Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Wage Disputes Among Campaign Staff Plague Sen. Sanders’ Presidential Bid

    Last Thursday, it became public that for months campaign workers employed by Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have demanded that their pay be consistent with the Senator’s rhetoric on minimum wage. Sanders’ campaign staff, who are represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, issued a statement claiming they “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages.”

    This isn’t great optics for Sanders, who has been so vocal in his praise for a $15 federal minimum wage that it has become a defining topic in his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. To quell accusations that not all of Sanders’ campaign employees earned the equivalent of $15 an hour—field organizers apparently made $36,000 annually, only $13 an hour after working a 60 hour week—the presidential hopeful placated staffers by increasing their annual salaries to the equivalent of $15 an hour.

    But there’s a catch—in order to afford paying workers $15, Sanders’ campaign decided to “limit the amount of time his organizers can work.” In other words, Sanders 2020 will be cutting staff hours—a result of increasing the minimum wage which has played out in real ways for employees across the country, Bernie Sanders campaign staff now included.

    It seems Sanders is starting to see how difficult it is to deliver on his campaign promises—even to his own staff. It begs the question: How will Sanders keep pushing for the labor movement’s latest demand—$15 minimum wage—when he can’t even deliver that for his own staff without limiting opportunity for workers?

    Categories: Uncategorized
  2. Labor Racket Weekly: Best of June

    Union officials are feeling the heat, and it’s not just the change in season. Check out the latest union rackets from this Summer:

    In New Hampshire, the Department filed suit against American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 230.  The lawsuit seeks to nullify the union’s recent elections. The complaint alleges that the union denied members a reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates and that the union failed to provide a reasonably calculated nominations notice to inform all members of the offices to be filled in the election, as well as the time, place, and form for submitting nominations.  Finally, the complaint alleges that the union denied members a reasonable opportunity to vote by failing to mail an election notice to all members at their last known home address not less than 15 days prior to the election.

    In Wisconsin, Jennifer Conway, former Vice President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 727D, was charged with one count of misdemeanor theft of $250.

    In Wisconsin, Linda Woodford (Harshman), former President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 727D, was charged with one count of felony theft of approximately $4,065.

    In California, Tatia Clark, former Financial Secretary of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2801, pleaded guilty to one count of withholding and destruction of labor records. Clark was then sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $25 special assessment.

    In Ohio, Bud G. Sherwood, former Secretary Treasurer of Transportation Communication Union/International Association of Machinists (TCU/IAM) Lodge 6546, pleaded guilty to one-count of theft of union funds of approximately $10,813.

    In Indiana, Charlotte F. McDaniel, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3826, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of union funds with a value between $750 and $50,000. She was then sentenced to 365 days of confinement (363 days suspended with one day of credit) and 363 days of probation.  She was also ordered to pay restitution of $4,082.

    In California, Jonathan Ortino, former President of National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 165,  was charged in a six-count superseding indictment.  The superseding indictment added three counts of wire fraud. Each of the three counts pertain to Ortino making an unauthorized electronic fund transfer from the union’s account to his personal account, totaling $4,500.  On March 26, 2019, Ortino was initially charged in a three-count indictment with making false entries with respect to the filing of the union’s LM-3 Report for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016.

    In California, Joan Dutton, former President of United Steel Workers (USW) Local 2801, pleaded guilty to one count of withholding and destruction of labor records.  She was then sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine and $25 special assessment.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  3. ‘Sour Grapes’ As VW Workers Again Reject UAW

    It’s the union that won’t take “NO” for an answer.

    Five years after workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga said “no thanks” to representation by the UAW, the beleaguered union was once again rejected this week.

    Shed a tear for the editors who had to scrap or rewrite pre-drafted editorials about labor’s new momentum in the south.

    Regardless of whether you were pro- or anti-UAW, local news reports made clear it was impossible to miss the union’s message in Chattanooga. The union’s lavish spending on television, radio, digital and even gas station advertisements ensured that workers were well-educated on what they were voting for (or against) this week. A pro-union reporter even suggested that the city was “mobilized” in favor of the UAW.

    With all of these advantages, the union still couldn’t gain majority support. If you thought the union might spend the morning in quiet reflection, you’d be wrong:

    This is a classic case of sour grapes. The union’s real gripe here isn’t with US labor law; it’s that no one could help the UAW tilt the playing field to overcome its terrible reputation. The union has spent the last several years coping with a Justice Department investigation into corruption in its top ranks. (This investigation is apparently ongoing.) Add to that the guilty pleas from its top leaders, and multiple scandals over excess spending, and it’s no surprise that workers are skeptical of the union’s value proposition.

    Even in Chattanooga, the UAW was its own worst enemy: An apparently UAW-approved “Center for VW Facts” smear campaign, run by UAW member Joe DiSano, was so distasteful that pro- and anti-UAW workers were united in opposition. Nice job, guys!

    If the union’s leadership wants to know why autoworkers are rejecting UAW representation, they should start by looking in the mirror.


    Categories: UAW
  4. UAW Hits a New Low in Chattanooga

    As workers at Tennessee’s Chattanooga Volkswagen plant prepare to vote next week on whether or not to join the UAW, the newly launched “Center for VW Facts” (sound familiar?) has set out to “bring transparency to VW.” A questionable goal, considering the group’s founder has a history of using dirty and dishonest tactics.

    The man behind the group is Joe DiSano, a long time political consultant from Michigan. The group’s website accuses VW of “waging a ‘deceptive campaign to discourage employees'” from joining the UAW. But, as a recent article unveiling DiSano’s unsavory past offenses points out, it seems he “would know a thing or two of ‘deceptive’ campaigns.”

    During a 2012 Democratic statehouse primary in Michigan, DiSano put out a robo call that accused one of the candidates of “using the internet to lure young girls into nude modeling sessions at his home.” It then described how the same candidate would take “dirty pictures” in his basement. The call further indicated that the candidate needed “psychiatric help” for this “filthy” hobby. The man who was the target of these calls ultimately lost the election, but went on to sue DiSano for defamation.

    In the end, not only did DiSano agree to settle the lawsuit, he also agreed to perform a slew of public apologies. For starters, DiSano had to issue and sign an apology letter—the wording of which the plaintiff had the final say over. DiSano also allowed two full-page ads to be taken out publicly announcing his apology, both of which he was to pay for in part. If that wasn’t enough, DiSano also had to organize another robo call, this time to apologize for his lies, directed at the same households that received the first one.

    Even after all that, it doesn’t look like DiSano has learned his lesson about lying. He continues to claim that the Center for VW Facts is unconnected to the UAW (although DiSano himself is a member of the union). However, recent Federal Communications Commission filings show that both groups hired the same media buying company for the same job—placing thousands of dollars in ads in Chattanooga.  A purchase order made by the Center for VW Facts last month showed the stated purpose was for “VW Union,” the same label the UAW has used for its purchases.

    Workers in Chattanooga might ask themselves how much trust they’re willing to put into Joe DiSano and his so-called “Center for VW Facts.”

    Categories: Uncategorized
  5. CUF Launches New Billboards in Campaign Exposing UAW Corruption

    Last week, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed the United Auto Workers’ petition requesting a vote to unionize at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Just hours after the NLRB gave its decision, the UAW filed a new petition with the board.

    But a new petition won’t fix the union’s bad reputation—the reality of which the Center for Union Facts continues to highlight for the public. CUF’s ongoing national campaign to hold the UAW accountable for its “culture of corruption” now features a series of updated digital billboards in Chattanooga that highlight the UAW’s many broken promises to workers.

    UAW Promise: Better Work Schedules. Reality: Forced Overtime.

    UAW Promise: Prioritize Union Workers. Reality: Union Leaders Guilty of Corruption.

    UAW Promise: Protect Members “Forever.” Reality: Thousands of Lost Auto Jobs.

    UAW Promise: Respect for all Workers. Reality: Accusations of Discrimination and Abuse.

    The UAW has been scraping the bottom of the barrel in an attempt to fight these and other facts. A recent opinion piece in the Tennessean even launched personal attacks at longtime Ford employee Terry Bowman for speaking his mind about the UAW’s corrupt actions.

    Some additional food for thought that’s not featured on these billboards: According to the UAW’s political spending in the last election cycle, over 99 percent of the union’s candidate-specific giving went to the Democratic Party.

    Given the UAW’s track record, it seems members can expect at least part of their union dues to go to either liberal politicians, or—even worse—into the pockets of union officials. Workers like Bowman are right to ask themselves if that’s really how they want their hard-earned dues to be spent.

    Categories: UAW
  6. SEIU Official Warns Against Reporting Cases of Union Abuse

    Earlier this year, Njoke Woods, a worker at the Service Employees International Union’s second largest local, United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), accused the union of having a “culture of sexual misconduct, favoritism, and backroom dealing against the members.” She was ultimately fired for speaking out.

    Now, to add insult to injury, she is being sued for defamation by the union and the SEIU International Vice President Dave Regan.

    But the same union is also facing a sexual misconduct lawsuit that was brought by SEIU organizer Mindy Sturge. According to the Payday Report, the lawsuit brought by Sturge corroborates the same accusations made by Woods.

    The allegations have certainly ruffled feathers at the SEIU—Vice President Regan has since made public warnings against employees who might plan to come forward with their own negative experiences. As Woods put it, “They want other people to be afraid of speaking up, they have a lot of secrets that they don’t want people to know about.”

    Unfortunately, ongoing cases of sexual misconduct within today’s labor unions don’t stop with the SEIU. Amid the broader #MeToo movement, workers have been empowered to come forward with stories of workplace abuse, often at the hands of union officials. How their unions handle these accusations is a different story.  As the New York Times recently reported, several unions “including the United Auto Workers have come under fire for seeming to do more to protect the jobs of the accused than the women who were their targets.”

    As more employees undoubtedly come forward, let’s hope union officials put less emphasis on protecting their own skin, and more effort into protecting workers.

    Categories: SEIUUAW
  7. Billboard Campaign Targets UAW Corruption

    The United Auto Workers union might like you to forget that some of its top-ranking executives have been implicated or plead guilty in a federal corruption investigation. A new series of billboards ensures this won’t happen anytime soon.

    For the next phase of a national education campaign on corruption in the ranks of the UAW, the Center for Union Facts has launched a series of high-profile billboards in Chattanooga, TN, and a mobile billboard in Detroit, MI, near the UAW headquarters. The billboards are part of an ongoing effort to educate the public and hold the UAW accountable for its “culture of corruption” and anti-worker tactics.

    The billboards in Chattanooga are located along heavily-trafficked routes and feature the following facts about the UAW:

    UAW officials admitted guilt in a federal corruption investigation. 

    Thousands of auto jobs have been lost on the UAW’s watch.

    The UAW built a luxury home for its former president with non-union labor.

    A series of digital billboards in Chattanooga will rotate through facts that readers of this website are well-acquainted with, including the “culture of corruption” identified by the Justice Department and the UAW’s huge drop in membership in 2018. And in Detroit, a mobile billboard featuring similar messages will travel between downtown and the UAW’s headquarters at Solidarity House.

    If sunlight is truly the best disinfectant, perhaps these billboards are a small step towards UAW leadership seeing the error of its ways.

    Categories: UAWUncategorized
  8. “Culture of Corruption” at UAW Documented by New Website

     In light of the recent guilty plea from ex-UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, the Center for Union Facts has created a new website The site is the latest phase of an on-going campaign to hold the UAW accountable for corruption and anti-worker tactics.

    A full page print ad promoting the site ran in three papers: The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The ad highlights what the Justice Department has described as a “culture of corruption in the senior leadership” of the UAW.

    This critique stems from an ongoing federal investigation. Four high-ranking union officials pleaded guilty to funneling money away from workers and into their own pockets. Former UAW President Dennis Williams has also been implicated in the scandal for allegedly OK’ing the use of union training funds to pay for lavish meals and travel.

    But that’s not the end of the union’s woes. The site also details a luxury cabin constructed for Williams that was bankrolled with interest from the union’s strike fund—and built with non-union labor.

    Even the UAW’s own members admit the union has a problem with its leadership. It seems workers’ “justified doubts about joining and paying into” the UAW have finally come back to bite the union. Last year, the UAW saw a drastic drop in membership—the steepest decline since the Great Recession.

    The union has already paid over $1.5 million of members’ dues to cover legal representation during the investigation—but no amount of money will change the facts.

    Anyone who thinks the UAW has workers’ best interests in mind should think again.

    Categories: UAWUncategorized