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.

Indiana’s Anti-Labor Law Declared Unconstitutional

By Aviva Shen, September 10, 2013, Think Progress

On Monday, the state Superior Court judge ruled Indiana’s so-called “right-to-work” law is unconstitutional. The controversial law requires unions to represent workers who do not pay dues, stripping them of crucial funds and effectively crippling workers’ ability to negotiate. According to Judge John Sedia, this provision also goes against the Indiana constitution’s ban on delivering services “without just compensation.” Though conservatives claim these right-to-work laws boost the economy by attracting businesses, most workers suffer. The Economic Policy Institute found that the union-busting laws do nothing to create jobs while reducing all workers’ wages by roughly $1,500 a year regardless of whether or not they belong to the union. Workers in anti-union states are also far less likely to receive health insurance or pensions through their employers. Indiana was the first state in the U.S. industrial belt to require unions to support non-union workers, closely followed by Michigan. (read article)

Spitzer and Stringer Use Differing Strategies to Influence Turnout in a Close Contest

By Kate Taylor, September 9, 2013, New York Times

Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, met with voters in Carroll Gardens on Monday. Mr. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, has the benefit of nearly unanimous support from the city’s labor unions and the endorsements of many elected officials, giving him access to a vast get-out-the-vote operation. The Central Labor Council, a union coalition, has sent out nearly a million pieces of mail promoting him, along with other endorsed candidates, and has had its volunteers knocking on doors in neighborhoods with a high density of union members every weekend for the last six weeks. On Tuesday, it will have close to 1,000 volunteers calling and knocking on doors to get the people it has identified as likely to support Mr. Stringer and other candidates out to vote. (read article)

GOP bill would forbid ObamaCare fix for labor

By Elise Viebeck, September 9, 2013, The Hill

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced legislation on Monday that he says will prevent labor unions from getting a “backroom deal” on ObamaCare. Unions are lobbying the White House to change the Affordable Care Act so that nonprofit, multi-employer healthcare plans can receive tax subsidies. Republicans want to prevent the Obama administration from taking this step, and Thune’s bill would make it illegal for the so-called Taft-Hartley health plans to get tax subsidies. Thune, who leads the Senate Republican Conference, introduced the measure Monday as members of the AFL-CIO met in Los Angeles for their annual conference. “Union leaders are now awakening to the ugly reality of ObamaCare,” Thune said in a statement. “Now that the full consequences of the Democrats’ law are nearing, these same union leaders are seeking a special backroom deal from the White House.” Union members’ multi-employer health plans are currently not eligible for the new tax subsidies offered under ObamaCare, which are designed to make health insurance more affordable. For-profit healthcare plans are eligible for the subsidies as part of the new insurance marketplaces that will launch Oct. 1. (read article)

Black Conservative Hails Pro-Fairness Labor Ruling in Michigan

by David W. Almasi, September 9, 2013, ConservativeBlog.org

In a major ruling on labor law announced late last week, a federal appeals court upheld recently-enacted legislation requiring more fairness in the awarding of taxpayer-financed construction projects in Michigan. In overturning an injunction placed upon it by U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision found that Michigan’s “Fair and Open Competition in Government Construction Act” did not violate the federal National Labor Relations Act. The Michigan law, passed in 2011, prohibits the necessity for “project labor agreements” (PLAs) in local and state construction contracts. PLAs often give organized labor a distinct advantage — if not a monopoly — in the bidding process for public assignments. Circuit Court Judge John Rogers wrote in his opinion: “The act furthers Michigan’s proprietary goal of improving efficiency in public construction projects, and the act is no broader than is necessary to meet those goals.” (read article)

Blue-collar laborers rebel at AFL-CIO’s embrace of progressives

By Cheryl K. Chumley, September 10, 2013, Washington Times

The AFL-CIO needs to stick with representing workers and stop trying to take on social causes for the far left, said the union head for the International Association of Fire Fighters. Harold Schaitberger, who presides over the IAFF, said there is “great value” in aligning with political groups — but only as a secondary mission, he told The Hill. And the AFL-CIO’s recent push to bring in environmental groups and progressive-minded organizations to the union cause is leading the IAFF to express concerns about politics becoming the priority, over the representation of members. “To say that we are going to grow this labor movement by some kind of formal partnership, membership, status, place in this federation, I am against. This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” Mr. Schaitberger said in The Hill. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.” He’s not alone in that view. Union members from the construction sector have been especially vocal against bringing environmental groups into the AFL-CIO family, viewing them as the enemy in the Keystone XL pipeline fight. “Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club? I have concern about that, as well as I should,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, in The Hill report. (read article)

AFL-CIO convention 2013: Largest labor union makes plans to get larger

By Ricardo Lopez, September 9, 2013, Los Angeles Times

On the first full day of the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles, labor leaders were expected to debate and vote on a resolution that they hope will bring into the fold new non-union groups, adding hundreds of thousands of new members. The country’s largest labor federation is at a crossroads, seeing its political power wane as union membership rolls decline and state legislatures have curbed collective bargaining. One strategy labor leaders want to formalize is adding new progressive groups such as the Sierra Club, the NAACP and worker center groups. The hope is to reinvigorate the national labor movement. Resolution 5, titled “A Broad, Inclusive and Effective Labor Movement,” aims to extend membership to “any worker who wants to join the labor movement and who is not already covered by a collective bargaining agreement,” according to the resolution’s language. “The AFL-CIO hereby invites every worker in the United States to join the labor movement either through an affiliate or through Working America,” the resolution reads. The resolution also addresses the issues of dues. Working America, an allied non-union organization working with the AFL-CIO on this issue, would need to adopt a “dues structure … that make this new form of membership self-sustaining.” Among other aims for the resolution is to strengthen ties with worker center groups and students. (read article)

Unions push back against labor’s ties to progressive groups

By Kevin Bogardus, September 9, 2013, The Hill

Resistance is growing among some unions against the AFL-CIO’s push to strengthen its bonds with liberal groups outside of labor. Union leaders told The Hill that they have questions on how the nation’s largest federation plans to include environmental and civil society organizations under the AFL-CIO banner. Labor has sometimes clashed with groups — even if the two factions both often align with Democrats — as unions have looked to defend their members’ interests. Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), said he sees “great value” in labor finding different groups to align with politically. But the federation needs to stick to representing workers rather than become a social movement itself, according to the union chief. “However, to say that we are going to grow this labor movement by some kind of formal partnership, membership, status, place in this federation, I am against. This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” Schaitberger said. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.” Others in labor, especially in the building and construction sectors, have aggressively pushed back against the proposal. Those unions have clashed repeatedly with environmental groups over building the Keystone XL pipeline. “Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club? I have concern about that, as well as I should,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). (read article)

‘Our agenda is America’s agenda,’ Warren tells unions

By Ned Resnikoff, September 9, 2013, MSNBC

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, vowed to be a voice for organized labor in the Senate while addressing the delegates from America’s largest federation of labor unions on Sunday. “Our agenda is America’s agenda,” was her mantra as she delivered a keynote address to the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles, Calif. That agenda, as laid out by Warren, included calls for a hike in the minimum wage, stricter financial regulation, immigration reform, greater investment in infrastructure, and a more progressive tax code. The Massachusetts senator, who is known for her forthright advocacy of progressive economic causes, also reiterated her opposition to the “stupid” sequester and Social Security cuts. “We ought to be making smart choices about where to cut and where to invest,” she said, stopping just short of a call for more stimulative spending or an expansion of the social safety net. Warren’s speech and the AFL-CIO convention itself both come at a particularly dark time for American organized labor. Wages have stagnated for decades, economic inequality has skyrocketed, and the percentage of American workers in labor unions is gradually inching towards the single digits. Meanwhile, state and federal laws have become more hostile to labor unions, with states like Michigan passing “right-to-work” legislation. (read article)

My issues with labor unions

By Randi Thompson, September 7, 2013, Reno Gazette-Journal

Why don’t you like labor unions? A neighbor asked me that last week at our Labor Day barbecue. He asked in a very conversational tone, not at all confrontational. I cited some specific reasons. I told him how year after year at the Legislature, the AFL-CIO prevents any bills related to fixing Nevada’s antiquated overtime laws from even getting a hearing. We’re the only state in the nation that pays overtime based on working eight hours in a 24-hour period, not on a 40-hour week. This law hurts small business owners who hire part-time workers, like college kids, who want to fit work around their school schedules. It also hurts workers because a business owner will cut back hours to avoid having to pay overtime, even though the worker hasn’t worked 40 hours. I told him about the continual assault by the construction unions to limit the ability for a person to be an independent contractor or to make it harder for businesses to hire independent contractors. (read article)

