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.

Madison teachers want to keep union alive with another contract extension

By Steven Verburg, May 7, 2013, Wisconsin State Journal

Madison teachers want to bargain yet another post-Act 10 labor contract to extend the life of their union through at least June 30, 2015. They would do so with a new superintendent across the bargaining table. The Madison Teachers Inc. union filed April 24 for new negotiations as state officials continued to push for a speedy Supreme Court decision closing the door on such contract extensions. Act 10 of 2011 ended most public employee union rights, but existing contracts were honored. Last September the door to new collective bargaining agreements was opened when a Dane County judge struck down important provisions of the law, prompting the signing of at least a few new contracts. “It preserves both parties’ ability to deal with each other on issues other than base wages,” said Tamara Packard, of Cullen Weston Pines and Bach, a law firm representing MTI. “It’s important to the teachers, and to the district for maintaining positive relations.” Under the state law, unions aren’t allowed to have payroll deduction of dues, can’t exist officially without annual membership votes and can’t bargain for anything more than cost-of-living raises — which means no contract language on working conditions or benefits. (read article)

A Progressive Divide: Unions Vs. Environmentalists on Keystone XL

By Sterling Wong, May 07, 2013, Minyanville Media

Since it was proposed in 2008, the TransCanada (NYSE:TRP)-owned Keystone Pipeline project has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists, who say that in addition to creating a whole host of environmental worries, the pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions will push climate change past the point of no return. “If Canada proceeds , and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate,” wrote NASA scientist James Hansen in a New York Times op-ed last year. Typically a solid voting bloc for the Democratic Party, environmentalists are hoping that they carry enough political clout to influence President Obama to reject the pipeline project, which would ferry over 700,000 barrels of crude oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed Keystone route map. Source: TransCanada But green activists face stiff opposition from oil and gas interests. The fact that energy giants like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), BP (NYSE:BP), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A), and Valero (NYSE:VLO) are in support of Keystone XL is not surprising, of course. But what environmentalists might not have expected is the pro-pipeline stance of their traditional allies on the Left, labor unions. (read article)

Labor Board Union Poster Rule Rejected by Appeals Court

By Tom Schoenberg – May 7, 2013, Bloomberg

A U.S. labor board rule requiring companies to install workplace posters on union rights was thrown out by an appeals court that said the regulation violates employers’ rights to free speech. A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today said the National Labor Relations Board’s demand that employers provide information about union organizing, bargaining and protests was so-called compelled speech because it didn’t include opposing information such as how to decertify a union or avoid paying dues. The rule treats failure to post the required notice “as evidence of anti-union animus in cases involving, for example, unlawfully motivated firings or refusals to hire — in other words, because it treats such a failure as evidence of an unfair labor practice,” U.S. Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph said in the opinion. The regulation was challenged by the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation and other business lobby groups who claimed enactment of the rule would affect more than 6 million employers who otherwise wouldn’t be subject to NLRB regulation. (read article)

Business Journal endorses Garcetti tepidly, cites Greuel’s labor ties

By Kevin Roderick, May 7, 2013, Los Angeles Observer

Both Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel have been reliable friends of labor in their political careers, and both are counting on help from unions and their members. At Sunday’s rally in the Valley, Garcetti’s first thanks were to the union reps in the crowd, including the Engineers and Architects from City Hall. But Greuel’s embrace of big-time spending on her behalf, especially by the DWP union, is proving more controversial, and Los Angeles Business Journal editor Charles Crumpley cited that as the one “crucial” issue causing his paper to break with tradition and endorse for the first time. He urges the business community to vote for Garcetti. (read article)

Unions can’t drown out public discontent

Thomas Fitzgerald, May 7, 2013, Philladelphia Inquirer

It’s hard to make out the speaker’s words on the video as he argues for the wisdom of privatizing the state liquor stores during a news conference in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania Capitol. That’s because Wendell Young IV, leader of the union representing State Store clerks, keeps darting into the picture, shouting him down. “Putting thousands of Pennsylvanians out of work for your own profit!” Young yells at one point in the March confrontation, captured on YouTube for all time. “There’s a picture of profit before people, folks,” Young says at another moment. He’s joined by a dozen or so members of the United Food and Commercial Workers wearing their trademark yellow T-shirts. They are “trying to exercise the heckler’s veto here,” says David N. Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, the man with the microphone and the target of the protest. If that was the case, the veto was overridden. The libertarian-leaning Commonwealth Foundation put the video online, which probably made the pro-privatization argument even better than Taylor’s talking points could have. Not long after, hundreds of members of Philadelphia’s largest city workers’ union, carrying posters portraying Mayor Nutter as a clown, jammed the galleries of City Council chambers and shut down his annual budget address with jeers and chants. On one level, the frustration is understandable. Organized labor is at a low ebb, with collective-bargaining rights under assault, particularly for public-employee unions. (read article)

