Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Hypocritical “Union Shop” Flails in Defense of Union Funding

    moneythumbWe recently questioned the timing of the Center for Media and Democracy’s decision to allow itself to directly take funding from unions. A reporter with Watchdog.org contacted CMD head Lisa Graves for comment, and received a curious reply. We’ll let Watchdog explain:

    Graves called the undisclosed union donations “a small percent of its overall funding.” […]

     

    “After I became the leader of CMD, we began a review of our policies and practices, and it was my view that the Supreme Court was wrong in Citizens United to equate corporations and unions and that the old policy reinforced that so we changed it,” she said of the landmark court decision that lifted campaign finance restrictions.

    Graves’s view seems to be that using union money for political advocacy is OK while using business money isn’t, just because she says so. This stinks of rank hypocrisy, and Graves’s pathetic deflections show just how weak and self-serving her position is.

    It’s also undeniably false that unions provide “a small percent of [CMD] funding.” Department of Labor disclosures by unions (the only way we could figure out that CMD gets union funding) reported $118,000 in itemized union payments to CMD in 2013. That was about 14% of the organization’s contribution and grant revenue, according to tax returns.

    And what about Graves’s defense on the timing of CMD’s union support flip-flop? Well, it doesn’t seem to match the facts. Graves took over CMD in 2009, and the union funding policy didn’t change until very late 2010. The timing of the “final decision” remains very, very suspicious.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneySEIU
  2. Detroit AFT Chooses Radical Path

    detroitIn 2010, the Chicago local of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was taken over by its most radical caucus (led by left-wing union boss Karen Lewis). The result was a citywide teachers’ strike in 2012 that shuttered classes and inconvenienced parents for over a week, even as Chicago public schools continue to struggle.

    Unfortunately for parents, taxpayers, and moderate-minded teachers, Detroit’s AFT local has decided that Chicago’s radical experiment would be perfect to emulate. In a runoff election for President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), radical Steve Conn defeated the relatively more moderate Edna Reaves, an ally of the outgoing union president Keith Johnson, by fifteen votes. The Detroit News reports that these developments worry Johnson:

    “I’m gravely concerned about the future of this union. Steve has a single answer to everything and that is strike, walk out, protest. He doesn’t understand that whether you disagree with someone or dislike them, you still have to work with them to move this district forward.” […]

     

    “The only saving grace we may have is that the rest of the officers and board members are reasonable people and they will not allow (Conn) and his personal agenda to destroy the union.

    For his part, new President Conn has vowed to “stand up” against “so-called reformers.” Meanwhile, the Detroit school district remains in administration under a state-appointed emergency manager, and Detroit students perform worst of any major city school district in the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s Trial Urban District Assessment.

    The city schools are in a longstanding crisis, and the teachers union has chosen radicalism, strikes, and protests over partnering for necessary reforms. Detroit’s history of repeated teacher strikes—a total of four work stoppages from 1979-1992 with the longest walkout lasting four weeks—is  hardly cause for optimism. Unless the supposed “moderates” can keep the new, radical leadership of DFT in line, expect the education debate in the Motor City to get much nastier rather than more productive.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  3. Anti-Walker Group Changed No-Union-Funds Rule Just After 2010 Elections

    The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a left-wing organization that is a critical cog in the Wisconsin liberal-progressive infrastructure network. The group has taken significant funding from major labor unions in recent years—in 2013, $118,000 in identifiable union expenditures to CMD amounted to 13.6% of the organization’s contribution and grant revenue.

    Prior to Republican victories in Wisconsin in 2010 that led to Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms to public-sector collective bargaining, CMD stated that it did not take union funds. But according to a Center for Union Facts analysis of the Internet Archive cache, CMD reversed its position on accepting union funds almost immediately after Walker won election to the Wisconsin governor’s mansion and Republicans won control of both houses of the state legislature.

    CMD, which criticizes conservative groups for a lack of transparency, does not disclose this union funding in its annual IRS filings or on its website.

    Background

    CMD claims to be an advocate for transparency and openness in government and reduced special-interest (specifically business) influence; to that end, the group asserts, “CMD does NOT accept grants from corporations or government agencies.”

    This does not mean that CMD receives most of its support from grassroots supporters: According to an analysis of the organization’s 2013 tax return which was recently filed, CMD’s six largest ($25,000 or more) contributors — which appear to include the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union — account for 72% of CMD’s grant and contribution revenue.

    CMD once had a more restrictive contributions policy, proudly asserting as recently as 2010 that it “does NOT accept corporate, labor union or government grants.” In a 2009 posting for the group’s top job, the organization claimed, “CMD does not accept grants from corporations, labor unions or government agencies,” as in the screenshot below.

    CMD boss jobAnalysis

    Using the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine,” which caches pages on the internet, we can determine when Center for Media and Democracy changed its stated position on its “Financial Supporters” page (which no longer exists, having been rolled into an “About Us” page).

    As of the publication of this brief, CMD — which purports to accept “donations from individuals and philanthropic foundations through gifts and grants” and lists what it purports to be a list of past and current foundation funders — does not explicitly acknowledge that it receives significant funding from labor unions. The screenshot below shows CMD’s “disclosure” of funders as of December 2014.

    CMD funders claimedConspicuously absent are the three international labor unions known to fund CMD: AFSCME, AFL-CIO, and SEIU.

    In 2010, the Wayback archives show two captures of the “funders” page after the November 4 elections (which flipped “trifecta” control of Wisconsin state government from Democratic to Republican). The November 26th capture has the following text:

    1126 CMD funding statement

    On December 20, that had changed to the following:

    1220 CMD funding statement

    The statement that CMD would not take money from labor unions quietly disappeared. It is unknown precisely why this occurred, although the closeness to the 2010 elections cannot be ignored. A Google search of the Center’s website (PRWatch.org) shows almost no mention of Gov. Walker prior to January 1, 2011. By February of that year, CMD released a lengthy “special report” on the Governor’s relationship with a conservative foundation.

    By no later than May 2012, CMD was receiving significant sums from the AFL-CIO, according to Department of Labor filings. It is possible that CMD received union funding closer to the time it changed its stated policy: Under the 1959 Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act which governs DoL filings, only national union federations and unions with private-sector nonagricultural members must file financial disclosures. The Wisconsin Education Association Council (Wisconsin’s NEA affiliate and largest teachers’ union), for example, is exempt from such reporting.

    AFLCIO CMD 2012

    Since that time, CMD has additionally received funds from AFSCME and SEIU, in addition to subsequent money from the AFL-CIO.

    Concluding Remarks

    CMD claims to represent a grassroots progressive liberalism opposed to business-backed conservatism. However, its funding indicates that it carries out the agenda of liberal special interests—environmentalist and left-wing foundations and public sector labor unions like AFSCME and SEIU. This tie into the Democratic network grew after two events: the appointment of former Clinton Administration and Pat Leahy aide Lisa Graves to head CMD in 2010 and the election of Scott Walker as Governor of Wisconsin in November of that year.

    The evidence clearly shows that whatever was keeping CMD from taking union contributions while Wisconsin was governed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, it was not principle.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneySEIUUnion Spending
  4. Ironworkers Boss Stands Trial for Mafia-Style Racket

    laborpains 9 10 altWe covered the indictment of the “THUGs” — seriously, that was the name of one of their “goon squads” — of Ironworkers Local Union 401 back in February. Ten people affiliated with the Philadelphia union, including the union’s financial secretary and multiple business agents, were charged with RICO crimes related to a series of actions that culminated in the December 2012 burning of a Quaker meetinghouse being built by a non-union contractor.

    Eleven have now pleaded guilty. This week, Financial Secretary Joseph Dougherty (who was paid $211,989 total compensation in 2013 for his union service)—the only indicted “THUG” not to plead guilty—is standing trial for his alleged involvement in the violence and intimidation schemes.

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports that prosecutors argued that the Ironworkers Local 401 enterprise allegedly orchestrated by Dougherty resembled the mafia. The paper reports:

    “Both criminal enterprises existed and operated through a pattern of fear, violence, and intimidation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Livermore wrote in a trial memorandum filed [Jan. 3]. “Both criminal enterprises used that well-earned fear to extort money from businesses.” […]

     

    In the trial memo, Livermore likened the union under Dougherty to “the mafia” and said Dougherty was its “don” or “undisputed leader.” Another union member had even described Dougherty as the “Jimmy Hoffa” of the union, the memo says – a reference to the powerful Teamsters leader who disappeared in 1975.

