Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Chris Christie to teachers union: You deserve a punch in the face

By Lyndsey Layton, August 3, 2015, Washington Post

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, struggling to gain traction in a crowded 2016 GOP presidential field, said Sunday that a national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face” and called it the “single most destructive force in public education.” Christie said the union cares only about higher wages and benefits and not about children. Christie, who has long made teachers unions a favorite foil, made the comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” in response to host Jake Tapper, who noted that Christie has said that he confronts bullies by punching them in the face. “At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Tapper asked. Without missing a beat, Christie said: “Oh the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.” (read article)

Scott Walker’s Populist Appeal Shines at New Hampshire Forum

By Matthew Boyle, August 3, 2015, Breitbart

Scott Walker’s biggest selling point as a presidential candidate has been his blue-collar populist appeal, and it’s something that clearly shined through on the stage at a forum of GOP presidential candidates in Manchester, New Hampshire, at Saint Anselm College on Monday night. After Walker and moderator Jack Heath discussed how Walker’s state budget in Wisconsin went from starting, when he took office away from Democratic control, in a deficit of $3.6 billion to now having a surplus that he’s used to cut taxes and grow his state’s economy, Walker and Heath discussed Walker’s battle against special interest labor unions. “You’ve nationally been known as someone who took on the unions,” Heath asked Walker. “Are you anti-union or anti-worker?” “No,” Walker responded plainly. “I’m pro-worker and pro-taxpayer. We gave workers the freedom to choose. We made Wisconsin a right-to-work state. We gave workers the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a labor union or not. Many chose to keep that money that they used to use to pay for union dues to pay for their kids’ college education or other things they have for their family. We’re pro-taxpayer. Before, all the power was concentrated in Wisconsin in the hands of the elite union bosses, we instead redistributed that back to the hardworking taxpayers and the people they duly elect. So, for example, in our schools, we no longer have seniority or tenure, we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and brightest in our classrooms.” (read article)

Why Unions Aren’t Uniting Behind Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders

By Josh Eidelson, August 3, 2015, Bloomberg

In the failed fight to stop fast track, organized labor spoke—largely—with one voice. The main U.S. union federation, the AFL-CIO, announced a temporary freeze on PAC contributions, and its affiliate unions mostly complied. Unions across the industry spectrum warned Democrats against siding with Obama on trade. Some big unions were quieter than others, but none defected to shield the president. “It was a unifying moment,” says Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The same can’t be said for labor’s presidential endorsement process. “Some want to wait, some want to move,” International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Tom Buffenbarger told Bloomberg last month. “Some are just so pissed off that they just don’t want to do anything.” This week, Democratic 2016 hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb will court organized labor at the Iowa AFL-CIO’s annual confab. (read article)

Kentucky’s Latest Right-To-Work Experiment Has Unions Lawyered Up And Ready To Fight

By Connor D. Wolf, August 3, 2015, Daily Caller

Labor unions will appear in court Tuesday to fight a new movement in Kentucky: right-to-work laws adopted at the county level. It all started back in December, when Warren County voted to adopt a right-to-work ordinance, making it the first county-level mandate in the country. The policy, which outlaws union dues as a condition of employment, has traditionally been employed as a purely state or federal level. After Warren passed its own version of the law, several more counties, including Fulton, Hardin, Simpson and Todd, did as well. The group ProtectMyPayCheck has been leading much of the effort. The lawsuit, though focused on Hardin, ultimately seeks to set a precedent which dismantles the ordinances in any and all other counties. (read article)

UC student-worker union denounces police unions

By Kayla Kettmann, August 2, 2015, Daily Californian

A UC student-worker union implored the AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions, to break ties with police unions in a letter sent last week. In the resolution, United Auto Workers Local 2865 asserts that the police force inherently exists to “uphold the status quo” and that there can be no solidarity between it and the working class when “elites call upon police and their organizations” to subdue labor movements. The resolution draws attention to instances — such as the Haymarket affair and the Ludlow Massacre — when law enforcement played an integral role in quelling the demonstrations of labor movements. “Police are there to break up picket lines,” said David McCleary, head steward at UC Berkeley and executive board trustee of UAW Local 2865. “That’s their role.” (read article)

Closing a union-violence loophole

By Mark Mix, August 2, 2015, Washington Times

On July 20, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson sentenced Joseph Dougherty, the former boss of Philadelphia-based Local 401 of the Ironworkers union, to 19 years in prison for “overseeing a years-long campaign of sabotage, arson, and intimidation,” as Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Jeremy Roebuck put it. Mr. Dougherty’s targets were nonunion construction employees and employers. Prior to Mr. Dougherty’s trial and conviction early this year, 11 of his paid subordinates and militant followers pled guilty to assault, arson and vandalism aimed at forcing independent employees and firms into line. At trial, the jury listened to testimony from several of Mr. Dougherty’s former lieutenants, as well as multiple wiretapped phone calls, including one in which Dougherty asserted that “ou should be able to do whatever you want” to people who dare to operate union-free “and it should be legal.” In pronouncing the former Local 401 “business manager’s” sentence, Judge Baylson likened him to Lady Macbeth for relying on a team of henchmen to do his dirty work. Mr. Dougherty’s reign “led to a lot of damage,” declared the judge. “It led to a lot of crimes. It continued the bad reputation Philadelphia has for tolerating union violence.” (read article)

The Choice Union Members Don’t Know They Have: Why Employee Freedom Scares Union Bosses

By Victor Joecks, August 1, 2015, Nevada Business

Have you ever bought a new washer and dryer only to discover that the store down the street sold the same set for $750 less? It’s a frustrating experience to find out that you had better options than the ones you knew about. This is the situation that tens of thousands of Nevada union members unknowingly find themselves in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 169,000 union members in Nevada in 2014. As a right-to-work state, where union membership is optional and not required as a condition of employment, every employee covered by a union contract in Nevada has the option to join or not join a union. The BLS estimates that 23,000 employees in Nevada are covered by a union contract but are not members of the union. That estimate seems low, since public records requests made by the Nevada Policy Research Institute show there are over 16,000 school district employees who aren’t union members. For the moment, though, let’s assume it’s accurate. (read article)

Silicon Valley Tech Bus Drivers to Vote on Union Contract Saturday

By Beth Willon, July 31, 2015, KQED San Francisco

By a 75 to 0 vote on Saturday, the shuttle bus drivers for Apple, eBay, Yahoo and Zynga approved the contract proposal improving wages and benefits. A new labor movement in Silicon Valley continues to roll. On Saturday, close to 200 bus drivers who shuttle tech workers to and from work for Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Zynga and others will vote on their first union contract to improve wages and benefits. The drivers joined the Teamsters in February and the union has been negotiating with their employer, Compass Transportation, which has bus yards in San Jose and South San Francisco. Doug Bloch, political director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, wouldn’t disclose details of the wage and benefit package, but said terms were similar to a contract reached with Loop Transportation and 87 Facebook drivers in February. Those terms included pay increases to $21-$25 an hour and rising to $22.50-$28.50 an hour in three years. On average, drivers now make $18 an hour. The terms also included shift differential pay and a six-hour minimum for drivers who don’t want to work split shifts. (read article)

Labor union bosses stand up for Planned Parenthood

By Jason Hart, July 31, 2015, Watchdog.org

Americans are divided on taxpayer funding of abortion, but union bosses remain staunch supporters. With a Planned Parenthood scandal in the news, two of the nation’s most powerful labor union leaders have stuck their necks out to defend the network of abortion clinics. This is no surprise where Service Employees International Union is concerned — SEIU executive vice president Kirk Adams is married to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Adams’s boss, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, expressed her support for Planned Parenthood and bashed Planned Parenthood’s “extremist” critics Tuesday. Shortly after Henry lashed out on Twitter, she tore into Planned Parenthood’s enemies in an official SEIU statement. “Efforts in Congress to de-fund Planned Parenthood by anti-women, anti-choice extremists must be stopped,” Henry said, decrying calls to end taxpayer funding as “vicious attacks on Planned Parenthood.” (read article)

