Tag: unions

Misguided Judge Invalidates Wisconsin’s Right-to-Work Law


WalkerIn these turbulent times, it is quite amazing how rapidly the fortunes of the political wars can shift, especially on matters of labor law. Earlier this year, the question before the United States Supreme Court in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was whether teachers had a constitutional First Amendment right to steer clear of mandatory union membership. During the oral argument it was clear that five members of the Supreme Court believed that the association improperly forced unit workers to contribute to a cause in which they did not believe. Four members believed that the traditional accommodation under Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), made it permissible for the state to distinguish between economic matters for which dues had to be paid, and political matters on which union members could opt out. The cases ended, without a decision in a 4 to 4 vote, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Left standing until another day was the decision in the Ninth Circuit that rejected the First Amendment challenge.

As this matter remains unresolved, a new thunderbolt has come from Dane County, WI where Judge C. William Foust held at the request of three unions that the Wisconsin right-to-work law was unconstitutional because it deprived unions of the property in their own labor without just compensation, “[b]y prohibiting the unions from charging nonmembers who refuse to pay for representation services which unions continue to be obligated to provide by law.”

In reaching this conclusion, Judge Foust first noted that the union was constrained by a duty of fair representation to treat all the workers “without hostility or discrimination,” but what he does not note is that any effort to reach this particular result has proved an abject failure in all cases that do not involve matters of race or sex discrimination. In dealing with economic claims of different workers, be it by seniority or by work classification, there is simply no metric by which anyone can tell whether that duty has been discharged, so that no one who is short-changed can maintain a viable claim.

Friedrichs Decision Is a Blow Against Educational Excellence


Rebecca Friedrichs, a veteran Orange County, Calif., public school teacher.

Today, an evenly divided Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association to permit unions to continue charging nonmembers “agency fees” to cover collective-bargaining activities that the union supposedly engages in on their behalf. About half the states require agency fees from public-sector workers who choose not to join a union.

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So I stole most of that head line, but this is an interesting article.  There’s enough background in the article so you won’t have to search the internet for the back story of LA’s theatre union woes. I’m interested to hear from the Libertarians (you’ll know the line in the article when you get to […]

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Rejoice! The Storm Troopers of Leftism Are Being Crushed!


TAA_Rally_in_the_Capitol,_2012_(6879367837)This is the second in a series on the importance and durability of conservative successes since Reagan took office and since Obama lost his supermajority; we do win battles and they can stay won.

Though FDR created the modern Democratic Party as a diverse array of government entities and sales pitches to attract various identity groups, its heart was legally-empowered unions. In what might be considered the first individual mandate, Americans under a pro-union government would be forced to pay dues to a third party who would spend it, in part, on getting Democrats elected. There’s a raft of ways in which that system was enhanced; since 1931, for instance, Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws have meant that government had to overpay for contracts, with much of the surplus going to unions, who were also helped by the additional red tape. Because people rarely give much of their own free will, declared union spending on the 2012 cycle topped $1.7 billion, while the Obama campaign ($0.5 billion), DNC ($0.3 billion), and declared outside spending on the Presidential race ($0.1 billion) didn’t compare.

But it’s more than money. Unions are the Democrats’ answer for why America is great. All the wonderful changes of the twentieth century, the incredible wealth enjoyed by our middle class, the massively superior quality of life we have over our parents … all these are explained, in their telling, by unions. The roll free markets serve in conservative mythology (and in reality) are credited to unions in the Left’s narrative. They can also point to unions as a source for social capital and the guarantors of individual rights, making them not merely the purported engine of economic growth, but also the Left’s church.

Scott Walker Talks Turkey on Labor Market Reform


shutterstock_280248305One of the central questions of the current Republican presidential campaign is when potential candidates will talk about important issues of political economy. That talk has thus far been in short supply because of the intellectual oxygen that is sucked out of the room every time Donald Trump walks into it. The recent remarks by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in union-dominated Las Vegas, however, have begun to change that. They represent his effort to breathe some life into his faltering campaign by harking back to his successful effort to take on public unions in Wisconsin.

High-stakes gambles like this usually lose. Indeed, to everyone’s surprise, Walker seems to have become a long-shot at this point. Nonetheless, even if his latest proposals don’t revive his candidacy, other Republicans should take up this cause. The union movement is powerful and united, but it is also vulnerable to political attack. The forces that led to the adoption of right-to-work laws in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan are good evidence that many voters, including union members, realize that powerful unions are as bad for working people as they are for employers in the long run

Walker is not a theoretical type, so his speech does not offer the intellectual justifications for curbing the union power that has pervaded American life since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. The major problem with unions is that they are monopolies. Employment markets need to be competitive, with ease of entry and exit by both firms and individuals. If you keep tabs on employer efforts to monopolize through the antitrust laws and otherwise leave the process free to function, the interplay of market forces will give both workers and employers the opportunity to work together to maximize their joint welfare by figuring ways to expand the pie and then divide the proceeds.

The NLRB’s Labor Market Mischief


shutterstock_62462134Under last week’s decision by the Democratic majority on the National Labor Relations Board, we are about to see a dramatic shift in what constitutes an “employer.” Before this ruling, that term covered firms that hire their own workers, and the NLRB subjected those firms to the collective bargaining obligations under the National Labor Relations Act. Under its new definition, the majority expanded that term to cover any firm that outsources the hiring and management of employees to a second firm over which it retains some oversight function. In its decision, the NLRB refers to such firms and those to whom they outsource the hiring as “joint employers.” No longer, the majority says, must the employer’s control be exercised “directly and immediately.” Now “control exercised indirectly—such as through an intermediary—may establish joint-employer status.” As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas:

…[T]he new joint employer rules will likely batter today’s already grim labor market, as they will not only disrupt the traditional workplace but will completely wreck the well established franchise model for restaurants and hotels. As the majority conceded, the so-called joint employer does not even know so much as the social security number of its ostensible employees. It has no direct control over the way in which the current employer treats its workers, and yet could be hauled into court for its alleged unfair labor practices. That second firm knows little or nothing about the conditions on the ground in the many businesses with which it has forged these alliances, which eases the operations for both. Those advantages will be lost if the joint employer rule holds up in court. At the very least, the majority’s decision would require each and every one of these contracts and business relationships to be reworked to handle the huge new burden that will come as a matter of course, leaving everyone but the union worse off than before.

It would be one thing, perhaps, if the majority saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But over and over again it disclaims any grand pronouncements, making the legal question of who counts as an employer a work in progress that will be finished no time soon. Against this background it is irresponsible to undo the current relationships by a party-line vote. That point should also be clear to the courts and to Congress. The quicker this unfortunate decision is scrubbed from the law books, the better.

ICYMI: The Economy Was Just Restructured


capital buildingIn recent years the iconic Capitol building has been draped in scaffolding due to a needed restoration, the first improvements since 1959-1960 to the symbol of American democracy. From afar the dome has always appeared to be a brilliant beacon conveying American exceptionalism. On a closer look, behind the countless coats of paint and patchwork, the age and weather have taken its toll. The repairs to preserve the dome will allow the Capitol to continue to shine for future generations.

For denizens of and visitors to Washington, DC, or news junkies who see the scaffolding in the digital backgrounds of daily newscasts, it’s a stark visual reminder that America itself is under reconstruction. The national “restoration” project is now in its seventh year. The steward of America’s reconstruction is perhaps the most successful President we’ve seen in our lifetimes, if you define success as achieving an agenda.

Historically, the final two years of a two-term Presidency have been the least effective time, filled with scandals and voter apathy. The “lame duck” is simply a placeholder while the country moves its attention to his replacement in the oval office. For this reason, lame ducks can be dangerous. They are old news. The press focuses on shinier, red-hat covered wayward tresses.

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Canada is having a federal election on October 19th, and current predictions show the New Democratic Party (NDP) winning. This would make its leader, Thomas Mulcair, Canada’s next Prime Minister.  In this post, I’d like to take a look at his economic plan, with a specific critique from my own experience.  Preview Open

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The Hollow Men of the NLRB


NLRBlogoT.S. Eliot’s remarkable 1925 poem, “The Hollow Men,” ends with these oft-quoted lines: “This is the way the world ends—Not with a bang, but a whimper.“ Those words capture, in a far less grand context, this week’s decision by the National Labor Relations Board involving the efforts of some Northwestern University varsity football players to organize athletes on scholarship as “statutory employees” protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

Last year, a regional NLRB ruling took the side of the players, a decision that, as I wrote here at the time, was on the shakiest of grounds. There is no reason to rehash those legal arguments, because no one wanted a decision on the merits this week. The key task now is to explore the political forces behind the decision.

NLRB rulings are normally split sharply along party lines. In this case, however, the Board issued a unanimous decision that “it would not effectuate the policies of the Act to assert jurisdiction in this case … even if we assume, without deciding, that the grant-in-aid scholarship players are employees within the meaning of Section 2(3)” of the Act. Their reasoning: because it is clear that the definition of an “employer” under Section 2(2) excludes any state (including any state-run university), any ensuing regulations would apply to teams like Northwestern but not to their public university counterparts, upsetting the competitive balance in college sports. And so it is that a widely heralded decision that gave rise to both great hopes and fears has ended with a jurisdictional whimper.

Obama Administration Harms Businesses Yet Again – In Overtime


wptv-overtime_1435681273773_20553280_ver1.0_640_480Perhaps you haven’t heard, but under a proposed new Department of Labor rule starting in 2016, the overtime rules are changing. Right now, a business can classify any qualifying employee (a rule unto itself) making more than $23,360 per year as a salaried employee, instead of an hourly. This lets many businesses offer flexible hours, or allow working from home, or working “as needed” to get things done. Typical examples include people answering e-mails in off hours, pulling late nights to get important projects done, or any of a near-endless array of little things that just need that extra push. This also means that businesses need not keep track of numerous time clocks, time cards, and all of the added bureaucracy required. No more.

Beginning in 2016, the Department of Labor is more than doubling the hourly salary divide to $50,440. Anyone making less than that figure must be classified as an hourly position, must use a time clock, and must be paid for any applicable overtime hours.  This will be disastrous to an already dodgy economy and hiring crisis. Let me quote from Inc. Magazine:

Time clocks. These people all have to record time. If some of your workers are remote, you’ll have to figure out a way for them to record time.

Scott Walker: The Left’s Keyser Söze


Conan Walker 3During the sleepy summer months other candidates have announced their runs, sometimes to acclaim and sometimes to silence, but Wisconsin’s governor has bided his time. He has plotted, planned, and stayed out of the spotlight while overseeing the approval of his state’s budget. Monday he finally announced, in a heartland-themed ceremony outside of Milwaukee.

Introduced by his wife Tonette, Walker took the stage sans teleprompter and ticked off one conservative priority after another. It was a serious, straightforward speech delivered from — and to — middle America. It wasn’t flashy, but with his record, Walker didn’t need it to be. Think Cal Coolidge if he ate brats and rooted for the Packers.

Walker has spent one-and-a-half terms tipping sacred cows and winning three elections amidst the most toxic leftist attacks imaginable. Riots in the streets, court-ordered harassment of his allies, and threats on his family weren’t enough to make him back down. This steel makes Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) very, very nervous. The official Twitter account of the DNC has shrieked all weekend over the unassuming executive’s entry into the race.

Are Nurse Unions Needed to Fight Obamacare?


shutterstock_172496525Recently, I uttered words that I swore would never escape my lips: “I think, maybe, it’s time that the nurses come together and do something. Like … make a union.”

I have been vehemently and rabidly anti-union all my voting life. The daughter of a member of the California Teachers Association, I was introduced at a tender age to the many evils of unions. I was taught the different ways that unions manipulate members, abuse their dues, provide money to pet political causes, and make life difficult for the teachers. In public school, however, I was taught all of the ways that the teachers’ union was magnanimous, benevolent, and essential to a Good Education.

The hospital I work for has tried very hard to ensure that no unions take hold here. In conservative Orange County, this has not been too difficult: We are all afraid of the overreaching sight of Big Brother. We have rallied together to proclaim our independence from unions, our ability to directly negotiate with our managers, and to voice our happiness that we do not pay dues for services that we do not receive.

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Freedom of association is commonly related to the first amendment right to peaceably assemble.  If a union can force non-union workers to either join or pay union dues—or lose one’s job, doesn’t that violate the individual’s rights of freedom of association? To put it another way, if the employees of a business vote to unionize, […]

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Big Government Is Bankrupt Government


The year 2007 marked the height of the housing bubble. Residential real estate prices were through the roof, especially in Arizona, Nevada, and California where speculators had swamped the market. This overvalued sector resulted in exceptionally high revenues for the Sun Belt cities that based most of their budgets on steadily growing property taxes.

Several cities, understanding the ups and downs of business cycles, maintained their level of spending or increased it by a modest amount. But other municipalities acted as if the good times would never end. Glendale, Ariz. borrowed to build a gargantuan pro football stadium and hockey arena nearly 20 miles from the city center. Stockton, Calif. borrowed $300 million to build their own arena, shopping centers, theaters, and a palatial waterfront complex.

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  “Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t.” – President Barack Obama, February 24, 2009, address to joint session of Congress Liberals understand that in order to get elected they must pretend to believe that government is the problem. Aren’t we due for a Republican nominee who does the same? Preview Open

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The Wall Street Journal had an excellent piece on newly-elected Illinois governor Bruce Rauner. Buried in the middle is this question: “It’s already illegal today in Illinois for businesses or individuals who contract with the state to make campaign contributions to state politicians,” he says, but “it’s perfectly legal for government union leaders. Why?” Preview […]

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Conservatives and Unions – Oil and Water?


union labor

In the course of my life, I’ve been exposed to the undeniable malignant effects of large scale labor unions and — whether in the form of the massive teacher’s unions, public sector unions, or countless others — they all seem to have more or less the same ultimate effect. That is to say, burdening the companies and governments with whom they “partner” with vast and unreasonable entitlements that they cannot hope to meet over the course of time.  

The influence the labor union is undeniable in today’s political landscape.  Almost every conservative campaigner has something to say about unions being an undue burden on the state and the taxpayers. This is good. Scott Walker, in particular, has some first hand experience deep in the trenches of this particular war. And he has won battle after battle in this war.