Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Trump Budget Axes Union-Funding Harwood Grant

    shutterstock_546004372President Trump’s budget sent shockwaves throughout Washington, D.C., especially the Department of Labor (DOL). It slashes the DOL’s funding from $12.2 billion this year to $9.6 billion next year—a 21 percent cut. Only the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department would see greater cuts if Congress approves.

    On the chopping block is the DOL’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which gives out grants to nonprofit organizations to train workers in dangerous jobs (in theory, at least). That includes labor unions and labor-affiliated advocacy groups, who received millions of dollars from the grant program under President Obama. The United Auto Workers (UAW) received $148,500 to lecture about “injury and illness prevention” and “cultures of safety in small and medium sized establishments.” The Worker Justice Center of New York was paid $148,498 to provide “1.5 to 2-hour training for the agricultural, food services, and hotel industries,” while the Interfaith Justice Center received $131,200 for similar training sessions. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Make the Road New York, and Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) have also received Harwood grants to “train workers.”

    There are a few problems with Harwood grants. In one of ROC’s training manuals, the funded group urged employees to “take action” by “work[ing] with worker advocacy organizations to find successful ways to get your rights to decent pay and safer working conditions.” If that’s not a plug for union organizing, then what is? A similar concern applies to Make the Road New York: The grant’s purpose might have been safety training, but that training happened in the context of a broader organizing campaign in the car-wash industry. Money is fungible, so who’s drawing the line between worker safety training and worker organizing? This brings up another problem: Should American taxpayers foot the bill to support, even indirectly, union organizing efforts? 

    The House Appropriations Committee in the 114th Congress concluded that the Harwood grant program is “inefficient and ineffective in achieving its intended purpose.” If the program doesn’t work as intended  then why are taxpayers funding it?

    Categories: DOLSEIUUAW
  2. Labor Racket Weekly: $360,000 In Stolen Money and Other Shenanigans

    shutterstock_547250767Another week and more stories of union bosses swindling their members’ dues money. Below are this week’s best rackets:
    • In New York, Brian W. Scott, former President and Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 503, was sentenced to one year and a day in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release. Scott was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $68,771. Why? In November, Scott pled guilty to one count of mail fraud.
    • In California, Edward Padilla, former Secretary-Treasurer and Business Manager of Laborers Local 220, was charged in a one-count information with embezzlement of union funds totaling $168,780.
    • In Pennsylvania, Stephen Royer, former Secretary-Treasurer of Machinists Lodge 243, was charged in a five-count indictment, which included one count of embezzling $130,870 in union funds and four counts of filing false reports.
    Check in next week for more union shenanigans.
    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  3. Labor Racket Weekly: $2 Million in Stolen Money—Alleged and Actual

    shutterstock_547250767Curious where union dues go? Sometimes, they go straight into union bosses’ pockets. Below are this week’s best rackets:

    • In Delaware, Lon Sullivan, former Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 644, was charged with one count of wire fraud in the amount of $8,647. He pled guilty to the charge and agreed to pay $96,809 in restitution.
    • In the District of Columbia, Gary Cooper, a contractor associated with Laborers Local 657, was sentenced to 68 months in prison, 36 months of probation, and 120 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay $1,632,000 in restitution. Why? Last November, Cooper was convicted of one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor organization, one count of conspiracy to make unlawful labor payments, one count of wire fraud, and two counts of money laundering. He stole $1.7 million from the union.
    • Also in Washington, D.C., Juan Carlos Recinos, former business manager for Iron Workers Local 201, pled guilty to one count of Fraud in the Second Degree, on the condition that he repay the seven union members he stole from prior to sentencing. Recinos pled guilty to stealing $26,900 from seven union members when he told them that they had to pay him cash from their back-pay awards to pay an attorney that helped obtain the back pay. There was no attorney involved.
    • In Minnesota, William Winecke, former Treasurer of the Soo Line Locomotive and Car Foremen’s Association, pled guilty to one count of theft surpassing $35,000. On the same date, Winecke was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and four years of probation, and he was also ordered to pay fees totaling $504. Winecke previously made $29,000 in restitution.

    Check back next week for more stories of labor losers and deadbeats.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  4. Analyzing Big Labor’s Losing Right-to-Work Battle

    shutterstock_416621626Right-to-work legislation—which bans union membership as a condition of employment—is currently being considered in Colorado and Ohio. If enacted, it would make 30 states “right-to-work,” or 60 percent of the country where employees are free from mandatory payments of union dues. (Kentucky and Missouri embraced right-to-work earlier this year.)

    It’s Big Labor’s worst nightmare. When given the choice to opt out of monthly dues, many union members choose to do so, acknowledging that membership isn’t worth the cost. Since Wisconsin’s passage of Act 10—a state law allowing public employees to forgo union representation—roughly 60 percent of union members have left the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Union membership dropped from nearly 100,000 employees before Act 10’s passage to just over 36,000 members in 2016. In Washington, nearly half of the state’s child care providers left the Service Employees International Union after being given the option to refuse paying monthly dues. The percentage of providers paying dues to the SEIU fell from 100 percent in 2014 to roughly 53 percent (3,738 employees) in 2015.

    As workplace freedom spreads, union income drops, and with it Big Labor’s political power. From 2012 to 2015, union bosses sent roughly $530 million to the Democratic Party and closely aligned special interest groups—such as the Clinton Foundation and Planned Parenthood—primarily from dues dollars.

