Quick Hits - June 30, 2008

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

1.) Does the AFL-CIO owe $14 million in back taxes? Perhaps an IRS audit will reveal other problems with the AFL-CIO's overtly partisan and massive campaign expenditures. The author overstates the good that comes from oversight of union finances by the Office of Labor Management Standards, but he does point out the amusing fact that Democrats are in favor of "smaller government" in this one instance:

One of the branches of the Department of Labor that provides a real services to all Americans is the Office of Labor-Management Standards. These are the guys who make sure that labor unions are being transparent about their finances. Or they try, when the Democrats don't cut their budget. But, for now, you get to see how unions spend their money.

If you're interested in reading more about the Foundation's ongoing efforts to ensure greater union financial disclosure, subscribe to the latest issue of Foundation Action. The July/August newsletter features a story on the DOL's latest half-hearted attempt to promote financial transparency -- any why a crippling "confidential information" loophole would render DOL's whole exercise as useless.

2.) More good stuff from the Washington Examiner. John Barnes has a informative post entitled "Why public sector labor unions are a bad idea." Here's the money quote:

This is how the cycle works: state workers are forced to join a union, even if they don't want to -- the unions collect mandatory dues from state worker paychecks -- the unions use that money to support campaigns for the very elected officials with whom they bargain for contracts -- not surprisingly, the unions tend to get favorable contracts that usually result in higher membership dues that in turn provide the unions with more money to fund "friendly" elected officials. Add a growing state workforce, repeat cycle, and stir. What's the basic ingredient here? Your tax dollars.

For those of you who missed it, Freedom@Work spotlighted Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire's incestuous relationship with union officials last week. The Seattle Times article detailing her connections to Big Labor is well-worth a read.

The Card-Check Connundrum

The recent Chamber v. Brown decision (.pdf) highlighted one of the worst aspects of coercive union organizing. Writing for the majority, Justice Stevens emphasized the California statute's most problematic feature: while the free flow of truthful information about the downsides of unionization was shut off by the state's draconian regulations, union organizers received special dispensation to harass workers both at home and on the job:

Instead of forbidding the use of state funds for all employer advocacy regarding unionization, AB 1889 [the California law] permits use of state funds for select employer advocacy activities that promote unions. Specifically, the statute exempts expenses incurred in connection with, inter alia, giving unions access to the workplace, and voluntarily recognizing unions without a secret ballot election.

"Voluntarily recognizing unions without a secret ballot election" is a euphemism for coercive card-check drives. And while the Chamber v. Brown decision is a small brake on in-your-face union organizing drives underway across America, the frequency of card-check drives has increased markedly over the past several years.  Evidently, union organizers have realized that publicly badgering employees into signing away their rights to self-representation is a lot easier than acceding to federally-supervised secret ballot elections.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Foundation staff attorneys recently acquired data from the National Labor Relations Board on the incidence of card-check petitions in the workplace.  According to this NLRB spreadsheet, union agents gained monopoly bargaining privileges using these methods in more than 250 America workplaces since November of 2007. The biggest offenders were members of SEIU President Andy Stern's so-called "Change to Win" coalition: the SEIU and UNITE HERE racked up 26 successful card-check drives each, while the Teamsters managed to pull off an impressive 108 card-check drives.  TheNLRB was not required to record this information until the Foundation's Dana/Metaldyne victory last September.

So why is coercive card-check organizing so uniquely damaging to employee freedom? The reason is simple: forcing workers to publicly disclose their preferences to union organizers leaves them vulnerable to intimidation, harassment, and retaliation.

Here's an excerpt from the congressional testimony of Jen Jason, a former UNITE HERE union organizer who participated in several card-check petition drives:

From my experience, the number of cards signed appear to have little relationship to the ultimate vote count. During a private election campaign, even though a union still sends organizers out to workers’ homes on frequent canvassing in attempts to gain support, the worker has a better chance to get perspective on the questions at hand. The time allocated for the election to go forward allows the worker a chance to think through his or her own issues without undue influence—thus avoiding an immediate, impulsive decision based on little or no fact. After all, the decision to join a union is often life-changing, and workers should be afforded the time to debate, discuss and research all of the options available to them.

As an organizer working under a “card check” system versus an election system, I knew that “card check” gave me the ability to quickly agitate a set of workers into signing cards. I did not have to prove the union’s case, answer more informed questions from workers or be held accountable for the service record of my union.

When the union is allowed to implement the “card check” strategy, the decision about whether or not an individual employee would choose to join a union is reduced to a crisis decision. This situation is created by the organizer and places the worker into a high pressure sales situation. Furthermore, my experience is that in jurisdictions in which “card check” was actually legislated, organizers tended to be even more willing to harass, lie and use fear tactics to intimidate workers into signing cards. I have personally heard from workers that they signed the union card simply to get the organizer to leave their home and not harass them further. At no point during a “card check” campaign, is the opportunity created or fostered for employees to seriously consider their working lives and to think about possible solutions to any problems.

Pretty sobering stuff.  Of course, the card-check strategy was never intended to fairly gauge workers' preferences.

After working with UNITE HERE organizers for years, Jen Jason finally got the full picture. Her experience should make the pernicious nature of card-check organizing abundantly clear:

I began my career with UNITE with a strong belief in worker’s rights and democracy in the workplace. During the course of my employment with the union, I began to understand the reality behind the rhetoric. I took in the ways that organizers were manipulating workers just to get a majority on “the cards” and the various strategies that they employed. I began to appreciate that promises made by organizers at a worker’s house had little to do with how the union actually functions as a “service” organization.

New Developments Regarding the (Still?) Mobbed Up Teamsters Union. . .

In May, a devastating piece from the Far Left New Republic highlighted the Teamsters' officials attempts to get rid of the Independent Review Board (IRB), a federal oversight body intended to police the union's well-documented connections to organized crime. Here's a particularly choice example of Teamster union "representation" from the article:

But Hoffa's efforts [to get rid of the IRB] were derailed by a sensational IRB report that appeared late that year detailing the efforts of Chicago Teamsters, working with a Chicago labor broker, Richard Simon, whom Stier [a former federal prosecutor] would later describe as "having ties to organized crime," to undermine a Teamster local in Las Vegas by negotiating non-union, low-wage agreements to service the city's numerous business conventions.

Now a former Teamsters boss has written in to announce he's shocked - shocked - by the magazine's allegations of corruption. Having already been ejected from the union by the IRB for innappropriate conduct, his credibility on this issue is somewhat strained. Fortunately, the author ably defends his original contentions:

The IRB found that the two men [two Teamsters officials -- one of whom wrote in to object to the first article] tried to get the Teamsters local 631 in Las Vegas, which provided workers to convention shows, to allow Richard Simon, a Chicago labor broker, to provide non-union workers to conventions. The workers, which would be provided by Simon's United Temps, would not receive benefits or overtime. All in all, they would earn less than half of the Teamster workers; and under the labor agreement that the Teamsters had with the conventions, Simon's cut-rate contract could then become the standard for all convention employees. The Teamsters would be screwed, but Simon would come out ahead, and so would Hogan's brother Michael, who was the vice president of Simon's company, and also the head of a convention company that would be hiring Simon's workers.

Notably, the IRB's investigation was later validated by a federal court:

"Having carefully reviewed the hearing record," the Appeals Court wrote, "we concluded that the IRB's findings are supported by substantial evidence, are not arbitrary or capricious, and plainly demonstrate that Hogan and Passo were negotiating a contract that they knew would have harmed the union."

While more oversight may seem desirable, it's no substitute for real reform. Corruption will remain endemic to labor unions like the Teamsters as long as union officials have access to a bottomless source of mandatory dues payments. Furthermore, the entire structure of monopoly bargaining gives employees no meaningful recourse to combat union fraud and corruption, as union officials are essentially installed for life as workers' sole representatives [this National Institute for Labor Relations Research paper is good primer on the relationship between compulsory unionism and union corruption].

Good-faith efforts at union oversight are also vulnerable to changes in the political environment. According to this Wall Street Journal article, one presidential candidate has already announced his support for dismantling the IRB and giving the Teamsters free reign to police themselves. Unfortunately, we already know how that strategy will turn out (from the original TNR article):

To build an argument for getting rid of the IRB, Hoffa set up his own internal oversight group. It was called RISE (or Respect, Integrity, Strength, and Ethics) and was run by a former federal prosecutor and organized crime expert Ed Stier.

. . .

For Stier, however, those hopes were dashed the next year when he began investigating Chicago-area Teamster locals for corruption. As he later detailed in a report, Stier discovered "multiple issues related to organized crime [and] corruption" in Local 714, and similar issues in five other area locals. The report concluded, "Issues related to organized crime infiltration and associated corruption in the Chicago area are numerous and cut across jurisdictional lines." But in the fall of 2003, as Stier was still in the midst of his investigation, the Teamster leadership began objecting vociferously to it, and in February 2004, Hoffa shut it down.

News Release

Employees Toss Out Unwanted Teamsters Union Bosses After Coercive Union Card-Check Campaign

Employees vote overwhelmingly against Teamster “representation,” utilizing newly-won National Right to Work Foundation legal precedent

Sacramento, California (July 3, 2008) – With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, employees at the USF Reddaway trucking company recently voted to eject the Chauffeur Teamsters and Helpers Local 150 union from their workplace. The Teamsters pushed their way into the facility in December of 2007, when USF Reddaway voluntarily recognized the union without a secret ballot election.

Under the card-check organizing scheme union agents use to demonstrate supposed employee support, employees are denied access to a secret ballot election and are instead forced to publicly declare their support or opposition to unionization during face-to-face confrontations with professional union organizers. Employees report that, during card-check union organizers often harass, mislead, or outright lie to employees to acquire their signatures.

Recognizing the coercive nature of card-check organizing, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled in the Foundation’s Dana/Metaldyne case that employees may initiate a union decertification petition immediately following recognition if a union acquires its monopoly bargaining privileges through card-check. The National Law Journal has described Dana/Metaldyne as one of the “most significant decisions” of the Board in the last four years.

Dissatisfied with the results of the coercive card-check drive, several employees at USF Reddaway took advantage of the Dana decision and immediately circulated a union decertification petition. After a majority of workers signed the petition, Teamsters officials filed so-called “blocking charges” to short-circuit employees’ wishes.

Foundation attorneys responded by filing unfair labor practice charges on behalf of several USF Reddaway employees. The charges cited the suspicious circumstances surrounding the union’s original card-check drive, alleging that the union did not enjoy the majority support of employees. To resolve this legal impasse, both sides agreed to withdraw their charges in favor of an NLRB-supervised election to determine whether workers supported unionization. On June 16 and 17, over 60 percent of USF Reddaway employees voted against union representation, finally expelling the unwanted Teamsters from the workplace.

“While we applaud the employees’ resolve in obtaining their decertification election, this incident highlights the controversial nature of card-check organizing,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Allowing union activists to pressure workers into signing authorization cards is an inherently unfair process that not only subjects vulnerable employees to bullying and harassment, but it also imposes a union on them that they often do not want.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

Quick Hits: 73 Years of Entrenched Federal Forced Unionism Privileges, and the Ugly Reality of Big Labor Racism

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

1.) July 5th marked the 73rd anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act. This legislation, originally enacted in 1935, imposes union officials as middlemen between management and workers. While reformers thought they were curtailing the worst excesses with the Taft-Hartley Amendments in 1947, the NLRA continued to give government backing to Big Labor's monopoly bargaining privileges while actually increasing the government force behind an immoral policy of forcing workers to pay dues for often unwanted union "representation."

Here's a good primer on the NLRA's evolution from Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

2.) Reason Magazine has a good post up on the racially-charged history of mandatory collective bargaining. Here's the money quote:

The NAACP's publication The Crisis, for example, decried the monopoly powers granted to racist unions by the NRA, noting in 1934 that "union labor strategy seems to be to obtain the right to bargain with the employees as the sole representative of labor, and then close the union to black workers."

Institutional union racism continues to this very day.  And it is aided and abetted by Big Labor's monopoly bargaining privileges which give union officials inordinate power over employees' livelihood.  It is all too common for union bosses to retaliate against employees for any arbitrary reasons, including race. In fact, one need not go back any further than a week to find allegations of racism by union officials.

News Release

Union Officials Forced to Agree to New Decertification Election after Workers Complained of Union Intimidation

California workers faced union threats, intimidation in an earlier bid to eject unwanted union from the workplace

Banning, California (July 11, 2008) – In response to objections filed by workers represented by the National Right to Work Foundation alleging union misconduct during a recent decertification election at Coastline Manufacturing, International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades Local 636 union officials decided to save face rather than go through an embarrassing National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing. Instead, they agreed to a new election to determine whether the union will retain its monopoly bargaining privileges.

After union officials unlawfully tampered with employees’ efforts to prove a majority didn’t want union representation, workers contacted the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance. Employees at the glass manufacturing company then sought a union decertification election supervised by the NLRB to formally toss the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades local out of their workplace.

On May 19, a majority of workers voted to retain union representation, but the results were marred by union threats, intimidation, and other irregularities. Foundation staff attorneys filed official objections with the NLRB’s Regional Director, citing five union violations of federal labor election guidelines and asking for a new decertification election so that employees could freely express their preferences.

Workers reported that the union illegally tainted the election by installing a union official as a supposedly “neutral” election observer, threatening employees with financial penalties and employer confiscation of pension funds in the event of decertification, menacing workers with suggestions of lay-offs if the union were to be ejected, and threatening employees with disclosure of family members’ immigration status.

The NLRB Regional Director granted a hearing to resolve employees’ objections, but union officials apparently recognized the likelihood of an embarrassing loss and, at the 11th hour, decided to withdraw from the proceedings and instead agree to another federally-supervised decertification election.

