In this issue:
- Make It Go Away
- AFL-CIO Skews the Facts
- Union Money Shell Game
- Fight For $15
- Insight, Scoreboard, Sticky Fingers and more…
The bottom of each story contains a link to the individual post on our site.
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 “by August recess.” Which is just in time for Phil Miscimarra’s seat to expire around 3 months later. Hopefully he will be re-nominated and accept, but there is a reasonable possibility that the first year of the Trump administration will end up with a split NLRB and without a General Counsel. And that is a crime.
Whenever a Republican majority Board is finally seated they have the Sisyphean task of reversing nearly a decade of aggressively pro-union NLRB decisions. That takes time. It’s not like the NLRB just waves a magic wand and labor law goes back to where it was for most of the 75 years before. Every single issue must be re-litigated and brought up before the Board for consideration. And the employees in the agency – the “deep Board” so to speak – know how to slow play cases that they don’t want changed.
The Republican Board members can push for decisions to get made, but the Democrat members (and even some of the staffers for Republican members) are going to go into the four-corners defense. They can sit on opinions, look for procedural ways to throw refrigerators on the tracks, and even encourage cases to go away without a Board decision.
Bottom line: If you are a bureaucrat living in a world where it is a possibility that the party in power might not be around that long, your best strategy is sloth. And that’s something bureaucrats can handle.
We’ve finally got two terrific nominees to get the Board up to full strength (although I wish this one was heading to Washington too). I am begging the Senate to push these nominations through right away. And the administration needs to get the next General Counsel (and hopefully a re-nomination of Miscimarra) off to the Senate as well. There is no time to lose.
Union Bailout Update
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 policy counsel for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. William Emanuel is a management-side lawyer at Littler Mendelson. Confirmation of the appointments would give the NLRB a Republican majority.
The administration hopes to have the appointments confirmed prior to the August recess. It is expected, or at least hoped, that a board with a Republican majority and a business-friendly Labor Secretary will unravel some of the Obama administration’s mischief, including the micro-unit ruling of Speciality Healthcare and the DOL’s persuader rule.
On the bright side, the board decided not to use rule-making authority to reverse a 2004 board decision to disallow Weingarten rights for non-union employees.
A New York City newly enacted law to keep an eye on is the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act. Effective as of May 15, the law regulates the hiring and payment of contractors. Written contracts and timely payment are the two main requirements of the law. Watch for this to spread to other states.
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.
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. Just look at Fight for $15.
Speaking of, it was recently pointed out that Fast Food Justice, “a nonprofit worker center that advocates on behalf of low wage workers,” shares an office with SEIU 32BJ. Now of course we’ve known SEIU was backing a lot of these worker centers, it’s just interesting to see that the organizations themselves appear to be less and less concerned with keeping up the “we’re two separate entities” approach, especially as they attempt to pass the Fast-Food Worker Empowerment Act.
This bill would “require employers to honor workers’ requests to deduct voluntary contributions from their paycheck to a not-for-profit organization” or (as we would suspect is likely) unions fronting as not-for-profit organizations.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Mary Kay Henry placed SEIU Nevada under a trusteeship. And now the International is being sued by a member of the local who believes this takeover of local operations “was done fraudulently.”
In keeping with the theme of transparency, SEIU Local 503 recently changed its corporate status to no longer be considered a nonprofit by Oregon state laws. This means that they no longer have to hold annual meetings with their members, nor do they have to release their membership information to the members.
Last week, a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Staff attorney argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of Illinois home care providers. The home health care providers are attempting to retrieve the money SEIU took from them in the years leading up to the Harris v. Quinn decision in 2014.
And in an entertaining side note: last month a group of SEIU protesters did their protesting on the wrong person’s lawn. The group thought they were set up outside their Congressman’s home, but they weren’t – a fact that was pointed out to them multiple times by the neighbors. The police were forced to remove the protestors from the neighborhood, along with the coffin they brought with them (for dramatic effect of course).
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 this is because the union expected to lose. Had they lost, they would have had to wait a year before holding another election. Come to find out, it was a former SEIU member leading the charge against unionization of resident advisors. Click here to read his thoughts on SEIU’s organizing effort.
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.
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.
Finally, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the company spoke out last week against allegations made by UAW officials about the safety of working conditions at the company’s Fremont factory.
Labor Around the World
Protection contracts are “agreements negotiated between a company and a union that doesn’t legitimately represent workers.”
This is because they’re negotiated with no input from workers at all. It’s all about the union and the company cutting a deal with each other. Often, these arrangements are made before a shop is even open for business – as is the case with a Mexican BMW plant and the country’s largest union confederation, Trabajadores de Mexico. When the shop opens next year, there’s a good chance most workers won’t even know they belong to a union.
Protection contracts are illegal in the U.S.
Child labor is much worse in Turkey than the government’s official data would like people to believe. Last year, the government put the number at 709,000 children under the age of 18 working in various industries. However, a recent report from the Turkish union workers puts that number at nearly 2 million. Much of this labor is happening in the country’s Kurdish southeast. 56 child workers died at workplaces in Kurdish cities last year.
American labor unions aren’t the only ones struggling to keep their pension funds solvent. Public pensions for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are scheduled to run out of money as early as July, leading the municipality to file the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The pension fund will owe retirees and creditors approximately $123 billion. It appears Puerto Rico is prioritizing payment to bondholders over the workers.
Venezuelans have been protesting the government for 50 days as of this last Monday. The day was marked with demonstrations, violence, and a rising death toll. More than 950 people have been injured since the protests began. For an interesting take on how unions are tied to this movement in Venezuela, and in Cuba, check out this article.
Current charges or sentences of embezzling union officials:
- Jay Roy – SMART: $101,019
- Jeni May Hughes – UAPP: $400,000
- Curtis Lang – UDW: $45,040
- Thomas Miller – BLET: $10,686
- Ray C. Ventrone – IBB: $1,500,000
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.
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Contributing editors for this issue: Phillip Wilson, Greg Kittinger, and Meghan Jones
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