NLRB member Flynn Resigns
Terence Flynn, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member, resigned yesterday evening, effective July 24. He has immediately recused himself from all agency business and has asked that the President withdraw his nomination for Board Member of the NLRB.
The NLRB Inspector General earlier this year issued two reports describing how Flynn funneled confidential information about NLRB activities and deliberations, including attorney-client privileged information, to two former NLRB members who have worked to undermine and discredit the NLRB. One of those former members was Peter Schaumber—who co-chaired the labor policy advisory group for Mitt Romney's campaign.
The Inspector General found additional instances when Flynn funneled confidential information to Schaumber. These included a draft of an NLRB decision, dissents before cases have been decided and other information on the NLRB's internal operations.
According to the NLRB:
"Earlier today, Chairman Pearce informed NLRB employees of the resignation and, on behalf of the entire Board, thanked them for their 'hard work and commitment to excellence through even the most difficult circumstances.' He intends to issue a statement after communicating with the staff on Tuesday."
From the New York Times:
"In one instance, Mr. Berry found that Mr. Flynn had secretly helped Mr. Schaumber write an opinion column that denounced an N.L.R.B. decision that favored labor unions. Mr. Berry called that action by Mr. Flynn 'an abuse of his discretion.'"
"The Flynn case has been referred to the Justice Department for investigation and to the Federal Office of Special Counsel, which is looking into possible violations of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from participating in partisan political activity."
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called for Flynn's immediate resignation in March and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) called for him to resign earlier this month.
Flynn was sworn in as a Board Member on Jan. 9, 2012. He joined the Board in 2003 as Chief Counsel to Schaumber, and had previously been in private practice. The letter of resignation, dated May 25, was delivered via FAX and email on May 26.
Teamsters Win Organizing Drive at the Port of L.A.
May 22, 2012: The Teamsters Union scored a small but important organizing victory in April when drivers for the Toll Group at the Port of Los Angeles voted 46-15 to unionize. One driver predicted it would be the "beginning of a big war."
The Toll Group is an $8 billion a year logistics company based in Australia. The Transport Workers Union of Australia, which represents the Toll workers there, supported the Teamster drive.
There are some 11,000 port drivers in Los Angeles and Long Beach, and some 100,000 in the country. The vast majority are considered "independent contractors," which strips them of the right to organize and forces them to work long hours for low wages.
The way for this victory to be the "beginning of a big war" is to spread the movement to the majority of port drivers, to win changes in the unjust port system.
The Troublemakers Union Gathers, Stronger than Ever
If there's one consensus opinion about the weekend's Labor Notes Conference, it's certainly that there's more than any one attendee could keep track of.
Or even a dozen. Sameerah Ahmad first came to a Labor Notes Conference as a student activist and was impressed to find a place where rank-and-file workers, union activists, and troublemakers of all stripes—from all over the world—had a home.
Now she's the director of the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, and she brought 12 members along with her to Chicago for the May 4-6 Labor Notes gathering. But even with a dozen folks participating in workshops, she said they couldn't get to everything they wanted to at the 1,500-person conference.
Click here to see photos and read more.
Teamsters Endorse Obama in 2012
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa announced today the union's endorsement of President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012. Hoffa made the official announcement to more than 1,500 Teamster members attending the union's annual conference in Las Vegas.
"President Obama is the clear choice for working families in November," Hoffa said. "Despite inheriting the worst economy since the Great Depression, President Obama has led the country down the long road back to prosperity, providing relief for the middle class and fighting for workers' rights."
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with 1.4 million members, is one of the largest and most diversified labor unions in the country.
"In these years that I've been in office, I've seen and appreciated how you support the American economy and social justice, a tradition that goes back more than a 100 years," President Obama said by phone to Teamsters at the Las Vegas conference. "America would look a lot different without the Teamsters.
"We're not going to go back to a 'you're-on-your-own' economy. We're going to move forward," Obama said. The Teamsters gave President Obama a standing ovation following his remarks.
Today's endorsement was the result of a months-long process that included scientific polling of Teamster members, surveys of local union and joint council leaders and deliberations by the union's democratically elected General Executive Board.
"Working families know who is fighting for their rights, and it sure isn't Mitt Romney," said Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall. "President Obama has worked hard to make sure that Wall Street is held responsible for ruining our economy, enacting the most sweeping financial reform package since the Great Depression."
With the endorsement, the union will begin putting boots on the ground in all 50 states to help re-elect President Obama and keep "vulture capitalist" Romney out of the White House.
"Mitt Romney would be the fox guarding the henhouse," Hoffa said. "He represents everything that is wrong with our financial system. He made his money as CEO of Bain Capital by destroying U.S. businesses, sending good-paying American jobs overseas and filling his pockets with millions while putting workers out on the street."
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Join Teamsters at Labor Notes
March 9, 2012: Join Teamsters and 1,500 union activists at the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago, May 4-6, for three days of labor education and strategizing on how to win the war on workers.
The conference features workshops on everything from Bargaining Tactics to Labor Fighting Back in the Public Sector to Protecting Our Pensions.
TDU members will be speaking in workshops on Assertive Grievance Handling, Running for Union Office, Secrets of Successful Organizing and more.
Click here for more information.
“Labor Notes shows us that we’re not alone, that there are thousands of union members all over who are leading the charge against the corporate war on workers.
“We’re starting to see the impact and more people getting involved to protect their jobs and rights.
“This year’s conference will be one of the biggest ever. I’ll be there, and you should too.”
Michael Savwoir, Local 41, Kansas City
“I love the diversity you see at Labor Notes conferences. There are so many courageous brothers and sisters from other unions and labor organizations who are facing the same problems we face in the Teamsters. There’s also great workshops taught by some of the best labor experts, including TDU members.
“We’ll have a big Teamster turnout from Chicago. We hope to see you there too.”
Gina Alvarez, Local 743, Chicago
WSJ: Lockout Tests Union's Clout
January 30, 2012: LONDON, Ontario—Outside a rail locomotive factory owned by Caterpillar Inc. here, locked-out workers have set up a trailer and a wooden shack to keep warm between bouts of waving union flags and shouting slogans. In a high-profile test of union clout in Canada, they are digging in for what looks like a long struggle.
The workers, who are resisting a new labor contract that would slash their wages by about 50%, hope Caterpillar will soften its demands soon rather than face the risk of delaying deliveries of locomotives to customers.
Caterpillar Chief Financial Officer Edward Rapp said in an interview that the company can make the locomotives it needs to deliver this year by using other plants, including new ones in Muncie, Ind., and Brazil.
"We can meet the demand," Mr. Rapp said. The company wouldn't say how many locomotives it is due to deliver this year.
Caterpillar also has an agreement with Bombardier Inc. under which that Canadian company builds locomotives for it at a plant in Sahagún, Mexico. That agreement predates the lockout.
Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., locked out the 450 locomotive workers on Jan. 1. Before the lockout, Caterpillar and the Canadian Auto Workers union were in talks for more than six months over the company's push for cuts in wages and benefits. Each side has blamed the other for the failure to reach a pact. Caterpillar extended the terms of the old contract for six months until the end of 2011 but refused a union request for more time, saying it didn't "see the value of any further extension."
Employers across Canada are "watching what Cat is doing," said Rolf Gerstenberger, president of a United Steelworkers of America local union that represents workers at a plant in Hamilton, Ontario, owned by U.S. Steel Corp. Mr. Gerstenberger and workers from the Hamilton plant drove 75 miles to London last week to wave flags in front of the locked plant.
"This Caterpillar lockout is an absolute test case of the union's resolve," said Mike Moffatt, an economist at the University of Western Ontario in London.
The showdown with Caterpillar, known for its willingness to fight organized labor in the U.S., comes when Canadian unions are on the defensive. The CAW, which represents the Caterpillar workers in London, is discussing a possible merger with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union in an attempt to bulk up. In a recent discussion paper, officials of those unions wrote that, unless unions become more effective and attract more workers, "we will steadily follow U.S. unions into continuing decline."
About 32% of Canadian employees are represented by unions, compared with 12% in the U.S. Excluding government employees, the percentage of Canadian workers represented by unions has dropped to about 18% from 21% in 1997, according to Statistics Canada.
One factor in the decline has been a trend since the mid-1990s for Canadian provinces, including Ontario, to provide for secret ballots by workers on whether to certify unions rather than having workers merely check a box on a card, said Benjamin Dachis, an analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute, a Toronto-based conservative think tank. Unions are less likely to win support in secret ballots.
"We face an incredibly hostile environment both economically and politically," said Jim Stanford, an economist at the CAW, adding that accepting the wage cut Caterpillar wants "would be a horrible, horrible precedent." Workers note that Caterpillar is demanding concessions even as it trumpets record profit.
Caterpillar has said wage cuts and other contractual changes are needed because the plant isn't "sufficiently flexible and cost-competitive."
