Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. EXPOSED: Local Teachers Union Protects Abusive Teacher

    shutterstock_157245110What does it take to fire a really bad teacher? Apparently, a lot.

    Project Veritas video revealed two union officials with the Yonkers Federation of Teachers (YFT)—a New York affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers—brainstorming ways to protect an abusive teacher played by an undercover journalist. The planted (white) teacher, who hypothetically struck a minority student and then took a two-week vacation in Mexico without telling the school, admitted his “wrongdoing” to YFT President Patricia Puleo and YFT Executive Vice President Paul Diamond.

    The response was shocking. “You don’t have to be honest,” explained Diamond, proposing to the plant to instead to “talk in theory.” Puleo suggested calling the two-week Mexico trip “family medical leave time” as “one way of covering it up.”

    It doesn’t end there. When James O’Keefe, the journalist-turned-teacher, inquired about claiming medical leave to cover up the incident, Diamond suggested manufacturing a phony doctor’s note. In his own words, “Do you have a doctor who is a friend of the family?” Puleo was even clearer: “Don’t f***cking tell anybody.”

    You can see the full extent of it here:

    In light of the video, four members of the Yonkers City Council called for the resignations of Puleo and Diamond. And how did the union respond? By standing behind Diamond and telling him to “continue his union work.” (Puleo too will likely be spared of any punishment.) That “union work” doesn’t come cheap: Diamond’s base salary exceeded $132,000 in 2015.

    It’s the same old script. Teachers unions defend even the worst teachers at all costs—often at the expense of students.

    Categories: AFTTeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  2. NYC Union Boss Arrested on Fraud Charges

    crime money steal embezzle 2

    Union bosses just can’t say no to luxury. Take Norman Seabrook, the longtime president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA) who was recently arrested on fraud charges. His crime? Seabrook allegedly steered $20 million in union money to a hedge fund called Platinum Partners in return for tens of thousands of dollars in personal kickbacks.

    The scheme was orchestrated by Seabrook and Murray Huberfield, the hedge fund’s founder, who then coordinated with businessman and Democratic donor Jona Rechnitz. It was Rechnitz who personally delivered those kickbacks—about $60,000 worth—to Seabrook in an $820 Salvatore Ferragamo handbag. (For those keeping track at home, Ferragamo is “one of Seabrook’s favorite stores.”)

    The union boss’ reasoning for the backroom deal was simple: “[I]t was time that ‘Norman Seabrook got paid.'”

    That’s Seabrook in a nutshell. As The New York Times reported:

    Just looking at him, it is clear Mr. Seabrook enjoys life’s finer things. He is driven around town in luxury S.U.V.s, dines at upscale restaurants, smokes fine cigars, and wears expensive tailored suits, often with a pocket square.

    And who’s paying for those finer things?

    Union members. Soon after Seabrook and Huberfield ironed out the details of their deal in 2013, Seabrook sent the investor $10 million in union annuity funds—derived from mandatory member dues. He then invested two other $5 million payments in Huberfield’s fund over the next few months, leaving “COBA with just over $3 million cash on hand for the union.”

    Union members might not be getting a bang for their buck, but Seabrook definitely did—and a luxury handbag to boot.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionGolf and Other NecessitiesUnion Spending
  3. Desperate Unions Resort to…Inflatable Rats?

    ratIn America’s largest cities, developers are turning to nonunion labor for residential, commercial, and institutional construction projects. Sounds harmless, right?

    Big Labor doesn’t think so. “It’s putting profits before people,” claims Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. (Meanwhile, New York construction unions are notorious for paying black employees less than their white counterparts.)

    In the Big Apple, a firm called Gilbane Building is now being targeted by construction unions for—wait for it—employing union and nonunion labor. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the company uses a mix of union and nonunion contractors on its jobs based on numerous criteria including cost,” which has led union bosses to organize “about a half-dozen anti-Gilbane rallies in recent months.” A recent one included two large inflatable rats. Other rallies have featured as many as five rats, which are meant to signify a construction site with nonunion labor.

    As the New York Daily News explains, Big Labor’s army of inflatable animals now includes “a rodent sibling, a skunk, a cockroach, a ‘fat cat’ developer…and a cigar-chomping ‘capitalist pig.’ This isn’t a joke. The Building and General Construction Laborers Union Local 3 is just one of the unions using different members of the rodent family. You can see for yourself here:

    And it’s become a national phenomenon. One Bricklayers Union in Montana recently mounted a giant inflatable rat near the construction site of a new Walmart in Great Falls.

    Why the outrage?

