Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Retired labor union official lands consultant post in state Assembly
By Melanie Mason, August 11, 2015, Los Angeles Times
Willie L. Pelote Sr., a top labor union lobbyist, has quietly landed a plum consultant job in the state Assembly, not long after he announced his retirement from a powerful public employee union. Pelote stepped down in May from his post as political and legislative director for the California chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, where he had worked since 1995. California Democrats honored Pelote and his retirement from AFSCME at their convention last May, and his labor colleagues hosted various receptions to mark the occasion, including one attended by Gov. Jerry Brown. Weeks later, Pelote went back to work–this time at the Assembly as a deputy chief consultant to Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), chair of the powerful Appropriations committee. (read article)

Two Bills: One Protects Union Member Rights; The Other Protects All Of Us Against Union Violence
By George Leef, August 11, 2015, Forbes
Contemplate, if you will, these two facts. First, you’ve almost certainly heard about the videos that exposing the grisly business of Planned Parenthood (PP) in selling fetal body parts. Should Americans who think that this is a moral abomination be compelled to help fund this organization? Many union members have to “contribute” to PP. Last year, unions gave over $400,000 to PP and its political action fund. As Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk and Christa Deneault point out in this piece, the unions did not have to bother to find out whether the members whose dues funded this “generosity” approve of supporting PP or not. If they had asked, “Do you approve of having $X of your dues money go to support Planned Parenthood,” many no doubt would have said, “Absolutely not.” But due to the extraordinary power given to Big Labor under the law, the wishes of the individuals don’t matter. They can’t say “no” — unless they’re willing to quit their jobs. The second fact concerns the recent trial, conviction, and sentencing of Joseph Dougherty, long-time business manager of Ironworkers Local 401 in Philadelphia. (read article)

Cities can’t pay for union work, court says
By Howard Fisher, August 11, 2015, Arizona Daily Star
Cities can’t pay the salaries of union members or provide them with paid release time unless they actually do something to earn it, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. The judges ruled that contracts between the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association and the city violate a provision of the Arizona Constitution which prohibit the gift of public funds. Judge Randall Howe, writing for the unanimous court, said public funds were being paid out with absolutely no obligation on the officers to perform any actual duties that benefit the city. Clint Bolick, attorney for the Goldwater Institute which represented challengers, said Tuesday’s ruling, unless overturned, will have much broader implications. “It is a very common practice,” he said of these release-time provisions in contracts between unions and cities. Bolick said the decision should put an end to all that. There was no immediate response from the attorney for the union. (read article)

Progressives Love Labor Unions, Until This One Thing Happens
August 11, 2015, LaborPains.org
Liberal websites and progressive outfits—many of which receive some of the $100+ million directed from unions to the left-wing infrastructure annually—are big promoters of the union agenda. But like unions themselves, when the realities of collective bargaining are brought to their own doors, even the most pro-labor groups can bust unions in ways that make a Midwestern Republican governor blush. The latest to join the “unions for thee but not for me” trend appears to be the website Upworthy. A few months ago, we noted that the “viral content” producer (incorporated as “Cloud Tiger Media”) had received $804,000 from the AFL-CIO for “Consulting on Public Education of Labor Movement” in 2013 and 2014, according to Labor Department filings. Now, Gawker reports that the site’s owners are dissuading a union organizing effort at the company: No, we didn’t say it wouldn’t be allowed at all — Peter [Koechley] and I told our writers we support their right to form a union, and believe unions are an important force for economic equality, but that doing this now at Upworthy could come at a cost to the company in terms of our ability to raise capital. There’s quite a bit to parse there. First of all, there’s a reason that Upworthy bigwigs “didn’t say it wouldn’t be allowed at all”—that would almost certainly be found to be an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act. (read article)

Unions, Planned Parenthood Exchange Donations, Political Cash
By Bill McMorris, August 10, 2015, Washington Free Beacon
Unions received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Planned Parenthood over the past five years, while shelling out more than $1 million to the nation’s largest abortionist. Since 2011 politically powerful labor unions and Planned Parenthood have exchanged lucrative gifts for “charitable” endeavors and political advocacy. Planned Parenthood, which is in the midst of a scandal after a pro-life group released videos detailing potentially illegal organ harvesting techniques and sales, has contributed more than $350,000 to three labor unions. The largest donation went to Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the nation’s top political spenders, with nearly all of its money going to Democrats. SEIU received more than $285,000 from the group in 2011. The contribution was described as “charitable” in nature, according to federal labor filings. Two $8,500 donations by Planned Parenthood to the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, were also described as charitable. (read article)

Nurses union endorses Bernie Sanders
By Brian Mahoney, August 10, 2015, Politico
Hillary Clinton lost her first national labor endorsement Monday when the 185,000-member National Nurses United endorsed Bernie Sanders. The NNU endorsed Sanders at a “Brunch with Bernie” event at union headquarters in Oakland, California. The nurses group is the second AFL-CIO member union to issue an endorsement; the first, the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Clinton in June. The endorsement isn’t a surprise: The NNU has long been a militant outlier among labor unions. It opposed the Affordable Care Act because it wasn’t single-payer, and in 2000 its predecessor union, the California Nurses Association, endorsed Ralph Nader over Al Gore for president. At the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting last month, NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro was among Sanders’ most vigorous supporters. “We do unconventional things,” DeMoro said. The labor federation isn’t expected to endorse any 2016 contender soon, partly out of habitual caution — it seldom endorses any Democrat who isn’t already the de facto nominee — and partly, in this instance, because it wants to maximize its leverage over the front-running Clinton. The NNU’s Sanders endorsement, and any union endorsements of Sanders that may follow, will increase pressure on Clinton to conform to the AFL-CIO’s “Raising Wages” agenda. (read article)

Athletes’ Hail-Mary Bid for Union Tests U.S. Meaning of Employee
By Jim Snyder, August 10, 2015, Bloomberg
U.S. regulators are poised to decide two closely watched cases that have the potential to reshape labor laws by allowing college football players to unionize and forcing companies to take more responsibility for contractors. The National Labor Relations Board may decide the cases as soon as this week, and the prospect of change is already rankling university presidents and business leaders. One case concerns contract workers at a recycling facility who are trying to draw the owner into labor negotiations. The other would answer a petition from football players at Northwestern University seeking scholarship and medical benefits. “The history of this labor board will be written as redefining who an employee is and who an employer is,” said Michael Lotito, a management lawyer at Littler Mendelson in San Francisco, who predicts the labor board will side with the unions. “This board is as activist as any board in history.” (read article)

The Union That Rules New York
By Daniel DiSalvo, August 8, 2015, The Daily Beast
One of the many crises that overwhelmed David Paterson’s brief, hapless term as governor of New York was a surge in Medicaid costs. Every recent New York governor has tried but failed to rein in Medicaid. Yet Paterson’s opportunity to address the problem appeared promising. Government spending had to be cut during the 2009 budget cycle because of that year’s historic collapse in revenues. Accordingly, Paterson proposed $3.5 billion in cuts to the state’s Medicaid program—the second-greatest burden on New York taxpayers, after K–12 education—and sought to shift monies away from inpatient hospitals to less expensive outpatient clinics. Hospitals would have seen a revenue reduction of less than 2 percent. But Medicaid is one of the primary sources of funding for the hospitals employing workers from 1199SEIU, the powerful hospital and nursing-home employees’ union. The union responded to Paterson’s proposal with an ad blitz extraordinary in its cost—$1 million per week, for a month of television and radio spots—and viciousness. One commercial featured a blind man in a wheelchair saying, “Why are you doing this to me?” Paterson, who is blind, retreated, opting instead for tax increases and deeper cuts to other programs. The episode illustrated how far 1199SEIU will go to protect its interests. The union enjoys a reputation as New York’s most formidable organized interest, largely due to its success in thwarting almost every effort to discipline Medicaid’s runaway expenditures. (read article)

Bernie Sanders Does NOT Like Uber
By Connor D. Wolf, August 7, 2015, Daily Caller
Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders made clear Thursday his opinion on the ride sharing company Uber – he has “serious” problems with it. In an interview with Bloomberg, Sanders detailed his position on everything from trade to the importance of unions. He also made clear his opposition on one of the more well known companies in the newly emerging sharing economy. Sanders said he has “serious problems” with Uber because it is so “unregulated.” Advances in digital technologies have allowed companies like Lyft, Uber, FedEx and Airbnb to use contracting in unique ways. Known as the sharing economy, companies make digital platforms in which individuals can create their own business ventures. The sharing economy though has come under attack in recent years. Unions have been some of the more adamant rivals of it. Contracting as a whole makes it more difficult for unions to organize workers, because unions have to pursue one contractor at a time as opposed to all employees within a single workplace. (read article)

‘Quickie’ union elections yielding mixed results
By Dave Williams, August 7, 2015, Atlanta Business Journal
The federal “quickie” elections rule for labor unions is having mixed results in the early going, according to a new report from labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP. Since mid-April, unions seeking to organize workers have been allowed to hold elections within 11 days of filing a petition. Last year, before the National Labor Relations Board put the rule in place, the median number of days from petition to election was 38 days. The Fisher & Phillips analysis found that fewer elections took place during the first three months of the new rule compared to the same period last year. On the other hand, more petitions were filed from mid-April through mid-July than were filed during those months in 2014. (read article)

Walker Invokes Union Fight In First Republican 2016 Debate
By Connor D. Wolf, August 6, 2015, Daily Caller
In the first debate for 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker invoked his fight against organized labor as the reason why voters should pick him. “We took on the big government union bosses,” Walker declared in his closing statement. “And we won.” It all started in 2011 when Walker reined in union power by reforming state labor policy. The labor policy reforms were met with resistance from the most powerful national unions. The reforms, known as Act 10, significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state. It also required public unions to hold a renewal vote every couple of years to determine if workers still wanted them. (read article)

Energy secretary, Michigan unions discuss emissions plan
By David Shepardson, August 6, 2015, Detroit News
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz made an unannounced trip to Dearborn Thursday to meet with labor unions in a bid to boost employment under the White House power plant greenhouse gas reduction plan announced earlier this week. Some unions had raised concerns about the regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. After the event — which was closed to the press — the government announced the “DOE-Labor Working Group that will help unions maximize job creation as states develop their compliance plans under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan announced earlier this week.” The partnership will begin with the Utility Workers Union of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the United Steelworkers. “The partnership will provide DOE’s technical expertise and assistance to these unions and others that wish to participate on how different energy technologies and policies can best preserve and create jobs in the energy sector. Many of the options available to states in designing their state implementation plans are major job creators for America’s workers such as retrofitting coal plants to capture carbon, installing combined heat and power units in manufacturing plants, updating energy infrastructure, or installing renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment,” the Energy Department said. (read article)

Tentative Labor Pact Reached With New York Firefighters’ Union
By Al Baker, August. 6, 2015, New York Times
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a tentative agreement on Thursday with the New York City firefighters’ union for a seven-year labor pact that includes retroactive raises for firefighters, new disability pension protections and increased staffing for 20 of the Fire Department’s roughly 200 engine companies by 2019. If ratified by the more than 8,000 members of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the deal would leave just two of the 13 labor organizations for uniformed workers in the city — those representing police and correction officers — working under expired contracts. Under the deal, the average starting salary for firefighters would reach $76,670 annually by July 2017, when the pact is set to expire, Robert W. Linn, the city’s labor commissioner, said. Firefighters currently receive an average annual salary of $68,757 under a contract that expired in July 2010, he said. “The labor agreement recognizes and respects the hard work and the sacrifice and the dedication of the members of this union,” Mr. de Blasio, surrounded by city and fire officials, said at City Hall. “And at the same time,” he said, the agreement “does what we’ve said all along, over the last year and a half as our mantra: respect the work force while protecting the taxpayers.” (read article)

Rauner suggests he and Emanuel both favor curbs on unions
By Greg Hinz, August 5, 2015, Chicago Business
Gov. Bruce Rauner today suggested that he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are basically on the same page when it comes to relations with organized labor, at least in Chicago. It was a fascinating move in the governor’s campaign to isolate House Speaker Mike Madigan–and one that I suspect will draw knowing nods from labor leaders all over town. In a Springfield press conference, Rauner never once mentioned Emanuel by name, referring only to “city leaders,” “Chicago” and “Chicago Democrats.” But his thrust was clear. Specifically, Rauner said that “city leaders” have asked him to advance legislation that would require Chicago Public School teachers to begin paying an additional 7 percent of salary toward their pensions. That “employee share” has been paid by CPS under a decades-old deal with the Chicago Teachers Union and CTU doesn’t want to give it up now. “Leaders in Chicago have already come to us and asked for state help to get the pension contribution discussion out of collective bargaining and make it required,” Rauner said. “We included it at the city leaders’ request in our draft (statewide) pension reform legislation.” Similarly, the city a few years ago asked for state help in implementing Emanuel’s goal for a longer Chicago school day over CTU opposition, the governor noted. But by the same logic, Rauner continued, the Legislature and particularly Madigan’s House ought to get behind his proposals to let local jurisdictions across the state decide what to bargain and not bargain about with labor unions. (read article)

Rauner tries to leverage CPS woes into crackdown on union rights
By Monique Garcia, Juan Perez Jr. and Kim Geiger, August 5, 2015, Chicago Tribune
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday tried to use Chicago Public Schools’ money woes and lack of a new teacher contract as leverage, saying the state should not help the district pay for pension costs without also giving local governments across Illinois the ability to limit unions’ collective bargaining ability. The first-year Republican governor’s criticism was directed at a proposal passed a day earlier by Senate Democrats that would freeze property taxes statewide and pick up roughly $200 million in CPS pension costs. Rauner said that while he supported the idea of a two-year tax freeze, he could not support the Senate measure because it doesn’t contain provisions to let towns and school districts determine what benefits were covered by collective bargaining. But the fate of that legislation was in question even without Rauner’s suggested changes, given that House Speaker Michael Madigan has said the state should be cutting back on paying for local pension costs, not taking on more of the burden. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool tried to distance himself shortly after from the governor’s remarks, issuing a statement that said “mixing labor issues” into the Senate proposal wouldn’t relieve the district’s financial pressures. (read article)

Los Angeles reaches tentative labor deal with 20,000 city employees
By Peter Jamison, August 5, 2015, Los Angeles Times
y officials have reached a tentative contract agreement with the unions representing more than half Los Angeles’ civilian workforce, bringing within reach the conclusion to more than a year of tense bargaining and sharp rhetoric over public-employee pay. The deal, which must still be approved by the City Council and union members, holds the line against higher spending in key areas, deferring city workers’ raises and taking strides toward cost-saving pension reforms. Labor leaders also won concessions that Mayor Eric Garcetti had resisted. They preserved healthcare plans for which the city bears the full cost of premiums and kept in place workers’ compensation benefits that critics say encourage abuse of the system. On Wednesday afternoon, leaders of the organizations making up the Coalition of L.A. City Unions voted to recommend ratification of the proposed contract. If approved by the City Council and union members, the agreement would bring a close to talks that have dragged on through much of Garcetti’s first two years in office. (read article)

State labor board issues complaint in charter school unionization effort
By Zahira Torres, August 5, 2015, Los Angeles Times 
California’s labor oversight board has issued a complaint alleging that the largest charter school organization in Los Angeles interfered with the right of its teachers to unionize. The complaint filed by attorneys with the Public Employment Relations Board alleges that charter school leaders violated state laws by denying pro-union organizers access to school buildings after work hours, distributing documents that criticized unionization efforts and blocking emails to employees. Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and United Teachers Los Angeles, which is working with a group of educators, have been locked in a battle over efforts to unionize teachers at the charter organization. The labor board will try to mediate a settlement between the groups on Aug. 21. If an agreement is not reached, a formal hearing will be set before an administrative law judge. Alliance teachers Elana Goldbaum and Oliver Aguirre said the labor board complaint reaffirms the right of teachers to organize at the campus without fear of reprisal. “There is definitely an element of hope for me and other teachers as well that we can get a fair and neutral process so we can just have an open conversation,” Goldbaum said. (read article)

Management vs. Labor: Is the Game Rigged?
By David Macaray, August 5, 2015, The Huffington Post
Proving that the Domino Theory is alive and well, one more domino fell last week when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, that public sector employees could continue to bask in the superior wages, benefits and working conditions that their union contract provided, but weren’t required to pay their “fair share” of union dues. Not one penny of it. Previously, taking a perfectly reasonable “no freeloaders allowed” stance, the courts had ruled that workers in an agency shop (where employees aren’t required to join the union representing them) still had to pony up full or partial union dues to defray the costs of the collective bargaining process–the very process that yielded the attractive wages and benefits that caused them to seek employment in a union shop in the first place. But with the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision, that sense of fair play and “agrarian justice” has been totally blown out of the water. Not only are freeloaders no longer vilified or scorned as slimy opportunists, they’re being presented as champions, as “patriots,” as Free Market heroes. (read article)

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