The dispute may boil down to whether Caterpillar believes it can do without the Ontario plant, its main assembly center for locomotives. The CAW notes that the Muncie plant is still gearing up to produce on a larger scale. "Brazil is not even up and running yet," said Bob Scott, the CAW's plant chairman in London.
Workers at the Ontario plant say Caterpillar last year hired some of their retired colleagues to help train employees at the new Muncie plant, where workers aren't represented by a union. Caterpillar has advertised jobs there at wages ranging from $12 to $18.50 an hour. Wages for most workers at the Ontario plant are 35 Canadian dollars (US$34.94) an hour, the CAW says.
Caterpillar declined to discuss the prior wage at the Canadian plant.
The Canadian workers say it will be hard for Caterpillar to find enough workers in Indiana, Brazil or Mexico with the skills needed for the intricacies of such tasks as welding train parts together. "It takes time" to learn those skills, said Shaun Oliver, who has worked as a welder at the plant for six years and was standing near a scrap-wood fire in a steel drum outside the plant one recent evening. His union flag snapped in a prairie gale as sparks swirled around half a dozen workers. "You have to know what you're doing," Mr. Oliver said. "It's not a Lego piece."
By James Hagerty for The Wall St. Journal
More Lockouts as Companies Battle Unions
January 23, 2012: America’s unionized workers, buffeted by layoffs and stagnating wages, face another phenomenon that is increasingly throwing them on the defensive: lockouts.
From the Cooper Tire factory in Findlay, Ohio, to a country club in Southern California and sugar beet processing plants in North Dakota, employers are turning to lockouts to press their unionized workers to grant concessions after contract negotiations deadlock. Even the New York City Opera locked out its orchestra and singers for more than a week before settling the dispute last Wednesday.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.
In U.S., a Cheaper Labor Pool
January 6, 2012: Trying to persuade locked-out workers in Canada to accept a sharp cut in pay, Caterpillar Inc. is citing lower wages elsewhere. But instead of pointing to the usual models of cheap and pliant labor, such as China or Mexico, it is using a more surprising example: the U.S.
Wage and benefit costs at a Caterpillar rail-equipment plant in LaGrange, Ill., are less than half of those at the company's locomotive-assembly plant in London, Ontario, Caterpillar says.
Click here to read more at The Wall St. Journal.
President to Appoint Three NLRB Members, Giving Board a Quorum, Democratic Majority
January 5, 2012: President Obama Jan. 4 announced his intent to recess appoint two Democrats and a Republican to serve as members of the National Labor Relations Board, restoring a quorum on the five-seat board that was lost Jan. 3 with the departure of Member Craig Becker.
Obama will appoint as board members Terence F. Flynn (R), Sharon Block (D), and Richard Griffin (D). The president nominated Flynn to the board Jan. 5, 2011, and Block and Griffin Dec. 15, 2011, but the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has not acted on any of the nominations.
“The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day—whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans,” President Obama said in announcing the recess appointments.
Announcement of the NLRB appointments came several hours after Obama said he will recess appoint Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama said in a statement, “The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day—whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans.”
NLRB Lost Quorum a Day Earlier
The National Labor Relations Act provides for a five-seat board with final authority over representation cases and unfair labor practice matters under the act.
NLRB functioned until Aug. 27, 2011, with four members, when then-Chairman Wilma B. Liebman's (D) term expired. Member Mark Gaston Pearce (D) was designated chairman when Liebman departed. Pearce was confirmed by the Senate for a term ending Aug. 27, 2013. Member Brian E. Hayes (R) was confirmed for a term that ends Dec. 16, 2012.
Member Craig Becker (D) was sworn in April 5, 2010 (66 DLR AA-1, 4/8/10), to serve a recess appointment. Obama nominated the former union lawyer in July 2009 to serve on the board, but the nomination failed to win Senate approval after a February 2010 cloture motion to end debate on the nomination fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to a final vote (27 DLR AA-1, 2/11/10).
Becker's recess appointment ended Jan. 3. The former attorney for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO is now a visiting associate professor of law at Georgetown University, according to an NLRB spokeswoman.
Becker's departure left the board without a quorum needed to reach final decisions in NLRB proceedings. The U.S. Supreme Court held in New Process Steel LP v. NLRB, 130 S. Ct. 2635, 188 LRRM 2833 (2010) (116 DLR AA-1, 6/18/10), that the authority of the five-seat board could not be delegated to a panel with fewer than three members.
