Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Why ‘Harris v. Quinn’ Has Labor Very, Very Nervous

By Joel Rogers, April 14, 2014 Edition, The Nation

Sometime soon, certainly by the late-June conclusion of its present term, the Supreme Court will tell us its decision in Harris v. Quinn, arguably the most important labor law case the Court has considered in decades. Harris has already generated a great deal of attention and worry in labor circles, and nearly as much enthusiasm and celebration in pro-business ones — reflected in the extraordinary number of friend-of-the-court briefs filed by advocates on both sides. The case threatens the existence of the “agency shop,” a bedrock institution in American labor relations—one relied on in the most successful recent union organizing, and that is decisive to the health of public sector unions. Here’s what Harris is about. In American labor law, a union wins the right to be the exclusive collective bargaining representative for workers in a particular unit by demonstrating its support by a majority of the workers in the unit. But the law also imposes a duty with this right. The union must represent all workers, union members and nonunion employees alike, when it negotiates and administers collective bargaining agreements. Thus it is theoretically possible for nonunion employees to capture the benefits of collective bargaining won by their union colleagues (often at considerable expense) but pay nothing for it. (read article)

Vergara V. California Lawsuit Could Revolutionize U.S. Public Education

By James Marshall Crotty, April 1, 2014, Forbes

You might think that the leading clusters of education reform are the Bay Area, Phoenix, and Washington, DC. However, testimony that just concluded March 27 in a Los Angeles Superior Courtroom could lead to sweeping reforms for public education not just in the Golden State, but across the country as well. Nine public school students filed the lawsuit nearly two years ago against the state of California, its department of education and other state educational organizations. The students claim they have been denied an equal education from that of their peers elsewhere in the state. It turns out that public school students in the state have a constitutional right to “substantially equal opportunities for learning,” according to the 1976 ruling in Serrano v. Priest. However, the plaintiffs claim their rights are being infringed upon due to state laws designed to retain teachers on measures that have little to do with educating students. The case, named Vergara v. California, seeks to strike three labor laws in the state. They are… (read article)

More Companies Bow to Investors With a Social Cause

By Emily Chasan, April 1, 2014, Wall Street Journal

Shareholders are driving changes in corporate policies and disclosures unthinkable a decade ago, on issues ranging from protecting rain forests to human rights. Even the threat of a proxy vote can be enough to bring company executives to the negotiating table. So far this year, environmental and social issues have accounted for 56% of shareholder proposals, representing a majority for the first time, according to accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. That is up from about 40% in the previous two years, and means shareholders are increasingly voting on things like greenhouse-gas emissions, political spending and labor rights. While such proposals usually don’t grab the same headlines as changes sought by activist investors, their proponents often are effective at persuading companies to meet them halfway. The proposals are “really meant to get the attention of the corporate leadership,” said Thomas DiNapoli, the New York comptroller who oversees the $160.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. “Profitability that is at a sustainable and responsible level is very, very important to us.” Mr. DiNapoli filed about 65 resolutions this past year, and he often succeeds in getting companies to agree to his requests before they come to a vote. (read article)

Tennessee lawmakers reject ban on mass union picketing

By Max Smith, April 1, 2014, The Tennessean

A bill that would have created a misdemeanor charge for disruptive picketing failed in the House Criminal Justice Committee after many legislators voiced concerns that it was too vaguely worded and broad. Under House Bill 1688, by Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, protesters could be charged with a class B Misdemeanor if their “mass picketing” prevents someone from entering or exiting their place of employment or interferes with work by being a “disturbance or nuisance.” The bill had explicitly defined “mass picketing” as protesting related to labor disputes but was amended to apply to all picketers. Durham, an attorney, said those opposing the bill were doing so out of union loyalties, an accusation state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, took exception to. To Van Huss and other members of the committee, both Republican and Democratic, this was a First Amendment issue. Last month, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper released an opinion that he found the legislation unconstitutional as well. (read article)

