Ohio: Get Ready for a Union Onslaught

The Service International Employees’ Union made it a priority to organize healthcare workers in the Midwest while simultaneously investing resources in battleground states, like Ohio, for the 2018 midterm elections. By mobilizing voters to support pro-union politicians in 2018, the SEIU is hoping newly elected lawmakers will support its legislative goals.

SEIU members and employees will be encouraged to volunteer 40 hours of their time for voter outreach with the goal of galvanizing support for Democratic politicians who will back a $15 minimum wage and worker’s rights. Since there are a number of open seats at all levels in Ohio (governor, mayoral, and legislative), our state will face the brunt of the SEIU’s latest pet project. One law the SEIU has in its crosshairs is Ohio’s law banning local governments from establishing a minimum wage higher than the statewide rate. This law defeats the SEIU’s plan of creating a patchwork of mini-minimum wage zones (like Cleveland tried last year) with a $15 minimum wage.

While this is newsworthy, I’m not particularly concerned. Conversely, union members should be concerned with the manner in which the SEIU is going to use their dues money considering union investment in politics has not been successful recently and considering that many union members voted for Republican candidates, including President Trump, whom the SEIU did not support.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 285-5342 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

Does the Future of Union Organizing Involve a Few Mega-Unions?

I’m watching college football while writing this blog post. College football fans know that football conferences have undergone changes over the past few years. For example, the Big Ten Conference now has 14 schools; the Big Twelve only has 10 schools; the Pac 10 recently became the Pac 12; and the Big East has schools from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

So how does this relate to unions? AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently said his union is working with other unions to organize industry sectors, i.e. transportation, building trades, professional employees, etc. instead of individual unions targeting single employers. According to Trumka, labor’s collective effort is necessary to counter “deep pocket supports of conservative causes.” This is an odd statement considering unions accounted for 10 of the top 50 political donors in the 2016 election. Those 10 unions donated well over $200 million to non-conservative candidates, parties, and causes.

I am skeptical of this new organizing strategy but am curious to see how it plays out. Unions will work together in the beginning, I imagine. But at some point territorial boundaries will erode their good will. After all, the UAW represents casino card dealers, and the Steelworkers represent nurses. Under Trumka’s Utopian organizing plan, will Teamsters sit idly by and watch (or help) the Machinists union continue to try to organize Uber drivers? I don’t think so.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 285-5342 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

NLRB: It’s Not What Management Says, It’s What Employees Hear

A union sought to organize workers of a construction company. In response, the owner of the company told employees that electing a union would financially “crush” the company. This statement was unlawful because the owner offered no objective evidence that a union win would make it impossible for the company to survive.

This case involves a pretty straight forward maxim of labor law but one that is routinely violated by unsuspecting business owners and management. Pursuant to Gissel Packing Co. (1969), an employer may predict the consequences of unionization as long as the prediction is “carefully phrased on the basis of objective fact” to convey the employer’s belief concerning “demonstrable probable consequence” that are beyond the employer’s control. Here, the business owner did not provide any substantive support for his predictions. Rather, he merely assumed that bargaining with the union would lead to higher wages that he could not afford.

Please let this be another reminder that labor laws are screwy (legal term of art). Even the best, well-intentioned comments and actions can have catastrophic consequences. Here, the employer was forced to accept the union at his workplace. Only time will tell if his “crushing” comment proves to be false or prophetic.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 285-5342 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.