In a recent opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically reaffirmed the requirement that collective bargaining agreements (“CBAs”) must be interpreted according to “ordinary principles of contract law” when deciding whether retired employees are entitled to health care benefits. CNH Industrial N.V. v. Reese, No. 17-515, 2018 WL 942419 (U.S. Feb. 20, 2018). The Supreme Court once again rejected the analysis used by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (including federal courts in Michigan) that placed a “thumb on the scale” in favor of holding that CBAs provided lifetime health care benefits to retirees. The result is that employers in Michigan will now have greater certainty in negotiating and modifying the terms of health care benefits provided to their employees and retirees under CBAs.
The case involved a dispute over union retiree health benefits. In 1998, CNH entered into a CBA which provided group health care benefits to certain employees set to retire under the company’s pension plan. After the CBA expired, a class of CNH retirees and surviving spouses initiated a lawsuit in federal court asking for declaratory judgment that they were entitled to health care benefits for life and seeking to enjoin CNH from modifying those benefits.
While the case was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided M SmitG Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 135 S. Ct. 926 (2015). In Tackett, the Supreme Court held that CBAs must be interpreted according to ordinary principles of contract law. It also explicitly rejected the analysis used by the Sixth Circuit, which relied on the so-called “Yard-Man inferences.” Under a Yard-Man analysis, which was not used in any other federal circuit, courts in the Sixth Circuit would infer that an employer agreed to provide retirees with lifetime health care benefits unless there was a specific provision in the CBA stating that those benefits had a limited duration or could not be modified. The Supreme Court held that the Yard-Man inferences were inconsistent with ordinary contract princi
After Tackett was decided, the district court ruled in favor of the retirees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that the retirees had vested lifetime health care benefits.
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed, holding that the Sixth Circuit had failed to follow Tackett’s directive to apply ordinary principles of contract law. Instead, the Sixth Circuit had relied on the Yard-Man inferences to find that CBAs were ambiguous and therefore, extrinsic evidence beyond the contract language could be considered in deciding whether the CBAs provided retirees with lifetime health care benefits. The Supreme Court held that the Sixth Circuit erred by failing to enforce the CBA’s general durational clause to health care benefits (i.e., that the contractual obligation to provide health care benefits ends when the CBA’s term expires). In order to provide lifetime benefits, the parties must include a specific provision to that effect in the CBA.
Foster Swift Collins Smith PC
- Richard C. Kraus and Mindi M. Johnson
It provides that the fee required for an applicant for a retired law enforcement officer concealed carry certification shall be no more than 20% of the fee required under the Firearm Concealed Carry Act for application or renewal for a concealed carry license.
Here's an article we are running in the August issue of American Police Beat about the most recent murder of one of our law enforcement officers.
This morning NPR on their Morning Edition radio show aired a story on the dramatic increase of unprovoked attacks on law enforcement. There was no text available so all I have to send you is the link to the segment on the radio show. I hope you can tune in. It's well done. Click here
VIDEO: Help Us Fight This Gross Injustice
To my fellow officers!
Here in New York City, Sgt. Hugh Barry of the 43 Precinct was indicted for Murder 2 by a Bronx grand jury for the shooting death of an emotionally disturbed woman who attacked him with a baseball bat. This is a message from Ed Mullins, president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA), who needs all of our help to get justice for Sgt. Barry
and watch the video the SBA produced to educate the public about the realities of police work and the NYPD's use of force training. Scroll down to see how you can help Hugh Barry. The SBA is a founding member of PubSecAlliance, an online community of police union and association leaders and their members.
Wondering why no raises? It's all going to burgeoning health care costs
Where did our raises go? To health care.
November 1, 2018
Thumbs down on this argument we can only have wages if we accept health care cuts. Law enforcement people deserve both considering the risks of the job and the emotional and psychological toll the work takes on our officers.
Big question is why can't we have both? Raises and health care. Isn't this the way it used to be? What happened?
By Robert J. Samuelson
The Washington Post
It’s wages vs. health benefits. On this Labor Day, just about everything seemed to be going right for typical American workers, with the glaring and puzzling exception of wage stagnation. The unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, near its lowest since 2000. The number of new jobs exceeds the peak in 2008 by about 11 million. Then there’s wage stagnation.
Corrected for inflation, wages are up a scant 2 percent since January 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The gain is roughly one-half of 1 percent annually. Little wonder that many workers feel they’re not getting ahead. They aren’t.
A strong and growing economy is, by the textbook, supposed to put upward pressure on wages as companies bid for more workers and employees shop around for higher pay. All sorts of plausible theories have been advanced to explain why this doesn’t seem to be happening.Content from Wells Fargo
Demographics are cited. Well-paid baby boom workers are retiring and being replaced by lower-paid millennials; this drags down average wages.
Or the Great Recession left workers and employers with psychological scars. Workers are more concerned with job security. They are leery of pressing for big wage increases, just as companies are leery of providing them. Mismeasurement of wages is another theory.
September 24, 2018
Editor's note: If you read the first story on the recruitment crisis, you will learn that Lt. Mike Lewis believes the difficulty in finding police officers is cyclical. "We've seen stuff like this before," he said. "I honestly believe that there are still a whole lot of people out there who want to serve."
I would beg to differ. The recruiting crisis is NOT cyclical. The police profession is undergoing a profound paradigm shift. It started more than a decade ago with recruiting wars between agencies with signing bonuses and billboards to get officers to leave one department for another. It lost steam after the 2008 recession and returned with a vengeance when the economy improved. Paradigm shifts are driven by change agents. There is not one change agent causing the lack of qualified applicants. It is a combination of the younger generation not seeing policing as a professional career choice, negative media coverage on a daily basis, political chiefs over-responding to every use of force, unrealistic expectations from some segments of the community and elected officials, police unions failing to recognize that many contracts have archaic restrictions on seniority, hiring and promotions, and police departments in general operating a quasi-military work environment that is not acceptable to young applicants.
Law enforcement may not like the answers but policing as we know it is changing and there will be a new reality.
All the best - Ron DeLord
Even agencies like the NYPD, LAPD and Chicago are having trouble finding people who want to put on the badge and go out on patrol.
Police departments struggle to find recruits who want to protect and serve
by Bob Jones
News 5 Cleveland
MANTUA, Ohio - Chief Joe Urso is the only full-time officer on the Mantua Police Department. He has ten part-timers and would like to hire three or four auxiliary officers who he would make part-time officers in the future.
The problem is, he only has a handful of applications at a time when it's tough to find people willing to protect and serve in a village of only 1,000 people.
"Nobody is banging down the door like ten or 15 years ago to come into this line of work," Urso said.
The chief said he has seen fewer candidates due to intense scrutiny on television and social media over police-involved shootings.
This ruling is good news for US Border patrol agents, and all other law enforcement people working for federal agencies like the DEA, DHS, etc.
Judge knocks down Trump efforts to hurt federal unions
A welcome victory for working people, but it is the exception especially after the Janus decision
Editor's note: President Trump has made it clear that he plans to get rid of federal collective bargaining rights and civil service, or at least gut them. The President's executive order curtailed union leave and some subjects that could be negotiated. A federal judge held that the President's executive order exceeded the intent of Congress. Federal employees have limited collective bargaining now, and any further restrictions would make it difficult for unions to negotiate a contract. Many states have been limiting the scope of collective bargaining for its employees. The bottom line is to weaken public employee unions by reducing what they can negotiate for, stopping dues deduction, ending union leave, and allowing non members to free ride by not paying dues but enjoying the benefits of a union contract. - Ron DeLord
Judge rules Trump exceeded his authority in orders that make it easier to fire federal workers
Posted by the ABA Journal
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ruled that President Donald Trump exceeded his authority by issuing executive orders on collective bargaining for federal employees that conflict with congressional intent.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson struck down key provisions of the three executive orders in a decision on Saturday, report the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and BuzzFeed News. The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union applauded the decision in press releases here and here.
The executive orders, issued on May 25, had made it easier to fire workers for bad performance and had restricted issues that could be addressed in collective bargaining. The Trump administration will appeal.
Do your meetings turn into screaming matches or worse yet, a room full of incredibly bored people saying nothing?
These tips from an expert may help you do better.
Having trouble with union meetings? This article is for you
The Condensed Guide to Running Meetings
By Amy Gallo
Harvard Business Review
We love to hate meetings. And with good reason - they clog up our days, making it hard to get work done in the gaps, and so many feel like a waste of time. There's plenty of advice out there on how to stop spending so much time in meetings or make better use of the time, but does it hold up in reality? Can you really make meetings more effective and regain control of your calendar?
The answer is yes. Click here
Americans are Getting It: Unions Mean More Power and Pay
Interest in joining unions is at a four-decade high; people want more say in what happens at work
From The Conversation
Only 10.7 percent of American workers belong to a union today, approximately half as many as in 1983. That's a level not seen since the 1930s, just before passage of the labor law that was supposed to protect workers' right to organize.
Yet American workers have not given up on unions. When we conducted a nationally representative survey of the workforce with the National Opinion Research Corporation, we found interest in joining unions to be at a four-decade high.
The results obtained from nearly 4,000 respondents show that 48 percent - nearly half of nonunionized workers - would join a union if given the opportunity to do so.
Unions must either demand a place at the table or be part of the meal
From the Story
It is no accident that the present focus of the right’s anti-labor agenda—in Janus, in Friedrichs, and most notoriously in Governor Scott Walker’s 2011 attack on municipal unions in Wisconsin—is on public-sector unions. The jobs are harder to outsource, and thus the unions are harder to break.
