Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Luddite Unions Pick Cabbies over Consumers

    98303744_e1b29b2379Back in Industrial Revolution-era England, the Luddites were a group of artisans who engaged in sabotage against factories they felt were taking their jobs. They lost, but don’t tell Big Labor: In cities across the nation, taxicab drivers backed by various national unions are protesting new internet-based car-hire services such as Uber.

    Consumers tend to like these services a lot, but taxi drivers and the unions looking to harvest membership or associates’ dues from them are trying to ban them. Some cabbies oppose what they see as the for-hire services evading regulations that apply to them; others simply oppose competition for fares.

    Either way, the unions are looking for dues revenue (the Washington Post reported that Washington, D.C.’s Teamster-affiliated cabbies pay $25 per month in dues) and supporters for their other campaigns. And with the “Uber Wars” breaking out in major cities with strong union political presences, the cabbies are wagering that their union allies will prove more powerful than the allies of the ride-sharing companies.

    In Chicago, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is trying to build an organization of taxi drivers while an existing organization is petitioning to join the AFL-CIO. This week, D.C. taxi drivers under the auspices of the Teamsters union conducted a traffic shutdown protest in order to rally opposition to an ordinance that would legalize and normalize so-called “ride sharing” through internet services.

    This is part of a pattern: Unions consistently oppose consumer choices. Teachers unions like the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) oppose school choice measures like charter schools wherever they appear. The airline pilots’ union (ALPA) wants to ban a Norwegian-owned Ireland-based airline from U.S. skies. And don’t forget the Bakers’ union almost killed off the Twinkie by striking bankrupt Hostess.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsTeamsters
  2. Liberal Big Money Group Taps Teachers Union Honcho

    moneythumbUnion bosses love to complain about conservatives and business groups spending money to influence politics. But when left-wing funding behemoth Democracy Alliance recently tapped a high-ranking National Education Association (NEA) official to chair its board, that principled opposition to money in politics—if it ever existed—went right out the window.

    John Stocks, the NEA’s current Executive Director, will chair the Democracy Alliance board, and he joins fellow union honcho and sell-out Randi Weingarten, who recently signed on as an Alliance “partner.” When it comes to money in politics, the issue for Big Labor clearly isn’t the money, but whether they’re the ones spending it.

    This confirms that the Alliance, a key funder of liberal groups that support the Democratic Party’s ideological infrastructure, is now a full-fledged supporter of the country’s indefensible status on public education. That saddens former New York Times reporter Matt Bai, who hoped to see liberals continue President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s openness to education reform:

    [I]f you were going to sit down and make a list of political powerhouses that have been intransigent and blindly doctrinaire in the face of change, you’d have a hard time finding a better example than the country’s largest teachers union. […] Just last week, a California judge, in ruling against the union, condemned its age-old protections of incompetent teachers, saying the union’s position not only was unconstitutional but also “shocks the conscience.”

    Between them, the NEA and AFT are committed to obstructing education reform wherever it appears. To Bai,the Alliance getting in bed with these organizations is the last insult in the group’s slow departure from its founding principles of positive liberal change:

    Eventually, the alliance became, essentially, a convener and funder of the [Democratic] party establishment. It welcomed several big unions to the table and took up side collections for candidates. And now it’s [sic] formalized that role by electing Stocks as its chairman.

    In the end, it shouldn’t be surprising that institutional Democrats and the professional left are rejecting their experiments in education reform. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1990 the NEA and AFT together have pumped over $67 million into Democratic federal campaigns. When progressive principles meet big labor money, big labor money wins at the Democracy Alliance.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsNEAPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions
  3. Editors Eviscerate SEIU’s Seattle Scheme

    22154002_13751bd6eeSeattle has taken a hard-left turn in recent elections pushed heavily by Big Labor, culminating in the city’s recent decision to raise its minimum wage to $15 over three years. The latest effort is a ballot measure—titled I-107—that would capitalize on Mayor Ed Murray’s call for universal pre-kindergarten education to sneak city taxpayers’ money into SEIU coffers.

    The Seattle Times editors are not amused by this latest scheme, calling it “a devious piece of self-dealing by SEIU Local 925.” The editors explain precisely how the SEIU cash-grab would work:

    I-107 also requires Seattle to hire an unnamed entity to communicate with Seattle early childhood instructors about new workforce development standards. The definition of this is written so specifically it appears only one entity meets it: SEIU Local 925, which has spent $132,550 getting to the ballot (The American Federation of Teachers has put in a similar amount). In short, the SEIU-funded initiative could require the City of Seattle to pay SEIU to unionize local child-care centers.

    Since the editorial was written, SEIU Local 925 has funneled another $135,000 in contributions to the I-107 ballot measure committee (“Yes for Early Success”). SEIU knows how to win ballot campaigns in Washington State: Spend a boatload of members’ dues money. To push a $15 minimum wage measure—with a carve-out for unionized under-cutting, naturally—in the city of SeaTac, home of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, SEIU and its locals spent $331,200 (a total of $108.95 per vote in favor). If you include spending by the SEIU-funded “worker center” Working Washington, those amounts rise to $561,300 in total and $184.64 per vote.

