Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Celebrating National Employee Freedom Week

    Today marks the start of National Employee Freedom Week, an annual celebration of employee rights in the workplace and the enduring need to fight for them.

    Fortunately, many U.S. states have addressed the union stranglehold on the workplace with right-to-work laws, which prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment. A week from now, Missouri’s right-to-work law goes into effect, making the Show-Me State the 28th state to enact such reforms. In these 28 states, employees are not compelled to give away a piece of their monthly paycheck to a union, retaining the right to choose the workplace most suited to their needs.

    Of course, union elites predictably and falsely call right-to-work an affront to collective bargaining. Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the scandal-ridden International Brotherhood of Teamsters argues that employee freedom somehow leads to “lower wages and fewer rights on the job.” Meanwhile, union-funded liberal think tanks such as the Economic Policy Institute churn out flawed reports suggesting that right-to-work “lower[s] wages for union and nonunion workers.” But accusations like these fail to account for differences in living costs across the country. If you take into account lower living costs in right-to-work states—many of which are in the South—there is little to no drop-off in real wages. According to a 2015 Heritage Foundation study, “private-sector workers in right-to-work states enjoy real wages equivalent to those in non-right-to-work states,” with “no negative impact on private-sector wages.”

    Right-to-work laws are best analyzed by asking union members themselves. And union members are staunch supporters. According to a newly released study from a survey research team affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University, union members in right-to-work states report just as much workplace satisfaction as their counterparts in forced-union states, if not more. In both right-to-work and forced-union states, the overwhelming majority of union members expressed support for recertification elections, which allow employees to regularly vote on their union representation.

    They also support the Employee Rights Act (ERA), the most comprehensive update to American labor law since the 1940s. The ERA would require secret ballot union elections and periodic recertification votes, while preventing union officials from spending member dues on political advocacy without prior consent. The bill is presently co-sponsored by more than 80 members of Congress and its key provisions enjoy 80 percent approval among union household voters.

    Congress should celebrate this National Employee Freedom Week by passing the ERA and protecting employees nationwide.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActRight-to-WorkTeamsters
  2. Labor Racket Weekly: Fraud, Fountain Pens, and a Ferrari

    Every week, we bring you the most egregious and sometimes ridiculous tales of union corruption. This week is no exception, with numerous fraud counts and even a Ferrari involved:

    • In Indiana, Thomas Rodgers, former General Chairman of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee of Adjustment (GCA) 247, was charged in an information with a level 6 felony theft of $3,672.
    • In Iowa, Curtis Lang, former President of the United Dairy Workers of LeMars, was sentenced to one year of confinement, six months of home confinement, three years of supervised release, and he was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $95,223 and a $100 special assessment. On May 8, 2017, Lang pled guilty to one count of embezzlement.
    • In Michigan, Alphons Iacobelli, former Vice President of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) and two counts of violating the LMRA for paying and delivering over $1.2 million in prohibited payments and things of value. Who was on the receiving end? The late General Holiefield, former Vice President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), Holiefield’s wife Monica Morgan, and other UAW officials. The prohibited payments and things of value, which occurred between 2009 and 2014, included designer clothing, jewelry, furniture, and paying off the $262,219 mortgage on Holiefield and Morgan’s residence.
      • Iacobelli was also charged with an additional count of conspiracy and four counts of failing to report on his 2012-2015 individual tax returns approximately $2.1 million in union funds that he diverted to pay for a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, private jet, pool, two limited edition Mont Blanc pens costing $75,000, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to his residence, among other purchases.
    • In Ohio, Guy Gokey, former Financial Secretary of Glass Molders and Plastics (GMP) Local 59, pled guilty to one count of embezzlement in the amount of $14,074.
    • In Oklahoma, William Bryles, former President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2406, was charged and pled no contest to four counts of felony embezzlement. He then signed a three-year deferred sentence order and was ordered to pay $11,174 in restitution and court costs.
    • In Pennsylvania, Michael Evans and William Uggiano, former President and former Treasurer, respectively, of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1699, were both charged in a one-count information for conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
    • In Rhode Island, Christopher Hayes, former Rhode Island Police Department Sergeant and former President of Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 8, was sentenced to six months of imprisonment followed by six months of home confinement, three years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service, and he was ordered to pay $71,523 in restitution. On May 1, 2017, Hayes pled guilty to one count of wire fraud. Hayes admitted to the court that between August 2009 and December 2014, he converted approximately $71,523 in union funds for his own personal use.

    Check back next week for more shady deals and scandalous splurging.

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUAW
  3. Teamsters Harass Celebrity Host with “Sexist, Anti-Muslim Slurs”

    Don’t look now, but the Teamsters are (still) taking pages out of Jimmy Hoffa’s playbook.

    Our story takes us to Boston, where “Top Chef” filmed a segment back in 2014. Earlier this month, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi told a federal jury investigating a union extortion case that several Teamsters members harassed her on the way to the shoot. Furious that the show used nonunion drivers, Teamsters thugs—sorry, union members—allegedly surrounded Lakshmi’s vehicle yelling profanities and threatening to assault her. They even hurled Islamophobic and sexist insults at Lakshmi, which you can see here (warning: profane language):

    Not surprisingly, Lakshmi was “petrified” of the union mob, claiming it “felt like serious schoolyard bullying” and “drastically affected the whole production, not just that day.” The four union members involved—who are part of Teamsters Local 25—now face charges of conspiracy and attempted extortion, and up to 20 years in prison. All because “Top Chef” used nonunion drivers.

    The trial has also put an uncomfortable spotlight on Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a longtime Laborers union official. At least three witness testified that a top Walsh aide tried to withhold permits for “Top Chef” unless the show hired union member. Mayor Walsh’s head of tourism, Kenneth Brissette, even forced two Boston restaurants to withdraw from working with the show by threatening to unleash union protesters at the restaurants. This led “Top Chef” to work with a third restaurant in nearby Milton, where Lakshmi and other employees thought they would be safe. If only.

    The message is clear: If you ship up to Boston, make sure you do it in a union car.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionTeamstersViolence
  4. Labor Racket Weekly: Cooked Books and Union Crooks

    This week’s union rackets will blow your mind.

    • In Alabama, Michael Lackey, former President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3901, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $69,193. On January 31, 2017, Lackey pled guilty to five counts of bank fraud and one count of embezzlement in the amount of $69,193.
    • In Alaska, Jeffrey Davies, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 183, was sentenced to one year in a federal penitentiary and three years of federal probation, and he was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $92,766 and a $100 fine. On June 7, 2016, Davies pled guilty to one count of embezzling over $92,000 in union funds.
    • In Idaho, Ashley Cline, former office manager for Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 155, was sentenced to four years of federal probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $30,776 and a $1,000 fine. On January 25, 2017, Cline pled guilty to a single count of wire fraud.
    • In Illinois, Lonzell Moore, former President of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 1730, pled guilty to one count of embezzling $18,857 in union funds.
    • In Michigan, Brenda Schaefer, former Treasurer of National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) Local 39, pled guilty to one count of willful failure to maintain union records.
    • In New Jersey, Paul Moe, a member of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1804-1 and general foreman for a Port Elizabeth terminal operator, was indicted on one count of wire fraud conspiracy and 13 counts of wire fraud for fraudulently submitting time sheets that resulted in paying him nearly $500,000 annually. The investigation disclosed that he either never showed up at the job site or was present for as little as eight hours per week.
    • In Pennsylvania, Charles Hill, former Financial Secretary of Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers (GMP) Local 46, was indicted on one count of embezzling $7,000 in union funds.
    • In Texas, Clementine T. Ray, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2109, was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay $4,067 in restitution. On May 31, 2017, Ray pled guilty to false writings.

    As always, check back next week!

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  5. Hypocrisy Alert! Democrats Attack NLRB Nominee

    One of the hottest issues before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) right now involves class action lawsuits. In the 2012 D.R. Horton case, the NLRB ruled that employers may not mandate arbitration agreements barring employees from joining together in employment-related class action lawsuits against the employer. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has since refused to throw its weight behind the NLRB decision, and recently filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court stating as much. This will likely force NLRB attorneys to defend the Board’s position before the Supreme Court, which is not expected to be sympathetic. 

    This riles Democrats, whose labor union and trial lawyer donors have little sympathy for employers—no matter the crippling cost of legal fees. But it also puts them in the hypocritical position of opposing practices that they previously had no problem with. Currently, they’re pressuring NLRB nominee William Emmanuel, a former labor lawyer for Littler Mendelson, to recuse himself from any case involving the class action issue. Their claim is that it raises conflict of interest concerns, given Emmanuel’s experience as a management-side attorney.

    Yet Democrats raised no objections when former NLRB member Craig Becker, who made his career representing labor unions like the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union, declined to recuse himself from a case where he’d previously been a participant. Becker explained in the 2011 Lamons Gasket case, and in an earlier concurrence in the 2010 Service Employees Local 121RN case, that he only had to recuse himself from cases involving his former clients or firm.

    Otherwise, as he stated in unequivocal language, his involvement raised no concerns:

    “…under Federal labor law, the President is entitled to appoint individuals to be Members of the Board who share his or her views on the proper administration of the Act and on questions of labor law policy left open by Congress. That process would be frustrated if the expression of views on such questions were considered disqualifying or grounds for recusal when cases raising those questions arose before the Board.”

    In other words, NLRB precedent allows the president to appoint individuals who share their views, leaving the White House with the power to appoint management-side or pro-union lawyers as the administration deems fit. Current NLRB nominee Emmanuel has already recused himself for two years from cases involving his former clients, or clients that are represented by his past employer. Consistent with the Becker standard, he shouldn’t have to recuse himself from other cases simply because his views on the matter are consistent with management’s. When pro-union Democrats argue for recusal, it’s nothing more than sour grapes.

    Categories: AFL-CIONLRBSEIU
  6. Labor Racket Weekly: Money on the Streets, Not in Union Treasuries

    This week’s rackets include more embezzlement charges from across the country:

    • In Delaware, Lon Sullivan, former Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 644, was sentenced to three years of probation and 200 hours of community service, and he was ordered to pay the remaining balance of restitution in the amount $59,809. Sullivan previously paid $37,000 in restitution.
    • In Georgia, Jay C. Roy, former Secretary-Treasurer of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Local 1245, was sentenced to two months of imprisonment and two years of probation, and he was ordered to pay $83,417 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On March 24, 2017, Roy pled guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds.
    • In Illinois, Lonzell Moore, former President of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 1730, was charged in a criminal complaint with embezzling $18,857 in union funds.
    • In Maryland, Fonda White, former Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 2390, was indicted on one count of theft of property with a value of at least $10,000 but less than $100,000, one count of embezzlement, and two counts of theft of property with a value of more than $1,000 but less than $10,000.
    • In Michigan, Kimberly Steinhoff, former Treasurer of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 87, was charged with one count of embezzlement of $12,751.
    • In New York, Jeanette Willoughby, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2009, was charged with petit larceny, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law 155.25, for diverting $2,487 in union funds for personal use.  She then pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge. She was also ordered to pay $2,487 in restitution.
    • In Ohio, David Sager, former President of USW Local 5000, pled guilty to obstruction of justice, making false statements, and falsification of tax returns.
    • In Virginia, Tamika Bullock, former Secretary-Treasurer of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 684, was indicted on one count of embezzling $24,600 from a labor union.

    Check back next week for another long list of union mismanagement.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  7. WSJ Supports Employee Rights Act

    In late July, The Wall Street Journal editorialized in favor of the Employee Rights Act (ERA), the most comprehensive update to American labor law since the 1940s. It goes to show the virtues of the ERA—which protects employees with eight substantive reforms—and the pressing need for labor reform. You can read a snippet here:

    The House bill would require unions to obtain permission from workers to spend their dues on purposes other than collective bargaining. Current labor law lets unions deduct money from worker paychecks to fund political activities. Workers then must go through the tortuous process of requesting a refund for the share not spent on collective bargaining, which unions may broadly define to include member engagement that boosts voter turnout.

    In the Journal‘s words, the ERA “would protect workers and employers from union intimidation.” That’s a win-win for workplaces nationwide. You can read the full editorial here.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  8. The SEIU’s Wardrobe War

    While staffers in Congress are complaining about the right to bare arms (and shoulders), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 221 is fighting for the right to wear Birkenstocks and swim trunks at work in the summer.

    Here’s the backstory. An official from the City of San Diego sent an email highlighting that a relaxed dress code would be maintained throughout the summer months. The email states:

    “As we have a County tradition to dress ‘cool’ during our summer months, I am again declaring June 20 through September 21 as ‘Cool Summer Days in the County.’

     

    Effective Tuesday, June 20th 2017, the County’s observance of appropriate business casual attire, normally in place only on Fridays, will be extended to apply to every workday through September 21, 2017…”

    Not a bad email to receive as an employee, right? Not so fast: Local 221 is about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The union has decided to take the County of San Diego to labor court over “illegal” dress code changes.  Last week, Local 221 filed a new Unfair Labor Practice Charge regarding the County’s change to the dress code for summer months. Section 7 of the complaint states:

    “A June 20, 2017 email sent on behalf of Kimberly Gallo, Director of the East & North Central Regions of the County’s Health & Humans Services Agency, defined ‘appropriate business casual attire’ as ‘[c]asual clothing, such as jeans (including colored jeans) and sneakers ….Clothing prohibited from the office included: ‘flip flops or other unsafe shoes, shorts, tank tops, tights, beach or athletic wear and torn or revealing clothing.’”

    The charge goes on to give a long-winded account of the County of San Diego’s previous dress code instructions. Local 221 has even developed a petition letter for employees to sign their names. After the letter was released, the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of San Diego released a letter rescinding the dress option for SEIU-represented employees. Now SEIU-represented employees must wear dress pants and normal attire every day of the week except for Friday. Union leadership, specifically Local 221’s staff director Micki Bursalyan, was exultant over its casual attire conquest: “Yes, we are nitpicking, but every single time these employees have the right to bargain, they want that right. I think the difference here is it’s a bargaining year. So I think the difference is we’re on the lookout for policy changes.”

    No wonder Americans are skeptical of union power. A Gallup poll from last year shows that only 36 percent of Americans want unions to have more influence in their lives.

    Categories: HumorSEIU