Labor watch February 2014 notes

The economy continues to sputter, hitting a four-decade low of 62.8% in the workforce participation rate (the percentage of adults either working or looking for work). Because the main unemployment rate doesn’t count people who have given up looking for work, the exodus of 347,000 people from the workforce in December caused the unemployment rate to fall to 6.7%.
The closer one looks at the jobs figures , the worse it gets. Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) noted that, according to government figures,”seven out of eight new employees under President Obama have been part-time employees.” And the number of people receiving disability benefits hit a record high of almost 11 million, with many of the long-term unemployed claiming to be disabled. The Vernuccio/A//ison Report noted: “It has been speculated that the federal government has been more lenient in granting disability since taking these workers out of the count­ ing for unemployment improves the statistical outlook.”
We reported recently on efforts by unions to influence the California Republican Party, including the Service Employees International Union’s creation of a political action committee (PAC) aimed at supporting “moderate” [sic) Republicans. Such efforts are accelerat ing. In September, the AFL-CIO convention passed a resolution directing the labor federation to support “moderate candidates” in Republican­ leaning congressional districts.
Scott Bland of the National Journal reported in December that unions funneled money into a Republican anti-Tea Party super-PAC called Defending Main Street: “[D)ocuments filed by other groups show that two labor organizations, the International Union of Operating En­ gineers and the Laborers’ International Union of North America, directed a combined $400,000 to the Republican group in September and October. Main Street says it has raised roughly $2 million total between its super PAC and an affiliated nonprofit group so far-and that means labor has supplied at least 20 percent of those funds.” The group’s president, former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), said in Octo­ ber:”Hopefully,we’ll go into eight to 10 [congressional) races and beat the snot out of them”-Tea Party candidates, that is.
Private sector unions continue their losing ways. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers attempted to form a union among 27 technicians (out of 1,500 total workers) at an fulfillment center in Delaware. It would have been Amazon ‘s first union in the U.S. The vote was 21 to 6 against. In 2000, workers at a customer service call center in Seattle attempted to unionize under the Communication Workers of America, but the facility was closed as part of a retrenchment.
The Machinists both lost and won in Puget Sound, the area around Seattle and Tacoma , as Boeing workers voted narrowly to accept a new eight-year deal that includes,as one union official put,”massive takeaways .” The deal was opposed by local union leaders,who are consid­ ered militant and have struck five times since 1977. But the international union’s leaders supported the deal and even ordered a new vote after a similar company offer was rejected in November. Boeing workers in Puget Sound paid $25.5 million in dues to the international union in 2012-dues that might disappear if Boeing moved its operations elsewhere, as it threatened to do.
The Michigan Education Association, through its local union, went to bat for Neal Erickson, a former middle school math teacher in the West Branch-Rose City school district. MEA filed a grievance on his behalf when he was denied a $10,000 severance deal after his convic­ tion for raping a student repeatedly over a period of years. Several teachers submitted letters of support for Erickson, asking for leniency.
He was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.


Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation to require background checks for teachers and other school personnel who have unsupervised access to children, but the National Education Association is opposed: background checks “often have a huge, racially disparate impact.” Former NBC and CNN news anchor Campbell Brown has co-founded the Parents’ Trans­ parency Project, dedicated to fighting abuse by teachers in the New York City public schools. She notes that the legislation would prohibit districts from “knowingly unloading sex abusers on other schools-a practice known as ‘pass the trash.”‘



One-party politics and left-wing special interest groups have saddled California with crippling debt, argues James V.Lacy in his new book, Taxifornia. With California’s pension shortfalls and excessive spending, total debt is esti­ mated at $648 billion across all levels of government. In the book’s foreword , Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.),chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, warns that Lacy tells “a cautionary tale of what can and will happen to America if Washington follows the lead of what Sacramento has done in the past decade.” Lacy, a third generation Californian who served in the Reagan administration,especially targets the harm done by unions and environmental ists. Since 2000, the California Teachers Association alone has outspent all business groups combined; a 2010 report by the California Fair Political Practices Commission found that the union had spent $211 million on politics in the previous decade. California’s public school students score poorly on standard­ ized tests;4th graders ranked 47th in the nation in math and reading last year, while 8th graders ranked 45th in math and 42nd in reading.


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