Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. AFL-CIO Throws Member Union under Liberal Bus

    school busWhen unions play politics, they throw a significant chunk of their membership under the proverbial bus. While 90 percent of union political contributions go to Democrats and an overwhelming percentage of identifiable contributions to political organizations go to liberal groups like the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC, exit polls show roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican.

    Rarer, however, is the case where a whole union gets run over. But that seems to be the case with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), an AFL-CIO member union that finds itself on the wrong side of the progressive movement’s inveterate opposition to fossil-fuel energy production. And so LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan is left to grimly note that the efforts of union-backed Democrats to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline (which would in large part likely be built by LIUNA members) “took food off the table of our members.”

    And the AFL-CIO—LIUNA’s “parent” federation—is funding the bus drivers. In the AFL-CIO’s most recent federal filings, the union disclosed that it paid $12,000 to Berlin Rosen for political-related communications consulting. (You might remember this firm as the orchestrator of SEIU’s and UFCW’s Astroturf “worker center” demonstrations.) Well, Berlin Rosen also handles communications for “Californians Against Fracking,” a front group for left-wing environmentalists that is trying to prohibit oil and natural gas development in California. And (you guessed it) LIUNA (and, presumably, at least a significant bloc of its members) want the opposite.

    And just to make it all more complex, remember that Richard Trumka, head lefty honcho of the AFL-CIO, was formerly a mine worker and head of the United Mine Workers union. He may soon throw his ex-comrades under the bus as well.

    Now, it’s unlikely that the AFL-CIO hired Berlin Rosen to consult on oil and gas drilling bans, but the move illustrates a divide in the union movement that continues to develop. Unions like the UFCW and SEIU have thrown their lot in with a political left that comes with numerous side agendas that go far beyond bargaining for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Unions like the Laborers and the United Mine Workers who find themselves on the wrong side of those side agendas will likely be little more than speed bumps to the liberal-labor-Democratic bus.


    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsPolitical Money
  2. New York Teachers Union Boss Booked for Alleged $200,000 Theft

    laborpains 9 10 altClifford Garner, the president of the Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers—Local 01871 of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers—was arrested this week on charges that he stole $200,000 from the union and over-billed the college (where he is an English professor) for expenses.

    Prosecutors stated in a press release that Garner allegedly stole $200,000 from the union (and $3000 from the school, just for good measure). They charged the union boss with four counts: Two counts of grand larceny and two of false records offenses.

    If the allegations are proven, Garner won’t be the first (or even the most prolific) AFT local boss to be done in by his own greed. While $200,000 taken from union coffers over a four-year period (as the prosecutors’ release alleges) sounds like a lot for a local union boss to steal, a former Washington, D.C. AFT local president managed to embezzle up to $4.6 million.

    Garner faces 15 years in prison if convicted. If you are a member, officer, or employee of the AFT or one of its locals and you believe that union officials are engaged in unethical activity, please let us know through our anonymous drop-box what is going on.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionTeachers Unions
  3. Selling Shares Isn’t Changing Jobs

    newtFormer Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has supported—along with over 80 percent of the American public—the Employee Rights Act for some time. He recently restated his support for this package of labor reforms in an opinion piece that has run in numerous outlets, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Detroit News, the Tampa Tribune, the Salt Lake Tribune, and the Des Moines Register. The former Speaker writes:

    For months, we have been bombarded with them every time we turn on our televisions, computer screens and car radios. One group of Americans is especially happy: union members. Millions of them were forced to fund political ads through their union dues, even if they opposed the candidates that their money supported.


    That’s because political spending by union leadership is far more lopsided than the ideological makeup of the unions in general. Election exit polls indicated that 38 percent of voters from union households voted for Republican representatives while 60 percent voted for Democrats. Compare that to the political contributions by the unions themselves. According to data from OpenSecrets and FollowTheMoney, nearly 90 percent of union contributions went to Democrats in 2014.

    One Register reader did not like this fair proposal, and drew a false equivalence to attack it. The letter argues:

    If we were to follow [Gingrich’s] line of reasoning, it is only logical that corporations’ PACs should also get explicit permission from stockholders before they spend corporation funds on political purposes.