    And if Seattle proper falls for the dues-funded onslaught from SEIU, the effects could be dire for city finances. The Times editors argue:

    [I-107] carries a whopping price tag. A fiscal analysis by city staff estimates the potential cost at $107 million the first year, and more than $80 million in each additional year. I-107 offers no way to pay for this.

    Yet, the initiative also ensures that if Seattle fails to live up to this utopian ideal, families could sue. A confidential legal analysis by the Pacifica Law Group, working under contract with the Seattle city attorney, suggests this provision could result in serious potential liability for the city.

    Of course, if its record is any indication, SEIU has a solution to that financial problem: Run another campaign to raise taxes. SEIU and its locals have spent millions—in California in 2012, SEIU and its state council spent over $9 million on Proposition 30, a set of tax increases—to ensure that more taxpayer money flows into SEIU coffers.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsPolitical MoneySEIUWorkers Center
  4. AFL-CIO Wants to Re-Write Labor History


    Big Labor, most notably the AFL-CIO, is pushing its political allies to propagandize children in school social studies curriculums. Union membership is suffering among all ages—total union membership has fallen to only 11.3 percent of the total employed workforce—and it seems Big Labor is very worried about losing the young, who are even less unionized (4.2 percent of employed 16-24 year-olds are union members). And to get their propaganda mandate, the unions–especially teachers unions–are prepared to engage in rank hypocrisy, calling for politicians to effectively politicize the curriculum when it serves their interests.

    The Associated Press explains the scheme:

    Unions and their allies are trying to flex their muscle in state legislatures, pushing for labor history to be included in social studies curriculum and hoping a new generation of high school students will one day be well-educated union members.

    Apparently, unions believe they can make a comeback by re-writing “labor history” in school curriculums.  In short, expect a Big-Labor-approved whitewash rather than the truth of how unions nearly killed off American icons like the Twinkie and the Corvette, driving their parents (Hostess and GM) into liquidation and bankruptcy respectively.

    And will students learn of the history of union corruption like the Mafia infiltration of the Teamsters? Fuggedaboutit. Delaware’s General Assembly passed a resolution to create a “Task Force on Labor History” to develop the standards that included a Teamsters Local president (and the state NEA and AFL-CIO bosses, for good measure).

    But not all union members are on board with this propaganda push. Despite the support of state chapters of the AFL-CIO affiliate American Federation of Teachers (AFT), teachers aren’t necessarily supportive of these state mandates. One teacher noted, “In general, I’m opposed to all of this top-down legislation.”

    And when the shoe is on the other foot, the AFT doesn’t like “top-down legislation” of politicized curriculums either. In response to Texas school board textbook changes that emphasized conservative advances in recent history, AFT boss Randi Weingarten told NBC News: “We should have common standards on what social studies is, and then allow teachers to do their jobs as opposed to having education so politicized.”

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionTeachers UnionsTeamsters
  5. California Students Find New Way to Battle Teachers Unions

    TUX Can adThis week, teachers unions’ cushy status quo suffered a major setback, in California of all places. That’s odd in part because the teachers unions—specifically NEA affiliate the California Teachers Association (CTA), but also the AFT affiliate California Federation of Teachers (CFT)—have massive political power in the state. The two unions spent a combined $39 million in 2012 to elect California state legislators and influence California state ballot issues.

    Largely as a result of this political power, California law on teacher accountability is essentially chapter-and-verse the unions’ preferences. California has an exceptionally short tenure evaluation period (2 years), a particularly onerous discipline-and-removal process, and a “last-in-first-out” policy that does not take effectiveness into account during layoff decisions—all positions demanded and defended by the teachers unions.

    But California’s students—especially poor and minority students most exposed to ineffective teachers—pay the price. And legislators eyeing support from the CTA’s and CFT’s political war chests are in no mood to take proactive action for California children. The laws would not change.

    Until now.

    A lawsuit filed on behalf of nine public schoolchildren alleged that California’s teacher union-backed disciplinary and hiring practices violated their constitutional rights to equal protection and to an effective public education. Despite both state teachers unions joining the state’s defense against the lawsuit, they lost. In his tentative decision, Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles struck down those provisions in a victory for the students and their allies on all counts.

    National teachers union bosses are naturally outraged to see their cushy status quo tossed. Randi Weingarten of the AFT blamed a “benefactor with an extreme agenda.” (A reformist businessman provided support to the student-litigants.) The NEA President Dennis Van Roekel blamed “millionaires and special interests.”

    But many policy and legal analysts believe the students’ case will hold strong on the unions’ and state’s inevitable appeal. Robert Pugsley, a professor of law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, told The Wall Street Journal that Judge Treu’s writing that union-caused education inequality “shocks the conscience” “indicates a strong evidentiary basis for his conclusion that appeals courts will give great weight to.” William Koski, a Stanford law professor, predicted the decision would have national “ripple effects.”

