Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

A healthy blow to labor overreach

By Ed Feulner, July 15, 2014, Washington Times

As my Heritage colleagues James Sherk and Andrew Kloster note, the ruling will likely have only limited effect in the short run. Nationwide, only 100,000 home caregivers say they belong to a union. Yet the SEIU reports 600,000 dues-paying home care members nationwide. Thus, it appears, the vast majority of “organized” home care providers don’t even know that unions skim money from them. The unions aren’t about to inform these caregivers of their First Amendment right to keep their money, so odds are the automatic dues and “agency fee” deductions will continue without their knowledge. The long-term outlook for public employee unions has dimmed. The majority opinion criticized the larger practice of forced unionization among government workers. Justice Samuel Alito’s analysis made it clear that forced-dues schemes may violate the First Amendment rights of even “full-fledged” public employees. (read article)

LA Fed’s PAC recommends Johnson for LAUSD board seat

July 15, 2014, Los Angeles School Report

The political action committee for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has recommended to its members that they endorse Alex Johnson, in his bid for the open LA Unified school board seat. It’s the first step in the group’s process for endorsing a candidate. The decision by the Committee on Political Education (COPE) now goes before the union’s board of directors, and if the board agrees with the recommendation, it goes before the assembly of members who would vote next week for a final and formal endorsement. An earlier story on LA School Report misstated the union’s process for determining the endorsement, leading to the Aug. 12 runoff election for the LA Unified District 1 school board seat. The Federation represents over 350 labor unions and more than 845,000 workers. “I am proud and gratified to have the strong support of the Committee on Political Education of the L.A. County Federation of Labor in my campaign for the parents, students, school staff and teachers of LAUSD District 1,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “These remain economically challenging times for many working women and men. That’s why I strongly supported the $15 minimum wage sought by cafeteria workers, custodians, and other school support staff represented by SEIU Local 99.” Johnson has received endorsements from more than a dozen union locals, while his opponent, George McKenna, has won support from two unions with much closer ties to the school district — those representing teachers (UTLA) and school administrators (AALA). (read article)

Volkswagen’s not waiting around for Big Labor

By Sean Higgins, July 14, 2014, Washington Examiner

Do Volkswagen officials really want their Chattanooga, Tenn., plant to have a unionized workforce? Or are they just going through the motions to keep Big Labor appeased while they expand the current facility? The Chattanooga plant has been at the forefront of the United Auto Workers’ effort to get a foothold in the union-averse south — and therefore a major front in the battle for Big Labor’s future. UAW has had VW’s help too, with the company giving it easy access to its workforce. The collaboration seemed to herald a new organizing model based on focusing on foreign-owned companies. Or maybe not. On Monday, VW officials announced that they would be pouring $600 million into building a new sport utility vehicle in Chattanooga. This came five months after workers rejected having a union, which was supposedly necessary before any expansion. That doesn’t mean the plant won’t ever be unionized. UAW is still trying and VW officials tossed a sizable bone to Big Labor by putting Bernd Osterloh onto its U.S. board. He’s a labor official as well as head of VW’s global works council and the guy who said the plant needed a union. (read article)

How unions might kill the Metropolitan Opera

By Rich Lowry, July 14, 2014, New York Post

The fat lady will sing — but only in strict keeping with the work rules set out by the American Guild of Musical Artists. The Metropolitan Opera has a labor problem. Personnel expenses account for $200 million of the financially struggling Met’s $327 million budget. In the interest of survival in an era more attuned to “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” than “Le Nozze di Figaro,” the Met wants to reduce its labor costs by 16 percent by getting the unions to accept common-sense work rules and less generous pension and health benefits. The unions say no and accuse the Met of waging war on their families. The storied but precarious institution could see its next season disrupted in the labor discord. The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, warns that without union flexibility, the very existence of the world-famous, 130-year-old opera is at risk. Well, if worst came to worst, at least the Met’s singers and musicians could make a go of it at the New York City Opera. No, wait, it shut its doors for the last time last year. It doesn’t take an opera aficionado to realize that the 21st century isn’t the 19th, and opera is an embattled art form. Unfortunately, the Met is locking horns with a force, the unions, that has proven adept at helping to drive struggling industries into the ground. A New York Times editorial recently noted that orchestra members, who on average make $200,000 a year, get 16 weeks off with pay. The American Federation of Musicians Local 802 shot back that it’s really only 10 weeks of guaranteed time off with pay. Touché. Under the current rules, the base pay for chorus members, who also make on average $200,000 a year, covers four performances a week. The members get paid extra for rehearsals — even if they haven’t sung in four performances that week. (read article)

