Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Now the Auto Union Wants to Muzzle Public Officials

By Bob Corker, March 3, 2014, The Wall Street Journal

Picture an election where an entity is given nearly unfettered access to voters for two years and then is allowed to call for a surprise vote with only a few days’ notice. Then imagine that the entity loses the vote and complains that “outside forces”—who happen to be community leaders—should not have been allowed to speak or share their point of view. While most Americans can contemplate such a scenario playing out in another country, this is what has been happening in Tennessee. Just over two weeks ago, an election was held at the Volkswagen VOW3.XE +2.16% plant in my hometown of Chattanooga to determine whether the United Auto Workers would represent the workers there. UAW operatives spent two years inside the plant working to organize it. Initially, the UAW tried to take away the workers’ right to vote and force its way in through “card check,” an attempt to entrench the union without a democratic election. Fortunately, the company insisted on a secret ballot for its employees. They voted on Feb. 14 not to organize, although in the week leading up to the vote, only the UAW was allowed inside the plant, where the union was given an audience with the workers on company time. (read article)

Alabama Becomes the 19th State to Adopt PLA Reform, South Dakota Bill Clears Legislature

March 4, 2014, Truth About PLAs

Alabama is the latest state to say “NO” to wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) mandates. Yesterday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed H.B. 195 into law, which will prohibit government entities in the state from requiring contractors to sign a PLA, or any other agreement with labor unions, as a condition of performing work on public construction projects. Alabama is the 19th state to take action to protect taxpayers and the vast majority of the construction industry workforce from wasteful and discriminatory PLA mandates. It is the 15th state to enact reform since President Obama issued Executive Order 13502 in February 2009, which encourages federal agencies to require PLAs on federal construction projects costing more than $25 million and allows state and local governments to require PLAs on federally assisted projects. (read article)

The Biggest Lesson From The UAW’s Defeat In Chattanooga: We Have Lousy Labor Laws

By George Leef, March 4, 2014, Forbes

Last month, a United Auto Workers organizing drive to bring the workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant into the union went down to defeat. The vote was 53 to 47 percent against the UAW’s representation – and also to its dues and its politics, matters that might have been foremost in the minds of many opponents. Whether the rebuke will prove to be the UAW’s Waterloo remains to be seen, but I think that there is one clear lesson we should draw from this. We have some lousy labor laws. The prohibition against “company unions” Much has been said about how the VW management wanted or was at least receptive to the UAW, but what VW really wanted was to establish a worker/management council similar to the ones at its German operations. Under American law, however, there was a problem – due to a 1992 decision by the federal agency that enforces our labor statutes, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a non-union company may not set up any such council. (read article)

Florida NAACP, big labor unite to push ‘moral’ legislative agenda

By William Patrick, March 4, 2014, Florida Watchdog

A new moral movement wants to influence state government, and it’s not the religious right. Demanding Medicaid expansion, voting rights, repeal of the “stand your ground” self-defense law — as well as favorable economic policies — a coalition of activist groups and organized labor unions rallied Monday at the Florida Capitol, one day ahead of the 2014 legislative session. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosted the event, which featured several civil rights leaders and Democratic lawmakers. Named “Moral Monday,” the 105-year-old NAACP has launched a Florida social justice campaign that seemingly doubled as an ambitious legislative agenda. The group has launched similar efforts in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. (read article)

Labor unions, landowners unite again for pro-fracking group

Jon Campbell, March 4, 2014, Lower Hudson Journal News

A collection of Southern Tier labor unions, landowners and business groups are uniting again to form a pro-fracking group, more than a year after a similar effort fizzled out. “There is no reason that natural gas drilling shouldn’t occur in rural areas of the Southern Tier,” David Johnson (pictured), president of the Broome County Farm Bureau, said in a statement. “For people outside our community to be so vehemently opposed isn’t right or fair.” Some of the same unions and the landowner group were part of a group called Clean Growth Now, which launched a pro-fracking coalition that purposefully excluded gas companies in late 2011. But the group ceased to exist at some point in late 2012 or early 2013 as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration continued to weigh a decision on fracking. (read article)

Slow pace of mayor’s pay panel upsets labor, business

By Lynn Thompson, March 3, 2014, Seattle Times

Halfway to the April 30 deadline to make a recommendation about raising Seattle’s minimum wage, both labor and business leaders express frustration at the slow pace of Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee. A facilitator recently was brought in to help direct and focus discussions among the 23 committee members meeting since January. Researchers at two universities tasked with analyzing the potential economic impacts of a wage hike didn’t start their work until mid-February and have just four weeks to produce their reports. Last week, a coalition of Seattle social-service providers warned that they would need $11 million in additional government funding if they were to pay all their workers $15 an hour. (read article)

