Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Democratic rivals battle for labor, Latino support in Las Vegas

By Amanda Sakuma, October 13, 2015, MSNBC

When the five top Democratic presidential candidates take the debate stage in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, it will be before a unique crowd that combines two of the party’s most powerful blocs: organized labor with a Latin twist. Sin City has been a rare bright spot for the labor movement, which has been on the decline nationally for decades. Growing ranks of immigrant workers have allowed unions to thrive in Nevada, a crucial early swing state for Democrats as they look to secure support from the state’s unique pro-immigrant, pro-labor base. Leading candidate Hillary Clinton tried to sew up that last-minute home crowd support Monday night by taking a jab at Donald Trump at a union drive outside the Republican front-runner’s Las Vegas hotel. “Some people think Mr. Trump is entertaining. But I don’t think it’s entertaining when somebody insults immigrants, insults women. That is just unacceptable behavior,” Clinton said at the rally. (read article)

Teacher Unions Fight to Keep Their Clout in Right-to-Work States

By Kevin Mooney, October 13, 2015, The Daily Signal

Proposals to stop state and local governments from deducting union dues from their employees’ paychecks are likely to gain traction in coming months, those on both sides of the issue say. Such “payroll protection” measures arise as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide next year on a free speech challenge to rules compelling government workers to pay union dues in the first place. Right now, elected officials allow governments to operate as bill collectors for their union benefactors—even in right-to-work states where union membership isn’t a condition of employment and “agency shop” arrangements don’t apply. In interviews with The Daily Signal, labor policy analysts, business representatives, and free market proponents said they see the unions operating at an unfair advantage over political opponents. (read article)

Supreme Court justices at work, bashing unions

By Raymond Hogler, October 13, 2015, The Hill

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is pursuing a vendetta against organized labor. As the point man for all things anti-union in the court’s jurisprudence, Alito next will target teachers’ unions in California. If he can persuade Justice Antonin Scalia to join the cabal along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, he can play the constitutional trump card against compulsory union dues in the public sector. Alito galloped down this road in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 and Harris v. Quinn. His strategy in those cases was to charge headlong off the reservation, throwing precedent to the wind, then recovering briefly to reach a narrow holding acceptable to his cronies. This time, Alito may take the posse along with him for the ride. The plaintiffs in the teachers’ case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, argue that public-sector unions are by nature politicized entities, and that compulsory payment of any dues in states that allow union security is a violation of the objectors’ constitutional rights. The controlling legal rule dates back to the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision in 1977 that upheld the right of a union to collect an agency fee from non-members for collective bargaining activities if the contract provided for union security. (read article)

We All Know What Unions Don’t: They’re History

By Amy Otto, October 13, 2015, The Federalist

Greg Sargent asks a solid question: “What should the labor movement look like in the age of Uber?” President Obama and many labor organizers recently held a Summit on Worker Voice, yet statements from the White House lead us to believe they do not understand the current or future state of labor policy. Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said: “We have invited labor unions and workers themselves, along with companies that are engaged in the on-demand economy,” in order to “lift up what is a really challenging set of issues” and “get out in front of something that’s changing…How to maintain collective bargaining rights — which are at the very core of worker empowerment — amid all this change will be a pressing question.” Sargent identifies a core challenge for Democrats: their ability to “convincingly make a case for a government role in addressing all of these changing economic and organizing challenges.” (read article)

Gov. Brown strikes balance on union-backed bills

Editorial, October 12, 2015, San Francisco Chronicle

Organized labor generally gets its way with the Democratic-controlled California Legislature. It’s a different story, however, when those union-backed bills reach the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. The Democratic governor was ever unpredictable and laser-focused on details in giving labor something to like and something to hate as he signed and vetoed a huge stack of legislation leading up to last Sunday’s deadline for action. Brown provided California workers with the nation’s strongest protection against gender pay inequities by signing SB358, which prohibits employers from paying women less than men for “substantially similar work” — superseding the old standard of identical work. In doing so, Brown noted census figures that showed women earn a median 84 cents for every dollar earned by men. However, the governor balked at a measure also aimed at removing an underlying factor in the wage gap: AB1017, which would have barred employers from seeking an applicant’s salary history. (read article)

Two big health care labor unions appear headed for Splitsville

By Chris Rauber, October 12, 2015, San Francisco Business Journal

Back in early 2013, the powerful California Nurses Association agreed to link up with the much-smaller National Union of Healthcare Workers, but the partnership came with a big price tag: CNA had to prop up its partner financially. Now, according to an Oct. 7 post on NUHW’s web site, the erstwhile health care union partners may be headed toward Splitsville. “Top officials at the California Nurses Association are trying to dissolve the affiliation agreement that NUHW members overwhelmingly voted for in January 2013,” the NUHW post reported. When the deal was inked, the two sides agreed they “shared a unified vision that a strategic alliance of all who work side-by-side in hospitals and other health-care settings best furthers” efforts to improve patient care and unionized workers’ benefits and working conditions, the early 2013 affiliation agreement said, according to the NUHW web post. (read article)

