Obama administration to change rules so unions never lose another election
By Michael Dorstewitz, April 22, 2014, BizPac Review
After Tennessee Volkswagen plant employees handed the United Auto Workers a huge defeat in voting against unionization in February, the Obama administration has decided to change the rules to make sure that never happens again. Two proposed National Labor Relations Board rule changes could deliver what one observer called “ambush elections,” according to The Daily Caller. One change would allow a union election to be held 10 days after a petition is filed, allowing unions to employ blitzkrieg tactics in an all-out assault to win employees’ votes, without providing time for dispassionate debate and reflection. The other rule change would require the company to turn over employees’ names, addresses, phone numbers and working hours to union officials, giving the unions all they need to carry out their assault. Those close to the situation expect the new rules to pass, according to The Caller. (read article)

Taxpayer tab: $961,000 and counting to defend Act 10
By M.D. Kittle, April 22, 2014, Watchdog
That’s the price tag to date Wisconsin taxpayers have paid to outside special counsel in defense of Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law reforming public-sector labor union collective bargaining in the state. The tally is considerably higher, when factoring in the man hours and dedicated resources of the state Department of Justice, perhaps running into the millions of dollars, according to one legal expert. But a precise accounting is difficult because the DOJ hasn’t tallied the legal costs directly associated with the defense of Act 10. The state’s cost for special counsel, paid to Madison-based law firm Michael Best & Friedrich for about two years of service, was $961,035.61, according to contracts released by the governor’s office last year. (read article)

U.A.W. Drops Appeal of VW Vote in Tennessee
By Steven Greenhouse, April 21, 2014, New York Times
The United Automobile Workers union unexpectedly announced on Monday that it was dropping its effort to have a new unionization vote ordered at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The union lost a vote at the plant in February, 712 to 626, and soon afterward it asked the National Labor Relations Board to order a new election, asserting that anti-union statements and threats by Tennessee lawmakers had prevented a fair election. Bob King, the U.A.W.’s president, said his union was withdrawing its appeal based on the belief that the labor board’s adjudication process “could drag on for months or even years.” The vote was a major defeat for the U.A.W. because Volkswagen, unlike most American companies faced with unionization drives, did not even oppose the effort. If the union had won the vote, the plant would have become the first foreign-owned auto factory in the South to be unionized, and many said it could pave the way to unionizing the Daimler-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., and the BMW plant in Spartanburg, S.C. (read article)

Rhode Island’s Pension Lesson
Editorial, April 21, 2014, Wall Street Journal
Democrat Gina Raimondo ought to be a public hero in Rhode Island, but she continues to get an education in the politics of public unions. They have now scuttled a legal settlement that would have protected part of her landmark pension reform. Readers may recall how Ms. Raimondo in 2011 quarterbacked arguably the country’s boldest pension reforms and slashed the state’s unfunded liability by nearly half. The legislation froze current workers’ accrued benefits, suspended retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments, raised the retirement age, and replaced unsustainable defined-benefit pensions with hybrid plans that include a modest annuity and a 401(k)-style component. Public unions sued and drew a lucky hand when labor-friendly Judge Sarah Taft-Carter got the case in 2012. Ruling that pensions constitute “an implied contract” that could not unilaterally be impaired, the judge ordered the state and unions into federal mediation. In February, Ms. Raimondo and Governor Lincoln Chafee announced a deal with labor leaders to avert a trial. The proposed settlement maintained most of the reform’s structure but reduced the retirement age to 65 from 67 and allowed employees who have worked at least 20 years to keep their defined-benefit pensions. Public-safety workers were exempt from the hybrid plans but had their retirement age reduced to 50 from 55 and contributions increased by 2% of pay. Support from a majority of the legislature and each of the six classes of litigants was necessary to seal the deal. (read article)

Union Demands Deportation Exemption: These Workers Should Report Unsafe Conditions
By Tim Devaney, April 21, 2014, Fox News
The AFL-CIO, one of the nation’s most powerful labor unions, is calling on the Obama administration to give illegal immigrants a repreive from deportation proceedings, in order to encourage these immigrants to report unsafe working conditions and other workplace violations. In a series of immigration policy recommendations released Monday, the group said many illegal immigrants do not report dangerous working conditions and unpaid wages because they are afraid they will be deported. To remedy this, the AFL-CIO called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant low-priority illegal immigrants affirmative relief from deportation and work authorization, so they will not be afraid to report misconduct. The labor organization said this would stop employers and landlords from playing the so-called “deportation card,” where they threaten to report illegal immigrants to Homeland Security if they complain about poor working or living conditions. (read article)

