Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. UFCW’s Two-Faced Tactics in Los Angeles

    In Los Angeles, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union has been involved in a years-long crusade against in-store shoppers — employees of a third-party company who provide grocery delivery services. But it turns out, the same union that’s trying to put these shoppers out of work is also trying to organize them.

    A recent tip led us to a complaint filed in May 2020 by the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) General Counsel against UFCW Local 770 and other UFCW locals in the Los Angeles area. The complaint was in response to a grievance filed by these UFCW locals back in 2017 over the presence of in-store shoppers in Ralphs grocery stores. The initial grievance led to a years-long legal fight — it’s no wonder over $1 million of Local 770’s expenses last year were legal bills.

    But the union might not get its way. The NLRB complaint alleges that the UFCW violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by pressuring the grocery chain to kick out these shoppers.

    Even though Local 770 is fighting to put shoppers out of work, it hasn’t stopped the union from expressing an interest in organizing the very same in-store shoppers. In fact, there’s a real possibility any shopper that joined the UFCW would see their dues go to fund the union’s efforts to take away their jobs. Maybe someone should tell Local 770 that trying to take shoppers’ paychecks away probably isn’t the best way to earn their trust.

    The UFCW isn’t the only union that’s tried these two-faced tactics before. When workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant were preparing to vote on whether or not to join the United Auto Workers (UAW), political operative and union member Joe DiSano launched an advocacy group called “The Center for VW Facts” (sound familiar?). The union denied having a connection to the group. However, evidence showed the Center for VW Facts and the UAW were using the same media buying groups to place complementary ads in Chattanooga. VW workers in Chattanooga expressed disgust that a union front group would attack a company that had invested so much in the community.

    Just as that tactic didn’t work out for the UAW (members voted against joining the union), we doubt the UFCW’s latest scheme in Los Angeles will pan out in the union’s favor.

    Categories: UFCW
  2. Should Police Unions Have Less Power? New Polling Data Suggests Yes

    The Center for Union Facts (CUF) released new polling data on the public perception of police unions. The polling is part of CUF’s ongoing national education campaign surrounding police unions — and their collective bargaining agreements — that protect bad cop behavior and fight most reform efforts. The campaign website can be seen at PoliceUnionFacts.com.

    Key polling takeaways include*:

    • 68 percent of respondents believe it is more important to make it easier to get bad cops off the street than to protect all cops;
    • 62 percent of respondents believe police union powers should be reduced;
    • 34 percent of respondents would be less likely to vote for a candidate who has been supported by police unions.
    It’s no wonder the survey found that more than 60 percent of people believe police unions should have their power reduced. As a recent opinion piece from CUF’s communications director argues, “Police unions consistently fight for collective bargaining agreements that make it hard to hold bad officers accountable and keep disciplinary records hidden from the public. ”

    For one, many police union CBAs include lengthy appeals processes. This means a “stunningly high percentage” of officers that are fired for misconduct actually end up getting rehired. One study found that 88 percent of police collective bargaining agreements “contained at least one provision that could thwart legitimate discipline.” That included limiting “officer interrogations after alleged misconduct,” mandating “the destruction of disciplinary records,” and limiting “the length of internal investigations.”

    Imagine if civilians were subject to similar rules? Police officers would undoubtedly be up in arms — and rightfully so. But their unions don’t seem to mind the double standard. Many even have a history of fighting laws or reform efforts that would promote transparency.

    *The survey was live on July 29-31, 2020 and was conducted from an online sample of 1,004 adults 18 years of age and older.

     

    Categories: Police Union Facts
  3. CUF and Freedom Foundation Call For Investigation into Seattle-Based Worker Center

    Reported today by Bloomberg Law, the Center for Union Facts and the Freedom Foundation have filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards against union-backed labor group Working Washington.

    The 57-page complaint, supported by a 500+-page appendix of evidence, calls for an investigation into Working Washington — a Seattle-based worker center whose efforts to organize gig workers are substantially funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters. The complaint argues that the group should actually be designated as a “labor organization” and subject to the same financial disclosure requirements as labor unions under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

    The complaint cites over $15 million in payments to Working Washington from labor unions, many for the express purpose of “organizing” workers. It also highlights how the group advocates for “changes in workers’ wages, hours, and conditions of employment,” making it little more than a union front group.

    As complaint author and labor policy director at the Freedom Foundation Max Nelson said, “For 60 years, the LMRDA has helped make unions more accountable to their members and required basic standards of conduct. It’s both good policy and correct law for the Department of Labor to apply the LMRDA to union front groups like Working Washington that have purposely avoided complying with the law’s requirements.”

    If you ask us, if Working Washington walks and talks like a labor union, then it should be held to the same standards as any other union in this country. Hopefully this front-group won’t be able to skirt a system that’s designed to provide transparency and accountability to workers for much longer.

    Categories: SEIU
  4. Good Cops vs. Bad Cops: Who’s Stopping Us From Telling the Difference?

    Police unions have gotten away with collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that protect bad behavior and stymie most reform efforts. As outrage over unjust law enforcement tactics grows, it’s important to understand how police unions — and the bargaining agreements they push — prevent us from holding bad cops accountable.

    That’s why the Center for Union Facts has launched a national education campaign regarding police unions and their CBAs.

    The campaign includes a website, PoliceUnionFacts.com, and an explainer video that details how police union CBAs empower police departments to bury complaints, limit investigations, destroy records of misconduct, and provide excessive appeals for offending behaviors. The site also features research that shows unionized cops are more likely to kill civilians, especially non-white ones.

    You can visit the site here, and watch the full video here.

    According to an investigation by the Washington Post, a study of 656 police union contracts found that the median department offered officers as many as four layers of appellate review in disciplinary cases — meaning many cops who were fired for misconduct got rehired. Another study of police union contracts found 88 percent “contained at least one provision that could thwart legitimate discipline. Research also shows that police unionization between the 1950s-1980s led to “60 to 70” additional civilian deaths at the hands of police each year.

    Due in large part to union lobbying efforts, police disciplinary records are often shielded from the public. As a result, it’s difficult to hold violent officers accountable — often until it’s too late.

    The site also calls upon viewers to “take action” to support the JUSTICE Act, a police reform bill currently being considered by Congress. Viewers can send letters to their legislators asking them to support the bill directly from the website.

    Most cops are good ones, but police unions shouldn’t make it difficult to tell the good from the rotten. 

    Categories: Police Union Facts
  5. SPECIAL REPORT: CA Labor Groups Flack Unrepresentative Gig Survey They Helped Write

    Labor unions are accustomed to campaigning for workers’ rights. This fall in California, the script is flipped: They’re opposing a ballot measure that cements the status of gig workers (think DoorDashers or Uber Drivers) as independent contractors. Labor’s problem is that gig workers don’t want what it’s selling; by a 4-to-1 margin, they want to retain their current employment flexibility rather than be forced to become full-time employees.

    Lacking the worker representatives to back them up, unions have turned to an old standby: Biased research designed to tell them what they want to hear. The study in question comes from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Union-backed groups like Gig Workers Rising call it “the most comprehensive survey of actual [gig] work done.”

    The survey suggests — contrary to other available data — that most gig workers have a full-time (30+ hours weekly) schedule, and earn “poverty level” wages. 

    But documents obtained via a public records request show that the study was explicitly designed by labor groups to support gig worker organizing. Survey respondents were provided by (and paid by) the same labor groups who want to organize gig companies. And the final product fell far short of its initial goals, such that the project administrator called it “not representative” of the experiences of gig workers.

    About the Study

    The Santa Cruz report originated from a project sponsored by a city commission in San Francisco–the Emerging Mobility Services Labor Study. At the outset, the study sought to investigate “the [gig] companies’ labor models” and conduct “the largest survey of demand workers in the U.S.” The labor group Jobs With Justice was “leading” the project–both “survey outreach and field operations”– according to a description by the city administrator. (Jobs With Justice is a labor group funded by unions that, among other goals, focuses on organizing gig workers.) UC Santa Cruz researcher Chris Benner, who’s worked extensively with unions in the past, was brought on to provide assistance.

    Email where Jobs With Justice is described as “leading” the project.

    Jobs with Justice was funded to work on the project through, among other donors, the Ford Foundation. Below is a portion of the work invoice sent by the Jobs With Justice Education Fund after $150k was sent to the relevant San Francisco city commission by the Ford Foundation.

    Jobs With Justice Invoice for Survey Work


    Earlier this year, the project was altered to track the impact of the COVID crisis on gig workers’ experiences. UC Santa Cruz’s Benner described the rationale in a recent interview:

    “When the Corona virus crisis hit, we had to put a halt on the survey. We were running at that time and really put out a more immediate survey that’s trying to understand how the Corona virus crisis is impacting this workforce, which is particularly vulnerable because of their employment status.”

    Jobs with Justice drafted the new survey questions, with answers designed to “support organizing.” It sent them to Benner and others for review; the team also discussed engaging with SEIU Local 1021 and its “driver organizer” to distribute the survey.

    Jobs with Justice drafted the survey. 


    Email records show that the project fell short of the researchers’ expectations: While the city administrator responsible for the study promised 500 responses in the gig survey, the final product contained just 219 responses.

    Pitch email sent to a reporter that describes the study goal as including “500 workers.”

    Project Description that says 500 responses is “not representative”

    If a 500-response survey is “not representative” of gig workers’ true experiences, then a 219-response survey has no credibility in describing what it’s like to be a gig worker. That’s especially true given that the researchers’ internal data shows 40 percent of survey respondents didn’t provide the app company they “gig” for–suggesting they might not be gig workers, period. Sample sizes were abysmally low for delivery companies.


    It’s not just the survey text and sample size that are flawed: Study participants were also offered a $10 gift card by Gig Workers Rising–which, these records show, was in direct violation of what lead researcher Chris Benner advised. (See below.) He said even a $5 payment “leaves open lots of opportunities for people to game the system.”

    Even on the day the survey was released, Gig Workers Rising and Jobs With Justice were conducting a paid “social media push” to try to boost the respondent count.

    Benner worries that payment for survey participants compromises the project.

    Survey Team Discussing the Use of Paid Posts to Boost Respondent Counts

    Gig Workers Rising Advertising for Survey Participants on Day of Survey Release

     

     

     

     

    Categories: UncategorizedWorkers Center
  6. UAW Spent Big To Defend Guilty Ex-Prez, and Other Officials

    The United Auto Workers (UAW) is still embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal that goes all the way to the top of the union’s leadership.

    Most recently, former UAW President Gary Jones pleaded guilty to helping embezzle hundreds of thousands of members’ dues dollars, making him the 14th official to be found guilty in the federal investigation. Another former union president Dennis Williams, who has been implicated in the crime — though not formally charged —  just paid back $55,000 of “inappropriate travel expenses” to the union.

    The union’s finances over the past several years remain under scrutiny. Now, the UAW’s latest financial filing with the Department of Labor is publicly available — and it includes some eye opening expenses.

    According to the union’s 2019 LM-2 form, the UAW spent more than $2.3 million on legal fees related to the federal corruption investigation. This includes thousands of dollars spent defending now-convicted Jones, as well as Williams.

    The UAW has paid “more than $1.9 million to the Chicago law firm Cotsirilos, Tighe, Streicker, Poulos & Campbell since 2015,” when the federal investigation into the union started heating up. An itemized breakdown of the union’s legal expenses last year includes: $320,912 for Dennis Williams; $68,094 for Retired Secretary/Treasurer Gary Casteel; and $24,599 for Gary Jones.

    That’s not the only law firm the union has paid millions of dollars to in recent years. Since 2015, the UAW has paid DC-based law firm Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC almost $2 million. This is the same law firm the union hired to conduct an “independent” investigation into recent allegations of sexual harassment against UAW executive board member and regional director Richard Rankin. Based on the union’s history with Bredhoff & Kaiser, we’ve questioned how truly “independent” this investigation can possibly be. 

    To help explain some of its legal bills, the UAW holds that it’s “been the practice” of the union to cover legal costs for current and former leaders. We wonder if the UAW’s members will agree with the union using their hard earned dues money to defend the same union bosses that stole from them.  

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  7. Labor Racket Weekly: Coronavirus Catch Up

    The coronavirus may have put some court proceedings on hold, but union bosses are finally seeing their own misdeeds catch up with them. Check out the latest labor rackets below:

    In Michigan, Gary Jones, former President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds and use a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, 1952(a)(3), and 29 U.S.C. 501(c), and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C 371. During the course of the conspiracy, from at least 2010 and continuing through in or about September 2019, Jones embezzled and conspired to embezzle approximately $1,000,000 in union funds by submitting fraudulent vouchers to the UAW that misrepresented the destination and purpose of the expenses and by using unauthorized checks to divert funds from the UAW Midwest CAP.

    In New Mexico, Jessica Pangburn, former office secretary of Operating Engineers Local 953, was sentenced to one day of jail (time served), two years of supervised release, and 25 hours of community service. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $69,469. On November 26, 2019, Pangburn pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.

    In West Virginia, Eric Childress, former Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 2276, was sentenced to five years of probation and was ordered to pay restitution of $30,611 and a $25 special assessment. On December 18, 2019, Childress pleaded guilty to one count of making a false entry in a union record, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 439(c).

    In Wisconsin, Linda Woodford, former President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 727D, pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor theft, in violation of Wisconsin State Statute 943.20(1)(b). She was then sentenced to five days in jail, one year of probation, and 50 hours of community service. She was also ordered to pay $453 in court costs; Woodford previously paid full restitution of $4,065.

    In Indiana, Rhondalyn Cornett, former President of the Indianapolis Education Association, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for embezzling $154,118 from the union, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343. She was then sentenced to 16 months of incarceration and two years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $154,118 and a $100 special assessment.

    In Georgia, Janet Pilcher, former Secretary-Treasurer of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 536, pleaded guilty to embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $65,033, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

    In Kentucky, Shannon Pemberton, former Treasurer for Painters Local 238, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $958 and a $100 assessment. Pemberton previously paid $5,444 in restitution. On January 23, 2020, Pemberton pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $6,403, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUncategorized
  8. Seattle’s Union-Backed Ordinance Would Hurt, Not Help Gig Workers

    Next week, Seattle’s City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance to create a premium pay requirement for gig workers. This potential law is supposed to provide relief for workers during the current health crisis, but a close look at the bill — and the organization backing it — indicates it could have just the opposite effect.

    The bill’s main proponent and promoter is Working Washington (WW), an organization that acts as a front group for prominent labor unions. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is joined by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters in funding WW’s latest objective: Organizing gig workers.

    Before the group targeted the gig economy, its main objective was organizing restaurant workers in the city under the SEIU’s Fight for $15 campaign. The campaign, meant to incentivize unionization among restaurant workers, succeeded in helping pass a $15 minimum wage in Seattle in 2014, although it flopped in its main goal of unionizing the restaurant industry./

    Seattle employers and their staff have been paying for the $15 experiment ever since. One report found that, although mandated wages were rising, workers were earning $125 less a month as employers were forced to cut staff hours. Local restaurant owners had to lay off employees; still, they feared for the long term viability of their business. Other restaurants closed for good.

    One Seattle restaurant worker recently found herself out of a job after six years because her employer couldn’t bear the high labor costs. Looking for a new job was difficult, considering several other restaurants in town suffered a similar fate. And it wasn’t just restaurants — child care centers in the city were forced to cut jobs, reduce staff hours, and raise their tuition prices in response to higher wage mandates.

    Now, the geniuses who helped ruin Seattle’s restaurant scene have set their sights on the gig economy. The latest WW-backed Seattle ordinance would create a $5 per order premium pay requirement for each online delivery or transportation service with a work-related stop in Seattle. That means an additional $5 every time an Uber or Lyft driver drops off a customer, or a DoorDash or GrubHub worker makes a delivery.

    But the cost of an extra $5 per delivery, based on a union formula of $15 per hour (assuming three stops per hour), adds up quickly. What’s more, the legislation offers a threatening, vaguely authoritarian, and likely-illegal prohibition: “No hiring entity shall, as a result of this ordinance going into effect, reduce or otherwise modify the areas of the City that are served by the hiring entity.”

    Get that? Under Seattle’s law, it would be illegal for a business to leave the city to reduce its costs. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. As the Wall Street Journal argued in a recent editorial: “There’s no free lunch. Gig economy companies are struggling amid the pandemic—Uber has laid off more than a quarter of its workforce—so their customers and workers in other places will pay the cost of the regulation.”

    Seattle’s workers face enough obstacles as it is. Passing yet another ordinance that makes it difficult to do business in the city only puts another hurdle in their way.

    Categories: Workers Center