Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. SEIU’s 2017 Resolution: Waste Less Money

    MoneyWith a new administration coming in January, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) thinks the sky is falling.

    The memo comes from the union’s top leadership. In SEIU President Mary Kay Henry’s words: “Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions.” She also cites a need to “dramatically re-think” the union’s strategy, announcing a 30-percent reduction in the budget by next year and a 10-percent cut effective in the coming weeks.

    (The SEIU’s annual budget exceeds $300 million annually. In recent years, the union has spent over $70 million on the “Fight for $15” campaign to raise the minimum wage.)

    When asked what the memo means moving forward, the SEIU didn’t offer specifics. “As we prepare to fight-back against the forthcoming attacks on working people and our communities under an extremist-run government, we know we must realign our resources and streamline our investments to buttress and broaden our movement to restore economic and democratic opportunity for all families,” spokeswoman Sahar Wali explains.

    That bit of rhetoric about streamlining investments may be an acknowledgement that the Fight for $15 is more costly and less beneficial to the SEIU bottom line than their press flacks would have you believe. (The United Food and Commercial Workers similarly “streamlined” its “OUR Walmart” organization after it failed to gain traction with Walmart employees.)

    In other words, the SEIU is left desperately licking its wounds in 2017.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsSEIU
  2. Unions Defend Abusive Teachers

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    Lost in the holiday news cycle was a bombshell USA Today report on sexual abuse in American classrooms. Investigative reporter Steve Reilly helped uncover “more than 100 teachers who lost their licenses but are still working with children or young adults today,” while “government officials at every level stand by and do nothing.” Among them is a New Jersey teacher who molested five elementary school students and an Illinois teacher who forced students to eat food off his crotch.

    Reilly also found that “unions have resisted reforms” to address the problem. One such reform is requiring school districts to report the resignation of an educator who is accused or suspected of misconduct to state education officials. (Nine states have no such laws on the books.)

    While student welfare advocates are fighting to end secretive practices surrounding educator misconduct, others are stymieing transparent reporting of sexual harassment and other wrongdoings. Take Jan Hochadel, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ Connecticut chapter: “This will limit the ability of employees and employers from negotiating separation agreements and could potentially result in a flood of teacher termination hearings.” Wait, what? Protecting students from sexual abuse is wrong because it could lead to a firing of teachers?

    AFT President Randi Weingarten has similarly attacked education reform—including charter schools and tenure adjustments—as the “scapegoat[ing]” of teachers. In Big Labor’s world, fixing America’s schools and helping students is somehow anti-teacher. Here’s to a smarter 2017.

    Categories: AFTTeachers Unions
  3. The Fight for $15’s Three Dumbest Predictions

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    Heading into a new year of protests and general unruliness, the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight for $15 has produced plenty of predictions that hold no water now. Here are the three dumbest forecasts:

    1. Workers will flock to the SEIU. In orchestrating the Fight for $15, the SEIU’s primary goal—aside from a $15 an hour minimum wage—is to increase its membership rolls and dues collection. Take this SEIU statement: “[We support] the ability of all workers across our economy to join together in unions and have a voice at work to improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities, including organizers in the Fight for $15.” Or this from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry: “I think we’re going to see additional workers join from across the retail sector, from auto parts work, from airports. We’re joining with the immigration movement, with Black Lives Matter, the environmental movement…” Yet recent LM-2 filings show that the SEIU’s membership dropped from 1,893,775 employees in 2014 to 1,887,941 in 2015. The union’s membership has generally declined over the past five years: It claimed 1,921,786 union members in 2011, the year prior to the start of the Fight for $15—almost 34,000 more than it had in 2015.
    2. A $15 minimum wage won’t cost jobs. Yeah, right. Lawrence Mishel, president of the SEIU-backed Economic Policy Institute, says that a $15 minimum wage is “something the economy can afford.” Well, small business owners definitely can’t—at least, not without raising prices and/or firing people. Just take a look at FacesOf15.com, which chronicles the $15 minimum wage’s adverse effects on job creators in cities like San Francisco and Seattle. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk estimates that a federal $15 minimum wage would eliminate seven million jobs nationwide.
    3. It saves taxpayers money. Union activists often claim that a higher minimum wage makes fewer people dependent on public assistance, saving taxpayers money in the end. In union activist Kent Siladi’s words: “Taxpayers also effectively subsidize the employers of low-wage workers who remain in poverty.” Yet research from California and New York—which embraced a $15 minimum wage earlier this year—points to a much heavier tax burden. According to a California legislative analysis, a $15 minimum wage for government employees will eventually cost taxpayers an additional $3.6 billion in annual taxes. In New York, the higher wage floor will cost taxpayers an extra $838 million a year in Medicaid payments alone.

    Stay tuned for more facepalms in 2017.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsSEIU
  4. Christmas Craziness: Unwrapping a Connecticut Politician’s Conflict of Interest

    binocularsAs 2016 comes to a close, one state legislature is grappling with a conflict of interest between a state representative and a powerful labor union. Representative Joe Aresimowicz, Connecticut’s incoming House speaker, also work as the education coordinator for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). (AFSCME pays Rep. Aresimowicz more than $95,000 a year.)

    Aresimowicz was hired by AFSCME almost 18 years ago after serving in the Army Reserves and has been a state representative since 2004—ultimately being named majority leader in 2013. But his union side business raises serious questions. As the Hartford Courant explains, union contracts account for a large chunk of Connecticut’s budget, while state-employee unions’ salaries, benefits, pensions, and healthcare costs fall under Aresimowicz’s purview as House speaker. Will he act in the state’s best interest or AFSCME’s?

    This isn’t a hypothetical concern. There’s a long and sordid history of self-dealing (whether intentional or unintentional) in government. As recently as last month, the employer of one Minnesota legislator was in line to receive a grant he had pushed through until whistle-blowers revealed the conflict of interest.