    Like the New York Times, which also recently tripped over itself trying to excuse Big Labor’s political expenditures while condemning businesses’, the writer falls victim to misconceptions about how companies and labor unions fund politics.

    First of all, both corporate and labor candidate PAC contributions are required to be opt-in from a “separate segregated fund,” at least for federal elections.

    Additionally, the supposed equivalence between stockholders and employees isn’t really an equivalence at all. Shareholders who don’t like what a company does with its money can sell their shares quite easily (hundreds of millions of shares in U.S. companies are sold or traded each day). Many unionized employees have much less flexibility. Under current law, employees in many states who don’t want to fund liberal organizations like Media Matters Action Network, the Center for American Progress, or Planned Parenthood Action Fund have to go through an onerous court-ordered opt-out procedure that requires them to forfeit workplace rights, or they must change jobs. When 38 percent of union households are casting ballots for Republicans for the House of Representatives, unions’ overwhelming backing of liberal institutions is certain to grate on a significant block of members and potential members.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  4. AFSCME Spins Membership Declines

    Photo via Flickr user david_shane - Used with with Creative Commons Attribution LicenseIn 2012, Michigan became the 24th state to pass a right-to-work law. Unions were outraged, but had little to complain about: Michiganders had just rejected a union proposal to rewrite the state’s labor laws to unions’ benefit (and prohibit right-to-work measures) despite over $23 million that was spent to pass it.

    For good measure, Michigan voters effectively endorsed the employee rights reforms this November, reelecting Gov. Rick Snyder, increasing the state legislative majorities of reformist Republican legislators, and sending a former state Senate leader who had pushed right-to-work in previous legislatures to the U.S. House.

    With voters expressing support for employee rights reformers, unions in Michigan are left with little more than spin. We get that this week from Ed McNeil, Special Assistant to the President of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Leadership Council 25—the Michigan state council of that union. MLive reports:

    Ed McNeil, special assistant to the president of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) rattled off four new groups he’d helped form unions this year, though he says he’d have to dig through some files to find the total number they’ve done since 2012.


    “They’re calling us to organize them because they’re looking at the type of work that we’ve done in the past and how we represent people,” McNeil said.


    He estimates that the actual number of AFSCME members in the state is staying about the same, since some individuals are dropping out. As far as new organizing goes, “We’re doing more than we did before 2012,” McNeil said.

    We can help jog McNeil’s memory, using the Center for Union Facts searchable databases of union federal disclosures. In 2013 (the most recent year for which data are public), AFSCME L.C. 25 had 40,669 members. That’s a drop of 5,405 members (11.7 percent) from 2012’s 46,074 membership. While AFSCME Michigan may be recovering some of its losses through new organizing, it doesn’t appear to be nearly enough to stanch the long-term decline.

    Employee rights reform is successful and working in Big Labor’s spiritual homeland of Michigan. With more opportunity to choose for themselves, many employees are deciding that unions aren’t worthy of their support. It’s time to take this effort to the national level. As unions double down on their failed tactics of ruinous strikes and political hyper-partisanship, legislators should take up reform legislation like the Employee Rights Act to give employees a real voice in their workplaces.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActRight-to-Work
  5. Number Twenty-Three Stays Right to Work

    scotusIn February 2012, advocates for employee rights welcomed Indiana as the 23rd state to pass a right-to-work law under which unions cannot force non-members to fund the union. Big Labor (specifically the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150) sued on the preposterous grounds that the law violated their free speech rights, among other things. While a federal appeals court rejected the challenge, a left-wing state judge went along with the union’s claim that the law violated a provision of the state constitution regarding compensation for work.

    That left the law in force but also in limbo until this week. The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the right-to-work law is constitutional. Writing for the Court, Justice Brent Dickson rejected the union’s claim that it isn’t compensated for its work:

    The Union’s federal obligation to represent all employees in a bargaining unit is optional; it occurs only when the union elects to be the exclusive bargaining agent, for which it is justly compensated by the right to bargain exclusively with the employer.

    This is an important distinction: Unions claim that they should be allowed to force non-members to pay for representation because they reap the alleged “benefits” of union representation. But as the Indiana Supreme Court correctly found, unions are compensated for this arrangement by the government-compelled bargaining requirements. Unions want this—that’s why they don’t become “members-only.”

