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Labor Relations Insight

by Phil Wilson Can We Confirm a Board Already?

This is getting pretty frustrating.

Believe me, I understand that the labor relations tail is never going to wag the dog of any new administration. And to be fair, it took President Obama more than a year to get his first two NLRB seats filled (with the controversial recess appointments of Craig Becker and Mark Pearce). But still.

As far as labor law goes we are currently in the 9th year of the Obama Board. When Obama came into office there was no urgency to fill Board seats because the Board only had two members, one Republican and one Democrat, so effectively everything was on hold. But today we have a Democrat majority Board, with a Democrat General Counsel, that continue to issue decisions and push big labor’s agenda.

The latest projections suggest a full, Republican majority Board in place

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Union Bailout Update

Alex Acosta

At the end of April, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Alex Acosta as Labor Secretary. Acosta replaced initial nominee Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his name from consideration amidst controversy surrounding the hiring of a housekeeper not authorized to work in the U.S., and mishandling the taxes related to her employment.

The Trump administration forwarded the names of two attorneys for background checks, in preparation for appointment to fill the vacant slots on the National Labor Relations Board. Marvin Kaplan is an attorney for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent federal agency that hears cases involving alleged workplace safety violations and adjudicates disputes between the Labor Department and employers. He previously served as the Republican workforce

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Make It Go Away!

In 2014, employees of a Unifirst Corp. laundry in Pennsylvania won a decertification petition against the Steelworkers, only to see the union-friendly NLRB overturn it. In April 2016, the employees again won a decertification election, and once again, the USW filed charges to attempt to defeat the effort to throw them out. With help from the National Right to Work Foundation, employee Homer Suman fought the USW for a year, to finally have the NLRB overturn the objections and certify the election.

Alt Labor

One thing that this last election cycle made clear is that it matters to union members how their money is spent in relation to politics and social movements. That insight has become clearer with the organization or a new kind of union.

Tech Solidarity is one such “union.” It was founded in November 2016. “But rather than fighting for higher compensation and better working hours like most traditional unions, the group says it is organizing to deliver a different message: it won’t help companies collaborate ‘on dubious government policies from immigration to surveillance.’”

This is another example of the shift of unions away from traditional “representational” activities and more toward social justice issues. Looking at the amount of sway political and social movement donations from businesses have in our culture, it wouldn’t surprise us to see unions embrace this sort of paradigm in their organizing efforts. They already have.

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AFL-CIO Skews The Facts

The AFL-CIO recently released “Executive Paywatch” report continues to misrepresent to the American public the difference between CEO pay in the U.S. with that of employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. chief executive earns $194,350. The AFL-CIO cherry-picked the highest paid executives of the S&P 500 (among the largest corporations in the country) to come up with an “average” CEO compensation of $13.1 million.

What wasn’t reported by the Paywatch report was the compensation packages of union executives. Below is a list of the top ten highest paid labor executives. Additionally, Richard Trumka, head of the organization that compiles the “Paywatch” report, reportedly earns $294,537.

Source: LaborPains

Union Money Shell Game

In 2016, the UNITE HERE financial disclosure forms indicate that it contributed more than $237,000 to Yale’s graduate student union, which eventually became UNITE HERE Local 33. However, the Local failed to disclose the receipt of the funds, leaving it anybody’s guess how the money was spent and highlighting again union transparency concerns.

In another shell game, a former USW employee and her husband siphoned off over $50,000 from an Institute of Career Development fund set up between the Steelworkers union and major steel companies, designed to provide educational services to Steelworker union members.

SEIU Watch

We stumbled upon a job posting for an SEIU Local 509 Internal Organizer. Nothing unusual about that. Until you read the note about SEIU’s newly created Member Action Resource Center. MARC is a call center for local members to use when reporting a grievance. That’s right. Members won’t speak directly to their local anymore about anything grievance related. Instead, they’ll be directed to a call center.

screen shot of note from the job posting


Mary Kay Henry

Mary Kay Henry placed SEIU Nevada under a trusteeship. And now the International is being sued by a member of the

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It’s All Academic

Earlier this month, the NLRB ruled against Vanderbilt’s claim that full-time, non-tenure-track instructors are managers. This means that such instructors are entitled to union representation should they wish to pursue it.

Harvard filed an appeal this month to contest an NLRB hearing officer’s recommendation that a new election be conducted in response to the one held in November 2016 wherein the university’s graduate students did not win union representation. Those who support a new election argue that Harvard had “not substantially complied with the voter list requirements.” Those who believe the results of the election should stand argue, “students were highly engaged, and after nearly two years of organizing on campus by the HGSU-UAW, thousands voted in the November 2016 election—a majority in opposition to unionization.”

In April, SEIU Local 500 cancelled a vote at George Washington University on the eve of the election. We can only assume

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Fight For $15

A push to increase the minimum wage in Louisiana failed in a Senate committee. The state’s minimum wage will remain at $7.25/hour for now. Workers in St. Louis, however, had a different outcome earlier this month.

On May 5th, a $10 minimum wage went into effect for all employees working at least 20 hours per year inside St. Louis city limits; this, after a circuit court lifted the 2015 injunction on the city’s minimum wage ordinance.

A Republican bill in Maine that allows employers to pay less than the minimum wage to workers who make up the difference in tips received bipartisan support earlier this month with a vote of 11-2.

Meanwhile, workers are suing the DNC for failing to pay minimum wage and denying compensation for overtime. Interesting, considering the Democratic platform for a $15 minimum.

Auto Workers

The Auto Workers would probably prefer the media spotlight wasn’t on them at the moment.

First, new evidence has suggested the union did tamper with votes during the 2015 contract with Ford workers – specifically, with votes in Detroit, Michigan.

Then, on the Volkswagen Chattanooga front, the union just can’t get the company to bargain with them over the group of skilled workers who voted for the union in 2015. The problem is UAW held an election with just 160 of the workers at the plant. Volkswagen remains firm that the vote should have included all 1,500 hourly workers. Until such time as all workers vote for union representation, business will go on as usual for the company, despite unfair labor practice charges filed against the company by the NLRB.


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