Gabriel Gomez sees chance with unions

By Hillary Chabot, May 7, 2013, Politico

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez is targeting union support after Bay State AFL-CIO members offered a watered­down backing of rival U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey yesterday after an unusual splintered board vote that’s a blow to the Malden Democrat’s campaign. “They have reached out, and we’ll probably talk to them,” said Plumbers’ Local 12 business manager Kevin Cotter about Gomez’s campaign. Mike Monahan, business manager of IBEW 103, told the Herald earlier that he wants to meet with Gomez as well. Cotter cited the national Democratic Party’s treatment of U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, who lost in the Senate primary to Markey, as a reason why he is slow to back the longtime Democratic congressman. “For those of us who are close to Steve Lynch, our biggest concern was the national party,” he said. Democratic heavyweights in Washington, D.C., in­cluding the National Democratic Senatorial Committee, quickly endorsed Markey the day that he announced in an effort to scare off other­ contenders. (read article)

California Senate passes union-friendly bill strengthening state enforcement of farm labor negotiations

By Don Thompson, May 6, 2013, Associated Press

The state Senate approved legislation Monday that changes the ground rules for negotiations between farmers and fieldworkers by giving state regulators more authority to act. The bill lets the Agricultural Labor Relations Board require binding mediation between the employer and union even if one side is appealing an unfair labor practice decision in court. It also keeps farm contracts in place if the agribusiness restructures its ownership. Some owners are exploiting loopholes in the state’s decade-old farm labor law to delay enacting contracts with unionized farm workers, said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. He said his bill would affect about a half-dozen of California’s 86,000 farms. Small farms would be exempt under what Steinberg called a “reasonable expansion of a good law.” But the organization representing farmers objected that the bill could surprise non-union farm operators who buy a piece of a union farm. Moreover, the non-union farms’ employees would suddenly be represented by a union they never authorized, he said. (read article)

Illinois Senate to vote on union-endorsed pension reform bill

By Karen Pierog, May 6, 2013, Reuters

A union-backed plan to reform the worst-funded state pension system in the United States will be introduced in the Illinois Senate this week, competing with a plan passed by the House last week. State lawmakers are under pressure to deal with a nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability. Costs arising from the underfunding are threatening funding for core state services such as education and health care, and the pension crisis has pushed Illinois’ credit rating to the lowest level among states. John Cullerton, the Democratic president of the Illinois Senate, said on Monday he plans to introduce the new bill endorsed by public labor unions and bring it to a vote by the full Senate on Thursday. Cullerton said the measure, which he negotiated with the unions, would not invite a legal challenge from them. The unions had vowed to sue over the rival bill narrowly passed by the Democrat-controlled House last Thursday. “When this bill is passed, they’re not going to sue,” Cullerton told reporters in the state capitol in Springfield. (read article)

AFL-CIO, Senate Snub ICE Employee Union on Immigration Bill

By Carl Horowitz, May 6, 2013, National Legal and Policy Center

The AFL-CIO normally is quick to defend the interests of its 57 member unions. But the Washington, D.C.-based labor federation seems happy to make an exception in the case of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council. And the reason lies with the union’s objections to the new Senate proposal to grant amnesty to virtually all 11 million or more illegal immigrants and expand work visa availability. In its current form, argue council officials, the measure would hamstring ICE agents from protecting the public from dangerous criminals. Toward that end, Council President Chris Crane and nine other members last August filed suit against three top immigration officials in their carrying out of a June executive order by President Obama. And they’re still getting the cold shoulder, especially from their own AFL-CIO. So, in fact, are a couple of other AFL-CIO enforcement unions. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)-affiliated National ICE Council, based in Washington, D.C., represents about 7,600 of the more than 20,000 officers and employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (read article)