Illinois Governor’s Race Puts Unions in Tough Position

By Andrew Ujifusa, April 1, 2014, Education Week

Powerful teachers’ unions in Illinois are faced with a vexing problem in this year’s gubernatorial race: a Democratic incumbent they’re unhappy with, and a Republican candidate they view as a threat to the rights of unionized public workers. The race in Illinois has the potential to be a test case for the political consequences of taking high-profile steps aimed at curbing pension obligations, at a time when many states are anxious about the long-term fiscal health of their retirement-benefit systems. Estimates about the unfunded liabilities across states vary widely, but the total nationwide ranges into the hundreds of billions of dollars. And Illinois faces the most acute unfunded pension problems of any state. (read article)

Emanuel’s pension fix: Shrink benefits, raise taxes

By Hal Dardick and Bill Ruthhart, April 1, 2014, Chicago Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing to raise property taxes and cut retirement benefits for some city workers to start digging out of a massive pension debt he inherited. But the proposal the mayor and his top aides outlined late Monday would not address huge pension shortfalls for Chicago police, firefighters and teachers. Nor would it deal with the city’s most immediate, pressing financial problem: a state requirement to pay a whopping $600 million more toward police and fire pensions next year, a provision that could lead to a combination of tax increases, service cuts and borrowing. Even as Emanuel vowed to put his pension proposal on paper in the coming days so it can be considered by state lawmakers, the changes face an uncertain future. Although Emanuel aides say the proposal comes out of talks with more than 30 city unions, not all of them are on board. A lawsuit is all but certain, especially after one group of unions issued a statement calling Emanuel’s concept “an unconstitutional approach that makes onerous cuts to the pension benefits of nearly 50,000 active and retired public servants.” The mayor said his pension proposal should send a signal to reluctant police and fire unions that “there’s common ground and a consensus” with what he said was a majority of the other unions involved. (read article)

Pennsylvania Republicans Join Big Labor In Healthcare Fight

By Fred Wszolek, April 01, 2014, Town Hall

The Keystone State has traditionally been regarded as a union stronghold, but recently some lawmakers have taken steps to break their politically motivated partisan influence. Republican lawmakers introduced legislation to change the state’s taxpayer-funded union dues collection system and close loopholes that protect union members from anti-stalking laws. Despite these advances, the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI) was disappointed to find out that while some lawmakers in Pennsylvania are boldly taking on labor bosses, others are joining forces with them in a healthcare dispute between two private companies. Over the years, WFI has successfully highlighted the ongoing battle between lawmakers and union bosses in states like Pennsylvania specifically drawing attention to instances where Big Labor has gone too far. Most recently, we brought attention to 10 members of a Philadelphia-based Ironworkers union, Local 101, who were charged with assault and arson. We have also recently written about a longstanding Pennsylvania law that exempts union organizers in a labor dispute from criminal statutes, making it nearly impossible to prosecute intimidating organizers engaging in thuggery. Although national union organizations are witnessing a dramatic decrease in membership, healthcare has been one of few markets where union membership has actually grown. (read article)

What Other Businesses Can Los Angeles Destroy? What About Trash Haulers?

By Scott Shackford, April 1, 2014, Reason

We should probably be surprised businesses were allowed to choose in the first place.Credit: p.Gordon / Foter / CC BYLos Angeles City Council has voted to seize the local private business/large apartment trash hauling industry, take control of it, and sell off exclusive contracts to those it deems appropriate. The word “seize” is not used, of course, but instead it’s all being sold as a recycling and landfill-use reduction plan. It takes the Los Angeles Times nine paragraphs to get past the environmental back-patting to explain what’s actually going on: Currently, landlords for businesses and apartments choose between competing businesses to haul their trash. Under the new “exclusive franchise” system, Los Angeles will be divided up into 11 zones. Haulers will bid for city contracts giving them the exclusive right to collect garbage in each zone. The new system is hitched to environmental standards: To be eligible to win each zone, haulers would have to provide separate bins for recycling and use “clean fuel” vehicles, among other ecologically friendly requirements. The plan is backed by environmentalists and labor groups, who say the system is the best way to help Los Angeles meet its goal of diverting 90% of its trash from landfills. Activists say the system will also mean fewer trucks crisscrossing city streets and safer conditions for workers in a dangerous industry. The city is turning a private competitive service into a monopoly. The Times does note that the proposal puts unions and environmentalists against business and private property: (read article)

