Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Here are links to the top stories available online over the past week reporting on union activity including legislation, financial impact, reform activism, etc., from California and across the USA.

California Nurses Association to Strike on Christmas Eve at Nine San Francisco Bay Area Hospitals

By Megan Perasso, December 18, 2012, Imperfect Parent

The California Nurses Association (CNA) is planning a one-day strike on Christmas Eve at nine San Francisco Bay Area hospitals protesting staffing levels, sick days, and health benefits.  According to the CNA press release, close to 5,000 nurses will walk off the job at several Bay Area Sutter facilities and two San Jose Hospital Corporation of America affiliated hospitals.  The union and hospital officials have been in negotiations for 18-months with no resolution. Nurses and technicians are protesting the proposed elimination of health care coverage for staff working less than 30 hours per week and the proposed reduction of the number of paid sick days.  CNA spokesman Chuck Idelson told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Pay is not even an issue.  It’s never been an issue in this dispute.  Every one of these strikes is over the demands Sutter has been making for cuts in the ability of nurses to provide quality care.” This strike would be the eighth by the CNA since September 2011. (read article)

Right-to-work: A moral and practical imperative

Editorial, December 15, 2012, Orange County Register

There are precious few silver linings to the storm clouds that have gathered around the American economy during the past several years. One of the few upsides, however, has been the tendency of adversity to focus the mind. Reliable growth covers a multitude of sins. Leaner times compel serious consideration of the sources of economic sclerosis. And there are few places where times are leaner than Michigan. Unemployment in the Great Lakes State currently sits at over 9 percent. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, Michigan was the only state in the union to see its population decline, even as the broader Midwest saw a nearly four percent increase in residents. During that same period, Detroit, once a symbol of America’s economic dynamism, hemorrhaged approximately a quarter of its citizens, essentially reverting to its pre-auto industry population levels. Since its heyday in the 1950s, the Motor City has lost roughly 60 percent of its inhabitants. With that unmitigated collapse in mind, we applaud Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to sign legislation earlier this week making Michigan a right-to-work state. (read article)

‘Right to work’ restores workers’ rights

By Gary Galles, December 15, 2012, Orange County Register

Michigan’s new “right to work” law is an important labor reform to restore workers’ freedom of association. Unions and their allies responded with thuggery and violent rhetoric, such as “there will be blood.” The law would end the requirement that employees in a unionized workplace, who are forced to accept union representation, pay agency fees – or dues – for union representation as a condition of employment. Despite union propaganda, such “union security” rules are clear violations of workers’ self-ownership (i.e., liberty) and the freedom of association (including the right not to be forced to associate with certain groups, which unions steamroller) self-ownership entails. So how do unions justify using coercive government backing to impose employment terms that violate government’s primary role –protecting individual rights? Supposedly to solve a “free rider” problem. (read article)

Why does teachers’ union video promote envy?

By Margaret A. Bengs, December 15, 2012, Sacramento Bee

Instead of inspiring young people to use their gifts, the California Federation of Teachers has produced a new video that promotes envying the gifts of others. The video exemplifies a certain ugliness descending on the country as our political leadership whips up resentment against this nation’s achievers, something contrary to the American spirit. “Tax the rich: an animated tale,” narrated by actor Ed Asner, mimics the Occupy Wall Street movement, which pits the “99 percent” against the wealthiest “1 percent.” One scene showed a fat, rich man urinating on poor people, but was later edited out. The eight-minute piece, on CFT’s website, abounds with inflammatory images and false allegations, portraying the rich as suppressing votes, crashing the economy and then blaming others, including teachers, for causing a recession. The “wealthy” must pay their “fair share” of taxes, the video demands, even though the top 1 percent of earners in our state already pays 40 percent of state income taxes, and with the passage of Proposition 30, co-sponsored by the CFT, will now pay the highest state income tax rate in the nation. (read article)

The Michigan watershed on right-to-work

By George F. Will, December 14, 2012, Washington Post

Rick Snyder, who is hardly a human cactus, warned Michigan’s labor leaders. The state’s mild-mannered Republican governor, in his first term in his first public office, has rarely been accused of being, or praised for being, a fire-breathing conservative. When unions put on Michigan’s November ballot two measures that would have entrenched collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution, Snyder told them they were picking a fight they might regret. Both measures lost resoundingly in the state with the fifth-highest rate of unionization (17.5 percent, down from 28.4 percent in 1985) and, not coincidentally, the sixth-highest unemployment rate (9.1 percent). Republicans decided to build upon that outcome by striking a blow for individual liberty and against coerced funding of the Democratic Party. Hence the right-to-work laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to prohibit the requirement of paying union dues as a condition of employment. (read article)

House Panel’s Report Accuses NLRB Of Pro-Union Bias

By Ben James, December 14, 2012, Law 360

Jubilation broke out at the National Labor Relations Board when Boeing Co. reached an agreement with a union that led to the end of the agency’s controversial case against the planemaker, according to a congressional report accusing the agency of pro-labor bias released Thursday by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. The staff report released by Issa — chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — painted a picture of glee and cheers at the NLRB when Boeing and the International Association of Machinists. (read article – subscription required)

The right-to-work dilemma

By Charles Krauthammer, December 13, 2012, Washington Post

For all the fury and fistfights outside the Lansing Capitol, what happened in Michigan this week was a simple accommodation to reality. The most famously unionized state, birthplace of the United Auto Workers, royalty of the American working class, became right-to-work. It’s shocking, except that it was inevitable. Indiana went that way earlier this year. The entire Rust Belt will eventually follow because the heyday of the sovereign private-sector union is gone. Globalization has made splendid isolation impossible. The nostalgics look back to the immediate postwar years when the UAW was all-powerful, the auto companies were highly profitable and the world was flooded with American cars. In that Golden Age, the UAW won wages, benefits and protections that were the envy of the world. Today’s angry protesters demand a return to that norm. Except that it was not a norm but a historical anomaly. (read article)

Michigan’s unions were already good at putting themselves out of a job

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., December 15, 2012, Wall street Journal

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s success in enacting a right-to-work statute in the heart of union country is everything they say: a symptom of labor’s decline and a way to hasten it. It’s also, and we mean this in the nicest way, an unprincipled kludge. Though seldom mentioned in so many words, right-to-work laws are designed to restrict an employer’s freedom of contract. They prohibit an employer from making union membership a condition of employment. Why an employer would want to do so is neither here nor there, as long as he acts willingly in his own interest. Now the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (also known as the Wagner Act) grants workers a “right” to collective bargaining. What can such a right possibly mean? It means imposed on employers is an obligation to bargain under penalty of law. But wait. Bargaining is the ultimate voluntary activity. How can anyone be compelled to participate in pursuit of a “voluntary” agreement? The answer is a bit of Wagner patter as venerable as it is unexamined and nonsensical: Management must bargain in “good faith” but is not required to reach a bargain. (read article)

Michigan’s turn to worker freedom shows the waning influence of Big Labor

By F. Vincent Vernuccio and Joseph G. Lehman, December 15, 2012, Wall Street Journal

News that Michigan became the nation’s 24th right-to-work state on Tuesday produced surprise in liberal and conservative circles alike. But this tectonic shift is no surprise to us. It’s the result of nearly a quarter-century of advocacy that shows how the politically improbable can become politically inevitable. Unions ruled the legislature here for decades before free-market activists, the Mackinac Center’s first president Lawrence Reed chief among them, began challenging their hold over the powers that be. Eventually, the tide began to turn, and in 1995 the Detroit Free Press, the state’s largest newspaper, agreed to publish an op-ed by Mr. Reed asking, “Should workers be compelled to join a labor union to hold their jobs?” Over time, brave workers like UAW member Terry Bowman, president of Union Conservatives, stood up and demanded a choice. The West Michigan Policy Forum and Michigan Chamber of Commerce added their voices and influence to the cause. Americans for Prosperity marshaled activists. But it wasn’t until Big Labor attempted to amend the state constitution last month that voters had a public conversation on union influence. (read article)

When Union Thuggery is OK

By Rich Lowry, December 12, 2012, POLITICO

It was an ugly spectacle in Lansing the other day. A Republican lawmaker predicted blood on the streets. Profanity-spewing Chamber of Commerce goons went after union demonstrators. Anarcho-capitalists tried to push their way into a state building protected by the police. The events chagrined editorialists around the country and Sunday show producers scrambled to book the most excruciatingly thoughtful guests they could find to hold forth at length about the importance of civility in politics. Of course, none of these things actually happened. The inflammatory rhetoric and small-time thuggery in Michigan were all the work of the left in response to a new right-to-work law and will surely pass all but unnoticed by the people who consider it their calling to tsk-tsk about “the tone” of political debate. (read article)

Political hardball or union extremism?

Editorial, December 12, 2012, UT San Diego

Wisconsin and Michigan are two iconic states for the American left – the former for its long history of progressive politics, the latter for being ground zero for the trade unionism that helped create a blue-collar middle class after World War II. But though these states continue to reliably vote for Democrats in presidential elections, their residents aren’t nearly as high on the Democrats in local and state office. As a result, in 2010, both elected Republican governors. In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won approval of legislation scaling back public employee unions’ collective-bargaining powers. On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed state right-to-work legislation that says employees who decline to join the union representing them can’t be forced to pay union dues, which will sap union power by reducing union war chests. Snyder acted after public employee unions fought bitterly against desperate attempts to keep Detroit and many other troubled local governments from sliding toward bankruptcy. (read article)

Who Are the Freeloaders?

By Mike Antonucci, December 12, 2012, Education Intelligence Agency

Yesterday Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state, although to hear the uproar you would think something unprecedented was going on. There are more than enough commentators to debate the effects on Michigan’s economy and politics, but not too many ready to discuss what it will mean for Michigan unions internally. First, let’s not overestimate the effect, particularly when it comes to teachers’ unions. Alabama, Florida, Nevada and Idaho all have effective unions despite right-to-work laws. The biggest direct change is the inability to collect dues or agency fees from those in the bargaining unit who don’t want to pay. (read article)

Unions Begin Long War After Stunning Blow in Michigan

By Shikha Dalmia, December 12, 2012, Bloomberg

It seemed to happen in a flash. A cradle of the U.S. labor movement became the 24th state to adopt right-to-work laws, when Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan signed legislation on Tuesday banning mandatory union dues. The unions barely had time to muster one big protest in the state capital after the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the bills last week. Today they are preparing for a long war to recover from this huge blow to their power. Labor has two options now that its ability to extract mandatory dues from workers as a condition for employment is gone. It can fight the law or try to persuade workers to voluntarily pay up. Union bosses aren’t accustomed to the second approach, so until the next elections in 2014 they can be expected to try everything to overturn the law and to stop the right-to-work fever from spreading to neighboring states. (read article)

Labor’s plan to fight back

By Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, December 12, 2012, POLITICO

Labor unions, stung by an unexpected setback in Michigan, where Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a right-to-work law Tuesday limiting their ability to collect dues, are eyeing a large-scale counteroffensive against the conservative state leaders who have slashed away at union power since the 2010 midterm elections. For national labor groups, the upcoming gubernatorial elections in 2013 and 2014 may be a greater test of their political swat than even the 2012 presidential race. Democrats view unions as having played a key role in boosting turnout for President Barack Obama and other downballot candidates, especially in Midwestern battlegrounds such as Ohio and Michigan. It’s those states — and others like them — that represent the next front of labor’s national campaign agenda. Strategists in the Democratic and labor communities identified a half-dozen major battlegrounds that elected Republican chief executives and new GOP legislators in 2010 where they believe union muscle ought to be able to power a comeback over the next cycle. “We’re just going to have to be prepared to fight back like never before,” said Lee Saunders, president of the public-sector labor giant AFSCME. “You look at Ohio, where you have a Republican governor and Republicans control the House and Senate, the same in Wisconsin, and we’re just going to have to be prepared. (read article)

‘There Will Be Blood’ — Big Labor shows its ugly face in Lansing

By James taranto, December 11, 2012, Wall Street Journal

As the Michigan House debated a right-to-work measure today, a member of that august body warned of–or perhaps threatened–violence. “We’re going to pass something that will undo 100 years of labor relations and there will be blood, there will be repercussions,” WWJ-AM quotes Rep. Doug Geiss, a Detroit-area Democrat, as saying. “We will re-live the battle of the overpass.” The station offers a refresher in labor history: “The battle of the overpass was a bloody fracas in 1937 between union organizers and Ford Motor Co. security guards. Walter Reuther was famously thrown down a flight of stairs and another union organizer was left with a broken back.” So far this time there are no reports of violence or threats by management (unless you count Geiss, who is after all supposed to represent taxpayers, as part of “management” vis-à-vis government employees). But union leaders have echoed the violent rhetoric. WWJ quotes Terry O’Sullivan of the Labor International Union of North America, as saying at a rally, in reference to elected officials who support the right to work: “We are going to take you on and take you out.” (read article)

About the author: Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.org, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!