As Car Makers’ Fortunes Diverge, So May Their Labor Deals

By Jeff Bennett and Christina Rogers, October 12, 2015, Wall Street Journal

A United Auto Workers union official told Ford Motor Co. workers that a proposed labor contract with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV isn’t necessarily the same wage deal that the union will press upon other Detroit auto makers, the latest sign that the union’s longtime commitment to pattern bargaining could be weakening as finances at the domestic car companies diverge. For several years, contract deals struck by Ford, General Motors Co. and Chrysler have largely mirrored one another. GM and Chrysler’s trips through bankruptcy court have disrupted the competitive playing field for U.S. auto makers, and the merged Fiat Chrysler’s heavier use of entry-level workers has further altered the financial footing of the three rivals. “It is imperative that you keep in mind that the agreement is only a pattern and the tentative agreement reached with Ford will be UAW-Ford specific aimed at addressing concerns with the current agreement and securing gains for our membership,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles told members on Monday. (read article)

Union working to organize Boeing’s South Carolina workers just got a bump from technology

By Steve Wilhelm, October 12, 2015, Puget Sound Business Journal

Boeing Machinists are preparing for another run at unionizing the company’s South Carolina Dreamliner plant, this time with a little digital help. The Charleston Post and Courier on Monday reported that new National Labor Relations Board rules allow Boeing (NYSE: BA) employees to digitally sign “authorization cards,” as opposed to the traditional paper cards. These cards are the basis of union elections, and at least 30 percent of eligible workers must sign such cards for an election. The new rules could make it easier for union officials to convince workers to sign the cards, and easier for union organizers to contact workers, especially in rural areas. “Part of the previous effort in Charleston was handicapped by difficulty in reaching employees, who were spread quite far from the facility,” said IAM spokesman Frank Larkin in an interview with Puget Sound Business Journal. “It’s one more tool, but frankly it’s overdue.” He added that the anonymity of digitally filing the cards will help pro-union people who felt exposed due to strong opposition from Boeing. (read article)

Would Curbing Public Sector Unions Silence Teachers’ Voices?

By Michael Hartney, October 9, 2015, Newsweek

Many states have made significant changes to the laws governing public sector labor relations in recent years, changes that are already impacting teachers unions’ efforts to maintain membership. Most of the controversy in Wisconsin—and other states undergoing similar labor retrenchment—has centered on economic consequences such as government spending and worker wages. Yet, states’ ongoing efforts to redesign public sector labor law may prove even more consequential for the political power and influence of public employees unions in the years ahead. As his critics are quick to emphasize, Governor Scott Walker weakened collective bargaining rights for the public employees whose unions have historically been strong supporters of the Democratic Party (e.g., teachers and state, county and municipal employees). This change leaves the state’s more Republican-friendly police and firefighter unions intact, showing that politicians believe union-friendly labor laws help enhance the political effectiveness of union interest groups. (read article)

Pilgrim Pipeline plans get union backing

By Scott Fallon, October 8, 2015, North Jersey.com

A group of trade unions announced their support Wednesday for a proposed oil pipeline through North Jersey in an effort to sway public opinion and persuade lawmakers to reconsider their opposition. The Pilgrim Pipeline has faced a barrage of criticism in the past year — more than 30 town councils, five county freeholder boards and both houses of the state Legislature have passed resolutions condemning the project. But the newly formed Coalition to Support Pilgrim Pipeline launched a website this week touting benefits it may bring to the region. “For the foreseeable future, it’s simply a fact that our region will be relying on petroleum products for everything from driving our cars, to heating our homes, to flying around the world,” said Roger Ellis, a business agent for the Heavy and General Construction Laborers Local 472 of Newark. “The Pilgrim Pipeline would provide the most economical and environmentally responsible way to move those critical fuels.” (read article)

Will the Supreme Court gut unions’ power?

By Betsy McCaughey, October 8, 2015, New York Post

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest public-employee union, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Saturday. That’s on the heels of the endorsement by another giant, the American Federation of Teachers. These are powerful allies, but in the future, they may have a lot less money to spend tilting elections for Dems. The US Supreme Court, which began its term Monday, will rule on whether public workers in unionized jobs can be compelled to pay the union for collective bargaining and other services even if they don’t join. Labor activists are petrified. A decision nixing mandatory fees would have its biggest impact here in New York, where nearly three quarters of government jobs are unionized. Teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and others could stop paying dues, drying up union coffers. New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut and California public-sector unions would also be hit hard. “Bush v. Gore decided a single election,” a union supporter warns, but this case “could decide elections for years to come.” Just look at Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker was determined to tame union political clout. His legislature released government workers from paying union dues even though they benefit from union negotiating. Union rolls plummeted by more than one-third in two years. (read article)

