Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

The Labor Prospect: What Scalia’s Death Means for Unions

By Justin Miller, February 16, 2016, The American Prospect

It’s nearly impossible to overstate what conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death over the weekend means for the labor movement. The loss of a conservative majority in the high court thwarts a sophisticated, multi-pronged conservative legal attack on unions. First off, the Friedrichs case, in which plaintiffs sought to end public-sector unions’ right to collect “agency” fees from workers they represent who elect not to be members, has seen its prospects instantly turn 180 degrees—from a near-certain majority opinion ruling against unions to a near-certain upholding of the lower court’s rejection of the anti-union argument. With that, the nearly 40 years of legal precedent that has guarded the public sector from becoming “right-to-work” is safe—for now. But the loss of a conservative majority also kills a broader anti-union strategy that saw attacking union dues merely as a first step. Friedrichs came in the wake of Harris v. Quinn, which ruled that unions couldn’t collect “agency” fees from home-care workers. Conservatives’ next legal point of attack was union membership. As Moshe Z. Marvit writes for In These Times, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is already in the process of fast-tracking a case that would have built on the Harris precedent. D’Agnostino v. Baker argues that in addition to mandatory union fees, unions bargaining on behalf of home-care workers who have not opted into membership are in violation of the Constitution’s free speech guarantees. (read article)

In Wake Of Scalia’s Death, Fate Of Labor Union ‘Agency Fees’ Unclear

By Ben Bradford, February 16, 2016, Capital Public Radio

California labor unions are proceeding with caution, even though the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia likely derails a court case against them. The California Labor Federation’s Steve Smith says his organization is not declaring victory yet. “Things have changed, we don’t quite yet know what this means,” says Smith. The high court was considering whether unions can charge non-members “agency fees,” if they benefit from their services. After oral arguments last month, many court observers predicted a 5-to-4 decision against the union fees. But the chair of UC Berkeley’s Labor Center Ken Davis says without Scalia, that decision is likely scuttled. “It appears that agency fee is going to survive at least for now and that the Friedrichs case is unlikely to succeed at least in the short-run,” says Davis. The plaintiffs sped the case to the Supreme Court by asking lower courts to rule against them. If the justices end up in a 4-4 tie, that lower court decision in favor of the unions would stand (read article)

Will Scalia’s Death Quash Free Speech For Union Members?

By Robert Mihaly, February 16, 2016, The Daily Caller

California teachers have openly challenged public-sector unions. Unsurprisingly the left is seeking to limit their free speech. However, in this iconoclastic year of Trump and Bernie, the Supreme Court seemed to be listening. Now, all of a sudden, the court’s configuration is uncertain. Public school teachers in California are assessed upwards of $1,000 dollars each year in union dues. There is a cumbersome opt-out process. Interested teachers must file every single year for a refund. Even then they can only hope to reclaim about thirty percent of their union dues. But they lose the rest, regardless of whether or not they wish to be union members. The teachers have sued to liberate themselves. Are these cheapskate teachers merely trying to weasel out of the negotiating costs of their own higher salaries? The unions lobby for other policies with which many teachers don’t agree. For example: merit pay, seniority policies, school-choice vouchers, and whether a local government should fund parks or teacher pensions. Many of these policies have nothing to do with education. In oral arguments at the Supreme Court on January 11 last month, in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, Justice Scalia signaled understanding of the matter. (read article)

