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Posts tagged "Workers' Rights"

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

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

First Subway, now Dairy Queen.
Both those restaurants’ CEOs have correctly said that raising the Minimum Wage is beneficial to their businesses and economy. 

However, not every franchise owner of the two chains mentioned are not in favor of raising the MW, using anti-MW talking points from the National Restaurant Association and/or the GOP to do so. 

h/t: Rebecca Leber at Think Progress Economy

Sign the petition to say NO to RTWFL in Missouri: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-out-of-state 

mediamattersforamerica
Far right anti-worker shill Eric Bolling DEFENDS China’s law labor laws. 

From the 04.15.2014 edition of FNC’s The Five:

Joan Banks wrote this excellent editorial about Missouri’s awful “right-to-work” for less bill in the Joplin Globe:

Right-to-work legislation is up in the air right now in the Missouri Legislature.  Last week, the bill failed to get enough votes to advance to the Senate, but supporters are working to get those votes and move it forward.

It sounds so good. Who doesn’t want the “right to work”? In fact, who doesn’t have the “right to work” now? What does the slogan mean?

“Right-to-work” is a deliberately misleading phrase intended to appeal to two basic American values: rights and work.

Here’s what it’s actually about: The law would make it optional for workers to pay dues to a union in a company in which the workers are protected by a union contract while allowing those who don’t belong to the union to reap the benefits of the contract.

A basic conservative value is that people shouldn’t get a free ride. But in a right-to-work environment, some workers, by not paying dues, would be getting benefits from union activities without paying their fair share. In other words, some workers would be getting a free ride to better working conditions and wages. So what would be the effect of making joining optional? Very simply, it would further erode and ultimately destroy unions.

Unions have given us some of the best working conditions in the world. Do you get paid vacation days, sick leave and holidays? Two breaks a day? Do you have a 40-hour work week? Are there workplace safety requirements? Wrongful termination protections? The list goes on. All of these important benefits were brought about by unions.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s op-ed column in the Globe (April 6) cited statistics supporting right-to-work. I don’t believe his staff did enough homework.

When researchers rigorously separated the impact on states with right-to-work laws from other variables like tax incentives, the general business climate in a state and other factors, the evidence shows that right-to-work was associated with a decrease in per-capita personal income and wages and had no effect on economic growth.

These were the findings reported in an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper. A search on the Web can uncover many such supporting studies.

Workers who think they can depend upon the goodwill of corporations for good working conditions and good wages are deluded. (There are some socially conscious corporations.) CEOs may talk about “being part of the team” with their rank-and-file employees, but first and foremost, their goal is about maximizing stock performance and profits. Their “team” is made up of them and their stockholders, not the declining middle class.

Unions, pushing for living wages and better conditions for workers, fostered the growth of the middle class. Looking at the history of union membership and the health of our economy suggests that the current decline in union membership correlates with our soaring income inequality.

Our economy has the highest corporate profit margins in history, the lowest wages as a percent of the economy and one of the highest unemployment rates. This has contributed to the huge gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the very large group of low-income people.

The main backers of right-to-work policies are big business and Republican lawmakers, who get generous donations from corporations. They have joined together with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has drafted “model” right-to-work legislation that Missouri’s proposed law mimics very closely.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also a supporter and has long lobbied for right-to-work and against the increase of the minimum wage and fair labor practices. These people do not have the backs of workers or the middle class. They are the one percent.

Stand up for the middle class. Urge your legislator to vote no on right-to-work.

Joan Banks lives in Joplin.

Hopefully Missourians reject the anti-worker scam known as “right to work for less” (RTWFL) when it likely gets put on the ballot in August. 
ANY Missouri politician who votes for RTWFL should be denied communion. 

h/t: Marie French at STLToday.com

h/t: Joan Walsh at AlterNet, via Salon

I want to see VW Chattanooga unionized. 

h/t: Bryce Cover at Think Progress Economy

Today in Dana Loesch stupidity: she callously mocks fast food protesters who are fighting for a fairer minimum wage and the right to unionize without intimidation from overzealous bosses. This isn’t surprising, given her long history of attacks on workers’ rights and unions.


Joe.My.God:

Some restaurant workers are striking today for a liveable wage and teabaggers are responding at the Twitter hashtag #EatFast where they are posting mocking photos of themselves gorging on fast food.

Catherine Ruetschlin and Amy Traub from Demos.org have the facts about why minimum wage increases will HELP fast food workers:

1. IT WOULD CREATE JOBS.Low wages are holding back economic growth, but a raise for our country’s lowest paid workers would put money in the pockets of those most likely to spend it, generating much-needed consumer demand and contributing to economic growth across industries. That translates to higher GDP and new hiring in the labor market.
2. IT WOULD REDUCE POVERTY.
More than ten million Americans—and the family members they support—live beneath the poverty line even though they have jobs. With a median wage of $8.85, a fast food cook in a family of three lives in poverty even if she never takes a day off. Raising wages in the fast food industry could improve living standards for millions of hard working people.
3. COMPANIES CAN AFFORD IT.
With annual profits in the billions, the largest fast food companies could raise wages for their entire workforce and shareholders would still see a return. In fact, many of these employers already do pay higher wages to workers in other countries without wrecking their bottom lines.
5. COMPANIES THAT INVEST IN THEIR WORKERS THRIVE.
Low-wage jobs are a business choice, but some employers take the high road offering fair wages, hours, and benefits. This investment in the workforce pays off in lower turnover and higher worker productivity, generating good service to customers and a solid bottom line.
8. IT WOULD PUSH UP WAGES FOR OTHER UNDERPAID WORKERS.
Increasing the standard for decent pay in fast food could be a boon to low-wage workers across industries. The ripple effects start with increased consumer demand and economic growth, and create pressure in the labor market to raise wages in other low-pay positions. Contrary to popular myth, the vast majority of those affected by a raise at the bottom are working adults, struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families. Even in fast food, most workers are 21 or older and have at least a high school degree. Raising wages in fast food could impact living standards for millions of American workers and the families that depend on them.



Dana’s baseless smears of fast-food workers who are striking:




This biased article from the New York Post's Twitter account was retweeted by Loesch.












Her regular fill-in host for The Dana Show and guest Tony Katz falsely accuses unions of “bullying fast food workers.”

Fast food workers are planning a strike to force employers to pay them $15 per hour. This Thursday, in over 100 cities across the nation, Big Labor is coordinating with “grassroots” activists to pressure these employers to pay a “living wage.” From all the press, you’d think the push toward higher wages was something noble. But, this is Big Labor. And no one will bully, threaten or intimidate to steal your hard earned money more than Big Labor. The group Fast Food Forward, one of the organizations in sync with Big Labor to shame fast food restaurants into extinction, states their purpose:
In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation.
While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by — many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.
Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.
It’s not the workers that Big Labor wants to benefit. It’s Big Labor that Big Labor wants to benefit.
[…] 
There is no way to determine a living wage anywhere in America. It’s a lie, and so is the idea that groups like Fast Food Forward and Big Labor care about fast food employees. Listen up, fast food workers, because you’re being used! Not by McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Chick-Fil-A, but by Big Labor and the political candidates (ideology) they support. BIg Labor wants you to unionize because Big Labor wants you to pay union dues.
They want your money, and they don’t give a good holy damn about you!


More lies from Loesch acolyte Katz.

(cross-posted from DanaBusted.blogspot.com)

aflcio:

Today furloughed federal workers from American Federation of Government Employees (AGFE), American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (afscme), National Tax Employees Union (NTEU), along with the Congressional Progressive Caucus rallied on Capitol Hill calling for the end of the government shutdown.