Union’s Win First Concession from Obama

Even though Craig Becker, an attorney with the SEIU, was REJECTED to be appointed to the National Labor Relations Board by the Senate in a bi-partisan vote ,  it would appear that the Unions in general, and Andy Stern in particular, are so outraged by the Democrats failure or incompetence to pass the Employee Free Choice Act a/k/a EFCA, that they have demanded, and Obama has agreed, to give Becker a recess appointment to the NLRB anyway.

In earlier posts, we have discussed Mr. Becker and his agenda for labor.

Obviously, the hopes by the Unions are that Becker can do what the Democrats failed to do, and enact EFCA in NLRB cases.  It is what we call legislating from the bench and make no mistake about it, that is EXACTLY what the Unions want him to do and that is EXACTLY what he WILL do.

Why would Becker want a job that he can only hold for less than a year unless in that one year’s time, he intends to wreck havoc on companies and seek revenge for all the slights that labor has suffered under BOTH the Bush and the Obama administrations to date.

While I understand Labor’s frustrations at the Democrats, I just don’t think they ought to atone for this sin by placing on the NLRB an in your face left wing nut who wants to enact the EFCA legislation by NLRB decisions .

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Tuesdays are EFCA Update Days

Well, there’s not much to report in the land of EFCA from the last week.  All is rather quiet on the that front since Senators Lincoln and Specter denounced their support of EFCA in its current form.  While the business world is taking a big sigh of relief and awaiting the many versions of the compromise bill to be bantered about, Unions have increased their marketing and advertising.  In fact, Unions are still acting like they have tremendous support for the bill and that it will pass with no problem.  News to them: there has already been a problem with the bill and it will not pass in its current form.  Here are a few noteworthy items, though:

Last month the card check process tore the Dana Corporation Auto Parts plant in Albion, Indiana apart after harassment and intimidation from the UAW to get people to sign cards.  Here’s a video from some of the intimidated employees:

Mitt Romney chronicles how he vetoed card-check for public employees, but once he left office, his Democrat successor signed it into law.  His story is a warning for all card-check supporters.

You may have heard about the Costco/Starbucks/Whole Foods “Third Way” approach to EFCA.  Here are its details.  A self-described “pro-labor liberal Democrat” attorney from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff, an international law firm that represents companies, partnered with those three companies and proposed an EFCA free of card check and other restraints while still “substantially leveling the playing field for union organizers, improve their access to employees, and provide a fair chance to make their case for a union election.”  Here are the details of the “Third Way”:

II. Statement of Principles of Reform “Third Way” Legislation:

(1) Secret Ballot. Guarantee the right of management and unions to require a secret ballot under all circumstances.

(2) Certification and Decertification Treated Equally. Permit management to initiate a decertification campaign through a secret ballot election just as employees and unions are presently able to initiate certification and decertification campaigns.

(3) Date Certain for Elections. Guarantee a fixed time period for the secret-ballot election–i.e., do not permit delays of an established day for a secret ballot to certify or decertify a union.

(4) Equal Access to Employees for Campaign Purposes. Level playing field for unions and management to access employees during non-working hours during the campaign period, e.g., permitting each to make presentations to employees at a neutral location concerning the issue of whether to form a union.

(5) Expedited Enforcement and Stricter Penalties. Expedited enforcement for serious and pervasive violations of law by labor and management and stricter penalties for serious and pervasive violations (e.g., unlawful discharges), including the penalty of mandatory injunctions when appropriate.

(6) Preserve Private Collective Bargaining. No mandatory arbitration that dictates contract terms, but stricter penalties and expedited enforcement for violations of good faith bargaining rules, including an expedited timetable to begin bargaining after union certification.

Here’s a couple of snippets from the SEIU’s blog that distorts both the need for EFCA and the role of business.  According to the article, “The area’s fractured employment model has turned a recession into a depression.  There are now tens of thousands of laid off warehouse workers with no unemployment, no safety net at all, just barely getting by.”  No unemployment?  Unemployment is run by each state individually and has nothing to do with businesses.  The fact that California doesn’t have any money in the unemployment coffers is not a result of businesses.  The article continues, “As conditions worsen in the Inland Empire, the big retail companies that created the broken business model have not accepted responsibility for the damage they have done.”  How has the employer done this?  If employers pay employees substantially more money and tremendously greater benefits like Unions want, companies would run out of money quicker and the employees would be unemployed faster.  The article continues, “It is time for Wal-mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, and Sear/Kmart to take responsibility for the workers who helped them become so profitable and to treat them with dignity and respect.”  Employees at those companies, like the 92.5% of the other companies in this country, choose not to unionize.  The SEIU wants us to believe all employees want to be in unions.  That’s just plain wrong.

Here’s a great article on How EFCA could change Health Care for the worse from Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina.

And finally, a little over a month ago, Rasmussen Reports did a survey on how many non-union workers want to join a union.  Not surprising, just 9% of those polled said they wanted to be in a union.

Misc. Mondays: Obama’s New Board Members

We knew this day was coming.  It’s almost finally here.  Obama announced his intention to fill two of the three (out of 5) open seats on the National Labor Relations Board (the Supreme Court of judges for labor law issues).  And without much surprise, he announced two lawyers who happen to represent labor unions – to go along with Wilma Liebman who he appointed Head of the Boardand who used to represent labor unions.  One of the appointees, Craig Becker is the Associated General Counsel for both the SEIU and the AFL-CIO.  The other is Mark Pearce, who is in private practice in New York and represents trade unions in labor and employment law issues. 

Click here for a fullbio on these two appointees courtesy of Ross Runkle’s LawMemo Blog.

Now just 1 seat is left to fill, and by law that has to go a Republican.  But by when must it be filled is a better question than who will get it.  The Board has been operating as a 2 person Board for over a year – 1 Republican and 1 Democrat.  Obama just announced he will fill it with 2 more people – both Democrats.  Obviously the Board is the most left it can be at this moment.  So there really isn’t any incentive for Obama to pick that last Republican.  I expect to see many 3-1 decisions in favor of Unions for quite some time.

NLRB Proves No Need for EFCA

In May 2007, 400 card dealers at the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City voted on whether to join the UAW and the company won the election.  I know, you’re thinking the UAW?  Well, this shows just how desperate unions are that they now go outside of their historical membership just to get anyone signed up who will pay them monthly union dues.  And the weak United Auto Workers target casino workers.  But I digress.

After the company won the election, the NLRB ordered a new election because it determined that threats, intimidation, and other actions by the Trump Marina violated federal labor law.  The hotel and casino was also ordered to make up the pay and benefits difference that suspended dealers missed and post the famous notice that the employer violated federal labor law.

Interestingly, Unions have used this victory to advertise the need for EFCA.  I, however, see it differently.  To me, this is proof that the current National Labor Relations Act, as interpreted by the Board, works.  It appears that Trump Marina violated labor laws and was ordered to remedy its wrongdoing.  The employees were repaid money that was due to them.  The bargaining unit got to vote again for representation. 

Employees of a Massachusetts Nursing Home also won the right to an election after the Boston Board determined that the employer violated labor laws.  Hearings were held to determine whether certain employees were supervisors and thus unable to be members in the bargaining unit, as well as to determine if the employer threatened layoffs, intimidated employees, and held improper meetings with employees.  The Board found that all of those things happened and ordered an election.  Again, the Nursing Home was ordered to remedy its wrongdoing.

 These cases prove management’s point that the laws work and there is no need for the Employee Free Choice Act.

More Criminals Inside Unions

One of your favorite topics that I blog about is the embezzlement and corruption that occurs inside unions.  Here are a few more for your enjoyment.

Teachers’ Union Treasurer Sentenced for Theft:  Grace Gaines wrote the checks for Woodhaven Center, a school for autistic students.  She was sentenced to six months of house arrest, five years of probation, and ordered to pay restitution of $17,800 that she stole from the teachers’ union for her own personal use.

Pension Benefit Manager Indicted: A former pension benefit manager was indicted on federal charges of embezzling money.  Harry Keil created false invoices and stole $55,000 while working as the administrative manager of pension and health and welfare funds for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 9.  If convicted, each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

SEIU Officer Charged for Embezzlement:  Chicago-based Byron Hobbs, who also ran on the Union’s national board, billed the Union $9,000 for personal expenses.  Mr. Hobbs was the executive vice president for the SEIU’s 90,000 member Illinois-Indiana healthcare local and was overseeing a St. Louis chapter that the union had placed in trusteeship.

SEIU Cleans House in California:  Tyrone Freeman was ousted after the LA Times disclosed that his 160,000 member local and an affiliated charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to small companies owned by his wife and mother-in-law, and spent a similar amount on luxury golf tournaments, expensive restaurants, and a cigar lounge.

SEIU’s Largest Michigan Local Removed from Office:   Tyrone Freeman’s former chief of staff, Rickman Jackson, was removed as head of the SEIU’s largest Michigan local because he allegedly received improper lease payments for his Bell Gardens house.

SEIU’s Local President on Leave for Improper Influence:  Annele Grajeda, president of an SEIU Los Angeles local and president of the SEIU State Council has been on leave for several months after the Union began investigating her for improperly using her influence to keep her ex-boyfriend on the county payroll.

Another Chicago Teamster Official Steps Down Amid Investigation:  Jim Kenney, a new president of Teamsters Local 179 stepped down amid a union investigation into his organization’s finances.  Although details were not given, the Union did say that an investigation into financial improprieties led to Mr. Kenney’s resignation.

Former Union Treasurer Indicted for Embezzlement:  Norman Stefanick, a former Watertown NY Steelworkers Union treasurer was indicted by a federal grand jury for stealing over $25,000.  If convicted, he faces a up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

First Democrat Against EFCA

Rep. Dan Boren (OK) is the first Democrat who has openly confirmed he will vote against EFCA.  He voted against it in the 110th Congress last time and has vowed to vote against it this time in the 111th Congress.  The SEIU, who has launched a public campaign against him, says “Boren chose to turn his back on the needs of struggling Oklahomans.” 

In theory, it’s great to hear that a Democrat will vote against EFCA.  In reality, though, there is such overwhelming support for EFCA in the House, that Rep. Boren’s “No” vote will not make a difference.  It’s the Senate Democrats that we need to continue hearing will vote against EFCA, a la Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.

Here’s Rep. Boren discussing the downsides of EFCA:

Follow Up Fridays: Solis’ Nomination as DOL Secretary

I had no idea that when I first posted about Obama’s pick for Secretary of Labor that I would still be writing about her nomination process.  But last week two things happened which lead me to believe that either she will not be confirmed as the Secretary or we’ll be hearing a lot more about her in the near future.

First, Solis’ husband paid $6400 worth of outstanding tax liens placed on the company he owns.  LawMemo Blog’s expert, Ross Runkel, a 30-year employment law professor thought that this, alone was enough for Solis to withdraw her nomination, or conversely, Obama’s people “will drop Solis and move on to someone else.  The short-term and long-term costs of hanging onto Solis are simply too high.” 

But just hours before the Senate confirmation vote, the other shoe fell on Solis with The Weekly Standard‘s article “The Nominee who Lobbied Herself.”  Solis, who co-sponsored EFCA in 2007 was the treasurer of the union fronted American Rights at Work who had been lobbying Congress to pass EFCA.  In other words, “she is the official legally charged with the fiduciary duty of approving and signing off on all spending by the organization.  And to make matters worse, she did not reveal to her colleagues in the House of Representatives that membership on her financial disclosure forms, which may constitute a separate ethical violation.”  Members of the House of Representatives are not allowed to lobby or advise on lobbying on behalf of a private organization – even if the work is done for free.

“Now [Obama] has a nominee for Labor Secretary who apparently broke House ethics rules by lobbying for legislation that she sponsored, but who did not admit that she failed to reveal that fact on her financial disclosure forms until after her nomination became an issue.”  The Weekly Standard.

Like some of Obama’s other appointees, i.e. Tom Daschle’s $140,000 in back taxes and interest, Tom Geithner’s $42,000 in taxes and interest, and the lien placed on Nancy Killefer’s home for not paying unemployment taxes for her domestic help, Solis forgot to mention her affiliation with American Rights at Work in disclosure forms filed with the House of Representatives from 2004-2007.  In typical fashion, a White House spokesman chalked up the omission as an “unintentional oversight.”

But guess who’s still supporting Solis!  John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President urged the committee to move ahead with a vote as soon as possible to confirm Solis’ nomination and Andy Stern, President of SEIU said, “We urge [the] U.S. Senate to move swiftly in a bipartisan manner so Representative Solis can bring her work to improve lives for millions of workers in America.” 

For now, though, the vote is on hold until her ethical violations are fully explored and a decision whether to continue her nomination process is made – assuming she won’t withdraw her name in the interim.