Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Member Discontent Grows at SEIU and Workers United

    Enmeshed in a legal battle with Starbucks, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its affiliate Workers United have not been without controversy. That seems unlikely to change now that information has come to light showing discontent among its membership.

    A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request recently released by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reveals that over one-hundred decertification efforts have been made against the SEIU and Workers United since 2020.

    Apparently, Starbucks Workers United – the division of Workers United organizing baristas across the country – is also not immune from the discontent spreading at the union as workers petition to decertify.

    Workers at over a dozen Starbucks locations across the country have filed decertification petitions since the beginning of 2023.  

    Even the home of the organize Starbucks movement – Buffalo, NY– had a store file a petition to decertify Workers United. Other states with Starbucks locations attempting to decertify include; California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia.

    The SEIU has also run up a spate of decertification efforts going back to 2020. The total amount of decertification petitions filed totals just over one-hundred. Sixty of these petitions were put to a vote and over twenty-five of them were successful in their attempt to decertify. 

    The largest successful decertification effort took place at Research Medical Center facilities in Kansas City, MO. Nearly 400 employees voted on the measure and the majority rejected the SEIU’s representation. One employee stated, “For years, promises the SEIU has made have not been kept, and they continue to take our hard-earned money with no value in return.”

    Research Medical Center also reported that non-members of the SEIU would get raises much quicker than members of the union. Another employee expressed discontent with the union stating, “The SEIU has not represented us fairly, nor provided us the value they claim. This process, which was our choice and our voice to remove the SEIU from Research Medical Center, started in March. Today, we can finally realize our efforts.”

    The woes at the SEIU and Workers United will likely continue as more members try to free themselves of the union’s representation.


    Categories: SEIUWorkers United
  2. Allegations of Discrimination, Harassment, and Intimidation Plague LA-Based SEIU Locals

    The Center for Union Facts has released a new report outlining a series of lawsuits that allege workplace harassment, discrimination,racism, and retaliation among leadership at LA-based SEIU Locals. The report is the latest in an ongoing national campaign to educate the public on the many controversies surrounding the SEIU.

    Some of the shocking cases include allegations of preferential treatment for male employees, humiliation and intimidation of female employees by male colleagues and superiors, and a culture of intimidation and humiliation.

    The report outlines seven lawsuits involving Local 121RN, Local 721, Local 1000, Local 2015, and Local 99.  Highlights include: 

    • The wife of a former SEIU Local 121RN employee claimed the union “orchestrated a campaign of instilling fear and terror within all employees.” Her husband “apparently succumbed to his disabilities and suffered a heart attack on the job due to the work-related stress and hostile work environment.”
    • An employee at SEIU Local 2015 claimed her supervisor gave “preferential treatment to male employees.” After she reported this disparate treatment, she claimed her treatment worsened. She even alleged other female employees were kicked out of meetings. She was eventually terminated. 
    • A SEIU Local 721 employee tried to warn the legal department about a backlog of member grievance cases and believed he was retaliated against for being a whistleblower. He claimed he was fired shortly after asking for a report on cases that he believed the union was closing without appropriate investigations. This case went to a jury trial, and it was determined that the union engaged in whistleblower and disability retaliation. The union had to pay over $6 million in damages. 

    The SEIU claims to protect workers’ rights, but employees at these LA-based locals have a very different take on the union’s reputation. It’s time for the SEIU to be held accountable.

    Categories: SEIU
  3. Member Backlash and Broken Promises at the UAW?

    After a six week strike, UAW members are now voting on a tentative contract deal between the union and the Big Three. But it looks like some members think the deal falls short of President Fain’s many promises.

    52% of UAW members at GM’s Flint Michigan Engine facility voted down the tentative agreement with the company. They aren’t alone. 51% of UAW members at Romulus Propulsion Systems did the same. 

    Discontent with the deal seems to be alive and well even at the UAW’s large assembly plants. GM’s Flint Assembly plant and Ford’s Kentucky Truck Assembly Plant, with thousands of employees between them, voted against the contract. 

    Even Shawn Fain’s previously praised update livestreams aren’t safe. Irate commenters took to his most recent update to voice their displeasure with the agreement.  

    What’s driving this backlash? 

    UAW President Shawn Fain set expectations high going into this year’s contract negotiations, touting his willingness to take on auto makers. 

    But in the end, the UAW backed off from many of its initial demands. The union will not have a four day work week, nor will traditional pensions be reestablished. In short, Fain was far from able to live up to his rhetoric. 

    Consider Fain’s promise to fight wage tiers. Ending wage tiers featured heavily in signs and graphics that dotted picket lines and the union’s promotional content. Fain referred to them as a “toxic divide” and said that “It’s wrong to make any worker a second class worker. We can’t allow it any longer in the UAW.”

    But a closer reading of the proposed contracts tells a different story. The tentative agreements with Stellantis and GM show that new employees at the companies’ electric vehicle joint ventures will be paid at just 75% of the UAW’s contract standard rate. In other words, the contract created a new wage tier. 

    The pattern is the same around many other key issues of the strike. Fain promised a return to traditional pensions, but settled for an increase to employer 401k contributions. He also called for a 46% pay raise, but settled for a 25% increase – not much different from the original offers prior to the start of the strike.

    Fain may have won a contract, but it’s a far cry from the expectations he set. And it looks like workers know it. 

    Categories: UAW
  4. Was the UAW Strike Really Worth It For Workers?

    After six long weeks of strike, the UAW and Ford have finally reached a tentative agreement. At the cost of billions of dollars to the economy and thousands of jobs, the agreement must have been something special. 

    Overall, the highlights of the agreement with the UAW are:

    • A 25% pay increase over the next three years. 
    • The removal of wage tiers between employees.
    • The restoration of cost of living adjustments. 
    • Ending temporary status for current Ford employees.
    • Five weeks of paid vacation with Juneteenth as an added holiday.
    • Increased benefits for retirees.
    • The right to strike over plant closures. 
    • The potential for two of Ford’s electric vehicle joint ventures to be unionized at some point in the future and current UAW members transferred there retaining their current benefits. 

    Sounds impressive? Not so fast, a preliminary analysis of the key points in the agreement touted by the UAW shows that the tentative deal isn’t overwhelmingly different from what was offered on September 12, before the strike commenced.

    On September 12, Ford sent the UAW an offer to provide:

    • A 20% wage hike over the next four years. 
    • The removal of wage tiers between employees.
    • The restoration of cost of living adjustments. 
    • Ending temporary status for current Ford employees.
    • Five weeks of paid vacation with Juneteenth as an added holiday. 
    • Increased progression for retirement savings. 

    Moreover, the UAW failed at some of their signature objectives. The UAW did not achieve the unionization of electric vehicle joint ventures, instead settling for commitments that just two of Ford’s many planned joint ventures would be unionized at some point in the future. Nor did the union gain a four-day work week, the restoration of traditional pensions, or the Working Family Protection Program. Full details of the union’s deals with GM and Stellantis haven’t been released yet, but they aren’t expected to differ much from the Ford agreement. 

    When Ford offered UAW president Shawn Fain a 20% pay raise, he blasted this offer as unacceptable. He called for a 40% pay raise, saying his members were “worth that and more.” 

    Now, Fain is proudly trumpeting a 25% pay raise. We guess it took him six weeks, thousands of lost jobs, and roughly $10 billion worth of damage to the economy to figure out that he needed to be realistic if he wanted to have any autoworkers left to represent. 

    Categories: UAW
  5. New Report Exposes Allegations of Workplace Misconduct at 1199 SEIU

    Today, the Center for Union Facts launched a new report shedding light on allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at 1199 SEIU – one of the largest local unions in the country that represents workers up and down the East Coast. The report is the latest in an ongoing national campaign to educate workers and the public on the SEIU’s questionable track record of poor leadership and potentially toxic work environments.  

    The report outlines recent lawsuits filed against 1199 SEIU and 1199 SEIU National Benefit Fund. Key allegations include: 

    Mincey v. 1199 SEIU National Benefit Fund

    • Former employee claims to have been fired/retaliated against by a racist supervisor for reporting her behavior to human resources.
    • The former employee alleged that Black employees were referred to as “black clowns and n*****s,” “misfit nappy heads,” and “animals” that need to be “put down.”
    • 1199 SEIU National Benefit Fund stated the Plaintiff had no evidence to back up his claims.

    Luciano v. 1199 SEIU

    • Former employee alleged that she suffered a serial pattern of sexual harassment by her supervisor at the union.
    • The former employee alleged that after denying her supervisor’s advances, she was fired, and the union did nothing in response to her sexual harassment claims.
    • Defendant responded by arguing the alleged conduct was welcomed by the plaintiff and the case was settled soon after.

    The SEIU proudly claims on its website, “All workers are valued and all people respected—no matter where we come from or what color we are.” Judging by these lawsuits, the union’s actions might tell a different story.

    Categories: SEIU
  6. SEIU Affiliate Workers United Defends Terrorism

    Workers United – an affiliate of the SEIU – seems to have found a new cause to rally around and it has little to do with organizing baristas. 

    In the wake of recent attacks on Israel by Hamas terrorists, Starbucks Workers United and its organizers have taken to X – formerly known as Twitter – to express their defense of the attacks. The union’s social media accounts spanning from Boston to Chicago have focused on denouncing Israel and defending acts of terrorism.

    The lead organizer for Starbucks Workers United, Jaz Brisack, expressed her fealty towards “Palestine” after the terrorist attack.

    Meanwhile, Starbucks Workers United Greektown, Chicago, posted a video of the SEIU Connecticut Executive Director – Kooper Caraway –  giving an impassioned speech in which he denounced media referring to the attacks as being carried out by “terrorists” and said the people of Gaza are actually “comrades.”

    The controversy at Starbucks Workers United began when the group’s main account posted a supporting message on a Hamas propaganda image breaking through a Gaza Strip fence. The post has since been deleted. 

    Defense of the despicable terrorist plot didn’t stop there. Kyle Trainor, an organizing member of Starbucks Workers United posted in defense of the attacks. 

    After days of pressure, Boston Starbucks Workers United appeared to have caved to criticism and posted a message about Hamas committing human rights violations. This was short lived and deleted after a Hamas supporter responded by posting a chant that praised the terrorist group.

    The media pressure surrounding the union’s anti-Israel sentiments was so intense that Starbucks itself was forced to comment. The company noted that “members of ‘Starbucks Workers United’ do not speak for Starbucks Coffee Company and do not represent the company’s views, positions or beliefs.” The company directed the public to “reach out directly to Workers United International President Lynne Fox and SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry to share your concerns.”



    Categories: SEIUUncategorizedWorkers United
  7. Did the New United Steelworkers President Fail Retirees?

    This week, the United Steelworkers introduced David McCall as its new president, calling him the man who “helped to restore benefits to tens of thousands of retired steelworkers.” 

    However, his record tells a different story. 

    In the winter of 2001, LTV Steel, a major employer in Ohio, went bankrupt. At the time, the Director of United Steelworkers District 1 was David McCall.

    As the point man for the United Steelworkers in Ohio, McCall reassured the thousands of LTV retirees at risk of being left out in the cold, saying:

    “We believe we’re going to be fine. The one thing we naturally want to make sure of is that there’s no negative impact on our retirees.”

    But they weren’t fine. 

    In early 2002, retired and laid-off LTV employees were told they would lose health care benefits, and some would even see a 50 percent reduction in their pensions. One retiree reported his pension of $2,400 per month was cut down to just $1,100. Another described the situation to reporters:

    “I end up turned out in the cold—no severance pay, no health care, no life insurance, and a pension which will be cut in about half.”

    With no intervention from the union, employees took matters into their own hands. Rank-and-file workers at LTV formed a Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA). The association provided them with health benefits, offering some relief from the lost coverage. 

    Far from supporting this effort, the union was openly critical of the VEBA plan, suggesting it was a “scheme” that would “take advantage” of employees. It even released a statement saying, “The Steelworkers Union has had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

    In the end, the tab for LTV’s pensions was picked up by the federal government

    To make matters worse, McCall had the opportunity to learn from the company’s previous bankruptcy and the toll it took on workers. 

    When LTV Steel filed for bankruptcy in 1986, employee insurance benefits were cut. The company was eventually bailed out by the government. When the company found itself in the same position in 2001, workers were no more prepared for the financial onslaught.  

    Let’s hope he takes more care with his promises running the national union.

    Categories: United Steelworkers
  8. Do Unions Improve Workplace Safety?

    Do unions make a discernible difference in preventing workplace injuries?

    A majority of Americans believe so. According to a poll by the Employment Law Alliance, 63% of respondents listed workplace safety as a major factor driving support for unionization. 

    Real-world data tells a different story. 

    In 2018, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released a study that analyzed seven years of data. It showed that unionized workers were actually more likely to suffer workplace injuries. 

    And for those wondering if unionized workers’ injuries were less severe, the study also noted that there was “no significant difference in distribution of injury severity by union status.”

    Unfortunately, this result is no outlier. 

    Studies conducted in 1983, 2002, and 2012 also showed that unionized workers were at higher risk of workplace related injury or illness. Union workers themselves back this up: A 2015 Gallup survey found that unionized workers were less satisfied with their safety and workplace flexibility, compared to non-union workers. 

    As a case study, consider a union whose members have good reason to be concerned about job safety: The United Steelworkers (USW).

    A look at the United Steelworkers X (formerly Twitter) account shows plenty of tweets that attempt to sell people on the idea that they will be far safer in a union – specifically the USW. 

    But a review of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations at United Steelworkers facilities in New York also revealed there is no shortage of issues at union facilities.

    In 2019, reporting indicated that a Buffalo plant represented by the United Steelworkers was fined by OSHA for a string of violations that included endangering workers with unsafe conditions, steam explosions, and amputation hazards. 

    Unfortunately for the United Steelworkers, problems are also occurring in a facility it represents in Eastern New York.

    United Steelworkers members at the facility were exposed to death and serious injury, obstructed exit routes, and improper fire detection systems. The union even repeatedly failed to have the facility report illnesses and injuries that occurred in the workplace.

    Actions speak louder than words. When it comes to claims about worker safety, it seems some unions aren’t living up to their promises.  


    Categories: Center for Union FactsUnited Steelworkers