Lifeguard union flap hurting members, city

By Chris Cate, July 31, 2015, San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego lifeguard union’s recent tantrum over a corporate sponsorship with Tommy Bahama is the latest example of organized labor leadership not having the best interests of its members at heart. The agreement with Tommy Bahama was a great deal, and a perfect example of a public-private partnership. The City of San Diego would generate revenue that could be used for neighborhood services while lifeguards would receive hundreds of dollars of apparel that could be used in lieu of uniform costs. Additionally, Tommy Bahama planned a public service marketing campaign that would highlight San Diego lifeguards and the City of San Diego to millions of Americans nationwide. Sadly, all of this came to an abrupt end when union leaders spoke out in opposition of this deal criticizing the city for misguided priorities, expressing concerns over the Tommy Bahama equipment, and a general lack of interest in the Tommy Bahama brand. (read article)

LA union wants to be exempt from $15 minimum wage

By Heesun Wee, July 30, 2015, CNBC Los Angeles

As cities and states move independently to raise mandated pay for workers, the role of unions has emerged in the national fight for $15 an hour. In May, the Los Angeles City Council voted to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. As the council reconvenes this week after a summer recess, the group is expected to take action on a union-backed clause in the wage bill that would exempt unionized workers. Union officials argue the exception would allow them to negotiate better overall contracts, while some critics say the exemption would create an uneven playing field for mandated wages. “The argument for a union exemption for minimum wage is that workers represented by unions have the ability to bargain for a combination of wages, benefits and working conditions that works best for them,” says Chris Tilly, an urban planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. (read article)

Hillary Clinton’s multi-step strategy to woo labor

By Brian Mahoney and Gabriel Debenedetti, July 30, 2015, Politico

It’s no secret to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that it won’t win the backing of the country’s most powerful labor organization quite yet. Instead, the Democratic front-runner’s machine is turning its attention to individual leaders one by one, looking to methodically win over unions as she faces off against an insurgent Bernie Sanders — a longtime union ally whose fiery rallies have riled up rank-and-file labor members across the country. Clinton spent about an hour with the AFL-CIO’s executive council on Thursday, with the ultimate goal of securing the formal endorsement of the federation of 57 labor unions and the political organization and millions of dollars in campaign money that would come with it. But while Sanders shows staying power in the early-voting states, the organized labor movement sees an opportunity to gain leverage over the party’s likely nominee, whose labor bona fides are still a topic of debate among some activists. As a result, Democrats associated with multiple campaigns don’t see the AFL-CIO taking the rare step of backing a candidate in the Democratic primary anytime soon, even if they expect it to eventually back Clinton and to keep urging local groups to stop backing Sanders. (read article)

Harley an awkward ride for ‘union-busting’ Republican Walker

By Emily Flitter, July 30, 2015, Reuters

For Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, there’s something awkward about the Harley-Davidson motorcycles that he has been posing on at presidential campaign stops: each one bears a sticker on its frame that reads “Union made in the USA.” Walker has made the iconic American brand a centerpiece of his campaign kick-off tour this month, visiting four dealerships and sometimes showing off his own 2003 Harley Road King as he seeks to harness its appeal to older white male voters. But there is another side to Harley that the Republican candidate has been less vocal about – it is a leading example of a successful company that has a strong relationship with labor unions. Walker, by contrast, has made his union-busting credentials the foundation of his White House bid, touting it as the prime example of his leadership success and as evidence of how he can defeat powerful vested interests and even foreign enemies. It’s not clear how he can reconcile his love of the powerful, deep-rumbling bikes known as “hogs” with the strong union loyalties of those who build them. (read article)

Time for Supreme Court to end compulsory union dues?

By Erik Telford, July 29, 2015, San Diego Union-Tribune

With just over six percent of private-sector workers unionized – down from a historic high of almost 40 percent in the 1950s – these are dark days for organized labor, and thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a mortal blow is within sight. Labor unions’ last stronghold lies with unions for public-sector workers, which maintain a solid 36 percent membership rate. But if the court decides against the California Teachers Association, which I hope it will, public-sector unions could see their ranks tumble – and with no hard feelings on the part of workers. The case hinges on the principle of right-to-work, which is not particularly complex and needn’t be as polarizing as some of the court’s recent decisions. At stake is the question of whether workers should be forced to pay fees to a union to represent their alleged interests. Right-to-work simply says this: “If you like your union, you can keep it, but if you don’t, you don’t have to have any part in it.” The court’s decision to hear the case shouldn’t come as a surprise given how often the issue has become a brutal battleground in many states. (read article)

Michigan Supreme Court upholds right-to-work for state workers

By Paul Egan, July 29, 2015, Detroit Free Press

The Michigan Supreme Court, in an opinion that has the effect of making state employees subject to Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work law, ruled Wednesday that Michigan’s Civil Service Commission never had the authority to impose union fees on state workers, even before the controversial law was passed. The 4-3 ruling is a blow to the United Auto Workers and other unions representing about 36,000 state employees, who argued only the bipartisan Civil Service Commission — not the Legislature — can set the conditions of employment for civil servants. In another setback for state employee unions, the court also upheld Wednesday a 2011 law requiring employees in the state’s defined benefit pension plan to either contribute 4% of their pay toward retirement costs or move to a 401(k)style plan, in which future retirement benefits are not defined. That ruling overturned a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals. (read article)

Illinois, public labor union extend no-strike agreement

By Karen Pierog, July 29, 2015, Reuters

The state of Illinois and its biggest labor union on Wednesday extended for two-months an agreement preventing strikes or lockouts while contract negotiations continue. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner also vetoed a bill sought by public employee labor unions that would send collective bargaining disputes to binding arbitration. The current one-month agreement between Illinois and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 ends on Friday, while the union’s contract with the state expired on June 30. The extension, until Sept. 30, eases another pressure point on Illinois, where Rauner and Democrats who control the legislature have been unable to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. “This temporary extension underscores our union’s commitment to reaching a fair agreement with no disruption to state services, and gives us the ability to keep working toward an agreement in the weeks to come,” AFSCME said in a statement. But the union, which represents 38,000 state workers, said it continues to rebuff the governor’s “extreme demands that would undermine public services, strip the rights of public service workers, reduce access to healthcare and make it impossible to keep pace with the rising cost of living.” (read article)

Environmentalists, union members protest Pacific trade pact being negotiated at Maui resort

Associated Press, July 29, 2015, Fox Business

Opponents of a Pacific Rim trade deal being negotiated at a resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui are demonstrating against the proposed pact. A couple of dozen protesters gathered Wednesday at Kaanapali (Kah-AH-nah-pah-lee) Beach fronting the Westin Maui hotel in Lahaina. They include members of locally based labor unions and environmental groups. A statement from protest organizers says the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would benefit a few major corporations while sacrificing protections for public health, the environment, local jobs and indigenous rights. Ministers from 12 countries negotiating the deal are meeting at the resort this week. The agreement would lower tariffs and other trade barriers while setting labor and environmental standards for its participants. Nations negotiating the deal include the United States, Australia, Japan and Mexico. (read article)

Police Officer Gets Fired For Not Wanting To Pay Someone Else’s Union

By Connor D. Wolf, July 28, 2015, Daily Caller

According to a lawsuit announced Tuesday, officer Darrell Koza was fired after he reported part-time Rhode Island police officers were being forced to pay a union they didn’t even belong to. The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court against officials in the town of Westerly and Local 503 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. While several of the officers claimed to have been harassed, Koza was actually fired after reporting the issue to the town. “They had negotiated into their contract, somehow, that they would be taking dues from us,” Koza told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We were never notified this would take place.” It is not uncommon for workers to be forced to pay into a union. If a majority within a workplace agrees to union representation, all employees have to pay dues. The part-time police officers, however, were forced to pay 13 percent of their paycheck to Local 503 despite not even belonging to the union. The only labor agreement in place applied and was voted on by full-time police officers. (read article)

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!