Labor union big spender in new lobbyist filings

By Steve Carrell, February 15, 2016, Santa Fe New Mexican 

A week ago the New Mexican published my story on lobbyist expense reports.  A bunch more have come in since then. By far the largest of the new ones is the $15,000 spent by The New Mexico Federation of Labor on Feb. 8 for digital ads opposed to “right-to-work” legislation. Last week such a bill was tabled by the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Another labor group, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 spent $8,425 for social events for lawmakers and others on Feb. 8. Of that $6,148 was for a reception at the Pink Adobe, while $2,276 was for an “after party” at the Rio Chama steakhouse. The major beneficiary of lobbyist generosity in recent days is House Appropriations & Finance Committee. Jeff Dye, lobbyist for New Mexico Hospital Association, paid $4,493 for dinner at the Bull Ring on Feb.5. Marla Shoats, lobbyist for several clients, also spent $1,688 on that dinner.  Mark Duran, lobbyist for several clients, spent $4,300 on a Feb. 10 reception and dinner at the Bull Ring for House Appropriations. There were three reports dealing with the annual “100th Bill Party,” which took place Saturday at the Santa Fe Convention Center. The The LKQ Corporation, an auto parts company, spent $1,000; while Josh Rosen, lobbyist for Albuquerque Studios and New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, kicked in another $1,000. Drew Setter, lobbyist for a variety of clients, contributed $500. Because this party was Saturday, I expect there will be more reports from lobbyists who paid for it. (read article)

How Scalia’s death may save teachers unions — for now

By Howard Blume, February 14, 2016, Los Angeles Times

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could deal a major blow to a California lawsuit that had been widely expected to weaken the financial muscle of teachers unions across the country. In Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., many court watchers had expected Scalia to deliver the deciding vote against unions, limiting their ability to collect membership dues and other fees. Without Scalia, a 4-4 split is considered likely. That would maintain the status quo — a huge win for unions, at least for now. Though union opponents could mount a new case, that would probably take at least another year, said Jeffrey H. Keefe, a research associate at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “So the conflict shifts to President Obama’s ability to appoint a replacement or who will win the presidential election,” Keefe said. The case was brought by Rebecca Friedrichs, an elementary school teacher in Orange County. She and nine other plaintiffs opted not to join their local teachers unions but were required to pay the union so-called fair-share fees because they benefited from representation in contract negotiations that determined salaries and benefits. These fees cannot be used to support the union’s political activities. Friedrichs challenged the constitutionality of those fees, arguing that being forced to support an organization whose views they disagreed with violated their free-speech rights. The plaintiffs also complained about a law that requires teachers to opt out of union membership every year. If they don’t, they become members by default, with dues automatically deducted from their pay. (read article)

Why international students, labor union are at odds over student visa program

By Michael Burke, February 12, 2016, The Daily Orange

When Shikai Jin looks around at the other students in his computer science courses, he doesn’t see many Americans. “There’s usually only one or two per class,” he said. “The rest are Indian or Chinese.” Jin, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in computer science and will graduate from Syracuse University this spring, sees this as evidence that American students choose not to pursue careers in computer science and related fields. So he has a difficult time understanding arguments that international students like him are unfairly taking jobs from Americans in those fields. Yet that is the case the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) — a labor union based in Washington state — made by suing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2014 in part over an extension to an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for international students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. OPT allows international students and recent graduates to work in the U.S. for a year under their F-1 student visas in a field related to their study. The extension, created in 2008, allows STEM graduates to work for an additional 17 months, giving them 29 total months to work while on their student visas. But the future of the STEM extension is unclear. The 17-month extension rule is set to expire May 10, and a newly-proposed rule by DHS is currently under review at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). (read article)

West Virginia Republicans Just Delivered A Huge Blow To Unions

By Dave Jamieson, February 12, 2016, The Huffington Post

Republicans in the West Virginia legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a contentious right-to-work bill on Friday, delivering another major legislative setback to organized labor. The swift override means that a majority of U.S. states now have right-to-work laws, with West Virginia becoming the 26th. Despised by unions, these laws give workers the option to stop paying fees to unions that must still represent them. Democrats in the statehouse, as well as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D), opposed the measure. But Republicans control the state legislature and were able to override Tomblin’s veto with a simple majority, voting 18-16 in the Senate and 55-43 in the House along party lines. The law will go into effect in May. The conservative National Right to Work Committee, which has been instrumental in passing such laws around the country, said it was symbolically important that right-to-work legislation now exists in 26 states. “While this is a good day, it is not the end of the work to be done,” the group said in a statement. “We hope West Virginia’s embrace of workplace freedom will help spur other states to join the Right to Work ranks.” Nobody in the U.S. can be forced to be a member of a labor union. But where local law allows it, workers in unionized workplaces can be required to pay their union what are known as agency fees, which cover the costs of collective bargaining but not political activities. (read article)

