20 Sep 2007

Get Over It! Worker Discrimination is “Life in the big city”

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Two individual nonunion groups of contractors are fighting compulsory unionism in Northern Ohio – that is, the right to even bid on a multi-million dollar construction contract at MetroHealth Hospital in Cleveland.

Crain’s Cleveland Business (subscription required) reports:

The issue is important because the county in the next few years could let contracts for major construction projects including a $450 million convention center, a $140 million juvenile justice center, and a $200 million county administration building.

The fight is centered around a so-called "project labor agreement" (PLA) – a contract awarded by the government exclusively to unionized firms for public construction projects. Cuyahoga County officials and the MetroHealth System have used the PLA contract to exclude nonunion companies and employees from undertaking major construction projects within the county.

But when the two nonunion contractors groups filed a lawsuit asking the court for an injunction blocking the enforcement of the county’s PLA, the judge threw it out. The nonunion workers who want to work on the large hospital project have since filed an appeal, as the PLA requires contractors to grant union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over all workers, and likely requires employees to pay union dues or be fired.

When interviewed, a lawyer for the county made it clear that contractors will be subject to discrimination before being granted any public work in Cleveland. Crain’s Cleveland Business continues:

“Our position is it’s up to the union and contractor to determine the terms," said David Lambert, an assistant prosecutor who heads the county prosecutor’s civil division.

Asked whether that stance forces nonunion contractors to become union shops, Mr. Lambert replied, “That’s life in the big city.”

This is just another reason why PLAs sacrifice employee free choice and forcibly impose unwanted union representation and compulsory dues on employees.

19 Sep 2007

Wouldn’t You Want to Know?

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Wouldn’t you want to know if union officials illegally obtained your personal information?

That is the question raised in a motion filed today by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys in Philadelphia, PA. And the answer is not only would you want to know, but employees who have had their personal information illegally collected by union organizers have a right to know.

The legal filing is the latest in the ugly saga of UNITE union officials’ efforts to force employees into the union, like it or not. The motion was filed in a case brought by a group of Cintas employees against UNITE for having union organizers cruise parking lots collecting license plate numbers and then unlawfully using the plate numbers to access DMV information about employees that had been targeted for unionization.

Having found that union officials did illegally abuse the rights of over 1,500 Cintas employees by violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) of 1994, the judge has ordered that the union pay damages to employees.

But also revealed in the case is that all total, union officials conducted more than 13,700 DMV searches, meaning that more than 12,000 workers still don’t know that their rights have been violated, and that union organizers unlawfully obtained personal records for the purpose of making “house calls” on the employees. According to court records, these records were illegally accessed in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and California.

And so far these employees are still in the dark about the violations, despite the fact that the union may owe them millions for the violations of their privacy.

And these home visits that resulted from the information were anything but gentle. Organizers used the information to gain access into employees’ homes where they would then agitate the employee into signing a union card. And as a former union organizer for UNITE during the Cintas campaign recently testified to Congress, signing a card has nothing to do with support of the union:

Frankly, it isn’t difficult to agitate someone in a short period of time, work them up to the point where they are feeling very upset, tell them that I have the solution, and that if they simply sign a card, the union will solve all of their problems. I know many workers who later, upon reflection, knew that they had been manipulated and asked for their card to be returned to them. The union’s strategy, of course, was never to return or destroy such cards, but to include them in the official count towards the majority.

And according to the testimony, when not harassing workers at their homes the UNITE organizers were busy trying to agitate workers in other ways, such as getting them fired:

Ernest Bennett, the Director of Organizing for UNITE at the time, told a room full of organizers during a training meeting for the Cintas campaign that if three workers weren’t fired by the end of the first week of organizing, UNITE would not win the campaign.

With such tactics there is no doubt that the employees targeted by UNITE are owed an apology. And while they might never get that, they should at least be told that union organizers broke the law to violate their privacy.

18 Sep 2007

So Many Union Officials, So Little Time

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Yesterday, Democrat Presidential contenders addressed SEIU officials at a candidates’ forum in Washington,DC. The Presidential wannabes all know the massive financial support that can come from the support of union officials and their forced-dues coffers.

And if past experience is an indicator, an endorsement by SEIU officials is particularly lucrative.

After all it was SEIU officials that in 2004 sent $26 million, much of it seized from employees as a condition of employment, to the 527 group Americans Coming Together (ACT). After a complaint filed by the National Right to Work Foundation, the Federal Election Commission fined ACT for illegally spending the money on partisan electioneering… and that’s just one union’s electioneering efforts with one outside group. (Total estimates for the amount spent by union officials to influence the 2003-04 political cycle are nearly a billion dollars.)

But, as former-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson showed, kowtowing to union officials can be quite confusing, what with so many union officials and so little time. That’s why Richardson undoubtedly left union operatives scratching their heads when he ended his speech to the SEIU exclaiming “Thank you AFSCME!”

17 Sep 2007

Harassment is Harassment

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During last year’s union-ordered North American Goodyear strike that affected 15,000 employees, Frank C. Steen, III and his coworkers in Akron, Ohio, refused to abandon their jobs in order to support their families.

In return for their dedication, union militants targeted them with $620 each in illegal retaliatory strike fines, threats, hate mail, and other retaliation. And on two different occasions, United Steelworkers Union (USW) operatives even shouted through bullhorns outside Frank’s own home, calling him a “low life”.

But in recent weeks, Right to Work attorneys helped the Goodyear employees force the USW local to back down from its unlawful attempts to fine the employees. The settlement came just days before the National Labor Relations Board was scheduled to prosecute the union.

Among the list of things the USW union was forced to agree to: it will stop “using bullhorns to intimidate” and threaten retaliation against employees at their residences.

There was no question that union officials targeted Frank and his coworkers with intimidation. A recent Rubber & Plastics News (subscription required) editorial couldn’t have put it better:

Legally, the USW didn’t admit to wrongdoing. The reality, though, is just the opposite – harassment is harassment.

17 Sep 2007

Arming Employees with Information

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Mike Walton

(Photo by Marty Heisey, Lancaster New Era)

Today’s Lancaster New Era showcases machine operator Mike Walton’s (photo above) victory against compulsory unionism by throwing out the unwanted United Steelworkers Local 1035. For refusing to abandon his job during a union-ordered strike over compulsory dues, the paper says Walton was:

"…undeterred by being called a ‘scab,’ sneers, profanities and threats."

Arming himself with information from the National Right to Work Foundation’s website, Walton secured a decertification election by the National Labor Relations Board in which he and his coworkers voted out the unwanted union. This victory shows that the Foundation helps employees battle forced unionism outside the courtroom as well by educating employees about their rights.

However, in states like Pennsylvania where workers can be fired for refusing to pay union dues, a Right to Work law remains the only true solution for widespread relief.

Decertification elections are uphill battles because workers can only request them in narrow window periods near the end of a contract, or every three years, whichever comes first. Additionally, union officials can campaign against the employees using forced union dues.

 

 

14 Sep 2007

Compulsory Unionism and Corruption

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Last week’s New York Times report of another case of mobbed up union bosses is certainly nothing new, but it is a good example of how union corruption and compulsory unionism go hand in hand:

An independent counsel appointed to investigate the union representing 15,000 New York City school bus drivers has concluded that there is substantial evidence that “organized crime has infiltrated and controlled” it.

The counsel’s report, written in January and made public yesterday by dissident union members, said that top officers of the union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, were involved in what it called racketeering activity that included extortion, kickbacks and bribes.

Salvatore Battaglia, the local’s former president, is facing trial on federal charges accusing him of extortion, receiving bribes and hiding Mafia involvement in the union. He has pleaded not guilty. The local’s secretary-treasurer, Julius Bernstein, was forced to resign by federal prosecutors and has pleaded guilty to obstructing justice.

According to reports, employees in a group called “Members for Change” had been since calling for the ouster of the mobbed-up union bosses since 2005. Now with the former two top union officials on trial or having pleaded guilty, employees forced to pay dues as condition of their job are questioning the new union bosses installed by officials from the Transit Union’s International:

At a news conference yesterday, a dozen bus drivers complained that the two trustees whom the parent union had named to oversee the local had hired 11 of the local’s executive board members who had worked under Mr. Battaglia.

The drivers said those people had helped perpetuate an intimidating atmosphere that discourages criticism of union leaders. They also complained that not enough was being done to recoup the more than $2.7 million that federal officials say Mr. Battaglia obtained improperly.

“The international didn’t bring in any new faces,” said Simon Jean-Baptiste, who belongs to a dissident faction called Members for Change. “The same people are there who stopped people from talking. It’s a bad situation.”

Another bus driver, Clifford Magloire, said that in May, when he was distributing leaflets criticizing the local’s leaders, one union official pushed him against a fence and started screaming at him as others surrounded him.

Of course, if corrupt union bosses couldn’t depend on rank-and-file employees being forced to pay dues and associate with the union as a job condition, it would be far harder for them to get away with treating employees like patsies who can be taken for a ride.

14 Sep 2007

“You have to scratch your head, and say ‘what’s going on?’ “

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Those are the words of former United Farm Workers union activist Don Villarejo in today’s LA Times about the efforts of UFW officials to impose coercive "card check" organizing on California’s farm workers. Though the UFW union once highly prized secret ballot elections over whether to unionize, it is now pressing to making this highly abusive process the law of the land.

