Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Teachers union talking strategy for combatting teacher jail

By Vanessa Romo, August 19, 2014, LA School Report

While officials from the teachers union, UTLA, are contemplating salary demands in a new labor contract with the district, they have not lost sight of another key issue, how to deal with teachers housed in what union officials derisively call “teacher jails.” The union’s Committee for Unjustly Housed Teachers was meeting today, for the first time this school year, in a strategy session to determine how to tackle what they view as the district’s abusive use of the “teacher jails.” “We need to develop a plan for getting the district to follow the policies that they have in place for housed teachers,” committee point chair, Colleen Schwab told LA School Report before the meeting. “That’s our goal, at the minimum. To get them to do what they said they would.” Schwab, who’s co-lead of the committee since its inception a year ago, stressed that the teachers union has no intention of calling for the complete elimination jails. “Obviously, we need a place for teachers who could harm students while the district conducts its investigations,” she said. “But there has to be a better solution than what is happening right now.” (read article)

SEIU Begs Workers to Keep Paying Up

By Bill McMorris, August 19, 2014, Washington Free Beacon

A powerful Washington State union has abandoned defending a forced dues scheme and shifted its tactics to appealing to home health workers to remain in the union. A state policy has allowed SEIU Local 775 to automatically deduct dues payments from home health workers for years. However, that practice stands on shaky legal ground after the Supreme Court declared a similar policy in Illinois unconstitutional. Local 775 is taking a proactive approach to retaining its unwilling dues payers voluntarily: The union sent a letter to home health providers, many of whom are caring for disabled loved ones, petitioning them to continue to pay union dues. The letter, which was obtained by the Freedom Foundation, a state think-tank, highlights the benefits the union has obtained for providers. “Add your name to the thousands of caregivers who are standing with our bargaining team for better care for our clients, and for the professional respect, wages, and benefits we deserve,” 775 President David Rolf says in the letter. The union is hoping to avoid seeing its membership rolls fall as a result of the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision, which found Illinois had violated the rights of home healthcare workers by forcing them to pay union dues. (read article)

How ‘fat cats’ and Philly labor spats figure in DNC’s convention choice

By Thomas Fitzgerald, August 18, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer

The Democrats left, and the Carpenters union came back. With an inflated “fat cat” figure, a sound system, banners, and signs, about 50 carpenters protested outside the Convention Center on Friday afternoon, pressing the state authority that runs the venue to let them back in. The scene served as a noisy reminder of lingering labor issues in the city less than 24 hours after the team scouting Philadelphia for the 2016 Democratic National Convention had finished its two-day tour. This union-friendly city is one of five finalists to host the event, and organizers want assurances there will be no labor conflicts during the convention to avoid any disruptions or embarrassing images for the Democratic Party, historically tied to organized labor. (read article)

Union affiliation could help SF taxi industry – but possibly only in Sacramento

By Chris Roberts, August 18, 2014, San Francisco Examiner

In labor-friendly San Francisco, taking an Uber ride home is now an anti-worker affront. The City’s taxi industry still faces an uphill climb against mobile app-hailed ride services like Uber and Lyft, which are taking business and drivers away from the traditional taxi industry. But by taking the first steps to affiliate themselves with organized labor, San Francisco taxi drivers should be able to enjoy increased political clout in City Hall and in Sacramento, where taxi-friendly legislation could emerge next year, according to labor analysts. And if it ever came down to standing arm-in-arm at the picket line, taxi drivers should be able to count on a few thousand friends from other labor organizations, union officials told The San Francisco Examiner on Friday. Traditional labor unions are groups of employees who band together in order to bargain collectively for a better contract or improved working conditions. That will not work with cabdrivers – for one, they’re not employees but rather independent contractors who affiliate themselves with a particular cab company. What this means is that state and federal labor laws over sick days and work hours will not apply, said John Logan, a professor of labor relations at San Francisco State University. And the traditional woes of a cabdriver – long hours, no health benefits or sick days, and no pension – may not be alleviated anytime soon. (read article)

Power plant regs spur new union rebellion for Obama administration

August 18, 2014, FoxNews

The Obama administration is facing another union rebellion over its environmental policies, this time over the EPA’s proposed rules for limiting power plant emissions. Labor unions for years have hounded the Obama White House over allegations that officials are dragging their feet in making a final decision on the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline. But labor organizations are now piping up regarding an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The rules are intended to curb global warming. Last week, Edwin Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), penned an op-ed claiming the plan would “have a dramatic impact on the American economy but only a minimal effect on global carbon emissions.” Hill claimed the EPA plan is a “classic example of federal tunnel vision—focusing on a single goal with little heed for the costs and dangers.” He predicted the plan would kill roughly “52,000 permanent direct jobs in utilities, mining and rail and at least another 100,000 jobs in related industries” – losses that would fall particularly hard on rural communities. (read article)