Hwy. 99 tunnel: Bertha hasn’t budged while labor dispute continues

By Mike Lindblom, September 7, 2013, Seattle Times

The massive Highway 99 tunnel project has now lost three weeks to delays, as the dispute continues over which union will load the excavated muck onto barges. It’s unclear how or how soon this stalemate over eight jobs will be resolved so the machine can resume its 1.7-mile trek from Sodo to South Lake Union. Construction firms intend to use building-trades union members to operate a conveyor belt, scoop dirt with a front-end loader, and position the barges off Terminal 46 along the Seattle waterfront. They say these tasks support the overall $1.4 billion tunnel contract, and a project labor agreement. But the International Longshore and Warehouse Union says those jobs — two daily shifts of four workers — are in ILWU territory, because they entail moving materials offshore. So far, the Seattle Tunnel Partners construction team hasn’t tried to send workers past an ILWU picket line, which could provoke a confrontation. Tunnel-boring machine Bertha has been marooned by the labor dispute for the last two weeks, officials say. Before that, the machine advanced a mere 24 feet since drilling began July 30, slowed by fiberglass rods that clogged a screw-type conveyor. The machine is supposed to reach South Lake Union in about 14 months. The machine’s rotary cutting head has broken through the concrete launch pit into Sodo soil, yet the rear of the cylinder remains in the pit. When drilling resumes, the mixture of excavated dirt and rock will be barged to the Mats Mats quarry near Port Townsend. Hearings are under way at the National Labor Relations Board office in downtown Seattle, where the building trades have formally accused the longshore union of “economic coercion and threats” to undermine the project labor agreement. (read article)

Business as usual goes on at Walmart as labor unions demand higher wages

Martha R. Gore, September 7, 2013, Examiner.com

Walmart gleefully reported on Friday September 6, 2013 about the low turnout for the walkout sponsored by an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial International Union (UFCW) indicating that unions no longer have any teeth. The statement issued by the company sounded almost boastful as it stated that less than one-tenth of one percent of its 1.3 millions associates participated in spite of the UFCW’s promise that thousands of workers would participate. Walmart president of corporate communications David Tovar noted that Once again, it looks like the UFCW threw a party and nobody showed up. Despite promises of ‘thousands of workers’ protesting this week, the union failed to deliver more than a smattering of paid protesters at their 15 orchestrated events. At most, 50 of the participants actually work for Wal-Mart…. (read article)

Cuomo administration fires back at labor union

By Jon Campbell, September 6, 2013, Politics on the Hudson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is not amused by labor union criticism of its plan to close and merge mental hospitals. In a statement late Thursday evening, Cuomo Communications Director Melissa DeRosa knocked the Civil Service Employees Association, which began airing television advertisements this week that questions the plan to take the state’s 24 psychiatric centers and turn them into 15 regional centers over the next three years. DeRosa said the Cuomo administration is complying with the Olmstead v. L.C. decision, a Supreme Court decision that encourages deinstitutionalizing the mentally disabled. DeRosa’s statement: “This plan modernizes New York’s mental health system and conforms to both a Supreme Court decision and a Department of Justice order to improve the lives of those with disabilities by assimilating them back into our communities when it’s appropriate and feasible. CSEA and their special interest allies continue to oppose change, and our efforts to improve the lives of less fortunate New Yorkers. Whether their refusals to agree to tough penalties for employees who abuse patients under their care, or have people with mental illness live a life of dignity, they have repeatedly shown no interest anything other than preserving the status quo.” The CSEA ad claims Cuomo is “playing musical chairs” with the psych centers, claiming it will have a detrimental effect on patients. (read article)

Union Coming to a Southern Auto Plant?

By Matthew Yglesias, September 6, 2013, Slate

Normally companies fight hard against unionization efforts but there are exceptions, and it looks like one such exception might be Volkswagen’s plant in Tennessee. Except in a slightly odd twist, the governor of Tennessee seems to be pressuring the company to take a harder line against the union. “We have heard from other folks that we’re recruiting,” he said “that that would dampen their enthusiasm with Tennessee.” This all comes about essentially because Volkswagen is a German company. Large German firms are heavily unionized, and labor unions are tied into German corporate governance in a much more profound way than they are at American firms even at heavily unionized industries. The system of “codetermination” means that employees are formally represented on German corporate boards. And it’s common for German firms to have what are known as “works councils”—representative vehicles through which rank-and-file employees are supposed to be able to exercise voice over what’s happening in the workplace. But when German companies come to the United States, they typically don’t carry German-style labor relations with them. On the contrary, they’ve generally flocked to southern states where wages are lower and labor law makes union organizing extremely difficult. But Volkswagen’s existing works councils have started giving the company a hard time about the fact that there’s no works council at its Chattanooga plant. All the other VW facilities around the world have one, so they think the Chattanooga plant should have one too. (read article)

Alvarez gets labor council nod

By Mark Walker, September 6, 2013, San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council endorsed City Councilman David Alvarez for mayor Friday night, exposing a split among unions. The labor umbrella organization’s move follows key union endorsements of newly minted Democrat Nathan Fletcher, who was working to become labor’s choice in the Nov. 19 special election. Fletcher has the backing of the Municipal Employees Association and the San Diego firefighters union along with the support of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the former labor council leader. Some labor officials have not been enthused about Fletcher, a Republican turned independent turned Democrat. Alvarez, who announced on Twitter Thursday he was entering the race, was quickly embraced by union members and some Democrats looking for an alternative to Fletcher. The election was called after Bob Filner resigned Aug. 30 in the amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Fletcher and Alvarez will have company on the Democratic side: former City Attorney Mike Aguirre says he’s running and former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña has pulled papers to do so. She has said she intends to announce her decision Monday. Meanwhile, the Republican field is clear for Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who seems a shoo-in for a spot in a runoff. (read article)

With labor negotiations stalled, Star-Ledger publisher again threatens to shut down paper

By Kelly Heyboer, September 6, 2013, New Jersey Star-Ledger

With union negotiations at a stalemate, The Star-Ledger’s publisher once again threatened today to shut down the state’s largest newspaper by the end of the year if millions of dollars in labor concessions are not forthcoming. In a letter sent to employees, Star-Ledger Publisher Richard Vezza said negotiations with three of the paper’s production unions — the pressmen, engravers and machinists — are going well and it appears they will reach an agreement with the newspaper. However, the newspaper’s negotiators have made little progress with the mailers, the largest of the four unions. In June, Vezza said The Star-Ledger lost $19 million last year and is on target to lose a similar amount this year. He threatened to shut down the Newark-based paper Dec. 31 if the four unions do not agree to $9 million in labor concessions by Sept. 27. “The differences between the Mailers’ proposed savings and the Company’s proposed savings are so far apart that, while we are still hopeful that an acceptable resolution can be achieved, we have serious doubts that, with less than a month to go, an agreement can be reached,” Vezza said in the letter mailed to union members Wednesday and e-mailed to other employees Thursday. The negotiations between the mailers and the newspaper have been contentious, Vezza wrote. “Based on comments made at several bargaining sessions by members of the Mailers’ bargaining committee, such as — ‘go ahead and shut it down’ and ‘we’ll supply the lock,’ it appears that they would rather see the Ledger cease publication, rather than provide sufficient savings to keep the newspaper operating and save jobs,” Vezza said in his letter. Ed Shown, president of the Council of Star-Ledger Unions and head of Teamsters GCC Local 8-N, said the newspaper and the mailers are not close to an agreement. But he is optimistic the two sides will reach a compromise. “Ultimately, we are going to get a deal,” Shown said. “They are working hard to close the gap … Nobody wants to see the doors shut, that’s absolutely for sure.” The Star-Ledger, the winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, is New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper. (read article)

A.F.L.-C.I.O. Has Plan to Add Millions of Nonunion Members

By Steven Greenhouse, September 6, 2013, New York Times

Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., has a bold plan to reverse organized labor’s long slide: let millions of nonunion workers — and perhaps environmental, immigrant and other advocacy groups — join the labor federation. When the labor federation holds its convention in Los Angeles beginning on Sunday, he will ask its delegates for a green light to pursue these ambitious reforms. Needless to say, some within the labor movement view them as heretical. Mr. Trumka says he believes that if unions are having a hard time increasing their ranks, they can at least restore their clout by building a broad coalition to advance a worker-friendly political and economic agenda. He has called for inviting millions of nonunion workers into the labor movement even if their own workplaces are not unionized. Not stopping there, he has proposed making progressive groups — like the NAACP; the Sierra Club; the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group; and MomsRising, an advocacy group for women’s and family issues — either formal partners or affiliates of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. (read article)

Teachers Union Files Two More Unfair Labor Practice Charges

By Hillel Aron, September 5, 2013, Los Angeles School Report

The teachers union has filed two unfair labor practice charges with the Public Employment Relations Board (or PERB) against the Los Angeles Unified School District over 12 teachers who have been removed from two different schools – one at City of Angels and 11 at Crenshaw High. UTLA president Warren Fletcher said at a press conference today that the teachers were reassigned because of their advocacy work on behalf of the union. “Teachers were exiled from their school for their advocacy,” Fletcher said. “We cannot stand idly by. We need to make sure that advocacy is celebrated, not punished. Jeff Pott, a teacher and UTLA’s chapter chair at City of Angels Independent Study School in Downtown LA, an alternative school for at-risk youth, claims he was targeted by the newly appointed principal of the school in 2012. “I was removed specifically for my union activity,” he said. Pott made a number of claims about the principal, including that he targeted gay teachers and “compelled two of them to leave,” and that he tried to force one teacher to accuse another of sexual abuse. Pott filed several greivances with the principal on behalf of his fellow teachers. “I was compelled to be in conflict with this principal,” said Pott, who was displaced from the school after 12 years and reassigned to a substitute teacher position. Superintendent John Deasy said the district doesn’t comment on personnel decisions, which are subject to school board review but only in closed-door sessions. When asked if the district removes teachers because of union activity, he replied, “Absolutely not.” The other PERB charge involves 12 teachers at the beleaguered Crenshaw High, which was reconstituted into three magnet schools by the district because of its low test scores and graduation rates. “Crenshaw had serious problems for years,” said Deasy. Teachers were invited to reapply for their jobs; 33 of them were rejected, while 29 were invited back, although some of those chose not to. Among the 33 were 12 teachers who claim they were singled out for their activities within the union. (read article)

An unlikely union forms between labor groups and the environment

By Neal Gallagher, September 5, 2013, Red Alert Politics

Labor unions in America are dying. As more and more states are running out of the time and money necessary to feed the unions, they are rejecting them outright. The unions themselves have felt the pain, with memberships at all-time lows, and are now turning to an unlikely source in a last-ditch effort to save themselves from extinction — the environment. Big labor unions, specifically the AFL-CIO, are trying to partner with “green” organizations such as the Sierra Club as well as “populist” movements like Occupy Wall Street. Usually when one thinks of unions helping the environment, they think of Detroit. But the unions in Detroit ran the city out of business, and now nature is literally reclaiming the city. Score one for Mother Earth and Jimmy Hoffa. Big unions have taken some hard blows over the last couple of years, with union strongholds like Wisconsin and Michigan enacting laws that have been damaging to union control over jobs in those states. Wisconsin voted to cease public, or government union membership dues. Michigan passed right-to-work legislation in March. (read article)

Unions bet heavy on a Walsh win

By Joan Vennochi, September 5, 2013, Boston Globe

Marty Walsh is counting on labor to lift him from state representative to mayor of Boston — and labor is counting on Walsh to win. What that means for both is something voters should think about, as Monday’s Labor Day breakfast made clear. Attending the city’s annual event can feel like entering a time capsule from a previous era. In the broad accent of old Boston, union leaders denounce corporate greed, passionately lobby for workers’ rights, and embrace politicians who promote their cause. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, who both spoke at the breakfast, were each helped on election day by support from labor. This election cycle, it’s all about Walsh, the candidate who resigned as head of the Boston Building Trades to run for mayor and promises to wear his record “of fighting for working people as a badge of honor.” (read article)

Labor Unions Turning on Democrats

By Bill McMorris, September 5, 2013, Washington Free Beacon

Health care reform and a flurry of Obama administration regulations have caused internal divisions within the labor movement and led one of the Democratic Party’s biggest supporters to publicly rebuke the president. The implementation of Obamacare, which received major union support when it was passed in 2010, has soured relations between labor groups and the White House and splintered labor coalitions. More than 40,000 workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) left the AFL-CIO in August, blasting the union for being “in lockstep” with Obama on health care and immigration reform. “We feel that the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said in a letter announcing the split. “President Obama ran on a platform that he would not tax medical plans. … Yet the Federation later lobbied affiliates to support a bill that taxed our health care plans.” (read article)

BART Board President, Unions Frustrated By Lack Of Labor Talks

By Anna Duckworth, September 5, 2013, CBS San Francisco

Both sides in the Bay Area Rapid Transit labor dispute are talking about the lack of progress in negotiations, since the 60-day cooling off period started nearly a month ago. At a news conference on Thursday, BART Board President Tom Radulovich laid out the details of their final offer to union leadership. “The most recent offer was a 10-percent wage increase over the four years. We heard from our employees that they said, we want to see an increase in out take home pay in each of the four years,” Radulovich said. “And we have an offer on the table that will do that for them.” Radulovich said the unions continue to insist on a 20-plus percent increase over three years, proposals he said that have not come down into what BART feels is a “settlement zone.” He urged the unions to take the 10 percent offer, with increased contributions for pensions and health care. Service Employees International Union Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez said BART is misleading in saying there is a final offer when it is incomplete, with numerous proposals that haven’t been addressed. “That package is not one that is ratifiable. The workers will not ratify a package of that nature, where it continues to put them behind,” she said. The union said BART’s proposal will put them behind because of increased contributions to pensions and health care. (read article)

Unions dramatically increase super PAC donations

By Michael Beckel, September 4, 2013, The Center for Public Integrity

Labor unions are increasingly flexing their muscles in the political arena through the use of super PACs — the organizations frequently funded by billionaire businessmen and often derided for unleashing a flood of special interest money into elections. During the first half of 2013, unions contributed $10 million to the political committees, which are permitted to accept donations of unlimited size from individuals, corporations and labor groups — more than five times the $1.7 million they gave to during the first six months of 2011, the last off-election year. Union giving accounted for roughly $1 out of every $6 raised by all super PACs during the first half of 2013, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal campaign finance filings. By contrast, corporate super PAC donations held steady, totaling about $4 million during the first six months of both 2011 and 2013. “Super PACs give unions an important new tool in elections,” said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates for the deregulation of political spending. Super PACs arose out of changes to campaign finance law ushered in by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and a related lower court ruling, SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, in 2010. The pair of decisions allowed corporations and unions to use treasury funds to bankroll political advertisements that called for the election or defeat of federal candidates — or give to intermediaries that do so, such as super PACs and nonprofits. (read article)

Sacramento makes deal to use union labor to build arena

By Ben van der Meer, September 4, 2013, Sacramento Business Journal

The plan to build a new downtown arena in Sacramento will have a sizable union presence in its workforce, heading off a potential complication for the Sacramento Kings ownership and the city less than a year before the project is supposed to get underway. Mayor Kevin Johnson and representatives from both business and labor announced a Community Workforce and Training Agreement Wednesday to govern hiring, training and oversight for the up to 3,500 workers needed for the construction project. “We’ve always said this was bigger than basketball,” Johnson said, describing how union ironworkers, electricians, carpenters, bricklayers, painters and plumbers would be part of the project. “This is proof.” The agreement also stipulates that 60 percent of the workers and 70 percent of the apprentices come from the Sacramento region, with additional provisions — to make sure veterans are included, for example. (read article)

Big Labor, big spending, big problems

By Mark Mix, September 4, 2013, Parsippany Daily Record

Labor unions spent $1.7 billion on the 2011-2012 election cycle, according to a new analysis from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research that tallies Federal Election Commission, IRS and state campaign finance reports and self-reported union disclosure forms from the Department of Labor. To put that in context: If Big Labor was running as a presidential candidate, he or she would have outspent the Obama campaign (the most expensive in history) more than two to one. In fact, the unions’ $1.7 billion political blitz is roughly equal to the combined spending of the Obama and Romney campaigns ($1.17 billion) and both national parties ($678 million) for the 2012 elections. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Labor unions have long been influential players in national politics, but over the past few years, their political spending has reached astronomical proportions. According to the Wall Street Journal, three of the five biggest spending groups in the 2010 midterms were labor unions. From 2005 to 2011, unions are estimated to have spent $4.4 billion on electioneering. Individual donors, business groups, and outside organizations of all ideological stripes also spend big on politics. So why single labor unions out for special criticism? Unlike other organizations, labor unions can force nonunion employees to fill their coffers. In states without Right to Work protections, workers can be forced to pay union dues just to get or keep a job. (read article)

Walmart is next battleground for labor, business

By Erik Sherman, September 3, 2013, CBS MoneyWatch

Walmart (WMT) is again becoming the focus of an extended campaign to push for higher pay and expanded union presence. A group calling itself OUR Walmart that organized strikes last Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, emailed CBS MoneyWatch to say that it would announce another strike to happen this Thursday. Trying to make a living, even at the average full-time $12.83 per hour wage Walmart claims it pays in the US isn’t easy. Factor in that the company won’t say what the overall average wage is nor how many of its employees can’t get fulltime work, and the real average likely drops even lower. Low-paying part-time work has become a national trend and problem. However, the recent string of labor actions aren’t just the squaring off of discontented workers and economically-constrained businesses. Walmart and the fast food industry have also become battlegrounds between big labor and big business. Each side is doing its best to appear organically grown, but in reality sometimes extending to so-called run astroturfing: the use of contrived organizations inaccurately portrayed as grass roots efforts. (read article)

Dock Workers Union Quits The AFL-CIO, Citing Poor Support Of Immigrant Laborers

September 03, 2013, Fox News Latino

A union of some 40,000 members said it was leaving the AFL-CIO because it disagrees with its positions on immigration and President Obama’s health care overhaul. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU, said in a letter addressed to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka that they objected to the larger union’s support for a tax on health care plans as well as its support for immigration reform plans that did not sufficiently protect undocumented workers. In the letter, the author, ILWU President Robert McEllrath, said: “The ILWU has also become increasingly frustrated with the Federation’s moderate, overly compromising policy positions on such important matters as immigration, labor law reform, health care reform, and international labor issues.” “We feel the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along.” (read article)

Could a New Union Leadership Stop Sell-Off of Post Office?

By Alexandra Bradbury, September 03, 2013, Labor Notes

Pockets of postal workers are marching and even sitting in, but the national union has focused on lobbying. A slate of local leaders pledges to change APWU’s direction. Photo: Adam Souza. A diverse slate of local leaders is making a bid to unseat the national officers of the American Postal Workers Union—and the stakes couldn’t be higher. “We’re at a crossroads,” said Mark Dimondstein, the Members First Team’s candidate for president. “At the core of this whole struggle is whether the post office is going to be decisively privatized and turned over to profit-making entities and low-paid, non-union jobs—or remain a public entity that serves all the people and maintains good-paying union jobs.” That’s no exaggeration. Postal workers are battling wave after wave of attacks—post offices and sorting plants closing, work privatizing, delivery standards eroding. The latest nasty bill pending in Congress would kill Saturday letter delivery, replace door-to-door with curbside and neighborhood “cluster box” service, and ban workers’ time-honored no-layoff clause from future contracts. “We have not seen anybody at this point able to stop the postmaster general,” said Debby Szeredy, local president in Mid-Hudson Valley, New York, and running for vice president. (read article)

Early successes of labor unions are partly to blame for their collapse today

By Michael J. Hicks, September 3, 2013, Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel

Labor Day, once again, is time to mark the informal passage of summer and take stock of the American labor movement. This year I expect that pundits across the nation will either lament or gleefully point out that private sector union membership has plummeted back to the share it held during the Roosevelt presidency (Teddy, not Franklin). The decline is a startling thing. In only 50 years, union membership in the U.S. has dropped by 80 percent. No mainstream American institution of note has dissipated at this pace before. Today there are more Americans who receive disability payments than those who belong to private sector unions. As of 2012, a tad bit more than half of union members were government workers and more than one-third of government workers belonged to a union. However, that stronghold of union participation faces even greater risk to their membership than do the private sector unions. The passage of right-to-work legislation in Indiana and Michigan has seen rapid declines in state and local government union membership. In Wisconsin, public sector union membership plummeted when Act 10, which ended government dues collection, was passed. Moreover, the coming pension crisis in state and local governments will likely collapse public union membership even further as members discover the many promises negotiated by their unions strain the mathematics of taxation. (read article)

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