Labor Relations Ink – August 2014

Screen Shot 2014 09 05 at 9.20.03 AM1 Labor Relations Ink August 2014

In this issue:

Between A Rock and a Hard Place? Who’s Got Your Back? Same Song, Different Verse Bending Over Backwards SEIU Watch, Sticky Fingers, Scoreboard, Insight and more…

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

Labor Relations Insight by Phil Wilson

Fast Food Strikes, the NLRB and the One Lesson of Economics

milwaukee strike mke img 300x202 Labor Relations Ink August 2014


Fast food workers protested across the country today in favor of a $15 per hour minimum wage (and “union rights” – which of course they already have). It is always hard to

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Labor Relations Insight: Fast Food Strikes, the NLRB and the One Lesson of Economics

milwaukee strike mke img 300x202 Labor Relations Insight: Fast Food Strikes, the NLRB and the One Lesson of Economics


Fast food workers protested across the country today in favor of a $15 per hour minimum wage (and “union rights” – which of course they already have). It is always hard to separate the facts from the hype in these mostly made for TV protest events. For example the PR firm supporting the campaign claimed over 500 protesters were arrested when the largest reported number I’ve seen is less than a quarter of that. Nevertheless, it is clear that Fight for $15 and its SEIU backers got a lot of people – including many employees of fast food restaurants – to participate in

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Union Bailout Update - August 2014

griffin2 Union Bailout Update August 2014

Richard Griffin

It is getting much harder to discharge an employee for behavior that could jeopardize business, if that behavior can be linked to protected concerted activity, and if the employer is inconsistent in applying disciplinary action. In a recent Starbucks case, an employee was fired for using profanity in the presence of customers. At issue was the wearing of pro-union pins. The NLRB originally found the discharge unlawful, but the Second Circuit court remanded the case back to the board, not buying their reasoning. The board then shifted focus, using a “mixed motive test” and finding that the company’s disciplinary action was inconsistent, and thus could have been related to the protected concerted activity as much as the use of profanity.

The NLRB’s General Counsel

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

Pro-labor pundit Jack Rasmus has launched a 4-part essay on the decline of labor unions. It is worth reading, both to call attention to labor’s intransigence to make itself relevant to today’s workforce, and to read between the lines for potential strategy changes, if and when labor ever gets its act together.

A sample quote from part one:

“Had any other movement and its organizations produced so little, for so long, at such a growing financial and other cost to its membership, it would have undertaken a fundamental revision of its basic strategic approach long before now. However, union labor’s efforts to address its failing strategies over the last four decades have been token and tentative at best. Not much has been done to confront, or otherwise challenge and change, labor’s obviously failed strategies of the past four decades—neither at the ‘top’ among its national leadership nor at the

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Who's Got Your Back?

freight train 300x200 Whos Got Your Back?If you were a conductor or engineer in the railway business, and member of a railway union, you would expect that your union would 1) protect your job, and 2) protect the safety of the job. That’s what you pay dues for, right?

To union leaders, your job and your safety are not what is important to them. To them, the bottom line is: in an industry that has been shedding workers for decades, how can we remain the last viable union to represent those who survive the technology upgrades that continue to replace jobs.

This tension played out exactly as we could have predicted recently, when the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Union made a backroom deal with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company to organize a

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Whistlin’ Dixie

uaw mercedes 300x190 Whistlin DixieThe Auto Workers will stop at nothing to organize Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Volkswagen plant. Before the representative election was held last February wherein UAW lost the vote by a 716-626 margin, they signed a neutrality agreement with VW that stated: “Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, if the UAW does not receive a majority…the UAW shall discontinue all organizing activities at the Chattanooga plant and all other Volkswagen Group of America facilities and locations for a period of not less than one year…”

As we reported in July, the UAW has since established a new “members only” local with no dues requirements. Their hope is that if they can get enough employees to become members of Local 42, VW will be forced to recognize the union as the representative of its members and, with

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Alt-Labor – August 2014

charge Alt Labor August 2014Will we see a rise in civil disobedience – tactics such as blocking business entrances and staging sit-ins to prevent stores from transacting business? In Goldsboro, NC, a labor gathering celebrated recent “successes” of such tactics as a part of the Moral Monday demonstrations. Nearly 1000 protesters have been arrested since the demonstrations began in April 2013.

A recent fast food workers convention in Cleveland included classes on civil disobedience.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1208 President Keith Ludlum provided some insight into this “Charge of the Light Brigade” labor strategy:

“You guys are probably in the generation that is on the precipice of a change in the labor movement… Us old guys and some of us who have been around awhile, we can advise you on things, but don’t

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Social Media Spotlight – August 2014

3202396970 7b79a0beb21 150x150 Social Media Spotlight August 2014If the NLRB’s policies over what qualifies and what does not qualify as protected concerted activity confuse you, then join the club. This is especially true when it comes to one’s social media rights.

Most companies have policies in their handbook that basically say if an employee sheds a negative light on the company via social media, the company is within their right to fire said employee. However, if you look at the NLRB’s recent rulings on the issue, you would never get that impression.

On August 22, the NLRB upheld an administrative law judge’s January 2012 decision that Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille unlawfully fired two employees for liking another employee’s negative post about Triple Play on Facebook. Two and half years later, the company is

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Same Song, Different Verse

Teamsters Local 710 in Chicago has been placed in trusteeship, after 7 union officials were accused of widespread financial mismanagement and corruption. According to ABC legal analyst Gil Soffer,

“There is embezzlement that leaps off the pages of this report, there is fraud on the government, there’s false statements to the government, there’s fraud on local union members, there’s fraud on national union leadership. There’s a host of crimes and host of victims in this report which, if proved true, really means trouble for anybody caught in the crosshairs here.”

The results of the 190-page report have been forwarded to the Department of Labor, but it is anticipated that such a high-profile example of union fraud will reach the attention of the U.S. Attorney General’s office.

Only In A Union - August 2014

As usual, Big Labor does NOT want to lead by example!

The subject this time is a bill is sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and backed by a variety of Big Labor organizations such as the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers as well as liberal activist groups  Demos, Restaurant Opportunities Center United and the Retail Action Project. Titled the Schedules That Work Act, the bill is designed to give employees more rights to demand flexible work schedules and put an end to irregular work shifts.

Hypocrite CopBlock 300x172 Only In A Union August 2014

However, if you are applying for a job as lead organizer at the Retail Action Project, you must have a “[w]illingness to work long, irregular, evening or weekends as needed.”

Or, if you fancy a

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