• May 9, 2013
    Guest Post

    by J. Chris Sanders, Counsel, Jobs With Justice

    President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board are set to appear before a Senate hearing next week. What's at stake? To recap, the president nominated two labor-side members of the Board, who weren't confirmed due to the dysfunction holding up all kinds of administration nominees. Obama then appointed them in a recess in order to get a quorum of three Board members, who then rendered hundreds of decisions. The regal U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently ruled that the recess appointments were improper, and those hundreds of decisions were made without a quorum. So the decisions are in limbo, and the power to decide cases in the future at all is at risk. The administration has appealed the D.C. Circuit’s opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, the president has nominated two management-side Republicans (a traditional, balanced approach) and re-nominated the chair to complete the five-person Board. They're headed to headhunter hearings before the Senate next week. 

    The dust-up has big consequences for working people, labor law, presidential appointment power, and the rule of law in the workplace.

    Pity the poor NLRB, enforcer of the venerable National Labor Relations Act. Over the last couple of years, this little federal agency has had its turn in the barrel with the "Obama-is-a-socialist" faction. Just one, prominent example: In 2011, a routine investigation found that Boeing's decision to build a new aircraft-production facility in South Carolina instead of at its Seattle base was partly to punish Seattle union workers for previous strikes. (The right to strike- to withhold one's labor to oppose mistreatment- is, at least on paper, federally protected from retaliation.) The evidence was strong, so the NLRB moved forward, and issued an unfair labor practice complaint.

    The mouth-breathers went ballistic. They blew it out of proportion into an attack on the New South and the marketplace. Boeing became a cause célèbre in Republican politics. A congressional committee subpoenaed the NLRB's General Counsel to a hearing in South Carolina. Hundreds of bills have been filed to destroy, de-fang, and de-fund the agency. Its budget is and was under attack, even before the sequester.  
  • December 14, 2012

    by E. Sebastian Arduengo

    Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) despite a massive outcry of protestors at the state capitol in Lansing signed a so-called “right-to-work” bill into law. And just like in neighboring Indiana, right to work passed despite a massive outcry, and Michigan joined 23 other states that have passed such legislation in a seeming race to the bottom for the benefit of corporations that have made massive political donations to the Republican proponents of these bills.

    So what is “right to work,” and why are so many Republican officials making it a legislative priority? Put simply, right-to-work legislation prohibits agreements that require employees of a firm to maintain union membership as a condition of employment, allowing workers who choose to do so the right to “work through a strike.” The problem with this is that federal law requires unions to bargain for a contract that benefits all workers, regardless of whether they become members of the union. And, unions are founded on the premise of collective action, when individuals can take advantage of the benefits that unions win in contracts without having to pay their fair share in dues; it creates a massive free-rider problem that undermines the purposes, and ultimately the benefits that a union provides. For that reason, the AFL-CIO calls this kind of legislation a “right to work for less [pay/benefits]” law.

  • August 20, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Our Society continues to be adversely impacted because of racial stereotypes and divisions, regardless of the rhetoric from opponents of education admissions policies that seek to create a diverse student body. The opponents of such policies are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policy that takes race into account.

    But in a friend-of-the-court brief recently filed with the Supreme Court by some of the nation’s largest unions representing education associations, national unions and civil liberties advocates, detail why the nation’s educational institutions must be allowed to combat racial divisions and stereotypes by promoting and advancing diverse student bodies.

    “In sum, ours is not a color-blind society, and race still matters,” the groups state in their 38-page brief. “When it comes to public elementary and secondary education, minority and nonminority students of equal ability do not, in the aggregate, have equal opportunities. In light of this inescapable fact, the mission of public elementary, secondary, and higher education cannot be fulfilled without affirmative efforts to achieve racially diverse classrooms. Such racial diversity in classrooms, as we now show, contributes significantly to the fulfillment of the public educational mission.”

    Recently the Constitutional Accountability Center, along with some of the nation’s leading constitutional scholars, lodged a friend-of-the-court brief with the high court in Fisher v. University of Texas to be heard in the high court’s next term showing why the admission’s policy  is supported by the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, which is supposed to foster equal protection. CAC’s David H. Gans says, “Both in writing the text and in enacting race-conscious measures to foster equality, the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment resoundingly rejected the notion that the government could not take race into account in order to ensure equality of opportunity for all persons regardless of race.”

    The brief written and filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and People For the American Way Foundation focuses more on Supreme Court precedent that has held education institutions have great leeway to direct their educational experiences.

    For instance high court precedent has found that school officials are allowed to “fulfill their dual missions of instilling in all students ‘the values on which our society rests,’ and providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary to realize their full potential.”

  • August 23, 2011
    Guest Post

    This post is part of an ACSblog symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National MemorialThe author, Angelia Wade, is Associate General Counsel for the AFL-CIO. 

    The unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial this weekend provides a clear opportunity to reflect on the work of this icon. When he was assassinated in April 1968, Dr. King was in Memphis lending his support to striking garbage sanitation workers who were seeking to have their union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, (AFSCME) recognized so they could negotiate a contract that raised their standard of living.

    Dr. King’s support of the labor movement as a pathway to better jobs and justice did not just begin in 1968. Throughout much of his life, he advocated as much for economic equality as he did for racial equality. He once stated that it did no good for a man to eat at an integrated lunch counter if that same man could not afford to buy a hamburger at the establishment.

  • March 15, 2011
    The Wisconsin governor is not the only governor taking protest-provoking actions to slash the pay and working rights of public employees. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing a measure that critics say will allow him to dissolve unions and local governments.

    MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," as noted in this Daily Kos blog post by Joan McCarter, recently reported that Gov. Snyder (pictured) is pushing a law that "gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed ‘Emergency Managers' in their stead. But that's not all - whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn't get much more anti-Democratic than that."

    The Detroit Free Press reports that additional rallies are planned at the capitol to "protest Gov. Rick Snyder's budget and tax plans."

    Steve Reck, a Service Employees International Union political director in Lansing, said state lawmakers were "exploiting the budget crisis to attack seniors, workers rights and ordinary families across the state."

    ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson in a statement to ACSblog said Michigan, like Wisconsin, was being led by lawmakers seemingly bent on using any means possible to undermine democracy in their states.

    "Gov. Snyder's radical proposal would greatly hobble local governments, and undercut workers' rights," Fredrickson said. "What's going on in Wisconsin is disconcerting, but we cannot afford to overlook the outrageous steps the Michigan governor is attempting to take to undermine democracy, and the state's economy."

    Snyder continues to defend his plan, the Free Press notes, saying he was open to "tweaks and tuning" of it.

    McCarter, the Daily Kos blogger, writes that "Snyder's own budget will so starve cities that he can create the fiscal emergency in them that will allow him to declare the emergency and seize control. But that's just the beginning. His budget's tax plan slashes corporate taxes by 81 percent, and hikes taxes on the working poor."

    The AFL-CIO has weighed in on the matter saying in a March 15 statement that "corporate-backed politicians are clearly gunning for working people in every state across the country."

    The statement continued, "In a brazen new low, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is on track to sign a new law under the guise of fiscal responsibility that will allow him to appoint emergency fiscal managers with powers so expansive they could ‘fire local officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services - and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input,' according to CBS."

    The AFL-CIO also highlights actions by governors and lawmakers in other states aimed at slashing pay and rights of workers.