Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Construction Unions Build Barriers to Affordable Housing

    dispute_jpgGovernor Jerry Brown of California recently pledged to spend $400 million on low-income housing subsidies, as part of a plan to scrap local restrictions that make it difficult to build more housing in California—a primary driver of the state’s skyrocketing housing costs. (California is seeing a mass exodus of residents to neighboring states for that same reason.)

    Under Gov. Brown’s proposal, housing developers would be allowed to bypass certain regulations if they set aside between five and 20 percent of their projects for lower-income residents (the exact number depends on the proximity of the development to public transportation).

    So who’s building obstacles between developers and residents in need of an affordable place to live? Big Labor.

    The State Building and Construction Trades Council (SBCTC) wants Gov. Brown to force developers to pay construction workers so-called prevailing wages—the (inflated) going rate for union labor. But the greed of California’s union bosses has now put affordable housing projects in jeopardy. Forcing developers to pay employees significantly higher wages makes them far less likely to build new homes. As Ben Metcalf, the governor’s director of Housing and Community Development, put it: “The cost-benefit analysis is such that few developers could actually afford to do that.”

    Legislators are now “feeling the heat” from the SBCTC to reject Brown’s plans. In Metcalf’s words: “They are getting a lot of political pressure from significant constituencies that don’t want this to happen.”

    The real losers here are working-class Californians with nowhere to live, forced to sit idly by as union bosses put their interests first.

    Categories: Building and Construction Trades Council
  2. No Surprise Here: Union Bosses are “Out of Touch”


    Union bosses talk a big game when it comes to helping their employees. But the American people beg to differ.

    According to a recent Rasmussen poll, only 20 percent of likely U.S. voters believe that labor leaders “do a good job representing union members.” Almost 60 percent claim that most union bosses are “out of touch” with most of their members.

    But actual union members couldn’t possibly think that, right? Actually, they do. As Rasmussen notes:

    “Most voters—including those who are now or have been union members—believe the majority of union leaders are out of touch with their membership nationwide.”

    Among U.S. voters who are now or have been a member of a labor union, only 25 percent believe that “union leaders do a good job representing their membership.” That’s right: Only one in four current or former union employees can say that union bosses are doing a “good job.” Well over half of these voters argue that union bosses are “out of touch,” while half of them agree that unions generally “have too much political influence.”

    That’s exactly why the American people—especially union members—need the Employee Rights Act (ERA), legislation which would update American labor law to hold union bosses accountable to employees. Among other pro-employee provisions, the ERA would guarantee secret-ballot union elections and require labor organizers to obtain prior approval before using employees’ dues dollars for political activities. Now supported by 80 percent of Americans and more than 165 members of Congress, the bill’s pro-employee reforms rein in unapproved political spending so that union representatives can actually go back to representing their employees—not wage dues-funded political crusades.

    Most Americans are fed up with union bosses. And most Americans say that the ERA would help. The time for change is now.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  3. National Employee Freedom Week Gains Traction

    hands shakingThis week is National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), an annual grassroots campaign of more than 85 organizations (including the Center for Union Facts) educating constituents about their rights to leave their union or stop paying the portion of their dues that funds union political activities.

    The coalition is also promoting a new policy called “Worker’s Choice,” which creates a new paradigm in labor relations. It would allow employees who have left their unions to negotiate individually with their employers. This overcomes one of the main arguments against “right-to-work” legislation—which allows employees to decline union membership—known as the “free rider” effect (i.e. those who receive the benefit of union representation but don’t pay for it). See here:

    To commemorate NEFW, a wide array of labor experts have published op-ed columns voicing their support for workplace democracy:

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights Act
  4. Johnny Doc, Where’s the Brotherly Love?

    GavelOne of America’s most powerful union bosses has some serious legal problems. John J. “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, the business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98, is currently under federal and state investigation.

    Why? Dougherty’s own finances, as well as the union’s donations to political campaigns and “allegations of a pattern of intimidation.”

    When it comes to excess, IBEW Local 98—the most powerful construction union in Philadelphia—takes the cake. As The Philadelphia Inquirer recently chronicled, “Even for non-wonks, the 77-page Local 98 [annual] report makes fascinating reading.”