Public-sector unions make convenient targets for whipped-up envy, cast as parasites “living off the rest of us,” a role once filled by “welfare cheats.” That most of their members are women and many are women of color probably makes the transference easier.
Widening income inequality has kept steady pace with declining union membership. In addition to better wages and benefits than their US counterparts enjoy, workers in union-friendly Europe now have a greater statistical likelihood of seeing their children live more prosperous lives than they do.
Click here to read the story on the Harper's website. There are also links to other stories about the plight of labor unions in today's world. The complete article is also pasted below.
Labor’s Last Stand
Labor’s Last Stand
by Garret Keizer
Having already determined in Citizens United that corporations are people, the Supreme Court decided in May that people, at least working people of vulnerable status, can be prevented from acting as corporations. In three consolidated cases involving disputed wage claims, the Court ruled that employers can force workers to accept individual arbitration instead of joining together in class-action lawsuits. Writing for the majority, Trump-appointed justice Neil Gorsuch maintained that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act was more pertinent to the cases at hand than the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which asserts that workers have a right to “concerted activities” for the purpose of “mutual aid or protection.”
In actuality, as this ruling and others before and since have made abundantly clear, workers don’t have any rights at all except those they wrest through disciplined organization and militant struggle. Although the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect workers in unions, it does amount to an ominous, ideologically motivated attack on the principle of collective action from which unions derive.
As expected, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke for the dissent. Noting that in 1992 only 2 percent of non-unionized employers used mandatory arbitration agreements, while 54 percent use them now, Ginsburg said that by upholding these “arm-twisted” and “take-it-or-leave-it” contracts, the Court had all but guaranteed “the under-enforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers,” a weakening that some attorneys worry will extend to cases of discrimination and sexual harassment. Gorsuch dismissed Ginsburg’s objections as “apocalyptic.”
I don’t mind an apocalypse as long as the angels win. Nor do I object to Gorsuch’s language. Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I have been talking to people in and around the labor movement, going on the premise that American workers may soon be engaged in a virtual Armageddon with capital. While the working class has hardly lost all ground, it has seen enough of its victories reversed to warrant such a prediction. As for Trump himself, he is at best a catalyst for the fight, at worst a distraction from what may already have been the opening salvos of labor’s last stand.
In June came Janus. As with the May ruling, Gorsuch’s seat on the Court made the decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 a foregone conclusion. Only the death of Justice Antonin Scalia had prevented a similar decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in 2016. At issue in both cases was whether public employees who choose not to join unions can still be charged for representation. In a 5–4 decision, the Court ruled that they cannot.
Lawyers for Mark Janus, a child-support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, argued that collective bargaining with the government is a form of lobbying and that fees paid to a public-sector union are therefore violations of free speech under the First Amendment. The Janus decision is likely to set a devastating precedent. With so-called right-to-work laws on the books in twenty-eight states (including every state south of the Mason–Dixon Line except Maryland), unions are understandably apprehensive over what the ruling will mean for their membership and finances should “agency fees” in public-sector unions become a thing of the past.1 Yet some in the labor movement wonder whether the disadvantages of Janus might be offset by potential gains.
1 “Right to work” essentially means “right to work without joining a union” or, as former president Obama put it when Michigan joined the trend in 2012, “the right to work for less money.”
Rand Wilson, now chief of staff for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 888 and formerly a strategist for the Teamsters during the successful United Parcel Service strike of 1997, sees danger and promise both. “The people who drop out of the union lose the right to vote. So you’re losing the most middle-of-the-road members, and certainly the most conservative members, who object to collective power. You’re left with hotheads—people like me—running the show.”
For Wilson, “the beauty of labor organizations right now is that they’re inclusive of so many people.” It’s a beauty too seldom appreciated, not least of all among those whose favorite watchword is “diversity.” Since unions do not hire for the industries in which their members work, they can’t preordain consensus; they can achieve it only through struggle and debate.
Wilson says the Janus decision may have the ultimate effect of moving unions toward “a more activist base.” The same may be true even of workers outside of unions or whose unions are weak. Notice how the recent wave of teacher strikes and protests has taken place mainly in “red states” (West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona) with right-to-work laws on the books.
It is no accident that the present focus of the right’s anti-labor agenda—in Janus, in Friedrichs, and most notoriously in Governor Scott Walker’s 2011 attack on municipal unions in Wisconsin—is on public-sector unions. The jobs are harder to outsource, and thus the unions are harder to break. They also make up the larger share of union membership. Public-sector unions scarcely existed before the Sixties, when private-sector workers accounted for the bulk of the organized third of the American workforce. Now they make up about 6.5 percent, a little more than half of the 10.7 percent still in the union movement.
Public-sector unions make convenient targets for whipped-up envy, cast as parasites “living off the rest of us,” a role once filled by “welfare cheats.” That most of their members are women and many are women of color probably makes the transference easier. Of course, unions have been under attack in this country for as long as they’ve existed, and for self-evident reasons. “Historically, organized labor is the only movement that attempts to participate in virtually every type of collective action, from hiring lobbyists to shutting down cities,” writes labor scholar Gabriel Winant, a distinction better understood by the Koch brothers and the Trump White House than by many to their left. “The right wing recognizes the labor movement as a barrier to the achievement of its reactionary goals,” says Gene Bruskin, who led the campaign to organize Smithfield Foods in 2008.2 “That’s why they’re going after us so bad. But the progressive forces many times write it off as stodgy and old-fashioned. That’s a big mistake.”
2 The Smithfield campaign resulted in the first union contract for 5,000 workers at a massive pork operation in North Carolina, then the state with the lowest union membership in the nation. As depicted in the 2016 documentary Union Time and in Jane McAlevey’s 2016 book No Shortcuts, the sixteen-year struggle was not only a victory for labor but a demonstration of class solidarity in the face of racism and nativism.
The costs of that mistake are increasingly borne by workers. Widening income inequality has kept steady pace with declining union membership.3 In addition to better wages and benefits than their US counterparts enjoy, workers in union-friendly Europe now have a greater statistical likelihood of seeing their children live more prosperous lives than they do. The United States was once ranked in the top tier of nations for collective-bargaining rights by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). There are five tiers, with the fifth consisting of such countries as Mexico and Iran. The United States is now in the fourth tier, with Peru and Argentina. Trump had better hurry up and build his wall while the traffic is still moving north.4
3 When union density was at its height, CEOs made twenty-five times the annual compensation of the average worker. Today the factor is around 350.
4 Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” and other such cynical measures arguably have more to do with cutting labor costs than curtailing the flow of illegal immigration. “To employers, migration is a labor-supply system,” writes David Bacon, a photojournalist who studies labor issues on both sides of the US-Mexico border. “US immigration policy is not intended to keep people from crossing the border; it determines the status of people once they are in the United States.” In short, a fearful workforce is easier to exploit.
I learn about the ITUC ranking from Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) who helped coordinate Labor for Bernie and now chairs the board of Our Revolution, a group that hopes to build on the momentum of the Sanders campaign. He’s been part of the union for thirty-nine years and worked to strengthen its partnership with unions in Germany and elsewhere. Afraid I may be misreading the writing on the wall, I submit my premonitions to Cohen’s more seasoned judgment.
“I grew up with the assumption that there was labor and there was management,” I tell him, “and they’d always be locked in this struggle, and sometimes labor would win, and sometimes, probably most of the time, management would win, but they’d be wrestling back and forth, and that’s how it would go on, and in some ways that would be how society progressed. And now I’ve started to wonder whether that’s the right way of thinking about it, whether it isn’t a wrestling match but a fight to the death, and that there are only two possible outcomes. One is that labor, not by itself but in coalition with other groups, prevails to the extent of being able to restructure society in some basic ways. Or management, or whatever you want to call it—the One Percent—will destroy all unions and basically there will be masters and helots. What’s wrong with that construction? What am I missing?”
“Nothing,” he says.
Imeet Cohen for the first time at the initial public meeting of Labor for Our Revolution, held in Chicago in the summer of 2017. A postelection outgrowth of Labor for Bernie, the organization acts as an auxiliary to Our Revolution. “What I believe,” Cohen tells me, “and so did Debs, and so does Bernie, is that without a political movement the situation for working people, with a union or without, is going to continue to deteriorate.” Our Revolution is yet another attempt to foster such a movement.
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn has just scored his auspicious electoral victory, and the opening welcome by Rand Wilson includes an invitation to applaud the results. A packed room of several hundred union members and their progressive allies—anti-NAFTA lobbyists, climate justice advocates—gives a rousing if poignant cheer.5 Poignant because Sanders didn’t win the Democratic nomination and there is no US party for labor. Seated in the back of the room is Mark Dudzic, now the national coordinator of a group called Labor Campaign for Single Payer but back in the Nineties a key player in Tony Mazzocchi’s ill-fated attempt to build an American labor party. In the minds of some, America already had a labor party, the same party that gave us the New Deal and the Wagner Act. It would be hard to find anyone who thinks that now, especially in this crowd. There are two elephants in the room: one is Trump and the sizable number of union members who voted for him (close to half, according to some estimates); the other is the elephant still trying to pass itself off as a donkey.
5 Proposed by George Bush but pushed through by Bill Clinton, the North American Free Trade Agreement resulted in an estimated net loss of more than 800,000 American jobs between its ratification in 1994 and 2011. Rightly seen as a corporate-backed initiative to cut labor costs, NAFTA also had devastating effects in Mexico, where the dumping of US goods on local markets contributed to the loss of 1.3 million jobs in agriculture, a sector that still employs nearly a fifth of the population. A number of our migrant farmworkers were once farmers in their own country.
“The labor movement has been in lockstep with the Democratic Party for many years, including my full tenure with the labor movement,” says Gene Bruskin, who is also at the meeting and whose tenure in the labor movement goes back to the Seventies. We first spoke during the weeks immediately following Trump’s election.
“I’ve been in a bunch of meetings where the candidate, everybody from Al Gore to John Edwards to John Kerry to Bill Clinton, comes before the executive board of a national union or the AFL-CIO and gives a speech and pounds on the fucking podium and talks about workers’ rights and the right to organize and the value of unions and how his father was in a union or his grandfather was a coal miner or whatever that shit is and then proceeds for the rest of his or her campaign never to utter the word ‘union.’
Bruskin says that unions have too often “confused access with power” and been the loser for it. “If Rich Trumka”—the current head of the AFL-CIO—“wants to go to the White House and have coffee with President Obama, he can do that. But if we want to get something important, like the Employee Free Choice Act, passed, after that was promised to us repeatedly during Obama’s campaign”—no.6 RoseAnn DeMoro, then the head of National Nurses United (NNU), which endorsed Sanders and participated in his campaign, has likened labor’s treatment at the hands of our mainstream political parties to “an abused-spouse relationship,” with labor in the role of the battered wife. “Hillary Clinton couldn’t even say ‘Fight for Fifteen,’ ” DeMoro complains. “Then we wonder why people voted for Trump.”
6 Introduced in 2003, the EFCA would have imposed higher penalties on employers for workplace violations, which in practice often carry no meaningful penalty at all. Its most controversial provision allowed for unions to be legally certified by “card check” as an alternative to secret-ballot elections. The act passed the House in 2006 but failed in the Senate and ended there.
It’s impossible to be in the Democratic stronghold of Chicago, site of what may be remembered as the landmark labor action of our millennium, the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, without reflecting on labor’s vexed relationship with the Democrats. The nine-day strike was launched with 90 percent of the union’s 26,000 members voting to walk (98 percent of those who voted) and enjoyed widespread local support, especially in the black and Latino communities. The strike was as much about the fate of public schools as about the welfare of teachers. One of the union’s demands was that children be guaranteed textbooks on the first day of class. When a tentative agreement was reached, the union took the remarkable step of continuing the strike for an additional two days so that the rank and file could read and discuss the contract they were being asked to sign—an example of small-d democracy too rarely found among unions. The party was not impressed. The predominantly Democratic city council had urged union president Karen Lewis not to strike, and the Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, responded the following year with a vengeance, closing fifty public schools and laying off thousands of teachers and staff. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was as lukewarm in supporting its militant local as it was gung-ho in giving an early endorsement to Hillary Clinton.
Besides the communication workers and the nurses, Sanders received endorsements from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the National Union of Healthcare Workers (formerly a local with SEIU), the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and the United Electrical Workers (UE). With deep traditions of left-wing radicalism, the last two might be considered natural allies for a self-described socialist like Sanders, but I ask DeMoro whether any workplace characteristics account for the political leanings of the other five. “The nurses, the postal workers, the bus drivers, they’re all out there in the community in such a way that they see the world,” she says. “People who every day see the social fallout are those who rise to the militancy.”7
7 Sometimes, too, the workers out there in the community see ways for their industries to better serve the public. The ATU, for example, is attempting to build partnerships with riders’ groups to protect and expand public transportation. Mark Dimondstein, the head of the APWU, told me that post offices ought to be able to provide “broad-strokes financial services” such as check cashing, which would “continue the role of the Postal Service in binding people together” and counter “the payday-lending-and-cashing industry, which is just preying on working people and the poor.”
That would certainly seem to be the case with the nurses, who are out in strength at the Chicago meeting, and on picket lines throughout the nation. “We strike more than any union,” DeMoro claims of the NNU, and hers is hardly the only nurses’ union that strikes. If the Trump-era labor movement has a vanguard, a prominent part of it is marching out of a hospital wing.
“Bedside my name is Donna Stern and I’m your nurse for today. Out here my name is Eugenia Debs.”
I’m speaking with the senior cochair of the bargaining unit for the nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts, members of the independent Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), on the morning of a one-day strike in the summer of 2017. Stern steps out from the picket line to talk to me.
“Eugene Debs spoke about the working class emancipating itself. And we as working people have forgotten that lesson. If you look at any of the great strides that have ever been made historically for working people, they have happened with direct action. That’s the only thing that has ever changed the world.”
Today’s direct action began the night before at seven o’clock. As required of health care workers under federal law, the union gave at least ten days’ notice of its intention to strike. In the moments before the strike began, computers at the nurses’ stations went blank. Nurses were instructed to leave the premises without being able to do a direct handoff to the “travelers” bused in from out of state as scabs. Uniformed guards from as far away as Texas and Georgia were posted at the doors, with local police patrolling the perimeter of the hospital grounds. The nurses seem mostly amused by the beefed-up security—more than one jokes about “what a dangerous bunch we are”—but indignant about the manner of the handoff. In their view, it violates best practice.
Prominent among their demands is a call for “safe staffing”: fewer patients per nurse and more nurses on staff to guarantee that shift times are respected. Under Massachusetts law, it’s illegal for nurses to work more than sixteen hours at a stretch. The union has cited twenty-seven instances when this limit was exceeded during the past year, and close to 4,000 instances when a nurse was on duty for more than twelve hours. In this job you can’t tell your employer you’re going home to your kids and they can fire your ass for all you care. If you’re judged to have abandoned your patient, you don’t just lose your job; you run the risk of losing your license. Loss of license would seem to loom less in the minds of the nurses I talk to, however, than a loss of the mission that led them to become nurses in the first place. One of the more moving stories I hear is about a neonatal nurse whose supervisor ordered her to stop holding a dying infant because she was needed elsewhere on the floor. Staffing levels did not allow for gratuitous acts of mercy. “People usually don’t come out swinging until their backs are to the wall,” one nurse tells me.
Another point of contention for the nurses, as for many unions, has been health insurance. The nurses at Baystate are insured by the same company that employs them. In keeping with the trend of concessionary bargaining that has characterized labor negotiations since the Reagan years, the nurses saw the top two of their four coverage options, a “gold” plan and a “silver” plan, eliminated even before they came to the table. The grim irony of frontline caregivers slipping to the back of the line in terms of health coverage is not lost on them, an irony heightened by their increased risk of injury and disease. Nurses are injured on the job more often than construction workers and are more likely to be assaulted than prison guards. Like the NNU and other progressive unions, the MNA is a zealous supporter of single-payer health care for all Americans.
This militancy on behalf of others besides themselves reminds me of the Chicago teachers. The corporate move toward “a hotel-management model” of health delivery is not unrelated, in motive and effect, to the drive to privatize school systems and do away with the Postal Service. Profits for the few are achieved at the cost of austerity for the many. Every time you add an extra patient to a nurse’s patient load, you cut costs for her employer; you also increase the risk of death for all her other patients by 7 percent. “When did human beings become widgets?” Donna Stern wants to know.
It’s a breezy, sunny day in Greenfield, spirits are high, and honks of support from passing cars frequent. “Be strong!” a man shouts from his driver’s-side window. But it doesn’t take long for a short stretch of sidewalk to get old. Not for the first time I’m impressed by how much more wearying it is to strike than to work. I remark on the sheer effort of it all to Dana Simon, a director for strategic campaigns at the MNA. Noting the hackneyed association of labor unions with corruption, he says, “Corruption in the labor movement exists much more rarely than in the corporate world. But one form of corruption is laziness—to avoid striking because, from a staff-centric perspective, it’s a lot of work.”
Though on staff himself, and not a nurse by profession, Simon has faith in the rank and file.8 “Ultimately the powerful are not worried about a small group of self-appointed experts. That’s the wing of the labor movement that they pat on the head and say, ‘You’re fine.’ What they worry about is really building a mass movement of people who’ve been through struggle and know how to build power.” For Simon the ultimate long-term benefit of a strike like the one in Greenfield and a nearly simultaneous strike by nurses at Tufts Medical Center is “that the labor movement and all the social movements can be populated with thousands and thousands of people who have been through a struggle and learned from it.”
8 Union staff are not necessarily recruited from the rank and file. And some union staff are represented by unions other than those that employ them. Jackie Traynere is a national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees but pays her dues to the Communication Workers of America. “No one ever said that because you’re working for a union you’re going to be treated fairly,” she says. “Management is management.”
If the Greenfield nurses have learned anything, it’s that they do not struggle alone. Working different shifts on different floors, sometimes in competition over resources, raiding one another’s crash carts for supplies, today they are out of their relative isolation and mutual invisibility, literally out in the sunshine. Some of their former patients are here to show support, as are members of the clergy and the local chapter of Our Revolution. Young cadre from an Amherst cell of the International Socialist Organization are handing out homemade cookies and tubes of sunscreen. Like a prophet proclaiming the arrival of a peaceable kingdom, a male nurse carries a hand-lettered sign that reads, even my ex-wife supports baystate franklin nurses.
So do a number of other unions. A social worker who belongs to the SEIU local recalls the Greenfield nurses showing up in solidarity when she was on strike. A representative from the Iron Workers local is slated to speak at the noon rally. Squeezing my way through the crowd to hear a bullhorn address by Nurse Eugenia, I catch a glimpse of two salty-looking characters in jeans and black T-shirts that read kicking ass for the working class. Who are those guys? I want to know, a question I will ask on two other occasions in places two thousand miles apart, uncannily with the same answer every time. A closer look at their T-shirts identifies them as members of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), one of the unions Joseph McCarthy tried to kill.