“Union officials’ willingness to intimidate the very employees they are supposed to represent irreparably compromised the integrity of the decertification election,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The union’s decision not to contest the workers’ charges clearly demonstrates the process was fatally flawed. We can only hope that this next election will fairly reflect employees’ preferences.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

Another Survey Says Right to Work Fosters Economic Growth, Job Creation

A recent survey of New Jersey job providers featured some interesting conclusions. It turns out that current state policies have discouraged new businesses from setting up shop:

Such findings have given the state a national reputation as inhospitable to industry. In 2007, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council rated New Jersey last among states to foster small-scale operations. This year, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation said the state was second to last on its tax-climate index.

So what's an economically stagnating state to do? Here's some sound advice:

"It is not about the broader economy. It is about the poor choices New Jersey has made," said Philip Kirschner, president of the business association...

"As for legislation and policy reform, he said, New Jersey could adopt other states' successful models.

"North Carolina's economy, for instance, grew from agriculture and manufacturing to include tourism, technology and finance, some well-served by research universities. Unlike New Jersey, it is a Right to Rork state - in which union membership is not compulsory..."

Surprise, surprise!  Incidentally, here's CNBC's recent ranking of "America's Top States for Businesses" in the workforce category.  What do the leading states all have in common?  Every one is a member of the Right to Work club.

Of course -- first and foremost -- Right to Work is about employee freedom in the workplace, but much to the chagrin of union bosses, rolling back coercive union power has undeniable economic benefits as well.



Teddy Kennedy is Back At It; Strikes Out Against Workers' Right to Know

On May 12, the Department of Labor issued a notice proposing a few minor rule changes aimed at improving union transparency. To help workers get more information on union expenditures they're frequently obligated to fund as a condition of employment, the new regulations would revise parts of the LM-2 form, a financial disclosure report filed by unions with over $250,000 in annual revenue.

Among other things, the new regulations would require unions to disclose the amount of money spent on benefits for individual union officers, to report indirect monetary disbursements, to itemize certain receipts of $5,000 or more, and to disclose the identity of the purchaser or seller in transactions involving union assets.

Sounds pretty modest, right? In the past, we've blogged about the false promise of reducing union corruption simply by regulating financial disclosure. That said, Freedom@Work certainly doesn't oppose measures that promote greater transparency. In fact, Foundation staff attorneys filed comments (.pdf) with the Department of Labor in support of the proposed rule changes. We believe that workers have a right to know what activities their mandatory dues payments are funding.

But Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative George Miller beg to differ. In a public letter (.pdf) to the Department of Labor, they claim that the burden of financial accountability (for funds that are essentially handed to them on a silver platter, I might add) is simply too onerous for union bosses to bear (emphasis mine):

The NPRM also advances a misguided proposal that makes it more likely that smaller local unions will face dramatic increases in their financial record-keeping and reporting obligations. The officers of small local unions often work full-time for a represented employer while simultaneously performing their duties as union officers. Their resources are small, and their access to professional assistance - including lawyers and accountants - can be limited.

Senator Kennedy's newfound enthusiasm for easing America's regulatory burden is a bit surprising - one wonders why he recently introduced legislation requiring restaurants to list nutritional info for every single menu item - and wholly disingenuous. Local unions are affiliated with larger national and international unions precisely because these entities are supposed to provide "access to professional assistance."

Kennedy and Miller's blatant hypocrisy is particularly rankling because union bosses have repeatedly used this justification to extract more mandatory dues-payments from nonunion employees. In Lehnert v. Ferris (1991), for example, Foundation attorneys argued before the Supreme Court that nonmember workers should not be forced to pay for union "services" provided from other union affiliates. However, union lawyers successfully claimed that "services" provided by the union's parent organization justified additional compulsory dues-payments. Here's the crux of Justice Blackmun's majority opinion (emphasis mine):

Because the essence of the affiliation relationship is the notion that the parent union will bring to bear its often considerable economic, political, and informational resources when the local is in need of them, that part of a local's affiliation fee which contributes to the pool of resources potentially available to it is assessed for the bargaining unit's protection, even if it is not actually expended on that unit in any particular membership year.

In other words, support from Big Labor's national affiliates is part and parcel of the mandatory agency fee package. If unwilling workers are funding unions' "considerable economic, political, and informational resources," shouldn't local affiliates have access to the resources they need to comply with these modest disclosure requirements?

This sordid episode demonstrates the intellectual dishonesty of union bosses and their political allies. Kennedy and Miller should just cut the crap. Like their Big Labor cronies, they just don't want workers to see the extent to which they are being ripped off. Period.


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