Monday, July 30, 2007

Of Glass Houses & Septic Tanks: AFL-CIO Negotiates Less-than-Living Wage Increase with its Unionized Staff

You know the old adage about living in glass houses and throwing stones, right? Or, what about the one that says something to the effect of the grass is always being greener over the septic tank?

Well, see if you can answer this riddle:

What do you call an employer who switches health care providers on its unionized employees, stalls negotiations well beyond the expired contract, has multiple tiers of employees (many without grievance protections, even though they pay unions dues), and negotiates paltry increases of 2.75% in the first year of the contract, 2.85% in the second year of the contract, and 2.75% in the third and final year of the contract?

If your answer is the AFL-CIO, that Big Kahuna of the two labor federations here in the U.S., you're right!

Well, here's another one from the Pathetic Union Department (PUD)...

It seems the AFL-CIO, has recently negotiated a renewal contract with the union representing its "professional staff," the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (a division of the Communications Workers of America)...and what a contract it is!

According to a fluff piece (see note below) put out by the Bureau of National Affairs (subscription required), the AFL-CIO's previous contract with the Guild expired last October 1st but talks were 'postponed' until January 2007 due to the the mid-term elections.
Note: As the BNA normally doesn't do 'fluff pieces', we thought the piece was a bit too fluffy, so we did some research and found that the WBNG also represents numerous classifications of workers at the BNA, including its writers.
According to the BNA report, Amy Lampkin, the union's unit chair at the AFL-CIO, stated that once negotiations resumed in January, following the mid-term elections, the federation and the union quickly reached a tentative agreement on Feb. 6. The contract, however, was not put up for ratification until now because the parties had to work out details of health care coverage under a new provider.

Lampkin said that the AFL-CIO bargaining unit employees had received their health insurance through ULLICO (click here and here for a brief synopsis of the scandal-ridden, union-owned insurance carrier), but the insurance company got out of the health insurance business last year. She said that the parties agreed to a new carrier--United Healthcare--but had to work out details of "make-whole" language that was negotiated. [Apparently, this was necessary because the new health benefits are inferior to the the previous ULLICO benefits.]

The contract also contains a modicum of job security language for workers with more than 10 years with the federation, but nothing mentioned for workers with less than ten years who would be subject to being laid off if union funding to the AFL-CIO is cut again. This was apparently negotiated following the hypocritical way the Sweeney administration handled the 2005 lay offs at the AFL-CIO, angering some within the House of Labor. (See AFL-CIO layoff articles here and here.)

In terms of wages, the AFL-CIO agreed to a paltry 2.75 percent retroactive to Oct. 1, 2006, when the prior contract expired, followed by increases of 2.85 percent Oct. 1, 2007, and 2.75 percent Oct. 1, 2008. Which, given that the AFL-CIO is located in Washington, D.C., where the cost of living should be considered inhumane, the AFL-CIO's increase is less than a 'living wage' increase! [Perhaps the Carpenter's union could loan the WBNG some of their homeless protestors!]

And, last but not least, the AFL-CIO apparently agreed to continue the WBNG's "union security" provision (withholding union dues from all employees after 30 days of employment, or causing them to be terminated), even though the AFL-CIO has the "unlimited right to discharge" (aka fire) employees within six (6) months of their start date.

This, of course, means that those employees are (gasp!) "at will" employees and can be fired by the AFL-CIO for cause, little cause, or no cause at all!

Say what?!?...Yep! Here it is in their own words (er...writing):

  1. The Employer shall have the unlimited right to discharge a new employee who has not concluded a probationary period of six (6) months, beginning from the date that the employee begins work, provided that on or before the two (2) month anniversary date and on or before the four (4) month anniversary date the progress of the new employee will be evaluated and the Guild will be notified in writing if any problem or problems appear to be developing. After one (1) month on the payroll, if an employee is discharged during the probationary period, he or she shall be given at least one (1) week's notice, or one (1) week's pay in lieu of notice. The probationary period shall end on the last working day before the six (6) month anniversary of the employee. An employee's probationary period may be extended by agreement of the Employer and the Guild.
  2. Employees with more than six (6) months of service shall not be subject to discharge except for just and sufficient cause.
  3. Employees with more than six (6) months of service shall be given two (2) weeks' notice, or two (2) weeks' pay in lieu of notice, of any discharge.
  4. The Guild shall be notified in writing, simultaneously with the employee, of any discharge.
The union has also bargained that the employer (the AFL-CIO) can have multiple tiers of employees--namley, temporary, fund and project employees (aka "casual workers"), as well as part-time employees, consultants, and affiliate staff.

To be fair to the labor behemoth and its staff union, there are some very rich provisions of the labor agreement that provide for 35-hours of work per week, a large amount of paid-time off, a semi-rich life insurance plan, as well as a host of other asundry items that are not found in too many other collective bargaining agreements.

Of special note: However rich the perks appear to be though, it should be realized that all of them are funded through the (in many cases, forced) union dues of union members paid to their unions, then given to the AFL-CIO through its per capita tax scheme.

In the (paraphrased) words of the immortal Erma Bombeck: The grass is always greener over the septic tank...

But, then again, the stink is also stronger too!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

UFCW: Do they ever run out of hypocrisy??

by Rian Wathen

It takes a lot to be the most hypocritical labor union but the UFCW always seems to lead the way. Of course everyone knows that UFCW represents some of the lowest paid workers in the United States but their officers still take the dues to fund some of the highest salaries and lavish lifestyles of any union.

Let’s ignore that for a minute and take a look at the recent grocery contract settlement in Southern California. If you can wade through all the media hype and UFCW propaganda you may notice a slight mention of Health Savings Accounts in some of the articles.

Yes, UFCW is now congratulating itself on the recent contract calling it “a huge victory for grocery workers” as they negotiated all of the Southern California members into a HSA program.

So, before this contract settlement what was UFCW saying about Health Savings Accounts?

On the international union’s webpage you can read a news release entitled Why HSAs are not the solution.”

Here are a few quotes:

  • “The bottom line is that HSAs will end up costing consumers more money while providing less health care”

  • “HSA plans will discourage preventive care, ultimately increasing the cost of health care in the United States”

  • “Racial and ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from chronic conditions and are so less likely to benefit from HSAs”

  • “HSA plan actually could increase the number of Americans without health insurance”

  • “HSAs would undermine employer-sponsored group insurance”

Next, let’s look at what UFCW said on their page where they routinely bash everything Wal-Mart does. When Wal-Mart implemented HSAs, here is what the UFCW said about it:

  • “Health Savings Accounts Won't Save Health Care”

  • “HSAs are a backdoor for large profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, to further reduce or even eliminate health benefits for hard-working Americans. By shifting health care costs away from employers and on to workers, HSAs will not only undermine employer-based health plans, where two-thirds of Americans get coverage, but will force even more workers and their families to go without health care.”

  • “HSAs are a huge step backward for working families and do nothing to solve our nation's health care crisis.”

There is even a web based petition you can sign to support the position by saying “no to the Wal-Mart/Bush-backed HSAs and yes to corporations paying their fair share for health care.”

To be clear, I’m not repeating all this to say HSAs are bad (I have one myself and like it) or the UFCW should not have negotiated HSAs in Southern California (although the devil is in the details, a subject for another post). It is simply to reinforce how two-faced the UFCW international union officials are even with their own members.

Prior to this contract, UFCW made it sound like HSAs were a tool of the devil. But when they decide to negotiate them, it is a “huge victory for grocery workers”.

Unbelievable !!!!!

Rian Wathen is a former 15-year UFCW officer who was banished from the kingdom when he pointed out the emperor had no clothes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Madame President? Will Life Imitate Art?