Unions don’t belong in college sports

Editorial, April 1, 2014, Detroit News

College basketball fans are currently hanging on the results and emotions of March Madness. But that phrase is only a slight exaggeration of the recent ruling from a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board which, if upheld, will launch Big Labor into a new arena: college sports. The likely impetus for this ruling is that the unions see an untapped source of dues and membership from an industry that generates billions of dollars of revenue every year. It’s only the most recent in a string of labor-friendly directives under President Barack Obama’s NLRB. Players at Northwestern, bankrolled by United Steelworkers, want the ability to collectively bargain for better “working conditions,” rights to money made off their likenesses, access to more health care and, perhaps one day, compensation. But full tuition scholarships, room and board, access to world-class training facilities, and potential entryway to professional sports — valued at tens of thousands of dollars per year — have always been the understood compensation for the talent, ability, and time college players give their schools. The ruling is wrought with questions that will be decided on appeal, and ultimately in court. (read article)

Implications of Northwestern NLRB decision could extend far beyond labor relations

By William A. Blue, Jr. and David P. Phippen, March 31 2014, Lexology

The rationale of the Northwestern decision could have a dramatic impact on institutions of higher learning, extending far beyond the “four corners” of the Regional Director’s decision. Any scholarship that benefits a private college could arguably mean that the recipients were “employees” for purposes of the full range of laws that govern the employment relationship, including tax laws (unemployment, social security, and income taxes); the Fair Labor Standards Act, and state and local wage and hour laws; obligations under ERISA and the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act; occupational safety and health; coverage under the federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws; workers’ compensation; and vicarious liability to employees or third parties for “employee” torts. Other issues could include uncertainty with respect to intellectual property rights, including control of images of players and confidential team information; applicability of “green card” requirements under immigration laws, as opposed to requirements for student visas; and coverage under insurance policies that include or exclude “employees” from the scope of coverage. Moreover, if scholarship student-athletes at private institutions of higher learning are “employees” under the NLRA, the athletes have the Section 7 rights of “employees” under the Act, including the right to engage in protected concerted activity. Given the NLRB’s aggressive positions concerning employment and social media policies, this change alone could have a significant impact. (read article)

Missouri House endorses limits on union payments

By Jordan Shapiro, March 31, 2014, Belleville News-Democrat

The Republican-led Missouri House took another step Monday in a repeat bid to require labor organizations to ask public employees every year to agree to have union fees automatically deducted from their paychecks. The House voted 83-70 to give preliminary approval to the measure, but it needs one more affirmative vote before moving to the Senate. The House tally is only two votes above the minimum threshold required to pass a bill out of the chamber. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed nearly identical legislation last year, but the House version would bypass him and instead send the measure to the August ballot for voter approval. Public employees who are not in unions can be required to pay so-called fair-share fees that are automatically deducted from paychecks. The legislation would apply to those fees as well as the dues that union members pay. In addition to needing consent for those automatic deductions, unions representing public employees would also need to receive annual written consent to spend a portion of a worker’s fees on political activities. (read article)

California Considers Bill to Protect Temp Workers

By Michael Grabell, March 31, 2014, ProPublica

California could become one of the first states in the nation to hold companies legally responsible for wage and safety violations by their subcontractors and temp agencies if a bill proposed Friday becomes law. The bill tackles the longstanding complaint of labor leaders that companies can often shirk responsibility for the abuse of workers by hiring them through agencies or contracting with smaller firms. A ProPublica investigation last year found that temp workers face high rates of wage violations and on-the-job injuries, but rarely have recourse against the brand-name companies whose products they move, pack or assemble. Typically, only the agencies or subcontractors that directly employ workers face fines when something goes wrong, even when fulfilling contracts with larger firms that indirectly control or influence the work conditions. Unions and other worker advocates say the bill would protect temps and subcontracted workers, such as building janitors, by holding the companies at the top of the supply chain accountable. (read article)

How Labor Unions Can Save the NCAA

By William W. Berry III, March 31, 2014, Slate

Last week, after the National Labor Relations Board announced its decision to allow Northwestern University football players to unionize, some said it would mark the death knell for the current amateurism model of intercollegiate athletics. This is unsurprising in light of the widespread belief that unions will enable pay-for-play arrangements combined with a generally tepid public view of labor unions. Counterintuitively, however, labor law may provide the one viable jurisprudential avenue to survival for the NCAA. At the heart of the NLRB decision last week was Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr’s conclusion that football scholarship athletes are employees. As he explained, they are “receiving scholarships to perform football-related services” for Northwestern “under a contract for hire in return for compensation.” Indeed, this is the very characterization the NCAA has fought for decades to avoid. It has long claimed instead that college athletes are students whose primary purpose is to receive an education and “go pro” in something else. (read article)

Federal judge upholds part of Michigan’s right-to-work law

By Chad Livengood, March 31, 2014, Detroit News

A federal judge on Monday allowed a union lawsuit challenging aspects of Michigan’s right-to-work law to move forward while ruling the state had the power to make union membership optional. U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III’s mixed ruling will let the Michigan State AFL-CIO continue to make its case that the state’s right-to-work law violates the federal government’s power to regulate private-sector labor unions. “The significant parts of our case are going to go forward, so I think that’s a significant victory,” said Andrew Nickelhoff, general counsel of the Michigan State AFL-CIO. The judge dismissed three counts of the lawsuit, saying right-to-work laws “are a valid exercise of state regulatory power.” “Fortunately, the court dismissed the union lawyers’ challenges to the core provisions of Michigan’s Right to Work law and Michigan workers will continue to have the Right to Work without having to pay dues to an unwanted union,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said Monday in a statement. (read article)

Gov. John Kasich work for average Ohioans

Cuyahoga County executive and Democratic candidate for governor, Ed FitzGerald, continued his full-court press of organized labor support Monday by questioning Gov. John Kasich’s blue-collar credentials during a visit to a union hall. “Here’s what I think it all comes down to,” said FitzGerald, joined by fellow statewide office-seekers during a news conference at the Building Laborers’ Union Local 310. “Who do you when you get up in the morning, who do you speak for? Who do you work for? We have a governor who I think works hard, he just doesn’t work hard for average Ohioans. The remarks come on the third anniversary of Senate Bill 5, a controversial collective-bargaining measure championed by Republicans in the legislature and signed into law by Kasich. Voters later overturned the bill, despite Kasich’s campaigning to keep it intact. Despite Kasich’s assurances that he has no interest in picking a new fight with labor, Democrats doubt his sincerity. They believe he has not unequivocally said whether he would veto right-to-work legislation that would ban union dues-paying requirements. “We will have a governor in place who will veto the hell out of those bills,” Nina Turner, a state senator from Cleveland running for secretary of state, said at Monday’s event. (read article)

Will Senate Bill 5 matter in race for Ohio governor?

By Darrel Rowland, March 31, 2014, The Columbus Dispatch

The only time Ohioans have voted on one of Gov. John Kasich’s proposals, 61 percent said no to Senate Bill 5. Opponent Ed FitzGerald and others on the statewide Democratic ticket are setting out to remind voters of that battle. Today marks the third anniversary of Kasich signing into law the measure that gutted public employee collective bargaining rights, which was repealed in November 2011 after opponents gathered nearly a million signatures on a referendum petition. FitzGerald and others on the Democratic ticket are commemorating the date by holding events across the state to remind Ohio voters of this “assault on middle-class families.” “This is a governor who got elected under false pretenses,” FitzGerald said during a press conference in a Cleveland union hall, noting Kasich did not mention worker rights, women’s rights or cutting local government during the 2010 campaign. (read article)

What’s next for public employee pensions?

By Teague P. Paterson, March 30, 2014, Sacramento Bee

Now that a pension-modification measure proposed by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed will not appear on the November statewide ballot and a court ruling has blocked San Jose from slashing employees’ vested pension rights, opponents of public pensions are falling back on their old, false argument. It’s a hackneyed line with little truth: Public employee labor unions are not willing to negotiate. That could not be further from the truth. Across our state, when mayors and department heads have sat down with their employees’ unions to discuss pensions, they have found that common interest prevails over self-interest. Consider firefighters in Salinas, who agreed to a contract that reduced retirement benefits. Or dispatchers, police assistants and clerical workers in Daly City who now contribute more of their own paychecks to pension accounts. Police officers in Martinez made a deal to double their own contributions. Firefighters in Benicia and Imperial Beach, as well as miscellaneous city workers in Yorba Linda, compromised on reduced benefits. Those are a few examples from this current calendar year. During the past several years, beginning when our economy was still in a recession, public workers in nearly 400 municipalities agreed to cost-saving changes including higher employee pension contributions, reduced benefits and delayed pay increases. (read article)

Teachers union fights new plan by Sacramento and other school districts to address low-performing schools

By Loretta Kalb, March 30, 2014, Sacramento Bee

In the seven months since Sacramento City Unified School District won unprecedented federal permission to use new methods at low-performing schools, the urban district has begun ranking campuses and sending educators to other schools to coach their colleagues. These were among the early steps in plans to improve performance among 43,175 students, many of whom live in poverty and are learning English along with their everyday studies. Even as the district rolls out the plan, the teachers union – which never signed on – is fighting to stop it. The Sacramento City Teachers Association, in particular, objects to a promise that Sacramento City Unified and seven other districts made to link student test scores to teacher evaluations. “We have been really, really clear in California ever since (federal grant competition) Race to the Top that we did not believe using student test scores to evaluate teachers was a good idea,” said Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, which has been providing support to the SCTA. Sacramento City Unified is part of a consortium that represents more than 1 million students in school districts in Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana. (read article)

Neel Kashkari wants to be California’s governor

By Shane Goldmacher, March 30, 2014, National Journal

Neel Kashkari is speaking over a plate of two over-easy eggs and wheat toast he didn’t want to order. We’re in a quiet San Francisco café after relocating from a noisier coffee shop down the block. We arrived full, and with drinks in hand (Kashkari, orange juice; his adviser, Aaron McLear, coffee; me, tea). “Guilt order,” he says of the eggs. He eats them anyway. Kashkari has passed through the busy downtown streets and two cafés all but unnoticed. This wouldn’t be a problem except that Kashkari is running for governor of California. Among those who would recognize Kashkari—he clocked in at 2 percent in the race’s most recent public poll—many would probably know him as the face of one of the most despised laws in modern American history: the bailout of Wall Street. One of its cornerstones was Kashkari’s brainchild. This is the kind of thing most candidates pivot away from as quickly as possible. Not Kashkari. “We’re not running away from TARP. No, I’m running towards the TARP,” he says of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that he helped design and implement. “I own the TARP.” As if a Republican running to unseat a political icon, Gov. Jerry Brown, in one of the nation’s bluest states, wasn’t hard enough, Kashkari is doing so lugging the kind of baggage that has ended dozens of careers. But the bailout is more than baggage for Kashkari; it’s a basis for his candidacy, his singular public-policy achievement when he puts himself before the voters. “This is one of the only examples in recent history where Republicans and Democrats worked together,” Kashkari says. “…Isn’t that what we all want our leaders to do?” He’ll soon find out. (read article)

Biggest spenders wear the union label

By Susan Ferrechio, March 28, 2014, Washington Examiner

Photo – Democrats are out to make the Koch brothers the most infamous campaign donors in the 2014 election cycle. But they are hardly the biggest spenders, nor is Americans for Prosperity, the 501(c)(4) they support, at the top of the list. That distinction belongs to the nation’s labor unions, whose ability to freely use worker dues to help favored candidates — almost all of them Democrats — puts them far above just about any other individual or group. Labor union spending on both campaigns and lobbying can be difficult to track, however. Unions are required to disclose donations to candidates and campaigns with the Federal Election Commission. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, that figure totaled $143 million during the 2011-2012 election cycle. By comparison, Americans for Prosperity spent about $36 million on political activity during those two years, all of it spent against Democratic contenders, according to CRP. But those numbers tell only part of the story. A great deal of union spending on behalf of candidates includes not only direct donations but also spending on other activities that aid campaigns. Those efforts often include hiring workers to staff phone banks and staging get-out-the-vote efforts. (read article)

