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Labor Watch

A monthly newsletter that tracks the increasing activism of labor unions that are trying to achieve through political coalition-building the goals they have failed to achieve at the bargaining table.

Labor Watch: Count the Votes at Gerawan

Count the Votes at Gerawan!
Farmworkers and the new civil rights struggle—the decertification of bad unions 

[PDF here]

By Matt Patterson

Summary: It’s a basic civil right: the ability of union members to get rid of a union if it no longer serves its members effectively. Today, that right is being denied to a group of farmworkers in California by officials who refuse to count the votes the workers cast in a decertification election. That denial of rights shows just how little respect the United Farm Workers, founded by Cesar Chavez, gives to its members.

On August 26, 2014, more than 1,000 angry farmworkers stormed a state labor board office in Visalia, California. For more than three hours, the mostly Latino, mostly immigrant crowd chanted for justice, carrying signs and wearing brightly colored shirts that advertised their cause.

Protests are nothing new in labor relations, of course. But these workers were not union members agitating for higher wages or better conditions. These workers, employed by the Fresno-based Gerawan Farming, Inc., were angrily denouncing California labor authorities for forcing them into a union, the United Farm Workers (UFW). They were protesting collusion between labor bosses and government bureaucrats to impose collective bargaining contracts on them against their will.

They were voicing their rejection of the union. They already had high wages and excellent working conditions, they said. They didn’t need the union, and wanted to dissociate themselves from the union. [Click HERE for the rest of the article]

Labor Watch: “Official Time” and the Veterans Affairs Scandal / Sick veterans languish on waiting lists while VA employees work full-time for unions

 “Official Time” and the Veterans Affairs Scandal

Sick veterans languish on waiting lists while VA employees work full-time for unions (PDF here)

By Alec Torres

Summary: The Veterans Affairs scandal shocked the nation, and as further revela­tions of widespread corruption and failure became public, they showed the natural failure of socialized medicine. But one part of the scandal has not received the attention it deserves: the role of special privileges for union officials, who spend their time serving their self-interest, rather than serving the nation’s ailing veterans.

As bad as the VA scandal seems, it’s actually worse. While veterans of the U.S. armed forces wait for health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is paying hundreds of its employees to work full-time for labor unions.

First, a summary of the facts behind the scandal:

The VA boasts that it “operates the na­tion’s largest integrated health care system, with more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics, community living centers, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers, and other facilities.” Yet officials at as many as 42 VA facilities have come under investigation for allegedly keeping two sets of books, appar­ently in order to hide long wait-times (and protect bonuses that are paid if wait-times are short). After a patient requested an appoint­ment, administrators would wait to enter the request into the electronic records system until the point at which a doctor would be available within 14 days.

After the scandal broke, first reported by CNN, the VA conducted an internal audit that found that over 57,000 patients had to wait more than three months for their initial appointments at the VA. Around 70 percent of all VA facilities had used an alternative to the official appointment schedule in or­der to deceptively minimize the reported wait-times.

When the scandal became public, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki declared himself “mad as hell,” while President Obama declared himself “madder than hell.” Shinseki was fired and replaced by former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald.

The scandal takes on added significance because the VA has been cited in the debate over health care. As members of Congress considered the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” the VA system was often cited as a model for healthcare in America. [See the sidebar by Steven J. Allen Read all »

Labor Watch September 2014: Union Power in the States = Less Pay, More Taxpayer Debt

Union Power in the States = Lost Pay, More Taxpayer Debt

How does your state rank on forced unionism, monopoly bargaining, and public pension shortfalls? (PDF here)

By Aloysius Hogan

Summary: New studies on the harms of American labor laws paint a grim picture. The laws drag down economic growth, suppress workers’ wages, and cause government debt to soar.

Could your family use an additional $13,100 a year? If you live in a forced-unionism state, that’s what the lack of a Right to Work law may be costing you.

At the same time, you’re harmed by the federal mandate that gives unions the power of monopoly (a.k.a. “collective”) bargaining. That federal mandate, it’s estimated, costs workers about 15 percent in forgone income.
In addition, unionization of government employees has helped add many billions of dollars to the unfunded liabilities of public employees’ pensions—a debt for which taxpayers will be held responsible.

Three new studies from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Washington, D.C. think tank where I am a senior fellow, examine these harmful consequences of unionization and of laws that push unionization. The purpose of the studies is to identify the problems caused by union power in states across America; express the problems in numbers; rank the states based on the problems’ severity; and point the way toward solutions by comparing states to see what policies work. Read all »

Labor Watch: The United Auto Workers on the Skids? Defeat in Chattanooga, a 25 percent dues hike, Michigan Right to Work, and promotions for failed leaders

The United Auto Workers on the Skids?
Defeat in Chattanooga, a 25 percent dues hike, Michigan Right to Work, and promotions for failed leaders [PDF here.]

By F. Vincent Vernuccio

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 Read all »

Labor Watch: A Bad Day for Bad Teachers: Sixty years after Brown, a California court strikes a blow against the 21st Century equivalent of Jim Crow

A Bad Day for Bad Teachers
Sixty years after Brown, a California court strikes a blow against the 21st Century equivalent of Jim Crow [PDF here]

By Richard Berman

Summary: In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down racially segregated schools because, the court said, they were inherently unequal and they unjustly harmed poor and minority children. Last month, a California court cited Brown as it struck down multiple state laws, passed at the behest of teachers’ unions, which the court said unjustly protected incompetent teachers and unconscionably harmed children, especially the least fortunate.

In a landmark decision that sent shock waves through the educational establishment, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled last month that California’s teacher tenure laws unconstitutionally deprive students of their guarantee to an education and to equal rights. “The evidence is compelling,” Judge Treu wrote. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

In Vergara v. California, nine students sued the State of California, claiming that ineffective teachers were disproportionately placed in schools with large numbers of “minority” and low-income students. Judge Treu agreed and quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

The Vergara decision came down less than one month after the 60th anniversary of the Brown decision Read all »

The Untold, Racist Origins of ‘Progressive’ Labor Laws: Protecting “white jobs” was the purpose of union-backed legislation

The Untold, Racist Origins of ‘Progressive’ Labor Laws

Protecting “white jobs” was the purpose of union-backed legislation (pdf here)

By Horace Cooper

Summary: Most Americans take for granted that the minimum wage and the 40-hour work week came about as a result of an effort in the early 20th Century to improve the lives of working Americans. Not true. In fact, these measures were rooted in the racism of the era and were part of an effort to benefit white workers at the expense of black tradesmen. The policies helped create persistent high unemployment among blacks—and shed a light on the real motivations of so-called Progressives.

“The Caucasians . . . are not going to let their standard of living be destroyed by negroes, Chinamen, Japs or any others.” — Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), 1905

W ith support from labor unions, politicians and bureaucrats often intervene in labor markets, creating laws and regulations that (they say) are needed to improve wages and working conditions for working people. The truth is that many of these efforts do harm to the economic interests of blacks, particularly black males. Most people would be surprised to learn that this harm to blacks has historically not been an unintended consequence of these pro-union policies, but the intended result.

From Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” requirements to the creation of a government agency mockingly labeled the “Negro Removal Agency,” the government has undermined blacks’ efforts to achieve success and to make the American Dream a reality. Many federal labor laws in the United States originated in efforts to saddle black men with extra burdens and limitations, in order to (as racists often put it) “protect white jobs.”

Tragically, these laws, in one form or another, remain on the books today and continue to hamper the ability of blacks, especially men, to enjoy gainful employment. Yet so-called Progressives hail these laws for their [Click here for the rest.]

Labor Watch: De Blasio and Friends: Unions bring a Far Left government to power in New York City

De Blasio and Friends
Unions bring a Far Left government to power in New York City (PDF here)

By Alec Torres

Summary: Ever wonder what it would be like if radical unions and their allies gained control of New York City? Wonder no more. With the critical backing of the nation’s most powerful union local, SEIU 1199, and with advisors like Patrick Gaspard of SEIU (and the Obama White House) and Bertha Lewis of ACORN, Mayor Bill de Blasio is pursuing policies that threaten the future of the world’s most important city.

[Note: Many of the individuals and organizations in this story have been subjects of previous reports by the Capital Research Center. See, for example, Organization Trends May 2011 (ACORN) and September 2013 (the community organizers’ network) and Labor Watch December 2009 and January 2010 (SEIU) and November 2013 (Local 1199’s role in Obamacare).]

New York City, once prosperous and free, is entering an unnecessary age of darkness brought on by the foolishneess of bad governance. The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is an unapologetic admirer of Soviet-backed thugs, a supporter of the Occupy movement, a foe of school choice, and a crony of the same sort of leftists who destroyed Detroit, once the nation’s richest city and now a ruin. With likeminded ideologues in command of other key offices, de Blasio’s power within city government is near absolute. His closest backers, Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and its radical allies such as the former ACORN organization, dominate city government at nearly all levels.

It’s enough to make one long for the days of Michael Bloomberg. Read all »

Faulty Inspection: The transit union’s bus overtime campaign endangers drivers, passengers, and everyone on the road

Faulty Inspection
The transit union’s bus overtime campaign endangers drivers, passengers, and everyone on the road
By Carl F. Horowitz
Labor Watch, April 2014 (PDF here)

Summary: The Amalgamated Transit Union is working with its political allies on a proposed federal law that it claims will make bus travel between cities safer. Not surprisingly, the law ignores the most important safety factors in such travel and will likely make passengers less safe. But the law does have one advantage for union leaders: they think it will raise wages.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents some 200,000 transit workers across the U.S. and Canada, is trying to make the nation’s roads less safe, while it pretends to work to make them safer. In politics, one of the most important skills is to make one’s special interest seem like the public interest. Unions are adept at this. With regard to buses and bus drivers, the ATU is particularly effective at advocacy (or “spin”), in part because of people’s emotional response to news reports whenever a horrible bus accident occurs.

Bus travel in the United States is gener­ally safe, but as with air travel, the rare serious accident that occurs usually receives wide coverage on the news. In addition, people tend to respond emo­tionally to bus accidents, because they can imagine themselves as the victims who suffer injuries after putting their safety in the hands of drivers who may  be unqualified or inattentive.

One scenario that’s particularly terrify­ing to the average person is of a bus driver who falls asleep, and the ATU knows how to play off people’s fears. [Click here for the rest.] Read all »

Labor Watch: Scott Walker, Indian Casinos, and Unions: Will the Wisconsin governor greenlight a controversial casino deal that’s a golden opportunity for unions?

Scott Walker, Indian Casinos, and Unions
Will the Wisconsin governor greenlight a controversial casino deal that’s a golden opportunity for unions? (pdf here)

By George Landrith

Summary: For years, a Wisconsin Indian tribe has tried to open a new casino hundreds of miles from its reservation. The controversy over the casino has encouraged the tribe to cut deals with labor bosses in which the unions trade their political support for the tribe’s agreement to help coerce casino workers into joining unions. Now Gov. Walker must decide whether to approve the proposed casino.

Indian casinos make fertile ground for controversy. They mix identity politics involving a long-oppressed group; heavy government regulation, which leads to wheeling and dealing, favoritism and corruption; and the involvement of the gambling industry, labor unions, and other elements often considered shady.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker must now choose whether to approve a new casino in Kenosha that would be owned by the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin and managed by Hard Rock International, a company owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Adding to the controversy is the fact that Walker, a possible presidential candidate in 2016, is up for re-election this year. Walker, who pushed through labor reforms in his state, famously survived a recall effort led by unions (which are currently pushing government “investigations” of people who advertised in support of Walker’s reforms). Union officials relish the prospect of making an example of Walker by defeating him in November.

Meanwhile, union officials are greatly interested in the proliferation of Indian casinos, which they see as targets. They typically pressure the Indians to use unionized labor in building the facilities and to agree that, once the casinos open, their Indian owners will help the unions organize their workers. Read all »

The ‘Living Wage’ Strategy for Unions: Campaign in Washington State helps elect avowed socialist, leads to wide range of regulations

The ‘Living Wage’ Strategy for Unions
Campaign in Washington State helps elect avowed socialist, leads to wide range of regulations
By Max Nelsen (pdf here)

Summary: Amidst a national debate about wages and so-called income inequality, labor unions are pushing local “living wage” laws to build support for a hike in the federal minimum wage law. Recently, a Seattle suburb became the first city to adopt a $15 “living wage” law. The city’s experience, which included a wide range of other restrictions on businesses, reveals that the real purpose of such laws is to enhance union organizing.    

The City of SeaTac, Washington, is small—10 square miles with a population of approximately 28,000—but a recent referendum there may have nationwide impact. Voters in November approved Proposition 1, a $15-an-hour “living wage” initiative that the Seattle Weekly called a “bellwether of labor politics.”
Two other developments that may be indications of things to come:
► On the same day Prop 1 passed in SeaTac, voters in nearby Seattle elected Kshama Sawant, an “Occupy Seattle” activist and avowed socialist/Marxist, to the city council. A college professor, she ran on a platform that included a $15-an-hour minimum wage, rent control laws, and a “millionaire’s tax” on income.
► Two months later, officials of the local Machinists’ union in Puget Sound (the region that includes Seattle and Tacoma) suffered a setback when members voted to accept a contract with Boeing that gave back some pension rights and made other concessions. Interestingly, the new contract was supported by the national Machinists’ union but opposed by the local union. [See “Labor Notes,” page 8.]
In SeaTac, the $15 minimum wage provision was the headline-generator, yet Prop 1 was far more than a living wage bill. Under the initiative, certain transportation and hospitality employers are also required to provide paid sick leave, promote full-time jobs over part-time and keep extensive new records. Perhaps most importantly, the law is structured to encourage businesses to enter into collective bargaining, because companies can escape the law’s effects if they unionize.

Click here for the entire issue of Labor Watch.