GOP Senators Already Voiced Opposition
After Obama nominated Block, a former NLRB and Senate committee attorney who has been serving as the Labor Department's deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs, and Griffin, another NLRB veteran who was general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers, all 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to the president vowing that they would oppose any recess appointments for his Democratic nominees.
Writing that it would be “especially unfortunate” if Obama were to give recess appointments to Block and Griffin without giving the Senate the opportunity to review their “qualifications and suitability to serve on the board,” the Republicans warned the president not to “provoke a constitutional conflict between the Senate and the White House.”
But Obama went ahead, announcing his intent to make the NLRB appointments in a written statement several hours after the president proclaimed his appointment of Cordray in an Ohio speech.
Appointments Praised by Union Leaders
Union leaders and some Democratic legislators were quick to compliment the president on his action.
“We commend the President for exercising his constitutional authority to ensure that crucially important agencies protecting workers and consumers are not shut down by Republican obstructionism,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a Jan. 4 statement that referred to both the CFPB and the NLRB appointments. “Working families and consumers should not pay the price for political ploys that have repeatedly undercut the enforcement of rules against Wall Street abuses and the rights of working people,” Trumka added.
“Republicans left the President with no choice but to recess appoint” the NLRB nominees, United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard said Jan. 4. “With these recess appointments, the President has enabled this crucial board to continue functioning,” he said.
IUOE General President James T. Callahan issued a statement complimenting Griffin, who will be leaving his position with the union to sit on the board. Callahan called the objections of Republican senators to the recess appointments “comparable to ejecting the referee if you don't like the score of the game.” Griffin and Block “are distinguished attorneys who will bring an even-handed approach to labor and management issues,” Callahan said.
“Without these recess appointments to the NLRB, working men and women, for the first time since 1935, would have no place to turn for workplace justice,” Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen said in a statement Jan. 4. “It's shameful that in the increasingly global economy, U.S. workers' rights lag dramatically behind the rest of the world and too many Republican senators are determined to block U.S. workers from exercising even limited rights,” Cohen said.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James Hoffa “applauded President Obama for using his constitutional authority to appoint well-qualified people to government posts that are key to protecting working people from union-busting corporations and financial predators.” The appointment of Flynn, a Republican, “shows the president's determination to rise above petty partisan politics,” Hoffa said.
Democrats Applaud Action, Blast Republicans
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, praised the NLRB appointments. “Senate Republicans made clear that they had no intention of giving Democratic nominees fair consideration, despite their wealth of practical experience and deep knowledge of the law, but instead would block appointments to the Board in order to keep it from operating,” Harkin charged.
“By appointing these nominees, President Obama acted responsibly in order to ensure that the workers and businesses across the country who rely on the stable functioning of this important agency would not be caught in the crossfire of the Republicans' misguided ideological battle,” Harkin said.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, complimented the president in a statement as well, but also blasted Republican legislators for their treatment of the NLRB.
“Republicans have tried to defund the agency, passed legislation to take away any effective sanctions the NLRB can use to enforce laws protecting workers from retaliation, and interfered with ongoing enforcement actions,” Miller said.
McConnell, Enzi Complain Senate Bypassed GOP legislators had their own view of the NLRB appointments.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a Jan. 4 statement: “Congress has a constitutional duty to examine presidential nominees, a responsibility that serves as a check on executive power. But what the President did today sets a terrible precedent that could allow any future President to completely cut the Senate out of the confirmation process, appointing his nominees immediately after sending their names up to Congress.”
“This was surely not what the framers had in mind when they required the President to seek the advice and consent of the Senate in making appointments,” McConnell said.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, said Jan. 4 that the president nominated Block and Griffin on Dec. 15, 2011, just before the Senate adjourned for the year on Dec. 16. “To date, neither of the Democrat nominees has filed the required committee application,” Enzi said. “Among other things, the vetting process includes a background check, which addresses whether taxes are paid and if the nominee is facing any pending civil or criminal investigations. This also ensures that there are no conflicts-of-interest before being confirmed for the position.”
“The president has ignored the Senate's confirmation and vetting process, ensuring that our struggling economy will soon be faced with two additional bureaucrats who will shackle America's employers with new onerous regulations,” Enzi charged. “Just look at the most recent actions by the NLRB,” he concluded.
Graham, House Republicans, Continue NLRB Criticism
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent critic of the NLRB after its acting general counsel issued a controversial unfair labor practice complaint against Boeing Co. regarding the manufacturer's decision to locate some jetliner assembly work in South Carolina, issued a statement as well.
