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    Unions Tag

    On Friday, New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law NY State Senate bill S6340, making it illegal in the state of New York to advertise "for the use of dwelling units in a class A multiple dwelling."  This law is aimed at Airbnb, a San Francisco-based homestay network that coordinates the rental of private properties by the homeowners. Not unlike Uber, a transportation network, Airbnb eliminates the often union-driven marketplace for a given service; with Uber it's taxis and with Airbnb, it's hotels.  And as with Uber, unions are not happy with the explosion of Airbnb and lobbied in New York state for the passage of this law that establishes a minimum of at least 30 days for peer-to-peer rental of private property and provides for fines up to $7,500 for those in violation. The Hill reports:

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned short-term rentals on Airbnb after he signed a bill on Friday making it illegal to list unoccupied apartments on the service for stays under 30 stays.

    Because I have been traveling, I'm late to this important development. In early April we reported how a State court judge throws out Wisconsin Right to Work Law in an absurd decision:
    When conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley won the Wisconsin Supreme Court election last Tuesday, we pointed out how important that court has been in upholding union reforms. That may be tested again as Dane County Judge William Foust in Madison just threw out the state’s Right to Work law signed by Governor Walker a year ago. The decision was under the “takings” clause of the Wisconsin Constitution. As in an eminent domain case, the court found that the union’s interest in compulsory dues payments was property, that the property was taken by the right to work law for a public purpose, but without just compensation....

    When conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley won the Wisconsin Supreme Court election last Tuesday, we pointed out how important that court has been in upholding union reforms. That may be tested again as Dane County Judge William Foust in Madison just threw out the state's Right to Work law signed by Governor Walker a year ago. The decision was under the "takings" clause of the Wisconsin Constitution. As in an eminent domain case, the court found that the union's interest in compulsory dues payments was property, that the property was taken by the right to work law for a public purpose, but without just compensation. The decision was announced by Attorney General Brad D. Schimel on the Vicki McKenna Show. The Decision is embedded at the bottom of this post.

    On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States, stuck in a 4-4 deadlock, affirmed the lower court's decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a labor union dues case. The one sentence decision offered no explanation and simply stated, "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court."

    Should public employee unions be able to impose mandatory dues?

    At issue in the case was a challenge to the power of public employee unions to impose mandatory dues, an issue that has been bitterly fought by both sides of the labor union debate. Tuesday's ruling allows the unions to continue to collect dues for collective bargaining costs, pursuant to a prior case from 1977 that allowed these mandatory dues, so long as the employees were not forced to pay for political or ideological activities.

    Two Supreme Court cases with significant public policy implications previously discussed on Legal Insurrection face very different futures in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death on Saturday. Oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas and even more more so Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association suggested the Court would decide for the conservative position in both. Now those cases are thrown into turmoil.  The traditional response when a Justice dies after oral arguments but before a written decision has been to either affirm the lower court without setting precedent, or to order.  Either option is at least a temporary setback for conservatives.

    Fisher revisited

    I previewed the challenge to the University of Texas's affirmative action scheme in Fisher, here, and discussed the oral arguments, here.   In Fisher, the Court is reviewing UT's admission system that considers race as one factor among many for admitting applicants who did not otherwise qualify for admission for having graduated in the top-10 percent of their Texas high school class. As noted in the case preview:

    "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."  That was Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural address, January 20, 1981, and in the years since it has become a rallying cry for small government conservatives. Last week Senator Mike Lee (R. Utah) struck the same notes in an op-ed in Forbes.  Lee writes:

    The long-running battle between the Chicago Teachers' Union (the "Union") and the Chicago Public Schools ("CPS") has turned even uglier.  The Chicago Tribune reports that the Union rejected CPS's most recent contract offer Monday, and CPS responded by cutting budgets by a cool $100 million. Combative negotiations between CPS and the Union have become the norm.  In September, 2012, the Union went on strike, leaving students and parents alike in the lurch.  In addition to the typical issues in teachers contract disputes (evaluations, pay and benefits, class sizes), Time reported that the Union explicitly demanded mayoral indulgence:
    RAHM EMANUEL’S SUPPORT OF UNIONS When Emanuel took the mayorship of Chicago last May, he vowed to overhaul Chicago’s notoriously underperforming schools, particularly on the impoverished south side of the city. But the mayor’s first major negotiation with a city labor union has resulted in this strike, making worse his already poor relationship with union leaders worse. Emanuel has often butted heads with often-hotheaded union president Karen Lewis, after he bypassed the union’s opinion last year and went straight to the schools with an offer of bonus pay if they lengthened the school day. At a news conference, he called Monday’s walkout a “strike of choice,” saying he believed that the two sides were close to an agreement.

