March 10, 2011: The attack on public employee unions in the Midwest is about more than collective bargaining rights. It’s a corporate attack on democracy itself.
Union members and concerned citizens are fighting back. TDU stands with Wisconsin and working people everywhere who are mobilizing to defend our union rights and our democracy.
Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have voted to strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. They rammed through this anti-union legislation while every Democratic Senator was out of the state—violating Wisconsin’s Public Meetings laws in the process.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did not run on a platform of gutting union members’ rights. Walker launched this crusade only after he was elected and has no democratic mandate for his radical measures. In fact, 60 to 70 percent of Wisconsin residents oppose the measure.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) is a nonpartisan organization. We do not endorse Democrats, Republicans or any political party.
But TDU very much involves itself in working people’s struggles to have economic justice and a voice in our democracy. These are the very ideals under attack in Wisconsin—and across the Midwest.
On the same day, that Wisconsin politicians voted to strip public employees of their union rights, the Michigan State Senate passed an anti-union bill that goes even further.
The Michigan bill allows the governor to name emergency financial managers that would be allowed to break union contracts, dismiss elected officials, and even un-incorporate entire municipalities.
That’s right: unelected emergency financial managers would be allowed to remove elected political leaders and put local government under the privatized control of an appointed corporate manager.
Anti-union forces are pushing bills and ballot measures to limit workers’ rights from Maine to Washington. Eighteen states have bills pending to shackle public sector workers.
The real goal is not tackling budget deficits. If it was, states would be going after the Wall Street bankers and CEO’s whose reckless schemes caused the economic collapse.
No, the real goal is corporate control—not just of our jobs, but of our democracy.
Union members and the public are flooding state Capitols and fighting back. These struggles show what the labor movement can be.
Corporate politicians are trying to pit workers against each other—union vs. nonunion, public sector vs. private sector. Instead, they’re bringing us together.
Look at the pictures from Madison and Michigan. This is what a powerful labor movement looks like. This is what democracy looks like.
This is what corporate America is afraid of.
The full power of our Teamsters Union needs to be put behind these struggles.
Let’s give Corporate America a reason to be afraid.
BNA Daily Labor Report: Good Relations Between Unions, Employers Said to Help EU Weather Economic Crisis
March 9, 2011: Good labor relations between employers and trade unions helped the European Union through the economic crisis of 2008-2010, a European Commission report said March 3.
Employers and trade unions agreed to minimize job losses by shortening working hours, which enabled companies to retain skilled workers over the severe economic downturn, the report said.
The annual Industrial Relations Report 2010 also said continued good relations are needed to improve weak competitiveness in some EU countries.
“The member states where social partnership is strongest are those that are successfully overcoming the crisis,” EU Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor said in a statement.
Economic powerhouse Germany is seen as the prime example of successful cooperation between employers and unions. German export companies retained their qualified staff through Kurzarbeit programs, shortening the workweek while the government provided partially unemployed workers with benefits for the rest of the time.
“We have to emerge from the crisis with more and not less social dialogue—this will also help bolster the competitiveness of Europe's economy,” Andor said.
Industrial Relations Vary Among EU Nations
However, he noted that the industrial relations traditionally have varied among the 27 EU member states.
“Social dialogue is still very weak in many of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, yet building solid partnerships between workers' and employers' representatives is precisely what will help these member states on the road to recovery,” the employment commissioner said.
Twelve countries, mostly ex-Communist nations in Central and Eastern Europe, joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007.
In six of them—Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—the crisis led to employers and trade unions signing national cross-industry agreements for the first time.
In total, 18 EU countries saw trade union federations and national employers' organizations signing agreements, either between each other or with the government. Besides the six eastern EU countries, the other 12 were: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, and Slovenia.
The report also noted the continuing trend of further decentralization of wage negotiations toward the company level and not at a national, sectorial level. Collective bargaining is still strong in Europe and two thirds of all workers are covered by a collective agreement.
Trade union membership of workers continued to decline slowly, the report said, down to 31 percent in the EU in 2008 from 37 percent in 2000. The variations among the 27 member states were significant, from 69 percent union membership in Sweden in 2008 to below 8 percent in Estonia. Membership of employers' organizations remained stable.
About 2 percent of EU workers had been involved in a strike each year of the 2000-2008 period. This level was lower than the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the report said.
Figures varied greatly among EU countries, with very high numbers of strikes for Greece, Italy, and Spain, and very low figures for Germany, Poland, and Sweden.
Text of the report may be accessed here.
March 7, 2011: Governors across the country are trying to take away workers’ union rights. But most Americans are siding with the workers.
A CBC News and New York Times poll found that 60 percent of Americans support the right of public sector workers to bargain collectively.
“Some politicians thought that they could score points by attacking public workers. But they were picking on the people who teach our kids, pick up our trash, and help out our communities,” said David Kremer, a public employee in Minnesota Teamsters Local 320. “No wonder most people want us to have a voice on the job.”
A rally in support of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's anti-union bills managed to draw just 700 people today--a limp attempt to counter the recent demonstrations that have topped 100,000.
The battle to protect public sector workers is far from over. Click here to sign up to get updates about how you can help from the AFL-CIO.
February 25, 2010: This Saturday, Americans are rallying to save the American Dream in state capitals and cities across all fifty states.
They’re standing up for union rights and to support workers under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and beyond.
Click here to find a rally near you.
February 16, 2011: Thousands of people descended on the Wisconsin state Capitol again Wednesday to protest a bill that would strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights, but Gov. Scott Walker insisted he has the votes to pass the measure.
On the second consecutive day of demonstrations, Walker said he was open to making changes in the legislation, the boldest anti-union proposal in the nation. But he said he would not "fundamentally undermine the principles" of the bill, which he says is needed to help balance a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and avoid widespread layoffs.
Click here to read more at Yahoo! News.
February 8, 2011: All 47 Republicans in the U.S. Senate submitted a letter to President Obama objecting to his renomination of attorney Craig Becker to fill the remainder of a five-year term as a board member ending Dec. 16, 2014, and asking Obama to “respect the will of the Senate” by withdrawing the nomination.
Becker's July 2009 nomination failed in the Senate when 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. But Obama gave Becker a recess appointment that allows him to serve until the end of the Senate's 2011 session, and then renominated him Jan. 26 for the remainder of a five-year term.
The senators in the Feb. 1 letter reminded Obama that many of them urged him not to make the recess appointment. They said that Becker's 10 months of service on a recess appointment “has not alleviated our concerns,” citing several actions in which he joined with other Democratic members of the board.
Two-Year Controversy Over NLRB Selection
Obama originally announced his intention to nominate Becker in April 2009 and sent his name to the Senate on July 9, 2009 (131 DLR A-18, 7/13/09), but the nomination encountered significant opposition in the Senate, culminating in the failed cloture vote.
Forty-one Republican senators signed a March 2010 letter to Obama urging him not to recess appoint Becker, who had served as associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union since 1990 and an AFL-CIO staff counsel since 2004 (57 DLR A-9, 3/26/10). Asserting that previously Becker had published “highly controversial writings” on labor law, the senators also questioned Becker's “judgment, as well as his objectivity” after he explained his plans for recusing himself from board consideration of certain cases involving the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and SEIU local unions.
But on March 27, 2010, Obama gave Becker a recess appointment that allows him to serve until the end of the Senate's 2011 session (59 DLR AA-1, 3/30/10). Becker was sworn in on April 5, 2010 (66 DLR AA-1, 4/8/10). The board currently has a 3-1 Democratic majority, consisting of Chairman Wilma B. Liebman, Member Mark Gaston Pearce, and Becker. Brian E. Hayes is presently the only Republican member, but Obama recently nominated NLRB lawyer Terence F. Flynn (R) Jan. 5 to join the board (3 DLR A-11, 1/5/11).
Republican Senators Remain Opposed
The White House sent Becker's renomination to the Senate along with the names of 37 other individuals who were nominated but not confirmed for various offices during the 111th Congress. Republican senators responded to the NLRB nomination within a few days, urging Obama to withdraw Becker's name.
The latest letter, signed by all 47 Republican senators, said, “We were disappointed that you chose to put Mr. Becker on the Board by recess appointment even after the Senate voted against advancing his nomination” in 2010.
According to the GOP senators' letter, Becker “led the Board to re-open and reverse settled decisions, made discrete cases a launching point for board changes to current labor law, and used an 18 year-old petition to initiate a rulemaking proposal that likely exceeds the Board's statutory authority.”
The lawmakers said that after reviewing Becker's writings and considering his testimony at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, senators had opposed Becker's nomination during 2009 and 2010 because of his “record of supporting an expanded role for the NLRB beyond current law without Congressional authorization and his multiple conflicts-of-interest” as a former SEIU and AFL-CIO lawyer. Becker's time on the board as a recess appointee “has not alleviated our concerns,” the Republican senators wrote.
Letter Cites NLRB Actions Since Recess Appointment
According to the letter, Becker “led the Board to re-open and reverse settled decisions, made discrete cases a launching point for board changes to current labor law, and used an 18 year-old petition to initiate a rulemaking proposal that likely exceeds the Board's statutory authority.”
After Becker, Pearce, and Hayes were sworn in as board members in the spring, the board had, for a time, three Democrats and two Republicans, including former Member Peter C. Schaumber, whose term ended Aug. 27, 2010. The board decided a number of cases by 3-2 votes, with a majority consisting of Liebman, Becker and Pearce. Since Schaumber's departure, the board has issued a number of 2-1 or 3-1 decisions in which Democrats formed a majority and Hayes cast a dissenting vote.
But the letter did not cite any specific cases or offer specific support for the proposition that Becker “led” the other board members.
Becker and other board members approved a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require every employer subject to the National Labor Relations Act to post a notice informing employees of their NLRA rights, acting on a petition for rulemaking filed in 1993 (244 DLR AA-1, 12/21/10). Hayes dissented from the rulemaking proposal, noting that the NLRA does not expressly authorize the board to require such a notice posting by employers.
In objecting to renomination of Becker, the senators also said that “the NLRB is threatening four states with lawsuits based on constitutional provisions protecting secret-ballot union elections that were adopted by voters of those states.”
The reference is to letters sent to the attorneys general of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah by the board's acting general counsel, Lafe E. Solomon, informing the states that their adoption of constitutional “secret ballot amendments” was preempted by the NLRA. Solomon wrote that he was authorized by the board to file lawsuits challenging the state measures if necessary; his letter did not disclose whether the authorization by board members was a unanimous decision (10 DLR AA-1, 1/14/11).
After the state attorneys general submitted a response to his letter, Solomon sent a second letter indicating that NLRB is willing to explore possible resolutions of the disputes with state government (23 DLR AA-1, 2/3/11).
In reviewing Becker's time as a recess appointee, the senators' letter also said NLRB has “ignored provisions in other states that conflict with federal law but benefit unions over employers.” However, the letter did not cite the state laws in question, or identify either the action by NLRB officials that was referred to or Becker's role in such events.
The letter also asserted that during a Senate hearing on his nomination in February 2010 (21 DLR A-15, 2/3/10), “Mr. Becker assured Senators … that he would recuse himself from any Board matter in which his previous union employers were a party, for at least two years.” But he later refused to recuse himself in 12 cases involving the unions he had worked for, the letter said.
Becker wrote in SEIU, Nurses Alliance, Local 121RN (Pomona Valley Hosp. Med. Ctr.), 355 N.L.R.B. No. 40, 188 LRRM 1089 (2010) (110 DLR A-1, 6/10/10), that the pledge “does not require me to recuse myself from all cases in which local unions affiliated with the SEIU are parties” unless he represented the particular local during the two years prior to becoming a member or an SEIU attorney represented a local during Becker's first two years on the board. But the senators wrote that “[d]isregard for the NLRB's appearance of impartiality is of great concern.”
Writing to Obama that the “mission of the Members and staff of the NLRB is to enforce current law,” while “changes to statutory law” are the responsibility of Congress, the Republican senators asked Obama to withdraw Becker's nomination, stating they “would be pleased to work with you to identify a replacement nominee capable of receiving swift confirmation.”
Individual Republicans Voice Opposition
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R.-Ga.) issued a Feb. 2 statement that he is a “strong opponent” of Becker's nomination, expressing “concerns that he would use his position on the [NLRB] to manipulate the federal regulatory process, compromise fairness and grant favors to the labor unions that formerly employed him.”
Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) both issued Feb. 3 statements. Hatch said that the Senate failed to support Becker's nomination last year because of “serious concerns” about his impartiality. “These questions have not been resolved and, if anything, it is more clear now that Mr. Becker is more interested in furthering a pro-union political agenda than in upholding our national's labor laws.”
Over the past 10 months, Becker “has made his intention and bias clear,” Enzi said. “The NLRB is meant to be an impartial authority ensuring organizing freedom in the workplace,” he said, “not a politicized institution bent on increasing unionization rates at the cost of American jobs.”
House Republicans on the Education and the Workforce Committee issued a Feb. 3 post on their “Secret Ballot Watch” web page noting with approval the action by Republican senators. The post continued that Becker had “written and supported board decisions that favor Big Labor over the interests of rank-and-file workers,” and concluded “the president should follow the lead of Republicans in Congress and focus his efforts on protecting jobs for America's workers—not protecting Craig Becker.”
Requests Feb. 7 for comment from NLRB, AFL-CIO, and SEIU were not immediately returned.
Law Professor Questions Assertion Becker ‘Led' Board
Jeffrey Hirsch, associate professor of law at the University of Tennessee, questioned the senators' characterization of Becker as leading the NLRB into some of the decisions it has made in the past 10 months. Hirsch observed that Becker dissented from a ruling in Humane Society of Seattle/Kings County, 356 N.L.R.B. No. 13, 189 LRRM 1440 (2010), in which Liebman and Pearce were in the majority on an election objection issue, while Becker was in the minority in Wheeling Island Gaming Inc., 355 N.L.R.B. No. 127, 189 LRRM 1422 (2010), in which Liebman and Schaumber outvoted him on a bargaining unit issue.
Noting that many of the cases addressed by the board during Becker's recess appointment were pending long before Becker was sworn in, Hirsch said Becker is only one voice on the board.
Commenting that Liebman and Pearce have their own views and that Liebman in particular is “no shrinking violet,” the law professor said it is difficult for those outside NLRB to assess the influence of any one member on the board as a whole.
By Lawrence E. Dubé. Published in the BNA Daily Labor Report
Text of the Republican senators' letter to Obama may be accessed here.
January 13, 2011: More than 400 union and civil rights activists will march to Cincinnati’s City Hall Jan. 14 to condemn the plan recently elected Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) has to strip Ohio child care and home health care workers of their right to bargain for a better life.
The march is part of the annual AFL-CIO King Day celebration Jan. 13-17 in Cincinnati. Through the march and throughout the conference, activists will send a message that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of social and economic justice is not dead even in this tough political climate. Workers who provide vital services to the Cincinnati area—including home and child care providers and transit workers—will share their stories and concerns about Kasich and his allies’ attempts to blame and punish low-income workers for the state of the economy. The activists will focus on developing strategies to advance the issues of good job creation, immigration reform and economic equality.
Click here to read more at AFL-CIO News.
LaborArts.org is online museum that collects and celebrates the lives and struggles of working people in photos, paintings, and music.
They feature exhibits on Strikes, paintings from Nina Talbot and Ralph Fasanella, songs from the New York City Labor Chorus, and more.
Click here to see and hear their exhibits.
November 10, 2010: In what labor officials and lawyers view as a ground-breaking case involving workers and social media, the National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page.
This is the first case in which the labor board has stepped in to argue that workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.