    2014 statement from the Connecticut Office of State Ethics explains the need for impartial governance: “Generally, these provisions prohibit a public official from accepting outside employment that would impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties or that would be deemed a use of office for personal financial gain.”

    If Connecticut’s citizens want a transparent government, they should unwrap the ethical concerns raised by Aresimowicz’s union ties.

    Categories: AFSCMECrime & Corruption
  5. Union Bosses Spend $530 Million on Political Advocacy

    After months of combing LM-2 disclosure forms—the annual union financial reports required by the Labor Department—the Center for Union Facts (CUF) has found that labor unions sent nearly $530 million to Democrats and liberal special-interest groups from 2012 to 2015 for political advocacy purposes. 99 percent of Big Labor’s $530 million advocacy budget—funded primarily by member dues—went to the Democratic Party and closely aligned special interest groups.

    You can see the full report here:

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    The recipients of union money range from left-wing economic think tanks to civil rights groups and liberal media outlets. The Democratic Governors Association received over $10 million in mostly mandatory member dues, while Catalist—the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm—raked in more than $7 million. Advocacy groups run by Al Sharpton (National Action Network) and Jesse Jackson (Rainbow PUSH Coalition) also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years. The year-by-year numbers are staggering: In 2015 alone, the Economic Policy Institute—the Fight for $15’s think tank of choice—garnered more than $1.6 million, while David Brock’s pro-Democrat American Bridge 21st Century received a $350,000 handout.

    Yet roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican in any given election cycle. (In 2016, the number was 43 percent.) The disturbing discrepancy points to the gradual evolution of labor unions from worker advocacy organizations to Democratic Party subsidiaries that are increasingly beholden to Democratic elites instead of blue-collar employees.

    Under current labor law, union bosses are not required to obtain opt-in approval from their members before spending dues dollars on political advocacy and other activities totally unrelated to collective bargaining. Union members are forced to explicitly object to such spending in order to opt out, an arduous road paved with union intimidation. Fortunately, the Employee Rights Act (ERA)—a bill reintroduced in the 114th Congress—would update federal labor law to protect employees from unapproved political spending. The ERA would prevent union leadership from taking member dues and spending it on the National Action Network, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and other liberal advocacy groups without prior approval.

    Without it, Big Labor will continue to be the Democratic Party’s personal ATM—while union members foot the bill.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  6. IAFF Boss Protests Union Totalitarianism

    facepalmOne union boss has raised concerns about the AFL-CIO ballot for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair after AFL-CIO Executive Committee members were given only one name to choose from. Union members were told they could either vote for Rep. Keith Ellison, abstain, or “make no endorsement at this time,” prompting Harold Schaitberger—president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)—to speak out.

    “A single name on the ballot more resembles an attempt at a coronation in a totalitarian regime rather than an election within the House of Labor,” Schaitberger recently wrote in an email to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

    Schaitberger’s criticism over the lack of choice in representation should be familiar to most dues-paying members of labor unions. Less than 10 percent of union members ever voted for the union currently “representing” them. According to the Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk:

    “Unions represent 8 million workers under the NLRA. Only 478,000 of these—6 percent—voted for union representation at some point in their careers and remain employed by the company at which they voted.”

    No vote means no accountability—which Schaitberger is surely familiar with. New York Times piece from last year highlighted how the IAFF’s political action committee has grown from $3 million to $18 million in biennial fundraising. The same article referenced Schaitberger’s expensive tastes—he spent over $110,000 on roughly 100 meals in 2010 alone.

    If only union bosses like Schaitberger supported the Employee Rights Act (ERA), labor legislation that would protect union employees’ rights to privacy. Among other basic reforms, the ERA would guarantee secret ballot union elections and periodic recertification votes when a workforce has experienced substantial turnover. This would put union leadership up for a re-vote, allowing union membership to reassess the state of their workplace. Furthermore, the bill would prevent big-spending labor leaders from using dues dollars on line items totally unrelated to collective bargaining without obtaining prior approval first.

    Before union bosses complain about a lack of representation, they should start practicing what they preach—and support the ERA.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActGolf and Other NecessitiesPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  7. Teachers Buck Union Leadership

    September 2016. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton: “What we’re seeing in terms of our members is that when you talk to them, they get it and they are overwhelmingly supporting her and it’s [really] a matter of getting them out to vote.” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association (NEA), on Clinton: “She wants to build bridges to a better future for all. That’s why America’s educators are with her!”

    November 2016. The AFT’s internal poll reveals that roughly 20 percent of the union’s members voted for Donald Trump. The NEA’s data points to more than 33 percent support for the Republican candidate among teachers.

    This is the sad state of organized labor today. While union leadership shouts its support for the Democratic Party from the mountaintop, the ideological composition of union membership is far more diverse. In fact, it’s possible that support for Trump was even stronger than post-election internals suggest: The most recent NEA survey of public school teachers found that 55 percent of teachers characterize themselves as “conservative” or “tend to be conservative,” leaving a great many looking across the aisle for answers. More recent numbers indicate that roughly 60 percent of NEA members are “Republicans or independents,” yet Garcia and other union bosses boast about their pro-Democrat political preferences as if their members comprise a rigid voting bloc.

    Election Day was a reminder that union members are anything but yes-men and -women. It was so unsettling for Weingarten that she resorted to blanket accusations of sexism after the election. “Frankly I was always concerned about whether the country was ready to have a female president,” Weingarten claimed. “There was an intensity of hatred that male political figures never get. So I think we’re never really going to understand it.” (Yes, the AFT’s head essentially called her members sexist.)

    December 2016. Big Labor has no finger on the pulse of its members.

    Categories: AFTNEATeachers Unions