Labor Day has become little more than an opportunity for union leaders to puff out their chests and make grandiose statements about the glories of organized labor.
As a way to build their brand, union leaders typically pit management against labor, portraying the worker as David fighting greedy entrepreneurs and corporate Goliaths. This is especially true on Labor Day which, courtesy of organized labor, has morphed into “Labor Union Day.”
No one is better at union puffery than American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who proclaimed on her union’s website last week, “Unions still matter.” Her Goliaths-du-jour are the Koch brothers and the Waltons, “and the politicians they’ve bought, (who) think they can paint us as the problem, and they’re doing their best to do just that.”
But there is a huge horsefly in her ointment. According to recently released numbers by the Center for Responsive Politics, half of the nation’s top organizational donors in 2014 were unions, with the National Education Association weighing in at #3 and Weingarten’s AFT at #7, while the Koch Brothers were #14. It looks like the unions have traded their slingshots for AK-47s.
Another standard union ploy is to pump themselves up by taking credit for the five-day work week and the eight hour day. But this too is fantasy. The credit for that goes to noted capitalist Henry Ford who, thinking it was a good business move, instituted that change in the 1920s. (The United Auto Workers didn’t come into being until 1935.)
The unions also make sure to take time out the first Monday of September to assure its members that without the union they would be living in Dickensian poverty. Actually there is no truth to this assertion either. Debunking various union claims, Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth cited recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data,
Unionized workers are more heavily concentrated in urban and northeast regions, where both the costs of labor and living are higher. BLS data show that 26% of New York workers belong to unions, compared to 3% of South Carolina workers. Yes, New Yorkers earn more, but a nationally averaged $100 bill buys $87 worth of goods in New York and $110 in South Carolina, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Furchtgott-Roth also points out that that union membership has been declining all over the country and this is worrying Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. So worried in fact that the White House will be convening a Summit on Worker Voice on Oct. 7 to, in Perez’s words, “highlight the value of collective bargaining.” I guess not too many workers are seeing that “value” as the share of workers belonging to unions declined from 20 percent in 1983 to 11 percent in 2014. The percent of private-sector union members is now a measly 6.6 percent and union leaders are mum on the issue. Other than worker dissatisfaction with unions, the main reason is that companies can’t bear the bloated salaries and perks that its leaders demand. As a result, unionized companies begin to lose market share to nonunionized firms and then, to stay solvent, move their manufacturing to foreign lands. Using the auto industry as an example, Furchtgott-Roth writes,
In 1987, Volkswagen closed what was then its only assembly plant in America, which was located in New Stanton, Pa. During its 10 years of operation, workers went on strike several times, halting production lines and forcing the company to pay higher wages. Volkswagen moved its production to Mexico and Brazil to take advantage of lower wage rates. Last year, auto workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., voted against joining the United Auto Workers.
My guess is that Weingarten and her cronies never came to understand the simple rudiments of capitalism. Or do they…? As Deroy Murdock points out, when unions become management, they act just like any company trying to protect its bottom line, and the hypocrisy is stunning.
- For 13 years, Jim Callaghan wrote speeches and newsletter articles for the United Federation of Teachers (Weingarten’s New York City AFT local.) He told the New York Post that when managers sacked one of his colleagues without cause, he decided to organize the UFT’s 12 in-store, non-union writers. He was fired for his efforts.
- “We’ve got to downsize,” a United Auto Workers source said. As its membership shrank from some 500,000 in 2008 to 431,000 in 2009, the union fired 120 of its own staffers “to balance its budget,” the Detroit News noted.
- Private companies often complain that union labor is too expensive and it seems that the powerful International Brotherhood of Teamsters agrees. When constructing their union hall in Houston, they refused to employ union workers because they were too costly.
I can only hope that on Labor Days to come, we celebrate the contributions of the American worker, who – along with entrepreneurs and capitalists – made the country what it is. The unions with their colossal hubris, hypocrisy and heavy-handed ways have done nothing to deserve a “Day” of their own.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.
Summary: it’s been a long, slow slide for the United Auto Workers, which hit its peak in the early 1950s. Defeated in a critical unionization election in the South and facing a critical change in state law in its home base in Michigan, the UAW has responded to the challenge by raising dues and by staying the course on policy and leadership.
Things have not gone well at Solidarity House recently, and may be getting worse.
When the headquarters of the United Auto Workers was dedicated on June 9, 1951, news accounts called it “America’s most up-to-date union headquarters . . . Streamlined and spacious but not plush, the four story brick and sandstone structure is nestled among swank hotel apartment houses overlooking the Detroit river.” It was said that the union’s “nerve center” would be “the envy of many top industry executives.” The UAW was riding high, and it seemed appropriate that the UAW headquarters’ three-acre site had once been the estate of the late Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and himself the president of Ford Motor Company.
The website Detroit1701, which celebrates the city’s history, describes the headquarters as “a very significant site, perhaps the most symbolically significant site, in the history of the labor movement in the United States. . . . Solidarity House was built in a very desirable location on Detroit’s riverfront at a time when the United Auto Workers were still celebrating their very favorable victory in a struggle with General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.”
That victory included the famous “Treaty of Detroit” with GM and favorable-to-the-UAW deals with the other automakers. Long-terms contracts protected the companies against strikes, while the union received medical insurance and improved cost-of-living adjustments at GM, employer-funded pensions at Chrysler, supplementary unemployment benefits at Ford, and other perks.
UAW membership exceeded one million, at a time when the U.S. population was 150 million. Within two years of the Solidarity House dedication, total labor union membership in the U.S. as a share of the workforce would hit an all-time high, roughly one worker in three. Back then, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in the United States, and the wealthiest.
How times have changed—for the city that’s synonymous with the U.S. automobile industry, for the auto industry itself, and for the union that was once the nation’s largest!
UAW membership peaked in 1979 at 1.5 million. In 2011, the UAW hit a modern-day low of approximately 355,000 members, and there was a slight recovery to about 391,400 in the union’s latest filings with the Department of Labor. UAW’s “annual dues collected were down more than 40 percent to $115 million from 2006 to 2012, as the union’s ranks fell by 30 percent,” reports the Associated Press. The union’s strike fund fell from roughly $1 billion in 2006 to about $627 million at latest count.
And then there’s the recent passage of a Right to Work law in Michigan. Next year, the UAW will no longer be able to get its Michigan members fired on the grounds that they haven’t paid their union dues. Some UAW members in Michigan already have rights under the new law, but the major effects of the law will occur when contracts expire with the Big Three auto companies. At that point, auto workers will finally have a choice of whether to pay UAW dues. As the contracts expire, the UAW will also face the prospect of strikes for which it may be ill-prepared.
Meanwhile, UAW members are forced to spend big on a bloated bureaucracy. Financial reports submitted to the Department of Labor show large, highly paid staffs at the national headquarters. At the national level, the UAW has 16 officers and 783 employees; fully 440 of the employees (56 percent) make six-figure salaries. In addition, 15 of the 16 officers make more than $100,000 per year.
At its recent convention, the union did eliminate one region (merging the offices in Flint and Grand Rapids) and reduce the number of vice presidents from four to three, but given the continued large overhead at the national office, those moves were seen as largely symbolic.
And headquarters overhead is not the only evidence union spending is out of control. The website LaborUnionReport noted in 2011:
According to the UAW’s financial reports, at the end of 2010, the United Auto Workers’ headquarters brought in more than $274 million from its local unions and other income, but it spent $275 million—including nearly $10.5 million on political activities and lobbying and sent over $3 million to the AFL-CIO.
Given all those factors—
- The UAW’s current low membership (down 74 percent since 1979, even as U.S. population increased more than 40 percent)
- The 37 percent decline in its strike fund
- The prospect that many autoworkers, seeing little or no benefit to union membership, will refuse to pay UAW dues—now that Michigan has a Right to Work law protecting them from being fired for making that choice
- The failure of the UAW’s massive effort to penetrate the South [about which, more below], and
- The continued presence of a huge, wasteful bureaucracy
—what big step did the UAW take at its 36th Annual Constitutional Convention in June?
Declaring the union’s first dues increase since 1967, a hike of 25 percent.
The dues increase comes at a time when members in the auto industry are split in two: current workers who make a full rate of $28 an hour with generous benefits; and entry-level “second-tier” workers who earn an initial $15.78 an hour, increasing to $19.28.
UAW officers are trying to link the two-tier system and its recent failure to expand organizing. Norwood Jewell, one of the three UAW vice presidents, told Reuters, “If we don’t organize [non-union plants in the South] and bring them up to our standard, we’re never going be able to totally eliminate the second tier [of wages].”
The union needs to replenish and renew funds to further its organizing efforts in the South. While the dues increase will raise about $45 million annually for the strike fund, the UAW is spending big on new organizing drives, using money from the strike fund and its Emergency Operations Fund. As the Michigan online news service MLive.com reported, as members approved the dues increase, they also voted
- to transfer $85 million from the “Emergency Operations Fund” to a newly created VEBA trust [Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, a trust fund for employee early retirement benefits]
- to transfer $25 million from the Strike Fund to the “International Union General Fund” in June
- to allow leaders to use up to $60 million from the Strike Fund over the next four years to support major organizing drives or other initiatives intended to increase UAW membership
- and to take other smaller financial measures related to dues
During the debate at the convention over the dues hike, UAW Local 140 President Mark Dickow claimed that “the UAW is the only organized union that has not been raised in almost 50 years.”
Actually, although the dues rate has been steady for decades, the actual dues paid by individual members have gone up. That’s because a member’s UAW dues are tied to his or her hourly pay. When a member receives a raise, dues also go up.
The new rate increase, which will take effect in August, raises the number of hours’ pay that a member must turn over to the union, from two hours of salary a month to two and a half hours per month—a 25 percent increase.
Outgoing UAW President Bob King called the argument over the vote to raise dues a “great demonstration of democracy for the UAW.” Yet the vote was taken among only the 1,100 delegates at the convention. The other 390,315 UAW members did not have a direct say. Nor was there a recorded vote at the convention. An initial voice vote was supposedly too close to call, and President King ordered a show of hands. King declared that “the ayes certainly have it.”
“I agree with the dues increase, but I don’t think it’s the time,” Rich Boyer of UAW Local 140 told MLive.com. “This membership is divided. If we increase these dues now and don’t go to the bargaining table and get significant increases in wages, we are in trouble.”
Still, the linkage between the dues hike and the two-tier pay structure is clear, admits Dennis Williams, who was elected to succeed King as UAW president. Williams told Bloomberg News, “The two-tier [wage] system will be in place until we can organize the transnationals,” that is, the automakers that operate in the U.S. but are headquartered in other countries.
Desperate to increase membership and end the bifurcated wage system, the UAW has targeted nonunion Southern auto plants. So far, though, the union has not convinced Southern autoworkers that they need the UAW as much as the UAW needs them.
Defeat in Chattanooga
The UAW’s most significant defeat in recent memory came in February at Volkswagen’s Passat plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was, some say, the UAW’s Gettysburg—its last-ditch effort to snatch a victory, an attempt whose failure makes final defeat inevitable.
If the UAW had succeeded in Chattanooga, the plant would have been the first foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the South to be organized. Most importantly for the UAW, Chattanooga would have been a beachhead to organize the booming, mostly non-unionized Southern auto industry. [For details on the union effort to penetrate the South, see the December 2013 Labor Watch.]
Four years ago, President King vowed to unionize a Southern, foreign-owned plant. Three years ago, he said that, if the UAW couldn’t break into the South, the union’s continued existence was in jeopardy. “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW,” he said. “I really don’t.”
The UAW intended to accomplish its breakthrough in the South partly by changing the rules of the game. In December 2011, the union released its “Principles for Fair Union Elections.” Chief among those Principles were card check and other provisions typical of so-called “neutrality agreements.” UAW President King threatened, if a company refused to adhere to the Principles, to “launch a global campaign to brand that company a human-rights violator.”
One of the reasons that prospects for victory were so high in Chattanooga, and the defeat so stinging, was that the company was effectively on the side of the union. On January 27, prior to the vote at the Passat plant, Volkswagen adopted a position of (supposed) neutrality with regard to the UAW. Volkswagen agreed it would not stand up for its workers who opposed joining the UAW—workers who would be outgunned by professional union organizers.
Standard neutrality agreements typically contain three main criteria for the employer:
- A gag order not to talk to their employees about unionization
- Turning over employees’ contact information to the union, including phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses
- An agreement to a card-check election, under which a union can organize the company simply by having employees sign cards indicating their support for unionization. This process replaces the standard secret ballot election procedure administered by National Labor Relations Board. It effectively eliminates the secret ballot, and can lead to deception, coercion, and intimidation of employees by union organizers.
Employers often agree to a neutrality agreement because a union has promised a benefit to the company in return, or the company may be avoiding a threat from the union. Some unions threaten damaging public relations campaigns against a company. These campaigns, known as corporate campaigns, attempt to harm an employer’s business by damaging the reputation of the company or in some cases the personal reputations of the company’s officers, all to exert pressure for the employer to sign a neutrality agreement. (For more on corporate campaigns, see the June 2013 Labor Watch.)
In the Chattanooga fight, the National Labor Relations Board was likewise effectively on the union’s side. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represented VW workers opposed to unionization, obtained several NLRB e-mails that, the Foundation claimed, brought into question the board’s impartiality regarding the card-check process during the UAW’s organizing efforts at VW.
Apparently a majority of the targeted workers had signed the cards, indicating their support for unionization. But, according to National Right to Work, “Several VW workers filed charges alleging improprieties in the UAW union hierarchy’s card-check process, including getting workers to sign union authorization cards by coercion and misrepresentation and using cards signed too long ago to be legally valid.” To sidestep this controversy, Volkswagen agreed to permit workers to have a secret ballot election, rather than simply declaring the UAW to be the workers’ representative on the basis of the cards.
VW’s accord with the UAW was called a neutrality agreement, but the company did more than simply stay neutral with regard to the prospect of the UAW unionizing its plant. National Right to Work alleged that “Some of those workers also filed a federal charge against the company alleging that statements by German VW officials are illegally coercing their fellow workers to accept UAW monopoly bargaining power over their workplace.”
The company actively assisted union organizers by filing the petition for unionization. This is very rare in labor organizing. Also, by not voicing an opinion, VW helped expedite the election, which denied workers who opposed the UAW time to effectively make their case to their coworkers.
Former NLRB board member John N. Raudabaugh told the website Real Clear Markets that he had “never seen such a quick election.” Workers opposed to the UAW faced even greater difficulty when VW kept anti-UAW employees out of the plant while letting union organizers in.
The public reason for the support of the UAW was that VW hoped to create a German-style “works council,” a joint labor-management board for governing the plant. Volkswagen Chattanooga’s CEO Frank Fischer claimed, “Our works councils are key to our success and productivity.” He said, “Our plant in Chattanooga has the opportunity to create a uniquely American works council, in which the company would be able to work cooperatively with our employees and ultimately their union representatives, if the employees decide they wish to be represented by a union.”
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed to the crossover leadership between Volkswagen and the UAW’s union counterpart in Germany, IG Metall. For example, she wrote, “the deputy chairman of Volkswagen’s German supervisory board is Berthold Huber, chairman of the powerful German labor union IG Metall.”
Peter Schaumber, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush, warned that the VW’s German-style works council may be illegal under American labor law, because the National Labor Relations Act requires
that the employer negotiate terms and conditions of employment with the workers’ union as their exclusive bargaining representative. The German model of dual representation—with an industrywide union required by law and plant-level works councils negotiating workplace terms of employment—is inconsistent with U.S. law.
Schaumber argued that the works council would have been a “company union,” which federal labor law prohibits because a union is supposed to represent workers, and if the company controls it, the union may not have the employees’ best interests at heart. That’s why President Clinton in 1996 vetoed legislation called the Team Act that would have allowed companies to form employee-management teams. The AFL-CIO commended the veto at the time: “Under the guise of ‘cooperation,’ this damaging and unnecessary piece of legislation would have given management the say-so over who speaks for workers on issues such as wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment—an unfair infringement on employee rights.”
The Chattanooga neutrality agreement included a clause assuring the German car manufacturer that “the UAW would delegate to the Works Council many of the functions and responsibilities ordinarily performed by unions as bargaining representative in the United States.” The agreement went on to state that this works council would help in “maintaining and where possible enhancing the cost advantages and other competitive advantages that [Volkswagen] enjoys relative to its competitors in the United States and North America, including but not limited to legacy automobile manufacturers.”
Workers worried that the union would endanger the plant’s viability and possibly cost them their jobs. They saw how the unions, and politicians backed by the unions, turned the wealthy city of Detroit into a ruin. They didn’t see union membership, with the accompanying dues and bureaucracy, as a good deal. And they worried that, once the union was in place, it would be very difficult to dislodge.
Once a union has successfully organized a worksite, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it, no matter how bad a job it does. That fact is clear from an amazing statistic dug up by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation: Only seven percent of private-sector union members ever voted to join their union.
In February 2014, autoworkers at the VW plant handed the UAW a bruising defeat, rejecting the union 712 to 626. The UAW compounded its embarrassment by refusing to take no for an answer and spending two months appealing the result.
No Free Speech for you!
The strongest point in the UAW’s appeal of its defeat was that opponent organizations and politicians had interfered in the election process. The UAW claimed that they had done so by speaking out against the union and making promises regarding government-provided financial incentives that the plant, like most such plants, might receive for future expansion.
The idea that labor law or the National Labor Relations Board might limit the free speech of union opponents (but not union supporters) may seem farfetched, but the UAW is correct that employers are strictly limited in what they can say to employees during union organizing election campaigns.
Federal labor law limits an employer’s Free Speech rights after a union files a petition with the NLRB for an election. The law prohibits an employer from threatening, interrogating, promising, or spying on their employees during this time. These actions are known by the acronym “TIPS.” (Employers can tell their employees what they think unionization would do as long as they do not violate the TIPS restrictions.)
Unions, on the other hand, violate the law only if they verbally threaten or physically assault a worker. In 1996, the NLRB in the case of HCF, Inc. d/b/a Shawnee Manor deemed even threats to be legal if a third party does the threatening on behalf of the union.
