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Fresno Cop Deals Blow To SEIU… And Everyone Shakes Hands

I met Eulalio Gomez in Bakersfield earlier this year. The correctional officer from Fresno was part of an MLK Day gathering of public sector union reformers, and I was there to document.

Each California employee present had spent time and resources challenging their unions in one form or another. They came to compare war wounds and most had battle fatigue. Bolstered by the support of their peers, they went back into their respective corners of the state to continue their battles.

Six months later, Gomez is among the first to run a victory lap. An election spearheaded by Gomez has caused Fresno County’s largest union to lose members to the new, 900-member Fresno County Public Safety Association, which just won the right to represent workers formerly of the Service Employees International Union. 

Gomez, the association president, says his group is just focused on members.

“Wages and benefits only,” he says.

“We fought to obtain our independence and self-governance. In a free market, consumers are free to buy a service they like. No one should be forced to pay for a service they no longer want. I determined that they had poor customer service and were not accountable to members.”

According to a website statement from SEIU Local 521 president, Riley Talford, the SEIU is “disappointed (but) ready to stand together as a united coalition of workers to build a better future for all Fresno County employees.”

As a Californian from back in the day, those thoughtful words indicate mud-slinging is so passe.

I caught up with Eulalio, and we had a chat.

 

 

Eulalio Gomez – President of the Fresno County Public Safety Association

 

 

HSC: “What happened?”

EG: “We had a decertification election from SEIU in Fresno. Two elections occurred in eight months, and we won both of them. We are a union that represents members, without social agendas. We don’t want to fund ‘black lives matters’ and immigration reform events.”

HSC: “How do you as a Mexican-American explain to critics that you’re not racist in not supporting social justice agendas?”

EG: “It’s simple: I’m not racist. The fundamental issue is that is has nothing to do with the employees of the County of Fresno. If folks want to be part of it, that’s not a problem for me. But they should fund it out of their own pocket like everyone does extracurricular activities. Our group is largely sheriff correctional officers and the movement has caused a degrading of perception to members of the public against uniformed personnel; it has caused acrimony at law enforcement officials, creating anarchy and often inciting violent acts against the law enforcement community.”

HSC: “How do you explain ‘bad apples’ don’t represent everyone?”

EG: “We do acknowledge there are some issues with our brothers and sisters on the streets, but that does not represent law enforcement as a whole. People should be judged by their individual actions not by the uniforms they wear. So it’s almost like people believe if you’re in a uniform, you’re bad.”

HSC: “To the kid on the street, who says he’s being judged for his color, how do you respond?”

EG: “I believe you’re judged by your actions and not by the color of your skin… We should all follow the same rules.”

HSC: “In Bakersfield, you told me you’re doing this for your children.”

EG: “Yes because I’m doing this to make our community safer… we address local issues only. At the end of the day, all the money generated from the Fresno County Public Safety Association will stay right here locally. It won’t be going to D.C.”

HSC: “What would you like to tell Californians?”

EG: “If you are a public sector employee disenfranchised with your representation, take control of your future and change it and get involved. Either remove it or change it.”

HSC: “How long have you been fighting to create your own union?”

EG: “Five years.”

HSC: “What did you tell your children about your fight?”

EG: “I showed them the flyers that were being dispersed at my job calling me a ‘bad apple,’ ‘liar,’ and I explained to them why. I explained they are willing to use all avenues to stop the loss of dues. They understood the politics. I affiliate as an independent: I don’t want to be labeled, and I don’t want to be forced to support an issue based on my affiliation. We all have our own minds and can determine what’s best for ourselves and our family.”

HSC: “Are people starting to call you the Erin Brokovich of ‘Choose Your Union?’”

EG: “No. That title goes to a DMV clerk named Mariam Noujaim. She’s from Egypt, and I just love her tenacity and her personality and ‘break the door down’ attitude. I respect her for challenging her union on transparency and competition. She works hard and she doesn’t care if the doors are not open, she goes through the door.”

HSC: “Isn’t that the American way?”

EG: “Indeed.”

About the Author: Heidi Siegmund Cuda is a former Investigative Producer for Fox 11 News in Los Angeles and the Creator and Host of the Economic Series, “Saving the California Dream.” She is currently producing and hosting the series, “Ripoff Report Investigates.”

The National Education Association's Stagnant Finances

As Dropout Nation reported last week, National Education Association has had to deal with declining rank-and-file numbers as well as prop up affiliates struggling with pension woes and other issues. None of this, by the way, includes the nation’s largest teachers’ union’s own virtually-insolvent defined-benefit pension.

Yet as NEA has shown in its 2014-2015 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor, it hasn’t done much to reign in its costs even while revenue remains stagnant.

The union reported overall revenue of $389 million in 2014-2015, a one percent increase over the previous year. Dues and agency fee collections barely budged over the previous year, remaining at $363 million. If not for a 31 percent increase in “other receipts” (including vendor rebates and reimbursements by affiliates for using NEA’s software and technology services), the union’s revenue would have declined.

NEA Executive Director John Stocks. One of the 42 "NEA Leaders" to be compensated over $200,000

NEA Executive Director John Stocks. One of the 42 “NEA Leaders” to be compensated over $200,000

While NEA’s revenue didn’t increase, its expenses certainly did. The union spent $362 million in 2014-2015, a 2.8 percent increase over the previous years (or nearly $10 million more than last year). Much of that increase can be attributed to a 30 percent increase in direct lobbying spending, as well as a 4.5 percent increase in union administration costs. Adding 21 more employees earning six-figure sums also didn’t help the expense line. The union only slightly trimmed its benefits payouts, reducing those costs by a mere 2.3 percent.

Meanwhile NEA spent big on its annual convention at Walt Disney World in Orlando. This included $216,375 for meetings and hotel rooms at the resort’s Swan and Dolphin Hotel, $131,192 at Walt Disney World’s Buena Vista Palace Hotel. Among the other big hotel spends: NEA dropped $39,641 with Kimpton Hotel’s swanky Grand Solamar, spent $54,155 at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, ran up $57,365 at the MGM Resorts, and put down $70,876 with Hilton’s Minneapolis hotel.

Yet for all the spending, NEA managed to come up with a surplus of $27 million. This is 18 percent lower than the surplus generated in 2013-2014. But a surplus (or profit, as it is known in Corporate America) is still a surplus. The big question is how long can the state of affairs last. As Dropout Nation noted last week, the union defined-benefit pension is virtually insolvent to the tune of $111 million, according to the plan’s 2013 announcement to retirees. This is a 37 percent increase in unfunded liabilities over the previous year, and 82 percent more than liability levels two years ago. The union has $364 million in assets that could be liquidated in order to cover those liabilities today. But with shortfalls increasing at a fast clip, the union may end up in dire straits itself.

These woes come just as the union and its affiliates must deal with the possible aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court abolishing compulsory dues laws nationally with a ruling next year in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. [Dropout Nation, Editor RiShawn Biddle, and Contributing Editors Gwen Samuel and Dmitri Mehlhorn, are parties to an amicus brief filed in the case.] If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, as it is likely based on Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in last year’s ruling in Harris v. Quinn, NEA could lose at least a quarter of rank-and-file, taking a $66 million hit to its coffers (based on 2014-2015 dues and agency fee collections). This would mean a dramatic reduction in dollars available to the union both to pay down its pension as well as dole out for influence-spending.

