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Labor Relations INK April 2015

In this issue:

  • How To Drive Business Away
  • Dire Straits
  • Teamster Monkey Business at the Zoo
  • Full Of Sound And Fury…
  • 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

Let me start by answering the question that I know is on your mind: did Darth Vader actually build C-3PO?

If you’re like me (thankfully you’re probably not) you’ve been binge-watching the new digital re-masters of the canonical Star Wars films. The last time I saw the “prequels” was in the theater, so watching them all at once with my daughter has been really fun. I’ve caught some things I didn’t notice before. Like the fact that my second-favorite paranoid android (sorry, but Marvin is first place and has a much cooler song) was (mostly) built by the Dark Lord when he was a child.

There’s other stuff I noticed too. Like how much I hate Jar Jar Binks. And what a bad-ass Yoda is with a light saber. Seriously, is there anything more fun than watching a muppet and Mr. Darkside go at it?

I’m guessing there’s at least one other question on your mind (putting aside for the moment whether I am 14 years old – sadly I’m not). You’re also wondering how the ambush election rule has changed things since it went into effect 10 days ago.

It is quite early to pronounce anything definitive or as Yoda would say, “Impossible to see, the future is.” But here is what we’ve noticed so far.

First, RC petition activity has gone up from prior years (although total petitions – including decertification petitions – are basically flat over the last 3 years). Here is a chart:


You can see that there were about 25% more RC petitions filed in the last 10 days than in 2014 or 2013. Over twice as many were filed than in 2011. What does this mean? Is there going to be an onslaught of organizing activity like we’ve never seen before?

No. It is way too early to say that this is anything other than a few petitions held back during the weeks leading up to the ambush rule (and we are only talking about 15 or so of those across the entire country). This is actually a little less than what I expected. My prediction remains that petition activity will level off back at around what it has been over the last couple of years. It may go up somewhat this year, but I don’t think it will be dramatic.

What about election periods? Many fear the new rule will result in elections as quick as 10 days. My prediction has been 24 days. We have had just a few new election dates determined in the last 10 days. The average number of campaign days in those elections is 27 days, with a high of 30 days. I am sure there have been shorter election dates agreed to that I haven’t heard about. Again, this is a very small sample and we should know much more over the next few months as the Board gets used to directing elections under the new rule.

Yoda says, “already know you that which you need.” And if you’ve been reading INK any period of time you do already know what you need. Work Left of Boom. Start with your campaign response tools, then your early warning defense training and your proactive leadership development. Until next month, may the Force be with you.

Link & Comments


Union Bailout Update

ambushAs we knew would happen, Congress’ effort to nullify the Ambush Election rule was vetoed by the President. In preparation for the rule going into effect, the NLRB rolled out training for staff at (no surprise) the New York offices of SEIU local 32BJ. Business groups, spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce, haven’t given up the fight yet, and have filed yet another motion to invalidate the rule. However, the rule is in effect, and will remain so unless a serious court challenge or additional legislative action intervenes. On April 6, NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr. released a lengthy Guidance Memorandum on the application of the rule.

In another move being touted as the NLRB declaring “war on right-to-work,” the board signaled that it intends to force non-members in Right-To-Work states to pay for union grievance representation. Although this would in essence take away the union “free-rider” argument to some degree, a more employee-friendly/freedom-oriented solution would be to allow non-members to speak for themselves with their companies!

Immigration issues continue to become intertwined with union/labor issues. Both the former and current board General Counsel (Lafe Solomon and Richard Griffin) have signed documents with three foreign countries (Mexico, Ecuador and the Philippines) establishing outreach programs to immigrants, both legal and illegal, teaching them how to organize. Last month, Griffin put a new policy in place in which the board will “facilitate” obtaining visas for illegal immigrants if their status impedes it from pursuing a labor violation case against a business. In other words, the NLRB is encouraging illegal immigrants to engage in labor activism, as a way to protect themselves and potentially secure a visa!

On the joint employer front, the battle is due to rage for some time. A site called Defend Main Street has posted a nice “explainer” video on the issue, which can be found here:

In February, the NLRB extended the “Speciality Healthcare” decision to Acute Care Hospitals, via Region 13’s rulings in Rush University Medical Center and Local 743 International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Coupled with the Ambush Rule, labor issues in the world of healthcare are getting dicey indeed!

In Canada, one of the few developed countries that does not force unions to disclose financial information, new impetus for passing a law that would do so has surfaced. Three senior officers of the Ontario Provincial Police, who also happen to be top executives in the union representing those officers, are under investigation for theft, breach of trust, fraud and laundering the proceeds of crime. Among the allegations are payments to mystery consulting companies, a condo purchase in the Bahamas and $100,000 wired to the Cayman Islands.  Bill C-377, which would require disclosure, passed the House in 2012 and has languished in the Senate since then. Although Big Labor has been continuing to say “just trust us,” the momentum might finally be building to bring Canadian labor law into the 21st century.

Link & Comments


How To Drive Business Away

After 18 months of uncertainty, members approved a contract negotiated by International Longshoremen Association officials and the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore. The agreement is intended to supplement ILA’s upcoming coastwise master contract which addresses automation, outsourcing of work, and health care, among other items. Approval of the contract comes as a relief to customers as well as officials and employers who have dealt with continued strife since the three day strike in October 2013. That relief, however, may not last long.

Last November, Wilbert Rowell was named Trustee of Local 333 when accusations arose that leaders of the chapter had been stacking union rolls in order to win local elections. Upon Rowell’s appointment, he purged the rolls of about 500 recently appointed members.

86 of those employees whose membership was taken away from them, in addition to former Local 333 president Riker McKenzie and former recording secretary Ezekiel Givens, filed a lawsuit against both the national ILA and the STA alleging that they had been removed from leadership and membership positions in the union as “part of an effort by the national ILA and the Steamship Trade Association to gain a local contract to their liking.”

Jeff Worley paid nearly $2,200 in fees and dues and was sworn in as a member of Local 333 in September. Last month, he received a letter stating that he was no longer a member and the dues he paid would be refunded. In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, Worley voiced his concerns: How much money did the union take from “would-be members;” and how much interest did they earn on that money before informing those workers their prospective membership wasn’t going to happen?

This is a pivotal time for operations at our nation’s ports. Labor disagreements and negotiations are making us appear unreliable and causing shippers to make other arrangements. The Port of Portland is on its way to being out of the container business altogether. Hanjin Shipping, which provided nearly 80 percent of the port’s container business, left in February, and now there is speculation that Hapag-Lloyd may be pulling out as well. If the rumors prove to be true, it will not only affect Portland’s economy, but Port of Lewiston in Idaho as well. Upriver from Portland via the Columbia Snake River channel, Hapag-Lloyd currently handles 90 percent of their business.

Link & Comments


Dire Straits

Source: http://www.pbgc.gov/

Source: http://www.pbgc.gov/

Teamsters Central States Pension Fund has been in trouble for a long time and it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting out of it anytime soon. Currently serving roughly 410,000 participants, the fund is not making as much as it’s paying out. If the situation continues as is, the fund’s trustees believe it will become insolvent within a decade. In order to stay afloat, Central States is looking to cut the amount it pays out to retirees – you know, the people who paid into it for 30 years and have planned their retirement around it.

This was made possible by a federal law passed last year that allows struggling multi-employer pension funds to cut benefits for retirees younger than 75 by as much as 60 percent. There are currently about 1,400 multi-employer defined benefit pension plans, covering 10 million participants. The 200 funds that struggle the most cover 1.5 million workers and retirees.

This no doubt explains the extreme degrees to which Big Labor is moving in order to gain new members. They need money. That’s what spurred the Fight for $15 movement and that’s what’s spurring the We Rise! initiative.

immigrants-book-cover“As American workers increasingly reject unionization, we’ve seen Big Labor make a deliberate effort to target immigrants to bolster their forced unionism ranks, with union bosses spending American worker’s forced dues to do it…It’s ironic because forced unionism is completely contrary to both freedom and the creation of jobs, and yet when you look back through American history, American freedoms and job opportunities have been what has made America so attractive to immigrants,” said Patrick Semmens, VP of the National Right to Work Foundation.

One has to ask what immigrants have to look forward to by unionization, what with pension funds going insolvent and, more importantly, with racial biases still weaseling their way into such organizations – the latter proved by the Sheet Metal Union’s recent agreement to pay an estimated $12 million over the next five years to settle a lawsuit that accused the union of discriminating against black and hispanic workers for years.

Perhaps immigrants would be interested in not making any money for two months, as is the case with Steelworker District 227 members. The union has been on strike for two months – most recently rejecting the last, best and final offer from LyondellBasell. Unwilling to continue negotiating under the union’s charade that the strike is about worker safety, LyondellBasell’s vice president released an open letter that states the company will begin implementing the terms of their last offer immediately, which includes a 2.5% wage increase and improved safety measures, and invites those on strike to come back to work. The letter also stated:

usw-strike“The USW’s strike is, and always has been, economic. Houston Refining has tried diligently for over three months to reach a deal with the USW negotiators, but the company’s efforts have proved futile. Even with the help of a federal mediator, the union has taken an intractable stance. Negotiations are at an impasse.”