Union Goons Have License to Run Wild In Pennsylvania

By Alec Torres, March 3, 2014, National Review

Sarina Rose is commonly followed home. As she approaches work, she is taunted by protestors. Her children, eight and ten years old, have been photographed at their bus stop and followed at weekend sporting events. One time, a man cursed at her in public, formed a gun with his hands, pointed it at her, and said, “Bang, bang, bang.” But Rose can’t take any legal action against her harassers, who are union members displeased by her company’s use of non-union labor. Rose lives in Pennsylvania and is an executive at Post Bros., a construction company building apartments in Philadelphia. Under normal circumstances, she could file a lawsuit against her aggressors for stalking and harassment. Unfortunately for her, there is an exemption in Pennsylvania law that protects union members from being prosecuted for stalking, harassment, or even threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction. State representative Ron Miller is hoping to repeal the little know exemptions in the law with HB 1154, but the unions are fighting back. (read article)

AFSCME wanted Minnesota union workers fired for not paying dues

By Tom Steward, February 28, 2014, Watchdog.org

Union members expect their organization to defend their employment, but in the case of 11 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees hired by the Human Development Center in Duluth their would-be protector tried to take their jobs away. “Employees were coming to our human resources department absolutely panicked,” said Jim Getchell, executive director of Human Development Center. “Here they had landed this brand new job with this great company that’s been here 75 years in their chosen career working in behavioral health and then getting a letter within the first few weeks of employment from their union saying that they’re to be terminated.” In a startling episode of role reversal, HDC filed an unfair labor practices complaint in August 2013 with the National Labor Relations Board to prevent AFSCME Council 5 from forcing the mental health nonprofit to fire the newly hired employees. (read article)

Will labor pick Philly’s next mayor?

By Sean Collins, February 28, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer

In the 2007 Democratic primary for mayor, labor balkanized behind different candidates and Michael Nutter slipped through the cracks to become the first modern mayor elected without major union support. At least that’s how electricians union chief John Dougherty sees history – and he’s determined to prevent history from repeating itself next year. “Johnny Doc” has been hosting many of the city’s top labor leaders for monthly lunch meetings at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 98 headquarters, at 17th and Spring Garden streets. For now, he said, they’re working on union-related issues and organizing rallies. But their ultimate goal is to coalesce around one labor-backed candidate in 2015. “It’s a thinktank that turns into a ‘do tank,'” Dougherty said. “It’s not a matter of if we’re going to be all together, it’s a matter of who we’re going to be all together behind.” If the labor coalition stays united, its chosen candidate will be formidable. (read article)

Will Northwestern Athlete Union Bid Mean End of Amateurism?

By Bill Briggs, February 28, 2014, NBC News

ollege quarterback’s argument before the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern University football players be allowed to unionize will pressure the NCAA to rethink its age-old, rock-hard stance on amateurism, say sports and labor law experts following the case. Testimony before the NLRB in Chicago ended Tuesday and a ruling on Kain Colter’s claim is expected in four to six weeks. Whichever way the NLRB leans, however, Colter’s bid has driven the NCAA closer to reforming its student-athlete rules – perhaps not directly paying players but providing them other benefits, such as medical coverage and a form of free agency, the experts contend. “We have reached a tipping point with regard to the current system of college athletics,” said Warren Zola, a sports law professor at Boston College. (read article)

Following Chattanooga defeat, Big Labor looks to force workers into unions with ambush rule

By Fred Wszolek, February 28, 2014, The Hill

The United Auto Workers (UAW) reportedly spent $5 million on a campaign to establish union representation at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee only to lose in a 712-to-636 vote. The outcome was called a “stinging blow for U.A.W.” by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal simply referred to it as “a crushing defeat.” Given the significance of this epic failure, it is not surprising the UAW is seeking measures that would make it easier to force workers into unions, starting with the ambush election rule. “Quickie” or “ambush” elections came into being in December 2011 as part of a rule promulgated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The rulemaking drastically cut down the amount of time for an NLRB election, essentially eliminating the potential for the distribution of any real information by the employer on the effects of unionization. The rule change guaranteed that the only story workers would hear is the union story disallowing them from making an informed decision on a matter of great consequence. The original decision quickly elicited an outpouring of concern from the business community, who communicated the rule would restrict employer free speech. After the original rule was proposed, the NLRB received 65,000 comments, most of which were complaints, and as a result, it slightly trimmed back the original proposal, for instance, eliminating the portion giving unions greater access to employee information, but rammed through the rule nonetheless. (read article)