While NEA’s Golden State affiliate has developed plans to deal with the aftermath of an end to compulsory dues, other state units haven’t done so. NEA itself doesn’t seem to have a plan in place at all. Unlike rival American Federation of Teachers, NEA hasn’t taken the step of aggressively expanding into other union-dominated fields such as healthcare and hasn’t done the kind of talent-hiring from unions such as Service Employees International Union that would be helpful in organizing. Also, unlike AFT, NEA hasn’t offered an associate membership category that would allow teachers and others to join the union and pay dues into it. While NEA may hope that the status quo remains ante on this front, it isn’t likely. And refusing to tackle those issues head-on may leave it weaker in the long run.

You can check out the data yourself by checking out the NEA’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site. Also check out Dropout Nation‘s Teachers Union Money Report, for this and previous reports on NEA and AFT spending.

About the Author:  RiShawn Biddle is Editor and Publisher of Dropout Nation — the leading commentary Web site on education reform — a columnist for Rare and The American Spectator, award-winning editorialist, speechwriter, communications consultant and education policy advisor. More importantly, he is a tireless advocate for improving the quality of K-12 education for every child. The co-author of A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, Biddle combines journalism, research and advocacy to bring insight on the nation’s education crisis and rally families and others to reform American public education. This article originally appeared in Dropout Nation and is republished here with permission from the author.

Union Offensive Against Prop. 13 Gains Momentum

There’s a joke about public sector union bosses making the rounds in Sacramento lately:  What happens when the California Legislature hands over a blank check to the California Teachers Association (CTA)?  It’s returned the next day marked “insufficient.”

No matter that spending on schools is up 36 percent over the last four years, the state budget has increased 25 percent over the last three and the state is running a surplus of nearly $7 billion, it is never enough.  The government employee unions are continuing to press for higher taxes and more spending from which they benefit both in terms of money and political power.

Since California already imposes the highest taxes in all 50 states in almost every category except taxes on property – where we rank 19th highest – the obvious target is Proposition 13 which limits annual increases in property taxes.  To take on Proposition 13, public unions, including the two major teachers unions and the Service Employees International Union, have joined with some rag-tag groups of Bay Area radicals to create a front group, calling itself “Make It Fair.” The stated goal is to strip Proposition 13 protections away from businesses, including small mom-and-pop stores and residential rentals, thereby creating a “split roll” in order to seize another $9 billion in tax revenue annually.

To undermine support for Proposition 13 — which remains overwhelmingly popular in public opinion polls – Make It Fair attempts to make homeowners feel unjustly burdened. Backers of higher property taxes on business say that Proposition 13 provides commercial property special advantages, but it does not. California has always taxed all real property at the same rate whether residential or business.

The facts are unimportant to the government employee unions. They accuse owners of commercial property of not paying their fair share in property taxes. This ignores studies that show that business property is actually paying a higher percentage of the total property tax than when Proposition 13 passed and that business property is generally assessed at closer to market value than is residential property. This is due to the frequent improvements businesses make to property to remain competitive and these improvements are taxed at current market value.

But if the government employee unions are really only going after owners of commercial property, why should the average homeowner be concerned?

First, those who delude themselves into believing that the appetite of unions for tax dollars will be satiated if we just give in to their demands, should know that California state and local government employees are the highest paid in the nation. They did not become this way because the union leadership were shrinking violets. Once business property is taxed at a higher rate, there is no question that residential property – homeowners – will be the next target. Already union-backed legislation has been introduced in Sacramento to make it easier to increase taxes on homeowners.

Secondly, most homeowners rely on jobs in order to pay their mortgages.  If taxes on commercial property, including those on small businesses and residential rental property, are jacked up,  so prices and rents will go up as well. Business that can’t increase their prices because of competition from firms located in other states and countries are likely to join the exodus of companies that have already left California.  And they will take those jobs with them.

A recent front page story in the Torrance Daily Breeze, “Tractor Firm Kubota Exits Torrance for Texas,” illustrates the point.  The report says the firm, a 43-year resident of the community, will be departing along with 180 jobs, and reminds readers that Toyota made a similar announcement last year.  This hemorrhaging of jobs is a direct consequence of California’s hostile business climate, and this is before any increase in the property tax.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the negative impact that changes to Proposition 13 would have on the California economy. A study from the Pepperdine University School for Public Policy reveals that a “split roll” would result in the loss of nearly 400,000 jobs and $72 billion in economic activity over five years.

If front groups were required to adhere to truth in labeling standards, the group “Make It Fair” would be compelled to call itself either “Take Our Jobs, Please” or “Make Us Poor.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Fifty States of Right-to-Work?

Elected officials, the courts and John Q. Public are supporting worker freedom these days; teachers unions and other public employee unions are on the run.

Last Monday, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner issued an executive order that, if it stands, will absolve state workers from paying forced dues to a union. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Rauner declared that Illinois’s contracts with public unions “violate the First Amendment by forcing workers to associate with the union against their will.” Rauner instructed all state agencies to keep the workers’ dues in escrow, pending the outcome of a federal court lawsuit that he filed the same day.

Needless to say, the unions and their friends in Springfield aren’t doing cartwheels over his right-to-work (RTW) directive. Even prior to the order, the teachers unions had targeted the recently elected governor. Two weeks ago, Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis attacked Rauner, accusing him of being (Wisconsin governor) “Scott Walker on steroids.” Also before the announcement, local teacher union lobbyist Matthew Johansson declared that the governor is trying to “destroy us.”

After the announcement, Illinois Education Association president Cinda Klickna said that the attack on “fair share is extremely serious and will be monitored very carefully.” She added, “This attack is clearly intended to weaken the unions that fight for the middle class and for the students who attend our schools. We can’t let that happen.” The Illinois Federation of Teachers referred to the action as a “blatant abuse of power.”

The reality – beyond the union harrumphing and all-around hysteria – is this: In 26 states and D.C., workers are forced to pay unions as a condition of employment. The unions call this “fair share” because they say all workers benefit from their collective bargaining efforts. But if a worker doesn’t want to be part of the collective, he/she still must belong because the union demands monopoly status; a worker is not allowed to bargain on his/her own or hire another party to do so.

Hence RTW is quite simply an individual-rights issue. The workers the unions refer to as “free riders” are really “forced riders.” If you were going from Point A to Point B and wanted to walk, how would you feel if someone told you that you had to take the bus … and, of course, pay for the ride to boot?

Very importantly, not only does RTW liberate workers, it has many other far-reaching benefits. After Michigan became a RTW state in 2012, the West Michigan Policy Forum reported, “… of the 10 states with the highest rate of personal income growth, eight have right-to-work laws. Those numbers are driving a net migration from forced union states: Between 2000 and 2010, five million people moved to right-to-work states from compulsory union states.”

Also, in a new economic profile, the Illinois Policy Institute’s Paul Kersey reports that RTW states are much stronger economically than their forced-dues counterparts:

  • From 2002 to 2012, states with right-to-work laws saw a 7.2 percent increase in payroll employment, compared to a 2 percent increase in other states.
  • As of September 2014, right-to-work states had an average unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, compared to 6 percent in non-right-to-work states.
  • From 2000 to 2010, right-to-work states saw population growth that was twice as fast as that in other states (13.6 percent compared to 7.3 percent).
  • Median wages in right-to-work states appear $4,345 lower than in other states. However, once you take into account cost of living and local taxes, right-to-work state wages rise. In fact, the cost of living is 16.6 percent higher in states without right-to-work laws.
  • Right-to-work economies grew by 62 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared to just 46.5 percent growth in other states.

Much to the unions’ consternation, the RTW movement is picking up momentum across the country. Politico’s Brian Mahoney reports that legislation has been introduced in New Mexico, Missouri, West Virginia and Kentucky.

The bills have already cleared committee hurdles in New Mexico and Missouri. All but the Missouri bill were introduced by Republicans; in Missouri, the measure was introduced by state Rep. Courtney Curtis, a Democrat and an African-American who would limit right to work to the construction industry to combat what he sees as bias in minority contracting. In Kentucky, right-to-work ordinances have been passed in five counties, though it isn’t clear federal law allows the adoption of right to work anywhere except at the state and territorial level. Legal challenges are already underway.

Additionally, the American people are strong supporters of RTW laws. In a poll conducted right before Labor Day last year, Gallup found that 82 percent of Americans agree that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.” Also, as Mike Antonucci reports, by a 2-1 margin – 64 to 32 percent – “Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’”

Much of the recent RTW activity has been undoubtedly spurred by the June 2014 Harris v Quinn Supreme Court decision, in which SCOTUS agreed with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, ruling that homecare workers in Illinois could not be forced to join the Service Employees International Union.

And in the legal on-deck circle is Friedrichs et al v CTA, which is on a path to reach SCOTUS within a few months. This litigation has ten teachers and the Christian Educators Association International – a union alternative – taking on the California Teachers Association with a lawsuit aimed squarely at California’s “agency-shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities. The Center for Individual Rights is representing the teachers, with help from Jones Day, an international law firm.

So, let’s see – RTW is gaining favor in state houses, the courts and with the citizenry. And please keep in mind, no one is talking about outlawing unions; RTW is simply about making them voluntary associations, just like every other organization in the U.S. Really nothing controversial, unless you are a wolf that preys on workers … all the while pretending to be a shepherd.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

SEIU Motives and Tactics Remain the Same

Times have changed, but the SEIU’s motives, and the means and tactics used to accomplish these motives — as documented in The Devil at Our Doorstep — remain the same. The SEIU’s ultimate goal is to achieve its agenda of destroying America’s Free Enterprise system and replacing it with statism. As seen in recent actions across the country, it is apparent the SEIU is still intent on fundamentally changing America, as is its cohort in the White House, President Obama. The President continues to create a welfare state and to attempt to overwhelm the American economy. In his State of the Union Address, Obama’s Middle-Class Pitch made it very clear, his agenda is to continue to pit Americans against each other (see Overwhelming the System). Together, the President and the SEIU are intent on collapsing the American system. They fervently believe that their Cloward-Piven Strategy Is Working, and that such strategy is what is best for America and the rest of the world.

While the President continues to foment racial divide through federal investigations in Ferguson and New York the SEIU’s Insidious Tentacles are involved behind the scenes in fostering these unrests so Eric Holder and the President, with the assistance of Al Sharpton, can paint America as a racist country. The stories below found in Phil Wilson’s LRI Publication reveal tactics employed behind the scenes by the SEIU to facilitate the administration’s agenda of Divide and Conquer.

First, with respect to New York: Robert Murray, a top 32BJ SEIU organizer earning a six-figure salary, has been charged with two felony counts and three misdemeanors, including resisting arrest, inciting to riot, and obstruction of governmental administration, for his participation in the December 13 assault of two NYPD police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge.

 A week after the incident, Murray turned himself into the police. The union has reportedly put Murray on unpaid leave until the matter is settled. Elaine Kim, a spokesperson for the 32BJ SEIU, said “The union did not organize any official contingent to participate in the protests.”

 While that may be true, it is also true that the SEIU has a history of organizing protests without “officially” putting their name on it. Additionally, Mayor Bill de Blasio met with the group behind last month’s New York City protests. Guess where the meeting was held? 1199 SEIU headquarters.

Second, the SEIU has been involved in Ferguson: President Obama is utilizing the tried and true labor boss tactic of misdirection to take Americans’ “eyes off the ball” regarding his Amnesty Order and, instead, has been directing attention to the recent events in Ferguson and New York City, as witnessed in a recent interview on BET where he said Racism is “Deeply Rooted” in U.S. Society.

The eruption of violence following the Michael Brown decision in Missouri and the Eric Garner decision in New York were blamed by the media on “outside agitators,” people who descended on the scene to generate unrest, and publicity. But just who were these hoodlums? According to Bill O’Reilly, the SEIU was front and center in the escapade.

Knowing that the connections would be made sooner or later, SEIU is attempting to jump on the bandwagon calling for “racial justice” in relation to the two incidents. Not surprisingly, many of the “Black Lives Matter” protestors have also been actively protesting for the Fight for $15 movement, another protest project spearheaded by SEIU behind the scenes. Perhaps SEIU should be responsible to pay the bills for all of the property destroyed in the SEIU-fomented unrest and violence.

Third, the President’s home state is providing payback and funds for the SEIU to basically nullify the freedom provided to home health care workers not to pay union dues by the U.S. Supreme Court. After the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision in October, the state of Illinois enacted a policy requiring home-based caregivers to attend “training sessions” led by SEIU. The state is using taxpayer money to pay the union as much as $2 million to conduct these meetings – most of which are spent with SEIU officials “telling caregivers they will lose all benefits, including health insurance and the Medicaid stipend that helps them care for their loved ones, should they opt out of paying union dues.” Illinois Policy Institute has responded by sending staff members to wait outside most of these meetings in order to inform caregivers that what SEIU is telling them is not the truth. SEIU, of course, complained to the state about Illinois Policy’s presence, creating some situations where staff members have been threatened with arrest.

Fourth, with respect to the President’s Amnesty program, as chronicled in DREAM Act, the Truth behind the Nightmare, the SEIU is being provided another payback in the form of potential future forced unionized workers as well as the opportunity to further create racial divide by giving them access to undocumented workers granted amnesty — The SEIU is taking advantage of President Obama’s recent executive order to give working visas to some 4 million immigrants. Their hope is that some of these people who have been too afraid to sign up in the past won’t be now.

There is no doubt the President and the SEIU are determined to fundamentally change the greatest country in the history of the world to impose their own view. America has provided more opportunity and increased the quality of life for more people, regardless of their background, than any country in history. Despite this, the President and the “same old” SEIU still believe they know best and are determined to destroy the American Free Enterprise system and impose statism upon this great country. Their true agenda is control of the American people.

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David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Rank and File Union Membership Post Victories

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued its decision in the matter of Harris v. Quinn. In its decision not to exempt all public workers from paying union dues, it was nevertheless apparent that workers were handed a victory over unions (see Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Challengers to Union Fees, But Avoids Broad Ruling and Workers were Handed a Victory Over Unions). In a 5-4 ruling following political lines, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that just because home healthcare workers received Medicaid payments they were not employees of a government agency and subject to forced unionism or required to pay dues because of supposed union representation. The irony of this is that many of the home healthcare workers are independent contractors, not state workers, who have been forced to pay forced union dues because of the SEIU’s close political ties to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  It could have been much worse for organized labor if SCOTUS had determined, as it should have, that no public employees should be forced to be part of the union or pay union affiliation/representation fees. Due to the narrow ruling, Big Labor was able to Dodge a Bullet with SCOTUS!

The decision of SCOTUS in Harris v. Quinn will ultimately cost the SEIU an estimated $50 Million in lost revenue. The SEIU recently took a similar hit when the Michigan legislature repealed a law similar to that in question in Harris v. Quinn (see SEIU Shows It Is Not About Employee Free Choice). The SEIU has been reaping large dues payments in states like California, as discussed in It’s All About the Dues Money. This decision will result in a significant drop in dues income, designed to line its pockets and support its political buddies. Make no mistake, this decision will have a profound affect on Big Labor’s ability to support its political allies with funds and foot soldiers in the November 2014 Election.

