Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. UAW Local 600 Bullies Members Who Leave the Union

    89693158Under current labor law, leaving a union is anything but easy—even in right-to-work states.

    Todd Lemire, a Michigan plant worker and union member of over 17 years, found that out the hard way when he decided to leave his UAW Local 600 this summer. Following the opt-out, Local 600 Tool and Die Unit President Bob Brezovsky publicized Lemire’s name and title in the fall edition of the union’s online publication, along with the following message: “These names and anyone else that chooses to stop paying their fair share will be posted in every article.”

    Lemire is not alone. The UAW often uses so-called “scab lists”—lists of employees who have quit the union—in right-to-work states as a way of targeting nonunion employees and discouraging union workers from opting out in the future. They have also been introduced in states such as Kansas and Tennessee, and leave the victims vulnerable to various forms of workplace bullying. In Tennessee, one longtime GM worker whose name appeared on a “scab list” was approached by several union members “who engaged in harassment name-calling.”

    “Scab” targeting represents a concerted effort by union bosses to force employees into paying member dues. It also demonstrates why union members need the Employee Rights Act (ERA), which would criminalize union threats and bullying by allowing the federal government to step in when union advocacy crosses the line from free speech to violent behavior.

    When employees like Todd Lemire voluntarily leave a union, they should be fully protected by the law. The ERA would guarantee their right to say no without fear of retribution.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActUAWViolence
  2. Who’s Taking a Bite Out of Black Construction Workers’ Pay?

    We have investigated the distressing gaps in pay between black and white workers in New York City’s unionized construction trades. This week, we took our efforts to educate the public on the income inequality in the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) to the streets, into the press, and onto the radio.

    The message: In spite of construction union rhetoric on diversity, black union members make 20 percent less on average than their white counterparts.

    The campaign launched with full-pages ads in City & State, the Amsterdam News and in the New York Post. We also sent a team to City Hall to hand out black and white cookies to demonstrate to city policymakers the uncomfortable truth about pay disparities in the city’s construction unions.

    BWM bar graph ad

    BWM cookie ad


    When we first pointed out the discrepancy in black union construction pay versus white union construction pay, the Building and Construction Trades Council responded with a barrage of distractions. As more New Yorkers are made aware of the racial inequality in construction pay, we can expect even more smoke and mirrors from the male, pale, and stale union bosses trying to protect their privileges.

    Categories: AFL-CIOBuilding and Construction Trades CouncilCarpenters UnionCenter for Union FactsUnfair Share
  3. New Analysis: Dues Money Goes to Causes That Union Members Don’t Support

    Union political spending is widely discussed but poorly understood. Much is made of the millions of dollars in contributions that union PACs make, of which roughly 90 percent go to Democrats while roughly 40 percent of union families support Republicans. Unions argue that this isn’t an issue because those contributions are opt-in. However, unions also have mandatory dues-funded political programs that members must fund, which have not been deeply investigated.

    To shed light on this spending, the Center for Union Facts used the Labor Department’s database of union financial filings to analyze the contributions that labor unions at all levels from international headquarters to local unions that have total receipts of $250,000 for the 2014 fiscal year (including the midterm elections). Unions that file the Labor Department Form LM-2 are required to disclose the recipients of spending and contributions: This spending is principally (although not necessarily exclusively) funded by dues.

    We found $140.8 million from union dues in  contributions reported—99 percent of which went to Democrats, liberal special interests, and left-wing advocacy groups. The graphic below (click to enlarge) lists a number of the recipient groups:


    Our full methodology is available here.

    This is more evidence that demonstrates most clearly the need for the political protection provisions of the Employee Rights Act (ERA), as National Review reported yesterday. Union households recognize the disparities between Big Labor’s 99% liberal financial agenda and their own views: National polling shows 83 percent of union households favor the ERA’s paycheck political protection provision.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical Money
  4. New SEIU Demonstrations Betray Electoral Motives

    cashThe Service Employees International Union (SEIU), backed by the “workers organizing committees” and worker centers that it funds, are demonstrating against fast-food restaurants they hope to organize today. And while in the past the SEIU wanted to appear at least somewhat distant from the demonstrations the union has funded to the tune of $50 million, this time there’s no illusion. SEIU locals in Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Baltimore, New Jersey, Ohio, and Florida all promote various events related to the demonstrations.

    Perhaps more interesting is the focus of the demonstrations this time. While previous efforts had been principally targeted toward union organizing, these protests are aimed at the ballot box. SEIU and its allies are vowing to “sway the 2016 presidential election” with their demonstrations, according to a USA Today report. It should therefore not be surprising that the headline demonstration in today’s protests should come as counter-programming to a presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    This is a classic case of what one might call “dual purpose” political spending by unions. The SEIU can write off “Fight for 15” expenses as “representational activities”—for example, in 2014 the SEIU classified $1,311,921 of expenditure to Berlin Rosen, the political consultants driving the campaign, as “representational”—on the grounds that they are directed to union organizing.

    But a Reuters report indicated that SEIU organizers had growing concerns that the campaign wasn’t paying off in terms of new members. The SEIU’s membership trend, which is relatively flat since the campaign started in 2012, suggests it isn’t either. So the real-world effects of the “Fight for 15” are principally political, even as the expenses are ostensibly not political. This channels SEIU member dues money into politics, whether members want it or not.

    We’ll see if SEIU’s maneuver pays off. Either way, the evidence that the “Fight for 15” is a political play rather than a worker-driven effort continues to mount.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsChange To WinEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneySEIUWorkers Center
  5. Rival SEIU Bosses Split over California Ballot Strategy

    dispute_jpgThe SEIU has spent tens of millions — a Reuters report on SEIU filings with the Labor Department put the number at $24-$50 million — on its fast food unionization and $15 minimum wage campaign. The latest battleground is California, where the SEIU has begun a signature collection effort to put a statewide $15 minimum wage to the voters.

    That has brought the SEIU into conflict with…the SEIU. Or rather, it has brought the SEIU California State Council into conflict with the SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), which is pushing a similar measure with the backing of several members of the state’s Democratic Party establishment. The conflict reveals a major fault line in the union ahead of the scheduled 2016 election for SEIU President, and provides yet more evidence that the “Fight for 15” is more about political power than employee empowerment.

    Dave Regan, the president of SEIU-UHW, is seen as a rival to incumbent national SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. There’s evidence that Henry is worried about a possible challenge from Regan—the national union ordered a conveniently timed reorganization of UHW earlier this year, which took union official proxy votes away from Regan and gave them to a Henry ally by cutting off a chunk of UHW members and assigning them to a new local union.

    This continues a pattern established by Henry’s predecessor, Andy Stern. Stern reshuffled the membership of SEIU-UHW to give Tyrone Freeman, a Stern protégé, a bigger local of his own. That backfired when Freeman was convicted of numerous federal crimes and then-UHW boss Sal Rosselli went off and formed his own new AFL-CIO affiliated union.

    So Henry’s gambit against Regan is clear: If her—rather, the SEIU State Council’s—ballot measure passes, she’ll claim credit and prestige in her bid to retain union office. Meanwhile, Regan’s effort gets undercut. And union members are on the hook for the costs of this internecine squabble: Signature-gathering campaigns in California can be very expensive. With the typical campaign exceeding $1 million just to qualify for the ballot, SEIU members are on the hook for an easy $2 million if both measures get signatures (Regan’s measure already claims it can qualify). And if Regan and Henry decide to fight at the ballot box, that cost will only go up.


    Categories: Center for Union FactsPolitical MoneySEIUWorkers Center
  6. Pennsylvania Legislature Confronts Union Violence

    laborpains 9 10 altUnions have multiple exemptions from commonly applied laws that protect people from violence and intimidation. Perhaps nowhere in the country is that more the case than in Pennsylvania, where unions have a wide exemption from stalking, harassment, and threats of violence laws. The state legislature is looking to change that:

    The state legislature passed the measure with a 107 to 91 vote. It’s designed to close a legal loophole that allows labor unions involved in a dispute to stalk, harass, and threaten others without risk of legal trouble.

    And while the loophole wasn’t quite big enough to give cover to the “nightwork” committed by “The Helpful Union Guys” of Philadelphia Ironworkers Local 401, it is still substantial. The Daily Caller reports one example:

    The case involved Philadelphia construction executive Sarina Rose. She was allegedly subject to harassment from union members, including a threat to shoot her. A judge dismissed the case, however, citing an exemption in the criminal code.