Union Bosses Spout Hypocrisy Trying to Protect Forced-Dues Empire in West Virginia

By Stan Greer, February 12, 2016, CNS News

Since the Right to Work movement began more than six decades ago, Big Labor union bosses have gone to extraordinary measures to stop the spread of worker freedom. One former union boss, Thomas E. Harris, actually gave a speech railing against worker freedom and branded Right to Work advocates as “warmongers!” It’s true that Right to Work supporters have been fighting since the 1950’s to end Big Labor’s forced-dues funded empire, but Harris’ incendiary speech was a familiar tactic of union bosses trying to vilify and demonize their opponents rather than justify forcing workers to pay the union or be fired. West Virginia is now America’s 26th Right to Work state, guaranteeing to Mountain State workers the right to get or keep a job without having to pay union dues or fees. And this has Big Labor nervous. West Virginia is the fourth new Right to Work state in four years, dealing yet another blow to Big Labor’s chokehold over workers they claim to represent. Unsurprisingly, union bosses have been espousing false and nonsensical arguments against a West Virginia Right to Work law. But one common refrain among forced unionism allies is just plain ridiculous. In fact, Thomas Harris even called it, “rather hypocritical … nonsense.” AFL-CIO radio ads recently broadcast throughout the Mountain State insisted that a West Virginia Right to Work law would “get the government deeper into our … business relationships.” This is just false. Right to Work laws do not increase government intervention in employee-employer relationships. They do, however, protect a workers’ fundamental right to freedom of association. (read article)

Rauner, Madigan battle again on labor bill a day after Obama urged compromise

By Celeste Bott, February 11, 2016, Chicago Tribune

Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama spoke to Illinois lawmakers about the need to compromise, Democrats and Republicans have reignited a high-stakes fight over contract negotiations with the state’s largest union. At issue is a labor-backed measure that would prevent a lockout or strike if talks with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and other unions reach an impasse and instead send the matter to binding arbitration. Democrats pushed the bill through a committee Thursday on a 16-7 vote, but it faces a tough road. A similar bill passed the General Assembly but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in late July. Speaker Michael Madigan attempted an override in September, but that effort fell short when he was unable to keep all 71 of his House Democrats unified. Rauner’s office issued a memo Thursday arguing the state cannot afford the costs associated with the proposal, contending it could lead to pay raises for union members and maintain high-cost health insurance should an arbitrator side with the union. If the bill were to become law, “the General Assembly would effectively cede major financial decisions to unelected, unaccountable arbitrators,” the administration said. (read article)

A Union Turf War Is Snuffing Out The Campaign To Organize Uber Drivers At LaGuardia Airport

By Cole Stangler, February 11, 2016, International Business Times

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) stunned the tech world last week when it filed for a federally supervised election to represent 600 Uber drivers at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. If successful, it would be the first federally recognized union at the popular ride-hailing company. Now, the campaign has hit a major setback — and from an unlikely source: another labor union. The nation’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, Monday successfully asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to delay election proceedings at Uber. The move came after another of its member unions, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), raised objections under the federation’s jurisdiction rules. The Machinists union counts 10,000 black car drivers, including more than 1,000 Uber drivers, in what it describes as a broad network of supporters across New York City. It also directly represents about 200 black car drivers at a Long Island company after winning an election in 2012. James Conigliaro, general vice president of the Machinists, insists there’s no turf war. He says the election petition at LaGuardia risked damaging the labor movement’s long-term goals of lifting pay and working standards at Uber.“It has to be thought out a little bit more and there has to be a plan,” Conigliaro says. “We need to figure out how to help these drivers and running to the National Labor Relations Board with a few hundred cards to organize a multibillion-dollar company we don’t believe is the right approach.  (read article)

Growers Fight Union & California Labor Law

By Elizabeth Warmerdam, February 11, 2016, Courthouse News Service

Two agricultural businesses have challenged a 40-year-old California law that allows union representatives onto farm property to organize workers. Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Co. sued the four members of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board on Wednesday in Federal Court. They claim the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 allows unconstitutional seizure of their property, and “taking of an easement without just compensation.” Specifically, the lawsuit challenges “the access regulation declares that the Board ‘will consider the rights of employees under Labor Code Section 1152 to include the right of access by union organizers to the premises of an agricultural employer for the purpose of meeting and talking with employees and soliciting their support.'” That regulation survived a challenge at the California Supreme Court in 1976, but has never been challenged in federal court as a violation of constitutional property rights. Cedar Point raises strawberries just south of the Oregon border, for growers nationwide. Fresno-based Fowler ships more than 20 million boxes of citrus and table grapes each year. Both have been targets of union protests. Both say their operations have been disrupted by the United Farm Workers, who “protest on its property under the guise of access regulations” (Cedar Point), or by union members who claim they were “unlawfully denied access to its property.” (read article)

Union Slams Obama for Catering to Environmentalists

By Bill McMorris, February 11, 2016, The Washington Free Beacon

One of the nation’s most influential labor unions criticized President Barack Obama for proposing an oil tax hike that will hurt drivers and fail to create jobs. Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, accused the administration of neglecting the construction industry by failing to hike gas taxes to fund transportation projects, while at the same time hiking oil taxes to please environmentalists. He said in a press release that the transportation portion of the budget was “too little, too late, and wrongly focused” because it favored mass transit projects over roads. “It appears that environmental extremists have convinced the president to tax our energy sector through a $10 oil tax in order to pay for clean transportation investment,” O’Sullivan said. “It is a poor policy proposal that will cost drivers more without actually doing anything to improve the roads they drive on. The proposal also sidesteps the urgent need to provide sustainable investment for all transportation infrastructure rather than stealing from roads and bridges to invest in transit.” The White House did not respond to request for comment. Rep. Phil Roe (R., Tenn.), a chairman of the House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions subcommittee, told the Washington Free Beacon that the negative reaction from some of Obama’s closest allies illustrates the divisiveness of his budget. (read article)

Labor union to rally outside of Intel headquarters today with non-union cafeteria workers

By Bryce Druzin, February 10, 2016, Silicon Valley Business Journal

Silicon Valley’s labor movement is ramping up efforts to get Intel’s cafeteria workers unionized. UNITE HERE, which represents food service and hospitality workers, and other labor organizations have organized a rally outside of Intel headquarters, scheduled to take place today at 3 p.m.The rally will include Intel cafeteria workers and speeches from the heads of the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA, according to a press release. The roughly 75 Intel cafeteria workers currently aren’t unionized and are directly employed by San Mateo-based Guckenheimer Services LLC.Prior to November 2014, cafeteria workers were represented by UNITE HERE Local 19 and were employed by Bon Appetit, according to Jessica Choy of UNITE HERE. When Intel hired Guckenheimer as their new contractor, Guckenheimer chose not to rehire any of the around 70 cafeteria workers. UNITE HERE has been in contact with cafeteria workers since December 2015, according to Nate Horrell, a researcher for the union. Two weeks ago, some cafeteria workers gave a petition to Guckenheimer asking the company to “agree to a process to form a union in an environment free of intimidation,” according to a press release. No examples of any prior intimidation were mentioned. Whether Guckenheimer is the target of the rally isn’t clear. With Intel planning on replacing Guckenheimer by the end of this month, the rally could be a way to put pressure on Intel to sign a contract with a vendor amenable to a unionized work force. (read article)

Labor Department Sues Machinists Union Pension Fund For Fiduciary Breaches

By Ted Reed, February 10, 2016, Forbes

The International Association of Machinists national pension fund, long a centerpiece of the union’s organizing efforts and strength because of its positive financial performance, has been sued by the Department of Labor. In a complaint filed Jan. 24 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the Labor Department charged that the fund’s nine trustees – including six union officials and three executives of companies that employ IAM members — did not follow proper procedures when they hired new asset managers and consultants. Additionally, the complaint said, the trustees’ spending on parties and dinner was lavish and improper. At one party,, they bought bottles of wine priced as high as $1,185, the complaint said. Expenses for the pension fund holiday parties in 2009 and 2010 exceeded $90,000, the complaint said. The complaint alleged that quarterly meetings were scheduled at resort destinations like Hawaii, Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard, where trustees stayed in expensive hotels during peak season, and that one trustee billed the fund $750 a day to travel and attend meetings. United Airlines is the fund’s biggest employer, with 15,000 active duty employees. During United’s 2006 bankruptcy, the IAM fought hard to preserve coverage during the airline’s 2006 bankruptcy, threatening to strike to preserve the plan for fleet service workers and passenger service agents. (read article)