How unions are re-organizing — and looking at you

By Pooja Bhatia, July 14, 2014, USA Today

After decades of losing members, legislative defeats and a declining return on labor, American unions have stopped looking within for the answer. Now they’re looking to you. Once focused mostly on the narrow goals of its members, unions of late have sought to spark broader civic movements. Big unions like the SEIU are funding groups like OUR Walmart and Fight for 15, which advocate for workers’ rights — though not many Wal-Mart or fast-food workers seem to show up at their demonstrations. Others are taking workers’ battles up the supply chain — in some cases, all the way to Wall Street, whose banks they accuse of charging employers predatory fees. And some unions have found creative ways to enlist parents and citizens in their battles, so that when contract negotiations roll around, they’re armed with reinforcements and can’t be easily labeled as greedy. Call these methods hacks, call them alt-labor, call them workarounds: They all aim at getting labor out of the corner that it says it’s been painted into for the past 40 years. (read article)

Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Public Workers Unions

By Dmitri Mehlhorn, July 11, 2014, The Daily Beast

It’s time for the left to focus on defending private-sector workers. In last week’s 5-4 ruling on Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court worried Democrats by suggesting that public unions may not be allowed to obtain compulsory dues from their members. Compulsory dues translate into many tens of millions of dollars in political contributions to Democrats. If disallowed, many of those dollars will remain in the pockets of the public employees themselves, and a few may even go to Republicans. Progressive hostility to Harris, however, is shortsighted. Harris and decisions like it have the potential to revitalize progressive politics by restoring the relevance and political potency that labor held in the early-to-mid-20th century. The great labor leaders of that era—AFL-CIO President George Meany, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the like—agreed with the majority in Harris: it was both impractical and inadvisable to afford public employees compulsory collective bargaining rights. Roosevelt said that collective bargaining and public workers’ right to strike would be “unthinkable and intolerable.” Meany said it would be “impossible.” In the view of these leaders, civil service laws from the Progressive Era of the 1890s to 1920s had made government jobs good and safe. Labor and progressives, therefore, needed to focus on blue-collar workers’ need to fight collectively for basic safety, dignity and living wages. Through this focus, the United States saw historic gains in the well-being of workers and the country’s middle class. (read article)

Oregon should be 25th state to adopt Right to Work Law

By Senator Doug Whitsett, July 11. 2014, Oregon Catalyst

In a truly free market economy, labor relations should be decided in voluntary negotiations between business and labor interests. People should have the right to work in any labor environment that is mutually acceptable to the employer and employees. Many companies and their employees have endured and prospered for generations without the need for third party influence. On the other hand, some labor and business interests have exhibited a long history of attempting to gain control of the workplace through political influence. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guaranteed employees the right to self organize, and to select representatives of their own choosing to bargain collectively with employers. The Act applied to all employers engaged in interstate commerce except for airlines, railroads, agriculture and government. The Act allowed unions and employers to agree to a closed shop wherein employees must be a member of the union as a condition of employment. If the employee ceased to be a union member for any reason he could be summarily fired, even if he had not violated an employer rule. The bill also created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to settle labor negotiation matters. The NLRA was amended in 1947 to outlaw the closed shop. The Taft-Hartley Act prohibited unions from forcing employers to fire employees for violating the rules of organized labor. However, the amended Act continued to provide that an employee in a union shop be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. An employee that did not wish to be a union member was still required to pay the equivalent of union dues. (read article)

