Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Judge Calls Out NLRB Pro-Union Partisanship

    PickettingThe National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the federal agency set up to referee and investigate disputes between employers and labor unions—has taken a severe turn from neutral arbiter to pro-union advocate under President Obama. It’s so bad that a federal judge recently took notice, writing in a ruling that a recent NLRB document request “arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of federal labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort of the union.”

    It seems that the NLRB’s investigative division (headed by a controversial former Operating Engineers union counsel) demanded that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospital chain hand over an inordinately large amount of “highly confidential and proprietary information” to NLRB investigators. Coincidentally (we’re sure), UPMC is currently being aggressively targeted by the SEIU for unionization, and the NLRB is investigating complaints brought by SEIU organizers.

    While the judge felt bound by legal rules to allow the document request to go forward, other NLRB pro-union power grabs have been less successful. Most notably, President Obama’s “packing” the NLRB with “recess appointees” who weren’t actually recess appointees was struck down by the Supreme Court. (The Board has now been lawfully constituted and is proceeding apace to repeat the pro-union decisions the illegal board made.)

    The list of court losses is long. Two federal appeals courts struck down an NLRB mandatory propaganda poster order. Another federal court enjoined a “quickie elections” rule, which the NLRB is now attempting to revive. A new effort to abolish the longstanding business structure known as franchising at the urging of the SEIU will likely join these flops in the roll of overreach shot down by the court system.

    A 2012 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report called the Obama NLRB a “dysfunctional union advocate.” It seems that little has changed since then.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsChange To WinNLRBSEIU
  2. “Top Chef” Staff Reportedly Treated to Teamster Tirades, Threats

    fistsHell hath no fury like a union scorned. Earlier this year, Philadelphia-area Ironworkers Union members (including several officials) were brought up on federal charges for allegedly burning down a Quaker meetinghouse being built with nonunion labor.

    And now, the stars and staff of television cooking competition “Top Chef” have taken some fairly horrific abuse from Boston-area Teamsters. Their offense? Not hiring union labor at union prices, of course. (The Teamsters appear to have learned something from their former, less-than-reputable associates.)

    Deadline Hollywood reports:

    The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you [f***ing] whore!”

    Simply charming. It gets worse — Teamster-aligned demonstrators also allegedly berated show staff with anti-gay and racial slurs (including, allegedly, the n-word). Just to top off this incredibly hostile cake, fourteen show staff found their tires slashed. Even the cops weren’t exempt from union abuse: The local police chief said the first officer on the scene had to call for backup as demonstrators were “hostile, swearing, and refusing to let people come in and out.”

    Unions have made a big P.R. push to slough off their well-deserved reputation for thuggery—remember the North Carolina AFL-CIO’s “Hug a Thug” event alongside the Democratic National Convention? It hasn’t actually helped to root out the intimidation and violence on display in Boston and Philly. That will require a change in the law—currently, unions are exempted from federal criminal prohibitions on certain violent acts and threats of violence.

    Over 90 percent of Americans (including 90 percent of union households) support fixing this loophole, as the Employee Rights Act would. We can’t force unions to observe the general decency expected of anyone else in public life, but the ERA would serve the salutary purpose of closing this hideous and obscene loophole that lets labor off the hook for criminality that would land anyone else in the federal pen.

    Categories: Change To WinEmployee Rights ActTeamstersViolence
  3. Despicable Teacher Union Tactics Draw Blowback

    3409642414_a401c0d007.jpgThere is a saying among lawyers that if both the facts and the law are against you, the correct strategy is to jump up and down and bang on the table. Facing a public that is increasingly skeptical of her failed education status quo, it seems Randi Weingarten has adopted that model. But her latest attacks, on former CNN journalist turned education reform advocate Campbell Brown, have exposed a level of contemptibility previously unthinkable, turning the American Federation of Teachers into peddlers of pathetic sexist attacks.

    The union campaign depicts Brown, who leads a group that has filed a New York State lawsuit modeled on the Vergara v. California case that found teacher tenure laws unconstitutional, as the puppet of former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and her husband, GOP policy adviser Dan Senor. The implication that Brown is a puppet outraged center-left syndicated columnist Kristen Powers:

    For this, she has been on the receiving end of a sexist assault by the American Federation of Teachers and opponents of education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten took to Twitter to accuse Brown of not being balanced in her approach to school reform because “she’s married to Romney adviser Dan Senor.”


    To Weingarten, women are not people with thoughts of their own. No, they’re empty vessels who do their husband’s bidding.