20140714_Bego

Monday’s ruling is only the beginning of a conundrum facing Big Labor. Rank and file members across the country are fed up with Big Labor using their dues payments for political activities with which they disagree. Throughout the month of June, disgruntled SEIU and UAW members in California and Michigan have been on a mission to have “Non Germane Objector” (NGO) dues removed from the monthly dues being deducted from their paychecks. If successful, these reductions would decrease dues, and subsequently SEIU and UAW revenues by reportedly 35%. Brave members, such as Mariam Noujaim and Lisa Garcia, whose stories are chronicled in The Devil at Our Doorstep, and Brian Pannbecker, a cofounder of Union Conservatives, the organization responsible for the grass roots effort for Michigan become the 24th Right-To-Work State, have led the charge in these highly unionized states. Their efforts are further documented at www.occupyseiu.com and www.unionconservatives.com.

These bold actions, by responsible rank and file members of the SEIU and the UAW, as well as Harris and her band of home healthcare workers, will significantly affect the Big Labor Gasping Dinosaurs and their Symbiotic Relationship that Short Changes Americans! These brave hero’s victories will undoubtedly be evident as Administration and Big Labor Desperation Escalates prior to the 2014 Mid Term Elections.

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David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Will the Supreme Court Do an “Abood Face?”

The decision in Harris v Quinn could be just the first shoe to drop in the fight against forced union dues.

Last month was not kind to Big Labor. First, the teachers unions in California had some of their favorite work rules knocked out of the state constitution by Judge Rolf Treu in his Vergara decision. Then, on the last day of the month, the Supreme Court agreed with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v Quinn and ruled that homecare workers could not be forced to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Vergara upset the teacher union Pooh-Bahs who just can’t believe that educators who hang on to their jobs for 16 months aren’t entitled to them for life, regardless of whether they’re good, mediocre or teachers from hell. The decision is going to be appealed and no one knows –  if the appeal fails – how the subsequent replacement laws will play out. But if Vergara got the unions in a snit, Harris has pushed them into apoplexy.

Regarding Harris, I searched the internet long and hard to find a statement from a union leader that went something like this:

The decision doesn’t harm the union movement in the least. It gives hard working men and women the freedom to choose whether or not to join us. If they do join, they will enjoy the benefits and perks that come with union membership. If they choose not to join, we will not force them to. They are free to make whatever deal that they and their employer agree to. As patriotic Americans, we believe in liberty and that means giving all workers a choice.

Okay, I confess. I really didn’t search long and hard. In fact, I didn’t search at all; it would have been a complete waste of time. Instead, we were treated to union leaders doing what they usually do when they don’t get their way: trot out the usual half-truths, fear-mongering and lies to rally the troops and garner public sympathy.  Chalkbeat reports,

‘This court has built a record of weakening the rights of both voters and working families; no one should be surprised by this decision,’ said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in a statement.

Weingarten is saying  that one working family has a right to force a member of another working family into a union.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, defended the ‘fair share’ practice. ‘Fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members.’

There is nothing fair about forcing a worker to pay dues to an organization that he or she does not want to belong to.

The NEA website goes deeper into the “fair share” philosophy:

All union members who enjoy the benefits, rights, and protections of a contract should, in fairness, and must, according to Illinois state law, contribute to maintaining that contract. Sometimes called ‘agency fee,’ fair share is a percentage of full union dues, based on the actual cost of collective bargaining, contract maintenance, and other services provided to all union members. 

Well yes, all those who benefit from the union contract, should pay dues. But if they don’t want any part of your contract, why are you trying to force them to pay you?

Mind you, Harris was a narrow decision. Justice Samuel Alito’s ruling drew a distinction between the home care workers and ‘full-fledged’ public employees

… who were required to pay union dues under the Court’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education precedent in 1977. In that sense unions dodged a more sweeping decision that could have jeopardized dues payments from all public workers.

But – and this is what’s scaring the spit out of unionistas – Alito added that Abood (which maintains that it is illegal to withhold forced dues from dissenters beyond the cost of collective bargaining) is “questionable on several grounds.” Collective bargaining issues, he wrote, “are inherently political in the public sector.”

In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government… But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. (Emphasis added.)

Clearly, Alito left the door open for the court to do something of an “Abood face.” The next shoe that drops could lead to the unions’ worst nightmare – making union membership optional nationwide. (At this time 26 states are forced union states, while 24 are right-to-work.)

In fact, that “next shoe” is awaiting a fitting. Friedrichs et al v CTA is on a path to reach SCOTUS within a year or two. This litigation has ten teachers and the Christian Educators Association International – a union alternative – taking on the California Teachers Association with a lawsuit aimed squarely at California’s “agency-shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities, though – as per Abood – paying for the unions’ political agenda is not mandatory. The plaintiffs’ lawyers are challenging the law, claiming collective bargaining is inherently political and that all union dues should be voluntary.

Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a public interest law firm representing Rebecca Friedrichs and her co-plaintiffs, was upbeat after the Harris ruling was announced.

Today’s decision is a good sign of things to come. The Court will soon have before it another union dues case, one that asks it to recognize the First Amendment rights of all employees to decide whether to pay union dues, not just home healthcare workers.

He importantly added,

We’re not attacking collective bargaining. … That’s not at issue. All we’re saying is individual teachers get to decide whether to pay dues to that organization. You can have collective bargaining and you can have a strong union, but you don’t have to have compulsory dues.

If Friedrichs is successful, and the court overturns Abood, workers will have a choice. To paraphrase President Obama, “If you like your union, you can keep your union.” But if you don’t, you can’t be forced to join. Freedom of choice – sounds like the American way to me.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Big Labor and Allies Escalate Tactics as Mid-term Elections Approach

Activity by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Department of Labor (DOL) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as several of the largest labor unions, over the past two weeks evidences the Obama Administration’s growing anxiety as the mid-term election approaches. The Administration, facing loss of the Senate and ultimate control in both houses, continues to direct its agencies to pass union-friendly regulations and to impose its interpretation of current law to favor accelerated forced unionism. The Administration and Democratic Party represent a typical symbiotic relationship where they are co-dependent upon each other for future survival. The Administration needs union contributions and union foot soldiers to have any chance of maintaining a senate majority and making gains in the house during the 2014 mid-term elections (see Union Money in Elections). Conversely, Big Labor is finally recognizing and admitting that their declining membership is a major problem and they need the Administration’s help (see AFL-CIO admits declining membership a major problem).

In order to get the ball rolling, several pro-labor steps have been taken by OSHA, the NLRB and the Department of Labor (DOL). First, OSHA has reaffirmed its position that union officials may accompany OSHA inspectors on safety inspections in non-union facilities. This issue was reported in a previous blog, OSHA Opens New Door For Big Labor, and was more recently presented by the CEO of PJS on the Greta Van Susteren Show this past week, in CEO: How union organizers are targeting my non-union company. The union involved – the SEIU – used such tactics as part of its ongoing Corporate Campaigns to force a cleaning company in Houston to sign a Neutrality Agreement and achieve forced unionization through Card Check, as described in SEIU Uses Federal Inspections to Target Houston Small Business. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the SEIU is buying votes in polls and gaining naive media attention, from media groups like the Los Angeles Times, to support its attack on fast food companies as chronicled in Beware SEIU, Especially Bearing “Polls”.