Claiming that “interference by politicians and outside special interest groups” skewed the vote, the UAW asked the National Labor Relations Board to throw out the election results. UAW President King complained publicly that the anti-union efforts were coordinated, saying “Whether it was the Koch brothers or it was Grover Norquist or it was Senator [Bob] Corker [R-Tenn.], Governor [Bill] Haslam [R-Tenn.], the leaders of the legislature—all make threats against voting ‘yes’ and promises if people voted ‘no.’” (Norquist is a prominent taxpayer advocate in Washington, D.C., and the Koch brothers are philanthropists who give money to charities and pro-liberty organizations.)
Outside groups and sympathetic politicians did indeed try to educate workers on what would happen if the UAW organized the Chattanooga plant. They were concerned that, because Volkswagen sided with the union, workers would not otherwise hear both sides of the story.
During the NLRB appeal, Senator Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, asked the NLRB to “understand and realize the magnitude of what they are going to be deciding and in no way try to muzzle public officials who are community leaders from expressing their point of view.”
The union thought it had a smoking gun when documents leaked to a local TV station showed the Governor had promised $300 million in economic incentives if “works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW [were] concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” Governor Haslam responded that the documents weren’t “a threat at all. It was just a statement of reality” and that “any incentive deal that we do has to be approved by the Legislature. And we had that discussion with them all along, that it was going to be much, much more difficult if the union vote happened.”
During the preparation for the NLRB appeal hearing, the UAW sent a wave of subpoenas to those it felt had interfered with the vote. Recipients included Haslam, Corker, and 18 other officials. The UAW went so far as to subpoena an intern working at Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform. The union demanded all written communications and other documents concerning the union in the weeks before the vote.
Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper fought the subpoenas aimed at Governor Haslam, noting that the requests were “overly broad, unduly burdensome, and seek information that is not relevant or material to the matter under investigation or in question in the proceedings.”
On April 21, though, as participants in the case were gathered in a courtroom in Chattanooga, the UAW sounded retreat. Reuters reported:
The United Auto Workers, surprising even its supporters, on Monday [April 21] abruptly withdrew its legal challenge to a union organizing vote that it lost at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee in February.
Just an hour before the start of a National Labor Relations Board hearing on the challenge, the union dropped its case, casting a cloud over its long and still unsuccessful push to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the U.S. South.
VW workers due to testify at the hearing were already at the courthouse in downtown Chattanooga when they heard the news, which left lawyers in the hearing room wondering how to proceed.
The union did not explain why it waited until the 11th hour to drop the case, but UAW official Gary Casteel said the decision not to go ahead was made last week. That was when Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee, and Washington small government activist Grover Norquist said they would ignore subpoenas to attend the hearing, which was to have focused partly on their conduct in the days leading up to the plant workers vote.
“It became obvious to us that they were going to become objectionists and not allow the process to go forward in a transparent way. When that happens, these things can drag on for years,” Casteel said in an interview.
If, in fact, the decision to drop the appeal was made the previous week, the timing of the withdrawal was strange. Lawyers and others working on the case—including, apparently, those on the UAW’s side—had worked over the Easter holidays to prepare for the hearing that never occurred.
The UAW’s decision to drop the appeal did not end the matter. Two left-wing members of Congress, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.) launched their own inquiry into whether “outsiders” tainted the election. The day the UAW withdrew the suit, King said, “Frankly, Congress is a more effective venue for publicly examining the now well-documented threat,” he said.
Governor Haslam responded to the Miller/Tierney inquiry by noting sardonically that “we got a letter from two Democratic congressmen who are minority members of the House, so…” At that point, the Governor shrugged dismissively.
Bob King: a legacy of failure
Bob King won the UAW presidency four years ago with 97 percent of the vote. He left the union in worse shape than he found it. Some events were set in motion long before his time as president, such as the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler and the two-tier wage system (he was at the negotiating table as a vice president when it was negotiated, but he was not president). Still, King did preside over disastrous failures of his own making.
One of the key strategists in the fight against the UAW in Chattanooga was Matt Patterson, a former editor of Labor Watch and now executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom (an affiliate of Americans for Tax Reform). Patterson noted in an op-ed that “The UAW spent an estimated $5 million in its two-year campaign to organize the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The union lost. . . . Was that a wise way to spend its members’ money? Even if the union had won in Chattanooga, how would that have profited its members in Detroit?”
Besides the loss in Chattanooga, King was largely responsible for the crisis facing his union in its historic home, the state of Michigan. Next year—when many new autoworkers are taking home second-tier wages even as most UAW staffers and officers make more than $100,000 and the union has lost millions of dollars failing to organize workers far from home—Michigan members angry at the dues hike will have a choice to keep their dues money in their own pockets.
That Michigan workers have this choice is one of Bob King’s legacies (a good legacy from workers’ standpoint, of course, but not from the standpoint of the union). As Daniel Howes of the Detroit News observes, King backed a “ballot measure that backfired on union interests—chiefly the question that triggered the right-to-work law.” Proposal 2, a failed constitutional amendment on Michigan’s 2012 ballot, would have given government unions an effective veto over state legislation and would have banned any right-to-work law.
Before the UAW spent millions trying to pass the proposal, Howes wrote, “Republican Gov. Rick Snyder personally advised King against it, saying, ‘Don’t kick the elephant.’ He did it anyway.” Previously, unions and their opponents had had a sort of mutual non-aggression pact. The unions wouldn’t try to gain absolute power over state government, and most elected officials wouldn’t push for a state Right to Work law.
Knowing the possible consequences, King broke that détente. Then, when Prop 2 failed [see the December 2012 Labor Watch], the opponents of forced unionization reasonably saw the result as reflecting the voice of the people. They believed the time was ripe for worker freedom. So they made Michigan—the state most strongly associated with labor unions—into a Right to Work state.
You might think that UAW members would push for a change in leadership, but you would be wrong. As has been the case in the selection of every UAW president since 1970, the choice was really made by the “Reuther Caucus,” the UAW’s administrative committee, so called in tribute to longtime union president Walter Reuther. The vote at the convention was a formality.
The new president, Dennis Williams, was the secretary-treasurer during the King presidency and presided over much of the loss of the strike fund. His replacement as secretary-treasurer was Gary Casteel, director of the UAW southeast region for the past dozen years and one of those most responsible for the union’s failure to penetrate the South’s foreign-owned auto manufacturing plants.
To an outsider, at least, both men seem to have failed in their previous jobs, but they were promoted nonetheless.
The UAW does not show signs of changing. It will continue to spend big on corporate campaigns against Southern auto companies, even as workers there repeatedly say no. Employees and officers at the union’s national headquarters will continue to make six-figure salaries. Soon, with Big Three contracts expiring, UAW leaders will be pressed to prove their relevance. Will they take a hard line with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler? Will they force the Big Three into stringent work rules and unsustainable benefits—the course that bankrupted two of the three? Will UAW members finally say that enough is enough? In their desperation, what will the UAW leadership do?
As the saying goes, nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal.
About the Author: F. Vincent Vernuccio is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Michigan. Nathan Lehman, a 2014 research intern with the Center, contributed to this article. This issue originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Labor Watch and is republished here with permission.
Big Labor bosses are facing the increasing realization that their organizations are rapidly facing extinction. A trifecta of difficulties, consisting of recent revelations of the impact Obamacare will have on union costs and membership, the weakening of support for “Card Check” legislation, and the increasing popularity and passage of “Right-to-Work” laws have the Gasping Dinosaurs very nervous. Union membership is at a 50-year low, representing a mere 11.3% of the total workforce and 6.7% of the private workforce. These statistics have Big Labor bosses fighting mad at the lack of return from their campaign investments for the President and desperate enough to attempt any and all options to rebuild declining membership.
With the exception of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents healthcare workers across the country and anticipates membership gains from the implementation of Obamacare, Big Labor bosses representing other unions now realize that their once-beloved President has sold them down the river (see The Devil is in the Details: Buyer’s Remorse over Obamacare, Except for SEIU). The heads of the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, and other major labor unions are now realizing that not only is Obamacare void of separate exemptions or favorable provisions for unions, but it places unions at an economic disadvantage when organizing new members. In fact, it is so bad that the Teamsters are Begging Congress for Relief from Obamacare and the Laborers International Union Fears Destructive Consequences from Obamacare. Even the President-friendly IRS Employees Union Members are in an Uproar after realizing that they too will be subject to Obamacare. The President may continue his rhetoric to intimidate Republicans and to push for Obamacare to become functional, but he does so at the risk of losing his most ardent supporters.
The next likely disappointment for the unions is that the President has failed to enact Card Check. Despite that the President’s recent radical appointees to the NLRB were approved by the U.S. Senate and the fact that President Obama Brought in Griffin to Fill Vacant NLRB Position, the Rogue NLRB still faces an uphill battle if they plan to achieve card check. See “Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation.” President Obama previously attempted to achieve card check like provisions through his appointment of board members such as Craig Becker and Richard Griffin. With the courts finding the President’s recess appointments to be unconstitutional, and thus their decisions invalidated, a delay in “union handouts” has resulted in further union membership deterioration and caused the Unions to Demand Payback.
Interestingly, this has resulted in an attempt by Big Labor to enforce desperate and creative measures to increase membership. The AFL-CIO Seeks Answers in Crisis by targeting Hispanics, NAACP, Sierra Club and other groups, and by Winning Back Other Unions into their fold, thereby increasing membership, revenues and power. Not to be outdone, the Desperate SEIU Resurrected the Persuasion of Power and is leading the charge by attempting to organize Home Health Care Workers and immigrants as discussed in the recent blog The Senate Immigration Law Hurts All Americans. Additionally, a new Worker Center Scheme crafted by the SEIU is in the works, utilizing organizations outside the auspices of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to attract and organize prospective members, which could be devastating to businesses attacked by these type organizations.
Meanwhile, the SEIU has once again embraced the Living Wage Argument to unionize workers. This tactic, described in The Devil at Our Doorstep, is now being used against McDonalds and other service/food providers under the veil of the “Fight for Fifteen” campaign, fighting to shift wage rates to $15 an hour for these workers. McDonald’s is now feeling pressure from the typical Corporate Campaign tactics, including threats to Contaminate Food. These threats will directly impact McDonald’s revenues, a standard focal point of the SEIU’s campaigns. Of course, all of their actions are being pushed in the name of Social Justice.
David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.
Now that the dust has settled, there are still some loose ends that need to be addressed in the Wolverine State’s right-to-work battle.
Last Tuesday, Michigan became the nation’s 24th right-to-work state. Much has been written about this and yet there still is much misinformation in circulation – mostly being spread by the unions, of course. And President Obama, an outspoken union supporter, has uttered some mistruths (if unintentional) or lies (if they are not).
What does “right-to-work (RTW)” mean? It simply means that workers don’t have to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Many have publicly lamented that collective bargaining in Michigan is going to be imperiled. President Obama jumped on that bandwagon saying,
What we shouldn’t be doing is try to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We don’t want a race to the bottom. Right-to-work laws have nothing to do with economics and they have everything to do with politics. They mean you have the right to work for less money.
No, Mr. Obama, Michigan’s new law – for better or worse – will not affect any union’s right to collectively bargain.
Another erroneous assertion – a long time mantra for organized labor – is that workers who choose not to join unions in RTW states are “freeloaders” or “free riders.” As Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk points out,
Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”
It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. (Emphasis added.) Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.
The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on this point. As Justice William Brennan wrote in Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, the Act’s coverage “is not limited to labor organizations which are entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining agents of employees … ‘Members only’ contracts have long been recognized.”
Even though, as Sherk says, unions don’t have to represent all employees, they do so voluntarily to eliminate any competition. So instead of “free rider,” a better term would be “forced rider.” Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains,
The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a “privilege” we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.
…The “freeload” crack is especially ironic coming from MEA (Michigan Education Association), which ran an $11 million budget deficit in 2010-11 and is a cumulative $113 million in the red. In other words, the union has spent millions of dollars in dues it hasn’t collected yet, some of which will be paid by people who might not even be members yet. Who is freeloading?
In any event, it is undeniable that unions are taking it on the chin these days. In 2011, Wisconsin banned collective bargaining for some employees, and earlier this year Indiana became the 23rd RTW state. Michigan union leaders, well aware of the zeitgeist, tried to enshrine collective bargaining into the state constitution in November via Prop. 2. The amendment, however, was solidly defeated – 57 to 43 percent – even though the unions outspent the opposition by a 22:1 factor. (H/T John Seiler.)
What’s next for the unions in Michigan? Undoubtedly more thuggery and distortions, and then there is 2014. Last Tuesday, at a rally outside the building which houses Governor Rick Snyder’s office,
The main battle cry of the anti-right-to-work protesters…had a common theme: wait for 2014. Many of the GOP seats, including Snyder’s, will be up for grabs during the midterm elections. Rather than attempt to recall Republicans, as Wisconsin Democrats tried and failed to do to Gov. Scott Walker, the Michigan unions are set to mobilize behind Democrats and pro-union Republicans in two years.
But will the people of Michigan be taken in by the unions’ demagoguery? Organized labor is blaming their loss on everyone but themselves – the Koch Brothers, right wing legislators, the Tea Party et al. But as Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal points out,
The unions lost in Michigan—as they’ve lost elsewhere—because they and their White House compatriots have forced the issue, and in the process forced Americans to take a side. And what we’ve discovered is that when the choice is between more freedom for workers, more choice for parents and more tax dollars for vital services or, on the other side, more coercive powers for a special interest—well, that isn’t such a hard choice after all.
When all is said and done, it is instructive to examine why RTW is a good thing. First, despite Mr. Obama’s insistence to the contrary, RTW laws do indeed have a great deal to do with economics: they are beneficial.
According to the West Michigan Policy Forum, of the 10 states with the highest rate of personal income growth, eight have right-to-work laws. Those numbers are driving a net migration from forced union states: Between 2000 and 2010, five million people moved to right-to-work states from compulsory union states.
Other policies (such as no income tax) play a role in such migration, so economist Richard Vedder tried to sort out the variables. In the 2010 Cato Journal, he wrote that “without exception” he found “a statistically significant positive relationship” between right to work and net migration.
Mr. Vedder also found a 23% higher rate of per capita income growth in right-to-work states. An analysis by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance finds that Michigan is now the 35th state in overall prosperity measured by per capita income. Had Michigan adopted a right-to-work law in 1977, the group estimates, per capita income for a family of four would have been $13,556 higher by 2008. (Emphasis added.)
And secondly, RTW is a fairness issue for the worker.
… the best case for right to work is moral: the right of an individual to choose. Union chiefs want to coerce workers to join and pay dues that they then funnel to politicians who protect union power. Right to work breaks this cycle of government-aided monopoly union power for the larger economic good.
The question that unionistas can’t seem to come to grips with is this: if the unions are so beneficial, why must they force workers to sign on? The reality is that, given a choice, many workers will just say “no” and the unions will lose money and influence, their real raison d’être. And for the refuseniks, it is an uncoerced step on the road to freedom.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
To a large extent, the progressives have taken over American education, are transforming it and are doing it in plain sight.
Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism is an invaluable book written by Kyle Olson, founder and CEO of the Education Action Group, an organization that is on the frontline of education reform and a champion of school choice.
In this brief and very readable book, Olson describes the ways that the progressives in our society have taken over K-12 education. They have been running most of our elite colleges and schools of education for years now and this step is in keeping with their plan to transform America.
As a public school teacher whose career spanned four decades, I have seen the long march first hand. Perverting the traditional purpose of American education (which has been to make better and more educated citizens), progressives have been inspired by the theories of Paolo Freire, a Brazilian socialist who saw everything through a Marxist class warfare lens.
Carrying Freire’s mantle, current gurus like revolutionary terrorist Bill Ayers and the recently deceased Communist Howard Zinn have been behind the effort to destroy America as we know it. They claim that basically the U.S. and its capitalist system are the root of all evil. Unfortunately, their love-the-world/hate-America attitude has gained an incredible amount of currency in our public schools in a relatively short time. Ayers, Zinn and their ilk have essentially managed to convince much of the education establishment to abandon every teaching technique and curriculum that benefited prior generations. For example, “drill and kill” has been thrown on the refuse heap; we are now supposed to let our students “discover” learning. The “sage on the stage” has been replaced by the “guide on the side.” The only problem with these techniques is that they haven’t worked, but they do sound good (at least to the progressives.) As such, we are now raising a nation of dunces.
On the 2010 NAEP history test, we learned that only 12 percent of high school seniors have a firm grip on American history. Yes, we are educating students to the point that almost half the nation thinks that the cornerstone of Communism, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” is in the U.S. Constitution. Only 2 percent of high school seniors know the significance of Brown vs. the Board of Education and only 4 percent of 8th graders could explain why urban populations rose and rural populations shrank over time.
So just what are we teaching them?
This is where Olson’s book shines. In chapter after chapter, he meticulously details lessons being foisted on students that are being taught for one purpose only – to advance the progressive agenda. A few examples:
• An examination of the nature and extent of police brutality, which is being promoted in middle schools by none other than Van Jones, conspiracy enthusiast extraordinaire.
• A clever lesson using poker chips, the aim of which is to convince students that unequal distribution of wealth has to do with the fact that the U.S. has more than its share of resources, not that we have a wealth-promoting capitalist system.
• “I Pledge Allegiance to the Earth.” Yup, no more of this silly patriotic stuff. Children, you are denizens of the earth! (I wonder what our political enemies think of this rubbish… when they stop laughing, that is.)
Rightfully, Olson reserves a special section for the unions whose far left agenda has been well documented, and who have gone to great lengths to make this country over in their own image. Their attempts to indoctrinate kids and glorify the union movement are staggering. For example,
• “Trouble in the Henhouse: A Puppet Show.” In this charming bit of propaganda put out by the California Federation of Teachers aimed at kindergartners, we find an oppressive farmer whose hens unionize and convince the heartless farmer that he’d better respect them or else.
• The “Yummy Pizza Company” is another lesson from CFT — actually ten, which delve into the process of organizing a union local. They include instructions on how to collectively bargain as well as a sanitized look at prominent labor leaders.
• Click Clack Moo, a popular book promoted by the AFL-CIO, tells second graders about unhappy cows that refuse to work until the mean farmer is forced to meet their demands.
