Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Union bills proliferate in California Capitol

By Dan Walters, July 21, 2015, Sacramento Bee

Only a sixth of California’s wage earners are members of labor unions, but they carry a very big stick in politics. Unions are the largest single source of legislative campaign funds, a recent Sacramento Bee compilation revealed, and among Democrats, their hegemony is even more pronounced. Not surprisingly, therefore, a Legislature dominated by labor-backed Democrats sees a large number of union-sponsored bills. This year is no exception, and when legislators return to Sacramento in August for the final month of their 2015 session, they will find dozens of union bills awaiting disposition. A small sample: Assembly Bill 219, by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, would redefine public works projects to include delivery of ready-mixed concrete by outside suppliers. Thus, it would require payment of “prevailing wages” – essentially union scale – to delivery truck drivers. (read article)

Teachable moment on union politics

Editorial, July 20, 2015, San Bernardino Press-Enterprise

A petition on Change.org urges the American Federation of Teachers to withdraw its recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. The online petition recently boasted more than 4,500 signatures; most by members of the teachers’ union who complain they had no say in the matter. AFT President Randi Weingarten said she was shocked, shocked by the blowback the union’s Clinton endorsement elicited from the rank and file. There was nothing undemocratic about the decision of AFT’s executive council, she argued. It simply was the culmination of a process that included multiple surveys, several telephone town halls and AFT’s “You Decide” website. Well, we might just be willing to give Ms. Weingarten the benefit of the doubt if she hadn’t a dog in the fight. But it’s no secret that she’s a longtime crony of Mrs. Clinton. Indeed, our friends at Politico reported that the president of the 1.6-million-member AFT has donated to the independent super PAC Ready for Clinton and is a board member for the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action. Ms. Weingarten also has given money to Mrs. Clinton’s previous political campaigns. And, on her watch, AFT has been a Clinton Foundation donor. (read article)

Immigrants Help Lead a New Silicon Valley Labor Movement

By Beth Willon, July 21, 2015, KQED San Francisco

Jesus Solorio’s stubbornness serves him well. Instead of winding up a victim of the surging income inequality in Silicon Valley, he has become a tireless labor activist, refusing to let go of the American Dream. “I like being a champion of raising the minimum wage,” said Solorio in Spanish. “I like being around other people, helping them so they can have better salaries and live a better life.” Solorio, 30, is a janitor at San Jose-based eBay. He left Mexico when he was a teenager and he’s now a single father, raising his 7-year-old daughter in a hard-scrabble neighborhood 13 miles from the sparkling eBay campus. (read article)

It’s Time To Rethink Our Labor Laws

By John C. Goodman, July 21, 2015, Forbes

Jeb Bush is a fan. Ditto for Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Hillary Clinton isn’t so sure. Martin O’Malley says it exposes the need to update our labor laws. Everyone is talking about Uber these days. The topic has even become part of the presidential election. Full disclosure: I’m also a fan. I travel a lot. When I am away from home I typically use Uber cars if they are available. When I do, I often ask the drivers how they like working with Uber. I have never had one complain. The most common comment from Uber drivers: they like the flexibility of the arrangement. They can work whenever they want to work. They can work as many hours as they want to work. If they need more income, they can work more. If they don’t, they are free to work less. What’s not to like? (read article)

Rules govern union access to farms for ‘heat sweeps’

By Bryan Little and Carl Borden, July 21, 2015, AgAlert for CA Agriculture

The United Farm Workers labor union has recently engaged in a flurry of activity. UFW public communications call these actions “heat sweeps during harvest,” meaning they may continue throughout the summer and fall. Key to this activity is taking access to California farms. How, you may wonder, can UFW gain access to farms? It can do so under a regulation adopted by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board promptly after its creation in 1975. The California Supreme Court upheld the access regulation in 1976. Under the regulation, UFW is allowed worksite access to farm employees by providing their employer with a copy of a Notice of Intent to Take Access, or an NA form, and then filing with the ALRB two copies of the NA, along with proof that the copy was provided to the employer. The access regulation was created on the premise that it would protect the organizational rights of employees and labor unions, but the regulation does not limit its application to situations where a union’s purpose is to try to organize employees or otherwise seek their support. Its operative language merely says, in effect, that a union may take access to “meet and talk with employees.” Indeed, the ALRB NA form does not require a union to declare any purpose for seeking access. (read article)

Bills would hike school-construction tab

By Steven Greenhut, July 20, 2015, San Diego Union-Tribune

Many far-reaching bills proposed in the state Capitol grab headline coverage, such as ones involving global-warming, physician-assisted suicide and immigration. It’s hard for Californians to miss those high-profile debates. But many significant legislative changes take place under the radar, with little public discussion or debate. One of those issues involves the construction of school facilities and other public-works projects. Through a variety of bills — most of which are still alive, and one which has made its way to the governor — the state’s construction unions are trying to prod local agencies to use what are known as project labor agreements, or PLAs. These are union-only agreements. If, say, a school district enters into one of them for the construction of a new high school, the bid-winning contractor must hire most of his or her labor in the union hiring hall, pay into the union health and retirement system (even if he already pays benefits for his workers), pay union dues and train workers in apprenticeship programs. Most studies suggest these agreements hike constructions costs by as much as 25 percent because they reduce the number of contractors — and especially lower-cost nonunion contractors — who bid for these projects. (read article)

Ironworkers union leader, 73, gets 19 years in prison

By Jeremy Roebuck, July 20, 2015, Philadelphia Inquirer

Joseph Dougherty, the one-time head of Philadelphia’s largest ironworkers union, was sentenced to 19 years and 2 months in federal prison Monday for overseeing a years-long campaign of sabotage and intimidation of nonunion contractors. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said he had considered the 73-year-old Dougherty’s advanced age but insisted he had to impose a sentence that matched the seriousness of the crimes committed by members of Dougherty’s union, Ironworker’s Local 401. “His leadership led to a lot of damage. It led to a lot of crimes and it continued the bad reputation Philadelphia has for tolerating union violence,” Baylson said. Dougherty declined to address the judge during his hearing. A number of supporters rallied outside the courthouse before Dougherty learned his fate. The sentence imposed, which also included an order that he pay more than a half-million dollars in restitution, was just more than four years over the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence the union leader aced in the case. Prosecutors had pushed for a sentence of just under 23 years. In all, 12 members of Ironworkers Local 401 were convicted of using sabotage, arson, threats and intimidation – including the 2012 torching of a Quaker Meetinghouse in Chesnut Hill – to coerce contractors into hiring union labor. (read article)

Cynical labor bill seeks to keep public in dark about negotiations

By Dan Borenstein, July 17, 2015, Contra Costa Times

Organized labor has lined up behind legislation purporting to promote government contract transparency. It’s a sham. The bill actually aims to keep the public in the dark about public-employee negotiations, ensuring taxpayers never learn the costs of collective bargaining agreements until they’re done deals. Deceptively labeled the “Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act,” SB 331, by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, would also penalize cities, counties and special districts that require responsible analysis of their salary and benefit expenses. “To punish local government for disclosing labor costs is an amazingly cynical statement on the role of the people in democracy,” said attorney Jon Holtzman, an employment law and labor relations expert who represents cities. “Does labor really believe the only way to address the dramatic increase in the cost of benefits is to hide them?” (read article)

Union fight shifts from campaign trail to high court

By Dan Morain, July 19, 2015, Bayou Buzz

For decades, organized labor, particularly the union that represents public school teachers, has been checking off boxes in California. Pass an initiative guaranteeing school funding? Yes. Kill an initiative to allow tax-funded vouchers for private schools? Easy. Crush ballot measures to bar public employee unions from using dues for political campaigns? Check, check and recheck. The union and its allies eviscerated that notion on three different ballots. Labor dominates politics in California, helping to elect this governor and other Democratic statewide officeholders and a majority of the legislators. But 2016 could be very different. (read article)

How workers are winning in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin

By Deroy Murdock, July 17, 2015, New York Post

Hillary Rodham Clinton shed her usual sunny demeanor on Monday and snarled at Republicans in general and one presidential candidate in particular. “Republican governors like Scott Walker have made their names stomping on workers’ rights, and practically all Republican candidates would do the same as president,” Clinton growled at Manhattan’s New School. “I will fight back against these mean-spirited, misguided attacks. Evidence shows that the decline of unions may be responsible for a third of the increase of inequality among men. So, if we want to get serious about raising income, we have to get serious about supporting union workers.” Later that day, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka snapped, “Scott Walker is a national disgrace.” Liberals like Clinton and Trumka have it all wrong. Workers have been waxing, not waning, under Walker. And they can thank his free-market reforms for improving their lives. If there’s one thing workers value, it’s work. And on this score, Wisconsin’s Republican governor has delivered. The Badger State’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 7.4 percent in January 2011 (the month of Walker’s inauguration) to 4.6 percent in May 2015 (the latest available figure). US joblessness dropped from 9.0 percent to 5.5 percent over that period. Wisconsin’s unemployment, thus, stands well below America’s. (read article)

