, Gov. Bruce Rauner is urging lawmakers to let him do his “job.” On Tuesday, Rauner sent a memo to lawmakers, asking them not to overturn his veto of the union arbitration bill that would allow an arbitrator to decide labor talks between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, its largest employee union. Rauner vetoed the bill in late July and later called it the “worst bill” he had ever seen. He has also dubbed it an assault on Illinois taxpayers. Rauner argues that the arbitrators to be used are pro-labor and would result in a bad deal for taxpayers. Senate President John Cullerton plans to discuss a possible veto during a caucus on Wednesday, the deadline to override Rauner’s veto. If the Senate passes the override with 36 votes, the bill will go to the House. But if it doesn’t clear the Senate, the bill will die. (read article)

Few options for activists after college labor union blocked

By Ralph D. Russo and Jay Cohen, August 18, 2015, Boston Herald

Labor activists vowed not to abandon their fight to organize college sports teams after the National Labor Relations Board blocked a historic bid by Northwestern University football players to become the first in the nation to unionize. It’s not clear, however, where the battle might head next. “It’s a setback, but I don’t see it as a body blow,” Tim Waters, of the United Steelworkers union, said about the ruling. The Steelworkers bankrolled the Wildcats’ union drive and advised them on strategy. Labor agency rules offer no avenue for an appeal of Monday’s unanimous decision by the five-member board, which overturned a ruling last year by a regional NLRB director in Chicago that gave the Northwestern players the go-head to unionize. Monday’s ruling emphasized that the NLRB has jurisdiction only over private schools, like Northwestern. All the other colleges in its Big Ten conference are public, and the board said giving individual private schools the OK to unionize would enable them to collectively bargain for advantages over state schools — such as more lucrative scholarships — potentially throwing off the delicate competitive balance in college sports. (read article)

Northwestern football union petition dismissed by labor board

By Alejandra Cancino, August 17, 2015, Chicago Tribune

The National Labor Relations Board on Monday dismissed a union election petition from Northwestern football players, halting a union’s push to organize college athletes. The board, however, did not rule on whether the football players are employees of the university under federal labor law, leaving the door open for the union to try again. In a statement, Northwestern said it was pleased with the decision. “Northwestern’s position remains that participation in athletics is part of the overall educational experience for our student-athletes, not a separate activity,” Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said in a statement. Cubbage said Northwestern intends to continue to work with its students, and others, to address the issues brought up by the unionization drive, including the long-term health impact of playing intercollegiate sports and providing additional grant-in-aid support for players. In a unanimous decision, the five-member board declined to “assert” jurisdiction over the case because doing so would not promote uniformity and labor stability in college football and could potentially upset the competitive balance between college teams, the board said in its 19-page opinion. (read article)

Americans’ Support for Labor Unions Continues to Recover

By Lydia Saad, August 17, 2015, Gallup

Americans’ approval of labor unions has jumped five percentage points to 58% over the past year, and is now at its highest point since 2008, when 59% approved. In the interim, the image of organized labor had suffered, sinking to an all-time low of 48% in 2009. Gallup first asked Americans about organized labor in 1936, a year after Congress legalized private-sector unions and collective bargaining. At that time, 72% of Americans approved of unions. Support remained high into the 1960s, but then dipped through the 1970s until it reached 55% in 1979. It has since varied, reaching as high as 66% in 1999 and as low as the 48% in 2009. The latest results are from the 2015 installment of Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 5-9. (read article)

1 in 4 would opt out of their labor union, survey says

By Lydia Wheeler, August 17, 2015, The Hill

Nearly 40 percent of union households nationwide don’t realize they can opt out of their union membership, a new survey from the National Employee Freedom Week coalition found. In the survey, which kicks off the coalition’s annual campaign to inform union members about their workplace rights, 39.2 percent of 300 union members and union household surveyed said they didn’t know they could opt out of their union membership and opt out paying at least a portion of their yearly dues. According to the survey, one in four union members said they would opt of their membership if they could do so without losing their job or getting penalized. and three in four union members said employees should have the right to decide whether to join or leave a labor union. The NEFW coalition includes groups like the Association of American Educators, the Center on National Labor Policy Inc., FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation. (read article)

UAW sets strike authorization votes for General Motors and Fiat Chrysler

By Michael Wayland, Melissa Burden, and Michael Martinez, August 17, 2015, Detroit News

Strike authorization votes for United Auto Workers members at General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are set to take place by month’s end. The procedural votes have been taking place for Fiat Chrysler’s 37,000 union members since at least the beginning of the month. GM’s roughly 50,800 UAW-represented workers are scheduled to vote by Aug. 27. The dates are targets for local union members to vote by. Many local unions have already voted. “The strike vote is part of the UAW’s democratic process that occurs every contract year,” GM spokeswoman Katie McBride said in an emailed statement. “We remain committed to working with our UAW partners on an agreement that benefits employees and strengthens GM’s long-term competitiveness.” A Ford Motor Co. spokesperson said the company has not been notified of a vote being scheduled. The strike authorization votes give union leadership the ability to authorize a strike if negotiations stall. It does not mean there will be a strike. The current four-year contracts expire Sept. 14. (read article)

What is the proper role of public-employee unions?

By Dick Hughes, August 15, 2015, Statesman Journal

Last week produced a potential preview of next year’s bitter election season in Oregon. The Freedom Foundation made a high-profile announcement in Salem that it was suing the SEIU labor union, Gov. Kate Brown and several other state officials. The foundation, which is based in Olympia, Washington, filed the federal lawsuit in collaboration with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Virginia-based organization that describes itself as “defending America’s workers from the abuses of compulsory unionism.” The Freedom Foundation gives its mission as “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.” In describing the opening of its Oregon office, the foundation’s managing editor wrote, “The Freedom Foundation cut the ribbon on its new Salem, Ore., office on Thursday afternoon and within an hour was doing what it does best – making life miserable for government employee unions.” Coincidentally, SEIU representatives were bargaining with state negotiators until the early morning hours last week on a new contract for homecare workers in Oregon. (read article)

San Jose, police union agree on pay, pension settlement

By John Woolfolk, August 14, 2015, San Jose Mercury News

The City Council on Friday approved a tentative agreement on raises with the police union after agreeing to the officers’ demands for implementing a settlement on voter-approved pension reforms. Both sides saw the deal as crucial to retaining officers in the depleted police force. The one-year pay agreement, tentatively reached earlier in the week, calls for 8 percent raises, plus a 5-percent, one-time “retention” bonus and return incentive for officers who have left the force for other jobs. The current police contract expires at the end of the year. The San Jose Police Officers’ Association had said it would not ratify the pay agreement unless the city agreed to a “quo warranto” process to implement a settlement of lawsuits over the Measure B pension reforms city voters overwhelmingly approved in 2012. (read article)

Anti-Union Campaign in Full Swing at Google Express

By Julia Carrie Wong, August 14, 2015, SF Weekly

While the rest of the on-demand economy struggles to come to terms with the fallout from start-ups’ reliance on classifying employees as independent contractors, Google Express — which does not use independent contractors but instead subcontracts its workforce through a staffing agency — is facing labor troubles of its own. And the battle is heating up. Workers employed by Adecco, which has about 140 people staffing the Palo Alto warehouse from which Google Express operates its South Bay on-demand delivery service, filed for a union election in late July, seeking representation from the Teamsters Local 853. At the time, Google and Adecco declined to comment on whether or not they would remain neutral in the election, which is scheduled to take place next week. Now the union is alleging that Adecco is running an anti-union campaign and has retaliated against one worker who spoke to SF Weekly about his support for unionization by suspending him from work. (read article)

A Major Labor Union Just Endorsed Hillary Clinton Over Bernie Sanders

By Dave Jamieson, August 14, 2015, Huffington Post

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Friday, giving the front-runner for the Democratic nomination another boost from a major labor union. IAM, which represents more than 700,000 workers in North America, said Friday that Clinton had garnered unanimous support among union leadership and was the “overwhelming favorite” in an internal poll of rank-and-file members. Only two other major unions have declared their support for any candidate this early in the 2016 campaign — the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed Clinton last month, and National Nurses United, which declared its backing for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday. Tom Buffenbarger, IAM’s president, said in a statement that the union didn’t want to stay quiet while the fight is “so clearly underway.” “Hillary Clinton has been a strong supporter of this union for years and she is now the target of unprecedented attacks, financed on a scale never seen before,” Buffenbarger said. “The time to help is when help is needed most, and we intend to do just that.” (read article)

Oakland union official allegedly took bribes from pot outfits

By Henry K. Lee, August 13, 2015, SF Gate

An Oakland labor union official has been charged in federal court with accepting bribes or kickbacks in exchange for helping marijuana dispensary operators, court records show. Daniel Rush, 54, organizing coordinator of the cannabis division of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, was charged this week in U.S. District Court in Oakland with honest-services fraud and accepting payments in violation of the Taft-Hartley Act, which restricts the activities and power of labor unions. He is free on $100,000 bond. Rush has been fired from the union, said spokeswoman Amber Sparks. “What Mr. Rush has been accused of is not only shocking to us, it is a betrayal for what we at the UFCW stand for,” she said. “Going forward, the UFCW will undertake a full review of Rush’s activities to determine if any worker or their family were adversely affected by his activities and, if so, take appropriate corrective action.”

Part of Fresno County’s largest union decertifies

By Marc Benjamin, August 12, 2015, Fresno Bee

The third time was a charm for dissatisfied members of Fresno County’s Service Employees International Union, who won a decertification vote Wednesday. Fresno County’s largest union was rejected by the group that will form the Fresno County Public Safety Association. The group, which represents correctional officers in Fresno County Jail, the Juvenile Justice Center, child support workers, security officers and technicians, represents about 880 members, said Eulalio Gomez, leader of the decertification effort. The new organization won by a 319-228 tally, which is unofficial. “We did it by word-of-mouth and our own internal network of employees,” Gomez said. “I’m really proud of these guys, they really got out and voted.” It was third time in four years that Gomez has tried to separate his group from the larger union. The last time, in late 2013, Gomez’s breakaway group lost by 44 votes, he said. He said members of his unit were growing increasingly concerned about SEIU’s funding of social justice programs, which he said strays from the mission of worker representation. (read article)

El Super grocery chain settles complaints it refused to bargain with union

By Daina Beth Solomon, August 10, 2015, Los Angeles Times

Grocery chain El Super has settled with the National Labor Relations Board over allegations that it refused to bargain with union locals and mistreated unionized workers, a union representative said Monday. The agreement reached Friday aims to remedy complaints filed last fall and winter, marking a victory for the 600 employees represented by United Food and Commercial Workers locals at seven El Super stores in greater Los Angeles. As a result, one worker fired for what he contended was retaliation for supporting the union got his job back along with seven months of back-pay. “I am incredibly proud to return to my job of more than nine years, holding my head high,” said Fermin Rodriguez in a UFCW news release. He returned to his cashier job at El Super #13 in South Los Angeles on Sunday. El Super, which employs 45,000 people at 50 markets across California, Arizona and Nevada, has voluntarily agreed to begin bargaining with the union locals. Under the settlement, the chain must also post signs saying that it cannot refuse to negotiate. The notices should also remind workers that they have the right to band together and seek bargaining representation. (read article)

Bernie Sanders Wants Unions To Run Their Own Democratic Debates

By Connor D. Wolf, August 10, 2015, Daily Caller

Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders advocated Sunday for more Democratic primary debates, including some run by labor unions. “I’d like to see the DNC have more debates,” Bernie Sanders told Face the Nation host John Dickerson. “I would like to see labor union groups. I would like to see environmental groups, women’s groups, gay groups … different constituencies, host events and have us debate. So I believe the more debates, the better.” Sanders was disappointed with a recent decision by the Democratic National Committee to hold only six primary debates between October 2015 and March 2016. Sanders argued the committee, along with other groups and affiliations, should hold more debates. (read article)

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