Labor Rights in America: The Union vs. Corporate Showdown Has Officially Begun

By Shamus Cooke, July 11, 2014, Global Research

The attack on the U.S. labor movement just sharpened with the Harris vs. Quinn Supreme Court decision, aimed at the heart of concentrated union power — public sector unions. When you add in the Obama-led assault on public school teachers unions and the Koch brother-funded “Right to Work” laws, the labor movement appears to be facing imminent ruin. At the same time, however, a powerful counter-force has emerged: the union movement has won significant victories around the fight for $15 minimum wage in Seattle and Los Angeles, and is poised to win in San Francisco where the strongest measure yet is headed for the November ballot. These wins and prospective wins have sent shock waves through the country, showing what’s possible if unions and community groups take the initiative and focus on inspiring demands that resonate through the broader community. The 2012 the Chicago teachers’ strike set an equally powerful example for unions, which has been studied by unionists across the country. Chicago teachers re-taught the labor movement the importance of the strike and the prerequisite internal democratic organization of union members. Once organized internally, members rallied community groups and the broader population over popular demands like stopping school closures. These advances for unions in the face of intensifying corporate attacks are forcing labor relations to a crescendo. Organized labor has, at long last, realized that fighting back is their only salvation. The tension inherent in this dynamic is volatile, and will inevitably explode as corporations relentlessly attempt to boost profits at the expense of workers’ wages and benefits. (read article)

Labor unions keep shooting themselves in the foot

By James Puz, July 11, 2014, Winona Daily News

The recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the Illinois arm of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its illegal extraction of dues from non-union home health care aides once again shows that American labor unions are slow learners when it comes to trying to build strong, reputable organizations. The suit arose because the SEIU, not being terribly smart nor content with the large number of non-union aides already paying union dues, was successful in its effort to require non union family member caregivers to also pay dues. That success was made possible by the governor’s generous gift of an executive order mandating that inclusion. That action was not only illogical, it was totally absurd. It was simply the union’s greedy attempt to increase its bank account by stealing additional dues through inflating its membership. Now, because of that union’s avarice, the Court’s ruling will undoubtedly prove disastrous not only for the SEIU but for any other labor union with the same mentality and shortsightedness. But keep in mind, Illinois’ SEIU is not unique in its behavior or attitude. That union is simply the current face of a battle over power and control of this nation’s labor force. That battle has plagued America for nearly 150 years. (read article)

UC Berkeley accused of playing host to union-funded activist research

By Bill McMorris, July 10, 2014, Washington Free Beacon

A coalition of foundations and union front groups is funding an academic post at the University of California at Berkeley for a prominent labor activist, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Saru Jayaraman, executive director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a worker center that aims to organize food service employees, founded Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center in 2012. The center, which is sponsored by the university’s Labor Research Center, conducts research into working conditions and public policy as it relates to the food business. According to a proposal outlining the project, Jayaraman’s vision of the center was as political as it was academic. She hoped to use the center to produce studies that would bolster the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), a coalition of unions and labor activists. ROC is a member of that group. (read article)

Labor is split on supporting Keystone Pipeline

By Alexander Furnas and Lee Drutman, July 10, 2014, Sunlight Foundation

Unions have long been split publicly on their positions on the Keystone XL pipeline. Building trade unions have supported the pipeline and progressive service unions have opposed it. When it comes to lobbying, however, labor presents a unified pro-pipeline voice. Only the unions who support the pipeline have actually bothered to lobby on it. Those who oppose it have not. The Laborers Union, whose president, Terry O’Sullivan, has been perhaps the most vocal labor advocate for the pipeline, tops the list with 20 reports. The Plumbers & Pipefitters Union (11 reports) and the Operating Engineers Union (10 reports) round out the top three organizations. In fact, all of the top five lobbying unions are those which have signed on to construct the pipeline for TransCanada, and whose memberships stand to gain from the jobs created. We find no public position on Keystone for the MTA Police Benevolent Association or the Transportation Communications Union, which dissolved in 2012. The pipeline promises to create thousands of jobs to be filled by members of many of the nation’s largest unions. (read article)

The State Worker: What’s next after contract-talk impasse?

By Jon Ortiz, July 10, 2014, San Luis Obispo Tribune

The I-word – “impasse” – has butted in on contract talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and a state employees’ union that has been without a labor agreement for more than a year. The Public Employment Relations Board, which decides when union negotiations have deadlocked, recently put that stamp on negotiations between the governor and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39. The union represents 850 state workers who run power and water systems at hundreds of state facilities, from the Capitol to Calipatria State Prison to China Camp State Park. For years, their pay has lagged by 30 percent or more the wages for similar jobs in federal and local governments, and the private sector. The union says the gap is so severe that the state struggles to recruit and retain workers that literally keep the air conditioning running and toilets flushing. Brown hasn’t budged from offering the same 4.5 percent salary increase given to SEIU Local 1000 and several other unions. (read article)

How Selfish Can a Labor Union Be?

By Amy Ridenour, July 10, 2014, ConservativeBlog.org

Black college studentAFSCME is protesting a donation to a black students’ scholarship charity by people who believe in limited government. It turns out, VERY selfish. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also known as AFSCME, has dropped a student work scholarship partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) because the UNCF accepted a $25 million donation from Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation and a UNCF leader spoke at an event organized by the Kochs. AFSCME does not like the Kochs because they believe in a more limited government than the one we currently have, which could mean fewer public labor union members, which means less money for the union. Even given AFSCME’s long history of an unseemly desire for money, I’m bewildered that one of the leading unions thinks attacking support for education for young black men and women is an appropriate activity — or even one that is in the union’s self-interest. Labor unions generally have a very racist and sexist history, and actions like this bring that sordid history back into everyone’s memory. (read article)

UAW Seeks Works Council at VW Factory That Rejected Union

By Jim Snyder, July 10, 2014, Bloomberg

Five months after workers at a Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) car factory in Tennessee voted against forming a union, the United Auto Workers said it would open a local office there that could lead to the creation of a German-style worker council. UAW officials said Local 42 at the Chattanooga assembly plant would give employees a voice in the workplace along the lines of the councils popular at companies in Germany, where the carmaker is based. While participation is voluntary, the intent is to eventually convince the company to formally recognize the UAW as a bargaining unit by showing broad worker support, union leaders said in a statement yesterday. “Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union that represents those employees who join the local,” Gary Casteel, the UAW secretary-treasurer, said in a statement. The union lost a Feb. 14 election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board by a vote of 712 to 626. The loss set back UAW efforts to organize workers at manufacturing plants in the U.S. South, which has long resisted labor unions. (read article)

Detroit reaches key labor deal with police union amid bankruptcy

By Robert Snell and David Shepardson, July 8, 2014, The Detroit News

The city reached an agreement late Tuesday with a key police union that could speed the city’s exit from bankruptcy and shorten next month’s trial over Detroit’s debt-cutting plan. Though negotiations toward a five-year deal continue, the city and Detroit Police Officers Association reached a tentative agreement on wages, health care, retention payments and pensions. The agreement, reached after nine months of talks, was announced by a mediation team headed by Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen. Wage and other details were not released. A person briefed on the deal said the police union won a significant “catch-up” raise for members after police officers accepted significant wage cuts in recent years. The pay increase was the toughest issue during lengthy talks between the city and the union. It’s not clear when a final deal will be completed, with minor issues like work rules still to be worked out, before a deal can be submitted to police for ratification. “We’ve definitely come a long way from where we began but still have a long way to go,” union president Mark Diaz said. “It’s a huge leap toward coming to an agreement in very unconventional times.” (read article)

The Left’s Labor Blind Spots

By Alex Bolt, July 7, 2014, WorkplaceChoice.org

As you may have heard, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito handed public sector unions a minor defeat this Monday. In response to the 5-4 Harris v. Quinn decision, progressive law professor Laurence H. Tribe has bitterly chided the Roberts court: “Harris, despite its arguably narrow holding and apparent restraint, is…part of a dangerous trend of veiling deregulatory economics in constitutional law.” In even stronger language, far-left and union-funded San Francisco State University “labor and employment studies” professor John A. Logan writes, “…the Roberts Court weakened even further the already paltry rights of American workers. In Harris v. Quinn, the court’s conservative majority undermined the ability of home care workers to have an effective voice on their working conditions.” These claims are false and misleading given the background of the case: Writing the majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn, Alito argued that home care workers who do not wish to join a union cannot be required to pay “agency fees,” which are required from non-union members who benefit from union representation in their workplace so those workers aren’t benefiting from a union’s services for free. Alito argues that the reason they cannot be required to pay agency fees is because they are not full-fledged public employees. (read article)

Can a new brand of unions help America’s workers?

