Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. NLRB Delivers Freshly Wrapped Gift to Trumka

    angrytrumkaAround Washington, there’s a long-running rueful acceptance of the “Friday news dump” — the practice of releasing politically problematic information or decisions on Friday to avoid news coverage. And the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) pulled off one heck of a news dump last Friday, dropping its highly controversial “quickie elections” rule. The rule was initially promulgated in response to the failure of the federal card-check bill before being halted by a federal court. But unions — desperate to make their arguments without giving employers and employees a chance to respond — asked for it to be re-issued, and now the NLRB has obliged.

    In addition, the NLRB gave a bonus gift to labor organizers. Current practice requires an employer to provide the union with employees’ names and home addresses after an election is ordered. Unions then use the information (if they haven’t already obtained it by other means, including in some cases unlawful ones) to go house-to-house to convince employees to sign union cards or vote for the union. And unlike some door-to-door solicitors who leave if you ask them to do so, union organizers can be exceptionally pushy.

    The new rules expand the list of information employers are required to hand over to include employees’ personal, private e-mail addresses and phone numbers. The two dissenting members of the NLRB note in no uncertain terms that this requirement amounts to a grievous violation of employee privacy, writing:

    In sum, the majority’s message to employees in a Board representation election is that “the government wants your personal data –and we are going to compel it without your consent – and then we are giving it to someone else, too.” To say the least, that is not a good message to give the citizenry in 2014.

    Indeed, the dissenters further note that there is no opt-out provision in the NLRB’s rulemaking, and the rule doesn’t even explicitly require the union to include an “unsubscribe” link in its communications (even though other laws may require one). While Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO leader, may call this power-grab “modest,” it quite clearly is not.

    Fortunately, there is already a way to clip the wings of this latest Big Labor Favor from the increasingly partisan NLRB. The Employee Rights Act (ERA) which is currently before the Congress would guarantee employees the right to opt out of having their personal private information disclosed to union organizers.

    Americans broadly support this provision, with 84 percent of non-union and 82 percent of union households backing the ERA’s privacy protection plank. Richard Trumka, Mary Kay Henry, and other union bosses have received their Christmas present: It’s time for Congress to put something under American employees’ trees.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEnding Secret BallotsNLRB
  2. Vermont Childcare Employees Reject Randi

    hangoverEarlier this year in Vermont, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) successfully  lobbied the state legislature to create a new pool of potential union employees out of home-based childcare providers in the state. The goal? Like the SEIU, which recently got smacked down by the Supreme Court for compelling home-based healthcare aides who didn’t join the union to pay dues, the AFT hoped to established a new source of dues cash.

    The governor signed the AFT-backed law declaring home childcare providers public employees eligible for unionization in June. All that Randi Weingarten’s Vermont lieutenants needed to add roughly 1,500 dues-payers to her ranks was an easy victory in a unionization election.

    Except that didn’t happen. Preliminary results reported by the Vermont Labor Relations Board (which handles public employee union elections in Vermont) indicate that the AFT lost the election, with 418 employees voting against unionization to 398 employees voting to join Randi.

    While AFT organizers vow to try again, that may be harder than Randi and her lieutenants hope. The providers seeking to remain independent of Randi’s $334 million empire organized an opposition group, Vermonters for the Independence of Child Care Professionals, to beat back Randi’s charge.

    And the divide is deeply rooted: While Randi and her union argue the independent providers are employees, the “no union” side notes, “We’re all small businesses, we’re not employees. The childcare union would have made us employees.”

    Vermont childcare workers can expect the AFT to try again, but for now, kudos.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  3. Private-Sector Employee Rights Proposed for Wisconsin

    ERA_USAToday_ScottWalkerWisconsin Governor Scott Walker earned the deep hostility of Big Labor for pushing a package of public-sector employee rights reforms — part of budget repair legislation titled Act 10 — in 2011. A recall election and a re-election later, both Walker and the Republican state legislative majorities that passed Act 10 are still standing.

    Richard Trumka, Mary Kay Henry, and other union bosses who spent big to unseat Walker may soon learn some “lessons” from The Wire: “Come at the king, you best not miss.”

    Wisconsin’s emboldened state legislative majorities are beginning discussions on making the Badger State the 25th “right to work” state that prohibits the conditioning of private employment on an employee’s payment of union fees. State Assemblyman Chris Kapenga has said that he will introduce a right-to-work bill in the next session, and Speaker Robin Vos has expressed openness to the concept. And while Walker has said that he isn’t going to lead a right-to-work fight, it is probable that he would — like his fellow (re-elected) reformist Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan — sign a bill if it made it to his desk.

    We’re pleased to see that the movement to increase the rights of individual employees continues to grow. As we noted in our recent USA Today ad, it’s time that federal legislators follow their state-level colleagues on the path of employee rights reform. Polling shows that over 80 percent of Americans—and similarly large majorities of union households—support the package of reforms in the Employee Rights Act (ERA).