Labor Union Blasts Obama Admin on Keystone: ‘Politics at Its Worst’
By Josh Encinias, April 21, 2014, National Review
The president of a major labor union called President Obama’s latest delay of the Keystone XL pipeline “politics at its worst” and “another low blow” to American workers. “In another gutless move, the [Obama] Administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process — and which has nothing to with the national interest,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said in a statement today. “This certainly is no example of profiles in courage,” O’Sullivan said. The State Department announced on Friday that the decision would effectively be delayed until after this fall’s midterm elections. (read article)

Fracking Foes Cringe as Unions Back Drilling Boom
By Kevin Begos, April 20, 2014, Associated Press
After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they’re now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom. That vocal support from blue-collar workers complicates efforts by environmentalists to limit the drilling process known as fracking. “The shale became a lifesaver and a lifeline for a lot of working families,” said Dennis Martire, the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Laborers’ International Union, or LIUNA, which represents workers in numerous construction trades. Martire said that as huge quantities of natural gas were extracted from the vast shale reserves over the last five years, union work on large pipeline jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia has increased significantly. In 2008, LIUNA members worked about 400,000 hours on such jobs; by 2012, that had risen to 5.7 million hours. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says total employment in the nation’s oil and gas industry rose from about 120,000 in early 2004 to about 208,000 last month. Less than 10 percent of full-time oil and gas industry workers are represented by unions. (read article)

The decline of labor unions and the rise of the minimum wage
By Jake Rosenfeld, April 21, 2014, Seattle Times
In February, a bitterly divided local Machinists union at Boeing narrowly voted to accept the company’s contract extension to build new 777X airplanes. Despite record profits for the firm, the new contract called for significant increases in workers’ health-care contributions, a radical revamping of the pension plan and modest wage increases for the next decade. The Boeing dispute serves as a stark reminder of organized labor’s broader plight. In today’s America, there is nothing big about labor. The unionization rate has dropped to levels last seen a century ago — a time when labor did not have the right to collective bargaining. At the labor movement’s peak in the middle of the 20th century, more than one out of three workers in the private sector belonged to a union. Today the ratio is roughly one in 20. (read article)

Obama admin wants to require companies to give workers’ numbers, addresses to unions before labor elections
By Patrick Howley, April 21, 2014, Daily Caller
The Obama administration is poised to change regulations to allow for union “ambush elections” in which workers have less time to decide whether or not to join a union — and in which workers’ phone numbers and home addresses are provided to unions. The administration’s National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) proposed rules would allow for union elections — in which workers at a company vote whether or not to unionize — to be held 10 days after a petition is filed. And what, exactly, would be happening to the unions during those 10 days? The new rules require employers to disclose workers’ personal information, including phone numbers, home addresses, and information about when they work their shifts. Insiders close to the situation believe the new rules will almost certainly go into effect with few or no fundamental changes. (read article)

Unions in R.I. oppose democratic ideals
By Richard Berman, April 21, 2014, Providence Journal
This month’s Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission struck down federal limits on the total amount individuals can contribute to combinations of federal candidates and parties during a two-year election cycle. Predictably, it unleashed a raft of criticism from labor unions. But a comparison of their rhetoric to reality shows a little introspection is warranted before they call the kettle black. In the hours after McCutcheon was announced, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, “The Supreme Court made one of the most undemocratic and corrosive decisions in history with the Citizen’s United [sic] ruling. Today, it has dangerously broadened its skewed view of money in politics.” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, also took the opportunity to blast the court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, adding McCutcheon “is a disappointing opinion that puts the underlying values of our democratic system at risk.” What Trumka and Henry leave out of their critiques is that while Citizens United did enable corporations to make unlimited independent political expenditures, it also let labor unions do precisely the same. (read article)