Fear of Rauner has unions backing Quinn for Governor of Illinois

By Kurt Erickson Lee, August 18, 2014, Northwest Illinois Times

Republican Bruce Rauner is a powerful man. Even though he is a new figure on the scene to many Illinoisans, the wealthy businessman already has proven he has the juice to make the political winds shift drastically. Let’s review: Two years ago, Gov. Pat Quinn was getting booed everywhere he walked on the state fairgrounds. The source of the negativity was the state’s largest employee union. Members vented their anger at the governor for a litany of transgressions. Quinn wanted major concessions in contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. He also hadn’t paid wage increases owed to thousands of workers, was trying to close state facilities and was pushing for significant cuts to state employee retirement benefits. But was he booed when he strolled around the state fairgrounds during Governor’s Day last week? Far from it. The fear of Rauner triggered an about face by the union folks. The emcee at a picnic hosted by the governor, for example, was none other than Mike Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. (read article)

Company accuses labor union of forging signatures for political gain

By Adam Tobias, August 18, 2014, Watchdog.org

A home health-care company contracted with the Milwaukee County Department of Family Care is accusing a local labor union of forging workers’ signatures to collect more money for political activity. Art Beck, a Milwaukee attorney representing Sally Sprenger, owner of Supportive Homecare Options Inc., told Wisconsin Reporter two employees have come forward since April alleging they were signed up to make contributions without their authority. The contributions were for the Committee on Political Education through the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin. After reviewing their forms for voluntary COPE deductions, which help fund union causes for political gain, the workers discovered their signatures were fraudulent, Beck said. “It’s like a foreign document to them,” Beck said of the COPE application sheet. “They never saw it (before).” SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin in May agreed to conduct an internal investigation after Supportive Homecare Options contacted the union about the complaints. (read article)

NYC teachers, police unions in all-out war

By Michael Gartland, August 17, 2014, New York Post

In an open letter to The Post, the spitting-mad boss of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association ripped his teachers-union counterpart Saturday for the “disgraceful” decision to co-sponsor the Rev. Al Sharpton’s anti-police rally next week. PBA President Pat Lynch fired both barrels at United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, saying, “It is absolutely ridiculous that would waste his members’ dues to get involved with a march that has nothing to do with teachers or his union. “Mulgrew knows that the UFT is under siege from all sides, and this is purely an attempt to distract attention from that mounting criticism,” Lynch wrote, referring to the union’s chronic battles over teacher tenure and charter schools as well as the “substandard” contract Mulgrew recently negotiated for his membership. “How would he like it if police officers lined up with the activists who oppose his efforts to shield bad teachers and undermine effective charter schools?” Lynch fumed. CTU wants Rahm out, but trade unions back him. (read article)

Chicago: CTU Wants Rahm Out, Trade Unions Back Him

By Natasha Korecki, August 15, 2014, Chicago Sun Times

There’s no question where the Chicago Teachers Union as well as a coalition of community groups stand when it comes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They’re out for his head after he closed 50 schools, mostly in poor and minority communities. But so far in Emanuel’s re-election efforts, organized labor is showing it isn’t rigid in its support — or opposition — to the mayor. Money tells some of the story. Union groups have donated more than $1 million to Emanuel since last year, a review of donations shows. That includes contributions from SEIU Local 73, the Teamsters, plumbers and substantial backing from both the International Union of Operating Engineers and the IBEW, the electrical workers union that represents 14,000 members, including some 700 city electricians. It isn’t unusual for trade unions to back an incumbent — the current administration is doling out work, after all. (read article)

Idaho teachers have a non-union choice

By Cindy Omlin, August 15, 2014, Coeur d’Alene Press

Back to school season is upon us. This celebrated time of year provides students and teachers with a welcome fresh start. It’s also the perfect time for Idaho’s hardworking teachers to consider whether union membership is right for them. For generations, educators have joined teachers’ unions with the trust that their money will help advance their profession. Unfortunately, the nation’s largest teacher union, the National Education Association – known in Idaho as the Idaho Education Association – has morphed from a respected education association to behemoth political special interest group. In recent years, educators nationwide have grown increasingly frustrated by the high dues, partisan political spending and adversarial tactics of their labor unions. In 2013 alone, more than 60,000 teachers left the NEA. This mass exodus has not only gained national headlines but has left teachers questioning the value of pricey union membership – which can run as high as $700 a year right here in Idaho. What we take for granted in Idaho is that there are millions of teachers who live in states or districts where they are required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. And while there are thousands of teachers here at home who freely exercise their right to opt out of union membership, union-created roadblocks and state laws that favor union chiefs over teachers leave many educators unaware that they have options. Often, they are beholden to arbitrary “drop” periods surreptitiously extending their union membership, or are fooled to believe there are no other organizations that can meet their needs as educators. (IEA requires resignation in writing by Oct. 15.) Depending on the school district, teachers are constantly subject to policies that keep them from making informed decisions. Misinformation and convoluted opt-out requirements may keep union dues flowing, but they’re anti-teacher choice. (read article)

Multiple Unions in One Macy’s? It Could Happen, Thanks to Big Labor

By Fred Wszolek, August 14, 2014, The Blaze

Big Labor could be coming soon to a department store near you. Thanks to a recent ruling by President Barack Obama’s union-friendly National Labor Relations Board, labor bosses will be able to organize small groups of employees within a single workplace into “micro-unions” – smaller collective bargaining units made up only of workers from a certain department, shift or other sub-unit of the business. This fractured approach to unionization will only make things difficult for workers, employers and customers, but it will make life easier for the union bosses themselves. And it would appear that’s exactly what the Obama NLRB had in mind. The board voted 3-1 in favor of allowing 41 fragrance and cosmetics workers at a Macy’s store in Saugus, Massachusetts to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. As might be expected, the members voted totally along partisan lines. By voting based on political calculations, rather than in the best interest of American workers, the board has given Big Labor a hand-up toward establishing footholds in more and more workplaces. (read article)

Utahn to lead America’s largest labor union

August 13, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune

Utahn to lead America’s largest union. A former school lunch lady from Utah will soon head the nation’s largest labor union, and she’s taking an aggressive tone toward the Obama administration even though she worked hard to get President Barack Obama re-elected. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who taught elementary school in Utah for a decade before and during her rise in the National Education Association, will take over the 3-million-strong union in September and is already fighting back with blunt talk such as revolting against “stupid” education reforms. Garcia also notes in a Washington Post profile that she and her new husband wrote a children’s book about social justice heroes. “I wrote it at a seventh-grade level, so members of Congress could understand it,” García quipped. (read article)

National Employee Freedom Week Highlights Union Members’ Right To Opt Out

By Rick Berman, August 13, 2014, Daily Caller

July was a good month for big labor unions – which means it was a bad month for the rest of us. The union-friendly National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed the Service Employee International Union a major victory that (if upheld) eases the union’s efforts to organize McDonald’s and other fast food chains like it. Despite a series of legal and political blows, this recent NLRB decision shows that organized labor is not yet down for the count. And it’s why this year’s National Employee Freedom Week – running from August 10th to 16th – couldn’t come at a more important time. Labor unions’ three-decade decline in membership is well-documented. It has presented the labor unions with a crisis: Employees just aren’t that into them. New polling suggests that it’s not only potential recruits who are jaded: card-carrying union members aren’t happy, either. A new survey released in conjunction with National Employee Freedom Week found that nearly 30 percent of self-reported union members would quit their union if they could. That’s bad news for labor officials and the politicians they support: Without employees to extract dues money from, there’s no pot of political cash to keep people in office who preserve unions’ power. (read article)

Labor and small businesses team up on California franchising law

By Ned Resnikoff, August 12, 2014, MSNBC

On Thursday, the California State Assembly is expected to consider a law that could dramatically alter the shape of fast food and other franchised industries in the state. Senate Bill 610 (SB 610), which has already been approved by the State Senate, would make it harder for franchisor companies such as the McDonald’s Corporation to end licensing agreements with franchisees. The proposed law has polarized the business community, and become a flashpoint in organized labor’s efforts to transform the franchising business model. The question before the Assembly is whether current state law is sufficient to protect franchisees from the arbitrary whims of major franchisers. If made law, SB 610 would prevent a franchisor from severing licensing agreements with their franchisees unless they can demonstrate that a “substantial and material breach … of a lawful requirement” of the agreement has taken place. The bill also says licensing agreements cannot obstruct the right of franchisees to participate in franchisee associations, or prevent them from selling their franchises, although the franchisor must still give consent for a sale to take place. The labor union SEIU – a major financial backer of the nationwide fast food strikes – has thrown its support behind the proposed law, launching the website FranchiseFairness.org and funding pro-SB 610 radio ads. Although union representatives have been reluctant to hold on-the-record discussions regarding the strategy behind their support for the bill, the theory appears to be that protecting franchisors against the threat of closure will make it easier for them to do things like raise workers’ wages. (read article)

Market Basket a rare case in labor world

By Deirdre Fernandes, August 12, 2014, Boston Globe

Market Basket workers don’t have a union. But they achieved in three weeks what few unions have accomplished in recent years: They stood up to their multibillion-dollar employer, won local and national sympathy for their struggle, and stayed united. In one of the highest-profile worker movements in years — and in one of the most union-friendly states in the country — organized labor is on the sidelines. The job actions at Market Basket demonstrate the power and voice that employees can have when they unite for a cause, but the high-profile drama is a highly unusual case in labor relations, specialists said. It may be difficult, they add, to draw many conclusions for other workers across the country who are struggling for better wages, working conditions, and benefits. “It’s a very, very special case,” said Ron Seeber, a Cornell University professor of industrial and labor relations. “It’s hard to imagine this happening in many other settings.” Analysts also note Market Basket employees have not achieved their central demand: the restoration of their ousted boss, Arthur T. Demoulas, as president of the company. (read article)

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