President Barack Obama gives props to fast food workers in the Fight for $15 on Labor Day!!
Happy Labor Day! This is the day we give thanks to the unionized workers who make this day what it is. #LaborDay #1u #p2
Why [conservative] white men hate unions: The South, the new workforce and the GOP war on your self-interest
In mid-August, the Chicago Tribune published a poll showing that Karen Lewis, the outspoken president of the Chicago Teachers Union, was leading Rahm Emanuel, 43 percent to 39 percent, in a hypothetical 2015 mayoral race.
Lewis led a 2012 strike after Emanuel tried to impose longer school days with no pay increases (she got her teachers a raise), and vociferously opposed the closing of 50 schools, which were mostly in black neighborhoods. During a pre-strike rally, she called the mayor “a liar and a bully.” Emanuel returned her contempt, shouting “Fuck you, Lewis!” during a tense private meeting. Lewis recently filed papers to raise money for a possible run against the man she labeled “the murder mayor,” because of Chicago’s high crime rate, and she has a pledge of $1 million from the American Federation of Teachers.
If Lewis wins, or even mounts a credible campaign, she will become the most prominent labor leader in America. In that role, she’ll be an appropriate successor to John L. Lewis, Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther, those crusty avatars of mining, trucking and manufacturing. As an African-American, a woman and a professional (she has a sociology degree from Dartmouth), Lewis is the face of the 21st century unionism, which has been transformed from a movement devoted to protecting the safety and livelihoods of blue-collar workers to a stronghold of white-collar liberalism.
Over the past 30 years, labor has been feminized, professionalized, politicized and regionalized. In the 1970s, Archie Bunker, a loading dock foreman, was a staunch unionist. Today, his son-in-law, grad student Mike Stivic, would be the union member.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most unionized job category is “education, training and library occupations” at 35.4 percent. That’s a field dominated by women, many with master’s degrees. (In fact, the Center for Economic and Policy Research predicts that by 2020, a majority of union members will be women.) Meanwhile, in manufacturing, the macho vocation that gave birth to the modern labor movement, the unionization rate has plummeted from 30 percent in 1983, around the time the term “Rust Belt” entered the popular consciousness, to 9.4 percent today. Workers in manufacturing are now less likely to be unionized than the workforce as a whole. During those three decades of deindustrialization, the United Auto Workers’ membership dropped from 1.2 million to 390,000. That’s mainly due to robots replacing line workers, and the loss of market share to foreign manufacturers. Because when those foreign manufacturers build plants in the United States, they build in the South, a region hostile to unionism.
Earlier this year, the UAW tried to organize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Despite the tacit support of the company, which needed an independent union to form a European-style works council, the UAW lost the election, 712-626. Before the vote, the anti-union faction, which called itself Southern Momentum, invoked cultural, regional, racial and political resentments to persuade the conservative white men working in the plant that a union was a threat not only to their livelihoods, but to their way of life. Billboards labeled the Democratic-leaning union the United Obama Workers and presented ruin porn images of the derelict Packard Motors plant alongside the slogan, “Detroit: Brought to you by the UAW.” A pamphlet distributed to workers compared the Northern union’s campaign to a campaign by the Union Army in the Civil War: “One hundred and fifty years ago … the people of Tennessee routed such a force in the Battle of Chickamauga.”
(When I heard a Sheet Metal Workers business agent from Syracuse theorize that Southerners dislike unions because “the name reminds them of the Union Army,” I thought he was nuts. Since Chattanooga, I think he may have been on to something. The man’s own local lost most of its members when the Carrier Corp. moved its air-conditioner manufacturing plants to Georgia and Tennessee — and told union employees they weren’t welcome to follow their jobs. Bottom line: If you buy a BMW built in Alabama, or a Toyota built in Mississippi, you’re not helping the American labor movement.)
Contrast that with the UAW’s campaign to organize graduate employees at New York University — exactly the kind of job Mike Stivic would have held. The union won that vote 620-10. It was a gimme. The UAW was dealing with teachers in the most heavily unionized state in the nation. In New York, 23.2 percent of workers belong to a union. In Tennessee, 4.8 percent do. (Only Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina are less unionized.)
In post-industrial, politically polarized America, it’s easier to organize Northern academics than Southern factory workers. Union membership used to be a matter of economic self-interest, divorced from political or cultural concerns. In the 1960s, union members — who were disproportionately Roman Catholic — could support the New Deal welfare state, while also backing the Vietnam War, racially restrictive housing covenants and bans on abortion and birth control. Richard Nixon — who used to call his ideal voter “a 47-year-old machinist’s wife outside Dayton” — won his 1972 landslide with a “blue-collar strategy” that attracted the support of white male unionists. Many were voting Republican for the first time, out of disgust for the counterculture represented by Nixon’s opponent, George McGovern. They were personified by Archie Bunker, with his strident admiration for “Richard E. Nixon.”
That election was the beginning of a realignment that found the labor movement on the opposite side of a political divide from the white men who once formed the backbone of its membership. Now, support for labor is just another blue state trait, like support for gun control or Obamacare. In states won by Barack Obama in 2012, 13.1 percent of workers belong to a union. In states won by Mitt Romney: 7.2. Collective bargaining is inimical to the conservative ideal of individualism. Unions are “socialist.” In 1983, over half of union members were white men. Now, a little over a third are. In New York City, site of the famous Hard Hat Riot, in which union construction workers attacked students protesting the Kent State shootings, less than a quarter of union members are white men.
It used to be that belonging to a labor union made you a Democrat. Now, being a Democrat is more likely to make you a union member. Blacks are more likely to be unionized than whites. College-educated whites are more likely to be unionized than non-college whites. Public sector employees are more likely to belong to unions than private sector employees. Teachers and librarians vote overwhelmingly Democratic, not because they’re union members, but because the combination of low pay and intellectual inquiry in those professions attracts liberals. And since most union members now work in the public sector, the war on unions has become a front in the larger conservative war on government. (The one exception: cops and firefighters, who have a 34 percent unionization rate. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker left them out of his ban on collective bargaining by public employees, because they tend to be white and conservative. Cops and firefighters can’t strike, though, and are more likely to belong to benevolent associations than full-fledged unions.)
Rahm Emanuel has never been a friend of the labor movement. Bill Clinton’s point man on shepherding the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress, he was a key figure in the Democrats’ realignment from a party of working people to a party of Wall Street, encouraging the party to responded to labor’s weakness by shifting its donor base from unions to socially liberal financiers. Told as White House chief of staff, that tens of thousands of autoworkers could lose their jobs if General Motors and Chrysler didn’t receive a federal bailout, he responded: “Fuck the UAW.”
Emanuel helped vanquish Old Labor as a force in American politics. Now he’s facing the political fight of his life, against a representative of the New Labor that’s taking its place.
A conservative group in Olympia, Washington has vowed to boycott Labor Day because of the holiday’s association with labor unions.
According to the Seattle Times, business backed conservative think tank the Freedom Foundation plans to protest the national holiday by refusing to take Monday off and having a “work-in” all day instead.
“I can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, so it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf,” said the Freedom Foundation’s CEO Tom McCabe.
Times columnist Danny Westneat pointed out that if McCabe really wants to protest union-led reforms in the workplace, then he should work every Saturday, as well.
“What’s odd about it, though,” Westneat wrote, “is that only 12 percent of American workers even belong to unions anymore. Yet we — I say ‘we’ because I’m in that 12 percent — somehow retain an almost supernatural mind-meld authority over the oppressed and hapless other 88 percent.”
Freedom Foundation materials call public labor unions a “disease” that is “running rampant” in Washington state.
Westneat pointed to Seattle-based company Boeing’s fiasco with the 787 Dreamliner jet-building program, in which Boeing management ran rough-shod over union protests about how the massive jetliners were being built.
“The 787 is now being called ‘a case study in how not to build an airplane,’” Westneat said. The jets were grounded all over the world after serious problems were found in their electrical systems and fuel lines, costing the company billions.
“It was the workers who warned that the program wasn’t going to fly, and management who ignored them,” Westneat wrote. “Yet it was management who were handsomely rewarded, while the workers — when they weren’t saving the Dreamliner debacle from imploding — who had their retirements slashed.”
“But let’s all protest against this and stagnant wages and outsourced jobs and all the other realities of work in America by…working on Labor Day!” the columnist concluded, saying that he isn’t just taking Monday off, “I’m boycotting Tuesday, too!”
As Lawrence O’Donnell noted in his Rewrite segment Thursday night, so much for the warped definition of “class warfare” and the working class being envious of the rich that Republicans like Mitt Romney and his ilk are constantly carrying on about. These employees proved that if you actually pay them well, respect them and act like you care about them, they’ll stand up for you.
Here’s more from The Boston Globe: Market Basket uprising’s success hard to replicate:
As celebration gave way to reflection the day after protesting Market Basket employees won the return of their leader, Arthur T. Demoulas, it remained unclear if the miracle of Tewksbury was truly a breakthrough moment for middle-class workers or a one-time phenomenon.
Ultimately what looked like a kamikaze mission ended in success, and as Demoulas offered thanks and congratulations Thursday morning outside company headquarters, one elated employee after another said they would do it again.
The Latest Attack on Labor, From The Group That Brought Us ‘Harris v. Quinn’ - Working In These Times
On the heels of its recent Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, the National Right to Work Committee and Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) has initiated a bold new attack on unions.
In a recent fundraising appeal sent on August 10, the president of both organizations wrote that Harris “was just the beginning,” and that fair share provisions (or, as he called them, “forced dues”) were only “part of the problem.” Now, having succeeded in imposing a right-to-work model for home healthcare workers across the country, NRTW is gunning after a much greater and unexpected target: exclusive representation.
One of the bedrock principles of American labor law is exclusive representation, whereby a union represents all the workers in a bargaining unit after it shows majority support by the workers. In a new case filed on behalf of a few Minnesota home care workers, Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW is now arguing that a union elected by the majority of workers should not be permitted to represent anyone that does not choose to join.
Last week, I wrote about a new positive experiment in members-only unionism at Volkswagen, which does not follow the exclusive representation model. If it is successful, Bierman v. Dayton would transform all public-sector unions into forced members-only unions, opening the door to a radical reconfiguration of public labor organizations.
In Minnesota, 26,000 home health care workers are currently voting by mail-in ballot whether to elect SEIU as their union. Those ballots are due by August 25. In its first maneuver of Bierman v. Dayton, NRTW filed for a preliminary injunction to invalidate the state law that authorized these workers to vote for a union—in other words, an exclusive representative—to bargain with the state. Expedited oral arguments were held on Tuesday, and on Wednesday afternoon the federal judge denied NRTW’s request for an injunction.
This early loss was to be expected, as NRTW is mounting a novel legal argument that runs counter to decades of labor and constitutional law. And NRTW’s litigation strategy generally includes repeated early losses as its representatives work their way through the judicial circuits to the Supreme Court.
NRTW’s argument in Bierman is not unprecedented, either. The group, whose mission is “is to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs,” included a similar measure in its brief to the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn. However, after Justice Sotomayor challenged the NRTW attorney on whether the group truly intended to radically challenge a core principle of American labor law, he backed off the argument.
Now, after having secured a major win in Harris, the Bierman case represents the next step in a multi-pronged attack on public-sector unions, which appears to be directed toward the goal of stripping from all public-sector workers the right to organize and bargain collectively.
So far, most First Amendment challenges to public-sector unions have relied on the argument that membership, or any required payments of any fees, is the equivalent of forced association or compelled speech. However, in Bierman, NRTW is relying on the Petition Clause, which provides the right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” According to this argument, a free rider who has benefitted from union representation but refused to pay any fees—a circumstance made possible under Harris v. Quinn—would have suffered constitutional harm by having the union bargain on her behalf.
Through this attack on exclusive representation, NRTW is almost certainly trying to diminish unions’ strength. Seattle University School of Law professor Charlotte Garden points out that a members-only system might lead some states to simply revoke the right to bargain collectively.
“Members-only bargaining might create a level of complexity that some public employers aren’t willing to deal with, leading states to eliminate public-sector bargaining altogether,” she says.
“For example, imagine a situation in which groups of employees within a single job classification voted for representation by several different unions that all demanded separate bargaining,” she continues. “That could create conflict among the employees and instability in the workplace that public employers were simply unwilling to deal with. States might then decide the best way forward was simply to eliminate collective bargaining.”
In an ironic twist, however, many labor advocates have also called for a revision of the rules on exclusive representation.
SUNY Buffalo Law School professor Matthew Dimick, who has written widely about some of the problems with the system of exclusive representation, explains to In These Times, “Since the representative of the bargaining unit is almost always chosen by some majoritarian process, there is always a danger that exclusive representation carries with it a suppression of minority interests and points of view.”
He notes that in the past, this has led to people already in positions of power using the union to further their agendas. “Historically,” he says, “the biggest problem has been ignoring or even suppressing racial minority interests.”
Others have argued that it is unfair to expect unions to represent those who choose to pay nothing.
Even so, though, if states were to adopt NRTW’s argument in Bierman, the next step for anti-union groups would likely be to argue that the Constitution prohibits bargaining with even a members-only union—a devastating move for the labor movement in both the private and public sectors. Though this argument may currently seem extreme and untenable, so did the argument that NRTW raised and dropped in Harris, only to pick up again in Bierman.
#ILGov: Bruce Rauner, GOP Candidate for Illinois Governor, Promises Government Shutdown and Mass Firing of Public Workers
In a newly surfaced video, Illinois’ Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner suggested if elected governor, he will fire public employees and potentially shut down the government to address his state’s fiscal challenges.
The video, circulated today by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, shows Rauner addressing the Tazewell County Republican dinner in March. In remarks to that group, Rauner said: “We may have to go through rough times. We may have to do what Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while. That’s what we’re gonna do.”
In 1981, members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization decided to go on strike in its push for better working conditions and higher pay. In response, President Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers. The federal government subsequently decertified the air traffic controllers union. His action came months after he sent a letter to the head of PATCO acknowledging “too few people working unreasonable hours with obsolete equipment” and pledging that his “administration will work very closely with you to bring about a spirit of cooperation between the president and the air traffic controllers.”
Rauner’s call to “shut things down” took place only a few months after the federal government shutdown last October. It also comes amid Illinois’ ongoing debate about how to address an estimated 30-year, $100 billion pension shortfall.
Critics of Illinois’ recent move to slash pension benefits have pointed to the state’s spending on tax cuts and subsidies as proof Illinois has plenty of money to address its pension obligations. For example, a New York Times analysis indicated, Illinois currently spends roughly $1.5 billion every year on taxpayer subsidies to corporations. Additionally, the state in 2011 passed a corporate tax cut bill that is estimated to cost $371 million a year. That bill was designed to award tax breaks to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Rauner is considered a top pickup opportunity for Republicans. He has been consistently leading in polls in his election matchup against incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. His rhetoric against public employees stands in contrast to his business experience as a billionaire private equity executive who made his fortune managing government workers’ public pension money.
In the months preceding his call for mass firings of public employees and a shutdown, Rauner has proposed to use budget savings from pension cuts to finance new income tax cuts. He has also called for public employees to be moved out of traditional pensions and into 401(k)-style accounts.
The Associated Press reported recently those defined contribution systems tend to generate large fees for financial firms. Union-affiliated groups have argued states that have converted their plans to 401(k)s have ended up losing taxpayers’ money rather than cutting costs. Additionally, a Republican legislator in Alaska recently cited exploding pension costs as proof his state’s 2006 transition to a 401(k) system was a mistake.
The Rauner campaign did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
UPDATE: Another video has surfaced today showing Rauner making a similar comment in a March 2013 speech to Illinois Republicans. In that video, Rauner says: “I may have to take a strike and shut down the government for a few weeks and kinda redo everybody’s contract. That’s a possibility…I will do it proudly.”
FUCK Bruce Rauner, and he needs to be kept out of office!
h/t: David Sirota at IBTimes.com
The 5-2 ruling upholds the signature policy achievement of Walker in its entirety and is a major victory for the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, who is seeking re-election this year.
The ruling also marks the end of the three-year legal fight over the union rights law, which prohibits public worker unions for collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeals court twice upheld the law as constitutional.
"No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.
The high court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers. They had argued that the law, which came to be known as Act 10, violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.
Walker’s spokeswoman said the governor would be issuing a statement later Thursday morning.
Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011, a move that was met with fierce resistance from teachers, other public workers and their supporters who flooded the Capitol for weeks in an effort to block the bill’s passage. Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage.
The law bars automatic withdrawals from members’ paychecks and requires annual elections to see if members want their unions to go on representing them. It also requires public employees to contribute more toward their health insurance and pension costs, moves that Walker said helped local governments and schools save enough money to deal with other cuts done to balance a state budget shortfall.
Walker’s opponent for re-election, Democrat Mary Burke, supports the higher pension and health insurance contributions. But while she supports restoring collective bargaining, Burke has not promised to work for the repeal of Act 10 if elected.
Walker was forced to stand for recall in 2012, a move largely motivated out of anger over the union law. He won, becoming the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.
The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but it’s withstood them all.
The state Supreme Court decided to take the case it ruled on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portions of the law were unconstitutional.
Gableman, who wrote the opinion, is part of the conservative majority of the state Supreme Court. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the court’s two most liberal members, dissented. They argued the law unconstitutionally infringes on protected rights.
Scott Walker’s cronies have ruined Wisconsin once again. It’s time to get rid of him at the ballot box in November!
h/t: Scott Bauer at TPM
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order on Thursday seeking enhanced workplace conditions and rights for federal contract workers, three separate sources have told The Huffington Post.
One of those sources told The Huffington Post that “progressive workers’ rights groups are getting asked for workers who would be impacted by the executive order to be there [at the White House] tomorrow.”
The exact details of the order remain unknown. The White House has not responded to repeated and numerous requests for comment. But sources outside the administration expect it to require contractors to disclose labor law violations. The order is also expected to encourage executive agencies to consider labor law violations when ordering federal contracts.
A preview of the president’s likely intentions may have been given on Tuesday in a post by the Obama-allied Center for American Progress. That post encouraged the president to sign an executive order that would “ensure that only companies that comply with federal workplace laws are able to receive federal contracts.”
The issuing of an executive order by the president on Thursday would indicate that this administration feels unbowed by a lawsuit brought forth by congressional Republicans challenging the extent of the executive actions he has taken.
Over the past year and a half there have been nine protests by low-wage federal contract workers over the conditions at their workplaces. In June 2013, workers at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging labor violations.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, meanwhile, released a report late last year documenting some of the poor conditions of workers for federal contractors. The report noted that 18 federal contractors “were recipients of one of the largest 100 penalties issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor between 2007 and 2012.”
The president has already signed one related executive order, setting a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for workers under federal contracts. Workers have been encouraged by the order, but also have pushed the administration to take additional action that would, among other things, enhance their collective bargaining rights, protect them from wage theft and enhance workplace protections.
In addition, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has urged the president to sign an executive order along these lines. In a letter sent last week, the caucus chairs called for a Good Jobs Executive Order that touched on three tenets: guaranteeing labor and employment law protections; adopting a “fair compensation preference” (in which contractors would be favored if they provided a living wage and full benefits package); and respecting workers’ rights to negotiate.
“The President is leading by example, establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the Federal government,” said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win, a sponsor of the Good Jobs Nation campaign of low wage federal contract workers. “Just like the $10.10 executive order had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”
VICTORY!! NLRB Ruling Holds McDonald’s, Not Just Franchisees, Liable for Worker Treatment - The New York Times
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s is jointly responsible for workers at its franchisees’ restaurants, a decision that if upheld would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.
Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board’s general counsel, said that of the 181 unfair labor practice complaints filed against McDonald’s and its franchisees over the last 20 months, he found that 43 had merit on such grounds as illegally firing or threatening workers for pro-union activities.
In those cases, Mr. Griffin said he would include McDonald’s as a joint employer, a classification that could hold the fast-food company responsible for actions taken at thousands of its restaurants. Roughly 90 percent of the chain’s restaurants in the United States are franchise operations.
McDonald’s said it would contest the decision, warning that the ruling would affect not only the fast-food industry but businesses like dry cleaners and car dealerships.
The N.L.R.B. ruling is wrong, according to a statement by Heather Smedstad, a senior vice president for McDonald’s, because the company does not determine or co-determine decisions on hiring, wages or other employment matters. “McDonald’s also believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small business, and goes against decades of established law,” Ms. Smedstad said.
Throughout the debate to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, alongside the efforts by fast-food workers and labor advocates to pressure McDonald’s and other restaurant chains to adopt a $15 wage floor, the companies have often said that they don’t set employee wages, franchise owners do. That defense would be weakened considerably by the workers’ push to have them declared joint employers.
In a statement, Angelo Amador, vice president of labor and work force policy for the National Restaurant Association, called the ruling another example of the Obama administration’s anti-small-business agenda. The ruling, he said, “overturns 30 years of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States, erodes the proven franchisor/franchisee relationship, and jeopardizes the success of 90 percent of America’s restaurants who are independent operators or franchisees.”
If upheld, the general counsel’s move would give the fast-food workers and the main labor group backing them, the Service Employees International Union, more leverage in their effort to unionize McDonald’s restaurants and to increase hourly wages. The average fast-food wage is about $8.90 an hour.
Mr. Griffin said in a letter that of the 181 cases filed against McDonald’s and its franchisees since November 2012 – the month the first one-day strike was conducted against McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants — he dismissed 74. Of the 107 other cases, he said he was still investigating 64, while his office found 43 had merit.
The Associated Press first reported the ruling on Tuesday. Ms. Smedstad told The A.P. that the labor board had notified the company of the ruling on Tuesday.
David French, senior vice president with the National Retail Federation, called the decision “outrageous.” “It is just further evidence that the N.L.R.B. has lost all credibility as a government agency established to protect workers and is now just a government agency that serves as an adjunct for organized labor, which has fought for this decision for a number of years as a means to more easily unionize entire companies and industries,” he said.
The fast-food workers movement has argued that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer because it owns many of the franchisees’ restaurant buildings and requires franchises to follow strict rules on food, cleanliness and hiring. McDonald’s has even warned some franchisees that they were paying their workers too much.
The cases were brought on behalf of workers who assert, among other things, that they were wrongfully fired, threatened or suspended because of their campaign for a $15 a wage and to unionize McDonald’s.
“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the N.L.R.B. shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” said Micah Wissinger, a lawyer in New York who filed some of the cases against McDonald’s. “The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.”
The next stages for the cases could involve Mr. Griffin’s trying to seek a settlement. But the cases more likely will be argued before an administrative law judge.
This is a major victory for workers, and a sad day for lobbyists such as the National Restaurant Association.
h/t: Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times
At a convention of more than 1,300 fast food workers in Illinois this weekend, attendees voted to start including acts of civil disobedience, such as sit-down strikes and restaurant occupations, in their campaign for higher wages and the ability to form a union.
Workers have gone on one-day strikes multiple times since late 2012 in hundreds of cities across the country, demanding at least $15 an hour and the ability to organize. The largest and most recent hit 150 cities in May. Workers have also taken protests to companies themselves, staging a protest outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in May where more than 100 were arrested.
One of the organizers of the convention told the Associated Press that workers will be asked to do “whatever it takes.” One worker, Cherri Delisline, a single mother who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour, also told the AP that “we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” including occupying the restaurants.
The actions come at a time when job growth has been stronger in low-wage jobs like fast food but the pay is barely enough to live on. The average fast food employee who works full time, year round makes less than $19,000 before taxes. While executives in the industry claim that these jobs serve as entryways for teenagers to get into the job market, the largest share are held by people between the ages of 25 and 54, and more than a quarter have a child to support. The chances of moving up the ladder and making a career in fast food are much slimmer than in other industries.
Executives, on the other hand, are doing well. Fast food CEOs earn about 1,200 times what they pay their workers. The ratio wasn’t always so high, but the industry’s executive pay increased by more than 300 percent since 2000 while pay for workers has only gone up by 0.3 percent.
Beyond staging protests and strikes, fast food workers have taken legal action. Nine out of ten fast food workers report experiencing wage theft, being made to work off the clock or purchase uniforms with their wages, and workers filed seven class-action lawsuits against McDonalds in March alleging these kinds of actions.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office is asking for an immediate stay after a judge struck down the right-to-work statue in a ruling made on July 17 that has just come to light on Wednesday.
Lake County Circuit Court Special Judge George Paras ruled in the lawsuit United Steel v. Zoeller and found unconstitutional the right-to-work law, which prohibits charging union dues to workers who are not members of the union at that employer.
Judge Paras did not stay his ruling and ordered that it take effect immediately upon its entry into the chronological case summary.
Zoeller’s office seeks an immediate stay of the ruling so the statute can remain in effect and the status quo can remain in place while the ruling is appealed.
“Strong opinions exist on both sides about involuntary union dues, but the Attorney General’s Office has a duty to defend the laws the Legislature passes from legal challenges plaintiffs file. If a trial court finds a law unconstitutional, then the appropriate action is to stay its ruling pending the appeal,” Zoeller said.
These cases could overturn the legal precedent backing public-employee unions.
On Monday, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices on Monday defied some expectations by not decimating public-employee labor unions via their ruling in Harris v. Quinn. Given the opportunity to issue a sprawling decision that would overturn decades of precedent, and in the process kneecap the basic model of public-employee unionism, the five justices, led by Samuel Alito, instead issued a narrower decision. They ruled that home health-care workers in Illinois are not full-fledged public workers and thus cannot be required to pay so-called fair-share fees to unions—money that goes toward the cost of union representation for all workers in a particular workplace.
But we may be back in this same situation a year from now, with the Supreme Court holding the fate of public-employee unions in its hands. That’s because there are a handful of ongoing lawsuits in courts around the country that pose similar challenges to unions as Harris did and that could end up before the Supreme Court. It’s possible that one of these cases could do further damage to the labor movement—with the potential to wipe out the precedent set in 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. (In Abood, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of public-employee unions collecting fair-share fees from non-members to pay the costs of collective bargaining.)
If you’re looking for a common thread between these challenges, it’s the National Right-to-Work Legal Foundation, the driving force behind many anti-union suits around the country. The foundation represented the plaintiffs in Harris v. Quinn, and it has provided legal help in two of the following cases.
Here’s a snapshot of four cases that could be the next Harris:
* D’Agostino v. Patrick: A group of home child-care workers in Massachusetts filed suit after the state passed a law designating the SEIU as the exclusive union for those workers. Similar to the Illinois home-care workers who brought the Harris suit, the Massachusetts workers claim their rights are being infringed on by being represented by SEIU, meaning union members and non-members pay dues in exchange for the benefits that come with union representation. This case is in the Federal District Court of Massachusetts.
* Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: A group of public-school teachers in California claim that the requirement that they pay fair-share dues to the California Teachers Association infringes on their First Amendment rights. Their suit also seeks to ban the “opt-out” model of automatic dues deductions, in which teachers who pay dues must opt out to keep their money from funding union political activity. Instead, the plaintiffs want teachers to opt in to fund that political work. This case is with the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
* Parrish v. Dayton: After Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signed a bill in May 2013 allowing the state’s child-care providers to vote to unionize, opponents filed a suit similar to Harris to halt the new law. The suit was on hold pending the outcome of the Harris case. The plaintiffs hailed the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris, and their lawyers now expect movement in Parrish.
* Hamidi v. SEIU Local 1000: This suit targets the part of California law that allows public-employee unions to use the opt-out model for dues paying, as described above. If Hamidi, who works for the state’s Franchise Tax Board, succeeds, his suit could take a bite out of Abood, which in part upheld the practice of opt-out clauses. Hamidi’s case is currently in California district court.
Source: Andy Kroll for Mother Jones
In the case Harris v. Quinn, the court’s five conservative justices ruled that home-care workers in Illinois—such as the lead plaintiff, Pam Harris—cannot be forced to pay dues to a union if they’re not union members because they are not full-fledged public employees like cops, firefighters, and teachers.
But there’s good news for organized labor: The court did not deliver the killer blow to public-employee unions as some warned it might. The court declined to overturn the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the opinion that upheld the model of public-employee unionism. Had the court tossed out Abood, it would’ve essentially made right-to-work—one of the conservative movement’s favorite anti-union policies—the law of the land and dramatically damaged the ability of unions such as SEIU, AFSCME, and others that represent public workers to collect dues and engage in political and issue advocacy.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry slammed the court’s decision in Harris. ”No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” she said in a statement. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”
Pam Harris, the lead plaintiff in the case, and Harris’ legal team, the National Right to Work Foundation, hailed the decision. “We applaud these home-care providers’ effort to convince the Supreme Court to strike down this constitutionally-dubious scheme, thus freeing thousands of home-care providers from unwanted union control,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said in a statement.
However, Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority’s opinion in Harris, left open the possibility for a future challenge to Abood. Alito noted that the “Abood court’s analysis is questionable on several grounds.”
In other words, the fight over public-employee unions is far from finished. “The court’s opinion in Harris is very much in the mold of opinions by the conservative Roberts Court majority: Issue a relatively narrow ruling on the conservative side, but lay the groundwork for a broader conservative ruling in the future,” says Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California–Irvine. ”In Harris, the court sets itself down the path of overruling Abood but does not take that step yet.”
For more on Harris, read the below explainer.
Forget Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow union-bashing governors. Forget the partisan Republican attacks on organized labor. The gravest threat today to public-employee unions—which represent cops, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, nurses, and other city and state workers—is a Supreme Court case named Harris v. Quinn, which could be decided as early as this Tuesday. And, strangely enough, it is the court’s most sharp-tongued conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, who could ride to organized labor’s rescue.
The case pits several of the nation’s mightiest labor unions, such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), against their longstanding foe, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which helped bring the case. National Right to Work is funded by some of the biggest names in conservative philanthropy: the Bradley family, the Waltons of Walmart, Charles Koch, and DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, two dark-money ATMs. Labor officials seeHarris as an effort by the deep-pocketed conservative movement to wipe public-employee unions off the map—and to demolish a major source of funding and support for the Democratic Party. “This is an attempted kill shot aimed at public-sector unions,” says Bill Lurye, AFSCME’s general counsel.
The origins of Harris date to July 2003, when the Illinois legislature passed a bill recognizing certain home-care providers as “public employees” and designating a Midwest branch of SEIU to exclusively represent those workers. Before that, these workers were deemed independent contractors with no union representation, even though the Illinois government paid them with federal health-care funds. In June 2009, Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, went one step further. By executive order, Quinn declared the state’s disability-care providers, another type of home-care worker, eligible for exclusive union representation. (Ultimately, the disability providers voted against unionizing.)
Organized labor hailed these moves. Unions see a huge opportunity in the rapidly growing population of elderly Americans—what SEIU president Mary Kay Henry calls the “silver tsunami.” Labor leaders believe that organizing home-care workers across the country could slow the decline in union membership.
When the Illinois labor bill passed in July 2003, no home-care worker was forced into SEIU. But if they chose not to join, the union still was allowed to deduct a small amount of money from their paychecks. Why? It was the union’s responsibility to represent every home-care worker impacted by the new law. To pay for representing union and non-union home-care workers, the union began taking what it calls a “fair share” fee. (This money cannot be used for political activity.) The Supreme Court has upheld a union’s right to collect fair share fees. (This is where so-called right-to-work laws come in. Such laws ban unions from collecting fair share fees from non-union workers even if the employees benefit from union-negotiated contracts.)
Home-care workers, consumers, and advocates in Illinois say union representation has led to higher quality care, safer workplaces, and more stability. Flora Johnson, an 85-year-old home-care worker in Chicago and SEIU member, says union-funded training sessions taught her how to properly lift a person and how to feed patients without choking them. Johnson points out that the union brought a level of professionalism to her industry. “Before we got the union, it was like we was babysitters,” she says. “We had no dignity.”
But there was a backlash. In April 2010, a group of Illinois home-care workers, led by plaintiff Pamela Harris, filed a class action arguing that the state had infringed on their First Amendment rights by forcing them to be represented by a union and pay fees. (The suit named two unions, SEIU and AFSCME, as defendants.) A district court and the US Seventh Court of Appeals each dismissed the case.
The case lay dormant until last October. That’s when, at National Right to Work’surging, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Harris. Until that point, Harris was narrowly focused on the Illinois home-care workers; it posed no existential threat to the likes of SEIU and AFSCME. But after the high court intervened, National Right-to-Work expanded its argument to threaten all public-employee unions. As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston wrote, Harris “mushroomed…into a major test of the continuing validity of the Abood precedent.”
Cueorganized labor’s freak-out. Abood v. Detroit Board of Education is the 1977 Supreme Court decision that, in effect, upheld the constitutionality of the public-employee union model. The majority in Abood said these unions did not infringe on the First Amendment by collecting representation dues and collectively bargaining on behalf of public workers."This is an attempted kill shot aimed at public-sector unions," says Bill Lurye, AFSCME’s general counsel
During oral arguments in January, the Obama administration contended that overturning Aboodwould result in “radically reshaping First Amendment law.” Yet several of the court’s conservative justices appeared to want just that. Writing for the majority in 2012’s Knox v. SEIU, Justice Samuel Alito all but invited National Right to Work to challenge Abood. During the oral arguments in Harris, Alito and Justice Anthony Kennedyseemed eager to demolish Abood. The court’s four liberal justices questioned National Right-to-Work’s arguments at every turn, with Justice Elena Kagan saying that tossing out Abood would lead to a “radical restructuring of the way workplaces are run.” John Roberts, who has used his time as chief justice to push a pro-corporate agenda, gave few hints about where he stood on the fate of public-employee unions.
That leaves Justice Antonin Scalia. A conservative who says he interprets the Constitution through an originalist lens, Scalia would make for a strange ally of organized labor. Yet it was Scalia who asked some of the toughest questions of William Messenger, the lawyer for National Right to Work, challenging Messenger’s argument that public-employee unions are lobbying organizations focused mostly on influencing public policy. Forcing workers to be represented by a lobbying outfit, Messenger argued, infringes on the First Amendment rights of workers who don’t agree with the union’s positions.
Scalia didn’t appear to be buying it. He seemed to lean more toward labor’s argument: that unions exist to better the working conditions of the workers they represent. “Listening to Scalia’s voice in oral arguments made me feel like he really doubted that there was a need to go so far right now,” says Lee Adler, an expert on public-employee unions at Cornell University. “He couldn’t follow National Right to Work’s logic.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in Harris could cut several ways. It could affirm the lower court’s decision—a big loss for National Right-to-Work. It could issue a more narrow opinion, saying, for instance, that Illinois home-care workers aren’t public employees and shouldn’t be unionized without touching Abood. Or the high court could take that kill shot: Eviscerate Abood and gut public-employee unions.
Like many other court watchers, Cornell’s Lee Adler says the fate of Harris—and, potentially, the fate of public-employee unions—rests with Scalia. For the labor movement, Adler says, “He’s the great white hope.”
BREAKING: SCOTUS rules narrowly in favor of Harris 5-4 in Harris v. Quinn.
Abood is VERY heavily criticized and questioned by Alito in the majority opinion, but it is not overruled in Harris v. Quinn. #SCOTUS— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) June 30, 2014
Harris v. Quinn breakdown: Harris: Roberts (CJ), Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas Quinn: Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg #SCOTUS— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem) June 30, 2014
Pete Williams—Unions have dodged a bullet, declines to say public employee unions never have to pay dues #SCOTUS— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) June 30, 2014
Harris v. Quinn had potential to end public-sector unions, period. As it is, it won’t do that. It DOES block these workers from unionizing.— Nathaniel Rakich (@baseballot) June 30, 2014
The SCOTUS splits along ideological lines: Five conservative justices against labor, four liberal justices for labor. #HarrisvQuinn— Andy Kroll (@AndrewKroll) June 30, 2014