Union coalition AFL-CIO sinks $44 million into politics

By Jason Hart, October 8, 2015, Missouri Watchdog

Advocates of mandatory union dues in Missouri and across the country have a deep-pocketed friend in Richard Trumka, president of labor coalition AFL-CIO. AFL-CIO’s Washington, D.C., headquarters collected $78.8 million in membership payments from its affiliated unions and spent $44.8 million on political activities and lobbying during the 2015 fiscal year ending in June. While Missouri unions and their left-wing allies fought right-to-work last year, AFL-CIO sent $88,073 to the Missouri AFL-CIO, $40,000 to activist group Progress Missouri and $10,000 to union front Missouri Jobs With Justice. Right-to-work laws let workers choose whether to pay AFL-CIO affiliates and other labor unions — giving workers the ability to opt out of a cycle in which unions funnel money into causes that increase government spending and help unions take more money from workers. (read article)

New speaker should make Employee Rights Act a priority

Editorial, October 8, 2015, Washington Examiner

On Thursday, Republicans will meet behind closed doors and hold a secret-ballot vote on who will represent their party later this month as the next Speaker of the House. Whomever they select, he should make it a priority to give workers the same kind of private choice. The next speaker can do this by bringing to the floor the Employee Rights Act. This law, introduced over the summer by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., would reform outdated Depression-era labor laws and restore to workers the choice of whether they want union representation in the workplace. Currently, states can at least reduce the economic burden of federal labor union policy and its imposition on employees’ personal freedom by adopting right-to-work laws. Three midwestern states have done so during the Obama presidency. In right-to-work states, workers cannot be forced to pay unions for representation they do not want and never asked for. Yet in most states, they can still be forced to accept that representation, thanks to the monopoly bargaining privileges granted to unions under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. More than one million U.S. workers currently find themselves with unwanted union representation. (read article)

Labor union schedules strike, Solano County makes final offer

By Melissa Murphy, October 7, 2015, Vacaville Reporter

In what appears to be dueling press releases sent to The Reporter, negotiations between Solano County and Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, have reached outside of the confines of the bargaining table while the two remain at odds with each other when it comes to their labor contract. SEIU, the largest labor union, first announced late Tuesday its intention to strike Oct. 14. The next day, the county sent a press release noting its disappointment that an agreement has not been reached. The cause for the strike, according to SEIU, is because county negotiators walked away from the bargaining table and shut down the possibility of reaching a contract with the workers. Last Friday, Local 1021 announced that 90 percent of its members voted to give their bargaining team the power to call an Unfair Labor Practice strike if necessary. SEIU represents nearly 1,800 Solano County workers who provide community services across the county, including social workers, infant nutrition counselors, mental health specialists, public health nurses, librarians, Child Support and Child Welfare specialists, public safety dispatchers, veterans’ services workers and clerical staff. (read article)

To Build Affordable Units, the Labor Doesn’t Come Cheap

By Julie Satow, October 7, 2015, WNYC News

In May of last year, Mayor De Blasio announced plans to build 80,000 new units of affordable housing over the next decade. Yet, as the mayor moves ahead with this ambitious housing agenda, he is facing a dilemma: the construction unions are pushing to ensure that it is their members who build most of these new units, or, at at minimum, the workers are paid higher wages. At the same time, affordable housing developers say they won’t be able to meet the mayor’s housing goal if they are forced to hire union laborers. “It is really a question of the math,” said Jolie Milstein, the president and CEO of the New York Association for Affordable Housing. “If you look at the cost of constructing affordable housing, particularly in an environment of increasing land costs, you just get very many fewer units built if you have to use expensive union labor.” For their part, the unions point to reports that indicate the majority of construction accidents occur at non-union sites, and they say non-union companies fail to pay their employees fair wages and do poorer quality work. “What these non-union contractors are doing is, they’re exploiting their workers in a way, that is almost like their indentured servants,” said Gary LaBarbera, the head of the Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 100,000 union construction workers. “They use them until their usefulness is no longer and then they get rid of them and replace them.” (read article)

Conservatives Quarrel Over $500 Million ‘Union Buyoff’ In Oil Export Bill

By Michael Bastasch, October 7, 2015, Daily Caller

After months of political maneuvering, Republican-backed legislation to lift the decades-old ban on crude oil exports could be hindered by a small tweak that ended up in the bill just to win over Democrats. A small provision in the oil export bill, an attempt to gain support among maritime unions, is causing some concerns among conservatives who initially backed the effort to boost oil production and flood international markets with American crude. Republicans inserted language to increase funding to the Maritime Security Program (MSP) from 2017 to 2021. The MSP pays about 60 privately-owned vessels to be on-the-ready to be requisitioned by the Defense Department. Ship owners are compensated for having to break shipping contracts to help the military on a moment’s notice. (read article)

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