    And Pennsylvanians are not alone. Federal law exempts unions from certain anti-racketeering laws if the actions are in pursuit of “legitimate union objectives.” The Employee Rights Act (ERA) is a piece of federal legislation that would make eight substantial reforms to American labor laws. Among those reforms are a provision to protect employees from union violence by closing the federal loophole. Additionally, unions would be held to the same standard when facing decertification votes that employers face when facing unionization campaigns.

    Pennsylvania should correct its particularly grievous union privilege, and Congress should  follow suit and close the federal loopholes.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActViolence
  7. Left-Wing Group Does Randi’s Bidding on Charters

    dispute_jpgThe Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a left-wing advocacy outfit based in Madison, Wisconsin, has called itself a “union shop” in reference to its unionized staff. But it’s a “union shop” in more ways than just that—in a conveniently-timed reversal of a previous position, CMD takes money from labor unions, too.

    (CMD doesn’t disclose these union donations on its list of funders. We had to obtain the data from Labor Department filings.)

    Among the unions that fund CMD is Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which gave CMD $30,000 for “member related services” in fiscal year 2015. CMD has subsequently released a series of reports attacking charter schools, which are a frequent political and policy opponent of the AFT and other teachers unions.

    But the AFT’s ally-turned-paid consultant has been sloppy, as the Arizona Republic reports. In an attempt to attack charter-friendly Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, CMD offered reporters a misleading story about secret meetings and plots:

    Emails obtained by CMD from Gov. Ducey’s office reveal that he (and his predecessor) helped propel a secret ‘School Finance Reform Team’ … The stated goal was for everyone on the school reform team to use their ‘different contacts to help get …legislation,’ which would effectively divert more money from public schools to charter school coffers passed.

    But when the Republic’s “Political Insider” columnists reviewed the “secret” emails themselves, they found “nothing of the kind.” CMD was forced to issue a correction admitting that their premise was wrong. In the Republic’s words, CMD “used a handful of innocent emails to spin a conspiracy that just wasn’t real.”

    Perhaps next time AFT decides to throw good member money after bad research, they’ll choose a “union shop” with more credibility and less desire to make reporters look sloppy in the service of a hatchet job.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTTeachers Unions
  8. Firefighters Union Boss Lives Large on Member Money

    cashInternational Association of Fire Fighters President Harold A. Schaitberger’s expense account got the fine-toothed comb treatment from the New York Times. Citing internal documents that the Times obtained, labor beat reporter Noam Scheiber notes that the boss is a fan of the finer things in life:

    Then there are the meals. Mr. Schaitberger is a regular at Washington lobbyist haunts like the Capital Grille, where, in 2010, he routinely spent about $200 a person, according to union expense reports obtained by The New York Times from two former officials frustrated with his tenure. He and two dinner guests spent more than $1,100 of firefighters’ union money in Las Vegas that September, including $245 for a bottle of Caymus Special Selection Cabernet and $160 for a rack of lamb. (The union says other guests joined for drinks.) In all, he spent over $110,000 on roughly 100 meals in 2010. They included just over 650 attendees.

    This hard schedule of wining and fine dining doesn’t come cheap: Schaitberger was paid $330,136 in salary in 2014, the most recent year for which IAFF’s federal filings are available. And that doesn’t include another perk that Schaitberger and numerous IAFF brass claim: According to Scheiber, the union officers can take an $80 per diem any day they leave their house to work, even if they don’t leave their home city. Department of Labor filings show numerous IAFF executives taking upwards of $10,000 in expenses, with Scheiber reporting some took the per diem on more than 100 days during which they remained in their hometowns.

    While that perk (presumably unavailable to most if not all of IAFF’s 270,000 active members) may be particularly egregious, Schaitberger isn’t the only union boss who lives large at member expense through fat expense accounts. Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) took home $114,441 in “allowances disbursed” and “disbursements for official business” in the union’s most recent fiscal year, driving her $382,677 salary towards half a million dollars in total compensation. Plumbers Union boss William P. Hite topped that, pulling $163,175 in non-salary disbursements.

    And expenses on steakhouses and fancy food aren’t IAFF’s alone. AFT spent $120,000 on a limousine service in 2013. The United Steelworkers spent more than $1.3 million at the MGM Grand Las Vegas to throw its national convention. Insulators Local Union 14 in Philadelphia managed to go through $30,000 at a liquor store for unspecified purposes in 2014.

    The free-spending at IAFF headquarters is clearly far from the only excessive party-time expenditures by big union bosses. Members must watch carefully to ensure union officials spend money wisely.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTUnfair ShareUnion Spending