    Along with victories by pro-reform state governors and new reform-minded Senators like Senators-elect Cory Gardner, James Lankford, and Tom Cotton — all of whom co-sponsored the pro-reform federal measure the Employee Rights Act as U.S. Representatives — this ruling shows that the future belongs to employee freedom, not union dinosaurs.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActRight-to-Work
  6. About Tuesday

    ERA_USAToday_ScottWalkerWith few exceptions, Big Labor took a “thumpin” on Tuesday night, flushing tens of millions of their members’ dollars down the tubes to stall labor reform and curtail employee rights. Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO had vowed to take out six Republican state governors whom he deemed a threat to his agenda.

    Unfortunately for Trumka, all but one were re-elected. Labor reforms to increase individual employee rights enacted by forward-thinking governors in Wisconsin and Michigan will survive. One of Labor’s targets, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, shook off at least $800,000 of union funding to his opponent to win union households outright according to exit polls.

    We’re taking to USA Today with the advertisement on the right to let the incoming Senators, Representatives, governors, and state legislators that labor reforms with an eye to individual employee rights are a political winner.

    Voters are sending a message to legislators and governors across the nation: Standing up to union bosses and pushing for pro-employee reform isn’t a political death sentence—it’s a winning issue. Overwhelming majorities of union and non-union households alike support the provisions of the Employee Rights Act that is currently before Congress. If a new crop of Senators and Representatives are looking for a widely supported agenda item to champion, recent results show employee-empowering labor reform is a good one to start with.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical Money
  7. Strike Fear into Children Any Halloween with CUF’s Randi Mask

    Readers of the Halloween edition of the New York Post who needed a last-minute costume got a gift from us—a mask of “the scariest union leader in America.” And whose mug was available for hole-punching? There were a few choices we could have made: a former AFT local treasurer accused of sex crimes; the Fazio family, former UFCW bosses whose bid to overturn their racketeering convictions was recently denied in federal appeals court; or the former Ironworkers Local 401 “leaders” facing charges for allegedly burning a Quaker meetinghouse in Philadelphia.

    But these alleged local crooks aren’t nearly as scary as the woman who unjustly controls much of America’s education policy: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. You can see our ad below:


    While Randi isn’t facing charges, America’s children are in the clutches of her radical union that puts a cushy status quo for ineffective teachers ahead of students’ education. Until Randi comes around and supports necessary educational reforms—recent polling shows that even 90 percent of Americans who support teachers unions also support reforms—our students will continue to fall behind those in Estonia, Vietnam, and Lativa. With our future in her union’s hands, we all should be very, very, scared.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  8. Despicable Mailers from Randi’s Allies Land in New York State

    The New York State affiliate of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), received significant bipartisan criticism over the weekend for an unbelievably insensitive attack mail piece that its PAC VOTE-COPE sent in a New York State Senate race. You can see it for yourself (as shown to the Buffalo News) below:

    Redacted VOTE COPE mailer

    NYSUT VOTE-COPE Mailer; Source: Buffalo News

    The mailer’s depiction of a victim of domestic violence has caused bipartisan outrage. The New York Daily News explains:

    A new campaign mailer featuring a picture of a woman with a black eye that takes three upstate Republicans to task for opposing Gov. Cuomo’s women’s equality agenda has managed to unite some Democrats and Republicans in their outrage. […]


    The mailer was funded by VOTE-COPE, the campaign arm of the New York State United Teachers, which is supporting a Democratic takeover of the Senate.

    Representatives from both parties have condemned the ads. The Buffalo News quotes a Democratic elected official who Tweeted: “Came home from debate to find this in the mail. Horrible. This makes people hate politics. Vote-Cope should be embarrassed.” The GOP leader in the New York Senate, Dean Skelos, called the mailers ““disgusting” and “beyond decency,” according to the Daily News. Domestic abuse prevention advocates also objected to the mailers.

    Whichever candidate wins the election, the actions of the union are inexcusable. We’re calling on Randi to repudiate the disgusting attacks that her minions in New York are pushing. We’re not holding our breath.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions