Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. In-N-Out Learns a Lesson on Taking the “High Road”

    shutterstock_299196185If you’ve ever been to an In-N-Out, you’ll know that the company’s distinct style consists of two colors: Red and white. From the employee uniforms to the paper to-go bags all the way down to the bathroom tiles, everything is similar.

    No longer.

    This month, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board ruled that In-N-Out must cease enforcing its rules relating to wage and labor-associated paraphernalia. Specifically, the California fast-food chain now must allow employees to wear campaign buttons and pins that bear slogans in support of the SEIU’s $70-million “Fight for $15” campaign.

    It’s a startling turn of events for the California burger chain. A few years ago, In-N-Out was trumpeted by politicians and labor advocates as a model employer for its ability to pay a $10.50 starting wage with benefits. At the time, In-N-Out was only too happy to bask in the praise. Flash forward to 2015, when any starting wage less than $15 an hour has been deemed too cheap by the SEIU. With the goalposts moved, In-N-Out was no longer a model employer—it became a target. The SEIU’s Mid-South Organizing Committee made this clear when it lodged an unfair labor practice charge against the company after a manager asked union-aligned employees at an Austin location to remove their “Fight for $15” pins.

    The SEIU’s fast-food campaign is ultimately about boosting its membership rolls, not raising the minimum wage. In-N-Out, which is famously not a franchised company, may be a uniquely attractive target for the union in this regard. In any case, the company’s reversal of fortune with labor advocates is a cautionary tale for other companies who consider throwing their lot in with supporters of a higher minimum wage.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsSEIUUnion Spending
  2. Boisterous Teachers Union Silences Conservative Members

    Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 3.16The National Education Association (NEA) is not one to keep its anti-reform agenda quiet. That was made clear at the union’s annual labor conference this week, where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—who received an early endorsement from the NEA—was recruited to speak. When Clinton praised charter schools—saying that “when schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working…and share it with schools across America”—numerous delegates from the NEA’s representative assembly booed the speaker.

    Apparently, only traditional public schools can “get it right.” It’s the latest example of Big Labor’s staunch opposition to education reform, including what should be uncontroversial policies like merit-based pay and expanded school choice. NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia has even equated education reform to “the shameful scapegoating of America’s educators.”

    This resistance to change spills over into politics, as teachers unions are known for donating heavily to Democratic candidates and causes as a way of blocking innovative education policies. The NEA ranked as the top organization funding super PACs during the 2014 election cycle–well ahead of conservative power players including the Republican Governors Association (No. 18), Freedom Partners (No. 55) and American Crossroads (No. 66). (The American Federation of Teachers, the other major teachers union, finished No. 13.) And the overwhelming majority of teacher union money–99 percent–is sent to the Democratic Party and liberal special interest groups opposing education reform.

    But does the overwhelming majority of teachers support such one-sided activism? Even the NEA suggests not. The union’s most recent survey of its members revealed that 55 percent of teachers identify as either “conservative” or “tend to be conservative.”

    Some of them are conscientiously objecting to the NEA’s political proclivity: According to the union’s LM-2 filings with the Department of Labor, 94,080 NEA-affiliated teachers are considered “Agency Fee Payers,” meaning that these teachers are opting out of funding the NEA’s direct political spending budget. Yet countless more (the NEA has roughly three million members) don’t support the union’s liberal politicking but are still pushed to fund it. Worse yet, even conscientious objectors can’t opt out of union spending that is classified as non-political but still ends up in the hands of liberal special interest groups.

    For all of the NEA’s loudmouths, many members remain in quiet opposition to the union’s noisy message.

    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: Center for Union FactsNEAPolitical MoneyTeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  3. Richard Berman Discusses “The Union Way” on Stossel

    Richard Berman, the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, recently appeared on Fox Business’ Stossel to discuss the state of unions today. Among other things, he talked about arcane union rules in the workplace and the importance of the Employee Rights Act (ERA)—America’s most comprehensive labor reform bill. The ERA is now co-sponsored by more than 160 members of Congress.

    You can see the full segment here:

    Categories: Center for Union FactsEmployee Rights Act
  4. EXPOSED: Local Teachers Union Protects Abusive Teacher

    shutterstock_157245110What does it take to fire a really bad teacher? Apparently, a lot.

    Project Veritas video revealed two union officials with the Yonkers Federation of Teachers (YFT)—a New York affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers—brainstorming ways to protect an abusive teacher played by an undercover journalist. The planted (white) teacher, who hypothetically struck a minority student and then took a two-week vacation in Mexico without telling the school, admitted his “wrongdoing” to YFT President Patricia Puleo and YFT Executive Vice President Paul Diamond.

    The response was shocking. “You don’t have to be honest,” explained Diamond, proposing to the plant to instead to “talk in theory.” Puleo suggested calling the two-week Mexico trip “family medical leave time” as “one way of covering it up.”

    It doesn’t end there. When James O’Keefe, the journalist-turned-teacher, inquired about claiming medical leave to cover up the incident, Diamond suggested manufacturing a phony doctor’s note. In his own words, “Do you have a doctor who is a friend of the family?” Puleo was even clearer: “Don’t f***cking tell anybody.”

    You can see the full extent of it here:

    In light of the video, four members of the Yonkers City Council called for the resignations of Puleo and Diamond. And how did the union respond? By standing behind Diamond and telling him to “continue his union work.” (Puleo too will likely be spared of any punishment.) That “union work” doesn’t come cheap: Diamond’s base salary exceeded $132,000 in 2015.

    It’s the same old script. Teachers unions defend even the worst teachers at all costs—often at the expense of students.

    Categories: AFTTeachers UnionsUnion Spending
  5. NYC Union Boss Arrested on Fraud Charges

    crime money steal embezzle 2

    Union bosses just can’t say no to luxury. Take Norman Seabrook, the longtime president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA) who was recently arrested on fraud charges. His crime? Seabrook allegedly steered $20 million in union money to a hedge fund called Platinum Partners in return for tens of thousands of dollars in personal kickbacks.

    The scheme was orchestrated by Seabrook and Murray Huberfield, the hedge fund’s founder, who then coordinated with businessman and Democratic donor Jona Rechnitz. It was Rechnitz who personally delivered those kickbacks—about $60,000 worth—to Seabrook in an $820 Salvatore Ferragamo handbag. (For those keeping track at home, Ferragamo is “one of Seabrook’s favorite stores.”)

    The union boss’ reasoning for the backroom deal was simple: “[I]t was time that ‘Norman Seabrook got paid.'”

    That’s Seabrook in a nutshell. As The New York Times reported:

    Just looking at him, it is clear Mr. Seabrook enjoys life’s finer things. He is driven around town in luxury S.U.V.s, dines at upscale restaurants, smokes fine cigars, and wears expensive tailored suits, often with a pocket square.

    And who’s paying for those finer things?

    Union members. Soon after Seabrook and Huberfield ironed out the details of their deal in 2013, Seabrook sent the investor $10 million in union annuity funds—derived from mandatory member dues. He then invested two other $5 million payments in Huberfield’s fund over the next few months, leaving “COBA with just over $3 million cash on hand for the union.”

    Union members might not be getting a bang for their buck, but Seabrook definitely did—and a luxury handbag to boot.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionGolf and Other NecessitiesUnion Spending
  6. Desperate Unions Resort to…Inflatable Rats?

    ratIn America’s largest cities, developers are turning to nonunion labor for residential, commercial, and institutional construction projects. Sounds harmless, right?

    Big Labor doesn’t think so. “It’s putting profits before people,” claims Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. (Meanwhile, New York construction unions are notorious for paying black employees less than their white counterparts.)

    In the Big Apple, a firm called Gilbane Building is now being targeted by construction unions for—wait for it—employing union and nonunion labor. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the company uses a mix of union and nonunion contractors on its jobs based on numerous criteria including cost,” which has led union bosses to organize “about a half-dozen anti-Gilbane rallies in recent months.” A recent one included two large inflatable rats. Other rallies have featured as many as five rats, which are meant to signify a construction site with nonunion labor.

    As the New York Daily News explains, Big Labor’s army of inflatable animals now includes “a rodent sibling, a skunk, a cockroach, a ‘fat cat’ developer…and a cigar-chomping ‘capitalist pig.’ This isn’t a joke. The Building and General Construction Laborers Union Local 3 is just one of the unions using different members of the rodent family. You can see for yourself here:

    And it’s become a national phenomenon. One Bricklayers Union in Montana recently mounted a giant inflatable rat near the construction site of a new Walmart in Great Falls.

    Why the outrage?

    If developers shy away from union labor, that means less dues money for union bosses to spend. Construction unions in New York—where member dues are mandatory—and other cities derive a large chunk of income from building contracts with private developers, so companies like Gilbane are directly cutting into Big Labor’s pool of revenue when they opt for nonunion employees. Even though union bosses like LaBarbera claim to care about worker fairness and low wages, it really comes down to purchasing power.

    They need that for politics, lobbying, and—you guessed it—more inflatable rats.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsBuilding and Construction Trades CouncilGolf and Other NecessitiesUnion Spending
  7. SEIU Goes Rogue, Confronts Climate Change

    nuclear“[L]eaving oil, nautral gas, and other fossil fuels in the ground kills jobs, drives up energy costs, and threatens to strangle our economy.”—Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA) President Terry O’Sullivan


    “We know first-hand that our fights for economic, racial, and immigrant justice are inextricably linked to the fight for environmental justice.”—Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry

    Different day, same labor movement? The former was part of the LIUNA president’s scathing letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who recently formed a multimillion-dollar super PAC with Tom Steyer, the investor-turned-environmental-zealot. The latter demonstrates the SEIU president’s newfound commitment to tackle climate change, which she claims has given rise to “polluted zip codes” in America. Together, the two statements reveal the deep schism within the labor movement.

    LIUNA and other unions have long supported the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline and, by extension, opposed the “environmental extremists” who would scrap American jobs in the name of climate change. (After the White House blocked the Keystone project, O’Sullivan called the decision “politics at its worst.”) Other unions, however—like the SEIU—have embraced the Left’s environmental agenda. “Our members adopted a platform today to take on the fight for environmental justice and to stand in solidarity with the rest of the labor movement to demand clean air and water, healthy and safe communities and a just transition for all workers affected by a transition to a clean energy economy,” Henry recently proclaimed. Her union is now committing its resources—derived from (often mandatory) member dues—to “broadening environmental justice,” even though roughly 40 percent of union members vote Republican and probably aren’t aboard the green train.

    This, after the union spent at least $20 million on the job-killing Fight for $15 in 2015, sending millions to glitzy consulting firms and left-wing think tanks.

    Worse yet, Henry’s idyllic vision of “solidarity” doesn’t exist. Just ask O’Sullivan, who claims “environmentalists have blown the whistle on workers trying to feed their families.” Or consider the seven building trades presidents who also scolded Trumka for his Steyer alliance. In their words, “[T]he AFL-CIO has now officially become infiltrated by financial and political interests that work in direct conflict to…dues paying members’ lives.”

    That sounds like anything but a unified front.

    Categories: AFL-CIOSEIUUnion Spending
  8. NLRB Allegedly Downplays Pro-Union Threats

    boxingAs we’ve explained before, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sounds like an impartial observer; but it’s really an unelected body of pro-union bureaucrats. And the NLRB doesn’t hide its true colors.

    This particular story takes us back to 2013, when nursing aides at Pennsylvania nursing company ManorCare of Kingston voted (very narrowly) to unionize the workplace. Shortly after the vote took place, ManorCare objected to certifying the union. Why? Because two pro-union employees had allegedly threatened to beat up nursing aides who voted against the union—raising the possibility of intimidation influencing the final outcome. The NLRB investigated the matter in 2014, finding that one of the employees vowed to “start punching people in the face.” The other threatened to “do damage to people’s cars and cause bodily harm to employees who voted against the union.”

    But did the NLRB order another election? No chance. Instead, the agency argued the threats did not amount to intimidation—and couldn’t have tilted the scales in favor of the union—because one of the employees was short and the other was light-hearted. You read that right: The NLRB backed up its findings by claiming the first employee was “diminutive” and the second “was viewed as joking in nature.” And so the agency upheld ManorCare’s union vote.

    Fast forward to May 2016 and a federal appeals court is now overturning the NLRB’s decision. The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the NLRB “abused its discretion” by downplaying “pro-union” threats against some of ManorCare’s workers. The court found that not only did the NLRB not take the “general atmosphere of fear and reprisal” seriously enough, but also that employees had a real reason to be threatened. The remarks made by the pro-union employees “were threatening, and seriously so,” the court wrote.

    In the end, the U.S. Circuit Court overturned the union certification at ManorCare. In other words, it did what the “impartial” NLRB should have done from the start—send Big Labor home packing.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionNLRBViolence