President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, due out next week, will include a 1 percent pay increase for federal workers and troops, reports the Washington Post.
The planned pay increase will match the raise federal workers received this year. In the previous three years, salaries for federal workers have been frozen. Troop salaries have not been frozen during that time. Troops have received pay increases every year of Obama’s tenure.
The president’s budget sets aside money for the raises, but the increase itself is set by executive order.
The minimal increase “reflects the tight budget constraints we continue to face, while also recognizing the critical role these civilian employees play in our country,” said an anonymous top official in the story.
The paltry pay raises have upset many labor officials according to Fox News.
David Cox, president of the largest federal employee union, The American Federation of Government Employees, called the raises “pitiful.”
“Federal employees have endured years of pay freezes and cuts in retirement benefits,” Cox said in a statement. “Federal employees deserve a meaningful pay raise, not a token increase that will be more than eaten up by rising living costs, including higher retirement and healthcare costs.”
While the president’s proposal certainly will not put much extra money in the pockets of federal employees, the budget will set aside funds for additional training.
The anonymous White House official said there will be “other measures important to ensuring that federal employees are fairly compensated and have the training and tools needed to succeed.”
That is not good enough, according to Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. She believes a 3.3 percent increase would be a good starting point for raises.
“I strongly believe that federal employees deserve more, and this amount is inadequate,” Kelley is quoted as saying in the Fox News story. "There is no question in my mind that inadequate raises will have consequences on recruitment and retention.”
In 2013, the saying “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet” rings truer than ever. The rise of blogging and social media has given millions of people the opportunity to have their opinions spread in ways not possible before. In and of itself, this is a good thing.
But with every privilege comes responsibility. For news sites, this responsibility is factual reporting. Unfortunately, most of us know all too well that many news sites are willing to forsake facts for the sake of promoting an agenda. Right-leaning “news” organization TruthRevolt did just that in a report today.
In a report titled “Unions Paid MSNBC's Schultz $177,000 in 2012, $75,000 in 2013,” TruthRevolt writer Elisha Krauss asserted that Schultz is directly paid thousands of dollars per year by major labor unions. The implications of the report are that unions fund Schultz in exchange for positive press. In the comments section, readers get riled about how ridiculous it is that Schultz is essentially a money-backed mouthpiece for unions. One reader said that if a conservative news anchor was directly funded by right wing organizations, the media would be outraged.
There’s only one problem with the report: the money isn’t going directly to Schultz. It’s going to his broadcasting company. And what for? Advertisements and public speaking events. Yes, the openly pro-union Schultz has been paid to speak at union events. Big deal. Leaders from all across the political spectrum are paid to speak at events run by organizations with whom they align.
Like any media organization, Schultz’s company sells advertising space both on air and on their website. Union leaders know Schultz caters to a liberal audience, and so they figure his base is a smart choice to advertise to. This is not one bit different than conservative organizations like Americans for Prosperity advertising on Fox News. Regardless of your political identity, you should be able to agree that there is nothing unusual going on here.
What’s even more discouraging about Truth Revolt’s report is that they are the epitome of an ideological mouthpiece. While the site criticizes Schultz for taking money from unions, they fail to mention that their site is created, funded, and owned by the far right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center. The Freedom Center aims to “combat the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values.”
And their vision for TruthRevolt? “Its goal is to unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American Public, and devastate their funding bases.” They are a political loudspeaker masquerading as a news site.
Not only is their report on Schultz demonstrably false, it’s laughably hypocritical as well. Even if Schultz were being paid off by unions to speak positively of them on air, TruthRevolt would have no room to talk. After all, that is precisely what they are paid to do by David Horowitz and his crew.
Pot, meet kettle.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a national right-to-work amendment to the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would prohibit labor unions from collecting dues from certain employees.
Right-to-work laws are on the books in almost half the states. They typically strip protections from workers, reducing union membership, and thus weakening a union’s bargaining power, Raw Story reported.
ENDA is meant to enforce new workplace rules to crack down on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It was first proposed in 1994 and passed the House in 2007. It has never passed a vote in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average and employment in eastern Kentucky continues to plummet. The state’s unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, while the national average is 7.2 percent.
As the Senate is expected to debate ENDA this week, the amendment from Kentucky Republicans is expected to be blocked by Senate Democrats.
Seven Republicans joined Democrats Monday to advance the bill and overcome a filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., believes a federal law is needed “to ensure all Americans, no matter where they are, will not be afraid to go to work.”
The GOP controlled House of Representatives is less than satisfied with the bill.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Monday that he opposes ENDA because it would open businesses up to lawsuits.
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Boehner says he believes the current laws already protect LGBT workers from discrimination in the workplace.
We all know that business managers don’t like unions. There have been hundreds of stories over the years of employees attempting to form unions only to have their efforts thwarted by intimidation and threats from upper-management.
Normally, these closed-door discussions stay just that – behind closed doors. But thanks to the rise of smart phones, millions of people now go through their daily routines equipped with an audio recorder.
An employee of Iron Mountain, a multinational storage and information management company, recently recorded one of these union-busting meetings between employees and management.
The managers don’t say anything particularly noteworthy in the audio clip, but their staunch anti-union position shows throughout. For every instance of a manager telling employees to “educate yourselves on both sides of the issue” there are several other times when they tell employees how difficult work will become with a union. One manager even resorts to saying that the employees shouldn’t form a union “because this is the south. This is not something where unions are [prevalent].”
Here is the 20-minute audio clip from the meeting.
Just for more anti-union fun, I’ve included a propaganda-esque Target training video that was leaked a few years back as well. Enjoy.
Vincent Gray, mayor of the District of Columbia or DC, vetoed a bill Thursday that would have raised the minimum wage for DC residents $3.75 to $12.50 per hour for retailers with over $1 billion in corporate sales and operating a District store of at least 75,000 square feet. The Larger Retailer Accountability Act and the polarizing debate held by local leaders about the bill gained national attention to illuminate the low wages employees receive at many successful retail chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot.
The mayor, appearing on Fox News, called the bill a “job killer,” saying that if it passed it would force these large retailers—and thus high-volume employers—out of the DC area. This was not mere conjecture on the part of the mayor. An e-mail from Wal-Mart, printed in the Huffington Post, compared the bill to the managed economy of Soviet Russia, using a quote from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about a similar New York wage bill.
It was also revealed that Wal-Mart, who was in the process of opening six stores and bringing 1800 jobs to DC, balked on finishing the deals for the locations that had not yet broken ground. Of the three that had begun construction, Wal-Mart said they would seek to move those locations elsewhere.
Some believe that the bill was less about a “living wage” and more about giving workers the right to unionize. An exemption in the bill would have made it legal for large retailers to pay less than $12.50 per hour if their workers had collective bargaining agreements. Wal-Mart especially has had a troubled history with respect to allowing their employees to unionize.
Mayor Gray has said that he hopes to sign legislation that increases the minimum wage for all DC workers in the future.
Most economists have attributed Detroit's recent bankruptcy to the deterioration of high-paying union jobs, auto companies outsourcing those jobs to foreign countries and a shrinking tax base.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh recently laid the blame on black people, unions and former Mayor Coleman Young who left office in 1994.
According to ThinkProgress.org, Limbaugh told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday: “You’ve had that town has been a petri dish of everything the Democrat Party stands for, everything the Democrat Party loves, massive unions, massive pensions, pay people pensions and health care long after they’ve stopped working."
"You have massive welfare states where citizens are given things left and right in order to buy their votes. You have no opposition whatsoever."
"And in the case of the, you throw race into the mix and you bring on [Detroit] Mayor Coleman Young who causes [civil rights] riots in 1967 in Detroit and Mayor Young caused a white flight to suburbia, and Detroit is left with nothing but liberal Democrats running it. It is what it is. And you, any place in this country that has similar circumstances, the same fate is going to happen to them," claimed Limbaugh.
However, ThinkProgress.org notes that Coleman Young wasn’t elected to the mayor’s office until 1973, six years after the riots.
While the Detroit city government does pay pensions, so do numerous other cities that have not gone bankrupt.
Limbaugh failed to mention that Detroit has gone bankrupt under Republican Governor Rick Snyder and has suffered mightily because union auto jobs were shipped overseas by corporate America beginning in the 1970s, which Mayor Coleman had no control of.
The radio host did not mention there were riots in numerous cities in 1967 in reaction to widespread discrimination, and sometimes murder, of black people.
Three former Target employees are suing the company over a document the retail giant released containing “multi-cultural” tips for managers.
The former employees, Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian, and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, took issue with the document’s portrayal of Hispanic employees. Here is an excerpt from the document that gives advice on dealing with Hispanic workers:
a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and
f. They may say 'OK, OK' and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.
Not exactly typical workplace material. The employees also accused supervisors, most of whom are white, of speaking about Hispanic workers in a derogatory way on the job. The lawsuit claims that supervisors frequently said things like “Only a wetback can work this hard,” and “You’ve got to be a Mexican to work like this,” and “What the hell, I’m already sweating like a Mexican.”