Ihad seen them in Chicago, at a diverse roundtable confab that remained in session after the larger meeting adjourned, multiple skin colors, a middle-aged man taking notes on a laptop, a young woman with buzz-cut hair. It wasn’t until I checked the day’s catch of business cards that I noticed the phrase the UE uses for its moniker: “The members run this union.”
Months later, my wife and I are coming out of Riley’s Fish Shack in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, just a few miles from home, and notice two women standing at one of the entrances to the Fairbanks Scales company next to a dormant burn barrel. Beside it stands a heap of firewood along with two American flags. I drive by slowly so that I can make out what’s hand-lettered on a cardboard sign: solidarity forever and ue. The workers are on strike, and of course we stop.
By then I’ve read enough to know the historical background of those initials. Founded in 1936, the UE brought together seven independent unions and was the first to join the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It succeeded in organizing the “big three” of Westinghouse, General Electric, and RCA. In 1946, following the labor truce of the war years, it joined with the United Steel Workers and the United Auto Workers in a strike of more than a million workers, part of a wave of labor actions that led to passage of the repressive Taft-Hartley Act a year later. One provision of the act was the requirement that all union leaders sign a “loyalty oath” disavowing any connection with the Communist Party. Of the eleven CIO unions that refused to take the oath, only the UE and the ILWU remain to this day. It’s a marvel they survived at all. Nothing reveals the virtual erasure of American labor history as much as the number of people who think that the witch hunts of the McCarthy era consisted mainly of egregious inconveniences visited upon Hollywood. Under relentless persecution by the House Un-American Activities Committee and shamelessly raided by other unions seeking to draw members into their own ranks, the UE shrank to a fraction of its former strength, from 600,000 to 58,000 members in the space of fifteen years.
But not without a fight. When McCarthy went after rank-and-file union members at General Electric, which summarily fired those deemed “uncooperative” in their testimonies, the UE’s national officers insisted on being subpoenaed as well. Only when they threatened to go public with the senator’s refusal did McCarthy relent. Union organizing director James J. Matles stood before the great American bully of his generation, called him a liar to his face, and asked the senator if he was a spy. “The question is as good coming from me to you as coming from you to me.”
The UE could not have expelled its Communist members even if it wanted to. Its founding constitution prohibits exclusion on the basis of political belief. The union has been governed by a constitution from its birth, a fact pointed out with pride by its current president, Peter Knowlton, who sends me a well-thumbed, pocket-size copy in the mail.9 According to the constitution’s articles, the president of the union cannot earn a salary exceeding that of the highest-paid worker in the industry. Any officer can be recalled at any time by a vote of the membership. No representative of the union may negotiate alone. And no one may be discriminated against on the basis of race or gender—a founding principle not only applied in the matter of union membership but also expressed in union demands. The UE was calling for racial equality before the civil rights movement; for ending gender discrimination before the second wave of the feminist movement; and for equal pay for comparable work before such a concept was widely understood. When author and labor educator Bill Barry tells me that a chambermaid has the same skill level as an autoworker—the only difference being that the one makes a union wage and the other doesn’t—he is speaking very much in the UE tradition. The union’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders, only its fifth presidential endorsement in eighty-one years and its first in a primary, was grounded in tradition, too. As far back as its 1947 convention, the UE was demanding that “Wall Street be driven out of Washington.”
9 The crowning irony of the red-baiting of the “Communist-led” unions and the accompanying charges of “dictatorship” is that they were some of the least corrupt and most democratic unions of their time. There is no documented case of any “red” union acting to undermine the national security of the United States. Unions, not the Soviet Union, were the primary target.
When I ask Peter Knowlton to comment on the current shape of American capitalism, he is quick to tell me that his union has no official position and so he is speaking only for himself. His comments are not dissimilar to those I hear voiced elsewhere in the labor movement: “Granted, a lot of it is brute force, but in terms of being innovative in how to make a better widget, there’s something to be said for competition. The problem is that our form of capitalism, of competition, is cannibalistic. I remember when companies used to compete in quality, service, durability. Then, starting under Reagan, it became profit for the sake of profit. The idea of making a fair profit got tossed aside and was replaced by the idea of making whatever you could make.” The social ramifications are even worse. Knowlton says that former congressman Barney Frank’s call for “capitalism with a human face” is like speaking of “submarines with screen doors. The very nature of capitalism is to ignore the human face, and the human condition, and just to make more profits for the person who owns a particular enterprise.”
Obviously, I like banging the gong of “left-wing unionism,” but I have come to appreciate the reductive limitations of the term. “You don’t need to be a socialist or a Marxist to see that capital today is resulting in absurd inequalities that are also making the system grow less and less able to sustain itself,” says Héctor Figueroa, the head of SEIU Local 32BJ, whose self-description as “a strong, sober, old-fashioned, hostile trade unionist who values social justice” may be more pertinent to the legacy of the UE than any political label. In the broadest sense, all labor unions are leftist in their implicit acknowledgment of two basic principles: that capital exploits labor and that labor’s only hope lies in collective action informed by class consciousness. A union can move “right” only by fighting exclusively for its own interests or by not fighting at all. Probably the reason some workers stuck with the UE when it was on the ropes, or went back to it after defecting, had less to do with the political ideology of its leaders than with its reputation as a union that would fight. Even its critics conceded that. At its best the UE fought beyond the limits of its membership, “kicking ass for the working class,” and it continues to do so. When workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago occupied the plant to protest the manner of its closing in 2008, the UE valiantly came to their support. When US Labor Against the War, an organization founded in 2003 to oppose the second Iraq War, sent a peace delegation to South Korea last May, it included a representative from the union.
The international component has long been important to the UE. For the past twenty-five years it has partnered with a Mexican union, Frente Auténtico del Trabajo, the Authentic Labor Front. The director of international strategies, Kari Thompson, who helps coordinate the partnership, first came to the UE as a graduate worker at the University of Iowa. The union had organized the teaching and research assistants there and became “a second family” for her. Thirty-four years old and well aware of her union’s history, Thompson exemplifies a union—and a labor movement—hoping to transcend generational as well as national boundaries.
I drove back to the Fairbanks plant on a cold November night, when the burn barrels were flaming. I parked over at Riley’s Fish Shack, which had made its parking lot available to the strikers. “In an ideal world,” Bill Barry told me, “people would be flocking to the UE.” Well, in an ideal world people wouldn’t need to. But in this world, the world bestrode and benighted by the likes of Donald Trump, it was good just to spend a few moments warming myself by the strikers’ fire.
Like other workers I met on picket lines—the young AT&T Mobility store tech, for example, who described the satisfaction he takes in helping older people get familiar with digital devices—the women keeping vigil by the burn barrels that night spoke of their competence on the job. Time and again I find that union pride goes hand-in-hand with pride in the work. I ask a twenty-nine-year-old California ironworker named Steve Bowlus to tell me about what he does. “I’ve found a home in the structural industry,” Bowlus says. “I just love being up high. There’s nothing like being up on a high-rise and seeing those beams flying with the crane. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
Bowlus has been an ironworker since 2011 but wasn’t able to break into union jobs until 2014. I ask him what difference joining the Iron Workers union made. His doubled income and the novelty of medical coverage, a difference of “night and day” for him and his family, are not the first benefits he names. What he mentions first is a sense of “more structure on the job, more organization and job safety.” The second thing he mentions is the periodic training provided—and required—by his union, of learning how to do everything from driving forklifts to signaling cranes “the right way.” Only then do we talk about pay raises and dental plans.
Bowlus’s emphasis on “the right way” calls to mind a lesser-known weapon in labor’s limited arsenal—an old weapon, as it turns out, with a lineage that goes back to Wobbly days—called work to rule. What it means is that workers perform every task according to best practice, which has the cumulative effect of slowing production. It takes a person of average intelligence a few minutes to get his head around the implications. If every nurse insisted on taking care of her patients in the way she knew was best, if every teacher, cook, and cleaner worked according to the same rule, irrespective of metrics and balance sheets—we would have a universal work slowdown one step shy of a general strike. Perhaps two steps shy of a society devoted to working for the common good.
In public discussions of labor, capital, and the laws that govern both, what inevitably slips from view is the work itself. What work means and what it might mean. The dignity of it and the degradation of it. We may think we know, but most of what we know is what we’ve been conditioned to think. Capital doesn’t just exploit labor; it defines labor. It uses the law to re-create labor in its own image. When the Taft-Hartley Act stipulates that unions can bargain only over “terms and conditions of employment” (and not, say, over the uses of technology or the control of pollution), it is saying in effect that workers are motivated by the same aims that motivate capitalists. This in turn authorizes the slander that unions care about nothing but money. When the same law prohibits “secondary boycotts” undertaken by one union in solidarity with another union’s struggles, it authorizes the slander that unions care only about themselves.
Even the pro-union National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act), by excluding supervisors, farmworkers, and domestic workers from its protections, all but defined who does and doesn’t belong to the working class—in imagination no less than in law. Say “working class” and people still picture a white guy with a lunch box heading toward a manufacturing plant. As for those workers authorized under the law to form federally recognized unions, more than 90 percent currently work under contracts with “no-strike clauses” that remain in effect for the duration of the contract. Imagine a truce in which one side is required not only to lay down its arms but to throw them away. This, too, is a matter of identity and definition: the combatant in this case hasn’t just agreed to cease hostilities; he’s agreed to cease being a soldier.
James Pope, who teaches labor and constitutional law at Rutgers, might object to the military analogy. “One of the terrible words in the English language from my point of view is ‘strike,’ ” Pope says, “because it connotes something aggressive.” The term actually derives from “sailors striking sails on a ship,” which eighteenth-century sailors did in labor actions that were misnamed “mutinies.” When workers go on strike, Pope explains, “all they’re doing is withholding cooperation in their own exploitation.” They’re using the only asset they have: their labor. In France, the right to strike is codified in law and belongs not just to unions but to all workers. In the United States, the right to strike is on shakier ground than the right to own an assault rifle or distribute hardcore porn. Pope is among those legal scholars who think the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution is “under-utilized” in labor disputes. “Involuntary servitude doesn’t only pertain to situations where someone is pointing a gun at you and telling you to work.”
Even in the case of workers legally authorized to form unions, employers own the debate. A “free speech clause” in Taft-Hartley allows employers to hold meetings at which workers are required to listen to lectures by paid union-busting consultants. Employers are also allowed to summon individual workers for private discussions on their union views. Captive-audience meetings occur in 85 percent of union campaigns; in 57 percent, plant closings are “predicted” as a likely result of unionization. (Employers are legally prohibited from threatening to close.)
This is reportedly what happened in 2017 when the United Auto Workers tried to organize the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. (Nissan has four plants in the United States, all in the South and none with unions.) I spoke with assembly-line worker Katrina Peoples-Bryant, a thirty-seven-year-old mother of three, who came to her job at Nissan through a temp agency almost six years ago and has been on a lower-tier pay track ever since. She said that prior to the Canton election, the company shut down the line and told its predominantly African-American employees to attend a tent meeting outside the plant, where they were urged not to vote for the union. They were also summoned to “one on one” and “roundtable” meetings, which Peoples-Bryant thinks “intimidated a lot of the workers who were going to vote for the union.” Workers were told the plant might close and that the company might have to take away their leased cars. “A lot of them got scared.”
While the organizing drive was in progress, Peoples-Bryant said she saw managers she hadn’t seen on the floor in five years. “The only time our voices were heard was the week prior to the vote.” The air conditioner was turned on. The line speed became more manageable. “They painted a bathroom. They didn’t clean it. They just painted over the filth that was in there.” At the conclusion of what the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi decried as “an intense and unprincipled anti-union campaign,” the union was voted down by a 2–1 margin. After that, according to Peoples-Bryant, the solicitous managers withdrew. The line speed was “ridiculous,” and the air-conditioning was off. All that remained of the recent improvements was the topcoat in the bathroom. (Nissan refutes these claims as “false.”)
The fears to which some of Peoples-Bryant’s co-workers succumbed may soon be supplanted by a larger threat. An Oxford University study projects that nearly half of American jobs could be replaced by robots within the next two decades. Of course much depends on who owns the robots, which is to say, on who controls production.10 More will depend on asking what role, if any, work ought to play in a fully realized human life. If workers have no part in addressing that question, it will be answered on the basis of one metric (profit) and for the benefit of one social class (the owners). Jeff Johnson, the president of the Washington State Labor Council (the state’s branch of the AFL-CIO), is fond of saying that in facing the technological and environmental challenges posed by the twenty-first century, the labor movement must either “demand a place at the table or become part of the menu.” The council’s secretary-treasurer, Lynne Dodson, says, “If we don’t move to the left, we won’t have a labor movement.” Essentially, they’re saying the same thing.
10 According to a 2017 survey by the European Commission, 80 percent of Swedes expressed “positive” views of automation and artificial intelligence, technologies that caused “worry” in 72 percent of Americans responding to a Pew Research Center survey. The difference has nothing to do with native pessimism or optimism; the majority in each country responded realistically on the basis of their own social contract. Socialist robots and capitalist robots serve different masters.
Almost as bad as dismissing the labor movement is idealizing it. If the labor movement were such a shining beacon, fewer of its top brass would have turned their backs on Bernie Sanders, and none of its rank and file would have voted for Donald Trump.
Fortunately, organized labor is subject to conditions that prevent it from idealizing itself. Not the least of these is the necessity of engaging issues at the level of production, the level at which politics and livelihood meet. Though labor has at least the latent ability to stop the wheels of production in a good cause—as when the ILWU shut down all the ports on the West Coast in support of 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization, or more recently when German pilots refused to fly planes filled with deported asylum seekers—it has also been known to oppose a good cause in order to keep the wheels of production turning. It’s one thing for a movie actor to speak out against the Keystone XL pipeline, quite another for a pipe fitter to say, “I don’t want the job.”
Like climate change and pollution, issues of social justice compel unions to act at the gritty level of the workplace. Their frequent failure to do so was underscored by the Trump victory, though labor people differ on how best to interpret the upset. Bill Fletcher Jr., a leading African-American scholar on the labor left, rejects the analysis that the election of Donald Trump was a white-working-class revolt against economic hardship and sees it rather as a result of the way whites “perceive economic issues through the prism of race.” He contends that “if economic issues and the revolt against neoliberalism were the main drivers, then blacks and Latinos ought to have been warming up to Trump. And that sure as hell didn’t happen.”
In serving as a consultant to the Washington State Labor Council’s recent initiative on racial justice, Fletcher emphasized how race has been used to divide workers. He contrasts his approach with the usual “diversity trainings—singing ‘Kumbaya,’ you taste my food, I’ll taste yours, we’ll hug each other and cry and be friends forever. Which is basically crap. When you really talk about race, you talk about capitalism. It’s why race was constructed from the very beginning.11 What the union must do is help to build class consciousness.”
11 One of Fletcher’s mentors was the late Theodore W. Allen, whose theory of “the invention of the white race” holds that the codification of white skin privilege arose from the fear of black slaves and white indentured servants making common cause. Race was used to undercut class consciousness. In the words of Frederick Douglass: “They divided both to conquer each.”
Fletcher sums up his primary objective in language both modest and militant: “The main thing is not getting people to like one another. The main thing is understanding who is the enemy and who is not.” If he is correct in saying that “we in the union movement are in a race against time with right-wing populism for the heart and soul of white workers,” his insistence on distinguishing between who is and is not the enemy seems like the best way to run the race. Fletcher’s sense of a winnable “heart and soul” bespeaks years of direct involvement in the labor movement. In the months following the Trump victory, I began noticing an interesting difference between progressives who belonged to unions and those who didn’t. The non-union progressive—and I’m talking about the decent, open-hearted sort who doesn’t think he walks on water because he owns an electric car—was inclined to say, “We need to get out there and talk to those people.” The union figures I spoke with were more likely to say, “We need to get out there and listen.”
Carey Dall starts his day between four and five in the morning, hoping to be at the first of his stops by six, an hour before the railroad maintenance crews begin their shift. “Our strategy is to find people where they work. We call it being on the property.”
Dall is a full-time internal organizer for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE), an old craft union of around 32,000 members whose job it is to lay and maintain the track lines. His assignment is to listen to the concerns of the workers and report back to the union leadership, with the ultimate aim of building a network of frontline communicators among the rank and file. After spending an hour or so with the first crew, Dall will move to the next site, where workers waiting for track time may have a few moments to talk to him, and then to where a crew possibly hundreds of miles away is settling in at a hotel. His day often ends around midnight.
Dall’s involvement with the labor movement began with the ILWU. Before coming to the BMWE, he worked as a pipe welder in the ports of San Francisco and also, under the ILWU’s then–organizing director Peter Olney, in a campaign to organize the Bay Area’s 3,000 bike messengers. He did this as “an undercover organizer, a ‘salt’—as in salt of the earth.” Dall’s project with the railroad workers started several years ago when the union’s leadership considered the looming possibility that Republicans would take control of all three branches of government. Like the airlines, railroads are governed not by the National Labor Relations Act but by the Railway Labor Act, which accords extra powers to the president in labor disputes. The risk of the railroads becoming a right-to-work industry was a very real one, especially given the Koch brothers’ simultaneous funding of right-wing Republicans and right-to-work initiatives. Union leaders also were worried (as one now wishes the Democratic Party had been) that they were losing touch with their rank and file, not a hard thing to do when the membership consists of roving work gangs of two to a hundred workers spread out as far and wide as the railroad lines.
Dall knew at the outset that there was no simple profile for the workers he’d meet. The BMWE might have less gender diversity than the nurses’ unions, but regional, ethnic, and political differences are as broad as the continent. Some crews hail from deep in the Appalachians, others from the cities, still others from “what is often derided as ‘the flyover territory’ by coastal elites.” One meeting in the Southwest required a Navajo translator.
Not everything Dall hears is complimentary of the union, nor is everything he hears a complaint. “The workers know they have some of the best jobs in their communities,” he says. “They’re happy and proud to work for the railroad. So they’re humbled by that, but they’re also infuriated by the rampant greed of their employers.” Contrary to what you may have heard, railroads are highly profitable industries. Dall says that workers must literally move out of the way as the wealth of the nation “rolls down the road in front of them. They know full well that they’re at the center of the economy, but they’re continually facing these concessionary demands from their employers.”
The concessionary demand of most concern right now has to do with health care, an issue of particular urgency for a union like the BMWE.12 Though many of the more backbreaking tasks have been mechanized, the job is still dangerous, dusty, and, in the case of the creosote used in railroad ties, carcinogenic. Dall says it’s rare to meet a worker who’s lived more than ten years beyond his retirement. Thanks to his time spent “on the property,” he now has a clearer picture of what health care means to a worker with diabetes or a disabled child. He’s also found more consensus than he’d been led to expect.
12One of the reasons European unions have fared better than their US counterparts is that they are not engaged in costly battles to achieve and then retain benefits that social democracies provide for all citizens as a matter of course. France devotes 31.5 percent of its national budget to social spending; the United States, 19.3 percent.
“One of the clearest and most powerful” of his encounters occurred when he visited a crew in Georgia. “Out come all these boys from rural Kentucky and Tennessee”—a surprise for the forty-two-year-old Dall, who in the midst of a graying labor movement is used to being “the youngest guy in the room.” Some were still in their late teens. A bigger surprise came when he canvassed the young men about their priorities for collective bargaining. Older workers had predicted that all they’d want is “a pay raise so they can buy a new gun or pay off a truck that they can’t afford, take the old lady out for a nice night on the weekend, or go out and get drunk with their friends.” What the younger workers wanted instead was to keep their health care. “If we hadn’t asked the question and been willing to shut up and listen, we’d still be working with the impression that these young men just wanted cash on the barrelhead.”
Fortified by what they’d learned and making full use of the frontline communicators they’d trained, the union began a series of escalating actions aimed at pushing the health care issue. Workers affixed healthcare not wealthcare stickers to their hard hats. They petitioned the CEOs of all class-one railways and phoned some of them directly. They set up informational pickets at key junctures on the rail line. The strictures of the Railway Labor Act are not all that impede them. The BMWE is but one of thirteen railway unions, some of which appear ready to accept the offer on the table.
The last successful attempt to organize all the railway craft unions into one industrial organization was led by Eugene Debs in the great railroad strike of 1894. Dall tells me that Debs’s legacy is by no means forgotten. “There’s a lot of talk around the railroad unions about how great Debs was and how everyone wants to swim in his wake,” he says. “But no one wants to give up their parochial interests and their piece of the turf, so we’ve never gotten there.” Not yet anyway.
When I was born in 1953 and the percentage of American workers in unions was the highest it had ever been before or has been since, more than a thousand workers at Greenfield Tap and Die in Massachusetts, members of UE Local 274, prepared for an imminent strike by greasing their tools. They weren’t sure how long the battle would last.
When Caterpillar finally broke the eighteen-month United Auto Workers’ strike of 1995, it banned workers from wearing union clothes, and fired those who refused to shake hands with scabs or open their lunch boxes for inspection. Twelve workers committed suicide. “The battle with Cat is win or lose,” the workers’ Kick the Cat newsletter would say several years later. “There is no middle ground.”
When Smithfield Foods worker Ollie Hunt looked back on the sixteen-year organizing campaign that resulted in his first union contract in 2008, a struggle in which workers had been attacked and beaten on the company premises, he said, “This was a war.”
When sales reps for T-Mobile in Chattanooga, Tennessee, failed to meet their quotas, it was reported in 2012, they had dunce caps placed on their heads.
When RN Donna Stern, aka Eugenia Debs, and her bargaining unit cochair exercised their contractually protected duty to accompany nurses returning to work after a three-day lockout at Greenfield’s Baystate Franklin Medical Center in 2017, they were summoned “upstairs” to meet with the hospital manager, then surrounded by half a dozen male security guards and police officers and told that if they did not leave the hospital immediately they would be arrested.
Whenever someone talks seriously about advancing the cause of workers in America, he is accused of fomenting class war. Whenever someone talks about class war as a thing waiting to be “fomented,” I want to ask how long he’s been living on the moon.
When I asked Haitian immigrant Loise Joseph, a “way finder” at LaGuardia Airport working thirty-two hours a week for eleven dollars an hour, if there was anything she liked about her job, she said she liked helping people who become “overwhelmed or frazzled.” When I asked her why she wanted to belong to a union, she told me about her “beautiful, wonderful children,” aged nine and four. And when I asked her if she wasn’t afraid that her very visible role in a pro-union rally would lead to retaliation from the powers that be, she answered for every worker in America, including every harried immigrant from the “shithole countries” on our chief executive’s war-room map.
“Let them come,” she said.
The Supreme Court's Janus Decision
In a long-anticipated decision, the Supreme Court held in Janus v. AFSCME that compulsory "fair share" systems in the public sector violate the First Amendment rights of non-union members. The Court's decision, breaking 5-4 along familiar party lines, overturns the Court's 41-year landmark decision in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. upholding the legality of fair share. Fair share systems exist in the majority of states with statewide collective bargaining laws. The idea behind fair share starts with the proposition that labor organizations have a duty of fair representation to all members of the bargaining units they represent, without regard...
Are you mentally tough? Check the list and find out
Praying will not make you mentally strong, but practicing some of the tips on this list may do the trick.
12 Things Mentally Strong People Do That Nobody Else Does
"Most people run away from their fears, but not the mentally strong. They not only seek them out, but they also enjoy the feeling of being scared."
by John Rampton
Entrepreneur and Connector
You’ve no doubt heard a million times that you should exercise. But how many people have suggested that you become more mentally fit?
I’m not just talking about doing a crossword puzzle to combat dementia -- I’m talking about becoming mentally strong. When you do, you’ll be better equipped to regulate your thoughts, manage your emotions and boost your productivity.
The 12 things mentally strong people do.
1. They practice gratitude.
Instead of focusing on their burdens or what they don’t have, mentally strong people take stock of all the great things they do have. There are several ways to practice gratitude, but the simplest way to start is just by thinking of three things you’re grateful for each day. You can also start a gratitude journal to jot down all the good things you experienced throughout the day or adopt gratitude rituals, such as saying grace before a meal.
2. They say “no.”
“Research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression,” writes Travis Bradberry, Ph. D.
Saying “no” may be a problem for some, but not for the mentally strong. Instead of accepting every social invite or helping co-workers with every project, they just say “no.” This way, they can complete their own work and not over commit themselves.
3. They overcome their inner critic.
If you think you’re a failure, guess what? You’ll probably end up failing. That self-fulfilling prophecy is predicting your fate.
Instead, use that self-fulfilling prophecy to your advantage by believing you’re going to succeed. This can be a challenge, but it’s possible if you pay attention to your thoughts. Don’t ignore those negative thoughts -- acknowledge them, and then do something positive to distract yourself.
Take a look at the evidence on both sides. By jotting down the good and the bad, you’ll notice that some of those negative thoughts are irrational. Find balance: Rather than beat yourself up, look at your flaws as ways to improve.
4. They expose themselves to pain.
Muhammad Ali once said that he didn't count his sit-ups; he only started counting when it hurt because those were the ones that counted.
Mentally strong people are willing to endure pain as long as there's a purpose. They don’t go through a challenging workout, for example, just to prove how tough they are. After all, science has said that there’s some truth to that old saying “No pain, no gain.”
5. They create their own definition of success.
When I started my first business, things were tough -- especially when it failed. To rub salt in the wound, I saw my neighbors purchasing new cars or high school friends posting pictures of their travels.
For them, that meant they were successful.
Even though my business failed, I was still successful. I had an amazing wife and was able to pick myself back up. Today, I’m a successful entrepreneur. That’s not to boast. My point is that the successful have their own definition of success. For example, I work with freelancers who don’t make what some would consider a lot of money. But they see themselves as successful because they’re doing what they love with a flexible schedule.
6. They delay gratification.
There’s a well-known Stanford University study in which an administrator left a child alone with a marshmallow for 15 minutes. The experimenter, before leaving, told the child that she could eat the marshmallow. However, if she waited until he returned, she would get a second marshmallow.
After 40 years of research, it was found that the children who waited experienced better outcomes in life, including higher SAT scores, greater career success and even a lower body mass index.
The point is that delaying gratification is paramount to success. That’s why people with mental strength are willing to put off gratification. They know that results only take place after they’ve put in the time and effort.
7. They don’t blame others.
Mentally strong people never, and I mean never, blame others for their mistakes or shortcomings. They take full responsibility for their actions. Doing so means they don’t give power to others, remain stuck or become negative people.
8. They practice realistic optimism.
Mentally strong are optimistic. But they also understand that they can’t be overly optimistic. As Dr. Mara Karpel explains, “It’s unproductive to believe that challenges will magically disappear or goals will be manifested without taking any action in the real world.”
Mentally strong people practice realistic optimism instead. This means they take into account the challenges facing them and focus on what they can do to accept or overcome those realities. I've found that most start with schedule things ahead of when they need to be done. This way they are optimistic and have wiggle room.
9. They acknowledge their limitations.
Although the mentally strong push themselves, they also know when it’s time to throw in the proverbial towel. They’re aware of their weaknesses, and they don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.
While some leaders are hesitant to show vulnerability, doing so enables them to learn more and become better than they were yesterday. Enhancing their skill set is more important than protecting their ego.
10. They don’t compare themselves to others.
Remember, the mentally strong are stingy with their time and energy. So why waste it on worrying about what others are doing? Feelings like jealousy and resentment aren’t just exhausting; they’re pointless.
Instead, they appreciate others and celebrate their accomplishments with them. This creates optimism -- which is a win-win for everyone. According to a Harvard University study, a sense of optimism may be able to reduce the risk from dying of major causes, such as cardiovascular disease.
11. They enjoy feeling scared.
Most people run away from their fears, but not the mentally strong. They not only seek them out, but they also enjoy the feeling of being scared.
That may sound unusual, but they realize that being afraid pushes them out of their comfort zone. As a result, they experience new things, meet new people and learn more about themselves.
There are also health benefits associated with fear. This includes keeping your brain vigilant and alert, balancing bodily functions like your immune system and motivating you to accomplish goals.
12. They respect, and even like, their competitors.
Mentally strong people aren’t afraid, intimidated by or jealous of their competitors. In fact, they respect and even like them.
They realize their competitors can be their greatest teachers. They can learn what the competition did right or wrong. They can see what differentiates them and use that as inspiration for their own next move.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had a love-hate relationship.
However, both men ultimately supported and respected each other, with Gates once saying, "I’d give a lot to have Steve’s taste." Jobs admitted, "I admire him for the company he built — it’s impressive — and I enjoyed working with him. He’s bright and actually has a good sense of humor."
Becoming mentally strong doesn't happen overnight, but it's worth the journey. It can make you -- and your business -- resilient enough to withstand anything.
Rick Pinckard, a leading law enforcement labor attorney out of southern California has put together a list of tips to help you survive and thrive after the Janus vs AFSCME ruling.
Tips for Success Post Janus
In response to the Janus decision, we put together a quick FAQ (frequently asked questions) and emailed it to all of our POA Presidents to provide guidance on how the decision will impact their labor organization. We thought you might find some of this information useful. This FAQ was drafted in the context of California statutory public sector labor law. Laws from state to state may vary. At one point in California, there was legislative movement to require public sector labor organizations to obtain affirmative written consent from each member to allow payroll deductions for union dues. That movement died in California, but may have been successfully adopted by other states.
TIPS FOR LIFE POST-JANUS
As you all know by now the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The resulting barrage of commentary may render it difficult to discern what is important for each of your Associations to glean from this decision. Accordingly, I am presenting information below to assist you in providing guidance and answers to both you and your members as they inquire into the significance of the decision.
1. Q - Does this decision change existing law?
A - Yes. In this decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled the law established by Abood v. Detroit Bd. Of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977). In Abood, the U.S. Supreme Court approved the mandatory/involuntary collection of agency-shop/fair-share fees.
2. Q - Does this decision eliminate public sector employee unions?
A - No. The decision prohibits public sector unions from compelling the involuntary or non-consensual payment of agency shop fees from non-members.
3. Q - Does this decision eliminate agency shop provisions in public sector collective bargaining agreements?
A - To the extent that such provisions allow the employer, at the behest of the union, to collect agency fees from non-members, those provisions are no longer deemed constitutional.
4. Q - If my Association does not exist as a closed agency shop, does this decision require me or the Association to do anything different than what we've been doing?
A - No.
5. Q - How do I know if I work in a closed agency shop?
A - It will be in your collective bargaining agreement (labor contract) with your City, County or District. Currently, most of our client Associations are not agency shops.
6. Q - From this date forward, will my Association now be required to get signed permission on an on-going basis, to collect Association dues?
A - No, not from members.
7. Q - Can non-members agree to voluntarily pay an agency fee?
A - Yes. But, any non-member who waives their Constitutional rights so that an agency fee can be collected from them, must sign a written waiver granting consent to the Association to collect the fee; such waivers should be obtained on the same cycle that would have applied to distribution of Hudson letters. Additionally, the agency fee would still have to be calculated from an audit, using as much precision as possible to accurately identify the chargeable and non-chargeable expenses.
8. Q - For Associations which had agency shop status, is there a requirement that the Association refund any and all agency fees which have been collected over the entire period of time the employee was a non-member?
A - No. Prior to the Janus decision, collection of agency fees was deemed constitutional by the precedent established in the Abood decision. Pro rata refunding to fee payers, covering the period since the date of the Janus decision (yesterday) would be appropriate.
9. Q - My Association had been thinking of negotiating for agency shop status; is that now prohibited?
A - No. However, you will not be able to compel the involuntary payment of an agency fee from those employees who choose not to join the Association.
10. Q - Under the duty of fair representation, does my Association still have the duty to bargain for non-members, even if the non-members don't pay their fair share?
A - Yes, unless and until State law changes.
Keep in mind that our brothers and sisters in law enforcement recognize the tremendous benefits of Association membership for things such as public safety legislative influence through statewide organizations such as PORAC, supplemental insurance, support of widows and orphans, retiree medical trusts, filing and litigating grievances, criminal defense and administrative legal defense.
These benefits are only available to Association members. It is for this reason that most of your Associations enjoy 100% (or close to that) voluntary membership. The Janus decision does not change this. The decision only applies to Associations which are agency shops, and within those groups, the decision benefits only those employees who are non-members. There will likely be legislative proposals to amend both federal and state laws to adjust to the paradigm shift presented by this decision. For now, we'll all have to watch and when appropriate, join the conversation as active participants in any legislative activity.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns you may individually or collectively have, or any questions brought to you by your members or non-members. We will do our best to guide you through the uncertainty.
Bobbitt Pinckard & Fields, APC
Commentary on Union Busting Janus Decision June working folks.
Screen Shot from Washington Post website. “The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law — and in its economic life — for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance.” - Justice Kagan
The Washington Post
by Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow
Conservatives on the Supreme Court said Wednesday that it was unconstitutional to allow public employee unions to require collective-bargaining fees from workers who choose not to join the union, a major blow for the U.S. labor movement.
The court, in a 5-to-4 decision, overturned a 40-year-old precedent, arguing that the rule could require workers to give financial support to public policy positions they oppose.
“States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the majority. “. . . This procedure violates the First Amendment and cannot continue.”
Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the dissenting liberals, objecting to a decision that she said would “wreak havoc” by undoing labor agreements throughout the country.
“There is no sugarcoating today’s opinion,” Kagan wrote. “The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law — and in its economic life — for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance.”
It was a devastating, if not unexpected, loss for public-employee unions, the most vital component of organized labor and a major player in Democratic Party politics. Major public-employee unions pour millions into independent campaigns, largely to bolster Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, and their members are steadfast participants in sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day.
Now their resources will be diminished. The nation’s largest teacher union, the National Education Association, said it could lose as many as 200,000 members this year and is preparing to cut about $28 million from its budget.
President Trump cast the decision as a political victory, tweeting: “Supreme Court rules in favor of nonunion workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!”
The ruling capped a years-long effort by conservative legal activists to forbid states from authorizing the fees. It is a major success for well-financed groups on the right such as the Koch network, which have battled public-employee unions in Wisconsin and other states.
The case concerns only public-sector unions, but union officials said that because those make up such a large percentage of the labor movement, the impact of the decision is great.
Major Blow to Unions As Billionaires Win Big
By Laura Clawson
This is not just an attack on a few specific unions. It’s an attack on unions as institutions. The anti-worker right, bankrolled by conservative billionaires, has finally gotten the victory it’s been looking for through years and repeated well-funded Supreme Court challenges to a 40-year-old precedent. Janus v. AFSCME once again challenged the requirement that people represented by public sector unions who choose not to join the union still have to pay a fair share fee to cover the direct costs for representing them. That is, they’re paying the costs of collective bargaining and other things from which they personally benefit, not for any union political activity. But Republicans and their wealthy donors saw an attack on even that fair share fee as a way to weaken unions. And now, on the third try in recent years, with Neil Gorsuch on the court, the right got its win.
Viciously anti-worker Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion he’s been waiting to write since he joined the Supreme Court. The claim is that being required to pay a fee for representation that materially benefits a person is a violation of that person’s free speech when done by public sector unions, because in those cases the government is involved. The decision came along exactly the five to four split you expect: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Gorsuch joined Alito, while Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer dissented.
Let’s be clear that this is not just an attack on a few specific unions. It’s an attack on worker power and on unions as institutions that anchor a great deal of the progressive movement. The case may bear the name of Mark Janus, a single worker, but it’s the culmination of big spending and legal firepower coming from the big-money corporate right. This is one more historically bad Supreme Court decision to mourn in this term filled with them.
The Roberts Court Protects the Powerful for a New Gilded Age
By Jedediah Purdy
Professor of Law
Faith in courts runs deep in the American liberal imagination. Remembering Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade and the recent marriage-equality decisions, we keep hoping that wise and fair-minded judges will protect the vulnerable and lead the country toward justice.
Recent decisions upholding President Trump’s travel ban and Texas’ racially skewed voting districts are body blows to this optimism. They are unhappy reminders that, for much of American history, the Supreme Court has been a deeply conservative institution, preserving racial hierarchy and the prerogatives of employers.
When it comes to economic inequality, today’s Supreme Court is not only failing to help, it is also aggressively making itself part of the problem in a time when inequality and insecurity are damaging the country and endangering our democracy.
Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the court has consistently issued bold, partisan decisions that have been terrible for working people. Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, decided on Wednesday, was one of them.
Just hours after that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. With this “swing” vote gone, Chief Justice Roberts will now likely take even more control over the direction of issues related to economic inequality — a direction that is earning him a legacy as chief justice of bosses, not workers.
In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled that public-sector unions may not charge nonmembers “agency fees” for contract negotiation and other services that affect all employees in the same workplace, members and nonmembers alike. In his opinion for the court, Justice Samuel Alito compared the fees to Orwellian ideological browbeating. Invoking the great First Amendment tradition invalidating loyalty oaths and mandatory pledges of allegiance, he warned, “Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning.”
It’s the kind of knotty technical issue — one type of fee for nonmembers of one variety of union — that makes law boring. Unlike the Masterpiece Cakeshop case the court decided in June, Janus isn’t an obvious morality tale: Even many liberals often have mixed feelings about the public-sector unions that represent bureaucrats, subway employees, police officers and teachers.