    The campaign is run by two left-wing union front groups: the “Alliance for Quality Education” (which is a legally related entity to left-wing organizing outfit Citizen Action of New York) and New York Communities for Change (whom you might remember as the ringleaders of SEIU’s fast food strikes and as a successor organization to the discredited ACORN outfit). AFT affiliates have paid these organizations handsomely for past campaigns. The NYC teachers union paid Citizen Action $104,000 in the 2013 reporting year, with the New York State United Teachers (the AFT New York State federation) chipping in $62,100 directly to AQE. For good measure, NYSUT threw $185,000 to the Public Policy and Education Fund, another AQE-related organization. AFT affiliates paid NYCC $288,922 that year.

    We doubt Brown or her supporters—who include the lawyer who argued Al Gore’s case before the Supreme Court in 2000—will be deterred by Randi’s insults or the AFT-funded front groups’ activism. Recent polling shows a majority of the public opposes teacher tenure. We suspect banging on the table and hurling insults won’t convince Americans that Randi Weingarten is a force for good in American education.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  4. Dubious AFT Ally Hit With Fine for Beantown Shenanigans

    crime money steal embezzle 2Last year, Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) funded a shady political scheme to ensure that its man in Boston—Marty Walsh—won the city’s mayoral election.

    To refresh, AFT national slipped $480,000 to a New Jersey-based PAC (recall, Boston is not in New Jersey) which then bought advertisements under the name “One Boston” to hide AFT’s involvement. The Boston Globe, hardly a right-wing outlet, condemned the shenanigans, declaring the moves “the campaign-finance equivalent of avoiding taxes by channeling one’s earnings through shell companies and stashing them in the Cayman Islands.”

    It seems that Massachusetts’ campaign regulators agree, handing down a $30,000 fine to One Boston. (Pursuant to the settlement, One Boston denies wrongdoing.) While state regulators believe that settles the matter, Commonwealth Magazine notes that many questions remain outstanding:

    It appears the AFT knew the $500,000 it gave One New Jersey was ticketed for Boston. The [Office of Campaign and Political Finance] settlement goes after the shell PAC, not the source of the PAC’s funds. Hutt, One Boston’s treasurer, and One New Jersey’s founders have never explained why an anti-Chris Christie New Jersey nonprofit took an interest in the Boston mayoral race.

    As the case for school reform becomes so clear that liberal celebrities and prominent liberal lawyers come out in favor of it, expect the AFT and its teacher union allies to get continually more desperate to hide their tracks in trying to stop it.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions
  5. Coalition Fights for Employee Freedom

    eraThis week (August 10-16), a national coalition of groups (including the Center for Union Facts, which co-sponsors this website) are sponsoring National Employee Freedom Week to inform union members of their rights to opt out of union membership and certain (if not all) union dues. Working with grassroots state-level partners, the coalition and CUF are reminding union members of their rights under state laws and various Supreme Court decisions to withhold union membership and at least a portion of dues if they don’t support the union agenda. Polling by the coalition suggests up to 29 percent of self-reported union members would leave their unions if given the chance.

    While much of the coalition effort focuses on the rights of public employee union members, dissenting private-sector workers also have rights to refrain from funding union agendas they don’t support. According to exit polls from the last election, while 90 percent of union political spending backed President Obama and other Democrats, 40 percent of union households voted for Republican Mitt Romney.

    Depending on a (non-railway, non-airline) employee’s state of work, his or her rights vary:

    • If an employee works in one of the 24 Right-to-Work states, he or she can quit the union at any time and refrain from paying any money to the union. However, automatic dues deductions must be withdrawn during a union-specified window, so employees should ensure they know when their union’s window is by consulting their union bylaws, which may be available on the local union website.

    • If an employee works in one of the non-Right-to-Work states, the District of Columbia, a United States Territory, or certain federal enclaves (like military bases), an employee may quit the union at any time. However, the union may still charge mandatory “agency fees” — dues for non-members represented by the union. In order to receive a reduction in agency fees equal to an employee’s share of expenses not related to representation, an employee must write a letter to the union affirmatively objecting (using the phrase “I object”) to paying for unrelated (usually political) expenses. Resigning members typically have 30 days to file an objection (you can resign and object in the same letter), and some unions require employees to renew their objection letters annually. Consult your union bylaws for specifics.

    While union members opposed to their bosses’ agendas await the passage of broadly supported labor reforms like the Employee Rights Act, there are still options for them to refrain from full support of union bosses who don’t represent their interests. It just takes more work to stay informed — union bosses alone seem to want it to stay that way.


    The Right-to-Work states, in no particular order, are: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActSEIU
  6. Reform Teacher Tenure, Says…Whoopi Goldberg?

    The radical leadership of teacher unions like American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten are fighting a desperate rearguard action to protect the cushy status quo of de facto jobs-for-life for that fraction of incompetent teachers who (in the words of one union representative) “shouldn’t even be pumping gas.” Liberals and Democrats are asking their partisan allies ever more loudly to stop blocking meaningful reforms.