Gonzalez said he complained to Target’s Human Resources department about the language he was hearing on the job, but his went unresolved. To make things worse, Gonzalez says that when his supervisors found out about his HR request, they only berated him with more racial language. All three employees claim they were fired because of their race.
A Target spokesperson would not comment on the lawsuit, but said the company is “firmly committed” to embracing diversity in the workplace. “That commitment includes respecting and valuing the diverse backgrounds of our more than 361,000 team members worldwide.”
Think Progress points out that this isn’t the first time Target has come under fire for poor treatment of employees. In May of 2012, the National Labor Relations Board discovered that Target was intimidating and threatening employees who tried to form a union. The Board also criticized Target for enacting illegal work rules that were designed to prevent workers from speaking out about problems in the workplace.
Ironically, the news comes at a time when Target hopes to increase their marketing appeal to, you guessed it, Hispanic customers.
The union whose strike led to the bankruptcy of Hostess last year has just been awarded government benefits from a program few qualify for.
Last year, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union refused to accept concessions that would have kept Hostess in business. The company had tried to cut costs as it faced high labor expenses, rising ingredient costs, and decreasing sales. The Teamsters union accepted the concessions, but the Bakery union would not, choosing to strike. Unable to continue operating, Hostess filed for bankruptcy.
Now those who helped bring down an American icon will receive generous, taxpayer-funded benefits from the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. These generous benefits come in addition to existing unemployment insurance, job placement, and job training programs. TAA benefits include:
- Up to two years of job training in an approved training program,
- Up to 52 weeks of Trade Readjustment Allowances for workers in job training,
- Job search and relocation allowances,
- A refundable “health care tax credit” that covers 65 percent of a worker’s health insurance premiums in qualifying health plans, and
- A two-year wage insurance program that partly replaces workers’ earnings if they accept lower-paying jobs.
Small wonder David Durkee, president of the Bakery union, does not think his newly unemployed members’ “income situation is any different than it would have been if they were [still] working for the company.”
But why are Hostess employees getting extra benefits intended for workers who lost their jobs due to trade?
The Department of Labor claims that “increased imports of baked products contributed importantly to the company’s sales declines and worker separations.” That is quite a stretch. The Atkins diet surely did more damage to the company than trade did. Even if imports contributed to Hostess’s downfall, there is no escaping the fact that the company tried to adjust but the union rejected its efforts. The job losses had little to do with foreign trade.
Nonetheless, the Administration is providing trade-related benefits to employees who put themselves out of work.
As Heritage’s David Muhlhausen and James Sherk write:
Under TAA, the government taxes all Americans to provide especially generous benefits to a selected few.
By Matthew Cunningham-Cook.
On January 25, labor unions in the United States were dealt a major blow. The D.C. Circuit Appeals Court — the second most powerful court in the country and one closely aligned with the Supreme Court — handed down a decision declaring President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board invalid, which will likely nullify the rules and decisions of the NLRB in the past two years. Because the Senate is unlikely to approve any appointments in the next two years, labor unions are left with effectively no legal recourse against employers for the foreseeable future.
Unions spent hundreds of millions of dollars on both the 2008 and 2012 elections, and securing a functional National Labor Relations Board was one of the main reasons. The board, established in 1935 to mediate and arbitrate labor disputes, is the central federal agency that enforces laws related to unions, with its stated goal being to promote collective bargaining. Over the past few years, the NLRB has taken some significant actions, most notably preventing Boeing from punishing its workers by shifting work from Washington state to South Carolina, where laws are less amenable to organized labor.
It also announced a new rule requiring employers to have a poster in every workplace that informs workers of their rights to collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act, just as they are required to inform employees of their rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now these gains are in jeopardy.
While the NLRB has generally served to protect labor organizing, it can also sanction unions for violations of often technical and restrictive labor laws — most notably Section 8(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, which among other things prevents unions from targeting employers for longer than 60 days. This resulted, for instance, in the recent NLRB-arbited settlement between the union-affiliated worker center OUR Walmart and Walmart stores, which requires OUR Walmart to stop picketing for two months.
According to labor lawyer Joe Burns, this settlement demonstrates that the NLRB never should have been viewed as a panacea for the labor movement. “It’s pretty clear even before this decision that the NLRB doesn’t provide meaningful protection for workers,” he said. “It’s crystal clear that we can’t rely on the NLRB, so any illusions that we could — this should dispel them.”
With a federal judiciary that draws almost exclusively from the ranks of corporate lawyers and prosecutors — two of the most anti-labor realms of the legal profession — one must wonder about whether even a normally functioning board could uphold its mandate to promote collective bargaining.
