Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. The Fight for $15’s Three Dumbest Predictions


    Heading into a new year of protests and general unruliness, the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight for $15 has produced plenty of predictions that hold no water now. Here are the three dumbest forecasts:

    1. Workers will flock to the SEIU. In orchestrating the Fight for $15, the SEIU’s primary goal—aside from a $15 an hour minimum wage—is to increase its membership rolls and dues collection. Take this SEIU statement: “[We support] the ability of all workers across our economy to join together in unions and have a voice at work to improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities, including organizers in the Fight for $15.” Or this from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry: “I think we’re going to see additional workers join from across the retail sector, from auto parts work, from airports. We’re joining with the immigration movement, with Black Lives Matter, the environmental movement…” Yet recent LM-2 filings show that the SEIU’s membership dropped from 1,893,775 employees in 2014 to 1,887,941 in 2015. The union’s membership has generally declined over the past five years: It claimed 1,921,786 union members in 2011, the year prior to the start of the Fight for $15—almost 34,000 more than it had in 2015.
    2. A $15 minimum wage won’t cost jobs. Yeah, right. Lawrence Mishel, president of the SEIU-backed Economic Policy Institute, says that a $15 minimum wage is “something the economy can afford.” Well, small business owners definitely can’t—at least, not without raising prices and/or firing people. Just take a look at, which chronicles the $15 minimum wage’s adverse effects on job creators in cities like San Francisco and Seattle. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk estimates that a federal $15 minimum wage would eliminate seven million jobs nationwide.
    3. It saves taxpayers money. Union activists often claim that a higher minimum wage makes fewer people dependent on public assistance, saving taxpayers money in the end. In union activist Kent Siladi’s words: “Taxpayers also effectively subsidize the employers of low-wage workers who remain in poverty.” Yet research from California and New York—which embraced a $15 minimum wage earlier this year—points to a much heavier tax burden. According to a California legislative analysis, a $15 minimum wage for government employees will eventually cost taxpayers an additional $3.6 billion in annual taxes. In New York, the higher wage floor will cost taxpayers an extra $838 million a year in Medicaid payments alone.

    Stay tuned for more facepalms in 2017.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsSEIU
  2. Christmas Craziness: Unwrapping a Connecticut Politician’s Conflict of Interest

    binocularsAs 2016 comes to a close, one state legislature is grappling with a conflict of interest between a state representative and a powerful labor union. Representative Joe Aresimowicz, Connecticut’s incoming House speaker, also work as the education coordinator for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). (AFSCME pays Rep. Aresimowicz more than $95,000 a year.)

    Aresimowicz was hired by AFSCME almost 18 years ago after serving in the Army Reserves and has been a state representative since 2004—ultimately being named majority leader in 2013. But his union side business raises serious questions. As the Hartford Courant explains, union contracts account for a large chunk of Connecticut’s budget, while state-employee unions’ salaries, benefits, pensions, and healthcare costs fall under Aresimowicz’s purview as House speaker. Will he act in the state’s best interest or AFSCME’s?

    This isn’t a hypothetical concern. There’s a long and sordid history of self-dealing (whether intentional or unintentional) in government. As recently as last month, the employer of one Minnesota legislator was in line to receive a grant he had pushed through until whistle-blowers revealed the conflict of interest.

    2014 statement from the Connecticut Office of State Ethics explains the need for impartial governance: “Generally, these provisions prohibit a public official from accepting outside employment that would impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties or that would be deemed a use of office for personal financial gain.”

    If Connecticut’s citizens want a transparent government, they should unwrap the ethical concerns raised by Aresimowicz’s union ties.

    Categories: AFSCMECrime & Corruption
  3. Union Bosses Spend $530 Million on Political Advocacy

    After months of combing LM-2 disclosure forms—the annual union financial reports required by the Labor Department—the Center for Union Facts (CUF) has found that labor unions sent nearly $530 million to Democrats and liberal special-interest groups from 2012 to 2015 for political advocacy purposes. 99 percent of Big Labor’s $530 million advocacy budget—funded primarily by member dues—went to the Democratic Party and closely aligned special interest groups.

    You can see the full report here:

    2012-2015_ERA_HowLaborUnionsFinanceTheirPolAgenda (1)-page-001











    The recipients of union money range from left-wing economic think tanks to civil rights groups and liberal media outlets. The Democratic Governors Association received over $10 million in mostly mandatory member dues, while Catalist—the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm—raked in more than $7 million. Advocacy groups run by Al Sharpton (National Action Network) and Jesse Jackson (Rainbow PUSH Coalition) also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years. The year-by-year numbers are staggering: In 2015 alone, the Economic Policy Institute—the Fight for $15’s think tank of choice—garnered more than $1.6 million, while David Brock’s pro-Democrat American Bridge 21st Century received a $350,000 handout.

    Yet roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican in any given election cycle. (In 2016, the number was 43 percent.) The disturbing discrepancy points to the gradual evolution of labor unions from worker advocacy organizations to Democratic Party subsidiaries that are increasingly beholden to Democratic elites instead of blue-collar employees.

    Under current labor law, union bosses are not required to obtain opt-in approval from their members before spending dues dollars on political advocacy and other activities totally unrelated to collective bargaining. Union members are forced to explicitly object to such spending in order to opt out, an arduous road paved with union intimidation. Fortunately, the Employee Rights Act (ERA)—a bill reintroduced in the 114th Congress—would update federal labor law to protect employees from unapproved political spending. The ERA would prevent union leadership from taking member dues and spending it on the National Action Network, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and other liberal advocacy groups without prior approval.

    Without it, Big Labor will continue to be the Democratic Party’s personal ATM—while union members foot the bill.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  4. IAFF Boss Protests Union Totalitarianism

    facepalmOne union boss has raised concerns about the AFL-CIO ballot for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair after AFL-CIO Executive Committee members were given only one name to choose from. Union members were told they could either vote for Rep. Keith Ellison, abstain, or “make no endorsement at this time,” prompting Harold Schaitberger—president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)—to speak out.

    “A single name on the ballot more resembles an attempt at a coronation in a totalitarian regime rather than an election within the House of Labor,” Schaitberger recently wrote in an email to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

    Schaitberger’s criticism over the lack of choice in representation should be familiar to most dues-paying members of labor unions. Less than 10 percent of union members ever voted for the union currently “representing” them. According to the Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk:

    “Unions represent 8 million workers under the NLRA. Only 478,000 of these—6 percent—voted for union representation at some point in their careers and remain employed by the company at which they voted.”

    No vote means no accountability—which Schaitberger is surely familiar with. New York Times piece from last year highlighted how the IAFF’s political action committee has grown from $3 million to $18 million in biennial fundraising. The same article referenced Schaitberger’s expensive tastes—he spent over $110,000 on roughly 100 meals in 2010 alone.

    If only union bosses like Schaitberger supported the Employee Rights Act (ERA), labor legislation that would protect union employees’ rights to privacy. Among other basic reforms, the ERA would guarantee secret ballot union elections and periodic recertification votes when a workforce has experienced substantial turnover. This would put union leadership up for a re-vote, allowing union membership to reassess the state of their workplace. Furthermore, the bill would prevent big-spending labor leaders from using dues dollars on line items totally unrelated to collective bargaining without obtaining prior approval first.

    Before union bosses complain about a lack of representation, they should start practicing what they preach—and support the ERA.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActGolf and Other NecessitiesPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  5. Teachers Buck Union Leadership

    September 2016. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton: “What we’re seeing in terms of our members is that when you talk to them, they get it and they are overwhelmingly supporting her and it’s [really] a matter of getting them out to vote.” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association (NEA), on Clinton: “She wants to build bridges to a better future for all. That’s why America’s educators are with her!”

    November 2016. The AFT’s internal poll reveals that roughly 20 percent of the union’s members voted for Donald Trump. The NEA’s data points to more than 33 percent support for the Republican candidate among teachers.

    This is the sad state of organized labor today. While union leadership shouts its support for the Democratic Party from the mountaintop, the ideological composition of union membership is far more diverse. In fact, it’s possible that support for Trump was even stronger than post-election internals suggest: The most recent NEA survey of public school teachers found that 55 percent of teachers characterize themselves as “conservative” or “tend to be conservative,” leaving a great many looking across the aisle for answers. More recent numbers indicate that roughly 60 percent of NEA members are “Republicans or independents,” yet Garcia and other union bosses boast about their pro-Democrat political preferences as if their members comprise a rigid voting bloc.

    Election Day was a reminder that union members are anything but yes-men and -women. It was so unsettling for Weingarten that she resorted to blanket accusations of sexism after the election. “Frankly I was always concerned about whether the country was ready to have a female president,” Weingarten claimed. “There was an intensity of hatred that male political figures never get. So I think we’re never really going to understand it.” (Yes, the AFT’s head essentially called her members sexist.)

    December 2016. Big Labor has no finger on the pulse of its members.

    Categories: AFTNEATeachers Unions
  6. Employee Freedom Wins in 2016

    shutterstock_130449386Election Day proved to be a big win for employees in several states, as ballot initiatives reined in the power of union bosses.

    In Alabama, the adoption of Amendment 8 enshrined the state’s right-to-work law in the Constitution, meaning that Alabama employees now have a constitutional right to choose the workplace that suits them—whether it’s union or not. Before right-to-work legislation was passed, union membership could be a condition for employment, but the state constitution now guarantees that no employee can be denied a job because they are or aren’t a member of a labor union while making right-to-work more difficult to overturn in the future. Likewise, the rejection of South Dakota’s Ballot Measure 23—which would have effectively overturned the state’s right-to-work law—protects employees from compulsory union dues. If it had passed, the measure would have given labor unions the right to force all employees at unionized workplaces to pay labor organizers a fee—even if they did not personally support the union. (Unsurprisingly, almost 80 percent of South Dakota’s voters said nay to forced union dues.)

    Even in Virginia, where union activists defeated a right-to-work amendment to the state constitution, employee freedom was upheld (albeit not permanently). The best that Big Labor could do was preserve the status quo.

    Now the onus is on Congress to pass the Employee Rights Act (ERA), which would update federal labor law to protect employees nationwide. A package of eight pro-employee reforms, the ERA would guarantee secret ballot union elections and require labor officials to obtain opt-in permission before spending dues dollars on politics. Among other provisions, the bill would also mandate periodic recertification votes when a workplace has experienced substantial turnover, allowing employees to put union bosses up for a re-vote.

    Less than 10 percent of American employees ever voted for the union currently “representing” them. The ERA democratizes the workplace and extends labor reform to all 50 states.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActRight-to-Work
  7. Mary Kay Henry Ignores Members, Plays Politics

    democrat napkinIt wasn’t long ago that Mary Kay Henry, president of the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), hinted at the growing disconnect between union leadership and union membership. As we pointed out, Henry commented on the presidential primary debates by claiming that the “64 percent of our public members identify as conservative and are much more interested in the Republican debate than the Democratic debate at this moment.”

    (The SEIU later claimed that the number is closer to 36 percent. According to 2014 exit polls, roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican. More of the same is expected this election cycle.)

    Yet despite the SEIU’s ideologically diverse membership—and Henry’s own pledge to “act on behalf of all workers”—the union president’s liberal leanings are clearer than ever. As we’ve noted before, recent WikiLeaks revelations have painted an image of a politically obsessed union boss with a soft spot for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—despite the latter’s skepticism of the SEIU’s beloved Fight for $15.

    An even closer look at the WikiLeaks emails suggests a fawning adoration uncommon even for the most politically inclined union bosses. There’s this from a November exchange between Henry and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman:

    “It was exhilarating to see Hillary passion shine through AND a huge internal affirmation of her willingness to champion the fight for 15/union.”

    And then there’s the following January email:

    “Strong-clear-unstoppable! Hillary is our champion.”

    Not to mention this one:

    “HRC on fire!”

    Meanwhile, as Henry’s adoration burns within, the substantial minority—or majority, depending on who you ask—of SEIU employees voting Republican get the short end of the stick. They’re forced to sit idly by and see their dues dollars spent on Democrats and left-wing causes incompatible with their own political beliefs. Current labor law permits union bosses like Henry to throw their weight behind political candidates regardless of where union membership actually stands.

    So much for “act[ing] on behalf of all workers.”

    The Center for Union Facts is exempt from federal income tax under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not support or oppose candidates for public office.

    Categories: Political MoneySEIUUnion Spending
  8. Union Political Spending Hits Record Highs

    shutterstock_150389051 (1)Big Labor is always more active in an election year, supporting the Democrats and liberal causes in line with a pro-union agenda. But 2016 is something else entirely. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

    According to the most recent campaign-finance filings, unions spent about $108 million on the elections from January 2015 through the end of August, a 38% jump from $78 million during the same period leading up to the 2012 election, and nearly double their 2008 total in the same period. Nearly 85% of their spending this year has supported Democrats.


    Almost every large union is spending more than has been seen in modern elections, financing rallies, canvassing efforts and ad campaigns to bolster Democrats. The AFL-CIO has spent $11.4 million funding outside political groups such as super PACs thus far, up from $5 million at this point in the 2012 election, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The National Education Association has spent $14 million, up from $7.7 million.

    This doesn’t even take into account money spent on left-wing initiatives like a $15 minimum wage—the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has spent upwards of $70 million on the Fight for $15—or whatever “environmental justice” means.

    Yet, while 85 percent of union dollars have gone to the Left in 2016, a substantial minority of union members consistently vote Republican. 2012 exit polls show that 43 percent of union households voted for Republican House candidates, even though 91 percent of union political support went to Democrats. Something doesn’t add up.

    The Center for Union Facts is exempt from federal income tax under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not support or oppose candidates for public office.

    Categories: AFL-CIONEAPolitical MoneySEIUTeachers UnionsUnion Spending