Not to be outdone, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board is looking to limit the ability of business owners to relocate their businesses without approval of the union (see NLRB will limit ability of unionized business to relocate). This move is an obvious attempt to preserve union membership heading into the midterms while taking away the fundamental right of a free market society. On a bright note, House, Senate Leaders Introduce Legislative Response to NLRB Ambush Election Rule, which was approved by the House Education and Workforce Committee this past week

In a surprising move, the NLRB complains Walmart Black Friday protesters broke rules, went too far and must Cease and Desist! This decision was made by a local NLRB Region and is not expected to survive the pro-labor board in Washington D.C. Finally, the DOL, under the Administration’s direction, limited the reporting responsibilities of unions during the President’s first term. Labor unions, particularly the United Food and Commercial Workers continue to take full advantage of it by funding OUR Walmart, a “Worker Center” operation utilized to advance its Corporate Campaigns against Wal-Mart in an attempt to force Card Check and force unionize Wal-Mart’s workforce.

The UAW appears to be attempting to force Volkswagen into Card Check. This past week, an anti-union group said Volkswagen may ignore the election results and bring in the union, basically agreeing to Card Check. Additionally,Unable To Sell Unionization On Its Merits, The UAW Turns To Race, Rappers And An Actor For Aid, and the UAW Bosses Turn To Bovine Excrement Manufacturing. Despite the fact these tactics continue not to work for the UAW, the union has decided to continue to press the issue and to replace outgoing President Bob King with UAW Secretary Treasurer Dennis Williams who supports King’s tactics. Once again The United Auto Workers Promote Failure. Isn’t the definition of “insanity” to repeat the same things over and over again, with the same failed results?

Finally, the question must be asked, is the unionization of college sports spreading? The answer appears to be both yes and no. Recent reports indicate that the University of Notre Dame could be next (see Notre Dame could be next front in union battle). However, it appears any progress on this movement will take a long time as Northwestern University has filed an appeal on the decision made by the NLRB administrative law judge finding college athletes to be “employees” (see Northwestern University Appeals NLRB Ruling on Athletes as Employees). Contrary to the judge’s finding, an Ohio bill says college athletes aren’t employees.

Unions and the Democratic Party desperately need money as mid-term elections approach as discussed in It’s All About the Dues Money! Desperation is setting in despite the fact the Administration has aligned the federal labor agencies in big labor’s favor. The American people are beginning to wake up, and businessmen across the country are standing up to big labor’s Death by a Thousand Cuts Corporate Campaigns and saying “no” as chronicled by the PJS CEO and this Hilarious Car Dealership Outwitting Labor Union Tactics — And This Video May Just Be the Victory Lap where a Wichita auto dealership beat a union at its own tactics.

Desperation is setting in and it is only going to get uglier as the mid-term elections approach.

David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Turning Points in the Fight Against Forced Unionism?

Summary:  Two current cases offer the U.S. Supreme Court opportunities to stop abuse. The National Labor Relations Act declares that “encouraging the practice and procedure of [monopolistic] collective bargaining” is “the policy of the United States.” Federal courts have often treated that declaration as if it authorized union officials to do whatever they deem necessary to bring employees into unions. Fortunately, in one case heard in November and another set to be heard this month, the U.S. Supreme Court may identify some important limits on union officers’ special legal privileges.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provides legal representation to Americans who are fighting compulsory membership in labor unions, or compulsory payments by workers to those unions. Currently, the Foundation has two cases before the United States Supreme Court, the Mulhall case and the Harris case. Depending on the outcomes, these cases could have significant impacts on people’s right to choose whether to join labor unions.
First, let’s look at the case of UNITE HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall, which was heard recently by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case stems from a so-called “neutrality” deal forged in 2004 between hotel workers’ union bosses in UNITE HERE and an employer, Mardi Gras Gaming. Mardi Gras is the operator of a dog racetrack and a casino located in Hollywood, Florida. UNITE HERE is a union that represents mostly hotel workers and those in related fields such as food and laundry services.

Under the terms of the neutrality deal, Mardi Gras agreed to help officials of Local 355 of UNITE HERE secure monopoly-bargaining power over the company’s front-line employees. In exchange, the union brass agreed to divert a substantial sum of money from their treasuries, laden with workers’ dues, to back a casino gambling ballot initiative that the company wanted passed. Union bosses also promised not to picket or strike Mardi Gras as they sought to unionize its employees.

After the deal was reached, without employees’ input, it became clear that many of them did not want to be unionized by UNITE HERE. One employee, groundskeeper Martin Mulhall, was especially determined to prevent UNITE HERE from being imposed on him and his fellow workers. Mulhall was confident that, provided that employees had the opportunity to make their choice in the privacy of a voting booth, Mardi Gras’ front-line employees would never vote to make UNITE HERE Local 355 their monopoly-bargaining agent. He was chagrined to learn that, under the terms of the “neutrality” deal, UNITE HERE could unionize the workplace without having to face a secret-ballot election first.

Mardi Gras had acquiesced to “card check” recognition of Local 355. That is the sort of thing many businesses have done in recent years in order to avoid Big Labor harassment and negative public relations, or to get something in return from the union. The “card check” process essentially eliminates the secret ballot. Under the longstanding federal court interpretation of NLRA Section 9(a), union organizers may acquire monopoly-bargaining power by collecting signed “union authorization cards,” if the employer acquiesces. Consequently, under the peering eyes of union organizers individual workers may be intimidated into unionizing—signing not just themselves, but all of their nonunion fellow employees, over to union officials’ control.

Mulhall believed that UNITE HERE organizers would never be able to win over a majority of employees without coercion, but that absent the protection of a secret ballot, the union could prevail if given a “card check” process and the opportunities for intimidation it would provide.

That’s especially true because there’s little chance that union professionals would share a critical fact with hesitant employees: that the cards, if signed by a majority, bring the union in automatically, with no secret-ballot vote ever required. Under pressure from union organizers, employees often sign such cards because they incorrectly assume—or are dishonestly told by the union—that by signing they are just calling for an election in which they will later have a chance to vote against the union.

Mulhall was determined to stop the “card check” scheme, but he didn’t know how. He reached out to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and in 2008 foundation attorney Bill Messenger filed, on Mulhall’s behalf, a federal suit alleging that key provisions of the “neutrality” deal between Mardi Gras and Local 355 violate the law. The deal has not (as yet) led to unionization of Mardi Gras employees; the company eventually concluded the deal was illegal and repudiated it. I say “as yet” because Local 355 has attempted to enforce the “neutrality” deal in court. Thus, the Mulhall case remains active and in need of resolution.

The case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on November 13. Lawyers for Martin Mulhall do not contend that “card check” deals per se are illegal. However, as a practical matter, Mulhall represents a grave threat to “card check” organizing. That makes the case critically important because, according to the best available evidence, “card check” has become private-sector unions’ most important method of organizing.

No wonder Benjamin Sachs of Harvard Law School has referred to Mulhall as, potentially, “the most significant labor case in a generation.” Sachs’ assessment has been quoted in dozens of mainstream and specialized legal media reports on the case.

Gag clause a ‘thing of value’

The major issue in the Mulhall case relates to whether key elements of the agreement between UNITE HERE and Mardi Gras constitute a “thing of value.” The NLRA law’s Section 302(a)(2) makes it  unlawful for any employer to pay, lend, or deliver, or agree to pay, lend, or deliver, any money or other thing of value . . . to any labor organization . . . which represents, seeks to represent, or would admit to membership, any of the employees, of such employer.

And Section 302(b)(1) makes it unlawful for any union or union officer “to request, receive, or accept, or agree to accept” any such “thing of value.”

As Bill Messenger, attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, explained in a brief to the Supreme Court, Congress adopted Section 302 largely in recognition of the fact that union monopoly bargaining as authorized and encouraged by the statute “creates a fiduciary relationship.” A fiduciary relationship is one of trust, such as between a trustee and a beneficiary; a trustee must act in the interests of the beneficiary. For example, an attorney must operate in the interests of his or her client. The NLRA-promoted fiduciary relationship between union officers and unionized employees is another example.