By Thomas A. Kochan, July 7, 2014, Fortune

As unions come under siege, emerging labor groups are testing new ways to rebuild workers’ bargaining power. Hardly a day goes by when American unions are not attacked from some quarter: Last week, the Supreme Court weakens unions representing home care workers, one of the lowest paid and fastest growing occupations. This follows another ruling struck earlier last month in which a California judge threw out teacher tenure, due process and seniority rules under the dubious theory they are the cause of persistent inequality in education outcomes. And in 2011, Wisconsin’s governor decimated public sector unions by taking away state and local government employee rights to collective bargaining, reversing a policy in place since 1959. It’s clear that for years most private sector employers have successfully fought union organizing and collective bargaining using every legal delaying tactic and in many cases illegally firing workers. Wal-Mart WMT -0.17% ,the nation’s largest private employer, is the most visible case in point. By deploying its union-fighting swat team from corporate headquarters to any store that shows signs of worker protest, it has remained 100 % “union-free.” The result: Now down to representing only 7% of private-sector workers, America’s unions and collective bargaining are no longer able to provide workers the power they need to redress workplace injustices or achieve a fair share of the economic growth they help generate. (read article)

Supreme Court positions unions for disaster

By Noah Feldman, July 6, 2014, Delaware Online

Labor unions lost a legal battle as the U.S. Supreme Court held, 5-4, that “partial” public employees can’t be required to contribute to unions to cover the cost of collective bargaining. The unions averted, for now, a far greater disaster: the possibility that the court would reverse its precedent and hold that no public employees at all can be made to contribute to unions’ collective-bargaining costs. That result could’ve broken many public unions. But the sword of Damocles still hangs over them. The background to the case is a landmark decision called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. When it was decided in 1977, Abood said public employees couldn’t be forced to join a union – that might interfere with their right to free association – but they could be forced to pay their fair share of union dues that pay for collective bargaining. Any portion of dues that would’ve gone to general political speech was deducted. This amounted to a compromise between unions, which wanted nonmembers to be forced to join or pay full dues, and anti-union activists, who wanted workers to be able to opt out completely. One of the Supreme Court’s explicit objectives was to create labor peace. (read article)

Government union membership climbs while private membership declines

Associated Press, July 05, 2014

Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past half-century. A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels. Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in the United States are unionized, down from a peak of 35 percent during the mid-1950s in the strong post-World War II recovery. The typical union worker now is more likely to be an educator, office worker or food or service industry employee rather than a construction worker, autoworker, electrician or mechanic. Far more women than men are among the union-label ranks. In a blow to public sector unions, the Supreme Court ruled this week that thousands of health care workers in Illinois who are paid by the state cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union’s cost of collective bargaining. (read article)

Steve Stockman Challenges Labor Unions On Immigration Reform

By Connor D. Wolf, July 3, 2014, Daily Caller

Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman is challenging organized labor’s alliance with President Obama on immigration reform. Labor unions renewed their push for comprehensive immigration reform this week, starting with a Monday meeting at the White House of Services Employees International Union (SEIU) leaders discussing the issue. In a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Stockman said, “The SEIU is one of the richest special interest groups in American politics. Obama is using illegal immigration as vehicle to pump cash into Democrat campaigns.” Stockman added, “These amnestied illegals will be steered into SEIU jobs, many of which are taxpayer-subsidized. The SEIU will then skim ‘union dues’ from those new paychecks and pump those new dollars into Democrat campaigns. Obama is essentially using amnestied illegal aliens to gorge Democrat campaign accounts with taxpayer dollars.” In a statement released by the SEIU, President Mary Kay Henry and International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina said, “President Obama has been compelled to act on addressing our immigration system because of a GOP House leadership which refuses to act on immigration reform.” (read article)

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