    Some labor unions are at least cognizant of their waning appeal. Since 2013, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has conducted 600,000 one-on-one conversations with employees to gauge interest in AFSCME’s services. The findings are startling: While roughly 35 percent of employees would likely pay dues no matter what, about half could be “on the fence.” The remaining 15 percent or so would likely not pay dues under right-to-work. In others words, AFSCME risks potentially losing two-thirds of its members if they had the chance to opt out.

    As AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it, “We’ve found that at times we were treating all of our 1.6 million members as if they were activists, and they aren’t. We were taking some things for granted.”

    Categories: AFSCMERight-to-Work
  5. Labor Racket Weekly: More Embezzlement and Forgery!

    shutterstock_547250767While union members pay millions of dollars of income in monthly dues to labor unions, union bosses continue to mishandle their members’ money. Below are this week’s best rackets:

    • In Ohio, Aaron Contreras, former Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 84749, was sentenced to 16 months of incarceration and three years of supervised release, and he was ordered to make full restitution of $42,700. Why? In October, Contreras pled guilty to one count of embezzlement in the amount of $42,700.
    • Another Ohio resident, Adele Dewey, former Secretary-Treasurer of Steelworkers Local 811, pled guilty to one count of theft in the amount of $4,224 and one count of forgery. Dewey was ordered to pay a $250 fine for each charge and perform 40 hours of community service.

    Check in next week for more tales of union no-goodery.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  6. AFL-CIO Lays Off Union Members

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    The vaunted AFL-CIO—the self-proclaimed “voice for working families”—is laying off a whole lot of workers. As Bloomberg‘s Josh Eidelson reports, “The AFL-CIO is dismissing dozens of staff members as part of a restructuring amid continuing declines in union membership and fresh political threats to labor rights.”

    The federation’s spin was predictable. “We will have to end support for some programs that don’t go to our core priorities,” said spokesman Josh Goldstein, “This is about reimagining and realigning our core priorities to best serve our affiliates.” But the devil’s in the details. The affected employees—an exact number is unclear—included not only AFL-CIO management, but also union members. Several sources claim that “several dozen jobs were lost,” potentially affecting hundreds of people between unemployed workers and their families.

    The AFL-CIO joins the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which recently announced a 30-percent budget reduction by next year. Not surprisingly, an SEIU spokeswoman claimed in corporate speak that the budget cut is a way to “realign our resources and streamline our investments.”

    In 2016, only 14.6 million employees were union members—a drop to about 10 percent of the workforce. There are 240,000 fewer union employees now than in 2015. While public-sector union membership remained steady at 34.4 percent, only 6.4 percent of private-sector employees are members of a labor union—down from one-third of workers in the 1950s.

    As fewer union members pledge allegiance to Big Labor, you can expect trimmer budgets, more reimagining, and creative press releases.

    Categories: AFL-CIO
  7. Labor Racket Weekly: Theft, Forgery, and Embezzlement, Oh My!

    shutterstock_547250767Today, we’re introducing a new weekly feature called Labor Racket Weekly, which highlights the most egregious union wrongdoings from the previous week. While union members pay millions of dollars of income in monthly dues to labor unions, union bosses continue to mishandle their members’ money. Below are this week’s best rackets:

    • In Wisconsin, Teresa Adkins, former business manager of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 127, was charged in a 10-count criminal complaint with one count of felony theft of over $10,000 and nine counts of felony forgery.
    • In Michigan, Devon Madray, former President of Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America Local 119, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $20,097 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. Why? In October 2016, Madray pled guilty to embezzling union funds.
    • In Pennsylvania, Daniel Guthrie, former President of United Steelworkers Local 10-583, was indicted on one count of embezzling $8,189 in union funds. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 5 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.
    • In Texas, Clementine Ray, former President of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2109, was charged in a one-count indictment of wire fraud.

    Check in next week for more tales of union no-goodery.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  8. The IAM’s Latest Boeing Blunder

    facepalmThe International Association of Machinists (IAM) once again failed to unionize Boeing’s plant in South Carolina. With a 94 percent turnout rate, Boeing employees overwhelmingly rejected the IAM’s proposal for union representation, as 74 percent of workers voted against it. The final tally was 2,097 out of 2,828 votes against the union.

    The devastating loss comes on the heels of the IAM’s failed 2015 campaign, when the union cancelled its own vote to organize the Boeing plant. (All signs pointed to a union loss.) This time, the IAM held a sparsely attended pre-vote rally on February 13th, only to see hundreds of employees reject the union agenda days later.

    South Carolina has long embraced workplace freedom. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, only about 32,000 of the state’s employees are union members—the country’s lowest union membership rate at just 1.6 percent. Other major manufacturers in South Carolina, including BMW and Michelin, are similarly non-unionized and haven’t fallen prey to major union organizing campaigns.

    Jonathan Battaglia, an IAM spokesman, blamed the loss on the union’s $20,000 television advertising budget. In Battaglia’s words: “We are only on two stations, and at much less frequency than Boeing.” It’s a pitiful excuse from an organization whose main source of strength is supposed to be grassroots organizing and whipping votes.

    Whatever the reason, the IAM has plenty of time for soul-searching. Under current labor law, union officials must wait at least a year after a failed election before holding another vote for union representation.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate Campaigns