Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Randi Distracts Philly from Real Reforms

    PickettingPhiladelphia’s state-appointed school board (called the School Reform Commission) recently suspended the expired contract that city’s local of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has been working under for two years. The district hopes to redirect $43.8 million over the next year directly into classrooms from the move; reportedly, $15 million will be doled out this week.

    The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has been playing a game that worked well for their fellow Randi minions at NYC’s United Federation of Teachers. Just as New York City voters replaced hard-negotiating Michael Bloomberg with union-funded union friend Bill de Blasio leading to a concession-laden new contract in the Big Apple, Randi and PFT hope that November elections will lead to more union-amenable state leadership. PFT has stonewalled negotiations, leading the Commission to suspend the contract.

    Now, the PFT and Randi are rallying to abolish the Commission, but rather than making a positive case for why taking cash out of the classroom would help education, the teacher unionists are distracting the public. Their chosen tactic? Bash a conservative group that has hired a handful of canvassers to oppose the union.

    That is emphatically ludicrous, as hiring canvassers, bringing in outside political consultants, and paying outside nonprofit groups is an AFT tactical staple. In the 2013-14 reporting year, AFT paid the Washington, D.C. political consultancy S & B Public Solutions (also called Hilltop Public Solutions) $60,000 for various projects, to note just one example.

    AFT is also funding outside groups in the Philly schools debate: ACTION United, a successor organization to ACORN (the highly controversial union front network shut down after it was implicated in widespread voter fraud) received $40,000 from AFT in 2013-14 and has participated in PFT rallies. AFT has also funded the “Philadelphia Student Union,” another protest ally, to the tune of $20,000.

    Such is the way of politics and union hypocrisy. It’s not the first time that AFT has engaged in hypocrisy to advance local ends (AFT’s use of SuperPACs in Boston’s 2013 mayoral election comes to mind). It probably won’t be the last.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  2. Former Teachers Union Officer Charged with Sex Crimes

    laborpains 9 10 altAt the Center for Union Facts, we often track instances of union officials engaged in illegal activity—most often stealing their members’ money. But in an extremely disturbing case out of California, a former official in Local 2022 of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers has been charged with child sex abuse.

    John Arthur Loyd, a teacher and former Treasurer of AFT Local 2022 (the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers) stands accused of four counts of lewd acts with children. The local paper, the Morgan Hill Times, reports on the charges:

    Police arrested Loyd after a student at Paradise Valley Elementary School told school staff last week that the teacher had inappropriate contact with her. Detectives continued to investigate whether or not there were more victims, and the D.A.’s complaint—served to Loyd just before the Oct. 7 hearing—noted an additional victim had come forward.

    While there is no evidence that the union or the district covered up Loyd’s alleged crimes, his position as a union officer did allow him to bring pressure on the district when it suited him. The Times reports further:

    Myers added that Loyd’s transfer to Paradise Valley Elementary at the beginning of the 2008 school year was a correction of miscalculated staffing levels. In Dec. 2008 Loyd, then the Treasurer of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers, complained the involuntary transfer was MHUSD administration’s retaliation to his bargaining activity as a union leader.

    This demonstrates one of the major problems with union-negotiated work rules in schools (the most notorious is “tenure,” the practice of giving teachers effective jobs for life after a very brief trial period). While there is no evidence Loyd used his union position to evade accountability for his alleged misdeeds, his union position offered him the opportunity to raise a stink anytime the district did anything he didn’t like.

    Loyd’s alleged abuse, if proved, would only be the worst crime committed by a onetime local AFT official in recent memory. (Numerous corruption cases against other officers have led to convictions and prison time.) If you are a member, officer, or employee of the AFT or one of its locals and you believe that union officials are engaged in unethical activity, please let us know through our anonymous drop-box what is going on.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionTeachers Unions
  3. Stand for Employee Rights, Washington Examiner Editors Say

    capitolThis week, the Washington Examiner restated its position that the Employee Rights Act (ERA), a widely supported piece of labor reform legislation currently before Congress, would expand the opportunities for employees to have their voices heard in the workplace. Discussing the injustice created by effectively compelling employees to support union political activism (opting out is complicated and may require forfeiture of some workplace rights), the Examiner editors note:

    It took the better part of a decade for the public employees who sued the union to have their First Amendment freedom of association vindicated. At one stage, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tried to invalidate their rights altogether in favor of a supposed union right to collect their money.

    Republicans now want to fix this gross injustice by means of an Employee Rights Act if they take control of the Senate. The bill would require unions to get members’ affirmative permission to use their money for political activity. Workers who support union political drives could still contribute, but workers who want union representation, or who have been forced to accept it against their will, would be protected from funding causes they dislike.

    And while Republicans may be pushing the bill in Washington, Americans on all sides of the political spectrum support the ERA. Recent polling shows the “paycheck protection” provision receives the support of 85 percent of Americans and 83 percent of union households.

    No wonder union-funded left-wing groups like the Center for American Progress prefer to change the subject from the ERA’s widely supported provisions. Instead—like their union boss allies—they conjure up straw boogeymen of Republicans and the omnipresent “millionaires and billionaires.” If the ERA is taken up seriously by Congress, we’ll see if those pathetic deflections stick.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical Money
  4. Kids Left Behind as Randi’s Minions Walk Out in Waukegan

    NYT_AFT_Thanks_RandiSince last Thursday, members of Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504, an affiliate of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have shut down schools in Waukegan, Illinois in an ongoing strike. The district has roughly 17,000 students, for whom parents must now make childcare arrangements.

    The teachers union is demanding across-the-board raises of 9 percent in the first year and 7 percent in the two subsequent years. School district officials have offered smaller raises. Either way, median household income in Illinois has declined in the past six years by about $4,000—it’s unlikely that taxpayers who would foot the bill for the union’s proposed massive hike will be experiencing similar gains.

    This illustrates a fundamental problem with public-sector unionism (including public-school teacher unionism). In the private sector, unions and employers have a naturally adversarial relationship (for good or ill). The employer has no obligation to the union other than good-faith bargaining, and the union has no obligation to the employer other than not driving the company into bankruptcy, if the union is smart (and they often aren’t).

    But public sector unions like the LCFT can essentially “elect” their employers by giving political contributions to their favored candidates, who end up owing the union favors. And if they don’t get what they want from the government, they can put pressure on entire cities and towns to either kick out the government officials or force surrender.

    Either way, parents and taxpayers lose. Between the rock of union-selected politicians that resists education reform (lest they anger their union patrons) and the hard place of radical, ultra-sharp-edged union work stoppages, it’s no surprise that a recent poll found that a plurality of Americans think teachers unions like Randi’s radical AFT have a negative effect on public education.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  5. Union-Funded Liberal Group’s Weak Response to Employee Rights

    2035478770_be44a99e4cToday, Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner turned his attention to the Employee Rights Act (ERA), specifically its provision requiring unions to get opt-in permission before using member dues for political purposes. Our Executive Director offered some thoughts on the widely supported legislation:

    […] Rick Berman, whose Center for Union Facts has advocated for the bill, argues it could be a “true wedge issue” because it is something Democrats cannot co-opt. He says his polling has shown 80 percent support for the legislation. “Republicans don’t have an 80 percent issue right now,” he said.

    Higgins also reached out to the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) for its thoughts. Not surprisingly, CAP dodged the question:

    Karla Walter, associate director of the liberal Center for American Progress’ American Worker Project, said Alexander’s proposals are simply part of a broader conservative attack on union rights and institutions. “It is not just concerning for members of unions. It is concerning for nonunion members. It is also concerning for nonunion workers because the [National Labor Relations Board’s] regulations protect 77 percent of private-sector workers, not just union workers,” she said.

    Perhaps CAP is so interested in defending this indefensible perk of union bosses because CAP is on the Big Labor take. In unions’ most recent fiscal years (either 2013 or 2013-2014), CAP itself received $260,000 from union dues; its “journalism” arm ThinkProgress (operated as the “Center for American Progress Action Fund”) received $633,693. That includes $598,693 from the Service Employees International Union alone.

    If the ERA’s paycheck protection provision passed, union bosses would need to convince their members that cutting six-figure checks to D.C.-based left-wing bloggers was in their interests. When 40 percent of union household voters support Republican candidates, paycheck protection might cause some of CAP’s support to dry up, giving the group a ready but unspoken excuse to change the subject.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneySEIUUnion Spending
  6. Attack Ads Brought to You by Big Labor

    big spendingIn this season of attack ads and SuperPACs, the idea that politics are infected by money is rampant and Big Labor wants the TV-watching public to believe that it has their backs. But it’s no secret that unions are big players in national elections. Open Secrets reports that union political action committees hold 11 of the top 15 spots for direct federal contributions since 1990. And unions employ the very same SuperPAC and 501(c)(4) tactics they decry in other circumstances.

    And there’s a little known catch: While 90 percent of union political funding goes to Democrats, 40 percent of union householders vote Republican. That’s not nearly the worst of it—PAC contributions are by law opt-in. But unions also fund SuperPACs and left-wing pressure groups out of general dues money, and as our Executive Director is telling readers of the Birmingham News and the Tampa Tribune, this is a serious infringement on the employee rights of the “40 percent”:

    [M]any union members are forced to fund the Democrats’ political infrastructure while they personally support Republicans. In 2012, union member dues funded over $170 million in spending on left-wing groups such as the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood, and Media Matters that provide the civic backdrop for Democratic Party politics.


    Members who want out can’t just uncheck a box. The rules to get your money back if you prefer to vote Republican, have a moral objection to abortion, or like Fox News and don’t want to fund these groups are onerous, and unions push the boundaries of what’s legal to keep their money and power. Typically, to get a dues rebate union members have to forfeit rights in the workplace and may still have to pay the union certain fees.

    There is a solution to this imbalance. Congress is currently considering the Employee Rights Act (ERA), which would require all political spending by unions to be opt-in. The “paycheck protection” provision supports the basic value that people shouldn’t have to choose between their consciences and their livelihoods. It’s not surprising that the provision also receives wide support, with over 80 percent of Americans in union and non-union households alike backing the proposal.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  7. Your Next Airline Delay May Carry the Union Label

    ba planeNobody likes travel delays, and airlines—by virtue of the weather and mechanical breakdowns, to name just two—tend to have a lot of them. Enter labor unions, who are looking to hammer the hyper-competitive, low-profit industry (one estimate from 2011 found that the airline industry had lost a collective $60 billion since 1978) with more demands for unsustainable wages and stagnant work rules. The result for consumers? Your next airline delay might just carry the union label.

    In Europe, your cancellation might already have the union label prominently displayed. This week, the pilots’ unions for Lufthansa and Air France have called strikes, leading Air France to ground roughly half of its short-haul flights. The Lufthansa pilots have an interesting grievance: The union is annoyed that the German carrier plans to expand lower-cost overseas services. Like their brothers in the taxicab unions blocking Uber-style hire car services and the American Federation of Teachers blocking charter schools, the German pilots union puts its own interests before the interests of consumers.

    Meanwhile at home, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is trumpeting the recent unionization of customer service representatives at the newly merged American Airlines and U.S. Airways. Their jobs are in decline anyway, as anyone who has been to an airport recently would know: The check-in kiosk has in many cases supplanted the check-in attendant.

    Presumably the employees hope CWA will stop the movement to automation and save their jobs. Don’t count on it. The structural factors that are forcing airlines to control costs aren’t going away. It’s more likely that union wage scales, union-led strikes, and union work rules may send AA-U.S. Airways the way of fellow unionized airlines Pan Am and Eastern Air Lines—into liquidation. And that could ruin more than a few people’s travel plans.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union Facts
  8. Randi Rejected in Rhode Island

    3409642414_a401c0d007.jpgThis week, Democrats in Rhode Island chose their candidate for governor to replace outgoing Governor Lincoln Chafee, and they handed a major rebuke to the teachers unions in their choice. Gina Raimondo, the current state treasurer, won the nomination despite pushing a major pension reform during her term, which won her the enmity of public employee unions.

    But while the mainline union choice—Providence Mayor Angel Taveras—failed to surpass the relatively moderate Raimondo, the teachers unions’ choice came dead last among major candidates. Clay Pell had the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals (Randi Weingarten’s minions in the state) and the National Education Association Rhode Island.

    Teachers unions were hoping to leverage a possible Taveras endorsement for concessions in ongoing contract negotiations; to his credit, the mayor appears to have put his constituents before his political ambitions.

    Despite the teacher union support, over $3 million of his own money, and a famous name in the state (his grandfather was a U.S. Senator for 36 years), Pell got 27 percent of the vote—good enough to come in third of three major candidates. The political might of the teachers unions and Randi’s army went nowhere.

    Indeed, this collapse may help illustrate why the Boston Teachers Union and Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers concocted the support-obscuring scheme that they used to help Marty Walsh become Boston Mayor. Even generally pro-union Democratic constituencies are beginning to realize that teacher unions are standing in the way of education reform, making Randi Weingarten’s support a poisoned chalice.

    Even New York City, where Bill de Blasio swept to power on left-wing sentiment, has begun to break with the union. In a major U-turn (partially forced by a new state law), the city Education Department will allow more charter schools to share space in public school buildings. Worse for Randi, at least two will be run by her longtime nemesis, former NYC Councilor Eva Moskowitz.

    With a weak showing Rhode Island and a U-turn in NYC, Randi hasn’t had a good week—and that means America’s educational system has most probably had a very good one.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsNEATeachers Unions