    Indeed, it seems that by suing to get rid of the legal protections that teachers unions have spent a torrent of money to build, the litigants have found an effective way to combat their resistance to reform. As we note in our USA Today ad, we hope others follow the Californians’ lead.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsNEATeachers Unions
  6. Randi Called Out for Dodging Accountability

    AFT Times Square BillboardRandi Weingarten likes to claim people who call her out are ultra-right-wing Tea Partiers, education privatizers, or agents of libertarian activist-philanthropists Charles and David Koch. In an interview with the Washington Post, Randi claimed that “the Koch brothers and deep-pocketed conservative activists” are behind “an anti-public education agenda of vouchers, privatization, and attacks on teachers and their unions.”

    But now the criticism of AFT and its radical leadership is coming from liberals and moderates. First, we have a former Obama Education Department appointee writing at the Huffington Post. She calls out Randi for an earlier HuffPo piece, noting:

    In a recent piece in The Huffington Post, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond redefined the word accountability to essentially mean its opposite: avoiding responsibility for academic underperformance. […]


    Reasonable people might quibble with one aspect of [NY State Education Commissioner John King’s] approach or another, but to label it — as Weingarten and Darling-Hammond did — simply as “test and punish” is preposterous, especially given the unusual quality of supports New York provides to teachers.

    Declaring accountability-based education reforms as “test and punish” probably polls well for the AFT, but as the writers note, it is misleading. Randi and the AFT have blocked all sorts of promising reforms, from teacher evaluation methods to charter schools to merit-based bonuses for effective teachers. There’s a reason a New York City principal once said Weingarten “would protect a dead body in the classroom.”

    Randi is also taking flak for her spin on a recent survey of teacher absenteeism. She said that a finding that teachers take the equivalent of 11 sick days per year “shows the extraordinary dedication of teachers across the country.”

    The Worcester Telegram & Gazette editorial board—which endorsed Barack Obama in 2008—strongly disagreed, noting that the level of absenteeism is “not extraordinary dedication. That’s a problem.” The editors also took Randi personally to task, noting that the problem “won’t be solved through the kind of denial exhibited by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.”

    With left-leaning education advocates and newspaper editorial boards questioning Randi’s radicalism, her cushy status quo may be coming towards an end. That’s good for America’s kids.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  7. Trumka Bringing Card-Check II to a Congress Near You?

    trumk-ad-thumbAfter Big Labor’s push for the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) failed in 2009-2010, Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO have been trying to concoct a new way to harvest more union dues and stop their long-term decline. We’ve seen union bosses hide behind fake grassroots “worker center” front groups, threaten management’s right to discreetly consult attorneys when faced with organizing, and run weird advertisements to try to build sympathy for the labor movement.

    It hasn’t really gone anywhere. So now, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO are plotting a new legislative initiative: “Collective bargaining”—in practice, unionization—for all, whether employees want it or not. The developing AFL-CIO plan would seem to force employers to collectively bargain with employee groups, regardless of how many employees actually were represented by them.

    It’s yet another case of union leaders betting that making employees join unions will make them like unions. The SEIU is currently biting its fingernails waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if its scheme to shove unwitting home-healthcare workers into unions passes Constitutional muster, just after an identical game was rejected by Michigan legislators and voters. Similarly, Big Labor is hoping that the Obama-packed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will reissue the “quickie elections” rule that may force employees to vote on unionization before they’ve heard both pros and cons of organizing.

    We see a pattern here, and so do Americans who want real labor reform. The Employee Rights Act, a package of seven reforms that empower and return rights to individual employees, is supported by over 80 percent of Americans in national polling. States from Indiana to Wisconsin to the labor heartland of Michigan have advanced pro-employee reform. Congress should reject Trumka’s latest shove ‘em in and milk ‘em dry gambit and advance the reforms in the ERA.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights Act
  8. Media Searches for Wal-Mart Strikers, Finds Few

    union-market-screenshotWith Wal-Mart’s shareholder meeting coming up at the end of the week, the United Food and Commercial Workers’ in-house front group OUR Walmart is trying to rally its flagging campaign to either organize the retailer or drive up the retailer’s costs to make union shops more competitive. But it doesn’t look like the media is buying the union’s claim that OUR Walmart represents widespread “strikes” against Wal-Mart anymore.

    American Public Media’s Marketplace notes that few workers are expected to participate. A union-sympathizing labor relations professor explains that somehow, that isn’t the point:

    Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, [Professor] Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.

    Indeed, UFCW’s spending on the OUR Walmart campaign suggests it’s essentially all about P.R. rather than worker power. According to Labor Department filings from last year, UFCW national headquarters has retained union-friendly public relations shop Berlin Rosen to the tune of $240,614. You might remember this shop for puppet-mastering the SEIU’s multimillion-dollar fast food organizing campaign.

    And who happily brags about coordinating “coalitions organizing Wal-Mart workers” on its website? Why, Berlin Rosen does! Just like SEIU’s Astroturfed campaign against restaurants, UFCW appears to be Astroturfing against Wal-Mart. At least now, the media is asking questions.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsUFCWWorkers Center