Messenger argued that Congress had adopted Section 302 largely to forestall “conflicts of interest in labor relations.” In support of this view, he quoted a U.S. Senate report on the 1959 NLRA amendments that extended the section to cover any union seeking to organize an employer’s employees:

For centuries, the law has forbidden any person in a position of trust to hold interests or enter into transactions in which self-interest may conflict with complete loyalty to those whom they serve.

Agreements to “pay, lend, or deliver” things of value to employees themselves, rather than to union officials, are indisputably permissible. The only “things of value” prohibited are those rendered by employers to union officials (except for some explicit exceptions in the law).

In the case now before the Supreme Court, Mulhall contends that three types of organizing assistance promised by Mardi Gras to Local 355 as part of their “neutrality” deal constitute “things of value” prohibited by Section 302:
(1) lists of confidential information about Mardi Gras’ nonunion employees, including their “job classifications, departments, and addresses”; (2) use of Mardi Gras’ private property for organizing; and (3) control over Mardi Gras’ communications to nonunion employees regarding unionization . . . . The last provision [of the deal] stated that “[t]he Employer will not do any action nor make any statement that will directly or indirectly state or imply any opposition by the Employer” to unionization or any particular union.

The Obama administration involved itself directly in the case, filing a “friend of the court” brief. While urging the Supreme Court to find that Local 355 had not violated Section 302, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli conceded that “courts generally construe” the term “thing of value” to include “both tangibles and intangibles.” He noted:
Courts have found a wide variety of goods, services, and benefits to be “things of value” within the meaning of the criminal laws.

Mulhall’s brief added that to be a “thing of value” under Section 302, a service or benefit need only be of value to the union officials receiving it. Moreover, each of the neutrality pact provisions at issue has a market value, albeit one it is difficult to assess with any precision, and can be “delivered” to union representatives.

For example, the gag rule provision is legally comparable to one business agreeing with another (assuming the agreement is permissible under antitrust law) not to fight for customers in a particular market, in exchange for some other consideration:

. . . Coca-Cola certainly delivers something of great value to Pepsi if it enters into a noncompetition agreement that bars it from advertising or competing against Pepsi in a particular market.

No ‘successful union organizing’ without employer collusion?

Questioned during November’s Supreme Court hearing on the Mulhall case, UNITE HERE lawyer Richard McCracken had a tough time defending his claim that gag rules, lists of employee names and addresses, and use at no cost of an employer’s facilities are not “things of value” under Section 302. Even Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, who also appeared before the Court to argue that UNITE HERE bosses had not violated the law, undercut McCracken on this key point when he admitted:

Certainly, read in isolation, the words “thing of value” are very broad. In other statutes, they cover intangibles. We would have no problem treating the things here as things of value under . . . 302 if that’s the only thing that existed.
But Dreeben contended all this shouldn’t matter, because union organizers have a right to seek recognition from an employer as employees’ monopoly-bargaining agent based on signed cards alone, without a secret-ballot election. That’s under NLRA Section 9(a), as interpreted by the Supreme Court in National Labor Relations Board v. Gissel Packing (1969). If the employer acquiesces, union bosses have a right to unionize employees through such “card checks” without a vote.

“Card check” recognition is obviously a thing of value to organized labor, Dreeben noted. Because it is permissible for employers to deliver such recognition to union officials, he claimed, it should also be permissible for employers to deliver to union officials virtually any other kind of organizing assistance, regardless of what Section 302 says.
The administration’s Dreeben and UNITE HERE’s McCracken evidently did not think it prudent to baldly claim, as Sachs of Harvard Law School had in a blog post the day before, that “effective union organizing” in the private-sector today relies on employer collusion in the form of gag rules, lists of information, and use of property. Yet Dreeben made the same point more circumspectly. He suggested the Justices should rule against Mulhall because employers’ “voluntary” recognition of unions through “card checks” is not merely a “permissible” element but a “favored” element of national labor policy.

But that’s wrong. In reality, the Supreme Court in the 1969 Gissel case acknowledged that “secret elections,” not “card checks,” are the “preferred” method “of ascertaining whether a union has majority support.” Therefore, there is no plausible reason to ignore the literal meaning of Section 302 in order to avoid hindering Big Labor from securing monopoly-bargaining privileges through “card checks,” even though “card checks,” with organizing assistance from employers, have become unions’ favored modus operandi.

As the attorney Bill Messenger observed in response to question from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “nothing gives [UNITE HERE] any right to the three things it demands from Mardi Gras. So enforcing 302 in this case cannot conflict with the NLRA.”

Case #2: Forcing caregivers to join unions

If it comes out wrong, the Supreme Court case of Harris v. Quinn, set to be argued this month, could take the country much further down the road of Big Labor coercion. Or it could go in the other direction, revoking forced-dues privileges that government unions have exercised in many jurisdictions for more than four decades.

The lead plaintiff in Harris lives in a Chicago suburb and is the mother of a young adult son with severe developmental disabilities. In fall 2009, Pam Harris received a form letter from agents of Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.). It informed her that, as a care-provider for her son in the state Disabilities Program, she now could cast a mail-ballot vote on which of two unions would be installed as her monopoly-bargaining agent in her dealings with the state. The letter Harris and several thousand other Disabilities Program providers received did not clearly state that they could opt for no union representation at all.

How did top bosses of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) get the opportunity to compete for control of Disabilities Program providers? They owed it all to Executive Order 2009-15, issued by Quinn on June 29, 2009.

Participants in the Illinois Home Based Support Services Program for Mentally Disabled Adults receive taxpayer-funded subsidies from the state to help cover the cost of care. Adults, or their legal guardians, may use their subsidies to compensate care-providers. Executive Order 2009-15 was crafted to enable one union to secure recognition from the state as these providers’ exclusive representative in their dealings with the state, and then to extract forced dues or fees from the providers.

For many years before, Big Labor had wanted to corral taxpayer-subsidized home care providers across Illinois into government unions, but had not been legally able to do so. The courts had held the providers were not public employees, because they are not supervised, hired, or fired by the state.

Quinn’s edict did nothing to change the underlying facts, of course. It simply declared that, even though citizens like Pam Harris aren’t supervised, hired, or fired by the state of Illinois or any of its subdivisions, the fact that they are paid and regulated by the state suffices to justify classifying them as public employees solely for purposes of unionization.

If the schemes concocted by Pat Quinn and other opportunistic Big Labor politicians in multiple states over the past few years—schemes to expand the reach of public-sector monopoly unionism—are constitutionally permissible, the implications are enormous. Doctors who accept patients under Medicare and/or Medicaid could be forced by gubernatorial executive order or state legislation to accept a particular private organization as their lobbying agent. Moreover, doctors could be forced to pay mandatory dues and fees to such an organization. Similarly, impoverished parents who participate in the “food stamp” program could be forced to join or pay fees to a government-designated lobbying agent.

Pam Harris and other care-providers cry halt

Over the course of the rigged Disabilities Program provider “election” in fall 2009, Harris and other parents pooled their money to print and distribute a flyer countering the Quinn team’s propaganda. The independent-minded providers’ shoestring effort succeeded. Providers ultimately voted two to one for “no union.” Nevertheless, SEIU and AFSCME union officers continued to press ahead with their efforts to gain forced-dues privileges over caregivers.