Are TV viewers going to be the guinea pigs to determine whether a woman can be President of the United States and fight terrorism at the same time?

Apparently, that's what the producers of Fox's former uber-hit '24' have in store for us.

After killing off the first African American president, David Palmer a few seasons ago, and having a poor showing last season, series producers need to spice things up a bit.

As a result, they've enlisted the help of 51-year old actress Cherry Jones to be the show's first female president who will give orders Jack Bauer (played by Keifer Sutherland) and the folks at CTU.

Of course, it's easy to draw a frightening parallel to the real-life potential of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female president and having to preside over the nation during a time of terror attacks. Yet, it seems that's what the producers may be trying to infer with this season's plot. And we're sure Hillary's people will be watching the show closely, as well as audience reaction.

It won't be the first time a series has a woman as president...

Commander in Chief starred Geena Davis as President MacKenzie Allen. Unfortunately, Geena didn't last long in the Oval Office, getting panned by the likes of the Cato Institute and ignored by viewers.

Although we are former fans of '24,' it's lost our attention for the last year or two. Hopefully, if the TV audience reacts the way we suspect it will with a female POTUS, it will be a precursor for the 2008 election and Hillary Clinton will become known as the 'junior senator from New York and the former presidential candidate.'

Thursday, July 19, 2007

CWA: Token Diversity for Token Diversity's sake

Nothing like trying to add color to your complexion just for the sake of appearances...

Well, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), that big-old bureaucratic dinosaur of a union (this writer's former alma mater, in fact) has decided to try and shed its "male pale and stale" image. The problem is, instead of true substantative change, the CWA is hoping to change its appearance by creating (in our humble opinion) a mere facade.

At its recent union convention in Toronto, the CWA's 19-member Executive Board, established four "at-large diversity seats" to sit on its Executive Board. The seats will fulfill the E-Board's goal of having at least three be people of color and at least two women.

According to the Bureau of National Affairs [by subscription only], the CWA's current 19-member E-Board has only four women and one person of color. Yet, about 43 percent of the union's members are female and 20 percent are minorities, according to CWA. [Sounds 'male, pale and stale' to us!]

To add insult to idiocy, the token E-Board members will have a full voice and vote on the board but will not hold the title of vice president [emphasis ours].

So, let's see if we get this straight and put it into its proper perspective...

The union bosses, feeling that they're a little too lily white for their own good have decided to go out and get some 'colored people and maybe a couple of chicks,' appoint them to sit with them, let them speak (even though they'll still be a minority on the Board)...BUT THEY WON'T GET THE TITLE OR THE PAY OF THE OTHER BOARD MEMBERS!

Wow! That's some diversity!...Sounds more like discrimination!

"This is not about being politically correct, it's about doing the right thing, and that is to elect local leaders to our Executive Board and to reflect the makeup of our union membership so that our unity is stronger among all our members," said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Yeah right, Larry!...And weren't you hand-picked too?

True to its red roots, the union is doing it the old-fashioned appointment and appearance. And, also true to its faux-democratic ways, the CWA's "diversification" is nothing more than faux-diversity...Or, more appropriately, mere tokenism.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Teamsters seem to want to maintain the ability to terrorize East Bay with strikes and unsafe drivers

Waste Management Dispute Update:

It's Day 17 of the dispute between Waste Management and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

On July 2, Houston-based Waste Managment defensively locked out approximately 500 drivers and equipment operators in an effort to get a contract renewal that both its customers and the company could live with.
In this case, the term "to live with" can be taken literally since safety is one of the major issues in the dispute.

The main sticking points in the dispute are the union's refusal to enter into a contract that contains a "no strike" clause--which means the union agrees that it will not strike during the life (or duration) of the contract, as well as the union's refusal to agree to the company's propsals on safety.

"This contract comes down to two things," said James Devlin, WM's Area Vice President. "This is about labor peace and safety. We are willing to overlook millions of dollars of inefficiencies in the contract because that's how strongly we believe in those two issues. We are ready right now to sign one of the richest contracts in waste management history."