    The latest to join a left-of-center chorus that includes Education Secretary Arne Duncan, commentator Matt Bai, and the Washington Post editors is Whoopi Goldberg, actress and host of “The View,” who made adamantly clear that while she wouldn’t abolish teacher unions or collective bargaining, tenure for bad teachers had to go.

    That made teacher unionists angry. Like Randi, who has dedicated a significant portion of her career to whipping would-be reformist Democrats into line, radical teachers union supporters opened fire on Goldberg’s Twitter page. But Whoopi doubled down, posting the YouTube video below:

    Whether you’re a liberal or conservative, Goldberg’s takeaway point that “Bad teachers should not be given the gift of teaching forever—badly!” is common sense. Unfortunately, Randi and the teacher unions oppose these common-sense reforms with millions of dollars in political cash, forcing reformers to go to court to fix the problems. When even union supporters are telling AFT and its fellow teacher unions that fixes to the tenure system are needed, how long can Randi and her radical allies continue their trench warfare against America’s schoolchildren?

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  7. AFT Puts Pensions at Risk for Radical Politics

    BailoutThe New York Times came out this week with a deep investigation into the problems faced by New York City’s public employee pension fund (NYCers). The fund is struggling to match projected returns promised to employees and retirees with actual returns, and city services are already beginning to suffer as general revenue supports the fund.

    With both its members’ continued employment and its retirees’ pensions on the line, you would think that the United Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated NYC teachers union, would do everything in its power to help the city maximize returns for city employees.

    But you would be wrong, as the Times reports:

    The [pension plan] boards are fond of personally vetting investment firms — something experts in model boardrooms say they should not be doing. Politics can often intrude. The teachers’ union, for example, keeps a list of investment firms it sees as unacceptable because of their connections to groups that, say, favor charter schools.

    So, despite the fact that NYC pensions (including teachers’ pensions) are in dire straits, the UFT puts is political agenda above its members’ security. This isn’t the radical action of a rogue local, either—the national union led by radical union president Randi Weingarten has also insisted that states refuse to do business with money managers that the AFT doesn’t like.

    In the end, the only losers are likely to be AFT members and retirees. While their union bosses grandstand with members’ pension money, public pension funds continue to lag behind the returns they need to hit to satisfy the promises made to public employees. When those numbers don’t meet up in the end that means either a taxpayer bailout or pensioners losing out.

    We can’t know whether or not the AFT-blacklisted money managers would get better results than the current crop serving NYCers and other public pensions. Indeed, even the best money managers in the world might not be able to keep all the unrealistic promises made to some public retirees. Making financial decisions based on unrelated political agendas, though, can’t be helping

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  8. Union Hack Does Union Bidding at NLRB

    SEIU_Flow_ChartYesterday, the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel’s office gave a boost to the SEIU’s $15 million-plus effort to unionize the fast food industry by backing SEIU’s outrageous legal theory on franchisees.

    On the one hand, it shouldn’t be surprising: General Counsel Richard Griffin is the controversial former general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), and his allegiances are still the same even if his job title isn’t.

    On the other hand, this decision by President Obama’s notoriously partisan NLRB is notable for its sheer audacity: Griffin’s decision eviscerates 35 years of legal precedent that has recognized franchisors and franchisees as separate. It is without a doubt the most significant development in the campaign by SEIU and its P.R. firm Berlin Rosen to hijack employer and employee rights.

    Here’s how SEIU’s scheme works. A stage-managed P.R. campaign purporting to show massive worker discontent despite little actual employee participation leads to the filing of NLRB charges (whether merited or not) against franchisees that rope in the branding franchisor companies. The partisan NLRB and General Counsel pursue the ridiculous legal avenue preferred by the SEIU and its lawyers Levy Ratner, P.C.—recipients of more than $4.25 million in 2013 from SEIU and its locals—despite over 30 years of appellate court precedent refuting the claim.

    Before Griffin’s decision, the NLRB took a very narrow view of “joint employment,” the relationship SEIU purports to exist between the franchisor and employees. According to labor attorneys Michael Starr and Howard Sokol:

    The NLRB and courts have for decades recognized that two entities constitute a “joint-employer” under the National Labor Relations Act…if they share the ability to directly and immediately control or “co-determine” essential terms and conditions of employment, such as, hiring, firing, discipline, supervision and direction.

    That doesn’t sound anything like the relationship that currently exists between most franchisors and franchisees, where the latter directly control “hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction.” Not surprisingly, McDonald’s has vowed to challenge Griffin’s decision, which seems ripe for a corrective from administrative law judges or federal courts.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsEnding Secret BallotsNLRBSEIUWorkers Center