Annals of Union Corruption, Vol. XXXVIII . . .

A recent U.S Court of Appeals ruling found several National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union officials guilty of violating the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. The decision resolved a 1994 suit brought by David Noble, a postal worker who alleged union officials -- including a former NALC president -- funneled workers' dues into unmonitored expense accounts.

Judge Williams' concurrence features some particularly choice tidbits on the NALC's corrupt practices:

"Placing union money in the officers’ hands, solely on those same officers’ bland assurances that it will be used for union business, completely subverts the [NALC constitution] clause’s obvious goal of preserving accountability."

He also chides his two colleagues on the panel for refusing to punish union officials for excessive "per diem" expenditures:

At every biennial convention after 1964, a small group of unnamed delegates received a “per diem” payment calculated on the basis of certain estimated expenses: lost wages, hotel rooms, and meals and incidentals. Noble argued in the district court that the presidentially appointed Committee on Mileage and Per Diem asked each post-1964 convention to approve these payments without informing the delegates of two facts: (1) that the union’s officers were among those receiving per diem payments, even though they continued to earn their salaries and thus had no “lost time” (unlike rank-and-file mail carriers); and (2) that the union had already paid (in full or part) for most officers’ hotel rooms, transferring the union’s hotel discount to the officers’ benefit. Thus, the members were unaware of these costs’ peculiarities — peculiarities that might well have been material to their decision.

[Emphasis added]

Full text of the decision can be found here (pdf). More Freedom@Work posts on union corruption available here, here, and here.

While the ruling is welcomed, the fact remains that regulatory oversight of unions -- rather than simply stripping union bosses of the government-granted special privileges that facilitate the corruption -- results in little more than make-work for federal bureaucrats.


What's With This Love Affair Academics and Journalists Are Having With SEIU's Andrew Stern?

A writer for the Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece up on Andy Stern, president of the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Stern has been a driving force behind the SEIU's expansion since the mid-80s, and the article plugs his organizational success. What the article fails to do, like so many others, is grapple with the controversies and anti-employee freedom bent that has colored Stern's tenure.

Consider the following passage:

"Stern's ambition is to transform and revive American unionism. In 2005, he led several big unions, including the SEIU, the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers, out of the AFL-CIO. In their new coalition, known as Change to Win, Stern pushed each of the unions to devote a qualitatively large proportion of their resources to organizing, even if it meant reducing the number of staff who 'serviced existing members.' He insisted that unless unions such as the SEIU achieved a far higher degree of "density" in specific industries, such as healthcare, they wouldn't be strong enough to raise wages and working conditions for everyone."

Although the article does highlight the considerable internal dissent provoked by Stern's "growth at any cost" policies, the author glosses over the ugly truth behind the SEIU's recent expansion. Stern's strategy has been so successful in part because it emphasizes coercive, top-down union organizing drives, card-check campaigns that disenfranchise employees, and vicious corporate PR broadsides that blackmail businesses into collaborating with SEIU organizers.

Given Stern's ambitious national strategy to build a larger political machine, it's no surprise that workers increasingly question the union hierarchy's desire to pursue the interests of workers.

SEIU's Irresistible Offer: Help Us or Go Bust

Regular Freedom@Work readers know that we've been following the SEIU's aggressive "growth at any cost" policies for quite some time.

This entry from the Philadelphia Inquirer alludes to the reality of what Big Labor seems to be offering these days -- help us or go bust.  Although most of the article focuses on a failed attempt to unionize security guards, the author also describes the union's hostile relationship with Aramark, a food services vendor:

"In 2005, Aramark entered into a neutrality agreement with SEIU and
UniteHere, another union, Aramark spokeswoman Kristine Grow said.

Aramark, which provides food service at colleges, ballparks, companies
and schools, would remain neutral in union-organizing drives, if their
clients agreed.

In 2006, Aramark decided to terminate the neutrality agreement, which
expired last summer. Since then, SEIU has applied hard pressure to the company."

Aramark's experience highlights the dark underbelly of the SEIU's "corporate campaign" strategy. Having withdrawn from this so-called neutrality agreement designed to force unwilling workers into union ranks, Aramark found itself again targeted by a series of PR broadsides, including an SEIU-sponsored website where users anonymously post unverified attacks on Aramark's performance and services.