Calif. law friendly toward college unions

By Stefanie Loh, March 27, 2014, San Diego Union-Tribune

The NLRB’s Northwestern football ruling only applies to private institutions, but precedent in Calif. law would make it easy for student-athletes at public institutions to push for employee status. Former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter and the Northwestern football players are leading the charge to give student-athletes bargaining rights to petition for improved benefits, and the NLRB ruling has opened the door for the 17 private schools that compete in FBS level football – including California-based USC and Stanford, for instance – to petition their schools for the right to be acknowledged as employees. The NLRB only has jurisdiction over private sector employees, so student-athletes at public schools would have to appeal to their state’s labor board for the right to unionize. But based on precedent in California labor law, there’s reason to believe that this might be a relatively smooth process for student-athletes at any of the five public institutions that compete at the FBS level in football: San Diego State, UCLA, Cal, Fresno State and San Jose State. (read article)

Mississippi Senate Approves Anti-Union Bills

By Jeff amy, March 27, 2014, Chem Info

Bills that aim to restrict union organizing and picketing practices in Mississippi, as well as limit governments’ abilities to pressure employers to use unionized workers, are on their way to Gov. Phil Bryant. The Senate gave final passage Wednesday to the three bills, on mostly party-line votes. Senate Bill 2473 would make it illegal to coerce a business into staying neutral in a union drive or to allow workers to choose union representation by signing cards instead of by secret ballot. It’s not clear what would constitute coercion, but businesses could sue anyone they believed engaged in it. Union supporters have been pushing Nissan Motor Co. to declare its neutrality in an attempt by the United Auto Workers to unionize the Japanese automaker’s Canton plant. Supporters have said the bill isn’t specifically aimed at Nissan. Senate Bill 2653 tries to restrict mass picketing of a residence or place of business. It says pickets would be legal as long as they weren’t violent and didn’t block entrances. But it also makes getting a court stop order against picketing easier. Senate Bill 2797 says the Legislature would have to pass a law to allow any state or local government to make an agreement to use unionized workers on a project. Such a project labor agreement was used to build the Toyota Motor Corp. plant in Blue Springs. (read article)

Labor unions saved Ford in our ‘darkest’ hour: Bill Ford

By Jeff Marganteen, March 27, 2014, CNBC

The executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. said the United Auto Workers union helped his company get through its toughest times. Though they are sometimes blamed for the financial woes at other car companies, labor unions actually helped “save” Ford Motor as competitors such as General Motors went bankrupt, Bill Ford told CNBC on Thursday. Ford, the executive chairman of the Detroit automaker, said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that former UAW President Ron Gettelfinger doesn’t get enough credit for helping to shore up the books during Ford’s “darkest hour.” “When we got into a really tough period, I sat down with Ron and I said, ‘You have to help me save the Ford Motor Company so we didn’t have to go through bankruptcy, so we didn’t have to get a federal bailout,'” Ford said. “And he did that.” Ford credited the union with helping his company regain a foothold in the North American market. He added that the UAW helped the entire industry “get back on its feet.” (read article)

College Players Granted Right to Form Union

By Ben Strauss and Steve Edermarch, March 26, 2014, New York Times

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that a group of Northwestern football players were employees of the university and have the right to form a union and bargain collectively. For decades, the major college sports have functioned on the bedrock principle of the student-athlete, with players receiving scholarships to pay for their education in exchange for their hours of practicing and competing for their university. But Peter Ohr, the regional N.L.R.B. director, tore down that familiar construct in a 24-page decision. He ruled that Northwestern’s scholarship football players should be eligible to form a union based on a number of factors, including the time they devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which Mr. Ohr deemed a contract for compensation. “It cannot be said that the employer’s scholarship players are ‘primarily students,’ ” the decision said. (read article)

