Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Randi Rejected in Rhode Island

    3409642414_a401c0d007.jpgThis week, Democrats in Rhode Island chose their candidate for governor to replace outgoing Governor Lincoln Chafee, and they handed a major rebuke to the teachers unions in their choice. Gina Raimondo, the current state treasurer, won the nomination despite pushing a major pension reform during her term, which won her the enmity of public employee unions.

    But while the mainline union choice—Providence Mayor Angel Taveras—failed to surpass the relatively moderate Raimondo, the teachers unions’ choice came dead last among major candidates. Clay Pell had the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals (Randi Weingarten’s minions in the state) and the National Education Association Rhode Island.

    Teachers unions were hoping to leverage a possible Taveras endorsement for concessions in ongoing contract negotiations; to his credit, the mayor appears to have put his constituents before his political ambitions.

    Despite the teacher union support, over $3 million of his own money, and a famous name in the state (his grandfather was a U.S. Senator for 36 years), Pell got 27 percent of the vote—good enough to come in third of three major candidates. The political might of the teachers unions and Randi’s army went nowhere.

    Indeed, this collapse may help illustrate why the Boston Teachers Union and Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers concocted the support-obscuring scheme that they used to help Marty Walsh become Boston Mayor. Even generally pro-union Democratic constituencies are beginning to realize that teacher unions are standing in the way of education reform, making Randi Weingarten’s support a poisoned chalice.

    Even New York City, where Bill de Blasio swept to power on left-wing sentiment, has begun to break with the union. In a major U-turn (partially forced by a new state law), the city Education Department will allow more charter schools to share space in public school buildings. Worse for Randi, at least two will be run by her longtime nemesis, former NYC Councilor Eva Moskowitz.

    With a weak showing Rhode Island and a U-turn in NYC, Randi hasn’t had a good week—and that means America’s educational system has most probably had a very good one.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsNEATeachers Unions
  2. So Much for Solidarity: Teachers Union Provokes Fellow Union, Rank-and-File Members

    PickettingTeachers unions are no different than private-sector unions when it comes to investing member money on political issues. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its local affiliates have pumped over $585,000 into controversial civil rights leader Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). But AFT’s New York City local president, Michael Mulgrew, is in hot water with a segment of his membership for getting too close for his own good.

    Sharpton and NAN held a march protesting police conduct in the NYC borough of Staten Island. Mulgrew joined the protesters and cosponsored the march. (News reports suggest his national boss, ex-UFT head Randi Weingarten, also showed up.) But there was a catch—Mulgrew’s membership (or at least a sizable, loud bloc within it) opposed his involvement. As the Staten Island Advance editorial board noted shortly after the march:

    His decision to commit the union to this controversial demonstration has not been universally applauded by members.

    Diane Morton-Gattullo, a paraprofessional at PS 29 in Castleton Corners, says union members were “blindsided” by Mr. Mulgrew’s unilateral decision.

    “This is not something we were ever made aware of,” she said. “This [anti-police demonstration] is not a cause we should be involved in — we’re educators, not activists.”

    Then, last week, a number of Staten Island teachers wanted to wear t-shirts expressing support for the police department. The United Federation of Teachers (Mulgrew’s union) sent a passive-aggressive warning to teachers suggesting they could be disciplined for taking a pro-NYPD stand. (The city felt differently.)

    Union-backed Mayor Bill de Blasio has also been pressed into service to heal a fresh rift between the teachers union and the city police union. But while de Blasio called the idea that the teachers and the cops were feuding a “media fabrication,” the police union has expressed consistent outrage that Mulgrew would march with Sharpton against patrolmen’s due process under law.

    Categories: AFL-CIOAFTCenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions
  3. SEIU’s Staged Stunts to Strike Again

    SEIU_Flow_ChartWhen you have invested over $15 million on a campaign, like the Service Employees International Union has on its “Fight for 15” effort to organize restaurant workers, a few setbacks are hardly enough to give up the ship. So, despite justified skepticism that SEIU’s coordinated actions are reflective of employee sentiment, tomorrow (September 4) the SEIU plans to again take its Worker Organizing Committees out on “strike.”

    The supposed news hook for these latest stunts is “civil disobedience”—in union practice, typically staged arrests for trespassing or blocking a public roadway. Unions and worker center front groups like the “Fight for 15” do this sort of thing all the time.

    It’s so routine that when SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry pulled one of these stunts as part of a coordinated protest at McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting, her Twitter pictures indicate she chummed it up with the police. A similar “worker center” campaign, the UFCW’s OUR Walmart, pulled the same stunt last November, with many professional labor activists getting themselves arrested.

    In other words, the “get arrested” play isn’t even new by the standards of this campaign.

    But as the campaign purportedly grows, dissent may be growing too. The SEIU represents very few restaurant workers, and The New York Times reports that not all members are happy about a highly speculative effort to press fry cooks into their ranks:

    Within the SEIU, there has been some grumbling about why has the union spent millions of dollars to back the fast-food workers when they are not in the industries that the union has traditionally represented.

    It isn’t said much, but the fast food organizing campaign is a fairly massive gamble by SEIU. Even if the federal judiciary conjures a reason to let the fishy legal theory that restaurants and branding licensors are “joint employers” stand, an actual effort to unionize the industry—even by card check—would be a massive, expensive undertaking. If it doesn’t pay off, the SEIU will find itself in deep, so expect the spending and the periodic press stunts to continue.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsChange To WinSEIUWorkers Center
  4. Judge Calls Out NLRB Pro-Union Partisanship

    PickettingThe National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the federal agency set up to referee and investigate disputes between employers and labor unions—has taken a severe turn from neutral arbiter to pro-union advocate under President Obama. It’s so bad that a federal judge recently took notice, writing in a ruling that a recent NLRB document request “arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of federal labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort of the union.”

    It seems that the NLRB’s investigative division (headed by a controversial former Operating Engineers union counsel) demanded that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospital chain hand over an inordinately large amount of “highly confidential and proprietary information” to NLRB investigators. Coincidentally (we’re sure), UPMC is currently being aggressively targeted by the SEIU for unionization, and the NLRB is investigating complaints brought by SEIU organizers.

    While the judge felt bound by legal rules to allow the document request to go forward, other NLRB pro-union power grabs have been less successful. Most notably, President Obama’s “packing” the NLRB with “recess appointees” who weren’t actually recess appointees was struck down by the Supreme Court. (The Board has now been lawfully constituted and is proceeding apace to repeat the pro-union decisions the illegal board made.)

    The list of court losses is long. Two federal appeals courts struck down an NLRB mandatory propaganda poster order. Another federal court enjoined a “quickie elections” rule, which the NLRB is now attempting to revive. A new effort to abolish the longstanding business structure known as franchising at the urging of the SEIU will likely join these flops in the roll of overreach shot down by the court system.

    A 2012 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report called the Obama NLRB a “dysfunctional union advocate.” It seems that little has changed since then.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsChange To WinNLRBSEIU
  5. “Top Chef” Staff Reportedly Treated to Teamster Tirades, Threats

    fistsHell hath no fury like a union scorned. Earlier this year, Philadelphia-area Ironworkers Union members (including several officials) were brought up on federal charges for allegedly burning down a Quaker meetinghouse being built with nonunion labor.

    And now, the stars and staff of television cooking competition “Top Chef” have taken some fairly horrific abuse from Boston-area Teamsters. Their offense? Not hiring union labor at union prices, of course. (The Teamsters appear to have learned something from their former, less-than-reputable associates.)

    Deadline Hollywood reports:

    The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you [f***ing] whore!”

    Simply charming. It gets worse — Teamster-aligned demonstrators also allegedly berated show staff with anti-gay and racial slurs (including, allegedly, the n-word). Just to top off this incredibly hostile cake, fourteen show staff found their tires slashed. Even the cops weren’t exempt from union abuse: The local police chief said the first officer on the scene had to call for backup as demonstrators were “hostile, swearing, and refusing to let people come in and out.”

    Unions have made a big P.R. push to slough off their well-deserved reputation for thuggery—remember the North Carolina AFL-CIO’s “Hug a Thug” event alongside the Democratic National Convention? It hasn’t actually helped to root out the intimidation and violence on display in Boston and Philly. That will require a change in the law—currently, unions are exempted from federal criminal prohibitions on certain violent acts and threats of violence.

    Over 90 percent of Americans (including 90 percent of union households) support fixing this loophole, as the Employee Rights Act would. We can’t force unions to observe the general decency expected of anyone else in public life, but the ERA would serve the salutary purpose of closing this hideous and obscene loophole that lets labor off the hook for criminality that would land anyone else in the federal pen.

    Categories: Change To WinEmployee Rights ActTeamstersViolence
  6. Despicable Teacher Union Tactics Draw Blowback

    3409642414_a401c0d007.jpgThere is a saying among lawyers that if both the facts and the law are against you, the correct strategy is to jump up and down and bang on the table. Facing a public that is increasingly skeptical of her failed education status quo, it seems Randi Weingarten has adopted that model. But her latest attacks, on former CNN journalist turned education reform advocate Campbell Brown, have exposed a level of contemptibility previously unthinkable, turning the American Federation of Teachers into peddlers of pathetic sexist attacks.

    The union campaign depicts Brown, who leads a group that has filed a New York State lawsuit modeled on the Vergara v. California case that found teacher tenure laws unconstitutional, as the puppet of former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and her husband, GOP policy adviser Dan Senor. The implication that Brown is a puppet outraged center-left syndicated columnist Kristen Powers:

    For this, she has been on the receiving end of a sexist assault by the American Federation of Teachers and opponents of education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten took to Twitter to accuse Brown of not being balanced in her approach to school reform because “she’s married to Romney adviser Dan Senor.”

     

    To Weingarten, women are not people with thoughts of their own. No, they’re empty vessels who do their husband’s bidding.

    The campaign is run by two left-wing union front groups: the “Alliance for Quality Education” (which is a legally related entity to left-wing organizing outfit Citizen Action of New York) and New York Communities for Change (whom you might remember as the ringleaders of SEIU’s fast food strikes and as a successor organization to the discredited ACORN outfit). AFT affiliates have paid these organizations handsomely for past campaigns. The NYC teachers union paid Citizen Action $104,000 in the 2013 reporting year, with the New York State United Teachers (the AFT New York State federation) chipping in $62,100 directly to AQE. For good measure, NYSUT threw $185,000 to the Public Policy and Education Fund, another AQE-related organization. AFT affiliates paid NYCC $288,922 that year.

    We doubt Brown or her supporters—who include the lawyer who argued Al Gore’s case before the Supreme Court in 2000—will be deterred by Randi’s insults or the AFT-funded front groups’ activism. Recent polling shows a majority of the public opposes teacher tenure. We suspect banging on the table and hurling insults won’t convince Americans that Randi Weingarten is a force for good in American education.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions
  7. Dubious AFT Ally Hit With Fine for Beantown Shenanigans

    crime money steal embezzle 2Last year, Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) funded a shady political scheme to ensure that its man in Boston—Marty Walsh—won the city’s mayoral election.

    To refresh, AFT national slipped $480,000 to a New Jersey-based PAC (recall, Boston is not in New Jersey) which then bought advertisements under the name “One Boston” to hide AFT’s involvement. The Boston Globe, hardly a right-wing outlet, condemned the shenanigans, declaring the moves “the campaign-finance equivalent of avoiding taxes by channeling one’s earnings through shell companies and stashing them in the Cayman Islands.”

    It seems that Massachusetts’ campaign regulators agree, handing down a $30,000 fine to One Boston. (Pursuant to the settlement, One Boston denies wrongdoing.) While state regulators believe that settles the matter, Commonwealth Magazine notes that many questions remain outstanding:

    It appears the AFT knew the $500,000 it gave One New Jersey was ticketed for Boston. The [Office of Campaign and Political Finance] settlement goes after the shell PAC, not the source of the PAC’s funds. Hutt, One Boston’s treasurer, and One New Jersey’s founders have never explained why an anti-Chris Christie New Jersey nonprofit took an interest in the Boston mayoral race.

    As the case for school reform becomes so clear that liberal celebrities and prominent liberal lawyers come out in favor of it, expect the AFT and its teacher union allies to get continually more desperate to hide their tracks in trying to stop it.

    Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions
  8. Coalition Fights for Employee Freedom

    eraThis week (August 10-16), a national coalition of groups (including the Center for Union Facts, which co-sponsors this website) are sponsoring National Employee Freedom Week to inform union members of their rights to opt out of union membership and certain (if not all) union dues. Working with grassroots state-level partners, the coalition and CUF are reminding union members of their rights under state laws and various Supreme Court decisions to withhold union membership and at least a portion of dues if they don’t support the union agenda. Polling by the coalition suggests up to 29 percent of self-reported union members would leave their unions if given the chance.

    While much of the coalition effort focuses on the rights of public employee union members, dissenting private-sector workers also have rights to refrain from funding union agendas they don’t support. According to exit polls from the last election, while 90 percent of union political spending backed President Obama and other Democrats, 40 percent of union households voted for Republican Mitt Romney.

    Depending on a (non-railway, non-airline) employee’s state of work, his or her rights vary:

    • If an employee works in one of the 24 Right-to-Work states, he or she can quit the union at any time and refrain from paying any money to the union. However, automatic dues deductions must be withdrawn during a union-specified window, so employees should ensure they know when their union’s window is by consulting their union bylaws, which may be available on the local union website.
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    • If an employee works in one of the non-Right-to-Work states, the District of Columbia, a United States Territory, or certain federal enclaves (like military bases), an employee may quit the union at any time. However, the union may still charge mandatory “agency fees” — dues for non-members represented by the union. In order to receive a reduction in agency fees equal to an employee’s share of expenses not related to representation, an employee must write a letter to the union affirmatively objecting (using the phrase “I object”) to paying for unrelated (usually political) expenses. Resigning members typically have 30 days to file an objection (you can resign and object in the same letter), and some unions require employees to renew their objection letters annually. Consult your union bylaws for specifics.

    While union members opposed to their bosses’ agendas await the passage of broadly supported labor reforms like the Employee Rights Act, there are still options for them to refrain from full support of union bosses who don’t represent their interests. It just takes more work to stay informed — union bosses alone seem to want it to stay that way.

     

    The Right-to-Work states, in no particular order, are: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.

    Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActSEIU