Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Michigan Is Big Labor’s Next Big Target

By Shikha Dalmia, June 5, 2012, Reason.com

Those who thought that Big Labor’s recall drive against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was its final attempt to maintain its lavish benefits at taxpayers’ expense should think again. Win or lose in Wisconsin today, it is already opening a new front in Michigan, pushing a November ballot initiative to permanently enshrine its pay and privileges in the state constitution and prohibit Michigan from ever ending forced unionization. A Reason-Rupe poll last week gave Walker an eight-point edge over his Democratic rival. More to the point, it found overwhelming support for Walker’s efforts to close the state’s fiscal gap by requiring public employees to contribute more toward their health care (74 percent) and pension benefits (75 percent)—rather than by raising taxes, which 70 percent oppose. A small majority of 51 percent also supports Walker’s move to end automatic deduction of union dues from public employee paychecks. And a plurality of 48 percent supports his limiting contract negotiations to wage issues compared to 46 percent that opposes this. (read article)

Unions wield new power as shareholders

By Harold Meyerson, June 5, 2012, Washington Post

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), the U.S. labor movement will remain in dire straits. Its problem isn’t that Americans have turned against unions but that labor’s power to better workers’ lives through representing them in the workplace or championing them at the ballot box has been diminished by dysfunctional labor laws and pro-corporate court decisions. Ironically, the one arena in which unions have made some headway this year is shareholder capitalism: By using the voting power of their pension funds, and by organizing shareholder opposition to excessive executive pay and corporate political donations, unions have begun to restore a modicum of accountability for out-of-control business leaders. (read post)

Future of America’s unions at stake in Wisconsin’s recall vote

By Juan Williams, June 4, 2012, The Hill

Ann Coulter on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left agree Wisconsin’s vote this Tuesday on recalling Gov. Scott Walker is going to have national implications. They’ve got that right. If Walker wins, it will encourage Republican governors around the nation to enact more laws that diminish the power of public worker unions. Those efforts usually involve stripping unions of collective bargaining rights in an effort to shut off the money flowing from unions to Democrats. Since the 2010 midterm elections, GOP governors have been intent on closing off the flow of cash from taxpayers to public sector unions which then support Democratic candidates. In trying to choke the life out of unions, those governors have had varied degrees of success. But if Walker wins, governors like Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Ohio’s John Kasich and Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett will find new pockets of money and political support for their anti-union fight. (read article)

This Bank Bashing Union Is Making Money With A High-Interest Credit Card

Peter Schweizer, June 4, 2012, Business Insider

With the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and AFL-CIO spending tens of millions on political activism, including the recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, union members might do well to see where the money is coming from.  Big unions are morphing into the kinds of big businesses and banks they decry, hawking to their members everything from high interest credit cards to home loans. And contrary to Big Labor’s claims, these products offer no real benefit to union members—only to the union bosses. As the collection of union dues have dipped, union bosses are increasingly looking for ways to bend the revenue curve in their favor by profiting off loans and credit extended to their members. This turns into huge money:  In FY2011, according to its LM-2 filing with the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO received approximately $28,163,266.00 from credit card revenue. (read article)

Labor, Tea Party pour resources into Wisconsin ahead of recall

By Kevin Bogardus and Meghashyam Mali, June 4, 2012, The Hill

Wisconsin voters are set to go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether Gov. Scott Walker (R) will stay in office, an election that could have implications far beyond the state and could prove to be a key test of union power ahead of the November presidential election. Walker himself became a conservative icon after confronting labor last year by pushing through legislation that limited public workers’ collective bargaining rights, leading to the recall. Major unions and Tea Party groups have plowed substantial funds into the recall election. Politicians on the national scene have journeyed to the state to campaign with their chosen candidates. But the stakes are particularly high for labor groups, which have invested heavily in the fight to unseat Walker and have expressed concerns that their traditional Democratic allies haven’t been as committed. More than $63 million has been spent by Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his Democratic challenger, as well as outside groups. That figure tops the more than $34 million spent on the 2010 gubernatorial race, making it Wisconsin’s most expensive state contest in history. (read article)

California government unions move to squeeze out private contractors

By Jon Ortiz, June 4, 2012, Sacramento Bee

With California facing yet another budget crisis that threatens state jobs and pay, employee unions are moving on several fronts to push use of civil service workers instead of private contractors for state government work. Unions had a say in Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 budget revision last month, which proposes axing outside contracting for a range of work, from computer consulting to custodial services. State employee unions also threw their weight behind recent legislation that, among other things, would have given civil service employees first crack at all state government jobs. The measure failed but is likely to resurface. Last month, the state attorneys’ union successfully contested a multimillion-dollar contract with a private law firm for legal services. (read article)

Turning Our Backs on Unions

By Joe Nocera, June 4, 2012, New York Times

“The Great Divergence” by Timothy Noah is a book about income inequality, and if you’re thinking, “Do we really need another book about income inequality?” the answer is yes. We need this one. It stands out in part because Noah, a columnist for The New Republic, is not content to simply shake his fists at the heavens in anger. He spends exactly one chapter on what he calls the “rise of the stinking rich” — that is, the explosion in executive pay and what he calls “the financialization of the economy,” which has enriched one small segment of society at the expense of everyone else. Mostly, he grapples with the deep, hard-to-tickle-out reasons that the gap between the rich and the middle class in the United States has widened to such alarming proportions. How much have technological advances contributed to income inequality? Globalization and off-shoring? The necessity of having a college education to land a decent-paying job? The decline of labor unions? (read article)

How Illinois pension-reform push spun out of control

By Rick Pearson and Ray Long, June 3, 2012, Chicago Tribune

Hours after lawmakers headed home without reforming the state’s bereft public worker pension systems, Gov. Pat Quinn implored them to remember that Illinois government is “racing the clock” in solving the issue. But a different race is on the mind of many legislators: their re-election contests Nov. 6, when all 59 Senate seats and all 118 House seats are on the ballot. The coming election looms as a major driver in why pension reform failed this spring. The reasons are as much political as practical. Concerns over alienating powerful voting blocs weighed on the minds of some. A belief that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan didn’t want to offend powerful labor unions swayed others. And Quinn and House Republican leader Tom Cross aren’t exactly two of the most beloved figures at the Capitol. The Democratic governor cast his lot with Republican Cross instead of Democrat Madigan, who wanted further concessions on who pays for teacher retirement outside Chicago. Cross’ pension plan would have reduced cost-of-living increases and dangled an offer of access to state health insurance for those who opted for a lesser pension. It did not address the contentious issue of shifting teacher retirement costs from the state to suburban and downstate school districts. (read article)

Organized labor stares down specter of possible recall loss

By Michael O’Brien,June 3, 2012, MSNBC

Organized labor is staring down the prospect of a bitter disappointment here on Tuesday, where union members are working furiously to unseat Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and replace him with a Democratic challenger. Wisconsin has become the front line in the battle between unions and reform-minded Republicans, and organized labor arguably has more on the line in Tuesday’s recall election than any other constituency. Union members have spearheaded the effort to remove Walker from office and replace him with a Democratic challenger after the governor, who was elected in 2010, pushed a controversial bill through the state legislature stripping most public employee unions — which were birthed in Wisconsin — of their collective bargaining rights. “I’m still angry,” said Sandy Jacobs, an active member of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, who spent Sunday afternoon knocking on union members’ doors in the Milwaukee neighborhood of Bayview. “‘s not representing middle class people; he’s representing his own agenda, and I’m angry.” (read article)

Childish unions won’t play by the rules in Wisconsin

By George F. Will, June 3, 2012, Boston Herald

This state, the first to let government employees unionize, was an incubator of progressivism and gave birth (in 1932 in Madison, the precursor of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) to its emblematic institution, the government employees union — government organized as a special interest to lobby itself to expand itself. But Wisconsin progressivism is in a dark Peter Pan phase; it is childish without being winsome. Wisconsin has produced populists of the left (Robert La Follette) and right (Joe McCarthy). On Tuesday, in this year’s second-most important election, voters will judge the attempt by a populism of the privileged — white-collar labor unions whose members live comfortably above the American median — to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. (read article)

The Big Labor Republicans

By Daniel Horowitz, June 1, 2012, RedState.com

One would think that all Republicans would realize that not only do labor unions want to destroy the economy; they want to destroy the Republican Party.  Last night, while Scott Walker was launching his counteroffensive against the onslaught of Big Labor during the debate against Barrett, dozens of Republicans voted to reinstate special handouts to the labor bosses. Late last night, the House passed the largely non-controversial Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations (MilCon) bill for FY 2013.  But there were two amendments germane to labor policy that received roll call votes.  We lost on both of them. The first amendment, which was sponsored by Pro-Big Labor Michael Grimm (R-NY), stripped language from the MilCon bill prohibiting federal government construction contracts in excess of $25 million funded by the bill from requiring that only firms that enter into project labor agreements be considered for bidding on a contract.  In 2009, Obama used his signature power grab tool; an Executive Order, forcing all private companies to sign a project labor agreement (PLA) in order to bid on federal construction projects.  PLA’s compel the private contractor to use only unionized workers for the perspective project.  This executive power grab is nothing more than an election payback to big labor, which would ostensibly purloin the taxpayer with forced collective bargaining for all public construction projects.  This malevolent executive order would also discriminate against non-union workers.  Keep in mind that only a small percentage of private sector construction workers are unionized. When the MilCon bill was crafted in the Appropriations Committee, language was inserted to nullify this executive order and defund PLAs.  Michael Grimm’s amendment stripped this provision, thereby upholding Obama’s union grab. (read article)

Maryland Gov. O’Malley Grants Big Labor Protections from Disclosure

by Trey Kovacs, June 1, 2012, OpenMarket.org

In Maryland, labor unions join the protected ranks of doctors and lawyers with respect to confidentiality privileges. In early May, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed Big Labor’s new special privilege into law. It extends protection from compulsory disclosure to unions and their members. Only similarly pro-union Illinois has given unions the controversial protected status that may conflict with federal labor law. The legislation gives evidentiary protection to communications between union representatives and union members, meaning neither can be compelled to disclose information pertinent to an employer’s investigation or grievance proceeding. The right of refusal hampers the possibilities of employers and employees resolving disputes before costly and time-consuming litigation or arbitration. (read article)

Labor Wisconsin Recall Hopes Ebb as Walker Cash Pays Off

By William McQuillen, May 31, 2012, Bloomberg

The first vote hasn’t been cast in the recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, yet labor unions already are offering excuses for why their efforts to oust him could fall short. The election is no longer a fight over workers’ rights to engage in collective bargaining, which sparked the recall, union leaders say. The debate has turned to the economy and negative campaigning. In addition, they say, recall supporters are facing a significant financial disadvantage after Walker raised more than $20 million this year — five times that of his opponent — in his quest to keep his job. “The election is about a vicious mud fight between two candidates,” Michael Podhorzer, the political director of the Washington-based AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, said in an interview. “It is not a verdict on collective bargaining at all.” Walker is leading Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, by 7 percentage points among likely voters, according to a poll released May 30 by Milwaukee’s Marquette Law School. (read article)

Labor Unions Punish Good Workers

By John Stossel, May 30, 2012, NewsMax.com

It seems intuitive that a free market would lead to a “race to the bottom.” In a global marketplace, profit-chasing employers will cut costs by paying workers less and less, and shipping jobs to China. It’s a reason that progressives say government must step in. So America now has thousands of rules that outlaw wages below $7.25 an hour, restrict unpaid internships, and compel people to pay union dues. These rules appear to help workers. But they don’t. “Collective bargaining” sounds good. Collective bargaining “rights” even better. Employers are more sophisticated about job negotiations than individual employees, so why shouldn’t workers be able to join together to bargain? They should be. But in 27 states, labor laws force workers to join unions. When CBS offered me a job, I had to join AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. I didn’t want to. I don’t consider myself an artist. I didn’t want to pay dues to a union that didn’t appear to do much. But I had no choice. Laws that force workers to join unions treat millions of diverse people, most of whom want very different things, as undifferentiated collectives. That means that good workers get punished. (read article)

Can unions fight Super PACs?

By Josh Eidelson,  May 30, 2012, Salon

No one was surprised this winter when the AFL-CIO and its major unions endorsed President Obama’s reelection. Despite decades of enrollment decline, the AFL-CIO remains the largest membership organization in progressive politics, and it is a much relied-upon ally in Democratic election campaigns. But faced with a post-Citizens United landscape and armed with hard-fought lessons, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is pledging a “big change” in how the federation does politics. “Before, we used to build everybody else’s structure,” says Trumka, “and now, we’re going to build our own structure.”  He says to expect three changes: more focus on door-to-door organizing rather than TV ads; more funds toward building a permanent, independent political infrastructure and less towards candidates’ coffers; and more outreach beyond union households. (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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