    If developers shy away from union labor, that means less dues money for union bosses to spend. Construction unions in New York—where member dues are mandatory—and other cities derive a large chunk of income from building contracts with private developers, so companies like Gilbane are directly cutting into Big Labor’s pool of revenue when they opt for nonunion employees. Even though union bosses like LaBarbera claim to care about worker fairness and low wages, it really comes down to purchasing power.

    They need that for politics, lobbying, and—you guessed it—more inflatable rats.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsBuilding and Construction Trades CouncilGolf and Other NecessitiesUnion Spending
  4. SEIU Goes Rogue, Confronts Climate Change

    nuclear“[L]eaving oil, nautral gas, and other fossil fuels in the ground kills jobs, drives up energy costs, and threatens to strangle our economy.”—Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA) President Terry O’Sullivan


    “We know first-hand that our fights for economic, racial, and immigrant justice are inextricably linked to the fight for environmental justice.”—Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry

    Different day, same labor movement? The former was part of the LIUNA president’s scathing letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who recently formed a multimillion-dollar super PAC with Tom Steyer, the investor-turned-environmental-zealot. The latter demonstrates the SEIU president’s newfound commitment to tackle climate change, which she claims has given rise to “polluted zip codes” in America. Together, the two statements reveal the deep schism within the labor movement.

    LIUNA and other unions have long supported the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline and, by extension, opposed the “environmental extremists” who would scrap American jobs in the name of climate change. (After the White House blocked the Keystone project, O’Sullivan called the decision “politics at its worst.”) Other unions, however—like the SEIU—have embraced the Left’s environmental agenda. “Our members adopted a platform today to take on the fight for environmental justice and to stand in solidarity with the rest of the labor movement to demand clean air and water, healthy and safe communities and a just transition for all workers affected by a transition to a clean energy economy,” Henry recently proclaimed. Her union is now committing its resources—derived from (often mandatory) member dues—to “broadening environmental justice,” even though roughly 40 percent of union members vote Republican and probably aren’t aboard the green train.

    This, after the union spent at least $20 million on the job-killing Fight for $15 in 2015, sending millions to glitzy consulting firms and left-wing think tanks.

    Worse yet, Henry’s idyllic vision of “solidarity” doesn’t exist. Just ask O’Sullivan, who claims “environmentalists have blown the whistle on workers trying to feed their families.” Or consider the seven building trades presidents who also scolded Trumka for his Steyer alliance. In their words, “[T]he AFL-CIO has now officially become infiltrated by financial and political interests that work in direct conflict to…dues paying members’ lives.”

    That sounds like anything but a unified front.

    Categories: AFL-CIOSEIUUnion Spending
  5. NLRB Allegedly Downplays Pro-Union Threats

    boxingAs we’ve explained before, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sounds like an impartial observer; but it’s really an unelected body of pro-union bureaucrats. And the NLRB doesn’t hide its true colors.

    This particular story takes us back to 2013, when nursing aides at Pennsylvania nursing company ManorCare of Kingston voted (very narrowly) to unionize the workplace. Shortly after the vote took place, ManorCare objected to certifying the union. Why? Because two pro-union employees had allegedly threatened to beat up nursing aides who voted against the union—raising the possibility of intimidation influencing the final outcome. The NLRB investigated the matter in 2014, finding that one of the employees vowed to “start punching people in the face.” The other threatened to “do damage to people’s cars and cause bodily harm to employees who voted against the union.”

    But did the NLRB order another election? No chance. Instead, the agency argued the threats did not amount to intimidation—and couldn’t have tilted the scales in favor of the union—because one of the employees was short and the other was light-hearted. You read that right: The NLRB backed up its findings by claiming the first employee was “diminutive” and the second “was viewed as joking in nature.” And so the agency upheld ManorCare’s union vote.

    Fast forward to May 2016 and a federal appeals court is now overturning the NLRB’s decision. The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the NLRB “abused its discretion” by downplaying “pro-union” threats against some of ManorCare’s workers. The court found that not only did the NLRB not take the “general atmosphere of fear and reprisal” seriously enough, but also that employees had a real reason to be threatened. The remarks made by the pro-union employees “were threatening, and seriously so,” the court wrote.

    In the end, the U.S. Circuit Court overturned the union certification at ManorCare. In other words, it did what the “impartial” NLRB should have done from the start—send Big Labor home packing.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionNLRBViolence
  6. Union President Pay Watch, 2016

    cashThe AFL-CIO releases an annual “Executive PayWatch” report, purporting to show that CEOS are raking in stupid money while employees get peanuts. The statistical gymnastics that the union federation uses to claim CEOs are making 335 times what the “average worker” makes are extreme, as the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry (among others) has explained in detail.