Negotiations halt on South Bay teachers contract

By Christine Huard, February 10, 2016, San Diego Union Tribune

After months of being unable to reach an agreement in labor negotiations, the South Bay Union School District and its teachers union declared an impasse last week. A state mediator will now try to bring both sides together on a new contract. Tensions between teachers and the administration have increased in recent weeks over the failed talks. In years past when labor leaders and school officials met at the bargaining table, an agreement was reached in a few months, said union President Lorena Garcia. In 2014, talks opened in April on a two-year contract, and union members ratified a deal in August that gave them a 4 percent salary boost. The Southwest Teachers Association and the district started negotiating a new contract in April. Teachers staged a rally last month that drew more than 200 educators and supporters to the Jan. 21 governing board meeting, where they pleaded with trustees to settle the contract. Negotiations the day before had ended with the district ready to declare an impasse. An agreement was later reached to return to the table Jan. 27, but that meeting proved fruitless, Garcia said. South Bay has proposed an across-the-board pay increase of 3.5 percent retroactive to July 1, with an additional 2 percent this coming July 1. It has also proposed an increase of $300 to the maximum contribution the district makes toward health benefits, which bumps up that amount to $12,000 per employee. The teachers union is asking for more school nurses and counselors, smaller class sizes and an 8 percent pay increase. (read article)

Another Union Stronghold Falls

By James Shott, February 9, 2016, Patriot Post

The American concept of personal freedom takes a back seat in West Virginia and other states that do not protect their citizens’ ability to get some jobs without being forced to join or pay fees to a labor union. For state governments or the federal government to allow such conditions for going to work to exist is as antithetical as it gets to the idea of individual Liberty on which our nation was built. Half of the 50 states have already embraced worker freedom and passed right-to-work laws. These laws have a positive impact on the economies and job picture for those states, and are creating jobs. And now West Virginia is poised to become the 26th state where workers are free to choose whether or not to join a union. The state House of Delegates and Senate have both passed right-to-work legislation. The Mountain State’s Democrat Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has vowed to veto the bill, but the Republican majorities in both houses can override that veto. Advocates of right-to-work in the state legislature say they are not opposed to unions, per se, but do oppose state laws dictating that unions receive taxpayer and worker funds. West Virginia and 25 other states believe that people should be free of pressure to join a union to get a job and believe that such mechanisms are deterrents to business development and job creation, and thus are harmful to the economy of states. (read article)

Clinton Surrogate: Unions Are Just ‘Super PACs That Democrats Like’

By Bill McMorris, February 9, 2016, The Washington Free Beacon

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has received millions of dollars from labor unions that one of her surrogates described as “Super PACs that Democrats like.” Failed presidential candidate Howard Dean attacked insurgent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., VT) on Friday for his criticism of Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. Dean, a former Vermont governor and head of the Democratic National Committee, downplayed Sanders’ frequent claim that he relies on small donors, rather than Super PACs, for his support. “Frankly, for Bernie to say he doesn’t have a Super PAC, labor unions are Super PACs,” Dean told MSNBC on Friday. “Now, they’re Super PACs that Democrats like, so we don’t go after labor unions, but this is a double standard.” While Dean aimed his attack on unions at Sanders, labor organizations and their political action committees have donated far more money to Clinton than Sanders during the 2016 cycle. Labor groups make up some of Clinton’s largest donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Public sector and construction unions have donated a combined $6 million to the campaign, as well as pro-Clinton Super PACs, making them two of the most generous industries in the country. The Operating Engineers, American Federation of Teachers, Carpenters, and Plumbers and Pipefitters unions have all contributed at least $1 million to support the former secretary of state’s quest for the White House. (read article)

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