Labor Relations INK February 2015

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In this issue:

Fraudulent Finances Steelworkers Strike Oil Industry Unions Funding Illegal Political Activities? Whistlin’ Dixie SEIU Watch, Sticky Fingers, Scoreboard, Insight and more…

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

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Labor Relations Insight

by Phil Wilson

It’s that time of year again. The prognosticators are pouring over all the latest statistics. Some teams look like they are making gains – others seem headed for the bottom of the pack. Every year the speculation is even more intense than the last. Sometimes I think it is getting a bit much. You know what I mean?

Oh, I’m not talking about the NFL Draft (I think they’re just scratching the surface of what they can cover there, right?). I’m talking about the annual Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) union

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Draft Day for the Union Movement?

It’s that time of year again. The prognosticators are pouring over all the latest statistics. Some teams look like they are making gains – others seem headed for the bottom of the pack. Every year the speculation is even more intense than the last. Sometimes I think it is getting a bit much. You know what I mean?

Oh, I’m not talking about the NFL Draft (I think they’re just scratching the surface of what they can cover there, right?). I’m talking about the annual Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) union membership numbers. They were just announced and the navel gazing is in full swing.

First the numbers. The BLS announced in late January that union membership declined again. Overall membership dropped .2 percent to 11.1 percent overall. Private sector membership slipped just slightly to 6.6 percent. Union membership in the private sector has dropped to nearly 2/3

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Union Bailout Update

GOP members are turning up the heat on labor law, introducing two new reform bills.  The first, sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (KY) and Lamar Alexander (TN), is designed to de-politicize the NLRB by adding a sixth member and requiring that the board be selected in conjunction with the leader of the Senate from the opposite party of the President. It also attempts to reign in the power of the NLRB’s General Counsel. This appears sorely needed. In a recent move, the GC arbitrarily changed the arbitration rules on the basis of the Babcock & Wilcox Construction decision, placing the burden of proof for deferral to arbitration on the party favoring it, which is usually management, and will likely make such deferrals harder to come by.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

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Alt-Labor

When Au Bon Pain attempted to resist an organizing drive at a location in the Philadelphia airport, student activists across the nation swarmed the Au Bon Pain locations on their campuses demanding to discuss the action in Philadelphia with the local outlet managers. Like swatting a hornets nest! Social media tools can facilitate a quick and sometimes large response, especially by well-organized groups. In this case, local chapters of the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) were the tip of the spear.

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As Big Labor casts around for other potential members to support their dwindling ranks, the multitudes working in the so-called gig economy have caught their eye. It is an interesting conundrum for unions. The Apps that allow these folks to work independently also prevent them from understanding who their peers are, and potentially coordinating with them, while on the flip

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Fraudulent Finances

Harvey Jackson - deceased

Harvey Jackson – deceased

A month after Teamster Local 1150 President Harvey Jackson was charged with embezzlement, the Independent Review Board (established by a 1989 federal consent order) sent a 76-page report to James Hoffa recommending that a trusteeship be put in place due to the local’s “failure to comply with financial controls.”

This, just after the Teamsters proposed that the Independent Review Board consent order be withdrawn as they now have no issues with corruption within the organization.

Steelworkers Strike Oil Industry

The current Steelworkers strike, which has extended to 12 refineries, 2 chemical plants, and 1 co-generation facility across 6 states, is the union’s largest since 1980. The strike, which is supposedly focused primarily on safety concerns, began when two weeks of contract negotiations between the union and Shell fell through. Taking place against the backdrop of a record drop in oil prices, industry leaders are caught between cutting back on spending and providing sufficient safety standards for their employees.

The support in Houston, Texas has sparked some debate over whether or not this will give Big Labor more of a foothold in a state that has historically showed little interest in union representation. Steve Roppolo, an employment attorney with Fisher & Phillips, believes “It’s not like they can’t make headway…but there are significant cultural and other barriers, including Texans’ independent streak that leads many to be wary of

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Unions Funding Illegal Political Activities?

catalist-logoA watchdog group has accused the SEIU, the AFL-CIO and its member unions, and other unions and progressive groups of providing millions in funding for a data company that has violated election law. The company, Catalist, has been charged with providing Democrat campaigns with “excessive, source-prohibited, and unreported in-kind contributions,” exchanging campaign and Democratic Party data “with soft money groups making independent expenditures” and is “established, financed, maintained and/or controlled” by the Democratic Party. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a conservative nonprofit, alleges in their complaint filed with the FEC that Catalist LLC, the Democratic National Committee and more than 300 Democrat campaigns have broken federal election law.

Below is a list of the unions who have provided funding for Catalists alleged illegal operations:

AFL-CIO:  $3,110,629 NEA:  $2,965,542 SEIU:  $1,954,600 UFCW:  $1,083,500 Change to Win:  $840,000 AFSGME:  $438,750 Teamsters:

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Whistlin’ Dixie

111229_uaw-vw_hmed_0738pWhen the UAW lost an election at the Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen plant by a slim margin last year, they almost immediately set up an office practically next door and again started gathering signatures of VW employees that wanted UAW representation. Meanwhile, Volkswagen established a new policy called Community Organization Engagement, which “allows any union that can prove it represents at least 15% of the carmaker’s workers the ability to meet with management on a regular basis and represent workers.”

This is very similar to EFCA’s “card check” proposal. “Card check” would have completely removed the secret ballot election; instead, only requiring that a majority of the workforce sign cards of interest to establish a union as the sole collective bargaining representative of that group of employees.

UAW currently claims to have signatures from 40% of VW’s workforce, allowing them to meet once

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SEIU Watch

DCHS_Logo5

SEIU United Healthcare West’s attempt to prevent Prime Healthcare from purchasing the six Daughters of Charity Hospitals in California is finally coming to a close.

It all began when Prime Healthcare refused to sign Regan’s sweetheart unionization deal with California Hospital Association. This is the one where CHA executives agreed to give SEIU-UHW every possible advantage in organizing their 60,000 workers in exchange for some political favors on the union’s end.

PrimeHealth_HQ_MonicaLam_CaliforniaWatchSince the refusal, Regan’s SEIU has been doing everything possible to stop Prime Healthcare’s purchase of the Daughter of Charity Hospitals. Originally, the union was just playing interference – typical SEIU moves such slandering the company’s reputation and the like. Most recently however, they moved on to attempting to convince California’s Attorney General to allow Blue Wolf Capital Partners to

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Social Media Spotlight

SpotlightEven as employer social media policies are under scrutiny, and as the clash between Section 7 rights and employee confidentiality deepens, new apps make it easier for employees to take their gripes online for the world to view. One new app called “getthememo” allows users to post anonymous reviews of and complaints about their employers.

In this article by Bloomberg BNA, employment and labor law attorney Howard S. Lavin addresses the following questions:

What communications are protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act? How has social media affected the NLRB’s view of “protected concerted activities”? What types of social media activities are generally protected by the NLRA that employers have gotten into trouble with? What types of social media activities are mistakenly assumed to be protected by the NLRA? How has the landscape changed (or

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