In Harris v. Quinn, Pam Harris and other Disabilities Program providers are seeking relief from these unionization efforts (continued under a program established by Quinn’s predecessor, the now-jailed Gov. Rod Blagojevich). They have been joined by several at-home caregivers who are being forced to pay union dues as a condition of receiving state assistance. Like Martin Mulhall in his case, the plaintiffs in the Harris case are represented before the Supreme Court by Bill Messenger of the Right to Work Foundation.

During oral arguments on January 21, Messenger will ask the Supreme Court to protect his clients from compulsory payments to unions by overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 36-year-old case that invoked the “free rider” excuse to force workers into unions. Under this theory, workers who don’t pay forced union dues would get a “free ride” with regard to the benefits of the union’s bargaining and contract administration (benefits unsolicited by the workers, of course). Messenger will respond by citing a recent Foundation-won Supreme Court case, Knox v. SEIU Local 1000, in which Justice Samuel Alito observed in his majority opinion that “free-rider arguments . . . are generally insufficient to overcome First Amendment objections.” Alito added that perhaps Abood had crossed “the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate.” (For more on Knox v. SEIU, see Labor Watch, Oct. 2012.)

Messenger will also argue that, even should the Court balk at reversing Abood, his clients must not be forced to pay union dues or face the imminent threat of forced-dues payments, because they are not employed in any government workplace. Therefore, there exists not even a theoretical possibility of “labor peace” in the workplace being disrupted by so-called “free riding,” as the Abood opinion had envisioned.

‘First Amendment values are at serious risk’

A Harris ruling that neither revokes Abood’s constitutional waiver for public-sector forced union dues nor finds the plaintiffs outside of Abood’s reach would have very dark implications for personal liberty and the democratic process.

In a November 2011 petition asking the Supreme Court to accept the case, Messenger reminded the Court that, outside the realm of labor-management relations, it has up to now been very reluctant to uphold statutes or executive orders that impose “compulsory advocates” on individual citizens. He quoted the Court’s 2001 ruling in U.S. v. United Foods:

First Amendment values are at serious risk if the government can compel a particular citizen, or a discrete group of citizens, to pay special subsidies for speech on the side that it favors.

In short, Abood blew a hole in the First Amendment, but a victory for the Quinn Administration and Big Labor in Harris would greatly expand that hole and jeopardize the free speech rights of millions of citizens who have been protected up to now.

That’s why, as high as the stakes are in Mulhall, the stakes in Harris appear to be even higher.

Stan Greer is senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, a think tank located in Springfield, Virginia, that is affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee. The opinions presented here are his own. This article originally appeared in Labor Watch, a publication of the Capitol Research Center, and appears here with permission.

Opportunity Re-Knox

A recently filed lawsuit in California picks up where Knox v. SEIU left off.

In a case brought to the Supreme Court by the National Right to Work Foundation last June, the justices ruled 7-2 that the Service Employees International Union could not force its members to pay the part of union dues that goes for political activities, even if the union felt it was for the workers’ own good. As I wrote at the time,

Actually this decision didn’t break any new ground. Unions haven’t been allowed to force workers to pay for their political agenda since the 1970s and 1980s when several landmark decisions were handed down by the court. But SEIU Local 1,000 in California tried to hoodwink the rank and file. The case probably never should have reached the high court, but their involvement became necessary in order to overturn a decision from the far left Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (or as it’s affectionately known to us left coasters – the Ninth Circus), which has become a regular occurrence these days.

The Wall Street Journal explained the specifics of SEIU’s chicanery,

The California SEIU local attempted to end run these protections in a special 2005 election and the midterms in 2006, amid a furious debate about union government perks. The SEIU joined a “Political Fight-Back Fund” to defeat two propositions that would have given then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the ability in some cases to modify salaries, benefits and pensions. To fund this advocacy, the SEIU imposed a temporary 25% hike in union dues, never providing its 28,000 non-union members the Hudson notice that would have let them opt out.

The SEIU argued that lobbying against the ballot initiatives was really work on behalf of all workers. Yet that would erase the legal distinction between politics and collective bargaining. These activities may be especially fungible in public employee practice already, but this was too much even for liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who concurred with the majority on the narrow if obvious grounds of technical precedent.

The chutzpah here is dazzling. As Steve Greenhut noted,

It’s ironic that SEIU took money from nonmembers to specifically battle a statewide proposition that would have stopped them from being able to take such money in the future. There’s something disturbingly totalitarian about that – making me give you money that you can use to stop me from exerting my rights.

In a lesser-known but very important ruling, the court went beyond Knox and addressed two larger issues:

1. Should union members have to opt out of paying the political part of union dues? (The way things stand, the default position is “in” and a worker must take action to opt out.) With Justice Samuel Alito writing the opinion,

… the court concluded that a longstanding precedent — that the First Amendment demands that non-union members covered by union contracts be given the chance to “opt out” of such special fees — was insufficient. Instead, the majority said, non-members should be sent a notice giving them the chance to “opt in” to the special fees. (Emphasis added)

2. Should public employees be forced to pay any union dues at all? (At this time, workers in 26 states and Washington, D.C. must pay union dues as a condition of employment. The other 24 states are “right-to-work” states where workers can choose whether or not to join.) Alito again,

Because a public-sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences, the compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights. (Emphasis added.)

As Huffington Post blogger Cole Stangler wrote at the time,

Knox v. SEIU could lay the foundation for future legal challenges over unions’ political spending and the dues collection process in general.

And lay the foundation it did on both counts.

Last week, the Center for Individual Rights, in conjunction with international law firm Jones Day, filed a suit in California. CIR’s press release explains that the litigation was initiated

… on behalf of 10 California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International, challenging the constitutionality of California’s “agency shop” law, which violates the First Amendment by forcing public school teachers to pay annual fees to support powerful teachers’ unions extensively involved in political activity. The suit was filed against the lead defendants, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA), as well as ten affiliated local teachers’ unions, and local school officials.

The lawyers in this case claim that the lines between “chargeable” or “agency fee” and “political” are very blurry and that the unions use their power

… to extract compulsory fees as a convenient method of forcing teachers to pay for activities that have little to do with collective bargaining. For example, the CTA considers the publication and dissemination of The California Educator, its internal and highly political magazine, to be a mostly “chargeable” collective bargaining expense. The CTA likewise deems programs dealing with gays and lesbians, including a “GLBT Conference,” to be predominantly “chargeable.” Also, the CTA spends millions of dollars every year on political contributions, mostly to support Democratic Party causes. The NEA, which receives a portion of the fees paid by every California public school teacher, likewise classifies expenditures as chargeable even though they appear to have little to do with collective bargaining, such as programs advancing various education policies or expensive conferences for NEA staff.

The litigation also addresses right-to-work issues,

Given the severe and ongoing infringement of Plaintiffs’ rights to free speech and free association, Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court declare that California’s practice of forcing non-union members to contribute funds to unions, including funds to support their collective-bargaining activities, violates the First Amendment, and enjoin Defendants from enforcing this unconstitutional arrangement.

Needless to say, the unions are not happy about the lawsuit. CTA spokesman Frank Wells, speaking in boilerplate language, said that it is a “baseless challenge intended to dilute worker rights.” He went on to say that the claims are “another baseless attack on the concept of agency fees” and that “the concept of agency fees is sound.”

If the suit isn’t settled at the local level, it could wind up in the Supreme Court. Should that happen, the justices could take their opinion in Knox one step further and make joining a union voluntary. What a victory for liberty that would be! Greenhut is right – there is something indeed “disturbingly totalitarian” about forced union dues. It’s time to take Knox to its logical conclusion and give all workers the freedom to choose.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Knox vs. SEIU – A Reaffirmation

The Supreme Court reached the right decision in the Knox case, but we still to need to let all American workers choose whether or not they want to belong to a union.

