Scott Walker did it. So did Sam Brownback. Now Oklahoma is considering getting state government out of the business of collecting union dues. Even in the nation’s reddest state (not one county voted for Obama in either of his presidential elections), the reform is drawing intense fire from the union political machine.
Oklahoma became a right-to-work state in 2001, protecting the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to participate in a union. Yet like many right-to-work states, Oklahoma has continued to provide special perks and powers to public-sector unions. One of these is collecting union dues.
In January, State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) introduced legislation to get the state out of union dues collection. The two-page bill addresses only state-level unions, including teachers but not local police and fire employees. It has no effect on the freedom of employees to join or not join unions. It just requires the unions to collect their own dues.
Union executives are nonplussed, and not just about the possibility of losing an administrative benefit. Government dues collection is an official seal of approval, putting union dues on the same level as taxes, insurance premiums, and retirement contributions. This is also part of the reason legislators are calling the practice into question.
Category Archives: Unions
This week, newly elected Illinois governor Bruce Rauner signed an executive order that will prevent public-sector unions in the state from collecting mandatory dues from employees who choose to decline union membership. Those fees, often called “fair share” dues, are unions’ guarantee that the people who benefit from union contracts will kick in their fair share for the cost of organizing and running the union, regardless of whether or not they choose to participate in it.
Fair share dues have been a feature of union organizing since their beginning; the movement against those dues seems to date back over 100 years. But it wasn’t until the 1940s, when a racist oil lobbyist named Vance Muse pushed for right-to-work bills, which allow people to opt-out of paying union dues and membership, even if a workplace is unionized and every employee benefits from a union-negotiated contract. It was an attempt to stop unions from pushing for integration and for the economic power of the working class (especially African Americans); the practice began to catch on. Now, 25 states have some form of right-to-work legislation on the books.
Before becoming governor, Rauner was one of the heads of GTCR, a private equity firm that specialized in finding smaller companies in local markets, merging them with similar companies, and giving them a star CEO—a process which often involved layoffs of workers. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that, to hear Rauner tell it, the fair share fee is the only thing keeping the state’s unemployment rate above 6 percent.
“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,” Rauner said. “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights—and something that, as governor, I am duty bound to correct.”
Three more members of Ironworkers Local 401 in Philadelphia pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of conspiracy, extortion, and racketeering in an ongoing RICO case against the labor union. They join eight others who have pleaded guilty in recent months to charges related to arson, sabotage, and violent intimidation of contractors who used non-union labor.
Ironworkers 401 is a large and influential union, responsible for constructing many of Philadelphia’s landmarks, such as Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagle’s football stadium, and the Comcast Center, the city’s tallest building. But this year has brought a series of indictments and revelations that continue to produce serious fallout for the labor group and its allies.
The latest hit came on Tuesday, when union member Richard Ritchie and business agents William O’Donnell and Christopher Prophet entered plea agreements admitting to their role in a conspiracy to coerce non-union construction sites into using “unwanted, unnecessary, and superfluous union labor.”
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Prophet also pleaded to attempted extortion and Ritchie to attempted extortion and violent crime in aid of racketeering. In February, over 100 federal agents and police descended on Ironworkers Local 401, one of the biggest and most powerful unions in the Philadelphia area, sweeping up officials and members alleged to be part of the conspiracy. The federal indictment spans over 60 pages, alleging a coordinated effort by a network of union associates to locate and identify construction projects that used non-union workers (or the rival carpenters’ union) to do “ironwork.”
The Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25 — the crew that drives for most TV and movie productions made in Massachusetts — reportedly harassed and threatened the cast and crew of Bravo’s “Top Chef” while the show was filming in Milton earlier this summer, but a network source said the ugly incident won’t deter them from returning to Boston in the future.
“It was an isolated incident but we had a great experience overall shooting in Boston,” the source told the Track. “I don’t think it would prevent us from coming back. Boston is a great city with a lot to offer.”
According to Deadline.com, the Teamsters threw up a picket line while the hit TV cooking competition was filming at the Steel & Rye restaurant in Milton. The union types were miffed because Bravo was using production assistants to drive their cars and not the union. When “Top Chef” star Padma Lakshmi arrived on the set, picketers called her a “(expletive) whore,” our source confirmed, and threatened to “bash that pretty face in.”
The picketers lobbed sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at the rest of the cast and crew for most of the day, the website reported, and when production wrapped, the “Top Chef” crew found that tires were slashed on 14 of their cars. Milton police confirmed that the union members were “threatening, heckling and harassing” but said no arrests were made. The union protest was confined to just that one day during “Top Chef’s” two-month shoot.
Local 25 president Sean O’Brien was out of town and unavailable for comment yesterday, according to spokeswoman Melissa Hurley.
“As far as we’re concerned, nothing happened,” Hurley said. “This is typical of nonunion companies who often make excuses for why they won’t hire union labor.”
The workers previously were forced to pay dues or fees to the SEIU after the union orchestrated a scheme that took money from the Medicaid checks of the people the workers were caring for in homes across the state. The “dues skim” ended in 2013, but not before the SEIU took more than $34 million from the elderly and disabled across the state.
According to the union’s LM-2 report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, 44,347 home-based caregivers have opted to stay out of the union.
That number represents virtually all of the long-term home-based caregivers affected by the dues skim. It also is more than 80 percent of the 55,265 members the union claimed to have at the end on 2012. Most of those who have remained in the union are workers employed at private medical facilities and joined the union in traditional organizing drives. The SEIU health care workers were organized in a mail-in effort that most did not participate in nor did they know a vote was even taking place.
In a major surprise, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the country’s second-largest teachers union, opened its biannual convention Friday by announcing a step back from its support for Common Core education standards.
The group, gathering in Los Angeles, announced that it will now provide monetary grants from its Innovation Fund for teachers who want to critique the standards or even write entirely new ones themselves.
The AFT’s executive council is also introducing a resolution, to be voted on at the convention, which would declare that the standards had noble intentions but have fallen short due to outside meddling and an inordinate focus on standardized tests.
The announcement came as part of a general opening address by AFT President Randi Weingarten.
“Some of you in this room think the standards should be jettisoned,” told thousands of assembled teachers. “Some of you, myself included, think they hold great promise, but they’ve been implemented terribly.”
With that in mind, Weingarten said, the AFT was willing to offer support funds for teachers who want to improve, modify, or otherwise change the content or implementation of Common Core.
One of the nation’s most powerful labor unions could face a costly onslaught of lawsuits seeking tens of millions of dollars in dues, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the money was collected improperly, legal experts said.
In a ruling Monday, the high court held that Service Employees International Union cannot force people who care for loved ones to be union members and deduct dues from the government checks of those they care for. The practice has gone on for several years in a handful of states, creating a lucrative stream of cash for the powerful labor organization, which represents more than 2 million workers and takes in about $300 million per year.
“The whole point of the decision was that the folks milked by the SEIU weren’t really public employees and should not be forced to pay union dues at all,” said Hans Bader, senior attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “So they should be able to sue for refund of their compelled union dues back as far as the statute of limitations will allow.
“It could have a large effect,” he added.
The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union’s costs of collective bargaining.
In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.
The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks – and bank accounts – in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don’t have to share the burden of union costs.
In the case of public-sector unions, though, the employer is the government. And for that reason, the challengers in Harris argued, the unions’ collective bargaining is inherently a political activity—they’re essentially lobbying the government.
The challengers said allowing public-sector unions to collect fair-play fees is therefore requiring non-union employees to support political activities they don’t necessarily agree with—a violation of their First Amendment rights.
Monday’s ruling means that hundreds of thousands of home caregivers—in Illinois and in other states—will be free to stop paying membership dues, as they are effectively no longer considered public employees.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler will be adding 1,000 part-time workers to its plant in Toledo, Ohio.
As part of the deal hammered out between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers, the part-timers won’t be getting full-time work or even full-time benefits. However, they will be paid $15.78 per hour—the same as entry-level full-time employees.
Additionally, it is expected that the part-timers will be required to pay union dues—the same amount as full-time workers.
Currently, UAW dues are two times the hourly pay per month, which means that part-timers will be paying $31.56 per month to the UAW—just as full-time workers do. For the UAW, with 1,000 new part-timers, that will mean an addition $31,560 per month, or $378,720 per year going into the local’s coffers.
Workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee have voted against union representation, a devastating loss that derails the United Auto Workers union’s effort to organize Southern factories.
The 712-626 vote released late Friday stunned many labor experts who expected a UAW win because Volkswagen tacitly endorsed the union and even allowed organizers into the Chattanooga factory to make sales pitches.
The UAW for decades has tried without success to organize a foreign-owned plant in a region that’s wary of organized labor. The loss now makes it even harder for the union to recruit members at another Southern factory.