Labor Relations Insight

by Phil Wilson Should union organizing be a civil right?

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis (not that John Lewis, but still) think it’s an idea whose time has come.

Ellison and Lewis recently proposed the Employee Empowerment Act. The idea is that union organizing should be treated as a civil right, like the right to be free from discrimination based on race, sex, or religion. The proposed legislation simply allows any employee alleging an unfair labor practice against an employer to bring a discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

This proposed legislation combats what unions have argued for years is the main problem with US labor law. They say it lacks teeth because it is simply a remedial statute. Instead they think employees should be able to go get a lawyer and sue for things like punitive damages. The argument goes that if employers

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Union Bailout Update

Schiffer 300x168 Union Bailout UpdateLooks like the NLRB may not suffer an extended gridlock at the end of Nancy Schiffer’s term. President Obama teed up Sharon Block as her replacement, and last week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved her, all but assuring her confirmation to the post. The execution may be a bit tricky, as the Democrats seem loathe to bring the issue to a vote prior to the November elections, not wanting to give the Republicans any useable ammunition prior to that contest. However, Schiffer’s term expires in December, so there may be a tight window to push her confirmation through in time to prevent the board experiencing at least some period of gridlock.

Strategy Rising

What does the increase in wage-hour and related class actions, immigration and national origin complaints, and OSHA safety-and-whistleblower investigations all have in common? If you look behind the scenes, they are part of an “embarrassment strategy” being employed by Big Labor to bully companies into recognizing unions, or at least submit to neutrality.

The strategy includes creation of third-party coalitions, financing “studies” designed to “expose” company practices, and attacking the customers of the company. Look for such terms as “environmental racism,” “living wage,” “subcontractor safety,” and “mistreatment of overseas workers.” If you see this rhetoric rising, an embarrassment campaign is underway!

megaphone Strategy Rising

It Pays To Fight Back

The New York State Nurses Association threw in the towel in a recent attempt to organize 250 RNs at a New York hospital, even though they said they had the support of a “majority” of nurses. What caused them to turn tail? Apparently, hospital management decided to stand up for employee rights, distributing information about the realities of unions and union life and holding one-on-one meetings with the nurses.

As usual, the union cried “foul,” but St. Mary’s President and CEO Vic Giulianelli stated that the hospital simply “provided accurate, factual and verifiable information to enable our RNs to make an informed decision as to whether it is in their best interests to have NYSNA serve as their sole and exclusive representative.”

Teamster Beat

Four years ago the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power invested in power nodes at three busy filming locations around the city in an effort to help production companies save on the costs of electricity. The idea is that rather than “renting expensive, exhaust-spewing diesel generators to run their lights and equipment,” the companies can run their cables into essentially a giant electrical socket. The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development promoted the nodes on its website saying that using the nodes “reduces greenhouse gas emissions, production costs and intrusion in the general public’s right of way. And it’s just one way we’re making a commitment to our signature industry.”

Too bad the nodes aren’t actually being used. Why? Because the Teamsters are worried that if these nodes are successful, IBT members who run the generators will be put out of a job. When asked for a

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Want My Cake and Eat It Too

Big Labor continues to pad the nests of its executives, lined with union dues extracted from members, even while trying to convince America that they are fighting for the “little guy.” Nope. They are fighting for themselves.

Union officials lived even higher on the hog than the prior year, with an increase to 472 officials and employees who broke the $250,000 annual salary threshold for fiscal year 2013 (up from 428 in FY2012). These figures do not include retirement or insurance benefits, also funded by the dues of working folks.

In the partial chart below, we deleted from the list those union executives in the sports and entertainment fields, and then grouped by union.

salarytable Want My Cake and Eat It Too

Big Hissy Fit

cwa logo Big Hissy FitAfter four months of fruitless negotiations with the Communication Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, FairPoint Communications Inc. has declared an impasse to which the unions responded with a “red meat” rally in Portland, Maine.

“We’ve been at the bargaining table since April. When the unions say they want FairPoint to come back, what they really mean is that they want FairPoint to abandon its final positions on issues that are critical to the future of the company. This we won’t do,” FairPoint spokeswoman, Angelynne Amores Beaudry said.

The positions she is referring to are financial ones. In 2007, FairPoint purchased Verizon’s northern New England landline business – a decision that inevitably led to a declaration of bankruptcy in 2011. Since then, the company continues to struggle to regain the financial

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From Hole in My Pocket to Politicians Pockets

pocket 300x260 From Hole in My Pocket to Politicians PocketsIt is very difficult to pin down a union on the question of how much of the money it extracts from members via dues is actually used for representational purposes versus political or other purposes. As a result of a recent Beck rights charge filed against the UAW by the National Right To Work Foundation on behalf of a UAW employee, Todd Lemire, the union reimbursed Lemire $98 for three months worth of dues withholdings. That is all the union would concede anyway.

So over $32 per month, every month, is coming out of employee paychecks at this Ford plant in Dearborn, and heading right to politicians pockets. At a 5% return over 20 years, that monthly amount could provide a $13,153.08 nest egg. That seems to be money much better spent!

Whistlin' Dixie

mcmillan Whistlin DixieMaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, recently wrote an article for paralleling the labor activity in the South to an evangelical movement. No, really.

“Labor leaders together with clergy are claiming the moral high ground for economic justice. We’re opening the doors to all workers. And we’re spreading the good news far and wide: Together we can create an economy that works for everyone – not just the rich.”

Seems ironic to say things like that when the leaders of the labor movement…excuse me, leaders of this revival… are people like Dave Regan – far from shining examples of morality. Additionally, one can’t help but wonder what South she is looking at. Yes, there has been some success – the Auto Workers organizing 650 hourly workers at the IC Bus factory in Tulsa,

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Union Dues Hard At Work

costliest coffee maker 300x244 Union Dues Hard At WorkUnion members pay dues for representation – plain and simple. Ask any union member how they justify their monthly dues payment and they will say just that.

The sad fact though is that the money these hardworking people give to their union to represent them is spent on luxury items, accommodations, and overly-inflated salaries for the union higher-ups; and in Hollywood, it’s spent on partying.

“Altogether, industry unions spent more than $2 million partying in 2013, according to LM-2 financial reports they filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.”

Don’t get us wrong, dinner parties, luncheons, retreats, and holiday get-togethers are wonderful ways for any organization to show appreciation to employees, but $36,000 on floral arrangements and $103,500 on gourmet coffee is a bit ridiculous.