Feel Like There’s A Target On Your Back? Multiple Lawsuits Target Unions

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Image by ogimogi
CC Flikr

All these lawsuits asking the Courts to rule against unions?  They’re NOT about First Amendment rights.

And now, one of the groups behind the lawsuits is admitting that.  And they’re saying it’s about stopping public sector unions. 

And they’re even portraying it as a strategic assault. 

Read it for yourself in this week’s National Law Journal: “Courts Should Seize the Opportunity To Disempower Public-Worker Unions” (free registration required).

They’re looking at this as a one-two punch. First: Harris v. Quinn (Supreme Court ruling expected any day now). Then, the NLJ editorial suggests, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could deliver the final blow.

“Although there may not be five votes to end compulsory dues in the Harris case, Friedrichs v. CTA could provide the pivotal fifth vote for fundamentally re-ordering of public-employee union law.”

While you’re reading… don’t forget to translate!

  1. “Compulsory dues” translates to “union agency fees” (which cover the costs of negotiating and administering the contract, and nothing else.  Agency fees are NOT union “member dues”.).
  2. “Law that requires all public employees to join and support a union as a condition of employment” actually refers to California Government Code Chapter 10, which establishes a framework for teachers to collectively bargain – if they want to.  (Just like NH RSA 273-A provides a framework for collective bargaining; yet New Hampshire has lots of public workers who are not represented by any union.)

Don’t forget to look at the players!

  1. Plaintiffs in the Harris case are being represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation… which is affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee… which those of us here in the Granite State know all-too-well, right?
  2. According to the NLJ editorial, plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case are being represented by the Center for Individual Rights.  Read the Sourcewatch article here.
  3. But according to the actual Court filings in the Friedrichs case… plaintiffs are being represented by the law firm Jones Day.

Yeah, Jones Day.  Seems they’ve been quite active lately. The City of Detroit bankruptcy. The Patriot Coal bankruptcy. The Hostess Brands bankruptcy.   Verizon’s “de-risking” of its pension obligation.

And, can’t forget the Court case over nominations to the National Labor Relations Board.  (Read “How They Won It: Jones Day Invalidates Obama’s NLRB Picks” here.)

Are you feeling targeted yet?

Remember: you’re not the only one being targeted these days, you’ve got lots of company.  Public employees everywhere.  Anyone with a union pension or health care benefits.  Workers, in general.  The middle class.

Education is the best way to fight disinformation campaigns. Please share this with your friends on Facebook, or Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, or other social media.  It’s really easy; just click the buttons on the left.

Detroit: latest battleground in the war on the Middle Class

whose_rightsThere are times when I would really prefer to be wrong… and Wednesday was one of them.

Yesterday afternoon, the federal judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings suspended all other legal actions by public workers who are trying to protect their constitutional rights.  And it is very unlikely that workers’ rights will be considered during the bankruptcy proceedings.

What good are constitutional rights, if workers can’t get them enforced in court?  It’s the same basic dilemma that we’ve been looking at, with all the controversy about members of the National Labor Relations Board.  If the NLRB doesn’t have enough members for a quorum – and so they can’t enforce the National Labor Relations Act – then do workers really have the rights supposedly guaranteed to them?

Read my post “Who has rights when Detroit goes to court?” here.

The next step is a procedural hearing on August 2nd, when the judge will decide whether to go ahead and appoint a mediator in the case.

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Ever read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War?

Back in the 1990s, the book was a must-read for MBA candidates learning a new, bloodthirsty style of management.  When Newt Gingrich was taking over as Speaker of the House in 1994, he included it on his “reading list” for incoming Republicans.  It’s also a favorite of Republican strategist and Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

One of its principal themes is: Know your opponent.  So let’s look at Detroit from that perspective.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder:

Bankruptcy Counsel, the law firm of Jones Day:

Yeah, these are the folks that our union brothers and sisters are up against, out there in Detroit.

And it doesn’t look like they are going to be able to rely on the court system to protect their legal rights.

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Sun Tzu gets the final word, here: “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”

It’s time for the right-wing’s war on the Middle Class to stop.

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Read my Friday blog post about Detroit here.

Read Monday’s post here.

Read Tuesday’s post here.

Read yesterday’s post here.

Twinkies Are Coming Back, But Who Is Making Them?