And while we are teaching our children the joys of class warfare, earth worship and the importance of union membership, other countries that are more serious about educating their young are cleaning our clocks in every international comparison available.
Actually, it is even worse than Olson suggests. There is one aspect of the progressive takeover that he gave short shrift to. Except for SB 48, an obscene bit of legislation in California which will bring the contributions of homosexuals and transgenders into the K-12 curriculum, there is little mention of the progressives’ ongoing effort to sexualize children. From Gay-Straight clubs in middle school (where parents do not have to be notified of their child’s involvement) to attempts to teach orgasm to eleven year olds, the radicals led by the National Education Association have been making alarming progress.
Another example of the progressives’ sexual agenda is which holidays are deemed important. Few people are aware of what holiday is celebrated on November 20th. But every student at the middle school where I worked till my retirement in 2009 knows, because the school spent more time acknowledging that day — “Transgender Day of Remembrance” — than Veteran’s Day, November 11th. TDR was considered more worthy of the students’ time at my school than a holiday which acknowledges the contributions of American soldiers. (Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. At the same school, posters of Che Guevara adorned the walls of no less than five classrooms, including an American history class that had no pictures of Washington or Lincoln. Che was considered a hero by these teachers who passed this admiration on to their impressionable students. Of course the real life Che was a sadistic mass murderer, but being a progressive means never having to sweat minor details like the truth.)
Clearly Indoctrination is a book that could leave citizens in a state of great despair. But fortunately, in the last chapter, Olson lists several important ways that parents and the general public can fight back. And if this country isn’t to become permanently transformed — fight back we must. None of our international enemies are as powerful, organized and, thus far, as successful as our home grown progressives who are bent on destroying public education as we know it in America. It is imperative that we all become more knowledgeable about what is going on in our schools and take action. Kyle Olson’s Indoctrination is an excellent place to start that process.
About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
Unions are still treacherous, but with a generous helping of legislative malfeasance, their tactics are more subtle.
“On the Waterfront” portrayed union power at its rawest. In the 1950s, the unions typically got their way with nothing less than brute force. But today the tactics are different. In “Pretty Boy Floyd,” Woody Guthrie sang, “Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” The unions are well entrenched in the “fountain pen” camp and recently, Illinois has been in their crosshairs.
In September, the Chicago Tribune broke a story about Dennis Gannon, a former sanitation worker who became a president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. He went back to work for the city for one day, then took a leave of absence and was legally allowed to collect a $158,000 pension, about five times the average sanitation worker.
Shortly after that, again in Chicago, two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience similarly gamed the system by taking advantage of a new law.
“The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.
“(Lobbyist) Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.
“His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.
“His pay for one day as a substitute was $93, according to records of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System.”
In a higher profile case, Reg Weaver was a teacher in Danville earning $60,000 a year. He worked his way up the union food chain and became National Education Association president in 2002. Termed out in 2008, he now makes a yearly $242,657 teachers pension. Weaver has the audacity to defend his outrageous pension which is based on his salary as a union leader. He told the Chicago Tribune,
“I worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Weaver said. “There was not a time when someone was not able to get in touch with me. You ask my family. I didn’t take vacation. I worked in the office long hours. I worked anywhere from 15 hours, 16 hours a day.
“If you want to divide that $240,000 into the amount of hours spent, I think you would find that the per hour was probably not much at all, considering the work that had to be done.”
But what Weaver and some others in Illinois don’t seem to get is that whatever work he may have done for his union, his pension should come from the union, not in large part from the average taxpayer who was never a part of that union. (Memo to the Occupy crowd in Chicago: Why are you not up in arms about this? Or does OWS really stand for “Obviously, We’re Stupid”?)
These cases are egregious and not just limited to Illinois.
But there is a bigger, more insidious union-involved scandal that is nationwide and ongoing: “release time” from school for teachers who are union reps. These teachers are regularly given time off from their teaching duties so that they can do union business on school time and still be paid…by the district, i.e. the taxpayers. For example, in New York,
“The Department of Education pays about 1,500 teachers for time they spend on union activities — and pays other teachers to replace them in the classroom.
“It’s a sweetheart deal that costs taxpayers an extra $9 million a year to pay fill-ins for instructors who are sprung — at full pay — to carry out responsibilities for the United Federation of Teachers.”
“The UFT reimburses the DOE only about $900,000 of nearly $10 million it spends to replace the teachers, officials said.”
Far away from New York, in California’s conservative Orange County, there is a district that has this wording as part of their contract,
“The Association President or designee may utilize one (1) day per week for Association business. The District shall bear the cost of the substitutes.”
Just about every teacher union contract has this kind of screw-the-taxpayer clause written into it, usually in the area that deals with “Association Rights.” Yeah, every time the “Association” asserts a right, the taxpayers take it in the shorts. And all the while students are subject to a steady barrage of subs, which is never a winning formula for a good education.
Yes, “fountain pen” robbery is rampant. The question is when will the people who are footing the bill for these union abuses wake up and demand that their legislators put an end to it. And vote them out if they don’t.
About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
Recent reports on union activity from around the web through November 12, 2010:
Super-sized pensions, and a doomsday scenario
by Bob Sullivan, November 12, 2010, MSNBC
In New York, a 44-year-old firefighter retires with a $101,000 a year pension, for life. Near Chicago, a parks commissioner quits and begins collecting a $166,000 pension – a sum sweetened by $50,000 thanks to a one-time retirement year windfall of $270,000. And in California, a former city manager pulls down $500,000 in retirement checks every year. As outrageous as those sunset stipends may seem, they are merely the most visible piece of what critics of generous government pensions say is a ticking time bomb of debt that is threatening to bankrupt a number of states by the end of the decade. (read article)
Labor Board’s Recent Decisions Tilt in Favor of Unions
By Melanie Trottman and Kris Maher, November 11, 2010, Wall Street Journal
Unions are increasingly looking to the National Labor Relations Board to seek favorable workplace rulings, and the agency is showing a willingness to reopen matters previously decided in favor of employers. Union leaders pushed earlier this year to get two new Democratic members on the labor-relations board, saying they needed to level the playing field with employers after years of decisions by the Republican-controlled board that unions said hampered their efforts to organize workers. Union hopes of getting major new legislation to boost their organizing all but died with Republican gains in the mid-term congressional elections. The Employee Free Choice Act, which would make organizing easier by enabling unions to bypass secret-ballot elections, was already stalled in a Congress fully controlled by Democrats. Organizing is a critical issue for unions. In 2009, the national rate of union membership had fallen to 12.3% from 20.1% in 1983. The NLRB can’t overhaul labor law, but it can make rulings on a case-by-case basis and set broader policies through administrative rules that could give unions more leverage with employers. (read article)
Orange County GOP vs. Unions? Get Ready for Phase 2
By Frank Mickadeit, The Orange County Register, November 8, 2010
Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh in January laid down what I coined the Baugh Manifesto, which said: If a candidate for local office wants the party endorsement, he or she can’t take money from public-employee unions. Now, Baugh says, comes Stage Two: Teaching local elected officials to hold their own in union negotiations. To that end, Baugh plans to hold a major conference this spring, bringing in lawyers and others skilled in the intricacies of collective bargaining under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. Baugh says council members tell him they at times feel out-gunned. “We have to educate public officials not to get trapped into negotiations.” Last week, he said, some Costa Mesa council members felt they had no choice but to extend a contract four years because the alternatives were either try to pull back on deal points and be accused of bargaining in bad faith (with legal implications), or hold firm, go to impasse and impose a contract (with its legal implications). “It takes an enormous amount of political courage to go to impasse,” Baugh said. The conference is intended to get officials who want to rein in pensions up to speed. (read article)
Influence of teachers unions in question
By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2010
These groups have been slow to come to terms with the push for reform. Some see them as obstacles to change, and even union sympathizers agree that their voice in the education debate has been muted. Teachers unions have a well-deserved reputation for exercising political clout. With a nearly unparalleled ability to raise cash and organize their ranks, they have elected school boards, influenced legislation and helped set the public school agenda in major American cities for decades. Now, that clout is in question. (read article)
Unions, secular whites part of GOP’s California problem
By John J. Pitney Jr., Orange County Register, November 5, 2010
Size matters. California has 37 million residents, or 50 percent more than Texas, the next-largest state. Any one of our state Senate districts has more people than South Dakota. And our state is geographically vast, covering 156,000 square miles and a dozen media markets. The Tea Party movement, which had supplied so much energy to Republican candidates in other states, could not take root in such soil. Though the movement had financial support from outside organizations, it was mostly a kitchen-table, word-of-mouth affair. As Douglas Johnson of the Rose Institute has written, “California’s electorate is simply too enormous to reach one by one.” Any serious get-out-the-vote operation in requires vast technical resources and an existing network that can reach from urban barrios to desert communities. The only group that can pull it off on a statewide level is organized labor, which backs Democrats. (read article)
Election adds pressure to change public pensions
By Stephen C. Fehr, Stateline.org, November 4, 2010
Six newly elected governors are looking favorably at some form of 401(k)-style retirement plan for public sector employees, adding to the momentum building nationally for a shift away from traditional guaranteed pensions. Tuesday’s election was in some ways the first national referendum on the future of public pensions, the cost of which has been rising in many states, counties and cities and is crowding out education and other popular programs. (read article)
Defeat of Prop. B Cements Labor’s Power in San Francisco
By Elizabeth Lesly Stevens, The Bay Citizen, November 4, 2010
As election results rolled in, it became clear that San Francisco unions had trounced Proposition B, a measure that would have required the city’s 26,000 employees to contribute more toward their pensions and benefits. Once the tally was complete, 57.5 percent of San Francisco’s voters had sided with the unions. Union leaders appeared surprised by the lopsided victory. Proposition B had been promoted by Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender, and backed by former Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, and Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist. Throughout the campaign, Adachi had argued that the city’s escalating employee costs would eventually force San Francisco to file for bankruptcy, like nearby Vallejo. (read article)
Unions struggle at polls
By Jon Miltimore, Watchdog. org, November 4, 2010
A series of pension measures and ballot initiatives went against public sector workers Tuesday in what proved to be a tough day for labor. In California, voters in seven cities — San Jose, Redding, Riverside, Menlo Park, Bakersfield, Carlsbad and Pacific Grove — approved measures seeking to reduce public pension costs, and a half-cent sales tax in San Diego that would have prevented public safety cuts also was rejected. Public safety unions in each municipality opposed the reforms, but efforts to defeat the measures failed in what was a big night for pension reform advocates. (read article)
AFL-CIO says it helped Dems in Election
By Robin Bravender, Poltico.com, November 3, 2010
Big Labor is patting itself on the back for softening the blow yesterday’s elections had on congressional Democrats. And for all the credit it’s giving itself in helping liberal lawmakers hang on, labor isn’t sorry for the role it played in ousting embattled Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Tuesday’s election, which gave Republicans a commanding majority in the House and more power in the Senate, was a disappointment to union members, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters Wednesday. But the labor group’s grass-roots organizing prevented “even worse” results in states like Nevada, West Virginia and California, he added. (read article)
Secret union ballot measure gains approval in Arizona
By Associated Press, Fox11az, November 2, 2010
Voters have approved Proposition 113, an amendment to the Arizona Constitution that guarantees the right of a secret ballot for employees deciding whether to be represented by unions. The immediate effect is minimal because employers already can demand a secret ballot in such votes. Making the requirement a constitutional amendment is an effort to pre-empt proposed federal legislation that is stalled in the U.S. Senate. The federal legislation, known as the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow a majority of employees to create a union by signing a card. (read article)
The Democrats and the Union Label
By Andrew Kohut, October 22, 2010, New York Times
The good news for the Democrats these days is that union members are one voting bloc that continues to strongly back their party’s candidates — and by a solid margin in our latest national poll, which otherwise finds a double-digit Republican lead in Congressional voting intentions. The bad news is that labor unions have fallen out of favor with the broader public, including independents who will cast the decisive votes in this year’s elections.
opinion on labor unionsPew Research Center Views on Labor Unions. Positive views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007. The Pew Research Center this year found just 41 percent of the public said they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42 percent) expressed an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58 percent) had a favorable view of unions while just 31 percent had an unfavorable impression. (read article)
Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.com, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.