After early woes, unions back drilling
April 21, 2014, Associated Press
After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they’re now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom. That vocal support from blue-collar workers complicates efforts by environmentalists to limit the drilling process known as fracking. “The shale became a lifesaver and a lifeline for a lot of working families,” said Dennis Martire, the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Laborers’ International Union, or LIUNA, which represents workers in numerous construction trades. Martire said that as huge quantities of natural gas were extracted from the vast shale reserves over the last five years, union work on large pipeline jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia has increased significantly. In 2008, LIUNA members worked about 400,000 hours on such jobs; by 2012, that had risen to 5.7 million hours. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says total employment in the nation’s oil and gas industry rose from about 120,000 in early 2004 to about 208,000 last month. Less than 10 percent of full-time oil and gas industry workers are represented by unions. (read article)

Pennsylvania labor dispute law change runs into opposition
April 20, 2014, Philadelphia Times-Union
A proposal to change Pennsylvania law regarding stalking and harassment in labor disputes is generating a dispute among Republicans in the state Legislature. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that House Republicans are objecting to changes made in the state Senate on a bill designed to address issues raised by the arrest of union leaders on federal racketeering charges. The paper says the conflict involves language added in the Senate that would protect activity authorized under federal law and the Pennsylvania Constitution. (read article)

Stakes high as NLRB hearing on VW union vote in Chattanooga looms
By Mike Pare, April 20th, 2014, Times Free Press
A plant’s future. A union’s survival. A company’s goal to be No. 1. A city’s place in the automotive world. Much is at stake Monday, observers say, when a federal agency kicks off a hearing in Chattanooga on the United Auto Workers’ effort to hold another vote to organize the city’s Volkswagen plant. “It will basically dictate the future of labor relationships in the area,” said Jesse Toprak, chief analyst for Cars.com. “It will set a precedent for working conditions for thousands in the area. It’s certainly a critical decision.” An administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board is to hear testimony and arguments at the Hamilton County Courthouse starting at 9 a.m. Monday. The union alleges that third-party groups and Republican politicians colluded to interfere with the February election at the plant and tainted the vote. (read article)

A Bipartisan Bailout for Detroit’s Unions
Shikha Dalmia, April 18, 2014, Reason
If there is an organizing principle in Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement, it is that those at the forefront of fleecing the Labor.UnionLibraryOfCongress.Fotercity will get the sweetest deal and the innocent victims will get the shaft. How else to interpret the recent efforts by both the Democratic White House and the Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to look for ever-more creative ways to handover taxpayer money to city retirees, I ask in my morning column at the Washington Examiner? “Detroit is facing such a huge hole because, thanks to union opposition, it adopted none of the sound pension management practices that the rest of the civilized world embraced—while inventing many unsound ones of its own.” However, instead of reforming these practices, the deal that Emergency Manager Keyvn Orr negotiated bails out the unions. (read article)

Labor Union Political Committees Contribute Heavily in March
By Kent Cooper, April 18, 2014, Roll Call
The political committees of several national labor organizations moved large amounts of political contributions to federal candidates and committees during March, according to early reports. The American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education reported contributing $898,000 to federal candidates and committees. This included $250,000 to the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC, and $100,000 to the House Majority PAC, another super PAC. They also made a non-federal contribution of $300,000 to the Democratic Governors Association. The Carpenters Legislative Improvement Committee, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners reported contributing $336,000 in March. D.R.I.V.E., the PAC of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, reported it gave $269,000 to federal candidates and committees. In non-federal contributions, they gave $200,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, and $200,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association. (read article)

Labor Fascism in Chattanooga
By Matthew Vadum, April 18, 2014, American Thinker
As the labor movement tells the story, two months ago, the silly, ungrateful Volkswagen factory workers in Tennessee foolishly rejected the generous invitation of the company and the United Auto Workers to welcome the Detroit-killing union with open arms. In an election supervised by the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the workers in VW’s Chattanooga plant rejected UAW representation by a vote of 712 to 626. Amazingly, the UAW and the automaker both refuse to take the workers’ “no” for an answer. The two sides are acting in unison to overturn the democratically expressed will of the workers. Nullifying an election by fiat with the collusion of corporate management and organized labor is something we would expect to see in a nation dominated by fascism, a dangerous foreign ideology embraced by President Obama and the so-called progressives of the early twentieth century and today. (read article)