There should be more to labor than just work

By Ari Paul, February 27, 2014, Al Jazeera America

Earlier this month, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka endorsed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. His justification was that it would create jobs — albeit 35 of them, according to the State Department — for his members in the building trades union. Trumka’s stance further widened the gap between organized labor and progressives who care about the environment, all because of widespread assumptions about the value of work. In a society where wages are stagnant and good work is hard to find, it’s logical for unions to grab what they can. But such desperation also forces them to defend projects, such as the Keystone pipeline, that are also unequivocally harmful, and that run counter to core values of the progressive movement. We can see a similar dynamic at work in a host of issues. California’s draconian policy of handing out life sentences for three-time felons is a result of the corrections’ officers union’s push to create more prison jobs. The United Mineworkers of America, where Trumka was once president, decried the Obama administration’s desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for fear of hurting coal industry revenue. Military Keynesianism — the use of economic stimulation through robust war and defense spending — is buttressed in part by the unions who win jobs when their defense industry employers profit from lucrative government contracts. This cleavage between labor and the larger progressive movement occurs when unions focus narrowly on increasing the number of jobs, rather than envisioning a larger alternative economic structure that would benefit union members, nonmembers and society as a whole. (read article)

Are unions necessary?

By Michael Hiltzik, February 27, 2014, Los Angeles Times

Short answer: Yes. The question is posed by an exchange launched by Evan Soltas at Bloomberg View, and answered by Michael Wasser of the workers rights organization Jobs for Justice. Soltas has defended himself against Wasser’s response, so this could go on for a while. The discussion was inspired by the recent defeat of a United Auto Workers drive at the Chattanooga, Tenn., plant of Volkswagen, which we discuss here. The case has inspired lots of commentary about the long-term decline of industrial unions in the U.S. and the role of that trend in the increasing of income inequality. The two trends coincide, so there really is no question that the decline of workers’ voice and worker rights resulting from the decline of unions has played an important role in the rising power of the shareholding and managerial class. One hates to say of a writer as fluent as Soltas that his analysis lacks the depth that would come from experience, but Wasser is certainly correct in arguing that Soltas’ argument that the U.S. is better off without unions and “unions can’t be saved” reflects the limitations of textbook-learning. A few specific issues: To think that federal labor law has had “little to do” with union decline, as Soltas puts it, is hopelessly naive. He’s misled by the fact that union membership has fallen even though we have laws guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining, and by the failure to recognize how inadequately those laws are enforced. (read article)

Tennessee bill would place limits on union picketing

Chas Sisk, February 27, 2014, The Tennessean

Unions may face new restrictions when they picket, under a bill making its way through the Tennessee legislature. House Bill 1688 would add a new misdemeanor of “mass picketing” that could be used to punish labor activists who block the entrance to a business or private residence. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jeremy Durham, and other supporters say the legislation would supplement laws already on the books that prohibit trespassing. “People have the right to free speech, but they do not have the right to prevent people from going to work,” said Durham, R-Franklin. He said Tennessee unions added 31,000 members in 2013, which represents the largest percentage increase among the states last year. “I feel like if that’s such a growing part of our economy, we need to take preemptive measures to make sure our businesses have the rights and protections they should be entitled to.” Violators would not be arrested, but they could receive citations. Opponents say the measure targets labor unions unconstitutionally, because it would not apply to political groups or other organizations. (read article)

New Union Organizing Tactics

Bryan P. O’Connor, February 26, 2014, National Law Review

Union membership rates have been falling for decades. Despite a union-friendly National Labor Relations Board and supportive Obama Administration, organized labor has failed to mean- ingfully increase membership levels. In 1983, the rate was 20.1 percent of the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013, union members made up 11.3 percent of the workforce. The membership rate in the private sector was 6.7 percent, while the rate in the public sector was 35.3 percent. Unable to convince workers to unionize in any significant numbers, and fighting for their own relevancy, unions have refined their strategy. They are campaigning to change workplace laws, in major part, to foster greater union density and increase pressure on non-union employers to deal with them. Garnering national media attention, the new SeaTac, Washington, ordinance imposing a $15 minimum wage presents unions’ new blueprint to unionize non-union employers or, at least, to increase their costs of doing business, which benefits other, union- ized, employers. After the most expensive per-vote-earned election in Washington history and a hand recount, SeaTac vot- ers approved Proposition One by 77 votes (50.6 per- cent to 49.4 percent) in 2013. (read article)