This is bad news for California’s farm workers. Earlier this year, the California Ag. Board ordered the UFW union to end its misrepresentations, illegal threats of firings, and unlawful dues demands against California Mushroom employees. The order, won by Right to Work attorneys, contradicted an earlier claim by a UFW official in the media that, "We give workers a clear choice and show them how to exercise their options.”

Attorneys from Right to Work also won over $105,000 in back pay for a large group of strawberry pickers that UFW officials ordered unlawfully fired from their jobs. The employees had refused to join the union and sign dues check-off authorizations permitting the union to collect full dues directly from their wages.

If UFW officials show similar disregard for workers’ rights under "card check" drives, California’s farm workers have reason to worry.

13 Sep 2007

Michiganders Are Leaving for Right to Work States

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The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Michigan’s auto-manufacturing jobs are on the decline, and young workers are quickly moving out of the state.

As one Michigan resident put it:

"Every week at my church I hear about two or three more young people moving South or Southwest," Mr. Warren says. "Too bad, because Michigan needs to keep its young people."

Mr. Warren echoes Mark Mix’s call in the Detroit Free Press on Labor Day, stating:

Michigan simply isn’t creating enough good jobs to keep its young employees from leaving for more prosperous states.

Michigan, one of 28 forced-unionism states, is home of the auto-industry’s “Big Three” where United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials have a stranglehold over employee free choice. The state has seen its fair share of economic decline and is facing troubles both now and in the long-term.

According to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1994 and 2004, the number of 25 to 34 year-olds in Michigan fell from 1.46 million to 1.29 million, a stinging decline of 10.6 percent. The data also indicate this decline is largely attributable to the absence of a Right to Work law in Michigan.

To retain its young employees and the energy and creativity they contribute, Michigan needs to create more jobs. And a Right to Work law would guarantee the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union.

Angela Davis, a Michigan resident who intends to pursue a nursing career, started taking classes at a local university after being laid off from Chrysler earlier this year. She plans to return to Alabama, where her father lived before moving to Michigan.

Mrs. Davis hopes to graduate in 2010 and then retrace her father’s journey, relocating her family to the South, where unemployment rates are lower than Michigan’s 7.2%, the highest in the U.S. "Every time I visit down there it just feels like home," she says.

The whole Southern region of the U.S. is made up entirely of long-time Right to Work states.

13 Sep 2007

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

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Yesterday, longtime number-two union boss at the AFL-CIO, Linda Chavez-Thompson announced she would be retiring later this month. Amazingly, in a 1999 interview Chavez revealed that she had no idea what Right to Work means:

Chavez-Thompson Ignorant of Right to Work

Of course, Right to Work protections have nothing to do with at-will employment. Rather, Right to Work laws – like the one in Texas – simply guarantee that employees cannot be required to pay dues to a union to get or keep a job.

Perhaps that ignorance of the concept of employee freedom of choice made it easier for Chavez to collect her salary of over $240,000 funded by individual workers who would fired if they refused to pay.

Set to replace Chavez is another longtime union official Alrene Holt-Baker who came over to the AFL-CIO with Chavez-Thompson from the AFSCME union in 1995. Holt-Baker, who already collects over $100,000 a year, can expect a sizable raise for her new position – funded, naturally, with forced union dues taken from workers under threat of termination.

12 Sep 2007

Does Forced Unionism Also Threaten Bridge Safety?

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The National Taxpayers Union’s blog (they’re a voluntary “union”) picks up on a Senate vote today to repeal Davis-Bacon wage mandates for bridges classified as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.”

Like “Project Labor Agreements,” Davis-Bacon effectively discriminates against nonunion workers and contractors, effectively blackballing them from working on government projects.

Not surprisingly, Big Labor’s allies in the Senate blocked the amendment that would have eliminated the onerous David-Bacon requirements… meaning that taxpayer dollars will continue to be diverted into bridge construction projects under union boss monopoly control.

The resulting featherbedding, extortionate work stoppages, and wasteful work rules will run up the costs. Meanwhile, union officials will rake in millions in forced union dues.

But that isn’t where the story ends. This map shows the Percentage of Bridges in each State that is classified as “Functionally Obsolete” or “Structurally Unsound” (the same classifications used in the blocked Senate Amendment):

 

It turns out that bridges in Right to Work States are far safer than those in states that allow union officials to force workers to pay union dues or be fired.

In fact bridges are 31% more likely to be functionally obsolete or structurally unsound in forced-unionism states (29.68% in Forced-Unionism States vs. 22.71% in Right to Work States).