TwinkieKensington, MD, July 12, 2013 – Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) President David B. Durkee issued the following statement in response to the impending re-entry by Hostess Brands, LLC into the snack cake market:

“This coming week, Hostess Brands, LLC is expected to re-enter the wholesale snack cake market. Despite the fanfare, the long-term viability of this effort is highly uncertain. Rather than hire professional, experienced bakers who have produced quality snack cakes in the company’s bakeries for decades, Hostess management has chosen instead to hire primarily workers with little or no experience in the demanding wholesale snack cake baking industry.

“The BCTGM has consistently stated our interest in working cooperatively and productively with the new owners of this company. We have always maintained that the experience, skill and professionalism of our members offer the new owners, who have no experience in the wholesale snack cake business, the best chance for long-term success in consistently putting out a quality product.

“Compare Hostess’ approach to that taken by the U.S. Baking Company, a 107-year old wholesale bread and cake company based in Portland, OR, which bought the former Hostess assets in the northwest. The company, with which the BCTGM has had a longstanding collective bargaining relationship, decided that the most effective way to achieve a seamless re-entry into the marketplace was to reopen the former Hostess bakery in Billings, MT with the professional bakers who knew the product and the bakery the best.

“The BCTGM and U.S. Baking recently negotiated a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement and the bakery is up and running, producing high-quality products. In fact, the workers there are earning more in wages in the first year of the contract than they were when Hostess closed the bakery last year.

“Last year’s demise of Hostess was due in large measure to critical mistakes made by a series of management teams that simply did not have any meaningful experience in the wholesale bread and cake baking business. To avoid the same fate, the BCTGM encourages the two private equity firms that own Hostess Brands, LLC to change their approach and work with our Union and our members in a cooperative manner. This is their best hope for long-term success.

“As the process moves forward, the BCTGM remains committed to taking all appropriate and necessary steps to protect the rights of our members and all Hostess Brands workers.”

MAINE: Join Us For Personal Members Accounts Of What Happened To Take Down Twinkies

Hostess Strike BCTGM

Everyone is invited to a very special event in Portland Maine.

Event: Bakers and Bankers-Who Really Keeps the Dough?

Date: Wednesday, April 3rd. 7pm.

Location: University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine. Wishcamper Center room #133

The workers of the Hostess plant in Biddeford, Maine will put their side of the story front and center this coming Wednesday.  Mike Hummell (a 14 year Hostess BCTGM worker from Lexena, KS) has graciously agreed to join the panel by the Southern Maine Labor Council to discuss the pension theft and how the company portrayed the issue in the media versus reality.

“I also hope to encourage people to be more active in confronting dishonest media reports. I will of course remind everyone of the role of Ayn Rand cultist Judge Drain while I’m at it.” Mike Hummell

Joining Hummell on the panel will be John Jordan, Business Manager for Bakers Union #334 along with Joe Piccone, Business Agent for Teamsters Local #340, the union representing the delivery drivers at Hostess. Having the Local representatives from both the Bakers and the Teamsters should give a good look at the events on the ground as they unfolded.

Rounding out the panel will be Biddeford City Councilor Richard Rhames, addressing both the impact the closing is having on Biddeford and the various tax breaks provided by the city to Hostess. How much did the people of Biddeford do for Hostess over the years? What exactly did they get to show for it when it was all said and done? Has the city been left hanging on any promises? Hopefully the City Councilor Rhames will be able to answer some of these questions.  Again, if you have questions, please put them in the comments on the Facebook event page.

This will be a discussion of the direct effects on the city of Biddeford. The other speakers will tell the story from their unique local perspectives.
(RSVP To the event via FACBOOK)

You can read about the Biddeford, Mike and the plant in this article. http://www.pressherald.com/…It gives a grim view of the prospects for former employees.

The bakery union representing former Hostess workers has objected to the planned sale of the bread brands to Flowers, saying the bid offers no assurances that former labor contracts would be honored.The Industry International Pension Fund also is objecting to the sale.

In a court filing on Feb. 25, the bakery union and pension fund said, “Flowers has not committed to preserve a single job, and in fact has affirmatively disclaimed any obligation even to ‘consider’ employing a single worker.

“Thus, while debtors’ secured lenders may view Flowers’ bids as the ‘best’ for getting themselves paid, Flowers’ bids provide zero assurances that the rights of the debtors’ workers will be protected,” the filing said.

If you are a Portland, Maine, please join us for a discussion of the real life effects of our hedge fund economy. Or as Fox News would say- “Union thugs gang up and steal Twinkies from babies!”

Catch up with the pension theft here. http://www.dailykos.com/…

You can also see what really happened to Hostess in the video, from Mike Hummell.  It is very different than what the mainstream media may have told.

Teamsters Make Statement About BCTGM And Hostess Working To Save 18,500 Jobs

Official Statement of Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall made the following statement regarding the announcement that Hostess Brands Inc. and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union will enter into mediation led by bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain:

“Today’s development is a positive step toward finding a solution that will keep 18,500 men and women employed at Hostess. We are hopeful that the bakers’ union and the management team can find common ground during this mediation and avert liquidation.

“It is in the best interest of all parties involved that we remember what is at stake – the future of 18,500 workers and their families. This is not only about a brand or a product, it is also about real people that just want to work hard every day to provide for their families.

“The Teamsters will closely monitor the mediation between the BCTGM and Hostess management and assist in any way we can to help the two sides reach an agreement that keeps the company’s doors open.”

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visitwww.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.

This Thanksgiving (and every Thanksgiving) Unions Are Giving Back

The “union-avoidance” industry isn’t taking the election results lying down.  The Andrew Breitbarts of the world are already busy spinning the Hostess Brands liquidation and Wednesday’s planned protest in Los Angeles.  (If you’re wondering: there may be delays on surface streets around LAX – but the protest is not expected to impact any air travel.)

In these days leading up to Thanksgiving, you’re probably going to hear a lot of other anti-union stories in the media.  (The union-busters have a lot of money to spend on PR.)

What you’re probably not going to hear is how union members nationwide are celebrating the holiday.  A quick sampling:

  • In Palm Beach, Florida, labor unions are part of “The Big Heart Brigade”.  Last Thanksgiving, the Brigade fed 100,000 people – and they are hoping to feed even more, this year.   “Several local unions have already donated time and funds to help, including Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) Local 630, Ironworkers Local 402, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 728, Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3181 and Machinists (IAM) Local 971.”
  • Feed The Community Day

    Near Los Angeles, ILWU Local 13 is holding their 15th annual “Feed the Community Day”.  They will be distributing 1,500 turkey baskets with all the trimmings to help feed low-income families in surrounding communities.

  • Throughout the country, IAFF Locals are giving coats to kids through “Operation Warm”. IAFF Local 157 is distributing more than 2,000 coats to needy children in Oklahoma City, OK.  IAFF Local 215 is giving away almost 1,000 coats in Milwaukee, WI.  In New Jersey, IAFF Local 2657 is donating 350 coats.  In Pennsylvania, IAFF Local 10 plans to give a new coat to every single child who attends George Washington Elementary School, after firefighters noticed that most students didn’t have anything warmer than a hooded sweatshirt (87% of the school’s families live at or below the poverty line).
  • And of course, Hurricane Sandy relief efforts will continue through the holiday.  Nationwide, union members are contributing to various Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds.  Union members in the hardest-hit areas will continue to do what they have been doing for weeks: cleaning up, fixing up, and taking care of the people around them.

This Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our union brothers and sisters.  Our union family is not just standing behind us in our workplaces – unions are giving back to our communities, making things better for families in need.

 

 

An Update From BCTGM: HOSTESS IN CURRENT CONDITION BECAUSE OF FAILED MANAGEMENT

HOSTESS IN CURRENT CONDITION BECAUSE OF FAILED MANAGEMENT

The following statement was issued by BCTGM International Union President Frank Hurt in response to claims by Hostess Brands that it would begin liquidation should union members not end the strike and return immediately to production facilities:

“The crisis facing Hostess Brands is the result of nearly a decade of financial and operational mismanagement that resulted in two bankruptcies, mountains of debt, declining sales and lost market share.  The Wall Street investors who took over the company after the last bankruptcy attempted to resolve the mess by attacking the company’s most valuable asset – its workers.

“They sought to force the workers, who had already taken significant wage and benefit cuts, to absorb even greater cuts including the loss of their pension contributions. I have said consistently throughout this process that the BCTGM is a highly democratic organization and that our Hostess members themselves would determine their future. By an overwhelming majority, 92 percent, these workers rejected the company’s outrageous proposal, fully aware of the potential consequences.

“Our members know that the plans all along of the Wall Street investors currently in control of this company did not include the operation of Hostess Brands any longer than it takes to sell the company in whole – or in part – in a way that will maximize the profits of these vulture capitalists regardless of the impact on the workforce.

“The wholesale bread and cake baking business is unique.  The most successful and profitable wholesale baking companies share common attributes, most notably being executive leadership with extensive background in the business and a skilled and dedicated workforce.  Hostess Brands and its predecessor companies have had the latter for decades.

“Unfortunately however, for the past eight years management of the company has been in the hands of Wall Street investors, “restructuring experts”, third-tier managers from other non-baking food companies and currently a “liquidation specialist”.  Six CEO’s in eight years, none of whom with any bread and cake baking industry experience, was the prescription for failure.

“Despite Greg Rayburn’s insulting and disingenuous statements of the last several months, the truth is that Hostess workers and their Union have absolutely no responsibility for the failure of this company.  That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the company’s decision makers.

“I am sure that our members would be agreeable to return to work as soon as the company rescinds the implementation of the horrendous wage and benefit reductions, including pension, and the restoration of the cuts that have already taken place.”

BACKGROUND

A total of 24 Hostess production facilities are on strike or honoring the strike with picket lines established by striking Hostess workers at other BCTGM-represented facilities.  Additionally, BCTGM members at one transport facility also are on strike.  Company claims that union members are crossing picket lines and maintaining production at striking plants are vastly untrue.

Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually-obligated payments to their pension plan.  These workers, many of whom have worked at Hostess and its predecessor companies for decades, struck in response to the company’s unilateral imposition of an unacceptable contract that was rejected by 92 percent of the union’s Hostess members in September.

While the company was demanding major concessions from union workers (wage and benefit cuts amounting to 27- 32% overall), the top ten executives of the company rewarded themselves with compensation increases, with one executive receiving a 300 percent increase.

The BCTGM represents more than 80,000 workers in the baking, food processing, grain milling and tobacco industries in the United States and Canada.

Follow the BCTGM:

Web: www.bctgm.org

Facebook: http://facebook.com/BCTGM

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BCTGM

 

 

Hostess Continues Pattern Of Misinformation

In a desperate attempt to break the solidarity and resolve of striking BCTGM members across the country, Hostess Brands is falsely claiming that its decision to close three of its bakeries — St. Louis, Cincinnati and Seattle — is the result of the nationwide strike against the company by BCTGM members.

In fact, according to the company’s 1113 filing with the bankruptcy court earlier this year as well as its last/best/final and non-negotiable proposal to its BCTGM-represented workers, the company was planning to close at least nine bakeries as part of its reorganization plan, although the company refused to disclose which bakeries it intended to close.  This is in addition to the three bakeries that were to be closed as a result of the company’s planned sale of its Merita division.

Moreover, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was quoted in a November 13 KMOX-CBS St. Louis article stating, “I was told months ago they were planning on closing the site in St. Louis… And there was no indication at that time it had anything to do with the strike the workers were waging.”

BCTGM International Union President Frank Hurt stated, “The recent claim by Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn that our strike is the reason for the closure of the three bakeries is simply not true.  That statement is a continuation of a disturbing pattern by the company of issuing public statements that are erroneous at best and disingenuous at worst.

“Our members rejected the company’s outrageous proposal by 92 percent in September.  Rejection came from every corner of the country.  They were being asked to vote on a proposal with massive concessions, knowing that their plant could very well be one of those to be closed.

“Our members are on strike because they have had enough. They are not willing to take draconian wage and benefit cuts on top of the significant concessions they made in 2004 and give up their pension so that the Wall Street vulture capitalists in control of this company can walk away with millions of dollars.”

Over the past eight years since the first Hostess bankruptcy, BCTGM members have watched as money from previous concessions that was supposed to go towards capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment, was squandered in executive bonuses, payouts to Wall Street investors and payments to high-priced attorneys and consultants.

BCTGM members are well aware that as the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy earlier this year, the then CEO of Hostess was awarded a 300 percent raise (from approximately $750,000 to $2,550,000) and at least nine other top executives of the company received massive pay raises. One such executive received a pay increase from $500,000 to $900,000 and another received one taking his salary from $375,000 to $656,256.

Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually-obligated payments to their pension plan. Despite saving more than $160 million with this action, the company continues to fall deeper and deeper into debt.  A mountain of debt and gross mismanagement by a string of failed CEO’s with no true experience in the wholesale baking business have left this company unable to compete or survive.

A total of 24 Hostess production facilities are on strike or honoring the strike with picket lines established by striking Hostess workers at other BCTGM-represented facilities.  Additionally, BCTGM members at one transport facility also are on strike.  Company claims that union members are crossing picket lines and maintaining production at striking plants are vastly untrue.

The BCTGM represents more than 80,000 workers in the baking, food processing, grain milling and tobacco industries in the United States and Canada.

 

Follow the BCTGM:

Web: www.bctgm.org

Facebook: http://facebook.com/BCTGM

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BCTGM

Union Workers At Hostess Brand Plants Strike Against Wage Cuts Call For National Boycott

Image from BCTGM Website

BCTGM Members Initiate National Strike at Hostess Brands

In an inspiring display of courage and conviction, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) have gone on strike against Hostess Brands beginning Friday, November 9.  Workers at other Hostess plant locations are honoring picket lines established by striking local unions. More plants may strike or honor the strike in other Hostess locations within the coming days.

These workers, many of whom have worked at Hostess and its predecessor companies for decades, struck in response to the company’s unilateral imposition of a horrendous contract that was rejected by 92 percent of the union’s Hostess members in September.

BCTGM Workers from Biddeford Maine Local 334

“Hostess Brands is making a mockery of the labor relations system that has been in place for nearly 100 years.  Our members are not just striking for themselves, but for all unionized workers across North America who are covered by collective bargaining agreements,” states BCTGM International President Frank Hurt.

The contract calls for extreme wage and benefit cuts which amount to 27- 32% overall, with an 8% wage reduction imposed immediately. The company unilaterally ceased making contributions, required by their union contracts, to the workers’ pensions in July 2011. Hostess has also imposed draconian cuts in health benefits and eliminated the eight-hour workday.

Hostess Brands is in bankruptcy for the second time in eight years. Since the first bankruptcy in 2004, BCTGM members across the country have taken dramatic wage and benefit concessions and watched as 21 Hostess plants were shut down and thousands of jobs lost.  At the time of the first bankruptcy, Hostess workers were assured by management that money saved via concessions or plant closings would help make the company stronger, more vibrant, and more competitive.

Instead, helpless Hostess employees watched as money that was supposed to go towards capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment went to executive bonuses and payouts to the hedge funds that own Hostess Brands. They watched as the company illegally withdrew from all Taft-Hartley pension plans, saving more than $50 million in the first five months. The BCTGM learned that the then Hostess CEO was to be awarded a 300% raise, and at least nine other top executives were to receive raises ranging between 35% and 80%.

Since the company ceased making contractually obligated payments to the Hostess workers’ pensions in July 2011, it has pocketed approximately $160 million – money earned by and owed to its dedicated workforce.

Striking members know that the Wall Street investors currently in control of the company have no intention of building a world class wholesale bread and cake company.  They will simply take the money from the workers’ severe concessions and the sale of assets, pay themselves and then liquidate the company.

The company’s business plan, when reviewed by a highly-respected financial analyst retained by the company, was determined to have little or no chance of succeeding in saving Hostess.

The current CEO, Greg Rayburn, was originally brought on as a consultant because of his expertise in corporate liquidations.  He has absolutely no experience running a baking company and the Wall Street investors that own the company have absolutely no interest of rebuilding the baking business.

“Our members have fought hard for decades through the collective bargaining process to build a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. The deplorable actions taken by Hostess would take our members back to the workplace standards of the 1950’s.

“Our members have now said NO to Hostess and the Wall Street investors in the only means available to them, the strike.  The BCTGM International Union stands in full and uncompromising support of our striking members,” concludes Hurt.

The BCTGM represents more than 80,000 workers in the baking, food processing, grain milling and tobacco industries in the United States and Canada.

(NHLN Note: Keep up with the strike at http://bctgm.org/)

UPDATE 11-13-12
Check out the newest information about the Strike
Hostess Continues Pattern Of Misinformation

UPDATED 11-15-12
HOSTESS IN CURRENT CONDITION BECAUSE OF FAILED MANAGEMENT