    Dougherty’s alleged associates testified that Dougherty was involved in ordering so-called “nightwork” — criminal activity conducted to advance union ends. Dougherty’s defense team has taken an interesting approach to addressing the charges, according to the AP:

    “In Philadelphia, for decades and decades and decades, this town has been a strong and proud union town,” defense lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr. told jurors.

     

    He said his client didn’t invent “night work” and shouldn’t be held responsible for his co-defendants’ crimes.

     

    But prosecutors said Dougherty “ruled with an iron fist” and took union mischief to new heights.

     

    “There has been a long tradition of night work within the Ironworkers Local 401 stretching back 50 years or more,” prosecutors said in one plea memo filed in the case. “(But) the defendants in this case took (it) to a new level.”

    The defense attorney’s “union town” non sequitur aside, the claim that violence and intimidation have been Ironworkers hallmarks for a half-century shows why a crackdown on union violence is needed now as much as ever. The Employee Rights Act would close a loophole that exempts certain union conduct from federal anti-extortion laws. While existing law was able to corral the “THUGs” of Ironworkers Local 401, there is no valid reason to let this loophole continue to exist.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionEmployee Rights ActViolence
  5. Randi’s Political Money Fails to Buy Friends

    AFT Times Square Billboard

    It’s no surprise that Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) went hard in last November’s elections for Democrats and liberal candidates. Since Opensecrets records began in 1990, the federal AFT political action committee has directed 89 percent of its contributions to Democrats. (In 2014, the three of the few Republicans who received AFT contributions faced no major party opposition in their general elections.)

    But in a year when the AFT’s clearly chosen party does badly, that means a lot of its members’ money gets thrown away in doomed and hopeless causes. The union’s PAC flushed at least $850,000 through Harry Reid’s SuperPAC (Senate Majority PAC) that was supposed to guarantee Democratic control of the Senate. Another $500,000 followed Charlie Crist (the party-switching ex-Republican Democratic candidate for Florida Governor) down to defeat. The AFT also failed to defeat Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner: AFT’s state affiliate backed Rauner’s opponents in the primary and the general elections, but Rauner won anyway.

    Perhaps most laughably, the AFT’s political Svengalis invested significant sums in the doomed gubernatorial bid of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who lost by 20 points. AFT threw at least $175,000 behind her bid to take the open Texas governorship, and the union PAC also threw at least $100,000 behind the liberal Texas Organizing Project and another $25,000 behind the Texas Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate.

    Fortunately for members, there’s an easy way out of funding these political misadventures: Under federal law, contributions to union PACs (just like contributions to company PACs) must be opt-in, and check-off authorizations can be revoked.

    The result of a year of poor results will be bad for Randi but may be positive for America’s kids. Even in arch-Democratic New York, where the AFT state affiliate didn’t endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, education reforms are advancing with Gov. Cuomo pushing for more accountability in education.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions
  6. SEIU Organizer Allegedly Beats Up NYPD

    laborpains 9 10 altWe’ve noted before that unions are desperately trying to shake off their well-deserved reputation as “thugs.” Unfortunately for their rebranding effort, union bosses just can’t seem to get out of the old habit of physical violence, with an SEIU Local 32BJ organizing coordinator charged with numerous offenses relating to him allegedly assaulting New York City police officers just the latest example.

    The Daily Beast reports that Robert Murray, an Organizing Coordinator for Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, was charged on five counts (including two felony counts of assaulting a police officer) relating to an attack on NYPD officers managing an anti-police demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge. Murray, whom Local 32BJ officials say was participating in the protest in his individual capacity, was paid total compensation of $105,704 in 2013 by the union, according to Department of Labor records.

    So, what exactly do the NYPD allege Murray did? Capital New York has the details:

    Robert Murray, 43, an organizer for 32BJ SEIU, who surrendered to police and who police previously identified as “Male No. 3,” is alleged to have pulled Lieutenants Philip Chan and Patrick Sullivan “to the ground” as they attempted to arrest CUNY adjunct professor Eric Linsker for allegedly throwing or trying to throw a metal garbage can.

    The Beast report notes that Police Lt. Chan suffered a broken nose in the scuffle.

    Murray’s alleged assault is yet another reminder that union staff and officials have been implicated in numerous cases of violence and intimidation. Currently, unions are exempted from federal criminal prohibitions on certain violent acts and threats of violence in the furtherance of union objectives. That’s a scandal—a scandal that 93 percent of the American public recognize and that the Employee Rights Act (ERA) would fix. It’s past time for Congress to take the threat of union violence and intimidation seriously, and act on the ERA.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionSEIUViolence
  7. The Speaker Stands for Employee Rights

    ERA_USAToday_ScottWalkerFormer Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich continued his work in support of employee rights today with an op-ed (co-signed by our Executive Director) published by the Washington Post. Looking at the recent midterm election results, they find a pattern in the victors’ platforms:

    On Election Day, voters didn’t just rebel against President Obama. There was another pattern in the candidates they chose: Across the country, they picked pols who explicitly supported individual employee rights. …

     

    Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Snyder of Michigan, for instance, both won reelection after pushing through significant employee-friendly reforms in their first terms. Even in deep-blue Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner campaigned on a platform to give state employees the right to decide for themselves whether to join a union.

    In these and other cases, politicians who stood up for individual employee rights against the power of union bosses had success. We can add more: Bill Cassidy, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, and James Lankford — all sponsors of the Employee Rights Act (ERA) in the 113th Congress — earned “promotion” from the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate.

    Reflecting on these results, the Speaker and our Executive Director call upon the newly elected Congress (which will be seated in January) to take up the Employee Rights Act:

    The best legislative vehicle for advancing those rights is the Employee Rights Act (ERA). Led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the ERA has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than 100 in the House. It’s the most significant rewrite of the National Labor Relations Act in decades, with a twist: Instead of the gridlock that comes with trying to rig labor law to benefit either unions or employers, it focuses squarely on the rights of the employees. (All of the law’s provisions can be viewed at EmployeeRightsAct.com.)

    With the National Labor Relations Board just last week making a major move to strengthen union boss power at the expense of employee privacy, the time could not be riper for legislators to make moves to strengthen employee rights. When the new legislators are seated, Congress must move forward with ERA.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActNLRB
  8. NLRB Delivers Freshly Wrapped Gift to Trumka

    angrytrumkaAround Washington, there’s a long-running rueful acceptance of the “Friday news dump” — the practice of releasing politically problematic information or decisions on Friday to avoid news coverage. And the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) pulled off one heck of a news dump last Friday, dropping its highly controversial “quickie elections” rule. The rule was initially promulgated in response to the failure of the federal card-check bill before being halted by a federal court. But unions — desperate to make their arguments without giving employers and employees a chance to respond — asked for it to be re-issued, and now the NLRB has obliged.

    In addition, the NLRB gave a bonus gift to labor organizers. Current practice requires an employer to provide the union with employees’ names and home addresses after an election is ordered. Unions then use the information (if they haven’t already obtained it by other means, including in some cases unlawful ones) to go house-to-house to convince employees to sign union cards or vote for the union. And unlike some door-to-door solicitors who leave if you ask them to do so, union organizers can be exceptionally pushy.

    The new rules expand the list of information employers are required to hand over to include employees’ personal, private e-mail addresses and phone numbers. The two dissenting members of the NLRB note in no uncertain terms that this requirement amounts to a grievous violation of employee privacy, writing:

    In sum, the majority’s message to employees in a Board representation election is that “the government wants your personal data –and we are going to compel it without your consent – and then we are giving it to someone else, too.” To say the least, that is not a good message to give the citizenry in 2014.

    Indeed, the dissenters further note that there is no opt-out provision in the NLRB’s rulemaking, and the rule doesn’t even explicitly require the union to include an “unsubscribe” link in its communications (even though other laws may require one). While Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO leader, may call this power-grab “modest,” it quite clearly is not.

    Fortunately, there is already a way to clip the wings of this latest Big Labor Favor from the increasingly partisan NLRB. The Employee Rights Act (ERA) which is currently before the Congress would guarantee employees the right to opt out of having their personal private information disclosed to union organizers.

    Americans broadly support this provision, with 84 percent of non-union and 82 percent of union households backing the ERA’s privacy protection plank. Richard Trumka, Mary Kay Henry, and other union bosses have received their Christmas present: It’s time for Congress to put something under American employees’ trees.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEnding Secret BallotsNLRB