Casey urges Pa. legislature to sidestep union bill

February 26, 2014, Associated Press

Stepping into a heated political battle, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is urging Republican leaders of Pennsylvania’s legislature not to move forward on a bill that would make it harder for labor unions to collect dues and political action contributions through payroll deductions. In an interview with The Associated Press, the Democratic senator expressed concern that the legislation could be quickly pushed through in an election year with the support of conservative groups and major business associations. In a letter Wednesday to state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, and state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, Casey said the bill could undermine unions’ ability to bargain collectively. “I think we have to be cognizant in states where this kind of threat was underestimated, it didn’t turn out very well for workers,” Casey told the AP, citing the cases of Michigan and Wisconsin, where GOP-controlled legislatures passed similar right-to-work laws. “The real goal here is political and ideological, to weaken workers’ right to fight for better wages and benefits. (read article)

Labor unions upset with Obama’s plan for 1 percent federal worker pay hike

February 25, 2014, FoxNews.com

Federal labor unions are crying foul over President Obama’s proposal to raise federal employee pay by 1 percent next year, arguing the increase is inadequate. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union, said Monday that the 1 percent increase is “pitiful” and fails to compensate for sacrifice by government workers. “Federal employees have endured years of pay freezes and cuts in retirement benefits,” Cox said in a statement. “Federal employees deserve a meaningful pay raise, not a token increase that will be more than eaten up by rising living costs, including higher retirement and healthcare costs.” The increase would mark the second year in a row that civilian federal workers would get a 1 percent hike after three straight years of pay freezes. Pay went up in January. The Pentagon said military pay would go up by 1 percent as well. (read article)

Michigan judge to hear unfair labor practices complaint against teachers union

By Jack Spencer, February 25, 2014, Watchdog.org

The Michigan Education Association says its members can only leave the union during a limited window in August, and on Wednesday it is scheduled to sit in front of an administrative law judge to explain why. A group of Saginaw Public Schools teachers challenged the MEA’s policies and filed unfair labor practice complaints with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to get out of the union. At the hearing before Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern, the MEA is expected to defend its practices surrounding how it deals with members who want to leave the union as part of the state’s right-to-work law. MEA officials have insisted that information about leaving was available to all members. (read article)

Why Is Big Labor Targeting Five GOP Governors?

By Yolanda Weinberger, February 24, 2014, Wisconsin Free

Five Republican governors who have supported legislation unpopular with labor unions are on a ‘Big Labor political hit list’. Recently in Houston, AFL-CIO leaders announced that they intend to spend a staggering amount of money–at least $60 million per gubernatorial race for a total of $300 million–in the effort to unseat the governors. The past decade has seen the largely private AFL-CIO diversify by partnering with more public sector unions like teacher unions and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in order to strengthen their political influence. According to People’s World, a socialist-leaning newspaper, the governors targeted for defeat are Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott, Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder, Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich, Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett and Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker. The announcement of the list of gubernatorial battleground states was made at a press conference here this morning by Lee Saunders, chairman of the AFL- CIO’s political committee and by Mike Podhorzer, the federation’s political director. They made the announcement outside a meeting here of the AFL-CIO executive council which has been deliberating in Houston since Tuesday. After the announcement, when Podhorzer was asked to discuss how much money labor would spend on the effort, he said he expected the dollar amount to exceed what unions spent in the 2010 midterm elections. The amount spent then, he said, was about $300 million. Labor unions have a special enmity for Governor Scott Walker after his 2012 victory in a recall election that showcased some of the unions’ most aggressive tactics. In 2010, Gov. Walker curtailed the labor unions’ collective- bargaining rights, earning himself an ugly fight for reelection. All five governors have fought to reduce the rising costs of public employee pensions while reducing tax burdens and trimming government spending in their states. Governors Walker, Kasich, and Snyder have all limited unions’ collective-bargaining, although Kasich’s bill was overturned in 2011. (read article)

Updated legislation could mandate union labor in state projects

February 24, 2014, New York Real Estate News

Negotiations for the renewal of New York’s 2011 “design-build law,” which allows a single development team to submit design and construction plans for a project at the same time, could unravel over a proposed labor provision. Governor Cuomo added language in his updated budget proposal Thursday that would require a so-called project labor agreement for any project over $10 million — effectively ensuring that all such projects would be built with union labor. The move would codify core principles already in place with agencies like the Department of Transportation, but could cause concern with groups like the Associated General Contractors of New York State. “We support the concept of design-build,” Michael Elmendorf, chief executive at the association, which includes both union and non-union members, told Crain’s. “But there are likely going to be some significant concerns about new language.” (read article)

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