Waste Management say workers would be able to honor the local, sanctioned picket lines. However company officials do believe it [a "no strike clause"] would protect the company against any collusion a union such as Local 70 may take part in with another union, such as Local 396 in Los Angeles, whose contract with Waste Management expires Sept. 30.

For a company to propose a contract wherein the union agrees not to go on strike during the life of the contract is not abnormal. In fact, "no strike" clauses are the norm in the overwhelming majority of union contracts in America.

Regarding the safety issue, it would appear that the Teamsters prefer to force the company to keep unsafe drivers on its rolls--even in the case where a driver kills someone.

That's one of the main reasons the company introduced new "life critical rules" in the proposed new contract. If a driver violates one, he is suspended for five days. The second violation can result in termination. Company officials said the rules are nothing more than traffic laws everyone else on the road must follow, such as obeying speed limits in school zones and wearing seat belts.

"It's not up to the Teamsters to dictate societal rules," said Devlin, adding the workers would still retain a grievance and arbitration process to appeal any penalty.

Both unions and employers have what are referred to as economic weapons. Although lockouts occur less frequently than strikes, a lock out (like a strike) is where the employer has chosen to deploy its economic weapon.

In this case, it's ironic that the company had to deploy its economic weapon to avoid the Teamsters from using its economic weapon anytime it wants to.

Look at it this way. Since the union doesn't want to peacefully holster its weapon for the duration of the contract and wants to maintain the ability to terrorize both the company and its customers by striking whenever it wants, the company decided to shoot first. Not a bad strategy, is it?

In the meantime, the union has geared up its PR machine and is trying to drum up support across the labor movement, as well as with the liberal media and politicos (an easy find on the Left Coast).

A word of caution though: For all you lefty's supporting the Teamsters in this battle, you might want to think about sitting this one out.

You see, supporting the Teamsters in this battle means that 1) you are supportive of a union that seemingly wants to hold the citizens that the company serves hostage by striking the company whenever the union bosses get a bug up their bums, and 2) supporting a union that would rather keep an unsafe driver on the road--even if he kills other people--than allow him to be terminated.

Announcing the Pathetic Union Department (PUD) is please to announce the formation of the Pathetic Union Department--or PUD.

Whenever we see articles that are further examples of unions screwing their members, engaging in blatant union hypocrisy, or union bosses engaging in corruption, we'll assign that to our Pathetic Union Department (PUD).

We feel that whenever union bosses jerk around members, it is only appropriate to point out when a union is "pulling a PUD."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Coyote's Tale: More from the Pathetic Union Department...

Here's another run-on sentence of hyperlinks* for the Stupid Union archives:

It seems the United Food & Commercial Workers, the seemingly pathetic, two-faced, high-stakes blinking, illegal-alien loving coyote of a union has given another group of its members a flubbing.

According to the Detroit Free Press, when UFCW-represented members of now-defunct grocer Farmer Jack were laid off, the union apparently negotiated a successor clause with Kroger stipulating that Kroger match employee wages and benefits of any Farmer Jack employees it hires at the newly acquired Kroger stores.
The deal was reached as Kroger was buying the Farmer Jack sites.

The agreement, however, doesn't state that Kroger must hire Farmer Jack employees.

Supermarket analyst David Livingston said the pact could have worked against Farmer Jack workers.

"There is no upside to hiring a Farmer Jack employee," Livingston said.

Wow! With union representation like that, who needs a union?

* For best results, move your mouse over each word that is in bold black font.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Vindication: NLRB rules IATSE & Actors Equity Lost the Joust

vin·di·cate – verb (used with object), -cat·ed, -cat·ing.

  1. to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like: to vindicate someone's honor.
  2. to afford justification for; justify: Subsequent events vindicated his policy.
  3. to uphold or justify by argument or evidence: to vindicate a claim.
  4. to assert, maintain, or defend (a right, cause, etc.) against opposition.
  5. to claim for oneself or another.

We hate unfinished business. Unfinished business is a distraction that we seldom have time for. Well, this week some unfinished business is finally finished. A kingdom restored, a castle secure for the time being.

Since we were raised in, come from and are accustomed to encountering today's labor unions (which seem to be more prone than ever to lie, manipulate the truth, and replace reality with fantasy), to us, this saga is filled with more than its share of treachery, deceit, double agents and ignoble characters.

In the early fall of 2006, an NLRB election was held at a client that has knights and squires and swords and shields and kings and princesses and wizards and serfs and wenches and horses and other asundry things medieval. In the aftermath, wherein the Actors' Equity Association and IATSE (serving as joint petitioners) narrowly lost, the unions accused us of doing all sorts of sordid things to sway the votes of employees.

As we prefer to avoid fantasy and deal in the truth and facts, and having been involved in a few hundred election campaigns against bigger and more respected unions, it was interesting (to say the least) to hear the fantastical and preposterous things that the petitioners accused us of committing.

The unions filed a number of objections to the election and, in order to clear our names, reputation, as well as defend our client, we were required to testify at an NLRB hearing before a board agent who was nothing more than a dolt (at best).

[In fact, and as a side note, an attorney friend had said before the hearing that the board agent in question had "never met a union he didn't like." So we knew going in that objectivity was not on our side.]

Well, the hearing resulted in the board agent dismissing most of the objections, but sustaining one and, therefore, he ordered the election to be set aside.

What was the one thing the board agent stated that yours truly did? Allegedly, yours truly stated the company "would" drag out negotiations for more than a year and, therefore, created the impression that it would be futile for the employees to select the union as their bargaining agent.

Of course, it was bulls**t.

The meeting in question was a participatory exercise conducted, quite literally, thousands of times with workers to explain the language subjects that are part of a collective bargaining agreement. As part of the exercise, language articles such as union security clauses, dues check off, management rights and a host of other language articles are discussed and explained.

What's more, the discussion itself (involving a hypothetical employer, union an group of employees) culminates in an agreement before a year. This alone would seemingly negate the unions' assertions. However, not in the eyes of the union-friendly dolt of a board agent, as the illogic of the unions' claim was apparently way over his head.

[What was even more interesting is that the unions' witnesses could not even recall the definitions of the above-referenced topics that were explained to them a mere month and a half earlier--only that they were told the company "would drag out negotiations for more than a year."]

As stated above, the dolt ruled against us. So, the client's counsel rightly filed an exception (an appeal) to the dolt's decision to the NLRB in Washington, rather than give in to the subjectivity of a wrongly decided determination.

As was their right, the petitioners' counsel filed a brief to our client's exceptions.

Upon our reading the petitioners' Brief in Opposition the Employer's Exceptions... we were aghast at what we felt was a furtherance of pure fantasy, which prompted us to write a letter to the petitioners' counsel.

[Apparently, our letter struck a nerve, for we heard that the petitioners' counsel squealed like a pig.]

In the months that followed, it was often asked, when will there be resolution to this?

Patience, was our advice. The wheels of justice are sometime slow, we stated.

However, we too were beginning to wonder just how long it would take for the NLRB in Washington to issue its decision and rid us of this unfinished business.

Well, this past Tuesday, we received notification that the NLRB issued its decision, overruling the dolt of a board agent and finally certifying the election.

As reported in the Daily Labor Report, even dissenting NLRB member Dennis Walsh stated that yours truly "is an experienced antiunion consultant..."

[A back-handed compliment from a pro-union Board member?]

Walsh observed that "List said nothing to indicate that [the employer] would eschew the bargaining approach he laid out." [Emphasis added.]

That's what we've been saying for nearly a year!

Oh well. At last, we are vindicated. It is finished.