But Janus is big. As Justice Elena Kagan explained in her dissent, allowing employees to opt out of union fees while getting the benefits of representation risks starving the union of resources, leading to ineffectiveness and collapse. Moreover, knifing unions at a time of intense controversy over state austerity budgets and widespread teachers strikes suggests, as Justice Kagan wrote, that the court “wanted to pick the winning side” in these fights by “weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.”
Supreme Court deals sharp defeat to public employee unions, banning mandatory fees
By David G. Savage
Jun 27, 2018 | 7:40 AM
The Supreme Court dealt labor unions a sharp defeat Wednesday, ruling that teachers, police officers and other public employees cannot be forced to pay dues or fees to support their unions.
By a 5 to 4 vote, the justices overturned a 41-year-old precedent and ruled that the 1st Amendment protects these employees from being required to support a private group whose views may differ from theirs.
The decision, in Janus vs. AFSCME, strikes down laws in California, New York and 20 other mostly Democratic-leaning states that authorize unions to negotiate contracts that require all employees to pay a so-called fair share fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining.
In 1977, when public sector unions were getting established, the high court said teachers and other public employees may not be forced to pay full union dues if some of the money went for political contributions. But the justices upheld the lesser fair share fees on the theory that all of the employees benefited from a union contract and its grievance procedures.
But today's more conservative court disagreed and said employees have a right not to give any support to a union. These payments were described as a form of "compelled speech" which violates the 1st Amendment.
"We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern," wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. for the majority.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch agreed. All four liberal justices dissented.
The anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, which funded the challenge, predicted the ruling would free more than 5 million public employees from supporting their unions.
For the unions, which traditionally support Democrats, the ruling will mean an immediate loss of some funding and a gradual erosion in their membership. Union officials fear that an unknown number of employees will quit paying dues if doing so is entirely optional.
The ruling is likely to have a political impact in many states where these unions have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party.
The ruling split the court along ideological and partisan lines. The five justices who formed the majority were all Republican appointees. The four dissenters were appointed by Democratic presidents.
The outcome comes as no surprise to the unions or their lawyers. Three years ago, the justices had before them an identical free-speech challenge to union fees brought by Rebecca Friedrichs, a California teacher. The five conservative justices appeared set to strike down the union fees, but Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February 2016. A month later, the court announced it was divided 4-4 and could not issue a ruling.
President Trump's victory allowed him to replace Scalia with Gorsuch who, as expected, cast the fifth vote for the conservatives.
The current case was launched by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner shortly after he took office. He sued to stop the forced collection of union fees, but a federal judge in Chicago said he had no standing to sue since he did not have to pay the fees. So Mark Janus, a state employee from Springfield, stepped forward as a plaintiff. He said he did want to pay $45 a month to support the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
As expected, he lost in the 7th Circuit Court in Chicago because such union fees were legal under the court's previous precedent, now overturned.
Cynthia Brown is the founder and former publisher of American Police Beat and has been serving the law enforcement profession for over 40 years starting out with a stint with the first community police program in the country in the mid-70's in Boston.
Cynthia is the author of Brave Hearts: Stories of Pride, Pain and Courage. Sold over 20,000 copies and used in over 50 police academies as curriculum material. Email Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org more information.
Republicans Take Aim at Federal Unions
by Lorraine Woellert
House Republicans accused unionized federal workers last Thursday of abusing a law that allows them to take paid time off to attend labor-management meetings and address workforce issues outside their regular jobs.
The House report
was published just days after the Office of Personnel Management raised similar concerns about unionized civil servants.
In a survey, a panel of the House Oversight Committee found that more than 12,500 employees took advantage of legally sanctioned time off, known as "official time," for labor-related activities such as worker disputes, whistleblowing and collective bargaining.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was among the worst offenders, the House panel said. There, 472 employees spent 100 percent of their working hours on labor-management-related business in fiscal 2017, according to the GOP report. Those employees included a VA nurse anesthetist and dentist who each made more than $190,000 a year.
"Some collective bargaining agreements allow certain labor union employees to spend 100 percent of their time on official time," Republican staff wrote. "These employees are subsidized by American taxpayer dollars, but do not have to do their regularly assigned work."
That conclusion echoed the findings of an OPM biennial report
on official time, which OPM Director Jeff Pon labeled as "Taxpayer Funded Union Time within the Federal Government." Pon estimated that the taxpayer cost of employees using official time was up nearly 7.6 percent, to $174.8 million, in fiscal 2016 from two years earlier.
Democrats and unions challenged those conclusions
, calling them part of a broader assault against career civil servants led by President Donald Trump, who has accused the "deep state" of thwarting his policy agenda.
In a statement
submitted to the House Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee, the American Federation of Government Employees disputed that official time was "union time," saying the time was not used to recruit union members, hold union meetings, campaign or hold elections for union office, or collect dues. Rather, AFGE said, "it is time spent representing workers who are the victims of illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, or other prohibited personnel practices."
"Misleading reports on official time are just the latest barrage in a series of attacks aimed at reducing protections for federal employees in the workplace," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. in a written statement. "Federal workers assure delivery of services over politics, and the unions that represent workers help preserve civilian protections over partisanship."
"The Trump administration is launching a multi-front attack on our independent civil service," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). "These actions will harm middle-class workers who dedicate their lives to public service, impair our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest, and degrade the services that our government delivers to the American people."
Pon has called
for revising civil service laws, including changes to official time and a $143.5 billion rollback of pension benefits. An OPM spokeswoman denied rumors of civil service layoffs, saying "there are no high-level" discussions about a reduction in the federal workforce.
But change already is happening at the agency level. In March, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unilaterally imposed a new contract on the agency's nearly 4,000 unionized employees, prompting AFGE to file a complaint to the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
DeVos and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue also have limited employee telework, turning back an Obama-era expansion of such benefits, which were billed as a way to attract and retain employees.
Meanwhile, worker complaints to the FLRA are piling up. The agency has been without a presidentially appointed general counsel since November, a vacancy that has prevented cases from being prosecuted even as rank-and-file investigators continue to refer worker complaints to the FLRA.
President Barack Obama experienced a similar backlog
in 2010 after the labor authority went without a top lawyer for 17 months, resulting in more than 340 deferred cases.
Statement from AFGE website:
WASHINGTON - President Trump is attempting to silence the voice of veterans, law enforcement officers, and other frontline federal workers through a series of executive orders intended to strip federal employees of their decades-old right to representation at the worksite, the American Federation of Government Employees said today.
"This is more than union busting - it's democracy busting," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "These executive orders are a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress has specifically guaranteed to the 2 million public-sector employees across the country who work for the federal government."
"Our government is built on a system of checks and balances to prevent any one person from having too much influence. President Trump's executive orders will undo all of that. This administration seems hellbent on replacing a civil service that works for all taxpayers with a political service that serves at its whim."
"Federal employees swear an oath to serve this country. The American people rightly expect that federal employees go to work every day and do the jobs they were hired to do - whether it's ensuring our food is safe to eat, caring for veterans who were injured while serving their country, preventing illegal weapons and drugs from crossing our borders, or helping communities recover from hurricanes and other disasters."
"President Trump's executive orders do nothing to help federal workers do their jobs better. In fact, they do the opposite by depriving workers of their rights to address and resolve workplace issues such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, improving workplace health and safety, enforcing reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, and so much more."
"These executive orders strip agencies of their right to bargain terms and conditions of employment and replace it with a politically charged scheme to fire employees without due process," Cox said.
AFGE representatives have used official time in myriad ways that benefit taxpayers, including to:
* Blow the whistle on management's attempt to cover up an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed and sickened veterans in Pittsburgh;
* Address an incident in which a noose was placed on the chair of an African-American worker at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia;
* Mitigate the impact of Army downsizing on employees and their families;
* Expedite the processing of benefits to veterans and their survivors; and
* Successfully negotiate equipping federal correctional officers with pepper spray to keep them safe on the job.
"All federal employees, whether they belong to a union or not, are guaranteed the right to fair representation. Employees who volunteer to serve as union representatives use official time to carry out those representational activities
," Cox said.
"It's a policy that has saved taxpayers in the long run because it helps resolve isolated conflicts that arise in the workplace before they become costly, agency-wide problems. And contrary to some reports, official time is never used to conduct union-specific business, solicit members, hold internal union meetings, elect union officers, or engage in partisan political activities."
"By preventing problem solving, these executive orders will create inefficiencies and hinder the ability of dedicated federal employees to effectively deliver services to the American public."
Cynthia Brown is the founder and former publisher of American Police Beat and has been serving the law enforcement profession for over 40 years starting out with a stint with the first community police program in the country in the mid-70's in Boston.
Cynthia is the author of Brave Hearts: Stories of Pride, Pain and Courage. Sold over 20,000 copies and used in over 50 police academies as curriculum material. Email Cynthia at email@example.com for more information.
Ron DeLord is recognized as a leading public safety union contract negotiator; an expert on police and fire unions in United States; and an author and lecturer on public safety union leadership, power, organization, media and political action.
Ron is the co-author of Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions About the Challenges Ahead. For more information go to my web site.
Cynthia Brown is the founder and former publisher of American Police Beat and has been serving the law enforcement profession for over 40 years starting out with a stint with the first community police program in the country in the mid-70's in Boston.
Cynthia is the author of Brave Hearts: Stories of Pride, Pain and Courage. Sold over 20,000 copies and used in over 50 police academies as curriculum material.
Ron DeLord is recognized as a leading public safety union contract negotiator; an expert on police and fire unions in United States; and an author and lecturer on public safety union leadership, power, organization, media and political action.
Ron is the co-author of Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions About the Challenges Ahead.