Labor union attorney seeks Detroit pension commitment
April 18, 2014, WHTC Michigan
A labor union attorney wants a state of Michigan commitment to funding for a so-called Detroit bankruptcy grand bargain before retirees vote on pension fund settlements. A proposal would pair 350-million dollars in tobacco settlement money with similar private foundation contributions to support the two funds and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts from creditors. Sharon Levine with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says former city workers would be hit hard if the money doesn’t materialize. Levine made her argument Thursday in front of Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes. (read article)

U.S. Chamber says non-union groups could reshape labor relations
Amanda Becker, April 16, 2014, Reuters
The biggest U.S. business lobbying group is warning the nation’s employers that labor relations could be reshaped by non-union labor groups that are backing high-profile efforts to raise wages and mandate paid sick leave. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted trade association representatives, labor consultants, attorneys and political staffers on Wednesday for a briefing on “worker centers” as partners and sometimes replacements of traditional labor unions. “Unions have come to view worker centers as critical to their long-term future,” said Glenn Spencer of the chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative. The term “worker center” is a catch-all used to describe everything from community organizations that provide job training and other services to formal labor union affiliates. (read article)

Mississippi governor signs 3 bills placing limits on labor union activities
By Emily Wagster Pettus, April 16, 2014, The Republic
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday signed three bills to limit union activities in Mississippi, saying he hopes they strengthen the state’s reputation as a place where organized labor has little influence. “Just to be blunt about it: We just don’t want unions involved in our businesses or our public sector,” Bryant told reporters after he signed the bills, which become law July 1. Mississippi AFL-CIO president Robert Shaffer said in March that the bills will hurt low-wage workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 3.7 percent of Mississippi workers were union members in 2013, the most recent number available. That’s one of the lowest rates in the nation. House Speaker Philip Gunn, three other Republican lawmakers, a lobbyist and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative posed for pictures with Bryant as he signed the bills in his Capitol office. Senate Bill 2473 makes it illegal to coerce a business into staying neutral in a union drive. It also says any decision by workers to unionize must be done by secret ballot. (read article)

Downtown Las Vegas unions show force as contract talks continue
By David Ferrara, April 18, 2014, Las Vegas Review Journal
In the past few weeks, the Culinary and Bartenders unions have authorized a strike, signed up thousands of workers for strike benefits and even spent hours picketing in front of 10 downtown Las Vegas casinos. The show of force is a strong bargaining chip for the unions as they negotiate new contracts, labor experts say, particularly because it comes from the largest organized group of workers in Sin City. “That’s kind of like lining up your troops on the border,” said Bill Werner, an associate professor of labor relations and employment law at UNLV. “It’s not an act of war, but it’s an act of preparation for war.” All of this has taken place between shifts for some of Fremont Street’s most integral workers. On Wednesday, the tactics resulted in a five-year contract deal with the Golden Nugget, which employs 1,200 union workers, but thousands more casino employees are working under expired contracts. At the crux of the more than year-and-a-half-long negotiations is the Culinary union’s health and welfare plan. While they have co-pays and deductibles, workers don’t pay health insurance premiums, arguably the union’s biggest selling point. Companies contribute to a health fund for every hour employees work, similar to a pension. (read article)

Union: Northwestern’s position in student labor case ‘castle built on sand’
By Alejandra Cancino, April 16, 2014, Chicago Tribune
The union seeking to represent football players at Northwestern University called the school’s position in the case “a castle built on sand” in a document filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday. The document was filed in response to Northwestern’s appeal of the regional director’s ruling last month that cleared the way for players to vote on April 25 on whether they want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association. To prevail, the majority of scholarship players voting would have to side with the union. The election could be delayed if the board accepts Northwestern’s appeal before April 25, but that’s unlikely. After the election takes place, the ballots will remain secret until the board makes a final decision on the appeal. The issue eventually could be resolved in federal court. In its appeal, which is formally known as a request for review, Northwestern argued that the regional director, Peter Sung Ohr, mischaracterized, slanted and ignored relevant facts, such as the evidence of Northwestern’s primary commitment to education of all of its student-athletes. (read article)

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