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Posts tagged "Labor"

crooksandliars:

Ousted New England Supermarket CEO Returns Following Protests By Employees

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.

read more

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.

H/T: Moshe z. Marvit at In These Times

FUCK Bruce Rauner, and he needs to be kept out of office! 

h/t: David Sirota at IBTimes.com

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

h/t: Sam Stein at HuffPost

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

h/t: Bryce Covert at Think Progress Economy

H/T: Kate Taylor at WISH TV

thepoliticalfreakshow:

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

h/t: Andy Kroll at Mother Jones

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

I hate to predict this, but the decision will be 5-4 in favor of Harris and against unions (based on the 2 9-0 decisions handed down this past Thursday). 

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM

thepoliticalfreakshow:

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 copsfirefighters, 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 thebiggest 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 see Harris 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’s urging, 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 wroteHarris “mushroomedinto a major test of the continuing validity of the Abood precedent.”

Cue organized 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 Abood would 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 Kennedy seemed 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.”

Source: Andy Kroll for Mother Jones

NOTE: I live in Granite City, and my father is employed at the US Steel-owned Steel Mill in town.

h/t: Jim Gallagher at STLToday.com