Big Labor Agenda is DEAD – For NOW

Unions spent $400 Million dollars to get a large majority of Democrat Representatives in the House, a super majority of 60 Senators in the Senate and President Obama elected to office.   Last January the Unions were literally on top of the world.  They paid a high price for their success and they surely expected to be rewarded.  Make no mistake about it.  These people were all bought and paid for by the Unions and the Unions expected to cash in their chips. 

Last January I was predicting that House Bill # 1 that would come out of the House would be the Employee free Choice act or “EFCA.”  This was without question the big prize that the Unions all wanted.  It would take the 7% of the private sector workforce that was unionized and expand it to 14% in short order.  And it made a lot of sense if you were a Democrat to pass such legislation because if the Unions could raise and spend $400 MILLION dollars with 7% of the private workforce, they could raise and spend $800 MILLION dollars with 14% of the private sector.

It is old news that Scott Brown pulled off a miracle for non-union employers when he won the Kennedy seat in the Senate.  A seat that had been Democratic since the mid 1950’s when John Kennedy held that same seat.  A miracle even more so when you look at the registered voters and see 1.5 million Democrats registered to 500,000 Republicans.

With this one victory, Big Labor has seen its agenda to pass EFCA, to change the Railway Labor Act so it would be easier to organize Fed Ex and a whole host of other changes just disappear.  Moreover, with the up-coming fall elections, it looks like even more House and Senate seats will change to Republican.

The big news what is now going on inside labor.  It is simply the fall-out of the Unions with those Democratic politicians who blew the best chance Big Labor ever had to see real changes in the law that would help Big Labor from becoming extinct — just like the dinosaurs. 

What happened can only be described as the worst political blunder this writer has ever seen in his lifetime.  With $400 MILLION dollars spent, with the promise of raising another $800 MILLION dollars in the next election cycle, how in the world could the Democrats so blow this for the Unions?

I expected House Bill # 1 to be passed and sent over to the Senate.  I expected that once Al Franken was seated in the Senate that Harry Reid would stop Senate business, bring EFCA directly to the Senate floor, that 60 Democrat Senators would vote down the filibuster, and that about 5 of those same Senators would then vote against the bill so they could say to the folks back home, “I voted against EFCA.”

This is what the Unions expected in January of last year and rightfully so based upon what they had done for the Democrats.   What happened?  Politics inside the Democratic party destroyed the Union’s agenda. 

The first thing that happened was Nancy Pelosi played politics by refusing to vote EFCA out of the House until the Senate acted first.  The next thing that happened is that Arlen Specter, who when you look op the word “opportunist” you will see his picture, decided to play politics by demanding changes in the bill.  Yet, on the campaign trail Specter told the union faithful that they would be happy with his vote on EFCA.  Then the final stake that was driven into the heart of Big Labor’s legislative agenda was that President Obama promised them an EFCA vote, “After health care was passed” and they bought it hook, line and sinker.

As a result of these items, when Scott Brown was elected, there was no bill before the Senate on EFCA, so Reid could not bring up the House bill (thank you Nancy Pelosi) and there was no consensus on a bill in the Senate because of Specter (thank you Arlen Specter) and there was no leadership in the Senate to get this passed after Al Franken was elected (thank you Harry Reid).

The Union’s having seen the “pearly gates” only to have the whole image wiped out on one Tuesday night in February in an election most people thought a dead Democrat could win are without question upset.  And rightfully so because if I were a Union member, the FIRST thing I would want from these Democrat Keystone Cops would be my money back!  Since that cannot happen, the Democrats are now facing a mean and nasty Big Labor that is turning on the Democrats.  And from their standpoint, rightfully so because when they needed key support, it was either not there at all or at best it was weak and ineffective.

The first fall-out is in Colorado where the Teamster and UFCW Unions have endorsed in the primary not sitting Democratic Senator Bennett but his opponent.  Senator Bennett played politics with EFCA, refused to take any stand on it, and is now paying a price.  Using this as a standard, I would think the Union’s hit list would be quite long.   Senator Nelson of Nebraska certainly comes to my mind.  Senator Feinstein has also got to be on this same hit list.

I would think next on the list ought to be Senator Specter.  After all, if it were not for him playing politics with this issue, Harry Reid might have brought EFCA out for a vote.  Next on the list has got to be Blanche Lincoln from Arkansas who in the land of Wal-Mart last year in the fall decided to publically oppose EFCA.  Since she is way down in the polls and unlikely to win in November, the Unions are quite likely to refuse to endorse her and either not spend any money in the state or maybe even actively oppose her just to send a message to Senator Mary Landrieu of La. that she had better not use Lincoln as a model of behavior.  Call this one the shot over the bow to Landrieu, so to speak.

What will the Union’s get out of this blood letting you may ask?  A lot more than you might otherwise think.  First of all, what they will have are far more hard core Union supporters.  Then they also achieve the “Don’t mess with us” message that people like Harry Reid can’t deliver.  Reid does not care as much for the Union agenda as he does his Democratic majority.  Thus, the only effective choice the Union’s have is to take out every Senator who opposed them and make sure those in office vote the way labor wants.

There is going to be a sea change as a result of this.  Short term it will help the Republicans.  But long term, it will make the Union’s stronger because the Democratic voice they will have in the Senate, when it comes to union issues, will all sing the same song and they WILL sing in key.

Misc. Mondays: FedEx in the News

FedEx has been in the news over the last month regarding a couple of labor union issues.  FedEx is not unionized (except for some of its pilots).  UPS is heavily unionized.  FedEx wants to remain non-union.  UPS wants FedEx to become union.  Does UPS think it’s operating at a disadvantage against non-union FedEx?  Why else would it so desperately want FedEx to organize?  Here’s the skinny on the FedEx labor issues that recently made news.

1.  FedEx formed in the 1960s as an airline and thus falls under the 1926 Federal Railway Labor Act, which was designed to limit work stoppages and strikes.  UPS, on the other hand, began in 1907 as a trucking company and falls under the regulations of the National Labor Relations Act which permits (if not encourages) work stoppages and strikes.  UPS has been working behind the scenes in Washington D.C. to get an amendment to the Federal Aviation Authorization bill which could remove FedEx from the Railway Labor Act and in place it firmly within the confines of the NLRA.

2.  FedEx announced that it will consider canceling its plans to purchase up to 30 new Boeing cargo planes if EFCA passes.  Remember when Sir Richard Branson threatened to stop buying Boeing planes for Virgin Airlines after the Boeing strike stalled the production of several of his airplanes?  And now FedEx may also leave Boeing.  Looks like Boeing is suffering the same fate as most every other unionized operations. . . a slow, steady decline in business.

3.  FedEx won a court battle after refusing to bargain with a the Teamsters.  Specifically, the Teamsters have been relentlessly trying to organize FedEx drivers and actually thought they had succeeded.  But FedEx refused to meet with the Teamsters to negotiate a contract, so the Teamsters sued FedEx.  The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled last week that FexEx did not have to meet with the Teamsters because those drivers (and many FedEx drivers) are independent contractors, not employees, and thus not eligible to join a union.

Of course FedEx is on the short list, along with WalMart, McDonalds, and Burger King to be organized.  In fact, unions even have a FedEx Watchwebsite with anti-FedEx propaganda.  For the WalMart Watch website, click here.  Unfortunately, all of this union attention has resulted in FedEx stock being downgraded from “peer perform” to “underperform” while the price of the stock went from $120/share a few years ago, to around $50/share now, and an expected continued slide down to around $30/share in the next year.

Save Our Secret Ballot Approved for Voting in Utah

The proposed constitutional amendment to the Utah Constitution to mandate secret ballot elections in union organizing drives will be voted on by the people of Utah in November 2010.  Utah is the first of the SOS (Save Our Secret ballot) states to approve the issue for a vote.  Many people (including myself) still have doubts that a state constitutional amendment would trump a federal law like the Employee Free Choice Act, but I remain hopeful that it can withstand the certain United State Supreme Court scrutiny that it will receive.  On another point, the vote in November 2010 will happen long after Congress decides which version of EFCA it will pass.

In other SOS news, the SOS Chairman, Rep. Ernest Istook responded to Teamster International President, Jimmy Hoffa’s ridiculous question of “since when is the secret ballot a basic tenet of democracy?”  Rep. Istook responded with the following:

“Mr. Hoffa’s statement is the epitome of arrogance and willful ignorance.  The secret ballot has been a basic tenet of democracy since its earliest beginnings in Greece.  Skipping ahead a few millennia, modern democracy has relied on secret ballots to ensure that the voting process is untainted by coercion and intimidation, something I think he may be familiar with.  He should ask those Democratic sponsors in the House and Senate if they enjoyed secret ballots in their leadership elections, and he also should ask Rep. George Miller why he felt it necessary to ask the Mexican government to protect secret ballots for their workers.

“SOS Ballot has been conducting a number polls with Wilson Research Strategies on the secret ballot in states where we are launching campaigns, and we have found that this issue enjoys enormous public support, including 90% support in union households.  Mr. Hoffa needs to reacquaint himself with the rank and file Teamsters whose dues pay his salary before he makes another arrogant statement.  Its clear that the union boss agenda is to oppose secret ballots throughout our society.  We cannot let them get their anti-democracy foot in the door because they might never stop.  Today they attack the secret ballot rights of their own members; tomorrow it’s the rest of us.  We saw this before our recent victory in Utah, when the UT AFL-CIO leadership referred to the secret ballot process as anti-democratic.”

UPS Workers Cry Union Intimidation

Here is just one situation that sheds light on the intimidation and harassment that employees endure during card check organization drives – the same card check drives that are a part of the Employee Free Choice Act.

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed unfair labor practice charges against Teamsters Local 776 for initiating a coercive organizing drive to unionize a UPS Freight facility. 

Here’s the legalese of the situation.  Initially, the workers rejected the union through a secret ballot election.  After the union was rejected by the employees, the Teamsters again tried to organize them through a “card check” organizing drive.  The Teamsters claimed they had a majority of the employees sign a card and presented those cards to management and demanded that UPS recognize the union as the bargaining representatives for the employees.  The employees immediately tried to decertify the union through an election, but the Board ruled that only one election could take place per year.

Under the Dana/Metadyne decision, employees have the right todemand a secret ballot election immediately following unionization via card check organizing as a way to counteract the employee intimidation and harassment at the hands of aggressive union operatives that frequently occurs during card check campaigns.  But, the NLRB said that only one secret ballot election could take place in any given bargaining unit during a 12-month period.  Therefore, these UPS workers were denied the opportunity to vote out the union.

This lawsuit has major implications across a wide range of labor laws, and I will keep everyone on top of the decisions as they are released.  Thank you NRTW for this update.

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.