Labor Relations INK March 2017

In this issue:

It’s All Academic AFL-CIO Headquarters Staff Dwindles Longshoremen Union Out of Step with Membership Insight, Fight for $15, SEIU Watch and more…

The bottom of each story contains a link to the individual post on our site.

Labor Relations Insight

by Phil Wilson

The Clash, The Beatles and Lafe Solomon

Radio DJ Wolfman Jack

The Supreme Court at last issued its decision in National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, Inc. The Court found that Lafe Solomon’s stint as Acting General Counsel to the NLRB violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (“FVRA”). While Chief Justice Roberts took pains to make clear its decision is not “the son of Noel Canning” it at least qualifies as a first cousin.

Unless you have

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Labor Relations Insight

by Phil Wilson The Clash, The Beatles and Lafe Solomon

Radio DJ Wolfman Jack

The Supreme Court at last issued its decision in National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, Inc. The Court found that Lafe Solomon’s stint as Acting General Counsel to the NLRB violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (“FVRA”). While Chief Justice Roberts took pains to make clear its decision is not “the son of Noel Canning” it at least qualifies as a first cousin.

Unless you have a case on appeal squarely raising the FVRA issue, the most entertaining part of this opinion is Chief Justice Roberts’ somewhat painful (even for a lawyer) construction of the FVRA language related to “Acting” appointments.:

Suppose a radio station announces: “We play your favorite hits from the ’60s,

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Union Bailout Update

Many are hopeful over the course of the nation’s labor laws over the next four years. That hope was invigorated even further when Trump named Phillip Miscimarra as acting chair of the NLRB. On March 1, the Board released a report detailing the top 10 policies they are going to focus on restoring balance to. See the list and find the report here.

Congress is making some headway as well. One of their most notable actions this month is revoking the Labor Department’s fiduciary exemption for government-managed retirement funds, named Erisa (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).

Early this month, the House overturned OSHA’s attempt to rewrite the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Under OSH Act, all employers are required to keep records or workplace injuries and illnesses for five years. OSHA inspectors, however, are only allowed to cite violations for record keeping that occurred within the previous six

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SEIU Watch

Two top officials from SEIU Healthcare Michigan have been removed from their positions as an investigation into large amounts of money missing from the organization’s treasury plays out. The local has also been placed under an emergency trusteeship.

Deceased SEIU Payroll “recipient” Paul Policicchio

While a hearing is expected soon to uncover all the details regarding the misuse of funds, one source did some research of its own into recent financial transactions by SEIU Healthcare Michigan. One of the most interesting bits of information he found comes from the union’s LM-2s.

What these documents show is that the local has been making payments of $53,400 per year to Paul Policicchio, the local’s former president. The most recent verification of this payment comes from the 2015 report (the

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It’s All Academic

The fight to organize graduate students at Harvard has come to a standstill. Although the results of the November election were in favor of unionization, an NLRB hearing is on the books to review objections filed by both parties and to determine whether the challenged ballots should be counted. It is possible that a re-vote will be cast.

Duke University would have been in the same bucket as Harvard had organizers not decided to withdraw their petition to organize. Meanwhile, six Yale departments have voted to form unions. Yale took a different approach than Harvard and Duke and opted to organize in micro-units, rather than as one large union. Arguments for both approaches can be read here.

At Loyola University, faculty members in the Theology Department must now be excluded from a proposed bargaining unit. This comes from a split NLRB decision

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Union Pension Turmoil

Well it finally happened. As of late last month, one of the strongest and most successful pension funds officially ran out of money. The Teamsters Local 707 fund began their efforts to avoid this insolvency in early 2016 when they lowered payouts for already retired members. Now, the 4,000 already retired Local 707 members are left with nothing.

While this news is disastrous for members of Local 707, it also speaks to the problem of underfunded pensions as a whole. Namely, it begs the question: “if one of the strongest funds couldn’t survive, why should any other plans?”

There are currently 68 pensions plans that have been listed as having “critical and declining status.” This means these 68 will soon have to apply to cut benefits. Meanwhile, there are 10 private-sector funds that have already applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for approval to slash benefits.

As it stands,

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Teamster Beat

The NLRB has issued a complaint against Teamsters Local 455 for “violating workers’ fundamental rights.” It all started late last year when Francisco Manjarrez began speaking to his coworkers about a decertification vote.

As a refresher, if 30 percent of a unionized workforce signs a petition stating they no longer want union representation, a decertification vote must be held.

Manjarrez had been working to gather the signatures when Local 455 officials threatened Manjarrez and the other workers who signed the petition with “the loss of their benefits, discharge and a lawsuit.”

The charges against the local came just weeks after the NLRB issued two other decisions against the union for failure to represent and for lying to workers about the connection between their dues and promotions.

The hearing against Local 455

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AFL-CIO Headquarters Staff Dwindles

In the wake of increasingly lower union member numbers, the mother ship itself is being forced into some changes.

Late last month, AFL-CIO headquarters confirmed that it would dismiss “several dozens” of its roughly 400 person staff. Of the workers that remain, a small portion can expect to be furloughed for an undetermined amount of time.

Fight For $15

Michigan State Senator Coleman Young II

Attempts to raise the minimum wage in Connecticut to $15 an hour stalled in the State Senate late last month. The tie vote came with very little surprise as the Senate is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

In Michigan, the minimum wage was bumped to $8.90 this year and is set for a steady increase to $9.25 next year, with continued increases through 2018. This is all outlined in the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act of 2014. For one senator though, this bill does not do enough. Senator Coleman Young II introduced a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour starting January 1 of next year. This would be a jump of more

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Right To Work

Right-to-Work has gained quite a bit of momentum in recent years, up from 22 states and 41% of the nation’s population living in right-to-work jurisdictions in 2011 to 28 states and 52% of the population today.

Additionally, House Republicans introduced the National Right-to-Work Act in early February. This act would “repeal federal labor law provisions that permit firing workers who refuse to pay union dues.” While similar bills have been introduced in the past, this is the first time it’s been done while the GOP hold control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Similarly, we’ve been seeing success on the local level. For example, before right-to-work became state law in Kentucky, twelve counties had already passed some form of right-to-work provisions. Those provisions were upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals late last year.