Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. SEIU Flip Flops on Pre-Paid Debit Cards

    A proposed rule by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has SEIU Local 2015 scrambling to come up with a creative scheme to keep skimming union dues from subsidy checks for home-care workers.

    The CMS rule would block states from making “payments to third parties on behalf of an individual for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits.”

    This means Medicaid reimbursements for home-care workers—often family members taking care of a loved one—can’t have union dues automatically withheld.

    But the SEIU has devised a work-around. They’re pushing workers to receive their money through a pre-paid debit card—from which union dues will already be withheld.

    Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson reports:

    The pre-paid debit card, co-branded by SEIU and the payroll company ADP, is the latest in a flurry of tactics unions are trying as they struggle to maintain their rolls, funding and political power amid a slew of legal and political threats.  … ADP Vice President Anthony Peculic declined to provide details on the fees of the new cards, but said they are both low and avoidable.

    This isn’t the first time the SEIU has taken a stance on pre-paid cards—but last time, they were on the other side of the debate. For instance, when the CEO of CKE Restaurants Andy Puzder was nominated for Labor Secretary, the SEIU railed against the policies of his fast-food restaurants—including providing payment with pre-paid cards. The best part? The union’s objection to the pre-paid cards centered around “low and avoidable” fees that employees might have to pay if cards weren’t used in the recommended fashion.

    Once their own interest was at stake, the SEIU was quick to change its tune on pre-paid cards. It’s just the latest example of “do as I say, not as I do” from the modern labor movement.

    Categories: SEIU
  2. Labor Racket Weekly: Embezzlement, Theft, & Election Violations

    Sometimes union bosses have a hard time keeping their hands out of the cookie jar. Here are the best rackets from September:

    In New York, Rocco Fazzolari, former President of International Brotherhood of Trade Unions Local 122, plead guilty to an information for Embezzlement of Union Funds, Embezzlement from an Employee Benefit Plan as well as Conspiracy to Embezzle from an Employee Benefit Plan.  More than $128,000 was embezzled from the union and more than $1.1 million from the benefit fund.

    In Wisconsin, Teresa Adkins, former business manager of Heat & Frost Insulators Local 127, plead no contest to one count of theft in a business setting of more than $10,000 and one count of forgery. Adkins was then sentenced to five years of probation for the first count and three years of probation for the second count.  Adkins was also ordered to pay $73,618 in restitution and $8,418 in fines.

    In Oregon, John Burgess, former President of Pacific Stainless Products Employee Association Local 304, was indicted for one count of embezzling approximately $35,000 in union funds. He was also indicted for one count of concealment or destruction of labor union financial records.

    In South Carolina, Dana Quinn Roush, former President of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 403, was charged with one count of embezzlement in the amount of $10,089.

    In Ohio, a suit was filed against the American Postal Workers Union Local 72. The complaint alleges that the union denied members the right to vote when it failed to make reasonable efforts to update the membership mailing list, obtain better addresses for undelivered ballots, respond timely to member requests for replacement ballots, and count ballots from members missing secret ballot envelopes.  The union also failed to maintain adequate safeguards when it provided inconsistent and inadequate notice regarding deadlines and the method of returning ballots.  Lastly, the union failed to elect by secret ballot vote when ballot numbers could be matched to an outer envelope and a voter list was maintained linking the ballot numbers to members.


    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUncategorized
  3. Angered by Op-ed on Racial Discrimination, BCTC Floods Pages of Crain’s with Letters to the Editor, Still Comes Up Short

    Over the summer, the Center for Union Facts launched its Ask Gary Why campaign encouraging New Yorkers to ask why the unions Gary LaBarbera represents in the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) have a long history of racial discrimination.

    The campaign included research that found black unionized construction workers earn 23 percent less than their white counterparts. To highlight this pay gap, CUF wrote an opinion piece #CountMeOut: Construction Unions Leave Minority Workers Behind that was published by Crain’s NY.

    This prompted Gary LaBarbera and his union surrogates to launch an onslaught of letters to the editor in an attempt to undermine the facts presented by CUF’s criticisms of New York’s construction unions.

    However, these authors had nothing in their arsenal except unsubstantiated union-funded data and transparent personal attacks. You can read CUF’s responses to their letters here:

    City Needs to Do Math Before Renewing PLAs
    Differing Jobs Account for Racial Pay Gap in Unionized Construction
    Construction Union Leader Shouldn’t Throw Stones
    Labor Critic Accepts Debate Challenge, On One Condition 

    The moral of the story? Until Gary LaBarbera and the BCTC are willing to put forth real data on the status of minority workers in their member unions, they don’t have a leg to stand on—in print, or anywhere else.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  4. Another Obama-Era Roll Back at the NLRB

    In yet another effort to roll back Obama-era labor policy, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has proposed a joint-employer rule that would undo the Board’s 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris.

    The proposed rule would reinstate 30 years of precedent that required “direct” and “immediate” control over employees’ working conditions to qualify for joint-employer status.

    The 2015 decision defines “joint-employer” as when a business has “potential and indirect control” of employees. This is problematic for franchise owners–such as large scale fast-food companies like McDonald’s. They typically have little interaction with employees on a day to day basis. Yet, this standard holds them accountable for labor violations committed by their franchisees or contractors.

    It also means companies could be required to enter into collective bargaining agreements– providing unions with additional leverage. For example, a union representing one of Microsoft’s suppliers demanded the company collectively bargain with them– even though Microsoft had little to do with the employees’ day-to-day.

    The “indirect control” standard of Browning-Ferris makes it difficult to define which parties should be held accountable– often leading to more convoluted litigation than practical protection for employees.

    In fact, a 2016 study authored by the Counsel for Coalition for a Democratic Workplace found that “in each case where the Obama [NLRB] Board changed the law, the resulting new law became more favorable to labor interests than it did under previous Board rulings—frequently at the expense of promoting stable bargaining and economic growth and without regard for balancing the interests of business, labor, and employees under the Act.”

    A win for both employers and workers, this new rule would mitigate against unwarranted litigation while providing employees with a clear avenue for holding their employers accountable.


    Categories: NLRB
  5. CUF Launches “Ask Gary Why” Campaign in NYC

    Last week in New York City, the Center for Union Facts (CUF) launched the second-phase of a campaign surrounding union boss Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC).

    The campaign encourages New Yorkers to “Ask Gary Why” much-needed subway and public housing repairs have been ignored, and why the unions Gary LaBarbera represents have a history of racial discrimination.

    CUF has released three versions of advertisements (1,2,3) on food trucks across the city, a video featuring a fictional game show titled “Ask Gary Why,” city-wide radio advertisements and a campaign website.

    Under LaBarbera’s watch, transit construction costs are often seven times the global average, with construction staffed by as many as four times more workers than in other countries.

    Black unionized construction workers in New York City also face a 23% pay penalty compared to their white counterparts. Meanwhile, the construction unions’ Project Labor Agreement has inundated the city’s housing authority with “costly union benefits.”

    To learn more about the campaign, visit or check out our video.

    Categories: Building and Construction Trades CouncilCenter for Union Facts
  6. New Survey Shows Public-Sector Union Members Approve Janus Decision

    This week marks the 6th annual National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW)— a week dedicated to educating public-sector union members about their opt out rights.

    In honor of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the NEFW coalition is highlighting the results of a new study by Dr. Lloyd Corder of CorCom Inc. The study surveyed public-sector union members on their opinions of Janus, and the results are telling.

    The findings show that half of public-sector members see the decision as a positive, and one-third plan to stop (or have already stopped) paying union dues following Janus. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of public-sector union employees who see the Court’s ruling as a positive development said the Janus ruling protects their personal rights and freedoms.

    One public-sector worker who participated in the survey summed it up by saying: “The union does not represent me. I think we should vote with our money, and if a union doesn’t do its job, it shouldn’t get paid by me.”

    Post-Janus, more workers are second-guessing their representation. Union officials should take notice.

    Categories: Janus v. AFSCMENational Employee Freedom WeekSEIU
  7. High Ranking Union Officials Accused of Corruption

    When it rains, it pours. For union corruption scandals, it’s been downpouring all summer.

    In Detroit, allegations in the ongoing corruption case between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the United Autoworkers (UAW) have gone all the way up to the top. Several high ranking union officials have been charged with misusing funds that were intended for the UWA training facility.

    For over eight years, FCA funneled more than $9 million through UAW training centers. The automakers are charged with corrupting contract negotiations by bribing union officials– who accepted gifts including expensive jewelry, vacations, and “a $30,000 party for a UAW official, complete with ultra-premium booze, $7,000 worth of cigars and $3,000 in wine with custom labels honoring the union boss.” A recent plea agreement made by Nancy Adams Johnson– the second highest ranking official in the union’s Fiat Chrysler Department– implicated retired UAW President Dennis Williams in the scandal.

    Subtly is clearly not a strong suit of these labor bosses.

    This case takes place just as another ranking union official– former president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association Norman Seabrook– was found guilty of conspiracy and of accepting a bribe from Platinum Partners hedge fund in New York City.

    Seabrook agreed to put $20 million of union money into the hedge fund in exchange for $60,000. The union eventually lost $19 million of that investment, and Platinum Partners is now bankrupt.

    Who knows when the next scandal will be uncovered but one thing is for sure: dues-paying union members deserve better representation than this.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  8. Unions Spend Big to Curtail Worker Freedom

    The AFL-CIO— along with other major labor unions— recently poured money into an anti-right-to-work campaign led by advocacy group We Are Missouri. The group spent about $16.3 million on their campaign to vote “No” on Proposition A. The vote— which took place last week— removed Missouri as the 28th right-to-work state in the country.

    Unions spared no expense in overturning this law, despite the fact that employees in right-to-work states are reportedly more satisfied with their union than employees in other states. A higher percentage of these employees said their union was more helpful in protecting them against employer actions. In terms of representation, 80 percent reported being pleased with the results of their local union elections.

    Right-to-work laws allow employees to choose whether or not they want to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Vinnie Vernuccio, senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, highlighted the silliness of unions spending millions to curtail this freedom: “It is sad but not surprising that unions are spending millions of dollars to have the ability to get workers fired for not paying them.”

    This campaign demonstrates that unions will go to any length to keep their coffers full.

    Categories: AFL-CIORight-to-Work