Labor Relations Insight by Phillip Wilson

Bankrolling Corporate Campaigns

Unions often launch corporate campaigns against companies as a loss leader. The way the process works is they pick a target company or industry and then start looking for potential areas to attack. For example, unions often file nuisance lawsuits or shareholder actions in the hope of eventually organizing new dues-paying members. But they know that their odds of success in these “outside-in” campaigns aren’t great.

Yet imagine if unions could actually profit (in the short term) from launching corporate campaigns against employers? Scary thought, huh? Well, a recent New York Times article outlines exactly how that could work.

A new billion dollar industry in bankrolling lawsuits has emerged over the last few years. Banks, hedge funds and private investors are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits including class actions and shareholder lawsuits against corporations. Their hope is

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Teamsters In Turmoil

Local 631, the largest Teamsters union in Nevada, received a letter from Teamster President James Hoffa which read in part, “Based upon credible information regarding the administration of Local Union 631, I have determined that it is necessary for me to invoke my authority … and to appoint a panel to consider whether a trusteeship should be imposed upon the local union.”

Local board members are accusing each other of political retaliation and misuse of credit cards, and many members have complained that their employment had been threatened for refusing to pledge their support to the board’s leader in future elections.

A trusteeship hearing is schedule for December 13 and 14. Among the issues cited:

• Members said grievance complaints had been denied or ignored based on their political affiliations. • The union allowed companies to use nonunion workers

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Nursing Strikes Rise

The new nurses mega-union, National Nurses United, has used strikes or strike threats this year in Maine, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota to batter hospitals to the bargaining table.

Ex-Teamster organizer Rose Ann DeMoro, the President of National Nurses United, envisions a super union of the country’s 3 million nurses. NNU is capitalizing on the angst created by current economic woes to corral nurses into its fold.

Like other Big Labor heavy-hitters, the NNU is very active on the political front as well, taking much of the credit for the loss of Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman in California, and the saving of Senator Harry Reid in Nevada.

“They have been very aggressive in legislative lobbying efforts, influencing public policy through informational picketing, and willingness to get out there and strike,” said Joanne Spetz, an economist who specializes in nursing

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Only In A Union

In an unusual twist on the concept of eminent domain (already a questionable practice), the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union is attempting to use the legal gambit to wrest assets away from their rightful owners and force a sale to former company employees.

When Esterline Technologies announced the closure of a plant in Taunton, MA, its intent was to liquidate its plant assets and move on. The union took the matter to the town council, and is pushing the council to use Eminent Domain to force Esterline to sell to a group of former employees, who desire to keep the plant open.

“Eminent domain usually involves a ‘taking,’ but this is a ‘keeping,’” said UE Eastern Region President Peter Knowlton. “We’re trying to keep a viable operation running and providing jobs.” It is an amazing corruption of the concepts of law when the object is to

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SEIU Dumps Children From Health Care Coverage

Approximately 6000 children formerly covered by the health plan of one of the largest union-administered health insurance funds in New York are being dropped from coverage. Ironically, SEIU officials blamed financial problems created by the new health care law as one of the main reasons for the drastic measure.

The new health care law was listed by Andy Stern, former head of the SEIU, as one of the top three SEIU legislative agenda items when Obama took office in 2008. This one falls into the category of “be careful what you wish for.”

Unions Flush With Six-Figure Salaries

According to research compiled by Vincent Vernuccio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Big Labor leaders are living high on the hog. Among his findings from perusing the reports filed at

• The National Education Association had 414 salaries over $100,000 in 2009 • The United Auto Workers had 538 salaries over $100,000 • The Laborers had 16 employees raking in over $250,000

Big Labor also likes nice buildings. The NEA’s Washington digs are valued at over $110 million, while the AFL-CIO abode is worth more than $90 million.

If only union members knew where their money went.

Public Unions Put On Notice

The chickens are coming home to roost in the government-monopoly union sector. As the disparity of public sector vs. private sector wages has come to light, amidst the struggle for governments at federal, state and local levels to balance their budgets, government leaders are coming down hard on unions, and public sector employees.

• Obama announced that the nations 2.7 million civilian public employees will face a wage freeze (Congressional approval required) • Washington Governor Chris Gregoire cancelled several union contracts and sent state employees back to the bargaining table. Gregoire is contending with a forecast budget shortfall of over $6 billion. • Northumberland County commissioners in Pennsylvania, facing an arbitration award in the county’s magistrates office, told the Teamsters, “I’ll see you in court.” While the county’s non-union employees are paying $108 per month for their share of health benefits costs, union employees were

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Machinists Lose Big

Delta baggage handlers voted down the IAM attempt to organize them, denying the Machinists 13,000 new members. Even though the rules had recently been changed to make it easier for unions to win, the vote still tallied in favor of keeping the union out. This was the second Delta group to defeat an organizing drive since the rule change.

This Machinist loss was followed by another from the TechOps Stores workers, denying another 700 members to the union. In all, since the Delta – Northwest merger, eight work groups representing over 41,000 workers have said “No” to union representation.

It brings a smile to one’s face to imagine the hangover Big Labor must be suffering. Go Delta!

Teamsters Muscle Toys R Us

Just in time for the Christmas rush, the Teamsters union paired up with an environmental group and released a report accusing Toys R Us of allegedly selling “toxic toys.”

The typical corporate campaign tactic includes social media attacks, such as a YouTube video and a website calling on Congress to take action. (We addressed growing use of social media tactics in the last issue of INK). The report itself contained no conclusive proof of the accusations, only fodder for press releases.

Responding to the accusations, Toys R Us stated that the toys mentioned in the report meet all federal safety requirements and are carried broadly by retailers across the country. The Toy Industry Association stood behind the retailer, calling the attack on Toys R Us part of a “toy hunting” season now in full swing.

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Jobs Unions Have Chased Out Of The U.S.

In an October speech given to the Detroit chapter of the Labor and Employee Relations Association (LERA), Teamsters President James Hoffa ticked off a list of unionized jobs that had fled the country to escape the encumbrance of Teamster and UAW contracts. Among the list:

• Mr. Coffee – 300 jobs (Teamsters) • Square D – 300 jobs (Teamsters) • Oral-B (Teamsters) • Swingline Staplers – 2000 jobs (Teamsters) • Whirlpool – 1300 jobs (UAW) • Electrolux (UAW) • Carrier Air Conditioners (not specified)

Hoffa decried the loss of a “social contract” in America, which he equated with restrictive trade policies that ignore the realities of a globalized economy. The problem with corporate America – says he – is the desire for profitability.