Should the NLRB agree that USW 227 is on an economic strike, the union will either have to accept LyondellBasell’s terms as they are or it will have to tell its members to find new employment.

In a similar story of misguided union intentions, the Machinists have pulled out of their organization efforts to unionize Delta Air Lines after being accused of submitting fraudulent authorization cards. The National Mediation Board, which oversees elections in the airline industry, said “the integrity of its election process ‘has not been respected in this case.’”

Link & Comments


Teamster Monkey Business at the Zoo

barrel-of-monkeys-3monkeys1Most people probably remember the 2007 Christmas tragedy that occurred at the San Francisco Zoo when Tatiana, a female Siberian tiger, got out of her enclosure and mauled three teenage boys, killing one of them. After this occurred, one of the criticisms the zoo faced was that there was no efficient way to notify authorities of safety or medical emergencies. They did have panic buttons, but at the time they were not working properly.

Executive Director Tanya Peterson said that in response to these concerns and in collaboration with the Teamsters union, which represents about 100 of the zoo’s employees, the zoo bought the “best radio system it could.”

Last month, the Teamsters union accused people in positions of authority at the zoo of eavesdropping on employee conversations. They cite one example where an employee walked in during the occurrence of such a situation. In a statement, Peterson acknowledged that the radios have that sort of listening capabilities, but the “eavesdropping” accusation is false.

“Zoo management has no interest in monitoring conversations of its employees…Safety is a top priority for the zoo, and this new radio system was installed to ensure zoo employees are working in the safest possible environment. Emergency monitoring on the zoo’s new radio system was a vender feature designed to assist with medical and safety emergencies. When I was made aware of the radio’s capabilities, this feature was disabled.”


It’s hard to see where the union’s motive lies in this allegation, especially since the union and management just agreed to a 4-year contract during which time any issues of concern should have been brought up. Nonetheless, employers should be wary of the kind of technology they implement if they want to avoid these kinds of accusations – even when the intentions are in the right place.

Link & Comments



Who are the winners (and losers) of the labor movement? Don’t guess, just check the LRI Scoreboard

View this month’s scoreboard (archives also located here).

Download a PDF of this month’s scoreboard


Full Of Sound And Fury…

april15strikeAs usual, Big Labor is trying to make the most of what turned out to be mostly a non-event: the much ballyhooed April 15 strike connected with the Fight for 15 movement. Even with NBC rallying to their side and doing their best to inflate the effort, the smoke cleared quickly. In fact, one prominent union, the UFCW, is even backing away from the movement.

This may be because it is becoming more widely known that the Fight for 15 movement, along with similar efforts promoted by worker centers and supposedly “grassroots efforts,” are actually thinly veiled union PR stunts. It is also possibly because the unions are distorting “fast food data” to attempt to paint a picture that just doesn’t exist. For instance, Fight for 15 claims that 4 out of 5 fast food employees were injured by burns on the job last year. If this were true, over 3 million fast food workers would have been burned. In reality, the American Burn Association estimates that 450,000 burns require medical treatment each year. Big discrepancy.

If there is any silver lining for Big Labor, it may be that a variety of different groups may be collescing around the Fight for 15 concept. For example, an article at Cleveland.com touted,

Wednesday’s protests included participants from several occupations, including: adjunct professors, home care workers, child care workers, airport workers, industrial laundry workers, Walmart and other retail workers. College students also participated. In Cleveland, students from CSU, Kent State University, Oberlin College and Tri-C participated.

Link & Comments


Only in a Union

photo-idUnions bellowed like an injured walrus when laws were proposed requiring a photo ID to vote in local, state and federal elections. “How dare you attempt to suppress the vote!” they declared (meaning: leave our illegal voters alone).

However, when a worker in Michigan requested to leave the IBEW as a result of right-to-work law implementation in that state, he was told he would have to drive 82 miles from where he worked to the local office and present a photo ID.

Link & Comments


Repel or Attract?

Gallup recently confirmed a message Phil Wilson has been trying to hammer into the employer community for a while now: unengaged managers create unengaged employees. Something new Gallop brings to the table is how much it’s costing us.

“By Gallup’s estimates, the ‘not engaged’ group costs the U.S. $77 billion to $96 billion annually through their impact on those they manage. And when we factor in the impact of the ‘actively disengaged’ group, those figures jump to $319 billion to $398 billion annually.”

lob-boxshot-cropIn addition, Gallop found that half the employees they surveyed had left a job “due to a disengaged manager.” On the flip side, as you might imagine, “great managers inspire greatness.”

Phil’s just published book Left of Boom: Putting Proactive Engagement to Work goes in depth into what managers can and should be doing in order to engage with employees. The key is to be approachable. Read more about Approachable Leadership at http://ApproachableLeadership.com.

Link & Comments


Social Media Spotlight

expletiveIt’s just not going away anytime soon. The NLRB has determined that as long as an employee rant can be even tenuously connected to protected concerted activity, your employees can pretty much curse, swear and malign you to their hearts content in social media venues – even sprinkling their invective with all the F-bombs they can muster.

Prior to any disciplinary action, careful scrutinize both the context and the content of the rant – and even then tread lightly!  The NLRB seems to see PCA like Ghost Busters see ghosts!

Link & Comments


SEIU Watch

According to the 2014 federal filings released earlier this month, SEIU spent $48 million of the $320 million it received in dues on “political activities and lobbying,” making it the seventh biggest spender at the federal level. This is no big surprise as we already know the union likes to keep politicians in their pockets. “Why?” one might ask. “Well for the special privileges of course!”

Fight-for-15Case and point: the Fight for $15 movement. So far SEIU has funneled $15 million into the Fight for $15 campaign. While they would have the whole country believe their intentions are pure, that they want “to preserve the middle class and to lift low-wage workers out of poverty,” that is simply not the case. SEIU supports the wage hikes because it hopes that as legislation continues to pass the contracts will include an exemption clause for unionized workforces, as has already been the case in SeaTac and Los Angeles. SEIU can then tell employers, “Let us organize your workers and you won’t have to pay them $15 an hour.” In addition, they can also tie the member wage provisions in their collective bargaining agreements to the increases in minimum wage.

This duplicitous endeavor is quite similar to another recent SEIU mission, although this time 1199 SEIU is teaming up with the Greater New York Hospital Association. The two are creating a “task force” that will spend a year studying what the future looks like for the healthcare workforce as less and less people choose in-hospital care, and how the union can fill those needs.

As CapitalNewYork.com author Dan Goldberg put it, “The union’s fear is that as jobs shift to locations outside the hospital – in clinics and other outpatient settings – unionized labor will be replaced with non-union workers who earn less and have fewer benefits. This task force and the early collaboration with hospitals is meant to avoid that potential fight.”

SEIU Local 1021 Strike - Oakland, CA 2012

SEIU Local 1021 Strike – Oakland, CA 2012

The most conspicuous part of the whole thing is that New York State Nurses Association has been left out of the task force – seeing as how they are the state’s largest nurses’ union. Well, maybe it’s not really that conspicuous…

Big surprise here, 1199 SEIU also has a strike coming up this Friday, April 24. The strike will call for an increase in wages for its 3,500 members who work for Paradigm Healthcare, Genesis Healthcare, and iCare Management. The announcement to strike came as a surprise to all the employers as each of them felt they were bargaining in good faith. In addition, each have a proven past of compensating workers fairly. Paradigm gave raises 3 out of the last 4 years; Genesis 4 out of 4; and iCare already pays over 80 percent of their workforce $15 an hour or more.

In Boston, 1199 SEIU is looking to capitalize on merger talks between Boston Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center. The union already represents service, clerical and technical workers at BMC and hopes to gain an additional 1,000 from Tufts if the merger goes through. The union has already sent a letter to both organizations asking them “to commit to supporting workers’ rights to organize.”

Link & Comments


Sticky Fingers

prisonerCurrent charges or sentences of embezzling union officials:

  • Henry Mayer – NALC:  Unspecified
  • Curtis Bullick – AFGE:  Unspecified
  • Nathan McCallister – BLET:  $1,000
  • Elmer Ray Booker – ILA:  $42,000
  • Thomas Wolfer – CWA:  Unspecified
  • Timothy Sanchez – AFGE:  $51,000
  • Michael Trembulak – UWUA:  $31,528
  • John Veterly Jr. – UWUA:  $26,605
  • Juan “Alex” Cedeno – USW:  $90,000
  • Stephanie Hicks – AFGE:  $132,000
  • Gregory Hill & Danny Rawls – UAW:  $12,000
  • Henry Shuler – UTU:  Unspecified



Labor Relations INK is published semi-weekly and is edited by Labor Relations Institute, Inc. Feel free to pass this newsletter on to anyone you think might enjoy it. New subscribers can sign up by visiting:


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Contributing editors for this issue: Phillip Wilson, Greg Kittinger, and Meghan Jones

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