UAW-Represented Scientists Warped Reason to Protest President Trump

According to Cathy Ebben Eaton, a postdoctoral scholar and executive board member of UAW Local 5810 and Kathy Setian, former US Environmental Protection Agency project manager and a steward of Engineers and Scientists of California Local 20, “Of the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat.” And because of that, they protested President Trump. Below is the majority of their letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Of all the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat.

Because scientists produce the facts that expose the lies being purveyed, science is being targeted with vehemence.

Unionized scientists are well positioned to fight back against the false narratives being pushed by the Trump administration, and to advocate collectively for continued funding of crucial basic research.

For example, the Trump administration is proposing cuts of 31 percent in funding and 3,000 jobs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on top of less heralded budget cuts over the last three years.

As organized scientists, we are in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters who have lost jobs and real income over the past decades. We reject the myth that the environmental regulations kill jobs.

Scientists have long held the view that with enough data and evidence, we will be able to convince skeptics with facts that climate change is real, that humans are responsible, and that immediate action must be taken. It is increasingly clear that we have not convinced skeptics.

Together we will March for Science on April 22 in opposition to the damage that the Trump administration seeks to do to research, and in solidarity with scientists, researchers, and concerned citizens who remain resolved, undeterred, and organized in the face of these threats.

My summary of their article: Presidents Trump and Obama both called for budget cuts at the EPA. Unions did not protect workers from job loss under Presidents Obama, Bushes, Clinton, Reagan, Carter…. The public does not believe that climate change is real. Therefore, people should march in protest of President Trump. Huh?

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

USW Dues Calculator Shows Workers How Little they Get for their Money

The United Steelworkers union recently released a “dues calculator” on its website. After employees input information, the calculator tells them how much they owe the union on a weekly basis. Here is how it works:

          Calculation 1          Gross Weekly Earnings

                                            Multiplied by 1.45% = Dues Amount 1

          Calculation 2          Gross Weekly Earnings

                                            Divided by Actual Hours Worked

                                            Equals Average Hourly Earnings

                                            Multiplied by 0.6461 = Dues Amount 2

          Calculation 3          Take the lowest amount from Calculation 1 or 2

                                            Add $0.02 per actual hour worked

                                            Equals Total Weekly Union Dues

The law of unintended consequences leads me to believe that employees will be nonplussed after running their calculation. Employees will know how much they pay the USW each week and will reflect on what the USW did for them that week. If the union didn’t do anything for them personally that week, employees will view the dues as a waste of money. Employees in right to work states may leave the union, while employees in forced unionism states may object to paying full dues and/or petition for a deauthorization election. On behalf of employers everywhere, thank you USW.

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

Unions Trying to Stop Members from Leaving

Some unions are terrified that their membership will shrink dramatically while President Trump is in office. The SEIU slashed its budget by $90 million dollars because it foresees a shortage of members paying into the union’s coffers. Likewise, other unions are laying off and restructuring. I applaud the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, though, for playing offense. The UFCW isn’t sitting back and hoping to weather the Trumpnado; it is proactively trying to rally its troops.

The UFCW released a memo to local labor leaders announcing that it will hold regional meetings to rally union workers to get behind their union. The memo acknowledged that the meetings must showcase the union’s value to workers – something I’ve thought unions should have been doing for years.

The UFCW said that it will share data and tools to help local leaders reach new workers. It then outlined an aggressive growth plan for 2017, saying that it will broaden its membership by 2-3 percent in 2017 – mostly through bargaining so as to avoid costly organizing campaigns and risky secret ballot elections. The UFCW also would like to increase its database of membership cell phone numbers by 10% and raise the union’s profile in the community by staging at least 3 philanthropic events in each local area.

The entrepreneur in me applauds the UFCW’s attitude. The realist in me doesn’t think it will have much impact on the union whose membership has steadily declined over the past 15 years.

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

Unions have a Love-Hate Relationship with President Trump

President Trump has championed many issues straight out of organized labor’s wish list – he is pressing manufactures not to ship jobs overseas, he has promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, he has threatened a 35% tariff to slow down Mexican imports, and he has vowed to overhaul NAFTA.

While President Reagan lined up support from only a few unions, Trump is wooing many unions and their members directly, from carpenters to coal miners to autoworkers.

 “Trump is working to be the blue-collar president – you’re already seeing that in his outreach to unions,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center. “Some unions are warming up to Trump because labor leaders are following their members.”

Though when President Trump spoke recently to the construction unions’ legislative conference, some union officials – unhappy about his push to repeal Obamacare and his rolling back of some worker safety regulations – booed him and held up signs saying, “Resist.”

“Trump is doing what both Nixon and Reagan tried to do: pick out a few of the likeliest unions and see if you can make nice with them. While the Reagan administration had numerous officials interested in working with unions, it, like the Trump administration, also had fiercely anti-labor officials.

The fall out of this dynamic is that the nation’s unions are divided into three camps regarding President Trump.

The construction trades are the most pro-Trump. Many liberals have criticized the enthusiastic words that Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Union, has for President Trump, but McGarvey wisely believes it’s smart to work with politicians.

The strongly anti-Trump camp includes the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association, and several federal, state, and municipal employees’ unions. These unions oppose the federal hiring freeze, the proposed budget cuts, repealing Obamacare, and are aghast at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s antagonism toward traditional public schools.

Then there’s the ambivalent, middle camp, including the autoworkers, steelworkers, and machinists unions. They applaud Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pack and his vows to bring back factory jobs, to renegotiate NAFTA, and Mr. Trump’s tough stance on Mexican trade. Yet, at the same time they slam his policies on immigration and Obamacare.

As someone who makes a living in the world of labor relations, the web of relationships, frenemies, and strategies that have already begun is fascinating.

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

Is the Unionized Landscape of Legalized Marijuana in California Heading East?

The legalization of recreational pot in California has caused unions to scramble for influence in the industry which is projected to top $7 billion in sales in California alone by 2020. In an effort to get ahead of competition, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has implemented a “bud tenders” apprenticeship program, similar to its apprenticeship programs for meat cutters, at a local college. But the college’s plan to funnel mostly dues-paying members into the program raised the eyebrows of its would-be partner, Oaksterdam University, which wants the training to be for all cannabis entrepreneurs regardless of union status.

Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor of Oaksterdam, the Oakland, California marijuana trade school, said this illuminates a larger question among growers, retailers, and distributors: Will unionization ruin the buzz?

The cannabis industry has traditionally been very sensitive to workers’ rights, and the people who have been working in cannabis tend to be happy. They are not oppressed workers. So the question is, if the workers don’t need representation against management, then what are they getting for their union dues?

The UFCW carries weight in the pot industry because it was the first to organize marijuana workers in California and was heavily involved in the failed 2010 campaign for Proposition 19, the California’s first attempt to make recreational pot legal.

Oaksterdam University worked closely with the union from the beginning, fighting alongside UFCW representatives when the federal government raided dispensaries. Jones credited the union, which now has more than 1,200 card-carrying dispensary workers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, and San Jose, with legitimizing the movement in the minds of lawmakers.

The UFCW negotiated labor neutrality provisions into both the medical and recreational marijuana laws – meaning any farm, dispensary, or shop with 20 or more employees must allow workers to meet with the union and organize if the workers want to do so.

The apprenticeship program is a new twist in the relationship between the UFCW and the industry because it seeks to not only organize existing businesses but groom a workforce that would be union-oriented from the start.

According to one pro-union activist, “if a cannabis retailer wants to be a traditional mainstream business, they need to be able to provide employees with benefits – retirement programs, access to health and welfare and skills training programs.” She continued, “There are people in this business who are happy to work with us, and there are people in it who are angry to have to work with us, but the industry is going to have to contend with labor around cannabis.”

Ohio legalized medical marijuana last year. Within a few years, the problems facing California farms, warehouses, and dispensaries will face Ohio’s marijuana farms, warehouses, and dispensaries. By then, though, more unions will be better skilled at organizing and representing workers than they are now which means union avoidance strategies and strong labor relations should be at the forefront of Ohio companies beginning to operate in the marijuana industry.

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

Like Backyard Football when We were Kids, NLRB Allows a “Do-Over”

A union election was underway. One group of employees alleged co-worker Williams threatened to hang any employee who did not vote for the union “like they did…back in the 60s”. The company fired Williams. Williams filed an unfair labor practice charge over his termination. At hearing, the two employees maintained they heard the threat while three other employees said they did not hear Williams make a threat. When this “he-said-she-said” situation occurs, the Administrative Law Judge is required to decide which witnesses are more credible and make a ruling accordingly.

Here, the ALJ ruled that Williams did not make the statement, but then cast doubt on his decision by writing that he “might well be wrong,” and that “some doubt persists” regarding whether Williams made the threat. On appeal, the NLRB held that the ALJ had “undercut his own analysis” by not making a definitive credibility call.

The ALJ also appeared confused about the burden shifting requirements in this case. He seemed to believe that the co-worker had the burden of proving Williams made the threat about hanging people when actually the NLRB’s General Counsel had that burden.

Rather than doing what Boards in the past would have done and dismissed the case, the current Obama hold-over NLRB remanded the case back to the same ALJ for a determination of whether the general counsel carried his burden to prove that Williams did not actually make the statement about hanging.

A do-over. Go figure.

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.

Unions Won’t Like Having to Tell Objectors All this Detail about Where Union Dues Go

In March 2017 the National Labor Relations Board found that a Teamsters local violated the National Labor Relations Act by failing to provide sufficient information about the financial expenditures of the local and its affiliates to workers who exercised their rights to object to paying union dues and fees.

Specifically, the Board ruled that the Union failed to provide adequate and detailed financial disclosures because, in addition to providing the details about the local’s own expenditures of employees’ dues, the Board ruled the local must also provide details about its affiliates’ financials resulting from the local’s “per capita tax” expenditure – that is the portion of dues money that the local shares with its affiliates. For the Teamsters, the “per capita tax” is the amount that a local of the Teamsters union pays, using a portion of each employee members’ dues money, to three affiliated entities – the Teamsters International, the Conference of Teamsters, and the Teamsters Joint Council.

Unions are now required to provide Beck objectors with the following detailed expenditure information:

The major categories of its expenditures, the percentage of each category that it considers chargeable and nonchargeable, and a detailed explanation of how it calculates its allocation of expenditures; the names of its affiliates and other entities with which it shares income from dues and fees, the amounts of income shared, the major categories of expenditures of each affiliate or other entity and the percentages of each category those affiliates and other entities consider chargeable and nonchargeable, and a detailed explanation of how the affiliates and other entities calculated their expenditure allocation.

This holding essentially means that unions will have to disclose much more detailed financial information when employees exercise their Beck rights – information that unions will likely be far more resistant and hesitant to provide. With affiliates’ expenditures coming under greater scrutiny, it also makes it more likely that Beck dues objectors will seek to have less of their money going to the unions (and their affiliates) activities. With more Americans than ever choosing to be union-free and/or choosing not to be union members, this decision places much more power with individual employees, and emboldens their protected right to refrain from union activity, a right already afforded under the Act but often glossed over by unions.

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 call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.