Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Page 2

  1. Union Members Speak Out Against NYC Construction Union

    Today, the Center for Union Facts’ released a new video and a new radio ad featuring members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B—a member union of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC)—who are suing the union for racial discrimination. Averil Morrison, Janenne Gonzalez, and Delisa Jones, three of the five non-white union members suing Local 14-14B, are speaking out about how the union disproportionately advantages white construction workers.

    You can hear their stories by watching the video below:

    The results of the alleged actions of Local 14-14B and other New York construction unions can be seen in the statistics. According to an analysis of Census Bureau data, black union construction workers make $5.74 less per hour on average than white construction workers in New York City.

    Morrison and her fellow union members’ case will be heard in court this spring. We hope it will shine a light on how the discrepancies between white and non-white union construction workers have been perpetuated by the construction unions.

    Categories: AFL-CIOBuilding and Construction Trades CouncilUnfair Share
  2. Philadelphia NLRB Regional Director Suspended After Conflict-of-Interest Allegations

    see no speak no hear noThe National Labor Relations Board—the supposed “referee” interpreting and applying labor law—is hardly impartial, given its tradition of overturning precedent in order to pay favors to labor union bosses. But usually, appointees at least pretend to impartiality, resigning their positions with the SEIU, AFL-CIO, or the International Union of Operating Engineers (a local of which was named in a civil RICO suit) before taking on their new government roles.

    The Philadelphia Regional Director of the NLRB, Dennis Walsh (a former member of the NLRB), was even more brazen—he held the chairmanship of a labor-funded advocacy group, the Peggy Browning Fund (PBF), even after his appointment as Regional Director in 2013. In 2015 union fiscal years, labor unions that file LM-2s with the Department of Labor contributed $217,700 to PBF. A business agent of one of those unions, Steamfitters Local 638, received an award personally presented by Walsh from the PBF, to give an idea of how close the unions and PBF are.

    Walsh’s affiliation with PBF drew the attention of Philadelphia labor lawyer Wally Zimolong, who sent a letter protesting Walsh’s double-jobbing to members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation. Since Walsh hobnobbed with and may have solicited donations to the Fund from assorted Philadelphia area union bosses—locals of the Service Employees International Union, United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the United Association (of Plumbers and Pipefitters) were sponsors of one PBF event in March 2014—Walsh could not reasonably be expected to be impartial when those unions were being investigated or were requesting investigations by the Philadelphia Region. Zimolong alleged that Walsh did not even inform the NLRB’s ethics officers of his relationship with the Fund and the unions that work with it.

    That would be suspicious in itself, but the NLRB ultimately disciplined Walsh, who has been dropped from the Peggy Browning Fund board. (Walsh’s replacement as board chair is the national general counsel of the United Steelworkers.) The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that from December 13 through mid-January, Walsh served a 30-day unpaid suspension.

    While confidentiality rules prohibit the NLRB from confirming why he was punished, Walsh’s more-than-apparent conflict of interest created by his Peggy Browning Fund chairmanship surely didn’t help. But if he was disciplined for partiality, Walsh’s real sin wasn’t union partisanship—it was being too obvious about it and getting caught. After all, he’s now back on the job, “investigating” the unions that once sent their bosses to get awards from him, and other NLRB members and directors are just as union-partial as Walsh is.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsNLRB
  3. SEIU Bigwigs Ask Where the New Members Are

    Since 2012, the Service Employees International Union has been following an approach to stalling the decline of union membership in the private sector that centers on “fast food strikes” organized by public relations firms, worker centers, and proto-labor-unions called “worker organizing committees.” The basic idea? Phase one, make noise; Phase three, new union members.

    The problem is phase two. Currently, SEIU leadership (including union president Mary Kay Henry) is satisfied to collect legislative wins, but the sheer rate of spending combined with real-world declines in union membership are leading some of Henry’s colleagues to start questioning how long the current plan can last. Bloomberg News quotes Henry’s predecessor, Andy Stern, raising questions about the sustainability of SEIU’s strategy:

    Just as AARP relies on the money it makes in royalties from licensing insurance and other products, SEIU needs to find a funding stream to pay for its social-justice work, says Andy Stern, who preceded Henry as SEIU president. The union can’t just keep transferring revenue it makes from bargaining contracts to pay for its social justice work, Stern says, “because collective bargaining is shrinking.”

    Indeed, since the “Fight for 15” started in 2012, an analysis of SEIU’s annual LM-2 reports with the Department of Labor shows SEIU has spent tens of millions of dollars—potentially as high as $80 million—with no substantial net gain in membership to show for it. Indeed, from 2014 to 2015, the union actually lost 5,800 members.

    SEIU Fast Food Spending 2015

    While the SEIU continues to bet that the union-packed National Labor Relations Board will open the door to an intimidation-laced card-check unionization of fast food employees, Henry allies are arguing that growing membership, collecting dues, and conducting collective bargaining is less important. But throwing large amounts of money for no new members and losing patience doomed the United Food and Commercial Workers’ OUR Walmart campaign, which split in two last year with considerable acrimony.

    While SEIU’s effort has managed to ride off legislative and lobbying wins so far, it remains to be seen how long the union can continue to burn member dues without return on investment.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsChange To WinNLRBSEIUWorkers Center
  4. Supreme Court Hands Employee Rights a Big Loss

    shutterstock_194916617In January, we reported on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a Supreme Court case which took public-sector labor law under serious consideration for the first time in decades. Fast forward a few months and a verdict has been reached: The Court split along ideological lines and came to a 4-4 decision, upholding the status quo and sparing union bosses a serious headache.

    Had the decision gone in favor of California schoolteacher and lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs—as was expected prior to Justice Antonin Scalia’s death—it could have essentially made “right-to-work” the law of the land for state and local employees, an expansion of employees’ right to control whether they fund union representation with which they disagree or not. Friedrichs considered striking down state laws which require non-members of public-sector unions to pay forced dues (so-called “agency fees”) or lose their jobs—even if they aren’t officially union members. As it stands now in non-right-to-work states, even nonunion employees must pay agency fees if their workplace is under union control.

    Given the nature of public employment—the union is negotiating with a government it can help elect or throw out of office—that means all employees essentially pay for the union’s political agenda. Friedrichs and nine other plaintiffs argued this violated their right to freedom of speech—or, in this case, compelled speech.

    “We’re not asking to end those unions, we’re not asking for them to stop being in business, we’re just asking for the freedom not to pay them. We’re just asking for the freedom to not have to be represented by them,” Friedrichs told The Daily Caller several weeks ago. “Members are forced and we don’t have a choice and even though the union says it speaks on behalf of all teachers in reality the union speaks on behalf of itself.”

    Alas, the Court has ruled and the plaintiffs’ petitions went unanswered. It confirms the best shot at labor reform lies on Capitol Hill. The Employee Rights Act (ERA), national legislation reintroduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), would update American labor law and guarantee secret ballot union elections, employee privacy during union organizing campaigns, and employees’ control of dues money spent for non-work political causes—among other reforms.

    Employees need more say in representing their own interests. And it’s now up to Congress to provide it.

    Categories: Right-to-WorkTeachers Unions
  5. New “Persuader” Reporting Gives Unions Another Election Advantage

    fist1This week, the Department of Labor completed a labor favor that has been years in the making. The Department finalized and issued its “persuader rule,” a policy that requires employers to disclose indirect assistance they received in crafting a campaign to recommend that employees not unionize. (Prior precedent had required employers to report only consultants who had direct contact with employees.)

    We’ve covered some of the problems with this policy before—the American Bar Association filed a comment in opposition to a draft of the proposal because it infringed on the attorney-client privilege, to choose just one. But there is at least as great a danger to employee rights as to employer (and attorney) rights from the rule.

    During a union organizing campaign, professional union organizers and off-the-books “salts” (union sympathizers or professional organizers who get jobs with a company in order to start an organizing campaign) have essentially free rein to promise and dangle whatever wage and benefit increases they believe will get them votes. Because by law union promises aren’t binding, few union activities short of outright violence or threats of violence can actually get an election invalidated. Alternatively, if a company promises anything of value to sway votes, it is considered illegal.

    Employers must walk a tightrope to ensure they don’t fall afoul of National Labor Relations Board rules governing what employers can and can’t say during an election. This is at least part of the reason why unionization consultants’ services are sought after: The consultants and labor lawyers generally have a reasonable idea as to what messages the NLRB will allow.

    The new rule will require much of that kind of advice to be disclosed to the government, possibly leading some employers to do things that will hurt employee interests, including not engaging in election messaging at all or allowing false union promises to circulate without rebuttal. In either case, there’s plenty of opportunity for employees to end up suffering buyer’s remorse.  Rather than expanding employee education, the likeliest outcome of the new rule is a substantial infringement of an employee’s right to be informed.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsDOLEmployee Rights Act
  6. Americans for Prosperity Endorses the ERA

    eraThe Employee Rights Act (ERA)—reintroduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) last summer—now has more than 120 co-sponsors in Congress, including 29 senators. It’s easy to understand why: The bill would substantially reform American labor law for the first time since the 1940s, democratizing the workplace and protecting employees in the process. For instance, the ERA would guarantee secret ballot union elections and employee privacy during union organizing campaigns.

    But it’s not just Congress rallying behind the ERA. Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots coalition with more than 2.8 million activists across the country, recently penned a letter of support for the ERA, urging Congress to “take this opportunity to extend worker freedom to every American.” The letter also stated that the bill “would protect the rights of every American as it relates to union representation.”

    And Akash Chougule, AFP’s policy director, showed his support for the ERA in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. In Chougule’s words, “unions don’t necessarily speak for the American workers” and the ERA would guarantee employees the voice they lack under current labor law.

    Less than 10 percent of union members ever voted for the union currently “representing” them. And those who managed to secure a vote weren’t even guaranteed a secret ballot vote.

    Something has to change. And the ERA is the change America’s workforce deserves.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  7. Union Election Analysis Shows Evidence of NLRB Thumb on Scale

    Class Election kidsThe National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), stocked with appointees loyal to Big Labor, has made a series of rulings and procedural changes that have eased the ability of union organizers to win unionization elections over the past few years. Bloomberg BNA conducted an analysis of union elections from 2015, and found that the board’s favors to Big Labor are paying handsomely for Richard Trumka and his cronies.

    The board held 1,628 representation elections last year—a five-year high. And unions won 1,128 of them—a ten-year high. Unions prevailed in 69.3 percent of NLRB elections in 2015. That’s down slightly from a year earlier, but still the second-highest win rate since we started keeping records more than 20 years ago.

    BNA also found that the trend of unions winning more often when bargaining units were smaller continued. In bargaining units of fewer than 50 employees, BNA researchers found that labor unions won 73 percent of all elections held. This shows the potential advantages that Big Labor got when the NLRB enabled “micro-unions” in its Specialty Healthcare ruling, where  unions only need to convince one section of a shop to unionize rather than all related employees.

    It probably gets worse. A separate BNA analysis of part-year data from after the “ambush elections” rule (which shortened the time period for union votes and gave union organizers far more personal contact information for employees) found that unions were winning a higher percentage of a greater number of elections compared to the same period from the year before.

    The NLRB changes are an attempt by the Administration to give Labor what it couldn’t get through Congress in 2009-10. It’s time for Congress to move on the Employee Rights Act and push back on behalf of employees.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActEnding Secret Ballots
  8. Big Labor’s $420 Million Political Advocacy Budget

    shutterstock_157245110Labor unions overwhelming support Democrats and closely aligned left-wing causes—it’s been a fact of life for decades. But the extent of it is downright startling: From 2012 to 2014, Big Labor sent nearly $420 million to hundreds of special interests, think tanks, party committees, pro-labor organizations, and political candidates closely aligned with the Democratic Party.

    Recipients included left-wing publications such as The Nation and In These Times to American Bridge 21st Century—an anti-Republican Super PAC run by Hillary Clinton ally David Brock—and Democracy Alliance, a secretive network of liberal donors including George Soros and Tom Steyer among others.

    Now, there are two misconceptions about union political spending. The first is that the overwhelming majority of union members vote Democrat, fueling the sentiment of left-leaning union bosses. In reality, roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican in any given election cycle. The second is that union members already have the choice to opt in before their union decides to spend dues money on politics and lobbying—essentially allowing them to dictate where their member dues go. But under current labor law, that option is only available in the case of Super PAC contributions to political candidates. Big Labor directly spends hundreds of millions of dollars on politics without even using Super PACs—the overwhelming majority of that $420 million figure was derived from such expenditures. And many of them are classified as “Representational Activities,” further misleading those interested enough to look.

    When it comes to non-PAC spending, union members are “opted in” by default. Many of them, such as Pennsylvania school bus driver David Shirey, were never even made aware. Hear his story below:

    To address this problem, Congress has introduced the Employee Rights Act (ERA), which would require labor organizers to obtain opt-in permission from union members before spending any dues money on politics and lobbying. Employees deserve to know where their money is going—especially when it comes out to $420 million. The ERA would guarantee it.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending