Expect Big Labor Power Grabs Next Year

Foundation VP Stefan Gleason has an op-ed up over at Human Events on union political activism in the wake of the Supreme Court's favorable Chamber v. Brown decision. Money quote:

Although the court ruled in favor of employer free speech and employee free choice, workers remain vulnerable to an onslaught of intimidation brought on by card-check organizing drives. In one article about the ruling, an AFL-CIO union lawyer snickered that the outcome would only encourage union bosses to pour more money into passing the erroneously titled “Employee Free Choice Act.” That bill passed the House this year, but a filibuster has stalled it in the Senate. Even if Big Labor and its allies in the Senate don’t get it through this year, you can be sure they’ll be back in ’09.

This legislative power grab—endorsed by union-label politicians and bankrolled by union political funds—is designed to allow union bosses to bypass government-supervised secret ballot elections in favor of card check, tilting the playing field in favor of union organizers.

Read the whole thing here.

Pension Fund Mismanagement Highlights SEIU Corruption

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had a great editorial up on the hypocrisy of SEIU leadership. Andy Stern and his cronies are more intent than ever on blackmailing unwilling companies into forcing SEIU "representation" on their employees through a series of vicious corporate campaigns:

SEIU President Andy Stern is the drama king of Big Labor, and Thursday's publicity blitz will feature all of his signature choreography: Rallies in 18 states and even overseas, in which thousands of union activists will march against companies and politicians they don't like. Themes include "Buyout Monsters On the Loose" and "The War on Greed." To listen to Mr. Stern, this is about getting Congress to close tax "loopholes" for private equity firms, while funding national health care and "middle class" tax cuts.

That's a sideshow. The real targets are private equity firms such as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Carlyle Group, which own companies that have resisted SEIU attempts to organize their workers. Mr. Stern wants to pound these firms with bad publicity and political retribution until they break.

What's worse, it turns out that the SEIU's activism is apparently being funded illegally. Just today, Foundation president Mark Mix requested a Department of Justice investigation into new SEIU directives allowing Andy Stern to impose financial penalties on any local affiliate that doesn't meet mandatory political fundraising targets. Not only that, but local unions may be forced to pay the SEIU's fines with money collected from nonmember employees' compulsory agency fees. We hope that the DoJ and the Department of Labor will move quickly to investigate this apparent criminal activity (the Foundation's press release is available here).

Given the SEIU's checkered past, these new developments aren't particularly surprising. But aggressive union activism does have a cost. Devoting untold sums of money to intimidating employers evidently comes at the expense of the union's so-called "representation":

Mr. Stern's "middle class" spin would be more believable if the SEIU did more for its own members, especially their pensions. Public records based on the SEIU's own filings show that the SEIU National Industry Pension plan – which covers some 101,000 workers – was only 75% funded in 2006. Put another way, the plan had only three-fourths of the money it needs to meet its retirement obligations. And the national chapter is only the start. Some 13 local SEIU pension plans in 2006 were less than 80% funded; several didn't reach 65%.

Some of this might be the result of poor investment performance, but the main problem is that the SEIU hasn't negotiated adequate employer contributions to the plans.

The SEIU's top brass, on the other hand, is guaranteed generous compensation funded by employees' mandatory dues-payments. Too bad the workers they're supposed to be representing don't receive similar benefits:

On the other hand, SEIU leaders are highly attentive to their own pension funding. A separate fund run by the national union, this one covering the benefits of SEIU officers, was 103% funded in 2006. The top SEIU guns are set for their golden years.

Read the whole sordid tale here.

News Release

Worker Files Civil Damages Lawsuit for Massive Union Harassment Campaign

Union officials accused of conspiracy, forgery, and identity theft after bombarding dissenter with unwanted mail orders and subscriptions


Hartford, Connecticut (July 24, 2008)
– Today, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are filing a state court lawsuit on behalf of a Connecticut resident who suffered from an ugly campaign of retaliation at the hands of area union officials. The suit alleges that union militants conspired to commit fraud and identity theft in order to bombard Patricia Pelletier with hundreds of mail-order magazines, violating her rights and sticking her with thousands of dollars in subscription and mail order fees.

Because Connecticut lacks a Right to Work law, Pelletier was forced to pay dues to the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1103, as well as accept the union’s workplace representation as a condition of employment. After becoming dissatisfied with the union’s presence, Pelletier initiated a decertification petition to eject the CWA from the workplace. In retaliation, CWA officials apparently conspired to forge Pelletier’s signature on numerous magazine subscriptions. Union militants are also accused of committing identity theft by illegally soliciting business information cards and signing up for advertiser information packages under Pelletier’s name.