“Mr. President,” Graham asked in the statement, “hasn't the NLRB already done enough damage?” Charging that “empowering this agency rather than reforming it” would make job creation more difficult, Graham said, “I will continue to do everything in my power to put the brakes on the NLRB as currently constructed.”
House Republicans were critical as well. Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) charged that it was improper for Obama to appoint NLRB members “without allowing the Senate or the public any opportunity to consider their qualifications for this important position.”
Kline asserted that “each and every decision issued by this board will be tainted by the president's actions,” and said he “will continue to pursue aggressive oversight of the NLRB and take any action necessary to protect the rights of workers and employers.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, promised NLRB oversight as well.
“As President Obama gets closer to the election, he seems more and more willing to take highly controversial actions that put the interests of union bosses ahead of job creators and workers,” Issa said Jan. 4. “These appointments underscore the importance of the Oversight Committee's ongoing investigation as the only real check on NLRB's misuse of its authority to assist key political allies of this Administration,” he asserted. Chamber: Obama Could Have Sought ‘Package.'
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce disapproved of the NLRB appointments.
Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten said in a Jan. 4 statement, “The president could have chosen to work with the Senate and stakeholders to see if a package of nominees could be confirmed that would help restore the agency's independence and credibility.”
“Instead,” Josten said, “today's steps will simply further poison the well with regard to labor-management issues pending in front of the Board and on Capitol Hill.”
By Lawrence E Dube for BNA Daily Labor Report.
BNA Daily Labor Report: Employers Charged with Embezzling from Local 282 Fund
December 30, 2011: The owners of a New York City construction and demolition debris trucking contractor have been indicted on charges that they engaged in a scheme to skirt a collective bargaining agreement and embezzle more than $1 million in union benefit fund payments, prosecutors announced Dec. 22. (United States v. Fusella, E.D.N.Y., No. 11-CR-844, indictment issued 12/22/11).
In an indictment unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, defendants Gerardo P. Fusella and Vincent J. Fusella Jr. were charged with embezzlement, mail fraud, tax violations, and other crimes in the alleged scheme. Their companies, Fusella Group LLC and Alpine Investment Group Inc., trucked debris between construction sites and landfills in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and elsewhere, prosecutors said.
The alleged scheme, running from 2007 to 2009, stemmed from a 2007 contract to remove dirt and debris from the World Trade Center reconstruction site in lower Manhattan, prosecutors said.
The contract required the company to pay hourly wage rates and make contributions to union welfare, pension, annuity, job training, and vacation and sick leave trust funds as specified in a 2007-2008 collective bargaining agreement with International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282, based in Lake Success, N.Y., they said. Fusella Group submitted false certifications that it had paid union wages and benefits, they charged.
Allegedly Bribed Shop Steward
The contractor also paid off a union shop steward to allow it to hide the true work hours of drivers to avoid the contract requirements, prosecutors charged. In 2008, the owners began shifting a substantial portion of their trucking business to Alpine Investment to avoid making benefit fund payments in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security At, prosecutors alleged.
They kept more than $1 million in fund payments for themselves in 2009, embezzling the money, prosecutors said.
Operating a union company and a nonunion company within Local 282's jurisdiction violated the labor contract, the indictment said. The owners operated the two companies out of the same East Hanover, N.J., yards, using the same drivers, mechanics, and office employees, according to the indictment.
The owners also were charged with avoiding payroll tax and Social Security deductions by classifying truck drivers as independent contractors. They also failed to report salary paid to their office workers and mechanics, prosecutors charged. Instead, the owners reported the pay as deductible business expenses, the indictment said.
Overall, the owners failed to make more than $150,000 in Social Security contributions between 2007 and 2009, prosecutors alleged.
“It is imperative that employers provide the wages and benefits to which their employees are legally entitled,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. ‘‘America's workers rely on their benefit funds to set aside hard-earned dollars for an uncertain future. They rely on their employers to properly move monies into those accounts on their behalf, as required by law.”
Investigators Cite Deterrence
Robert L. Panella, special agent-in-charge of the New York regional office of the Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations in the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, said, “Today's indictment should serve as a deterrent to those who would defraud unions and their employee benefit funds and submit false wage and tax documents in order to conceal their crimes. These alleged actions were done for personal enrichment.”
Douglas Shoemaker, special agent-in-charge of New York investigations in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General, said that the probe “demonstrates that ensuring employment integrity in the transportation industry is a top priority” in his office and the department.
Representatives of the defendants could not be reached for comment.
Text of the indictment may be accessed here.
By John Herzfeld BNA Daily Labor Report.