    Walker, Snyder, and the ERA co-sponsors who earned promotion from the U.S. House to the Senate show clearly that employee rights reforms are at worst no harm and at best a boon to those who stand up for them. When the new Congress convenes in January, it should put these reforms and the ERA on top of its agenda.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActRight-to-WorkSEIU
  4. UFCW’s Wal-Mart Stunts Find and Fool Few

    Being knowledgeable observers of America’s labor movement, the Center for Union Facts staff was well aware that Thanksgiving weekend shopping might be disrupted by highly orchestrated union-led protests against major retailers. For the third year running, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), its subsidiary front group OUR Walmart, and its coordinating P.R. shop Berlin Rosen held “strikes” on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

    As our Executive Director noted in an op-ed at the Daily Caller, these so-called “strikes” are anything but. Unfortunately, not everybody gets it:

    Previous protests have fallen spectacularly flat. In one last November, OUR Walmart was unable to reach its disclosed goal of turning out just 500 Walmart associates. (Walmart estimated that fewer than 20 turned out). Similar rallies have also proven to be Potemkin village protests, despite financial rewards offered by the UFCW.


    For the most part, the media has been happy to buy in to this PR campaign, referring to OUR Walmart as an independent organization that simply wants better worker conditions for associates. This despite the fact that publically available filings with the Department of Labor expose the group as a “labor organization” and a “subsidiary organization” of the UFCW.

    Unsurprisingly, this year doesn’t appear to have been much different. The Washington Examiner reported that the UFCW had billed a D.C. demonstration as a major event despite the fact that only 5-10 employees from the region (which has 22 Wal-Marts in a 25-mile radius of downtown Washington) appeared to have taken part (according to a Wal-Mart spokesperson). (The Examiner additionally noted that UFCW/OUR Walmart had directed reporters to only the ten largest demonstrations.)

    One of our researchers conducted his own holiday shopping at a Wal-Mart on “Black Friday,” and encountered zero protesters at a suburban Virginia store. In this regard, he’s no different than countless other Americans who enjoyed their shopping completely unmolested by UFCW or its left-wing allies. With allegations and strong circumstantial evidence that OUR Walmart exists to serve UFCW’s long-term aim of unionizing Wal-Mart employees, the question remains how long  the UFCW will continue foolishly spending member dues.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsUFCWWorkers Center
  5. AFL-CIO Throws Member Union under Liberal Bus

    school busWhen unions play politics, they throw a significant chunk of their membership under the proverbial bus. While 90 percent of union political contributions go to Democrats and an overwhelming percentage of identifiable contributions to political organizations go to liberal groups like the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC, exit polls show roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican.

    Rarer, however, is the case where a whole union gets run over. But that seems to be the case with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), an AFL-CIO member union that finds itself on the wrong side of the progressive movement’s inveterate opposition to fossil-fuel energy production. And so LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan is left to grimly note that the efforts of union-backed Democrats to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline (which would in large part likely be built by LIUNA members) “took food off the table of our members.”

    And the AFL-CIO—LIUNA’s “parent” federation—is funding the bus drivers. In the AFL-CIO’s most recent federal filings, the union disclosed that it paid $12,000 to Berlin Rosen for political-related communications consulting. (You might remember this firm as the orchestrator of SEIU’s and UFCW’s Astroturf “worker center” demonstrations.) Well, Berlin Rosen also handles communications for “Californians Against Fracking,” a front group for left-wing environmentalists that is trying to prohibit oil and natural gas development in California. And (you guessed it) LIUNA (and, presumably, at least a significant bloc of its members) want the opposite.

    And just to make it all more complex, remember that Richard Trumka, head lefty honcho of the AFL-CIO, was formerly a mine worker and head of the United Mine Workers union. He may soon throw his ex-comrades under the bus as well.

    Now, it’s unlikely that the AFL-CIO hired Berlin Rosen to consult on oil and gas drilling bans, but the move illustrates a divide in the union movement that continues to develop. Unions like the UFCW and SEIU have thrown their lot in with a political left that comes with numerous side agendas that go far beyond bargaining for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Unions like the Laborers and the United Mine Workers who find themselves on the wrong side of those side agendas will likely be little more than speed bumps to the liberal-labor-Democratic bus.


    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsPolitical Money
  6. New York Teachers Union Boss Booked for Alleged $200,000 Theft

    laborpains 9 10 altClifford Garner, the president of the Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers—Local 01871 of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers—was arrested this week on charges that he stole $200,000 from the union and over-billed the college (where he is an English professor) for expenses.

    Prosecutors stated in a press release that Garner allegedly stole $200,000 from the union (and $3000 from the school, just for good measure). They charged the union boss with four counts: Two counts of grand larceny and two of false records offenses.

    If the allegations are proven, Garner won’t be the first (or even the most prolific) AFT local boss to be done in by his own greed. While $200,000 taken from union coffers over a four-year period (as the prosecutors’ release alleges) sounds like a lot for a local union boss to steal, a former Washington, D.C. AFT local president managed to embezzle up to $4.6 million.

    Garner faces 15 years in prison if convicted. 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
  7. Selling Shares Isn’t Changing Jobs

    newtFormer Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has supported—along with over 80 percent of the American public—the Employee Rights Act for some time. He recently restated his support for this package of labor reforms in an opinion piece that has run in numerous outlets, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Detroit News, the Tampa Tribune, the Salt Lake Tribune, and the Des Moines Register. The former Speaker writes:

    For months, we have been bombarded with them every time we turn on our televisions, computer screens and car radios. One group of Americans is especially happy: union members. Millions of them were forced to fund political ads through their union dues, even if they opposed the candidates that their money supported.


    That’s because political spending by union leadership is far more lopsided than the ideological makeup of the unions in general. Election exit polls indicated that 38 percent of voters from union households voted for Republican representatives while 60 percent voted for Democrats. Compare that to the political contributions by the unions themselves. According to data from OpenSecrets and FollowTheMoney, nearly 90 percent of union contributions went to Democrats in 2014.

    One Register reader did not like this fair proposal, and drew a false equivalence to attack it. The letter argues:

    If we were to follow [Gingrich’s] line of reasoning, it is only logical that corporations’ PACs should also get explicit permission from stockholders before they spend corporation funds on political purposes.

    Like the New York Times, which also recently tripped over itself trying to excuse Big Labor’s political expenditures while condemning businesses’, the writer falls victim to misconceptions about how companies and labor unions fund politics.

    First of all, both corporate and labor candidate PAC contributions are required to be opt-in from a “separate segregated fund,” at least for federal elections.

    Additionally, the supposed equivalence between stockholders and employees isn’t really an equivalence at all. Shareholders who don’t like what a company does with its money can sell their shares quite easily (hundreds of millions of shares in U.S. companies are sold or traded each day). Many unionized employees have much less flexibility. Under current law, employees in many states who don’t want to fund liberal organizations like Media Matters Action Network, the Center for American Progress, or Planned Parenthood Action Fund have to go through an onerous court-ordered opt-out procedure that requires them to forfeit workplace rights, or they must change jobs. When 38 percent of union households are casting ballots for Republicans for the House of Representatives, unions’ overwhelming backing of liberal institutions is certain to grate on a significant block of members and potential members.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  8. AFSCME Spins Membership Declines

    Photo via Flickr user david_shane - Used with with Creative Commons Attribution LicenseIn 2012, Michigan became the 24th state to pass a right-to-work law. Unions were outraged, but had little to complain about: Michiganders had just rejected a union proposal to rewrite the state’s labor laws to unions’ benefit (and prohibit right-to-work measures) despite over $23 million that was spent to pass it.

    For good measure, Michigan voters effectively endorsed the employee rights reforms this November, reelecting Gov. Rick Snyder, increasing the state legislative majorities of reformist Republican legislators, and sending a former state Senate leader who had pushed right-to-work in previous legislatures to the U.S. House.

    With voters expressing support for employee rights reformers, unions in Michigan are left with little more than spin. We get that this week from Ed McNeil, Special Assistant to the President of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Leadership Council 25—the Michigan state council of that union. MLive reports:

    Ed McNeil, special assistant to the president of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) rattled off four new groups he’d helped form unions this year, though he says he’d have to dig through some files to find the total number they’ve done since 2012.


    “They’re calling us to organize them because they’re looking at the type of work that we’ve done in the past and how we represent people,” McNeil said.


    He estimates that the actual number of AFSCME members in the state is staying about the same, since some individuals are dropping out. As far as new organizing goes, “We’re doing more than we did before 2012,” McNeil said.

    We can help jog McNeil’s memory, using the Center for Union Facts searchable databases of union federal disclosures. In 2013 (the most recent year for which data are public), AFSCME L.C. 25 had 40,669 members. That’s a drop of 5,405 members (11.7 percent) from 2012’s 46,074 membership. While AFSCME Michigan may be recovering some of its losses through new organizing, it doesn’t appear to be nearly enough to stanch the long-term decline.

    Employee rights reform is successful and working in Big Labor’s spiritual homeland of Michigan. With more opportunity to choose for themselves, many employees are deciding that unions aren’t worthy of their support. It’s time to take this effort to the national level. As unions double down on their failed tactics of ruinous strikes and political hyper-partisanship, legislators should take up reform legislation like the Employee Rights Act to give employees a real voice in their workplaces.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActRight-to-Work