    The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") decided earlier this month that unions may "endorse" the boycott, divest and sanction ("BDS") campaign against Israel without running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act's (the "Act") ban on so-called "secondary boycotts." But the case did not affirm that unions actually could engage in the boycott, since that issue was not before the Board. Nonetheless, some people inaccurately are spinning the decision as the NLRB giving BDS a green light. The issue arose when the the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (the "Union") passed a resolution endorsing BDS in August, 2015.  The Union is self-consciously radical - its website calls for "aggressive struggle," blames "bosses and bankers," and promises that it is "Fighting for Workers' Rights in the New World Order."  In addition to a slew of posts about BDS and "build[ing] solidarity" with Palestinians, the Union's Political Action update opposes the TransPacific Partnership, defends Venezuela's farcical "democracy" and effectively endorses Bernie Sanders:

    As the world's governments work to stop terrorist attacks before they happen, one group in the UK is accused of colluding with Islamist groups to undermine these efforts. The Telegraph reports:
    Leaders and activists of Britain’s biggest teachers’ union are colluding with Islamic extremists to undermine policies aimed at preventing terror attacks. Private emails leaked to the Telegraph show that Rob Ferguson, a senior National Union of Teachers (NUT) activist in heavily-Muslim Newham, east London, is working with Mend, an extremist front group, and Cage, the notorious organisation which backed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) killer known as “Jihadi John”.
    Apparently this union is working to ensure that the government's efforts to identify potential radicalization in young people is thwarted.

    The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers' Association last Monday, and the union had a tough day.  Legal Insurrection previewed the case, here.

    Background

    In brief, public school teachers in California seek to invalidate state law requiring that non-union members must nevertheless pay the public teachers union fees for collective bargaining and related expenses.  Those related expenses are fairly broad and include public relations campaigns on issues to be collectively bargained. Before this case, controlling law from Abood v. Detroit Board of Education allowed such compelled payments on the reasoning that collective bargaining is not political speech, so compelled contributions to collective bargaining expenses does not run afoul of the First Amendment's implied freedom of (and from) association.  However, Abood was internally inconsistent to the extent that it acknowledged that everything a public union does is political in the sense that it has an impact on the public and public policy.

    The Boycott, Divest & Sanction ("BDS") movement and the broader campaign to delegitimize Israel has had a tough few weeks.  In academia and industry, the boycott campaign has been exposed as potentially discriminatory and unlawful, and yet another panel of experts has affirmed that Israel's use of force against Hamas is not only legitimate, but exemplary. Law Professors Eugene Kontorovich and Steven Davidoff Solomon of the Northwestern University and University of California - Berkeley, respectively, make the case that boycotts by academic associations are unlawful.  As one might expect, academic associations each have a stated purpose, typically to collect, share, expand and advance knowledge in the relevant field.  Profs. Kontorovich and Davidoff explain that such associations cannot legally do anything other than pursue those stated purposes, and:
    Boycott resolutions that are beyond the powers of an organization are void, and individual members can sue to have a court declare them invalid. The individuals serving on the boards of these organizations may be liable for damages. Consider the American Historical Association. Its constitution—a corporate charter—states that its purpose “shall be the promotion of historical studies” and the “broadening of historical knowledge among the general public.” There’s nothing in this charter that would authorize a boycott. And an anti-Israel boycott will do nothing to promote “historical studies” or broaden “historical knowledge.” A boycott by definition restricts study and research: The explanatory material attached to the [American Anthropological Association ("AAA")] resolution, for example, says it would restrict the organization from sharing scholarly journals with Israeli universities.

    It looks like the United States isn't the only country with unhinged union activists. After job cuts were recently announced at Air France, angry union activists actually ripped the clothes off the bodies of airline executives. The Associated Press reports via NBC News:
    Air France Execs Lose Shirts as Union Activists Attack Union activists protesting nearly 3,000 proposed layoffs at Air France stormed the headquarters during a meeting Monday, zeroing in on two managers who had their shirts torn from their bodies, scaled a fence and fled under police protection. An Associated Press photographer saw about a hundred activists rush the building after breaking through a gate. Shortly afterward two high-level managers fled, one bare-chested and the other with his shirt and suit jacket shredded. Road access to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris was briefly disrupted, and some flights suffered delays. Although Monday's scuffle was unusually violent, labor relations in France are commonly testy, with unions sometimes even resorting to holding managers hostage — or "boss-napping" — to make a point.

    Wisconsin radio talk show host Charlie Sykes interviewed Scott Walker confidante John Hiller on Walker's decision to end the campaign, and on Walker's future. The money quote emphasized at Syke's website, RightWisconsin, was that Walker "Was At Peace With the Whole Thing":
    John Hiller, a closer confidant of Scott Walker, told Charlie Sykes that the governor was at peace after making his decision to leave the presidential race. "He was at peace with the whole thing. He probably handled it better than anyone at the table," said Hiller. Hiller, along with Walker's wife Tonette, was in the room with a handful of close friends and advisors when Walker made his decision. Hiller said that Donald Trump, the 24 hour news cycle, the inability to raise money, and some missteps were the reasons Walker believed he no longer had a path to victory. "This is a very similar scenario to 2006," said Hiller. "When you don't have a clear path to victory, it's in everybody's best interest to get out."
    But the line which jumped out at me, coming at the end of the interview and which Sykes also quoted, was:

    Today, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will take the stage at a Las Vegas town hall and unveil his national labor reform plan. On Thursday, Walker teased the plan during a speech at Eureka College, saying, "...on Day One, I will stop the government from taking money out of the paychecks of federal employees for political union dues. I've won those battles in Wisconsin and believe me, I won't back down from the battles in Washington." The Walker campaign has done a lot of legwork in the lead-up to today, which tells me that they're banking on this presentation as a vehicle to breathe life back into what many believe is a faltering campaign infrastructure. During an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper this weekend, Walker ran offense as Tapper grilled him on dropping poll numbers and criticism from right-leaning outlets about how his campaign is handling the pressure of the election cycle. Walker's labor reform plan is bold, and detailed. He proposes eliminating the National Labor Relations Board, eliminating federal unions, and requiring new levels of transparency and accountability for all unions. He also backs national right to work laws, and policies that would protect whistleblowers and employees who choose not to join a union. On the taxpayer end, Walker proposes rolling back wage controls (for a savings of $13 billion over ten years,) and ending union control over federal highway contracts (for a savings of 12-18 percent per project.) In an exclusive op-ed at HotAir, Walker touts the plan as a way of protecting workers, while loosening the unions' stranglehold on government:

    Scott Walker has fallen dramatically in the polls, undone for now by the Trump phenomenon. Numerous pundits, including me, wonder if he can get back up again. Surveying the Republican field, based solely on current polling, Scott Walker should not even be on Hillary's radar. But he is. And she just lashed out at him more viciously than she has any other candidate. Politico reports:
    Making her 2015 debut in Scott Walker’s home state of Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton on Thursday unleashed her harshest and most extended diatribe yet against a Republican rival not named Donald Trump, accusing the governor of being a tool of the billionaire Koch brothers. “It seems to me, just observing him, that Governor Walker thinks because he busts unions, starves universities, guts public education, demeans women, scapegoats teachers, nurses, and firefighters, he is some kind of tough guy on a motorcycle, a real leader,” Clinton said to a packed audience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Well, that is not leadership folks. Leadership means fighting for the people you represent."

    A few months ago Gawker staffers successfully formed an employee union. Why? Because they wanted a union. Yes really, that's the only reason. Whether the move spooked other prominent trash click sites or because their own employees were mumbling uniony things is unclear, but both Upworthy and Buzzfeed have discouraged their employees from going the way of Gawker. Last week, Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti reportedly explained in a staff meeting that, "he doesn’t think unionization is “the right idea” for BuzzFeed," writes Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed reports:
    “I think unions have had a positive impact on a lot of places, like if you’re working on an assembly line,” Peretti said at a company meeting. In such cases, “if you’re negotiating with management it can make a huge difference, particularly when labor is more replaceable.” In contrast, he said BuzzFeed patterns itself after companies like Google and Facebook, which compete for less replaceable talent by offering better compensation and benefits.
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