unions

  • February 17, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    Justice Antonin Scalia’s death strips conservatives of the 5-4 advantage they had on the Supreme Court at a time when they were positioned to cement some of their longest sought legal gains in areas such as abortion, voting rights and affirmative action, says Tierney Sneed in Talking Points Memo. ACS Board members William Marshall and Adam Winkler provide commentary on the new balance of the Court and the ramifications of split decisions. 

    A split 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association would reaffirm the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of fair share union fees, reports Charlotte Garden at The Atlantic. Even if the Court holds the case for re-argument once a new justice is confirmed, these fees should remain legally sound through the 2016 election.

    At The New Republic, David Dayen explains how America’s grandiose, non-stop electioneering precipitated the current constitutional crisis. 

    Dean Robert Schapiro of Emory Law School writes in The Conversation that Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence will be remembered more for its quotable rhetoric than its legal impact. 

  • September 1, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Reuben Guttman, partner, Guttman, Buschner & Brooks, PLLC; member, ACS Board of Directors

    For a union-side labor lawyer, identifying the employer for the purposes of bargaining and unfair labor practices is akin to a search for the Holy Grail. Three years of law school and courses in labor and employment law ― from excellent professors at Emory Law ― could not prepare me for the challenge of this search which consumed virtually all of my time when I was a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for the Service Employees International Union from 1985 to 1990.

    The search began for me in the winter of 1985. SEIU had negotiated a city-wide contract covering its Pittsburgh janitors. Rather than allowing its union contractor to continue to service its buildings under the new labor agreement, Mellon Bank terminated its janitorial vendor and its union workforce. Nearly 70 workers lost their jobs and the benefits that went with them. They were replaced by low-wage, part-time workers who were not accorded nearly the same level of benefits. I was challenged to find a legal solution.  

    In the late hours of the night, poring through the case reporters at the University of Pittsburgh Law Library, I came across the Supreme Court’s decision in Boire v. Greyhound which established the joint employer doctrine. To my delight, I learned that an entity could be considered an employer even where employees were paid by another company. I also came across a Third Circuit case, NLRB v. Browning-Ferris Industries of Pennsylvania, Inc., which ― in my mind as a young lawyer ― made things quite clear: Two or more employers can be co-employers “if they share or codetermine those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment.” If only the analysis were that simple.

  • August 28, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    At The Hill, Tim Devaney reports that the National Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that companies can be held accountable for labor violations committed by their contractors.

    In The New York Times, Noam Scheiber and Stephanie Strom note that a recent NLRB decision will make it easier for unions to negotiate on behalf of employees working at fast food chains as well as other companies that rely on contractors and franchisees.

    In The Root , Zachary Norris, winner of ACS’s 2015 David Carliner Public Interest Award, honors the memory of Emmett Till 60 years after his violent death and commends those who continue to fight for justice in “a system that failed their loved ones.”

    In The Christian Science Monitor, Jessica Mendoza writes about a group of Nebraskans fighting to restore the state’s death penalty after the state legislature voted to abolish the practice in May.

    In The Huffington Post, Constitutional Accountability Center’s Judith E. Schaeffer examines the current state of the federal judicial system and denounces the obstructionist tactics of Senate leadership. The Senate is on track to confirm the fewest federal judges in the final two years of a president’s term since the Eisenhower administration. There are 67 current vacancies, and 31 are considered judicial emergencies. 

  • July 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Nicole G. Berner, Associate General Counsel, Service Employees International Union

    In a narrowly divided opinion, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn ruled against homecare workers who provide crucial care to people with disabilities and the elderly and to the consumers who rely upon that care to live independently and with dignity in their homes. Harris v. Quinn was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group funded by the likes of the Koch brothers and the Walton family. The case is part of a broader concerted attack on working people and women in this country. Although the June 30 ruling is a setback for homecare workers, our members are more determined than ever to ensure quality care for people with disabilities and seniors, all of whom want nothing more than to enable this population to live independently and with dignity at home.

    The petitioners asked the Court to disregard one of the bedrock principles of Supreme Court jurisprudence (stare decisis) and to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U. S. 209 (1977), a case relied on and reaffirmed in myriad cases since it was decided nearly four decades ago. In Abood, the Court held that a government entity may, consistent with the First Amendment, require public service employees to pay a fair share of the cost that a union incurs negotiating on their behalf for better terms of employment. While the Court declined the invitation to overrule Abood – a decision that would have radically restructured public sector labor relations in this country – the majority instead ruled that Abood’s protections do not extend to home care workers in the State of Illinois.

    The Court’s narrow ruling leaves intact the right of most public service workers such as teachers, fire fighters, and police officers to join together in a union and to negotiate for fair share arrangements. The ruling also leaves intact the rights of the Illinois homecare workers to form a union and to bargain collectively through an exclusive bargaining representative. But the conservative five-justice majority carved out an exception to Abood for the tens of thousands of homecare workers in Illinois, thereby weakening the ability of this majority female workforce to advocate collectively for improved working conditions and quality care.

  • July 16, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Since the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Citizens United v. FEC in early 2010 it has become painfully clear that the majority opinion was poorly crafted and based on wobbly assumptions about the effects of corporate bankrolling of elections.

    In late May, retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who lodged a concurring and dissenting opinion in the case, offered a number of reasons why the high court should revisit the majority opinion's holding.

    Before hitting upon those reasons, Stevens, in a speech at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, noted that the majority decision reversed “a century of law [upholding campaign finance regulations]” and it authorized “unlimited election-related expenditures by America’s most powerful interests.”

    The opinion, Stevens continued, placed an enormous “emphasis on ‘the premise that the First Amendment generally prohibits the suppression of political speech based on the speaker’s identity’” and claimed that when it comes to political speech the government is barred from restricting speakers.

    Plenty of constitutional scholars have argued that the majority opinion fleetingly trampled precedent in support of campaign finance regulation to unveil a new right for corporations to spend wildly on politicking.

    But Harvard Law School professor Benjamin I. Sachs in a recent op-ed for The New York Times notes that it also tramples the cherished First Amendment principle that the government cannot force individuals to support politicians or political causes.

    Specifically Sachs notes that the “vast majority of people who work in the public sector – state, local and federal employees – are required to make contributions to a pension plan.” And nearly every state makes it mandatory for workers to participate in those plans. Not surprisingly, Sachs notes workers have little say in how the pension plans are operated and that “pension plans invest heavily in corporate securities: in 2008, public pensions held about $1.15 trillion in corporate stock.”