Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Sexual Harassment Scandal Shutters Labor PR Firm

    shockedFitzgibbon Media is a major D.C.-area public relations shop that specializes in working political and advocacy campaigns for national labor unions and other left-wing outfits (many funded by unions as well). Or rather, it was a major D.C.-area public relations shop—it closed its doors abruptly last week.

    The reason? The company’s president was accused by numerous female employees of sexual harassment (and possibly sexual assault). The Huffington Post reports:

    Trevor FitzGibbon and his team worked with some of the biggest progressive organizations, including NARAL, MoveOn, the Center for American Progress and the AFL-CIO, as well as Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning and The Intercept. The company sponsored an event with The Huffington Post earlier this year. Multiple female employees came forward with accusations of sexual harassment and assault against FitzGibbon, according to employees who spoke with The Huffington Post.

    It’s bad news for the firm’s affected employees, and also its left-labor client roster. The faction of OUR Walmart that split off from the UFCW campaign had been using Fitzgibbon for media relations during its disastrous roll-out earlier this year. Also looking for new help after one of the Left’s top media dogs was accused of serial sexual harassment? The Communications Workers of America, which paid Fitzgibbon $230,000 in its 2015 fiscal year, and Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers, which will also have to take its $144,000 in fiscal 2015 business elsewhere.

    We’re certain that Berlin Rosen stands ready and waiting to pick up with these clients where Fitzgibbon’s team left off.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUFCWUnion Spending
  2. Teachers Unions Waste Millions on Luxury Purchases

    moneyLife is good if you’re a union boss. A new report by The Seventy Four revealed that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) spent almost $6 million in dues money on luxury hotels, overseas travel, and car services from 2011 to 2014. Read more below:

    Between 2011 and 2014, the country’s largest teachers unions spent more than $5.7 million booking rooms at the world’s poshest hotels and resorts, scoring flights to exotic overseas destinations and traveling back and forth in limos — luxury expenses paid in full by member dues.

    Financial documents filed with the U.S. Labor Department…show a penchant for five-star business expenses that are far removed from the $56,000-a-year average teacher’s salary in the U.S. (Labor unions are only required to report expenses above $5,000, according to the department.)

    This is nothing new, but no less striking. Still, NEA officials spent more than 2.2 million on luxurious stays in Las Vegas, Miami, and San Diego dating back to 2011. The AFT dished out over $1.3 million on luxury hotels, as well as “an eye-popping $59,368 on car services.” (Randi Weingarten’s union spent nearly $120,000 on a single limousine company just a few years back.)

    The NEA also splurged on entertainment costs with the high-end Cruise Odyssey in Chicago and more than $7,800 dollars on Washington Wizards tickets in the nation’s capital. The love for professional sports was one-upped by the UFT, New York’s foremost teachers union, which “spent $221,544 on tickets for movies and professional sports games featuring the New York Mets, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Nets.”

    As The Seventy Four notes, “To put these costs in perspective, for every member it represents, the UFT in 2014 spent at least 67 cents on car services, 55 cents on the Hilton retirement lunch and $1.19 on entertainment tickets.”

    Meanwhile, the rank-and-file keep footing the bill—with no choice but to say yes.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsNEATeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  3. Construction Union Faces Federal Trial for Alleged Race Discrimination

    BWM cookie adWe’ve noted the fact that New York City construction unions’ black members make 20 percent less than white members. We’ve pondered why that might be, and a federal lawsuit that received a pre-trial hearing last week gives us considerable insight into how the locals represented by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York may have shortchanged the pay of their minority members.

    In 2012, Averil C. Morrison, an African-American woman, sued International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-B—a BCTC member union—for racial discrimination. (Four other union members, one black woman, two black men, and one Hispanic woman, have subsequently joined as co-plaintiffs.) According to court findings, Local 14-B’s membership is 91 percent white (only about 100 of its roughly 1200 members are non-white).

    The union allegedly allows its predominately white membership to refer new prospective members (who are predominately white) as full journeymen, while requiring prospective members without connections (who are more non-white) to do lower-paid apprenticeships. The plaintiff union members allege that the largely white referred new members get to skip apprenticeship even if they do not have “any qualifications other than being sponsored by an existing White [sic]  member.”

    A brief review of Local 14-B’s wage scale shows just how big a favor skipping apprenticeship can be. According to the 2015-16 apprentice wage scale, first-year apprentices are paid $29.25 per hour (40% of the Pile Driver rate). By the end of a three-year apprenticeship, the wage rises to 60% of the Pile Driver rate ($43.87/hour). Meanwhile, a full-member journeyman Pile Driver is making $73.12 per hour.

    There are further allegations of the union rigging job placements in favor of white members. Using its control of the hiring hall system of job referrals, Local 14-B allegedly manipulates the hiring hall so that white members get jobs that last longer (which assures white members of higher earnings and less time unemployed). Even more egregious, Local 14-B’s absolute discretion for assigning “master mechanics” (essentially shop stewards) ensures a racial wage gap, as master mechanics who are appointed are allegedly “almost never” non-white. Master mechanics allegedly “can work virtually as much double time as he desires” and “easily earn several hundred thousand dollars a year.”

    If the allegations are valid, it’s everything that we expected–a sordid situation where unions are keeping black workers in worse jobs than whites and using their control of internal union politics to deny plum job referrals to black workers. It’s time for construction unions in the Building and Construction Trades Council to stop hiding behind the diversity of lower-paid apprentice positions, and show the public the diversity stats for higher-paid positions that really matter.

    Categories: AFL-CIOBuilding and Construction Trades CouncilCenter for Union FactsUnfair Share
  4. Construction Unions’ Pay Gap Dodge Only Raises More Questions

    BWM bar graph adSince we began our campaign to draw attention to the disparities in pay between African Americans and white workers in New York City’s unionized construction industry, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York has been flailing in response. They’re relying on tired, old ad hominems against us, but we’re more interested in their talking points. Union supporters are trotting out the claim that union members working the same number of hours at the same jobs at the same rank get the same pay.

    You’ll notice that the labor talking points don’t explain the stubborn fact that white construction workers in an analysis of Census Bureau data made $5.74 less per hour than black workers. When union bosses like Gary LaBarbera call collective bargaining “the great equalizer,” they dodge, rather than explaining the 20% difference in unionized construction pay.

    In truth, collective bargaining isn’t much of an equalizer if black workers are shunted into worse jobs. The chart below shows some representative hourly pay scales according to contracts with some BCTC unions. The message? Apprentices—and remember, the first BCTC dodge to explain the difference was “look at how diverse our apprentices are”—don’t make much compared to journeymen and foremen. It looks like the better-paying jobs might not be equally available to black workers.

    Employer Association

    BCTC Union

    Job Classification




    Window and Plate Glass Dealers Association

    District Council 9, IUPAT Glaziers $43.85 $42.85 $17.15
    Insulation Contractors Association

    Local 12, Heat and Frost Insulators Insulation Mechanics $64.55 $57.38 $22.95
    Association of Wall-Ceiling & Carpentry Industry & Drywall Taping Contractors’ Association of New York

    Drywall Tapers Local 1974, IUPAT Drywall Tapers $50.99 $45.32 $18.13
    Building Contractors Association

    Carpenters District Council of New York City and Vicinity Carpenters $49.15 $46.15 $18.46



    So, Gary, where’s the equalization? And that’s before questions are raised about the availability of hours to union members—there are allegations that white guys get more hours thanks to union internal politics. It’s easy to see, especially given the construction unions’ checkered history, how a little nepotism here, a little discrimination there, and a little backscratching for well-connected white union members could lead to the current disparities. Union talking points have only raised more questions about how we got here—they’ll need to do better than take potshots at their critics and answer questions about the racial pay gaps in union construction.


    Categories: AFL-CIOBuilding and Construction Trades CouncilCarpenters UnionCenter for Union FactsUnfair Share
  5. Wisconsin Union Intimidates Dissidents

    Class Election kidsOne of Big Labor’s notorious intimidation tactics is the so-called “scab list”—a public list of employees represented by the union who aren’t participating in some union activity, usually striking or paying nonmember “agency fees” in states where they aren’t mandatory. Last week, we covered one United Auto Workers local (UAW Local 600) which intimidated dissenters by publishing their names and job titles in the union magazine (and vowed to continue doing so until they became union members and started paying dues). Now, another UAW local (Local 833), currently striking Kohler plants in Wisconsin, is getting in on the pressure tactics:

    In what may be the first clear evidence of intimidation tactics levied against union workers at the Kohler company, a list of possible targets for intimidation was distributed to United Auto Workers local 833 members on Monday. The members being targeted reportedly crossed the lines and returned to work at the Kohler plant.


    The list, obtained by WHBL news, includes 13 encircled names on a flyer that reads, “No longer our union brothers or sisters. A scab is a scab. Don’t be afraid to point them out.”

    Labor law allows unions to discipline members (but not non-members that union contracts nonetheless require to submit to union representation) who cross picket lines in accordance with the union constitution (typically by fines and special penalty dues). Local 833’s “point them out” sheet is therefore clearly designed with one purpose in mind: Intimidation.

    The National Labor Relations Act is supposed to protect employees’ rights to join or refrain from joining a labor organization, but in practice unions have many means to bring intimidation tactics against employees who want to quit or decertify (get rid of) their unions. That’s why America’s workers need the Employee Rights Act (ERA), a federal labor reform currently before Congress.

    ERA would protect employees from certain violence and intimidation tactics that are currently exempt from federal prohibition because of a union loophole in anti-racketeering law and also ensure that unions are held to the same standard for conduct “interfering with, restraining, or coercing” employees decertifying the union as employers are for conduct against employees trying to organize a union. This is fundamental fairness, and UAW Local 833 shows exactly why ERA’s protections are needed.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActUAW
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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