June 18th, 2013
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” So it was for Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III. So too it is today for former union members in Indiana.
As we have previously written, Indiana became the 23rd right-to-work state back in March 2012. The centerpiece of the legislation liberated workers by allowing them to choose whether to pay money for the union’s services. Now, if workers decide a union is not right for them – or if they simply cannot afford it – they are no longer forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
But as the Indianapolis Star reported earlier this week, two powerful labor unions don’t quite see it that way:
Joshua Sterrett resigned from the Communications Workers of America Local 4900 union on January 21. Julie Huffman resigned from the United Food and Commercial Worker Local 700 union in May 2012. In separate complaints to the National Labor Relations Board, the two allege they still are being forced to contribute union dues.
Nevermind that right-to-work legislation prohibits forcing unwilling workers to pay union dues. Nevermind that some workers may simply prefer keeping more of their paycheck to cover other needs. When it comes to unions and collecting dues, they will do anything they can to retain fleeing members – even if it means pulling them back in.
June 11th, 2013
We’ve noted before the impact of union spending funded by members’ dues money on national and state elections, but union political cash trickles all the way down to the local level. The latest example is the Los Angeles city elections being held this year, into which unions have poured significant sums.
Our Executive Director outlines some of this spending at Forbes:
The unions did their best to make this a reality. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-backed […] super PAC raised more than $4.1 million to elect its candidate. The police union chipped in with another $1.4 million, while other unions—the Longshoremen and the Teamsters—made contributions to the tune of $300,000 and $100,000, respectively.
But do union members support the candidates that their unions are funding? Not necessarily, despite over 90 percent of union political money going to Democrats. Our Executive Director notes two cases where against all union harangues many members of union households chose the Republican candidate:
That’s where the real issue lies. Exit polling from 2012 indicates that 31 percent of union households in California voted for Elizabeth Emken, the Republican nominee for Senate. Elsewhere, even Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker—the most hated politician in America, according to union officials—received 38 percent of the union-household vote.
There’s a solution to this divergence between union officials’ politics and the politics of large numbers of union members. The Employee Rights Act contains a provision that would require unions to obtain the affirmative consent of their members (many of whom are under forced dues arrangements in non-Right-to-Work states) before using their dues money for political purposes. That provision would allow union members to have a real say in their union’s political activity, which they lack today.
June 3rd, 2013
You read that right (you may need to read it a few times to fully grasp the hypocrisy). An employee of the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) in Las Vegas was allegedly fired for trying to organize a union of the union’s organizers.
“My job is to recruit teachers to join the union, but you won’t allow me to join a union,” claimed Maria Lean Hermason, a former organizer at the CCEA. The National Labor Relations Board will hear her complaint in August.
May 28th, 2013
Local 983 of District Council 37, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) AFL-CIO, pays its president, Mark Rosenthal, over $156,000 per year, according to the New York Post. It seems like members might not receive much work for all that dues money. The Post alleges:
The 400-pound president of Local 983 of District Council 37 — the city’s largest blue-collar municipal-workers union — often downs a huge meal, then drops into dreamland in the early afternoon, members of the union’s executive board told The Post.
That’s him snoozing in the accompanying picture, and the Post has several more candid photos of Rosenthal’s cat-naps. (He called them “Power Naps.”) The big boss is so obese that he reportedly broke a chair at McDonald’s by sitting down.
That hasn’t stopped him from racking up $1400 per month in food bills on the union’s treasury, according to other union officials. Union officials have also alleged that he overpaid the union’s attorney. Now Rosenthal is suing the union’s board to reinstate the now-fired attorney he allegedly overpaid.
The irony in this titanic showdown over potential self-dealing and cronyism? When Rosenthal was elected in 1998, he ran as a reformer. Without real structural reform to union governance, the trappings of power and forced dues money may continue to corrupt absolutely.
May 17th, 2013
Union decline is a common refrain with private-sector membership at a 70-year low, and new evidence that unions’ latest ploys to stall their downfall aren’t working continues to pour in. Bloomberg BNA reports on unions’ lack of success at retaining members in decertification elections:
Of those 228 elections last year, unions won only 87—by far the lowest total on record—earning a 38.2 percent win rate that itself marks a five-year low. In terms of living, breathing members, the 2012 figures were similarly bleak for unions. Of the 14,051 workers in bargaining units threatened with decertification, only about half—7,326—remained unionized after the votes were counted, marking the lowest retention total on record.
Admittedly, 2012 saw an unusually low number of decertification attempts. That said, total representation elections stand at half the level of 20 years ago, according to BNA.
But unions’ poor record of winning these elections shows that unionized workers are becoming convinced that unions no longer represent their interests. Given their declining membership rolls, unions need reform like those in the Employee Rights Act, not window-dressing stunts to stanch the slide.
May 13th, 2013
Recently, a number of groups taking the form of “worker centers” have staged walkouts of fast food restaurants in several cities. The most prominent has been Fast Food Forward in New York City, but Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit have also seen some activity. The Detroit Free Press reports on events in that city:
Organizers in Detroit said several hundred food workers participated in the walkouts, which succeeded in disrupting operations at six chain restaurants in the city, including two McDonald’s, a Subway, a Burger King, a Long John Silver’s and a Popeyes. […] The Detroit strike was organized by a coalition of labor, faith and activist groups calling itself the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee.
Of course, these “Workers Organizing Committees” aren’t exactly forthcoming about who sponsors them. Unsurprisingly, the Service Employees International Union, which has been plotting a campaign to organize fast food restaurants for years, appears ultimately and financially responsible. Unions’ federal financial disclosures show that the SEIU has put over $2.5 million into the organizations fronting the NYC campaign.
With that level of investment, don’t expect unions to give up chasing a potentially deep source of dues—and perhaps just as important, mandatory initiation fees. Unions hope that by rebranding themselves, by dodging reporting requirements and picketing rules by using “workers centers” to lead the line, and by standing in the way of highly popular governance reforms (like the Employee Rights Act) they can reverse their decline. Workers deserve better than that.
May 8th, 2013
One of the Obama National Labor Relations Board’s payoffs to Big Labor bosses was a rule requiring that employers provide notice to employees of their rights to unionize. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that that requirement violated the National Labor Relations Act and the First Amendment, and struck it down.
The posters contained no statement of employees’ rights to de-certify unions or refrain from paying the full dues amount to a union (under a case called Beck v. CWA), so business groups argued that the posters were one-sidedly pro-union. The Court found that it was unfair for NLRB to punish employers for failing to post posters with which they did not agree. (Lawgeeks can read the ruling here.)
The Wall Street Journal editors cheered this check on the NLRB’s activist streak, noting:
Alas for the NLRB’s overreachers, the Supreme Court has held on many occasions that freedom of speech prohibits the government from telling people what they must say. Such “compelled speech” is exactly what the NLRB was demanding. And while Judge Randolph found the First Amendment violation sufficient to kill the rule, his fellow judges wrote a concurring judgment that the NLRB lacked the authority to issue it in the first place.
This ruling may well join the other D.C. Circuit bombshell, Noel Canning (which found the “recess appointments” the Administration used to pack the NLRB when the Senate wasn’t in recess were invalid) in next year’s Supreme Court docket. But for now, federal courts aren’t taking NLRB’s pro-union activism lying down.