While last week’s Supreme Court’s Arizona immigration and Obamacare decisions have caused great controversy in some circles, its earlier judgment in the Knox vs. Service Employees International Union case was widely heralded; only the union elites and their fellow travelers were unhappy with it. A great majority agreed that the Court acted properly in issuing a verdict that supported the freedom of union workers not to have to have dues forcibly removed from their paychecks and given to political causes that they don’t support. By a 7-2 margin, the justices said the SEIU could not force its members to pay the part of union dues that goes for political causes even if the union felt it was for the workers own good.

Actually this decision didn’t break any new ground. Unions haven’t been allowed to force workers to pay for their political agenda since the 1970s and 1980s when several landmark decisions were handed down by the court. But SEIU Local 1,000 in California tried to hoodwink the rank and file. The case probably never should have reached the high court, but their involvement became necessary in order to overturn a decision from the far left Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (or as it’s affectionately known to us left coasters – the Ninth Circus), which has become a regular occurrence these days.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

The California SEIU local attempted to end run these protections in a special 2005 election and the midterms in 2006, amid a furious debate about union government perks. The SEIU joined a “Political Fight-Back Fund” to defeat two propositions that would have given then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the ability in some cases to modify salaries, benefits and pensions. To fund this advocacy, the SEIU imposed a temporary 25% hike in union dues, never providing its 28,000 non-union members the Hudson notice that would have let them opt out.

The SEIU argued that lobbying against the ballot initiatives was really work on behalf of all workers. Yet that would erase the legal distinction between politics and collective bargaining. These activities may be especially fungible in public employee practice already, but this was too much even for liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who concurred with the majority on the narrow if obvious grounds of technical precedent.

The irony here is dazzling. Steve Greenhut notes,

It’s ironic that SEIU took money from nonmembers to specifically battle a statewide proposition that would have stopped them from being able to take such money in the future. There’s something disturbingly totalitarian about that – making me give you money that you can use to stop me from exerting my rights.

The SCOTUS even went so far as to question whether or not an “opt in” method of dues collection would be more just.

Writing for a five-member majority, however, Justice Samuel Alito raises larger questions about compulsory union dues and individual rights. Shouldn’t the people who choose not to join a union, he asks, have to opt into political and ideological activities that they may presumably dispute—rather than opt out? “Which side should bear the risk?” he continues. “The answer is obvious: the side whose constitutional rights are not at stake.”

While the court is to be commended for its decision and bringing up the notion that opt out as the default position is grossly unfair, there is a bigger worker freedom issue at stake – that is, paying union dues as a condition of employment for certain workers in 27 states and the nation’s capital.

In California, for example, in order to teach in a public school, teachers are forced to pay dues to three different unions to the tune of over $1,000 a year. They must fork over money to a national union (National Education Association or American Federation of Teachers), a state affiliate (California Teachers Association or California Federation of Teachers), as well as their local union. If they choose not to have any part of their dues go to union supported political issues or candidates, they must resign from the union, and by November 15th of each year ask for a refund. They can expect to get back about a third of their dues. The bad news is that the union still gets to keep the rest, claiming that this is a “fair share” because they are representing teachers – whether or not this representation is wanted. And of course, union members usually have to find the resignation procedure out for themselves; the unions only grudgingly, upon request, give its members minimal information – and fairly often the information they do provide is misleading or erroneous.

Anyone who believes in liberty should be outraged about forced unionism. As a teacher, I was aghast at just about everything that CTA stood for, yet was still forced to line its pockets. The only way to pay nothing to the union as a teacher is to become a religious objector. This entails hiring a lawyer and proving that you are “religious enough.” If successful, the teacher still has to pay the full dues amount to a mutually agreed upon charity. Bottom line: In a non-right-to-work state, a teacher must pay to play.

With Independence Day upon us, we the people need to confront the fact that it is downright un-American and immoral to force workers to join an organization that they don’t want to belong to as a condition of employment. Anything short of giving workers the freedom to choose is not acceptable.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Parents Need to be Aware of Union Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Last week was a bad one for children due to some of our more lupine unions. The first blow to the kiddos came from the Service Employees International Union. A powerful local, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, cut insurance for its members’ children. It seems that the powerful local and even more powerful parent — prime supporters of Obamacare — came to realize that it couldn’t afford to handle the costly financial consequences of the recent healthcare legislation. So the most expedient thing way for them to cut costs was to drop healthcare coverage for children.

Then, across the country in Petaluma, CA, the local school district, like so many others in cash-strapped states, has been cutting millions from its budget over the last few years. According to Pete Peterson, writing in City Journal,

The cuts have meant layoffs for district employees at all levels, from teachers to playground supervisors. In response, parents and concerned Petalumans have stepped forward to try to fill the non-teaching gaps, volunteering their time to maintain school services. The volunteers have worked in new roles identified by the school administration, but they’ve also stepped in to perform jobs eliminated by budget cuts. But those positions are unionized by the California School Employees’ Association (CSEA)—and that’s where the problems started.

When volunteers began to help answer phones in the office and support the school librarian at Petaluma Junior High School, CSEA Local 212 president Loretta Kruusmagi immediately objected. Representing 350 clerical and janitorial staff in the Petaluma school district, Kruusmagi betrays not the least concern for the kids her union supposedly serves when she glowers: “As far as I’m concerned, they never should have started this thing. Noon-duty people [lunchtime and playground assistants]—those are instructional assistants. We had all those positions. We don’t have them anymore, but those are our positions. Our stand is you can’t have volunteers, they can’t do our work.” Notice the possessiveness with which Kruusmagi regards these “public servants.”

So here is a union that represents school employees telling the district and its parents that they rather see children suffer than accept some timely and probably temporary volunteer help. The next time you hear one of these arrogant, self-important and heavy-handed unionistas talk about how they “care about the children,” please remember that it is a fairy tale, with the union playing the role of the big bad wolf.

Just two days ago, the Los Angeles Times published its second blockbuster education story in four months. In August, the Times set the education world atwitter when they published teacher “value added” rankings, much to the consternation of the local teachers’ union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles. The current story delves into the unfairness of a system where performance doesn’t matter when staffing decisions are made. If teachers need to be let go – a common occurrence in fiscally tight times – the layoffs are done strictly by seniority and some of the great younger teachers are given pink slips.

Only a union leader hiding in sheep’s clothing would have us believe that quality should take a back seat to sheer numbers of years on the job when a child’s education – and future — is at stake. Cue UTLA President A.J. Duffy. At a talk to some young teachers at John H. Liechty Middle School in an impoverished part of LA, he was heard to say,

“Saving your jobs would mean that more experienced teachers would lose theirs…. Seniority is the only fair way to do it… and any exception would be ‘an act of disloyalty.’”

An act of disloyalty? To whom? The children who lost some terrific young teachers, who got bumped out of a job by someone who had seniority? No, Duffy’s priority is not children; it is the teacher who has been on the job the longest that is Duffy’s focus. Never mind that studies have shown that after the first few years, teacher time on the job does not translate into better student learning.

There are many good young teachers who have lost jobs to older, less effective ones, and the teachers’ unions will fight tooth and nail to ensure that this policy stays in place. If Duffy was honest, he’d say, “Kids, too bad, but we really don’t care about what’s best for you.”

Children of union employees losing their health insurance, parent volunteers trying to help their local school wind up with a union decrying their efforts and a union insisting on keeping an archaic seniority system in place – parents, it’s advisable to keep your children away from these people as best you can. Leaving your children exposed and vulnerable to big bad wolves is hardly a road to happily ever after.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan,non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.