    But, as we noted last year when we called them out, unions’ cherry-picking hides their own pay gaps. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average “chief executive” made $185,850 in 2015. Like last year, we examined unions’ annual Department of Labor disclosures to determine how many still-current union presidents made more than the average CEO. (This is to ensure that union presidents who retire and take deferred compensation aren’t included.) In total, 153 union presidents made more than the average CEO in gross salary. (This doesn’t count other union officials like Secretary-Treasurers, Vice Presidents, and Business Managers—only those with the title “President,” “General President,” or “International President” were counted.)

    You can review the top 10 in the chart below: Most names will be familiar from last year, and the ones who dropped off didn’t miss the list by much. Indeed, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers had a higher salary (although fewer total disbursements) than she did last year, when she was in the top 10.

    2016_UnionSalaryAnd union bosses (like CEOs) get more than just a salary: Expense accounts and other compensation make union bosses’ lives even more comfortable than just the six-figure pay packets.


    While the AFL-CIO sows class warfare by comparing the salaries of people who run major multi-national companies with teenagers working at fast food restaurants, the bosses’ pay shows that unions are well aware of the real reasons some people make more money than others. Just like running a company, running a labor union requires skills that demand substantial compensation. It is up to union members to thoroughly scrutinize the pay and expenses given to their union officials to determine if they are good value for dues money.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTAnti-Corporate CampaignsDOLTeachers UnionsUFCWUnion Spending
  7. Unions Squabble about New Super PAC

    shutterstock_55032217 (1)Some of America’s major labor unions have decided to form a (surprise, surprise) pro-Democrat super PAC for the 2016 election. Led by the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and National Education Association (NEA), the so-called For Our Future PAC is projected to raise about $50 million to boost the Democratic nominee—with unions free to opt in for $1 million.

    But this time, it’s not just unions who are writing the checks. Politico has more:

    The new super PAC would not be the first funded by labor unions. But it represents a departure because in the past union-run super PACs have been funded almost entirely by the unions themselves. Unions have donated frequently to liberal super PACs outside the labor movement, but non-labor donors have seldom contributed to union-run super PACs. The new super PAC is intended to reverse that flow.

    Yet the launch of this new venture hasn’t been smooth sailing for Big Labor. Why? One name: Tom Steyer.

    The investor-turned-environmentalist is leading fundraising efforts for the new super PAC. Hypocrisy aside—Steyer profited from fossil fuel investments as a hedge fund manager—the billionaire’s opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline has riled up buildings and trades unions who saw an extension of the pipeline as a major job creator. This prompted the heads of these unions—including the International Union of Operating Engineers and Laborers’ International Union—to sign and send a scathing letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The AFL-CIO has now officially become infiltrated by financial and political interests that work in direct conflict to many of our members’—and yes, AFL-CIO dues-paying members’ lives,” the letter stated.

    In a separate letter to Trumka, Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ Union, called Steyer’s role in the For Our Future PAC a “politically bankrupt betrayal.” He also wrote, “We object to the political agenda of the AFL-CIO being sold to a job-killing hedge fund manager with a bag of cash.”

    The real tragedy of this is the helplessness of union membership. As union bosses squabble, union members—40 percent of whom vote Republican—are expected to sit idly by and bankroll a green political agenda.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMEAFTNEAPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  8. Employee Rights Act Attracts Record Co-Sponsorship

    eraThe Employee Rights Act (ERA), labor legislation reintroduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), is gaining traction on Capitol Hill—and breaking its own records along the way. The ERA is now co-sponsored by 144 members of the 114th Congress, including 29 senators. That surpasses the previous high of 137 co-sponsors when the bill was reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

    Considering it is also supported by 80 percent of Americans—union households included—the ERA is one of the most popular bills in Washington, D.C.

    It’s easy to understand why. As we’ve mentioned before, American labor law hasn’t been substantially updated since the 1940s, leaving employees to labor under outdated workplace rules that favor union bosses instead of the rank-and-file. For example, employees still aren’t guaranteed secret ballot elections when they’re mulling union representation. Labor organizers often circumvent the democratic process by using publicly staged “card check” procedures. These public spectacles supplant a private vote and leave employees (and employers) vulnerable to bullying and harassment—which further tilts the scales in favor of Big Labor.

    The ERA would fix the problem by requiring secret ballot union elections and (finally) criminalizing union violence at the federal level. It would also prevent union bosses from spending millions of dollars on left-wing politics without obtaining affirmative approval from their members beforehand. Roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican, yet more than 90 percent of union dollars support the Democratic Party and closely aligned special interest groups. America’s major unions spent nearly $420 million on liberal causes from 2012 to 2014 alone, forcing many union members to support a political agenda they don’t even believe in.

    Employees deserve better. Congress is now answering their call.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending