While Food Prices Soar, Union Monopoly Power Delays Critical Foreign Aid Shipments

As global food prices continue to skyrocket, regulations that entrench union special privileges are delaying critical food shipments from reaching their intended destinations. According to the Center for Global Development and The Los Angeles Times, union-imposed labor requirements have slowed food shipments because aid agencies are forced to rely on U.S.-flagged ships for transportation:

“ . . . US policy compounds the problem by requiring that food aid must be purchased and packaged in the United States and shipped mainly on US-flagged ships. Thus, a good chunk of the US food aid budget gets diverted to higher distribution and transportation costs, which are also going up as a result of oil price hikes and rising freight costs.”

The Center for Global Development also estimates that these regulations increase the cost of foreign assistance by up to 30%, eroding the benefits of aid through massive overhead costs. Union officials support this wasteful policy because it forces ports to rely on a heavily unionized workforce that generates millions of dollars in dues payments each year.

This isn’t a new problem, either. Union-boss-inspired maritime regulations have plagued the delivery of foreign aid consignments for over a decade. With food prices soaring throughout the Third World, however, now is an ideal time to jettison these obstructionist compulsory unionism privileges.

Reports of Union-Related Violence Surface in Bakersfield, California

A Foundation Action subscriber recently brought this developing story to our attention. Reports of union-related violence and intimidation have surfaced in Bakersfield, California, where members of the local United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners are accused of physically abusing a project manager at a local construction site. Police have responded to reports of union-related violence by opening an investigation into the incident.

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. intends to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board charging the union with physical violence, coercive behavior, and invasion of a job site. The organization represents non-union contractors nationwide.

This incident is only the most recent example of union members threatening non-striking co-workers with violence and intimidation. In case you missed it, Freedom@Work has been covering a campaign of union-instigated harassment at a Volvo auto plant in Pulaski County, Virginia. Data compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research suggests that these confrontations are symptomatic of a wider problem, as union violence is often under-reported and difficult to prosecute.

Foundation Helps Employees Win NLRB Ruling for Worker Free Choice

A recent ruling by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge upheld the right of employees to sign a union decertification petition in the midst of a debilitating strike. More importantly, the ruling also endorsed the employer's refusal to hand over non-striking workers' home addresses and other personal information to union officials bent on harassment and intimidation.

On the advice of Foundation staff attorneys, a substantial majority (77 percent) of non-striking employees at a Tenneco facility in Grass Lakes, Michigan signed a petition in favor of union decertification. Unwilling to relinquish their stranglehold on workplace representation, United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 660 officials filed a complaint with the NLRB, arguing that non-striking employees favored decertification only because of Tenneco's unfair labor practices. The NLRB judge rejected these claims and concluded that the UAW's objections to the decertification process were entirely without merit.

More significant, however, was the stern rebuke delivered to UAW officials for demanding Tenneco hand over the non-striking workers' personal contact information, including home addresses. Union officials claimed they needed the employees' home addresses to "communicate" the benefits of membership directly, but the judge decided that the threat of union intimidation justified Tenneco's decision to withold personal information from UAW militants.

The judge noted that the union's rationale for acquiring the employees' home addresses was suspect, as " . . . the Union had other viable means of communicating with the replacements short of having access to their homes." He also recognized that union operatives had exhibited a pattern of harassment, having previously " . . . traveled to the personal residence of two members, whose address they certainly had access to, and staged a protest of their stance on the strike." The judge further noted the UAW's "venomous" and "disrespectful" attitude towards non-striking workers. So much for fair representation.

Full text of the NLRB ruling is available here. It's a long decision, but you'll find the judge's response to union demands for employees' personal information on pages 62-65. His assesment of the decertification petition's legality is available on pages 74-79.

Strike-related violence is an under-reported aspect of compulsory unionization, and the UAW has a long history of harassment and abuse. In fact, Freedom@Work recently exposed a similar campaign of intimidation against non-striking workers at a Volvo auto plant in Pulaski County, Virginia.


Compulsory Unionism Undermines DC Schools

The Washington Post has an interesting article up on internal divisions within the Washington, DC teacher union. The corrupt union has been in a state of turmoil since former top boss Barbara Bullock was caught embezzling millions of dollars from union funds.

From 1995 to 2002, Bullock ripped off teachers' forced dues to go on massive shopping sprees at Saks, Nieman Marcus, and Tiffany's. Unsurprisingly, Bullock funded her excessive spending by jacking up mandatory union dues.

However, getting rid of Bullock hasn't solved rank-and-file teachers' problems. Teachers, parents, and administrators are dissastified with the system, and teacher union officials are resisting any change that may result in fewer teachers in their forced dues-paying ranks.

"Reformers" are calling for more oversight and transparency, but true reform can only occur if rank-and-file teachers are given a choice to keep their hard-earned money. Only the elimination of forced dues will make it possible to hold union officials accountable.

CWA Union Alert: May is the Window To Have Your Forced Dues Reduced

The month of May marks the annual 'window period' for employees to obtain a reduction in mandatory dues payments from the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union.

The Foundation has had success challenging these window period schemes designed to trap workers into the union's forced dues-paying ranks, but if you're a CWA-covered employee in a non-Right to Work state who wants to opt-out of dues spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining it is still recommended that you file your objection this month. (If you are under a Right to Work law you cannot be compelled to pay any dues whatsoever.)

For information on the forced-dues objection process, read this letter by Foundation Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse (pdf). The document includes a sample objection letter for CWA employees to send in to the agency fee administrator.

National Right to Work at the US Supreme Court: Locke v. Karass

On February 19, 2008 the United States Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys for a group of twenty Maine state employees objecting to the misuse of their compulsory union dues.

The case, Daniel Locke et al. v. Edward Karass et al., will directly address whether non-union employees can be forced to pay for litigation activities far removed from their workplaces. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling may provide much-needed clarity to the criteria it had previously established that determine what union activities employees can be lawfully forced to fund.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation news releases about Locke:

Download legal documents about Locke:

Related media:


Solicitor General Paul Clement Resigns; But Not Soon Enough

Solicitor General Paul Clement resigned yesterday after seven years with the Bush Administration. As reported by Tony Mauro on the Legal Times blog, Right to Work advocates are thrilled to see him go:

"Paul Clement did not leave soon enough," said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in a statement. "He kicked the cause of employee freedom from compulsory unionism in the teeth once again before heading out the door."

Clement's latest offense against the right-to-work movement was a brief he filed with the Supreme Court May 12 in Locke v. Karass, which the Court will consider next term. The foundation is supporting 20 Maine state employees who object to their compulsory agency fees being used to fund nationwide union litigation far removed from the workers' local bargaining concerns. Clement's brief says it is constitutional for fees to be used in at least some kinds of pooling arrangements with other unions for litigation, though it suggests limits on the use. His brief can be found here.

The standard Clement uses is not good enough, says Gleason, who asks on his blog "Is Bush's Top Lawyer Taking Orders from Big Labor?" He says Clement has been soft on unions in past right-to-work cases as well.

No word yet on the reason for Clement's departure. But it was none too soon for rank-and-file workers under Big Labor's thumb. Clement joins the ranks of other ex-Bush administration officials -- such as DOL's former General Counsel Andrew Siff -- who used their positions to deliver goodies to the union bosses.

Annals of Union Corruption, Vol. XXXVIII . . .

A recent U.S Court of Appeals ruling found several National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union officials guilty of violating the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. The decision resolved a 1994 suit brought by David Noble, a postal worker who alleged union officials -- including a former NALC president -- funneled workers' dues into unmonitored expense accounts.

Judge Williams' concurrence features some particularly choice tidbits on the NALC's corrupt practices:

"Placing union money in the officers’ hands, solely on those same officers’ bland assurances that it will be used for union business, completely subverts the [NALC constitution] clause’s obvious goal of preserving accountability."

He also chides his two colleagues on the panel for refusing to punish union officials for excessive "per diem" expenditures:

At every biennial convention after 1964, a small group of unnamed delegates received a “per diem” payment calculated on the basis of certain estimated expenses: lost wages, hotel rooms, and meals and incidentals. Noble argued in the district court that the presidentially appointed Committee on Mileage and Per Diem asked each post-1964 convention to approve these payments without informing the delegates of two facts: (1) that the union’s officers were among those receiving per diem payments, even though they continued to earn their salaries and thus had no “lost time” (unlike rank-and-file mail carriers); and (2) that the union had already paid (in full or part) for most officers’ hotel rooms, transferring the union’s hotel discount to the officers’ benefit. Thus, the members were unaware of these costs’ peculiarities — peculiarities that might well have been material to their decision.

[Emphasis added]

Full text of the decision can be found here (pdf). More Freedom@Work posts on union corruption available here, here, and here.

While the ruling is welcomed, the fact remains that regulatory oversight of unions -- rather than simply stripping union bosses of the government-granted special privileges that facilitate the corruption -- results in little more than make-work for federal bureaucrats.


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