Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Grinch-Themed Parody Highlights How Union Deals Keep Subway Dirty, Delayed

    New Yorkers wishing for a working subway system this Christmas are going to be sorely disappointed. With Gary “The Grinch” LaBarbera and his unions keeping construction costs high, it looks like chronic delays and lagging repairs are all that’s in store for commuters this holiday season.

    Subway Scam recently released a new video that holds Gary LaBarbera and the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) accountable for New York’s out-of-control subway costs. The animated music video parodies the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” while highlighting how the BCTC and LaBarbera have contributed to a dirty, dangerous, and delayed subway system.

    In New York City, overall transit construction costs are often seven times the global average, with construction staffed by as many as four times more workers than in other countries. In addition to unions assigning workers to unnecessary or outdated jobs, there’s been at least 200 union jobs where workers who earned a full day’s pay didn’t even show up.

    While the cost of improvements keeps rising, LaBarbera and his unions don’t seem to mind letting New Yorkers foot the bill.


    Categories: Building and Construction Trades Council
  2. Joint-Employer Rule Makes Headway at the NLRB

    The battle to overturn an Obama-era labor rule is still underway. Luckily, it looks like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) might have overcome their final obstacle.

    The Board was initially able to reinstate the definition of joint-employer status through a decision they handed down in 2017. However, the Inspector General determined that their decision couldn’t stand. The reasoning? Board member William Emanuel should have recused himself from the case due to a conflict of interest (he once handled joint-employer cases at his former law firm).

    Fortunately, this time around Emanuel has been cleared of any additional conflicts and the rule-making process can continue apace.

    As Chairman John Ring explained, “The recusal standard for rule making is very different than for cases.” Since Emanuel is overseeing legislation that would apply broadly to the country and not just a specific case, he is allowed to participate.

    The new rule would more specifically define joint-employer status—meaning companies with franchises won’t be forced to collectively bargain with employees they don’t interact with directly. These parent companies also won’t be liable for labor violations committed by their franchisees.

    As we’ve said before, the Obama-era rule left a lot of room for interpretation, often confusing the collective bargaining process and resulting in more litigation than cooperation. This was bad news for workers who had no clear pathway to holding their employers accountable.

    The 60 day public commentary period for the new rule was extended until December 13th. Even though it could take well into 2019 for the rule to take effect, the NLRB is one step closer to reinstating 30 years of precedent in labor law. 

    Categories: NLRB
  3. Labor Racket Weekly: October Round-Up

    This Thanksgiving, some union bosses have more to be thankful for than others. Check out the latest batch of offenders from last month’s rackets:

    In Oklahoma, former bookkeeper for Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 270, was sentenced to three months of incarceration, five months of home confinement, and three years of supervised release.  She was also ordered to pay $44,808 in restitution and a $100 special assessment.  This sentence came after she plead guilty to a one-count information charging her with embezzling union funds.

    In Illinois, Anthony Edmunds, former President of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2419, plead guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the approximate amount of $19,482.

    In Virginia, Benjamin Wisecarver, former President of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 264, was indicted on three counts of embezzlement, two counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and embezzle union assets, for participating in an embezzlement of $57,310 from the union.

    In California, John Zehm, former business manager for the Tile Setters and Finishers Union of Northern California, plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of Grand Theft.  Zehm was then sentenced to 90 days in jail (suspended) and three years of informal probation, and he was ordered to pay $300 in fines.  As a condition of his plea agreement, Zehm previously paid restitution in the amount of $14,014.

    In Ohio, Steven Kristopher Perry, former Financial Secretary-Treasurer of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 2077, was charged in a one-count information with embezzlement of union funds totaling approximately $20,458.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  4. Center for Union Facts Launches “Who Even Cares About Janus?” Billboard Campaign on Atlantic City Expressway

    This week, the Center for Union Facts launched its “Who Even Cares About Janus?” billboard campaign in Atlantic City. The campaign coincides with the New Jersey Education Association’s annual convention (Nov. 8-9) and the convention of the New Jersey League of Municipalities (Nov. 13-15).

    Teachers headed into town for the conventions will pass three billboards on the Atlantic City Expressway urging them to learn more about their rights under the Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision. The billboards direct teachers to where they can access facts on the Janus case and receive guidance on how to stop financially supporting a union that they don’t wish to belong to.

    All three billboards address teachers attending the conventions and each board features its own question. 1) “Who even cares about Janus?” 2) “Is Janus good for your school?” 3) “Is Janus bad for your school?

    In addition to the billboards, the campaign will feature digital advertising at the convention site that will connect attendees with

    In time for the first post-Janus state convention of New Jersey’s teachers unions, this campaign aims to start a conversation about teachers’ workplace rights.

    Categories: Center for Union Facts
  5. SEIU Flip Flops on Pre-Paid Debit Cards

    A proposed rule by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has SEIU Local 2015 scrambling to come up with a creative scheme to keep skimming union dues from subsidy checks for home-care workers.

    The CMS rule would block states from making “payments to third parties on behalf of an individual for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits.”

    This means Medicaid reimbursements for home-care workers—often family members taking care of a loved one—can’t have union dues automatically withheld.

    But the SEIU has devised a work-around. They’re pushing workers to receive their money through a pre-paid debit card—from which union dues will already be withheld.

    Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson reports:

    The pre-paid debit card, co-branded by SEIU and the payroll company ADP, is the latest in a flurry of tactics unions are trying as they struggle to maintain their rolls, funding and political power amid a slew of legal and political threats.  … ADP Vice President Anthony Peculic declined to provide details on the fees of the new cards, but said they are both low and avoidable.

    This isn’t the first time the SEIU has taken a stance on pre-paid cards—but last time, they were on the other side of the debate. For instance, when the CEO of CKE Restaurants Andy Puzder was nominated for Labor Secretary, the SEIU railed against the policies of his fast-food restaurants—including providing payment with pre-paid cards. The best part? The union’s objection to the pre-paid cards centered around “low and avoidable” fees that employees might have to pay if cards weren’t used in the recommended fashion.

    Once their own interest was at stake, the SEIU was quick to change its tune on pre-paid cards. It’s just the latest example of “do as I say, not as I do” from the modern labor movement.

    Categories: SEIU
  6. Labor Racket Weekly: Embezzlement, Theft, & Election Violations

    Sometimes union bosses have a hard time keeping their hands out of the cookie jar. Here are the best rackets from September:

    In New York, Rocco Fazzolari, former President of International Brotherhood of Trade Unions Local 122, plead guilty to an information for Embezzlement of Union Funds, Embezzlement from an Employee Benefit Plan as well as Conspiracy to Embezzle from an Employee Benefit Plan.  More than $128,000 was embezzled from the union and more than $1.1 million from the benefit fund.

    In Wisconsin, Teresa Adkins, former business manager of Heat & Frost Insulators Local 127, plead no contest to one count of theft in a business setting of more than $10,000 and one count of forgery. Adkins was then sentenced to five years of probation for the first count and three years of probation for the second count.  Adkins was also ordered to pay $73,618 in restitution and $8,418 in fines.

    In Oregon, John Burgess, former President of Pacific Stainless Products Employee Association Local 304, was indicted for one count of embezzling approximately $35,000 in union funds. He was also indicted for one count of concealment or destruction of labor union financial records.

    In South Carolina, Dana Quinn Roush, former President of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 403, was charged with one count of embezzlement in the amount of $10,089.

    In Ohio, a suit was filed against the American Postal Workers Union Local 72. The complaint alleges that the union denied members the right to vote when it failed to make reasonable efforts to update the membership mailing list, obtain better addresses for undelivered ballots, respond timely to member requests for replacement ballots, and count ballots from members missing secret ballot envelopes.  The union also failed to maintain adequate safeguards when it provided inconsistent and inadequate notice regarding deadlines and the method of returning ballots.  Lastly, the union failed to elect by secret ballot vote when ballot numbers could be matched to an outer envelope and a voter list was maintained linking the ballot numbers to members.


    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUncategorized
  7. Angered by Op-ed on Racial Discrimination, BCTC Floods Pages of Crain’s with Letters to the Editor, Still Comes Up Short

    Over the summer, the Center for Union Facts launched its Ask Gary Why campaign encouraging New Yorkers to ask why the unions Gary LaBarbera represents in the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) have a long history of racial discrimination.

    The campaign included research that found black unionized construction workers earn 23 percent less than their white counterparts. To highlight this pay gap, CUF wrote an opinion piece #CountMeOut: Construction Unions Leave Minority Workers Behind that was published by Crain’s NY.

    This prompted Gary LaBarbera and his union surrogates to launch an onslaught of letters to the editor in an attempt to undermine the facts presented by CUF’s criticisms of New York’s construction unions.

    However, these authors had nothing in their arsenal except unsubstantiated union-funded data and transparent personal attacks. You can read CUF’s responses to their letters here:

    City Needs to Do Math Before Renewing PLAs
    Differing Jobs Account for Racial Pay Gap in Unionized Construction
    Construction Union Leader Shouldn’t Throw Stones
    Labor Critic Accepts Debate Challenge, On One Condition 

    The moral of the story? Until Gary LaBarbera and the BCTC are willing to put forth real data on the status of minority workers in their member unions, they don’t have a leg to stand on—in print, or anywhere else.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  8. Another Obama-Era Roll Back at the NLRB

    In yet another effort to roll back Obama-era labor policy, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has proposed a joint-employer rule that would undo the Board’s 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris.

    The proposed rule would reinstate 30 years of precedent that required “direct” and “immediate” control over employees’ working conditions to qualify for joint-employer status.

    The 2015 decision defines “joint-employer” as when a business has “potential and indirect control” of employees. This is problematic for franchise owners–such as large scale fast-food companies like McDonald’s. They typically have little interaction with employees on a day to day basis. Yet, this standard holds them accountable for labor violations committed by their franchisees or contractors.

    It also means companies could be required to enter into collective bargaining agreements– providing unions with additional leverage. For example, a union representing one of Microsoft’s suppliers demanded the company collectively bargain with them– even though Microsoft had little to do with the employees’ day-to-day.

    The “indirect control” standard of Browning-Ferris makes it difficult to define which parties should be held accountable– often leading to more convoluted litigation than practical protection for employees.

    In fact, a 2016 study authored by the Counsel for Coalition for a Democratic Workplace found that “in each case where the Obama [NLRB] Board changed the law, the resulting new law became more favorable to labor interests than it did under previous Board rulings—frequently at the expense of promoting stable bargaining and economic growth and without regard for balancing the interests of business, labor, and employees under the Act.”

    A win for both employers and workers, this new rule would mitigate against unwarranted litigation while providing employees with a clear avenue for holding their employers accountable.


    Categories: NLRB