    Fascinating indeed. Check out some of the union’s 2015 expenditures:

    • $430,784 in sports tickets and other entertainment expenses:
      • Wells Fargo Center: $194,084
      • Philadelphia Eagles: $112,186
      • Philadelphia Phillies: $55,255
      • Pittsburgh Steelers: $23,881
      • Pittsburgh Pirates: $22,129
      • Philadelphia Flyers:$10,140
      • PNC Park: $6,829
      • PSSI Stadium: $6,280
    • $25,255 to Lore’s Chocolates labeled as “gifts for the goodwill of the union”
    • $11,803 to The Coach Store labeled as “holiday gifts”
    • $10,255 to Canal’s Discount Liquors—$6,194 for “holiday gifts” and $4,031 in unexplained expenditures
    • $8,925 to Well Deserved Corporate Spa Services, another non-itemized expense

    Even that’s not all. “Johnny Doc” earned $406,532 last year—including $226,754 in base salary and $168,308 in “disbursements for official business.” Counting Dougherty, the local union paid 27 employees six-figure salaries using member dues.

    Local 98 stands out among East Coast construction unions. Boston’s IBEW Local 103 paid its president, Louis Antonellis, $153,978 in base salary, with less than $3,000 reserved for business-related spending. The union’s filings with the Department of Labor revealed no money spent on “political activities and lobbying”—rare for a big-city construction union and a far cry from Local 98’s nearly $2 million allotment for politicking.

    Dougherty’s taste for the finer things in life—from Coach products to luxury chocolates—sets him apart. And by Big Labor’s standards, that’s saying something.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionGolf and Other NecessitiesPolitical MoneyUnion SpendingViolence
  5. Union Bosses Flex Muscle in Philadelphia—Literally

    angrytrumkaWith the 2016 election heating up, union bosses are busy promoting their agenda. And the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was a perfect opportunity to flex some muscle.

    Take John Dougherty, the business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98. As The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

    “For Dougherty, it was more like contact, as he hugged guests, leaned in for kisses, and glad-handed a galaxy of local political figures, including Council members Mark Squilla and Bobby Henon at a boisterous party that his politically connected union hosted at McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon next to Citizens Bank Park.


    Over the week of the convention, Dougherty estimated, his union spent more than $80,000 on parties, including $20,000 to $25,000 to host the McFadden’s shindig.”

    For AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “flexing some muscle” turned literal. When Arun Gupta, a journalist, began questioning Trumka about free-trade agreements and other hot-button issues important to AFL-CIO membership, the union boss tensed up and eventually swatted Gupta in the face with a cardboard sign. Uninterested in talking policy, Trumka declared, “We’re done. We’re done.” (You can see the video here.)

    Getting physical is in his DNA. Back in the early 1990s—when Trumka was president of the United Mine Workers in West Virginia—the union boss ordered more than 17,000 workers to walk off their jobs. According to Breitbart and the National Right to Work Foundationit gets worse:

    He explicitly told strikers to ‘kick the shit out of’ employees and mine operators resisting union demands. UMW enforcers obliged him. They vandalized homes, fires shots at a mine office, and cut power to another mine, temporarily trapping 93 miners underground. Worse yet, a union goon on July 22, 1993 murdered heavy equipment operator Eddie York, a nonunion contractor, shooting him in the back of the head in his pickup truck as he drove past strikers at a Logan County, West Virginia work site; a bunch of goons then proceeded to pelt York’s would-be rescuers with rocks.


    Rather than apologize, Trumka offered the following rationalization: ‘I’m saying if you strike a match and put your finger in, common sense tells you you’re going to burn your finger.’

    Ladies and gentleman, say hello to America’s “champion for working families.”

    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-CIOViolence
  6. Union Bosses Talk Wage Inequality, Rake in Six-Figure Salaries

    mkhSix of America’s most powerful union bosses appeared at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, decrying income inequality and advocating for reckless minimum-wage hikes.

    AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka urged voters to “stand up to Wall Street” and “build a new era of shared prosperity.” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), praised the “[fight] for $15 and a union,” while Randi Weingarten—president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—railed against “millionaires [growing]…richer at the expense of the middle class.” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education President (NEA); Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); and Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Union (NABTU), also gave remarks alluding to wage stagnation.

    Yet a closer look at these union bosses’ salaries reveals that they themselves are members of the “one percent” Big Labor so vehemently opposes. All of them can claim total compensation well into the six figures.

    As The Washington Free Beacon reported, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made more than $300,000 in 2015, while AFT President Randi Weingarten made off with almost $500,000 in disbursements. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry lives the most modestly in the group, “only” earning about $296,500 last year.

    Earlier this year, we chronicled the 10 best-paid union bosses in terms of salary and total compensation. Some earned more than $600,000 in total disbursements in 2015. According to the union’s filings with the Department of Labor, Air Line Pilots Association President Timothy Canoll took home $693,534 (Weingarten’s $500,000 payday wasn’t far behind.) By contrast, the average “chief executive” earned $185,850 in 2015, meaning that 153 union presidents enjoyed better compensation than America’s typical CEO.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMEAFTNEASEIUTeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  7. Labor Secretary Lies About Lineage?

    shutterstock_438467041It’s been a rough few weeks for U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Not only was Perez—the architect of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) job-killing overtime rule—passed over as a vice presidential candidate, but the secretary also sparked a firestorm of controversy.

    Why? Because of his ancestry—or, rather, what he said about it.

    In stump speeches and interviews, Perez routinely mentions that his grandfather was expelled from the Dominican Republic for opposing the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the 1930s. (Trujillo is known for ordering the racially motivated massacre of thousands of Haitians living in the country in 1937.) “I’m so proud of my grandfather for [opposing Trujillo], even though it was against so many forces in place,” claimed Perez in a recent speech.

    But, according to The Wall Street Journal, archival records paint a much different picture. Perez’s grandfather, Rafael Brache, was actually “one of the dictator’s champions during at least the first five years” of his rule. Brache “held a string of high-level offices in the regime, including ambassador to the U.S.” It gets worse:

    “Mr. Brache defended Trujillo’s regime and tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a meeting between Trujillo and President Franklin Roosevelt. As late as 1935, by which time political assassinations and press suppression had become widely publicized, Mr. Brache expressed ‘great optimism’ about Trujillo, according to a State Department memo.”

    Yet—facts be darned—Perez continually expresses great pride in Brache.

    Talk about bad optics. Allegations of “widespread corruption” in the DOL don’t look much better. Nor do claims that “Perez retaliated against…investigators who reported abuse, fraud and discrimination in the department.”

    The so-called “champion for working families” has a lot of explaining to do.

    Categories: DOL
  8. SEIU Faces Largest Decertification Vote in History

    Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 6.25A group of Minnesota home health care workers have embarked on a campaign to decertify the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota that currently represents them. Launching their decertification effort on Monday, they seek to extricate roughly 27,000 home health care professionals across the state from the SEIU. If successful, it would be the largest decertification vote in history.

    Kris Greene, the leader of the decertification campaign and a veteran of the home care business, voiced what we’ve long known about the politically-powerful union:

    “The SEIU and the changes they have made have not benefited me or my family. I really feel it’s about politics and not for me or my daughter. It’s the political game and I don’t want to be a part of it to be honest. I just want to take care of my daughter in the best way that she needs and all this other stuff is just interference.”

    Greene is right: The SEIU is all about politics. In the last presidential election cycle, the SEIU spent more than $25 million to boost an almost-exclusively Democrat set of candidates and campaign committees. This, despite the fact that almost 40 percent of SEIU members are inclined to vote Republican, according to an estimate from SEIU boss Mary Kay Henry herself.

    Unfortunately for employees like Kris, the union doesn’t make the decertification process an easy one. Data from the NLRB indicates that just one in four decertification attempts are successful. Only half are even put up for a vote. That’s why Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) have reintroduced the Employee Rights Act (ERA), a bill which would prohibit union bosses—well-known for bullying and other pressure tactics—from inhibiting the decertification process. Among other provisions, the ERA would penalize unions who interfere with or discipline employees seeking a decertification vote.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActNLRBSEIUUnion Spending