These actions resulted in a flood of unwanted magazines and advertisements arriving daily at Pelletier’s doorstep. Not only was Pelletier forced to spend several hours each day canceling individual subscriptions, she was also billed for thousands of dollars by unwitting magazine companies, jeopardizing her credit rating. Pelletier still receives excess mail from a variety of journals and magazines, and her name continues to be circulated through advertiser mailing lists across the country.

In the 31-count suit to be filed today in Hartford Superior Court, Foundation staff attorneys allege that union officials committed identity theft, conspired to forge Pelletier’s signature, inflicted undue emotional distress on Pelletier and her family, and violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practice Act by unlawfully retaliating against Pelletier for attempting to remove the union from her workplace. Foundation attorneys are now seeking damages in excess of $15,000 to compensate Pelletier for CWA union militants’ campaign of retaliation against her.

“Mrs. Pelletier’s plight demonstrates the vicious things union officials will do to punish workers who would rather do without a union,’” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Mrs. Pelletier is guilty of nothing more than helping her coworkers give an unwanted union the boot. And the union bosses’ vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation revealed their true nature.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

Another Card-Check Myth Debunked

The National Association of Manufacturer's 'Shopfloor' blog has post up on another oft-repeated card-check myth. The entry starts out with Big Labor's favorite rejoinder to critics of the erroneously-titled "Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA):

The most-common misleading response from organized labor to the criticism that the Employee Free Choice Act will destroy the secret ballot in the workplace goes like…well, here’s a recent example. It comes from Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.

. . .

"The EFCA would give workers, not employers, the right to decide how to express the choice about going union: through the card-check process OR through the NLRB election process."

McCarthy is playing the readers for idiots. Theoretically, oh sure, union organizers might, possibly, theoretically, choose an election, maybe. But under what possible circumstance would that be a realistic choice?

Well said. Once union organizers are given license to unilaterally bypass NLRB-supervised elections, there's absolutely no incentive for them to go the less-abusive secret ballot route. Union militants know that card-check drives dramatically increase their chances of warehousing employees into monopoly bargaining collectives by opening the door to intimidation and harassment.

Shopfloor also highlights the excellent congressional testimony (.pdf) of John Raudabaugh, a labor law attorney and former member of the NLRB. Here's his assesment of the EFCA (emphasis mine):

[Big] Labor claims that elevating card-check to secret ballot status does not do away with the ballot box. Their double-speak is a pathetic attempt to "change the subject." To trigger the secret ballot process and NLRB administrative involvement, 30 percent or more of the employees in an "appropriate unit" must sign a petition requesting an election. Should a union garner signatures from more than 50 percent of the unit employees, an employer can voluntarily recognize the union or not to ensure a secret ballot election. Why? To protect the employee-voter from peer pressure and third party overreaching.

[Big] Labor wants card-check with 50+ percent yield to bypass but equate to the ballot box process. Why? To effectively silence the employer by conducting a quick, one-sided campaign without counter-information from the employer. Moreover, without the ballot-box, there is effectively no cure to overreaching and false Labor promises.

[Big] Labor and its funded academics ignore Taft-Hartley specifically protecting a worker’s right to refrain from third-party representation. Were the union to come up short of 50+ percent signed cards, would it really proceed to file a petition for an election? No, the secret ballot would not remain a real option under the EFCA proposal.

And that's the bottom line. The card check bill will almost certainly result in the de facto elimination of all secret ballot protections in the workplace. Suggesting otherwise is simply dishonest.

For a more comprehensive look at the EFCA, check out this (.pdf) National Institute for Labor Relations Research study.

NLRB Slapped Down as District Court Backs Employees' Decision to Eject Unwanted Union

In early June, Foundation staff attorneys moved to block an injunction intended to force unwilling workers back into a union they'd already chosen to toss out.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of employees at a Narricot Industries facility in Norfolk, Virginia (a) did not belong to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2316 and (b) overwhelmingly signed on to a union decertification petition, union bosses sought to retain monopoly bargaining privileges with a series of last ditch unfair labor practice charges leveled against the workers' employer. Among other things, union lawyers claimed that Narricot Industries' alleged unfair labor practices somehow incited employee opposition to the union's presence. (For the full story, check out the Foundation's press release here).

After examining the case, Foundation staff attorneys determined that employee disatisfaction with the Carpenters Union clearly predated allegations of unfair labor practices. Accordingly, the Foundation filed a motion to intervene in the District Court's hearing to defend employees' decision to eject the union from their workplace.

Yesterday, the District Court ruled in favor of the employees, finding that company misconduct had nothing to do with workers' decision to eject the union. The court also concluded that imposing union representation on unwilling employees for the duration of the NLRB's unfair labor practice investigation would violate workers' rights to not associate with an unwanted union. Here's the crux of the court's decision (.pdf):

The presence of the employee intervenors in this action in opposition to the imposition of an injunction, as well as the facts in the record which show that the employees, not Narricot, initiated the effort to remove the Union, have convinced the court that imposition of an injunction mandating the recognition of the union would not be just and proper.

With the NLRB and the union bosses aligned against them, Narricot employees really dodged a bullet. For now, at least, they're free of the unwanted union.

Wall Street Journal to Department of Justice: Investigate the SEIU!

The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial up on the National Right to Work Foundation's ongoing efforts to push the Departments of Labor and Justice to investigate the SEIU for illegal campaign fundraising. Money quote (emphasis mine):

The mighty Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend some $150 million in this year's election, most of it to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected. Where'd they get that much money?

That's a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union's national political priorities.

The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month's SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union's national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in "local union funds" equal to the "deficiency," plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from
unions.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air follows up with commentary on some of the broader implications of SEIU political activism (emphasis mine):

Now the SEIU suddenly has $150 million, from which they’ve already committed at least $85 million specific to Democratic candidates. That money got squeezed out of the locals under duress, in obvious violation of the spirit and letter of federal law. The union knows how to protect itself and its interests, and the lockstep nature of their support for Democrats should awaken voters to the threat their policies comprise. This is nothing more than a closed-feedback loop for Democrats, and Card Check is the prize that will ensure its rapid growth. The Department of Justice needs to put an end to this shakedown racket immediately.

Even a Big Labor Ally Concedes the SEIU May Be Breaking Federal Election Law

Yesterday, a pro-Big Labor blogger at OpenLeft inadvertently highlighted the absurdity of the SEIU's apparently illegal fundraising scheme (emphasis mine):

If the local doesn't put enough money into the national PAC, they will have to pay a penalty of regular funds out of union dues to the international. PAC contributions are voluntary and only come when members feel empowered, whereas union dues are automatic, so this is a strong incentive for locals to organize and empower their members. It's a good policy move, and it was voted on and ratified at the SEIU Convention.

Surely the author realizes that there's some tension between "voluntary contributions" and an SEIU policy that penalizes local affiliates for failing to meet MANDATORY political fundraising targets? Actually, he does:

The requirement and penalty do somewhat cut against what it means to voluntarily give to political causes. A possible lawsuit might be viable.

For sure. Here's the relevant section of US code quoted in the National Right to Work Foundation's letters (.pdf) to the Departments of Justice and Labor (emphasis mine):

(2) For purposes of this section and section 79l(h) of title 15,[1] the term “contribution or expenditure” includes a contribution or expenditure, as those terms are defined in section 431 of this title, and also includes any direct or indirect payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money, or any services, or anything of value (except a loan of money by a national or State bank made in accordance with the applicable banking laws and regulations and in the ordinary course of business) to any candidate, campaign committee, or political party or organization, in connection with any election to any of the offices referred to in this section or for any applicable electioneering communication, but shall not include

. . .

It shall be unlawful—

(A) for such a fund to make a contribution or expenditure by utilizing money or anything of value secured by physical force, job discrimination, financial reprisals, or the threat of force, job discrimination, or financial reprisal; or by dues, fees, or other moneys required as a condition of membership in a labor organization or as a condition of employment, or by moneys obtained in any commercial transaction;

No political expenditures " . . . secured by financial reprisals or the threat of financial reprisals?" Sounds like a pretty explicit violation of U.S. law.

The SEIU's political fundraising apparatus is absolutely enormous. As the author of the OpenLeft post notes, its institutional clout and massive campaign expenditures dwarf other organizations' contributions. But coercing local SEIU affiliates into bankrolling a national campaign strategy has the potential to irreparably taint our electoral process. When even a pro-Big Labor mouthpiece concedes the viability of the Foundation's case, it's time for the Departments of Labor and Justice to take action.

ADDENDUM: Here's more commentary on the political implications of the SEIU's fundraising from QandO and Protein Wisdom.

New Right to Work Video Report: Union Intimidation Meets Identity Theft

We've just released a mini video segment on the Foundation's ongoing efforts to hold union officials liable for a campaign of intimidation and harassment against Patricia Pelletier, a Connecticut worker who successfully initiated a decertification election to eject an unwanted union from her workplace. Union hotheads even planted crack cocaine in her work area to try to get her fired. Check it out:


 

For more background on the case, the Foundation's press release is available online here. The Hartford Courant's coverage of the Foundation's pending lawsuit is available here.

As always, check back at the Foundation's YouTube Channel for more Right to Work video updates.


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