In placing radical union lawyer Craig Becker on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) via recess appointment this past March, President Obama may have unleashed a more potent weapon to advance organized labor's interests than even he realized at the time. In a 3-2 decision on August 27, the board voted to review its ruling of three years ago, Dana Corporation [351 NLRB No. 28 (2007)], which granted dissenting workers the right to undo a successful (i.e., employer-recognized) union card check campaign. The board thus has given unions new ammunition for realizing its top priority of forcing, and not simply authorizing, employers to recognize majority-vote union card check campaigns under the guise of "employee choice." A separate but related issue is why Becker was allowed to cast a vote at all, given his conflict of interest in the case.
Barack Obama, like any Democratic president, has serious IOUs to labor unions. And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, more than any other labor leader, is one ally he can't afford to alienate. About the last thing Obama wants, especially as his party faces heavy losses in congressional elections this November, is the subject of Trumka's lengthy track record of aggression and corruption to come up. Major media, for the most part, have obliged him in the wake of the round of speeches yesterday at the Milwaukee Area Labor Council Laborfest, making little or mention of inconvenient facts. It isn't as if Obama or top members of his administration are complaining.
It may have been a formality, but the executive board of the Service Employees International Union this past Saturday overwhelmingly named SEIU Executive Vice President Mary Kay Henry to succeed Andrew Stern as the labor organization's next president. The 73-member governing body met in Washington, D.C. to select Ms. Henry, who ran unopposed after Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger dropped out of the race a little over a week earlier. Henry, like Burger, is a Stern loyalist.
Almost everyone connected to organized labor by now has heard the news: Andrew Stern soon will resign as president of the Service Employees International Union. His departure in all likelihood will be permanent. And, if somewhat muted, so will the edgy aggression of the union he redefined. Stern made the announcement on April 14 at an SEIU executive board meeting, confirming a flurry of rumors emanating from an internal e-mail sent by Seattle SEIU local leader Diane Sosne. Stern subsequently e-mailed his own members: "There's a time to learn, a time to lead, and then there's a time to leave. And shortly, it will be my time to retire...and end my SEIU journey." The date of departure, though unspecified, will be within a month. Better political instincts suggest Stern will find plenty of ways to keep himself busy.
No organization likes bad publicity. And when allied organizations create it, disavowing ties to them becomes attractive. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has exercised that option - at least on the surface. On Wednesday, September 30, the union's secretary-treasurer, Anna Burger, told a congressional panel that her organization no longer has a working relationship with the New Orleans-based nationwide nonprofit "anti-poverty" network ACORN, an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN, as almost everyone in this country with a pulse knows by now, has been the target of federal and state investigations into a wide range of criminal activity. A very embarrassing and widely-aired homemade undercover video hasn't helped its case. Yet all the same, the union's move looks like a case of bait and switch.
In Barack Obama, organized labor knows it has its man in the White House. Arguably more than any U.S. president in history, President Obama supports the union domestic agenda, ever and always anchored in aggressive government intervention in the economy. And union officials support him, having provided indispensable financial and logistical support for his campaign last year. To show his appreciation, Obama was in downtown Pittsburgh today to address the AFL-CIO's quadrennial convention. His speech is the highlight of the labor confab at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which will run through Thursday.
Almost nobody doubts that come September, Richard Trumka will become the AFL-CIO's next president, replacing the retiring John Sweeney. Having occupied the labor federation's secretary-treasurer position for nearly 14 years, he's done everything his boss and the ideological faithful could ask of him. That's a major reason why he and his slate are running almost unopposed. But more than Sweeney, Trumka, a trained lawyer, has a palpably combative edge, much of it honed during his tenure as head of the United Mine Workers of America.
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as this publication has noted several times, is a classic case of deceptive packaging. The proposal, now pending before Congress, would effectively eliminate the secret ballot as a means of allowing workers to decide whether to join a union. Specifically, it would force an employer to recognize as binding the result of a union "card check" campaign that generates signatures from at 50 percent of affected workers who indicate a desire to join. Labor leaders from the start have admitted they seek to boost their ranks and retool themselves as a formidable economic and political force. What they won't admit is the possibility that EFCA, once enacted, would be counterproductive to the interests of workers as a whole. A new study concludes, however, that such a possibility is very real.
The Service Employees International Union is growing at a time when most other unions are not.It now has 1.9 million dues-paying members, a near doubling from early 1996 when current President Andrew Stern took over the helm.Things, in other words, have worked out according to plan.Stern’s grow-or-die gospel is central to the way his union organizes and negotiates.It’s also the main reason for the eventual split that occurred between him and his predecessor, John Sweeney, who ascended to the AFL-CIO leadership.That split became formalized in the summer of 2005, when the SEIU and a half-dozen other AFL-CIO affiliates formed their own federation, Change to Win.But Stern has opponents within his own union, too, most of all in the form of Sal Rosselli, head of a 140,000-member, Oakland, Calif.-based affiliate, United Healthcare Workers-West.Union Corruption Update reported last year that Rosselli was highly dissatisfied with the way SEIU leaders from Washington, D.C. headquarters apparently strong-armed into being a substandard contract between UHW-West and California nursing home operators.Relations since have deteriorated further.
That labor unions have become champions of the right of illegal (“undocumented”) immigrants to remain in this country is hardly news.In 2000, the AFL-CIO, pushed by President John Sweeney, issued a formal statement supporting unconditional amnesty for illegal workers and their families.But Sweeney and other federation officials want to do more than issue press statements and pass resolutions.Last month, they went to federal court in San Francisco to block implementation of a Bush administration plan to enforce the law.On August 31, they scored an initial victory.U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney, a Clinton appointee, issued a temporary restraining order barring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from mailing notices to 140,000 employers, covering about 8.7 million workers, warning them about suspicious Social Security numbers.These “no-match” letters, as they are known, would point out the penalties for failing to resolve paperwork discrepancies.