Burns added, “The question we need to ask as a labor movement is this: should we rely on this process or do we have to use some other tactics?”
The National Labor Relations Act was initially passed in 1934 in the face of a colossal strike wave that included citywide general strikes in San Francisco and Minneapolis. The goal was progressive — to promote collective bargaining — but at the same time it was a compromise made by a capitalist class determined to achieve a semblance of industrial peace. By having a state-sponsored framework for negotiating working conditions, employers would be able to avoid debilitating strikes and enjoy greater productivity.
Union membership as a percentage of the workforce today, however, is the lowest in 76 years — almost as long ago as when the law was passed — and the conditions of the historic compromise that created the NLRB aren’t in place anymore, thanks to a confluence of trends: increased automation, foreign trade, growing employer resistance, and the decline of pro-labor institutions like the NLRB and the Department of Labor. But the question now becomes what unions need to do to — at the very least — stop hemorrhaging workers.
Many unions have adopted new strategies in the face of this decline, with both the Walmart campaign and a broader strike-first strategy. These approaches are less dependent than more traditional ones on structures like the NLRB. But almost everyone in organized labor agrees that a non-functioning NLRB is still bad for unions and workers. Chris Rhomberg, a professor at Fordham University and the author of the 2012 book The Broken Table: The Detroit News Strike and the Decline of American Labor, insists that the National Labor Relations Act still offers important protections for workers, despite the restrictions it places on unions.
“I think the Walmart settlement highlights that the NLRA is really contradictory now,” he said. “The people who attempt to carry out the goal of the law — the promotion of collective bargaining — find themselves very constricted.” But, he added, “I think it’s also true that we can’t pretend that it’s not there.”
Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell, believes that the onus is on unions to get the NLRB functioning again.
“Labor’s response should be to keep on aggressively organizing without the board,” she said. “If unions file unfair labor practice charges every time they see them, and keep striking and doing the kind of the things where the employer wants to get injunctive relief, employers and Senate Republicans will realize that they need the NLRB. There needs to be a lack of industrial peace.”
Chris Townsend, an international representative for the United Electrical Workers union, suggests that it’s not just Republicans who pose an obstacle in Washington. He asked, “Are we also going to include the question of whether or not we are going to reevaluate our relationship with the Democratic Party? Or are we going to realize that the Democratic Party is too compromised, so we think about developing an independent political movement?”
It is true, the Democratic Senate failed to take up the limited labor-law reform advocated by unions in 2008 and 2009 — the Employee Free Choice Act — and the reason that Obama had to make recess appointments to the NLRB in the first place is that Democratic Sen. Harry Reid failed to move the appointments to the floor. Ostensibly, the Democrats’ rationale was Republican intransigence, but the Democrats also had a 20-seat supermajority in that body. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have failed to release nary a peep of opposition to the administration’s “Race to the Top” program, which has led to significant restrictions in the ability of teachers and school employees to collectively bargain.
For now, most unions seem to be awaiting the results of the inevitable Supreme Court appeal of the January 25 decision. But in in light of the court’s 7-2 ruling in June 2012, it seems unlikely that it will be sympathetic. Joe Burns thinks that organized labor should use this opportunity to expand the ground for new tactics — and potentially for an entirely new modus operandi in the labor movement.
“I think unions are coming up with creative strategies to try and address the decline of unionism,” he said. “But it’s hard to see a strategy that doesn’t in some form involve violating labor law. I think that’s the big question we as a broader labor movement have to address.”
According to figures released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership rates have dropped nearly in half over the past 30 years, plunging from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 11.3 percent in 2012.
The total number of unionized workers has dropped from 17.7 million workers to 14.4 million workers.
In other details that probably don’t come as much of a surprise:
- Public sector employees had the highest rate of union membership: 35.9 percent. By comparison, private sector employees saw a 6.6 percent unionization rate.
- Among the public sector employees, local government workers (like teachers and police officers) had the highest unionization rate, 41.7 percent.
- Union membership rates are much, much higher among those aged 55-64 (14.9 percent) than among the young (4.2 percent). Puts that pension protectionism into perspective, doesn’t it?
- About 1.6 million workers are covered by union contracts without being actual members of the unions. That’s really not very many people and something to keep in mind when union representatives complain about the “free rider” issue with right-to-work laws. It will be interesting to see if that number increases if these laws catch on.
- Median weekly earnings by union workers were about $200 higher than non-unionized counterparts. Location may play a role in addition to collective bargaining, though.
- About half of unionized employees live in just seven U.S. States: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey. These seven states also coincidentally pop up frequently in coverage reachable via our “state fiscal crisis” tag.
Read the whole report here (pdf).