Unions urge Minnesota State Senate to raise minimum wage

May 6, 2013, Workday Minnesota

With a vote expected in the state Senate Wednesday, the Minnesota AFL-CIO and its affiliates are urging union members to call Senators and tell them to back a House measure that raises the wage to $9.50 per hour. The House bill, passed Friday, increases the state minimum wage to $9.50 per hour over three years and institutes automatic future increases based on inflation. The Senate, in contrast, is considering legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.75 per hour. Minnesota has one of the lowest state minimum wages in the country, at $6.15 an hour. However, most workers qualify for the higher federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. An increase in Minnesota’s minimum would give all minimum wage earners a boost, as the higher state standard would pre-empt the federal law. (read article)

LA Mayor’s Race: The city pension problem facing Garcetti and Greuel

By Frank Stoltze, May 6th, 2013, Southern California Public Radio

Jacob Miller, who works as a care technician at the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, is covered by the L.A. City Employees Retirement System. Under that system, the average worker who retires this year after 27 years on the job would receive an annual $46,000 pension for life.

One of the biggest challenges facing the next mayor of Los Angeles is the ballooning cost of pensions for city employees. Those costs eat into other city services such as street repairs and paramedics. To get a sense of the challenge, meet Jacob Miller. He ‘s worked at the Department of Animal Services for 11 years. “If you are dropping off an animal, or adopting, or redeeming your own pet that got lost, I’m the person you would talk to,” Miller explains after working an overnight shift. “And I make sure your pet is comfortable while it’s at the shelter.” Miller, 34, recalls the words of his father, who also worked in the public sector: “He said, ‘Once you have a city job, you’re set for life. They’re going to take care of you.’” In L.A., that means a $46,000 annual pension for life for an average worker like Miller, after about 30 years on the job. Department of Water and Power employees average about $55,000 thanks to a powerful labor union that negotiates better pensions. Cops and firefighters receive even more — on average, $66,000 annually. Most city workers also receive retiree healthcare. (read article)

Newton: Labor’s agendas

By Jim Newton, May 6, 2013, Los Angeles Times

This has been a complicated season for organized labor in Los Angeles. On the one hand, labor got the mayor’s race it wanted: Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti both have a long history of supporting, and being supported by, unions. Labor-supported candidates also have fared well in City Council races and stand poised to help protect a union agenda. At the same time, extravagant spending by the unions that represent employees of the Department of Water and Power and the Los Angeles Police Department has produced a backlash and scrambled the city’s politics. Greuel was poised to run as a centrist alternative to the more liberal Garcetti, but the support of those unions has driven conservatives to Garcetti, a bewildering turn of events compounded by the Greuel campaign’s ham-handed attempts to brush it away. All of this has created a characterization of labor in Los Angeles that is partly accurate — it is a powerful, important and often self-interested force in civic life — and partly a caricature. Labor isn’t all powerful, isn’t principally focused on electing candidates and isn’t the narrow tool for self-enrichment that its critics contend. (read article)

Experts: Unions can play powerful role in elections

By Bob Bauder, May 6, 2013, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Retired bus driver Charles Watson said he usually sided with his union when it endorsed political candidates who were supportive of transit workers. But the Amalgamated Transit Union endorsement doesn’t mean as much now that he’s retired, Watson said. “I vote the way I think it would benefit my family,” said Watson, 74, of Manchester. Labor unions have weighed in heavily on the race for Pittsburgh mayor. Twelve back former state Auditor General Jack Wagner of Beechview, and 11 endorse City Councilman Bill Peduto of Point Breeze. The other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the May 21 primary are state Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District and community activist A.J. Richardson of Sheraden. Neither has secured a labor endorsement. (read article)

Nine Ways Private Owners Are Coerced By Unions Into Requiring Project Labor Agreements

May 6, 2013, The Truth About PLA’s

Sometimes, private owners of energy projects, banks, retail stores, manufacturing facilities, hotels, casinos and hospitals require contractors to agree to a project labor agreement (PLA) favoring trade unions as a condition of winning a construction contract funded by private money. This is known as a private PLA mandate or a private owner-mandated PLA. A private PLA mandate should not be confused with a PLA voluntarily executed by a contractor with various construction labor unions, a non-controversial practice permitted by the National Labor Relations Act that does not end open, fair and competitive bidding for construction contracts. In an effort to convince lawmakers to require PLAs on taxpayer-funded projects (known as government-mandated PLAs), PLA proponents make fallacious claims about the use of PLAs in the private sector. Proponents of these union-favoring schemes site a handful of well-known private PLA projects and argue that since PLA mandates are “widespread” in the private sector, government should follow the private sector’s lead and require PLAs on more taxpayer-funded projects. (read article)

Paul Levy’s Latest Book Discusses How Social Media Can Defy Labor Unions

By Lindsey Dunn, May 06, 2013, Becker’s Hospital Review

Paul Levy, former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, has just released his latest book, “How a Blog Held Off the Most Powerful Union in America,” which discusses how he and other leaders at Beth Israel used social media to hold off unionization efforts by the Service International Employees Union at BIDMC. Specifically, Mr. Levy describes how he used his blog, “Running a Hospital” to build resistance to the union’s organizing efforts and the benefits of non-traditional public responses to union campaigns. (read article)

Caterpillar’s tough labor negotiation reaches Milwaukee

By Rick Barrett, May 5, 2013, Journal Sentinel

“They have a pattern of bargaining hard even in good times, and you could argue these aren’t good times.” Cheryl Maranto, associate professor of business at Marquette University, on Caterpillar. To see how strained labor relations could be at Caterpillar Inc. in South Milwaukee, you need look no further than Joliet, Ill., where the company faced a strike in 2012 that lasted nearly four months and might have set the stage for the current labor dispute here. Local 851 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers demanded cost-of-living pay increases and lower health care premiums for nearly 800 Caterpillar employees in Joliet, and asked the company to honor seniority rights. After rejecting two contract offers and going on strike, they received: a wage freeze for workers hired before 2005, the elimination of pensions, doubled health care premiums, and fewer seniority rights. Fast forward to today, and Caterpillar is in a standoff with Local 1343 of the United Steelworkers International that represents more than 800 employees at the company’s plant in South Milwaukee. Last Tuesday, union members voted down a proposed contract that called for a six-year wage freeze and lower wages for new hires. It also would have given the company more flexibility in making temporary layoffs, up to 14 weeks per employee per year. (read article)

Ohio Senate Republicans Rake in Union Cash

By Jason Hart, May 3rd, 2013, RedState

Ohio’s state senate immediately stalled workplace freedom. Why? Republican leadership in the Ohio Senate has received nearly $200,000 in labor union donations since 2011, secretary of state records reveal. Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) announced on May 1 that he does not expect the Senate to pursue workplace freedom, signaling majority support for forced unionism. Nine of Ohio’s top ten Republican recipients of union contributions since January 1, 2011 are state senators – and three of those are members of Senate leadership. The ten Ohio senators who received the most from labor unions through the April 17, 2013 pre-primary reporting deadline are shown below. (read article)

Colbert Busch Beholden to Labor Unions, Leftist Democrats

By Drew Martin, May 3, 2013, United Liberty

Throughout her campaign Elizabeth Colbert Busch has fashioned herself as a candidate devoid of any ties to a party or agenda. Despite her opponent, former governor Mark Sanford, insisting she holds an allegiance to the left, Mrs. Colbert Busch has remained steadfast in her approach. In a race replete with negative ads and the typical disdain for corruption, partisanship and business as usual, what has not been discussed is what actually defines an independent. The appeal to the politically-homeless and disenfranchised is commonplace and to be expected; particularly in the current political climate where even head lice is more popular than Congress. Needless to say, appearing to be a rebuke against the establishment is more crucial now than ever. The primary goal of the Colbert Busch campaign has been to capitalize on this bourgeoning cynicism. To her credit, Mrs. Colbert Busch drove this point home early in Tuesday’s debate saying, “I will take that tough, independent business woman—independent business career and I’ll go to Washington with the help of all of you.” Sanford would question this statement early and question it often. (read article)

North Carolina House passes bill banning any contract that mandates union labor

Associated Press, May 2, 2013, Indiana Republic

A bill outlawing any contract that makes union hiring a requirement has passed the North Carolina House. The proposal was approved Thursday over the objections of Democrats who said it violates the National Labor Relations Act. Republican Rep. Tom Murry of Morrisville said the proposal is meant to prevent unfair business practices. Democratic Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville said federal law says employment conditions are a matter for the parties in a deal to decide for themselves, not the government. He said the bill would guarantee a costly court challenge, which has happened in other states that have passed similar laws. North Carolina already has laws forbidding employers from making union membership mandatory. (read article)

Commerce Secretary nominee tied to ongoing labor union struggle

By Ned Resnikoff, May 2, 2013, MSN

President Obama nominated Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker to be Commerce Secretary on Thursday, which also happened to be her birthday. “For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation,” he quipped during the public Rose Garden announcement. “It’s going to be great.” That joke was a reference to the skepticism and intense scrutiny with which nearly all of Obama’s high-profile nominees receive from Senate Republicans. But Pritzker’s nomination will also roil the Democratic base, particularly organized labor. That’s because Pritzker sits on the board of directors for Hyatt Hotels, the national hotel chain co-founded by her father, which is currently engaged in a protracted struggle with the hospitality workers union. (read article)

Penny Pritzker nominated for Commerce secretary

By Christi Parsons, May 02, 2013, Chicago Tribune

Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker was nominated by President Barack Obama to become the new Secretary of Commerce on Thursday, in an expected move that could prove controversial for the longtime political supporter and fundraising heavyweight. Pritzker is on the board of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her wealthy family and has had rocky relations with labor unions. Her nomination, which still needs Senate confirmation, also could bring up questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family. With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker, 54, is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. If the nomination is confirmed, Pritzker would become the first member of her influential family to hold a top-level political office, creating an opportunity to make a name for herself apart from the leadership roles she has played within the family’s many businesses, which in recent years were divested. (read article)

Labor union to Grand Rapids leaders: Show thanks for flood response in new contract

By Matt Vande Bunte, May 02, 2013, Michigan Live

Several red-shirted members of the city’s largest labor union expressed how hard they worked during recent flooding, and said they want Grand Rapids leaders to keep that in mind while bargaining a new contract.

Representatives of the Grand Rapids Employees Independent Union attended City Commission’s Tuesday, April 30, meeting. The group’s current contract, which set the bar for wage and benefit concessions that now are helping the city get its budget on track, expires this summer. “Last contract, we had a lot of takeaways,” GREIU president Joe Casalina said. “This year, we’re hoping to do a little better.” Union members said some of them worked 16-hour days as the city prepped for a Grand River flood crest that never reached as high as forecasters thought it might. They said they rose to the occasion – despite working under a contract with wage and benefit cuts – when the city needed extra help. (read article)

Labor unions have a big stake in immigration reform

By Adrian Florido, May 1, 2013, KALW San Francisco

As head of the 800,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Maria Elena Durazo is one of the nation’s most powerful union leaders, and a key player in the ongoing immigration reform negotiations. But before her current post, she led a hotel workers’ union. She said one of the hardest parts of the job was convincing workers who were in the country illegally to organize. They feared they could be easily fired, and she said that fear had rippling implications. “The fear in one group created this fear in everybody, even if their immigration status was not an issue and not a problem,” Durazo said in an interview Monday outside the Hilton in San Diego’s Mission Valley neighborhood. She had traveled from Los Angeles to address union supporters who were camped out under a red awning on the fourth day of a five-day hunger strike. They were protesting the impending dismissal of more than a dozen housekeepers. A local union says that when a new management company took over the Hilton recently, it ran all employees through E-Verify, the federal system that checks a person’s eligibility to work in the U.S. About 15 housekeepers were flagged, and given eight days to prove they could work in this country legally. Union leaders admit that the company had the right to use E-Verify. But because the hotel’s workers were in the middle of a union drive, the union claims the company acted in retaliation. The hotel didn’t have to use the federal system because in California, it’s voluntary. “They’re trying to use it to fire workers at a time when workers are trying to organize and want a union,” Durazo said. The management company, Evolution Hospitality, refused an interview request. (read article)

Labor Board Orders New Union Election at N.Y. Target

By Jon Springer, May 1, 2013, Supermarket News

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new election to be held for union representation among employees at a Target store in Valley Stream, N.Y. and further ordered Target to amend employee handbooks and rescind certain policies the board deemed to be in violation of federal labor law. The order, which affirmed rulings of an administrative law judge a year ago, was hailed as a victory for workers by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, which unsuccessfully tried to organize workers at the store. It argued that Target during the run-up to the vote had illegally intimidated workers, including threats of closing the store if the vote was successful, and giving workers the impression it was engaged in surveillance of union activities. Target in a statement to SN Thursday said it was evaluating its options. “Target belives that the 2011 union election at our Valley Stream store — when our team members overwhelmingly rejected unionization — was fair and decisive. (read article)

Immigrant, labor groups hold NYC May Day rallies

By Meghan Barr, May 1, 2013, Albany Times-Union

Thousands of activists armed with flags, puppets and cow bells took to the city’s streets on Wednesday to rally for immigration reform and labor rights as part of worldwide May Day protests.

In a scene reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street’s heyday, protesters marched in downtown Manhattan toward City Hall waving banners and banging on drums. The peaceful crowd was largely composed of unions and immigration reform groups, with some anti-capitalism and Occupy protesters mixed in.

“We’re here because we are demanding legalization,” said Gonzalo Venegas, a 28-year-old member of a hip-hop activist group from the Bronx, who performed in front of the crowd during a rally in Union Square. “For us, the idea of immigrant rights and workers’ rights goes hand in hand.” (read article)

Activists rally at Union Square for May Day labor protests

By Allson Bowen, May 1, 2013, Metro New York City

An array of activists, from immigrants to jazz musicians to Occupy Wall Street members, met at Union Square today for an annual May Day march for labor rights. May Day has long been known for worldwide protests highlighting workers’ rights. It has also drawn scores of immigrants to rallies in New York City, calling for immigration reform and more possibilities for jobs and education. “We are not criminals,” said Margarito Lopez, a Hot & Crusty worker, before the protest. “All we want is to look after and take care of our families.” Workers rallying included musicians in a local union, who said artists playing the city’s toniest clubs are not always protected. The Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, noting May Day followed International Jazz Day, says jazz club musicians do not always receive fair pay or have a way to complain if they think their rights were violated. Also joining the march were Occupy Wall Street protesters, who started the day at New York University and continued through Union Square and City Hall. Food service workers got started early with the annual event’s labor movement, protesting yesterday at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. (read article)

Gov. Christie Vetoes New Jersey Project Labor Agreement Bill; Rebukes Unions

By Carl Horowitz, April 30, 2013, NLPC.org

Nobody doubts for an instant that rebuilding the New Jersey coastline in the wake of Hurricane Sandy will be costly. But a little over two weeks ago Republican Governor Chris Christie took a step that should make it a good deal less so. On April 15, Christie vetoed a union-backed bill passed this winter by the legislature to expand the range of state-contracted construction requiring Project Labor Agreement (PLAs). Such agreements, drawn up between state/local governments and unions, require contractors to pay union-scale wages and benefits on large-scale public works projects. Unions love them because they effectively remove nonunion companies from competitive bidding. The general public doesn’t make out as well. Various studies have shown that PLAs raise labor costs, often dramatically so, and with little or no evidence of better workmanship. In applying his veto pen, the governor, if belatedly, has fulfilled a 2009 campaign promise. (read article)

Labor Stats and Facts: A Closer Look at the Union-Nonunion Pay Gap

by Robert Combs, April 30, 2013, Bloomberg

One of the most basic maxims in labor relations is that union members earn more than nonunion members. And, for the most part, the numbers bear that out year after year. In 2012, union members earned a mean hourly wage of $25.71, while nonunion workers made $21.27, according to the just-released 2013 edition of our Union Membership and Earnings Data Book. But within those figures are some interesting exceptions and trends that are worth examining more closely. For example, even though union members earned about $1.21 for every dollar earned by nonunion workers in 2012, their mean hourly wage fell for the second year in a row—only the fourth back-to-back decline in the past 30 years. Nonunion workers, on the other hand, saw their wages in 2012 grow for the first time in four years, narrowing the gap between union and nonunion pay to its third-lowest point (79.1 percent) since the Data Book started keeping track in 1973. (Note: All of these figures are in 2012 dollars to account for inflation.) Also, for the first time since 2008, and for only the second time since 2003, the union-nonunion pay gap for public-sector workers ($1.18 in union wages for every dollar in nonunion wages) was larger than the gap in the private sector ($1.17). Historically, private-industry pay planners have favored union members to a far greater degree than their public-sector counterparts have. But while the pay gap has steadily fallen in the private sector—the ratio used to be as high as $1.35 in the 1980s—it has stayed relatively the same in the public sector. (read article)

Federally-Funded Labor Union Front Group Lobbied in Violation of IRS Rules

April 30, 2013, Market Watch

Today, ROC Exposed released a new report detailing the Restaurant Opportunities Center’s (ROC) failure to disclose its lobbying activities at the local, state, and federal levels to the Internal Revenue Service, as required by federal law. ROC Exposed has also sent a formal complaint to the IRS requesting that it investigate ROC’s lobbying activities and failure to report them. ROC is a labor union front group disguised as a restaurant industry employment center and watchdog. ROC’s tactics include mob-style shakedowns, often employing intimidation and harassment in an effort to force restaurants into submission. The information in this new report from ROC Exposed is particularly relevant in light of ROC’s receipt of federal grant money from the Department of Labor and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as an investigation by the House of Representatives of ROC for its “history of intimidation” towards opponents. (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.

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