Folks, this is what union organizing has become: when workers aren't interested, just bloody the company until it essentially agrees to do the organizing for you.  Par for the course when it comes to the SEIU.

IAM Union's Sham Elections: Kim Jong-il Would Be Proud

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) has a long and troubled relationship with true workplace representation.  In fact, the union bosses' authoritarian nature of governance more closely resembles communist North Korea.

Section B-2 of the IAM's "Official Circular No. 813 - Strike Sanctions and Benefits" (pdf) lays out the organization's procedures for accepting a renegotiated contract or rejecting a new offer from management and going on strike:

". . . a secret ballot vote by the membership present and voting must carry by a two-thirds (2/3) majority in order to declare a strike."

Section B-3 makes it perfectly clear that IAM officials can unilaterally "ratify" a collective bargaining agreement even if a majority of employees vote against the new contract. In other words, IAM representatives are empowered by their own regulations to ignore workers' preferences:

"In the event that a strike vote fails to carry by the required two-thirds (2/3) majority vote, the collective bargaining agreement at issue will be accepted." [Emphasis in original]

Not exactly what you'd call fair -- vote no, but get yes. A recent NLRB administrative law judge ruling (pdf) involving a collective bargaining dispute in Indiana reveals that local IAM officials agreed to a renegotiated contract despite the fact that a majority of employees had already rejected management's new offer:

"The union put the agreement [the new contract] to a vote of employees and, following its established procedures, when less than a majority voted in favor of the contract, this triggered a strike vote requiring supermajority approval, and failing to garner approval for the strike, the contract was deemed accepted."

This situation lays bare the fraud of exclusive representation, also known as monopoly bargaining.  Unfortunately, workers have little voice when the union hierarchy is installed as the middleman... and often given other compulsory unionism privileges to boot.

With help from Foundation staff attorneys, several employees have come forward to challenge the IAM's monopoly bargaining privilege in the above-referenced workplace. These workers are interested in having a real workplace voice, not meaningless sham elections that can be ignored on a whim. Their appeal (pdf) to the NLRB General Counsel is pending further review, but we'll continue to post updates as the case progresses.

Quick Hits -- June 10, 2008

A few Right to Work-related updates from around the Internet:

1.) Over at "The Next Right," blogger Soren Dayton has an interesting post up about the implications for Right to Work if a union stooge wins the White House. Money quote:

This vision is about coercively moving more and more Americans into political organizations which use their precious financial resources in a way that they neither control nor even understand.

The entry also offers a compelling indictment of the SEIU's reliance on "card check" organizing drives. Check out the rest of the post here.

2.) The Detroit News has published a rebuttal by Foundation President Mark Mix to a union operative's misleading editorial on the economic benefits of Right to Work policies. Here's the letter's conclusion:

While the moral case for a right-to-work law rests on the principle
that no worker should be compelled to join a union against his or her
will, the economic benefits of protecting employee freedom are also clear. Michigan lawmakers would do well to heed the example of their more prosperous right-to-work neighbors when contemplating what to do about the Wolverine State's economic woes.

Read the whole thing here.

Union Operatives Take Aim at Minnesota's Attorney General

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has been targeted by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) officials for making personnel decisions which union bosses say is retaliation for the union's attempts to organize her staff. One columnist gave her the label of "union buster" in a recent article for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Since AFSCME's Minnesota Chapter endorsed Swanson during the 2006 election for her pro-union-boss positions, this particular turn of events is rich with irony.

There are notable parallels between union "corporate campaigns" and the AFSCME's ongoing PR assault against the Attorney General. Union operatives frequently rely on ugly public slurs to force companies into tacitly accepting coercive membership drives, and these well-honed tactics are being increasingly deployed against public officials.

According to Swanson, union bosses threatened to "place negative stories about her in the press and on Internet blogs if she didn't support a union for the attorneys."

Other employees say they've suffered intimidation and harassment at the hands of union militants for refusing to support the AFSCME's membership drive.

It's sad, but this is what union organizing has become. Help union bosses "recruit" new forced dues paying members... or else.


Michigan Union Boss Makes Fact-Free Case Against Ending Forced-Dues Gravy Train

The Detroit News has just published a remarkably fact-free op-ed on the economics of the Right to Work issue. Given the author makes his living from Big Labor's forced dues gravy train (he's a treasurer with the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters & Millwrights) which is partly responsible for Michigan's ongoing economic nightmare, it's no wonder he would be alarmed by the talk of cancelling union bosses' compulsory union dues privileges in Michigan.

The author starts out with this mind-boggling passage:

"Undeniably, having Michigan become a "right-to-work" state would be bad for workers, helping dismantle freely negotiated wage standards and benefits, as well as worker protections, in many industries. In right-to-work states, nonunion members can opt out of paying union dues, even though they receive all the guarantees and protections of the existing union contract under which they work." [Emphasis added]

Freely negotiated wage standards? Really? Is that what they are calling the system of mandatory bargain-or-be-prosecuted federal labor policy? Warehousing employees into collective bargaining units doesn't result in "free" anything, and to suggest otherwise is Orwellian double-talk.

The article continues:

"The reality is that "right-to-work" is not just a union issue. Our modern Michigan economy is in many ways "indivisible." For example, the strength and quality of our outstanding Michigan health care sector relies on the earned health care benefits of workers across many employment sectors, union or nonunion, skilled trade or service worker, blue collar or white.

Similarly, pension funds (whether defined benefit programs negotiated by labor unions in both the public and private sectors, 401(k) and similar plans provided by private employers or individual retirement accounts) are invested directly in our community, while their management supports the financial services sector of our Michigan economy."

Union officials' corrupt history of pension fund management should immediately give Michiganders pause. And the union record on health insurance is hardly better. Take the Michigan Education Association, for example. The Association's health insurance plan forces Michigan taxpayers to subsidize a bloated, uncompetitive payment scheme whose shady accounting procedures have been linked to union political activism.

The article concludes by citing some bogus report issued by Jeff Vincent, research director of the Indiana University Division of Labor Studies' Institute for the Study of Labor in Society.

Vincent's study conveniently ignores Right to Work states' comparative advantages in both higher real earnings and lower average costs of living. In other words, workers' paychecks go a lot further in economically dynamic Right to Work states because the goods they purchase are significantly cheaper.

At this juncture, it's worth noting that the moral case for Right to Work principles is entirely separate from the issue of material prosperity. Here at Freedom@Work, we believe that employees everywhere have an inalienable right to choose whether or not to associate with a union, regardless of anyone's feelings or the perceived economic benefits of collective bargaining. But it's also nice to know that study after study has validated the significant economic, job-creating advantages of Right to Work policies.

Quick Hits -- June 1, 2008

A few Right to Work-related updates from over the weekend:

1.) A recent survey shows broad, bipartisan support for maintaining secret ballot elections in the workplace. Although the erroneously-titled "Employee Free Choice Act" has gained legislative momentum, 82% of all Democrat voters, 77% of all Republicans, and 79% of Independents oppose replacing secret ballot elections with coercive "card-check" organizing drives.

2.) Both the SEIU and the United Steelworkers unions are considering overseas expansion in concert with unions in Australia, Great Britain, and elsewhere. International efforts at unionization may exacerbate existing tensions within the SEIU over inadequate local representation.

3.) Implictly rebutting the claims advanced by union officials in a recent Detroit News op-ed, community and business leaders in Michigan are speaking out in favor of greater worker freedom. Here are a few choice excerpts (emphasis mine):

Michigan as a whole is at a critical crossroads. West Michigan wants a voice of its own," Jeanne Engelhart, president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, told me in a recent interview . . .

. . . Engelhart doesn't trash the Mackinac conference; she has attended in past years and found it useful. But she does suggest that west Michiganders might be more willing than Detroiters to push hard for government spending cuts and discuss controversial topics like right-to-work legislation, which would ban compulsory labor union membership."

. . . Dick Haworth, chairman of Holland-based Haworth Inc., believes a serious discussion of right-to-work status for Michigan is worth pursuing. "The union environment," he said, "does not allow you to adapt quickly, or at all, to the world we live in."

It's not just about wages and benefits; it's more about flexibility,
Haworth said. "In a lot of cases, we're not using world-class methods and processes. We need to be better students of what world-class is."



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