Oakland’s largest city union asking members for strike authorization

By Mike Blasky, July 16, 2015, Contra Costa Times

The city’s largest municipal employees union is asking members to authorize a strike as contract negotiations drag on, but that doesn’t mean a work stoppage is imminent or even likely. Powerful union SEIU Local 1021, which represents about 2,500 full-time and part-time city workers, asked members to vote to authorize a strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. “We are calling for this vote now because the City has failed to bargain meaningfully over many issues,” a handout distributed to workers said. “We must be prepared to take action if the City refuses to bargain in good faith.” But that hasn’t happened — yet. City Hall sources said the package being offered to workers is generous, and doubts the unions would actually strike after members analyze the city’s offer. And even union sources downplayed the likelihood of a strike. The two sides continued to bargain — on Wednesday negotiators were holed up at the Oakland Marriott after working until midnight on Tuesday — and were set to continue talks next week. A strike authorization is a useful bargaining chip to put pressure on the city’s administration, and it allows the union the flexibility to act quickly if talks stall. (read article)

Labor Department Joins War Against The Sharing Economy

By Connor D. Wolf, June 16, 2015, Daily Caller

The U.S. Department of Labor joined opponents of the “sharing economy” Wednesday in condemning the new use of contracting as a way to avoid paying employee benefits. “Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is found in an increasing number of workplaces,” the agency claimed in a report. “When employers improperly classify employees as independent contractors, the employees may not receive important workplace protections.” Advances in digital technologies have allowed companies like Lyft, Uber, FedEx and Airbnb to use contracting in unique ways. Known as the sharing economy, companies make digital platforms in which individuals can create their own business ventures. Opponents, however, argue these individuals should be classified as employees of the company instead of contractors. (read article)

Unions seethe over early Clinton endorsement

By Annie Karni, July 16, 2015, Politico

There was never any question that the powerful American Federation of Teachers — a union representing 1.6 million educators across the country — would endorse Hillary Clinton for president. But on Saturday, when the AFT became the first international labor union to make an endorsement in the contest by announcing its support of Clinton, it drew sharp criticism from teachers as well as other labor leaders, who questioned the timing amid Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ surge in popularity. Labor leaders said there was a clear understanding that before July 30 — when all of the Democratic candidates have an hourlong interview at AFL-CIO headquarters and could be grilled on their positions on controversial issues like trade — no national unions (the AFT is one of the 56 national and international unions that make up the AFL-CIO) would make an endorsement. In 2007, the AFT didn’t endorse Clinton until October. “A request was made, and there was an expectation that people were going to at least allow the AFL-CIO process to proceed,” said one labor operative. “When the AFL-CIO was asking people not to make endorsements, why did they feel the need to do it in such a hurried fashion?” Other labor leaders described the move as “an insult” to endorse now, when so many labor leaders harbor lingering concerns over trade and plan to press their issues in two weeks. (read article)

Hillary Clinton Faces Unrest Among Organized Labor

By Sam Frizell, July 16, 2015, Time

Hillary Clinton had good reason to celebrate Saturday. The American Federation of Teachers, a 1.6-million strong union of teachers, nurses and higher education faculty endorsed her, adding a key working-class voice to a campaign that has so far lacked much overt support from organized labor. “I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American,” Clinton said in response. “Their voices and the voices of all workers are essential to this country.” But almost immediately, there was a backlash among teachers in far-flung locals across the states. The AFT’s Facebook page lit up with angry comments from those who favored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders instead. Teachers took to Twitter to condemn the endorsement and at least two petitions were circulated online in opposition. Widely read teachers’ blogs published screeds against the decision, calling it rigged in favor of Clinton, a longtime friend of AFT president Randi Weingarten. (read article)

Labor unions employing politics of envy

By Scott Reeder, July 16, 2015, Journal-Standard

Occasionally, when I was growing up, my brother and I were allowed to split a bottle of pop. I’d pour the soda into identical glasses while peering intently at each glass to make sure that they were exactly at the same level. I couldn’t bear the thought that my brother, Danny, might get an ounce more than me. It was silly, childish behavior.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of adults behaving that way too. At age, 24, I took a job at another newspaper. No sooner had I sat down at my desk on my first day on the job when another reporter sidled up to me and wanted to know how much an hour I was earning. It wasn’t much, so I told him. He huffed and puffed and stormed into the editor’s office. It turns out I was making $60 more per week than he was. Later, I was chewed out by the city editor for stirring up trouble. It wasn’t exactly an auspicious way to start a new job. In the workplace, the only paycheck I’ve ever concerned myself with is the one with my name on it. If you are happy with what you’re paid, why worry whether someone else is earning more? And if you are unhappy with your pay, ask your boss what you can do to better your situation. If satisfaction isn’t reached, it’s time for you to look elsewhere. (read article)

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