Missouri unions rally against right-to-work bill

By Jordan Shapiro, March 26, 2014, Associated Press

Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s condemnation of so-called right-to-work legislation as unnecessary and misguided drew applause from about a thousand Missouri union members who gathered Wednesday at the state Capitol. The measure to prohibit labor contracts from requiring that all employees pay union fees, regardless of whether workers are union members, is a top priority of House Republican leaders this year. But some union members attending the annual rally sponsored by the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council said it would weaken a union’s ability to collectively bargain and secure protections for workers. “This is not an issue we need. It will do nothing but harm the middle class and is about lowering wages,” said Glenn Lindsey, a Fulton-based Local 36 sheet metal worker for 32 years and third generation union member. (read article)

Labor group that protests restaurants won’t let its own workers protest

By Robby Soave, March 26, 2014, Daily Caller

Critics are accusing an activist labor union of rank hypocrisy after it was revealed that the group — which organizes workers’ protests of fast food establishments — forces its own employees to sign contracts prohibiting them from protesting. The Restaurant Opportunities Center has 13,000 members and nearly a dozen affiliates across the country, according to Florida Watchdog.org. It organizes protests against restaurants that it believes have violated fair labor practices. It even encourages activists to pester restaurant customers by placing giant inflatable cockroaches outside the doors to the establishments. It contractually prohibits its own employees from protesting, however. Workers may not strike, picket or interfere with the organization’s operation in any way — even though that these are exactly the kind of tactics that the group believes empowered workers should use to fight for their rights. It’s even written into their collective-bargaining agreement: “It is mutually agreed that there shall be no strikes, lock-outs, sit downs, Sit ins, slowdowns, Sympathy Strikes,­ picketing, stoppage or interruption of Work, or direct or indirect interference or interruption of the operations of Employer during the term of this Agreement. The Guild shall use every reasonable effort to prevent the above actions by any of its employees employed by the Employer.” (read article)

Unions need to take a page from the Tea Party

By Marc Ambinder, March 26, 2014, The Week

Not so long ago, the American labor movement faced a make or break moment. Facing internal dissension and a continuous hemorrhage of members and clout, it managed to elect a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. Tilting federal labor laws back in favor of unions, and passing legislation that would allow so-called “card check” elections to establish them in workplaces, were vital. If not then, with that political configuration, then when? Five years later, organized labor considers itself to be even worse off. Though a friendlier National Labor Relations Board has helped fix contract disputes, the economic recession slashed more than 600,000 jobs from the ranks of public sector employees, at least half of them union jobs. And where the private sector is growing, unions aren’t. Politically, labor is toxic. The Democratic governor of New York has found in labor a steady opponent. Where Republicans have taken on labor power, they’ve won, too. Anti-labor folks have impressed upon the media how bloated public sector pension funds are the single largest source of potential economic peril in cities spanning from San Jose to Central Falls, R.I. (read article)

3 bills that seek to restrict labor unions in Mississippi get final Senate OK

By Jeff Amy, March 26, 2014, The Republic (Indiana)

Bills that aim to restrict union organizing and picketing practices in Mississippi, as well as limit governments’ abilities to pressure employers to use unionized workers, are on their way to Gov. Phil Bryant. The Senate gave final passage Wednesday to the three bills, on mostly party-line votes. Senate Bill 2473 would make it illegal to coerce a business into staying neutral in a union drive or to allow workers to choose union representation by signing cards instead of by secret ballot. It’s not clear what would constitute coercion, but businesses could sue anyone they believed engaged in it. Union supporters have been pushing Nissan Motor Co. to declare its neutrality in an attempt by the United Auto Workers to unionize the Japanese automaker’s Canton plant. Supporters have said the bill isn’t specifically aimed at Nissan. Senate Bill 2653 tries to restrict mass picketing of a residence or place of business. It says pickets would be legal as long as they weren’t violent and didn’t block entrances. But it also makes getting a court stop order against picketing easier. (read article)


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