Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Downfall of an SEIU Boss

    PickettingHow does a union boss lose power? Contrary to the claims of union supporters, this only rarely happens by the electoral action of membership. (Union internal elections are so problematic that the federal government had to enter voluntary compliance agreements with 24 unions that had to re-run their elections in 2015 because of irregularities—and that only scratches the surface of union officers manipulating the election system to make keeping their jobs easier.) Instead, corruption, personal hubris or other individual failings are generally the quickest way to end your union career prematurely.

    Consider the story of Dave Regan, President of Service Employees International Union United Health Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) and a Vice President of the national SEIU.

    Once a key ally of then-SEIU President Andy Stern appointed to subdue rebellious leadership and rank-and-file members in SEIU-UHW, Regan is now desperately fighting an expensive battle with current President Mary Kay Henry for influence and power. Some had suspected that Regan intended to challenge Henry for SEIU national president. Now, thanks to his own impetuousness and Henry placing a bunch of his members under the control of her allies, that dream looks likely to die.

    Adding to his troubles, Regan is also accused of assaulting a process server in his home state of California, according to CBS San Francisco. CBS reports:

    Dave Regan is accused of pushing a process server down the steps of his Kensington home, refusing to be served legal documents in a dispute with the California Hospital Association.


    Police say the server was injured and had to have medical treatment.


    When police got to Regan’s home, they said he was aggressive and tried to intimidate the officer.

    Police referred the matter to the District Attorney to determine if charges should be filed. It’s not the first time Regan has been associated with violent behavior. A demonstration he led in 2008 against a trade unionist group honoring the head of the California Nurses Association resulted in fights that John Sweeney, then-head of the AFL-CIO, called “a violent attack.”

    If Regan goes down for his allegedly violent temperament or for coming at SEIU’s chief and missing, he should at least count his blessings that it’s not ending in legal trouble. SEIU Vice President Dana Cope pleaded guilty to charges related to his theft of over $500,000 in local union funds in November, placing him in the less-than-distinguished company of such SEIU financial miscreants as Tyrone Freeman, Janett Humphries, and John McMahon.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActSEIUUnion Spending
  5. Labor Board Breaks Labor Law

    GavelFor the past seven years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—stocked with rubber stamps for Big Labor—has run roughshod over employee rights and private companies in their dealings with labor unions. To pick just the most egregious example, the recent “ambush election” rule included a provision requiring that employees’ personal contact information be given to union organizers.

    But a new decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (basically the NLRB for unionized federal agencies) suggests that the NLRB should’ve been taking closer care to follow the law in its own office.

    The FLRA ruled that the NLRB (as an employer) should have negotiated with the NLRB’s staff union over matters relating to the move of the Board’s headquarters to southeast Washington, D.C. As a consequence, those of us who have been outraged by the NLRB’s power grabs will at least get to enjoy the irony of the NLRB Chairman and General Counsel being required to display posters admitting that they broke the law in not negotiating sufficiently over the move.

    The Obama NLRB isn’t the only progressive, “pro-labor” outfit to get into trouble for its selective application of pro-union principles. Labor unions themselves sometimes make headlines by taking aggressive stances against their unionized staffs. In 2009, the SEIU’s unionized staff filed unfair labor practice charges against the union, and the National Education Association battled its staff over tenure rights in 2012.

    Even pro-union outfits have aggressively opposed unions organizing them. Media Matters, the left-wing press critics who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in union political advocacy contributions, defended the rights of their own employees to a secret ballot on unionization after campaigning for national card-check. Upworthy, the annoying meme site that received $804,000 in AFL-CIO money and then served as cheerleader for the “fast food strikes,” is reportedly deterring its employees from unionizing.

    It’s the old story again: do as I say, not as I do.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActNLRB
  6. Chicago Teachers Union Wastes Millions of Dollars

    shutterstock_16350097 (1) (1)For the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), collective bargaining is just the beginning.

    According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago’s premier teachers union collects more than $25 million a year in member dues from roughly 28,000 teachers and administrators. How it spends the money goes far beyond run-of-the-mill pay and benefit negotiations with employers.

    Eight CTU employees, including CTU President Karen Lewis, raked in over $100,000 for the 2013-14 school year—the focus of the Sun-Times‘ investigation. Administrator Lynn Cherkasky-Davis was paid a salary of $233,071, while Annette Rizzo, a health and benefits coordinator, made $205,221. Even though Lewis only had the sixth-highest salary in the union—$145,918 without perks and benefits—she also got a separate $67,186 paycheck from the Illinois Federation of Teachers for her role as the organization’s executive vice president. This brought her total compensation to more than $211,000.

    Lawyers were another big beneficiary. In 2013-14, the CTU paid more than $1.2 million to Robin Potter and Associates and two other law firms: $500,201 to Dowd, Bloch, and Bennett; $361,958 to Poltrock and Poltrock; and $361,159 to Robin Potter. (Coincidentally, Robin Potter is owned by the mother of Jackson Potter, a CTU staff coordinator and close associate of Lewis’ over the years. The CTU claims this connection had no impact on the decision to recruit the law firm.)

    The CTU spent another $241,536 on in-house lawyers, in addition to more than $363,000 on “conferences, conventions, and meetings.” No additional information was provided.

    And Chicago’s dues-paying teachers are forced to fund union expenditures on glitzy law firms and six-figure salaries. Because Illinois is a non-right-to-work state, there is no opt-out option for teachers who don’t want to finance their union’s excessive spending.

    Categories: AFTTeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  7. Another Union Stronghold Goes Right to Work

    Flickr-Photo-Download_-Help-Wanted...-1.jpgIn 2012, the labor stronghold of Michigan passed a right-to-work law, allowing non-members of both public and private unions to refrain from funding unions they don’t want to support. It was a massive development, bringing substantial employee rights to the home state of the United Auto Workers shortly after it seemed like momentum for curbing forced dues might have stalled.

    Last Friday, West Virginia legislators (overriding the veto of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin) kept the pressure on, taking another longtime labor stronghold into the ranks of right-to-work states. Twenty-six states—a majority—and the territory of Guam now prohibit arrangements requiring all employees to pay union fees whether they support the union or not—or even had a say on whether to unionize or not.

    The expansion of employee financial freedom into union strongholds like West Virginia and Michigan shows that the public is dissatisfied with the current union boss power structure in workplaces. The system hasn’t been meaningfully reformed since the Truman Administration, when right-to-work laws were first permitted. That’s why forward-thinking labor reforms that go beyond the financial freedoms in right to work have been proposed in the Employee Rights Act (ERA), sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Tom Price.

    All the reforms in the ERA receive majority support, with most receiving support of over 80 percent of both union and non-union households. West Virginia, Michigan, and Wisconsin show that when it comes to employee rights, the smart move is for legislators and leaders to expand them by curtailing union abuses.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActRight-to-Work
  8. Howard Dean’s Campaign Cash Confession

    One pressing issue in the Democratic presidential primary is campaign finance and its impact on policy, with Senator Bernie Sanders pressing his rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on her record taking money from various business groups. This caused one Clinton surrogate, former Democratic National Committee chair and Vermont Governor Howard Dean, to speak an unspeakable truth in Democratic politics: “labor unions are super PACs.”

    Dean continued, “Now, they’re super PACs that Democrats like, so we don’t go after labor unions.” That’s also true — the far-left groups that are often the loudest complainers about campaign finance are frequent recipients of the $420 million in union funding that goes for unions’ outside-group political advocacy. You can see the clip below for his full quote (starts at 1:25 into the clip).

    That might all be fine if unions got members’ affirmative permission before using dues money for political purposes. But that isn’t the case, outside of checkoff contributions to union PACs. And while federal law and the law in some states mandate that candidate contributions be opt-in through the separate PAC, the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allow a union to contribute required dues money to a liberal Super PAC if it wishes to do so.

    Current law provides insufficient protections for union members who might be actively working on behalf of a candidate that their dues money opposes. This is an immediate reality for many supporters of Sen. Sanders, who has received few union boss endorsements but took over 40 percent of the union household vote in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses according to voter entrance/exit polls. It  is an ongoing fact of life for the roughly 40 percent of union household voters in general elections who support Republicans.

    New legislation would protect union members’ ability to refrain from paying the allies of candidates they don’t support: The Employee Rights Act (ERA), currently before Congress, would require opt-in permission before unions could spend member dues on politics.

    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-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical Money