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Union Busting: Legal Team Creates Unions To Raid Memberships, Benefiting Employers

A union busting legal firm, Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen, is working to undercut workers through divisive tactics and raiding the membership of United Association of Flight Attendants members.

union-busterUnion busting is nothing new. For over a hundred years employers have fought against unionizing efforts and worked to break unions after they win an election.

They use fear and intimidation to push people against forming a union. After a union is elected they hold up negotiations, even sending out false information to workers, in an effort to splinter union support.

Like I said, this is nothing new. We have seen these tactics in action for decades. Now we are seeing a new type of union busting, where the employer encourages workers to form a new union to replace the current union. Yes, you read that right, the employer works with a “union” to raid the membership of an existing union to gain enough support to have the existing union de-certified, thereby loosing all of the gains made from previous contracts.

This tactic is very sneaky and very hard to pull off, but it has worked in the past for one specific law firm, Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen (SSM&P). The conditions have to be just right to make this work. There must be a certain level of discontent within the exiting union and this usually happens as contract negotiations fail.   The “company union” then organizes the discontent workers into forming a new union to replace the exiting union.

A Long History of Pro-Company Union Organizing

Over the last forty years members of the law firm of SSM&P have been forming these new unions, mostly during times of chaos like massive mergers or labor strife.

EL AL Israel Airlines - Boeing 767-3Y0(ER) - Tel Aviv Ben Gurion - 4X-EAP

EL AL Israel Airlines – Boeing 767-3Y0(ER) – Tel Aviv Ben Gurion – 4X-EAP

In 1983, Martin Seham, working for El Al Airlines, attempted to break the International Association of Machinists union that was in long and bitter contract negotiation that ultimately resulted in a 28-month strike.

“During the strike, some of the clerical workers decertified IAM in favor of an independent union. Management imposed severely concessionary terms and recruited scabs as replacement workers,” wrote Captain DD, who has done extensive research on SSM&P when his union, the Airline Pilots Association, came under attack from a new SSM&P union. “Labor law firms advising management typically play very significant roles in developing these anti-union strategies. It is an undeniable fact that it occurred on SSM&P’s watch, and it occurred after that firm played a leading role in helping management to divide the rank-and-file and then crush its workers and the lAM at EI AI.”

In the early 1990s, Seham worked for Varig Airlines, a Brazilian air carrier, to once again undercut the Machinists union.

“This negotiation resulted in another strike. During these negotiations, management-with Seham as its advisor- insisted on removing all restrictions on its right to subcontract work and to remove the union security clause,” explained Captain DD. “The IAM understood that the notice was specifically designed to intimidate and coerce union members to resign their membership with the organization.”

In the decades that followed, SSM&P has been connected with new start up unions at Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, US Air, Delta, and other carriers that were already represented by unions.

SSM&P say they are fighting for workers and trying to form a new union. What they are really doing is pitting worker against worker to completely break the existing union, leaving all of the workers without any protections and without a voice.

The Northwest Suicide Strike

Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen are most well known for forming the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Organization (AMFA), who some have called the worst union in the country, specifically for their raids on other unions and complete lack of leadership.

While AMFA was attempting to organize mechanics at Northwest Airlines, who were already represented by the International Association of Machinists, “Northwest assisted AMFA by allowing [AMFA] access to company property and equipment and that AMFA supporters were allowed to campaign while on company time.”

Northwest most likely assisted AMFA because they knew that a new union would be easier to negotiate with than the IAM and would eliminate all of the previously negotiated agreements.

The AMFA did ultimately win the right to represent the 10,000 mechanics at Northwest Airlines and in turn de-certified the IAM.

Striking union mechanics Don Diedrich, left, and Bert Atienza are on picket duty outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, just after the vote result was announced. Both voted "no." (MPR Photo/Jeff Horwich)

Striking union mechanics Don Diedrich, left, and Bert Atienza are on picket duty outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, just after the vote result was announced. Both voted “no.” (MPR Photo/Jeff Horwich)

In AMFA’s negotiations with Northwest, AMFA gave Northwest the ability to sub-contract work outside of the union. This resulted in nearly 8,000 good jobs being lost to outside contractors over the years that followed.

After 9/11, Northwest’s losses were piling up and they went to AMFA demanding concessions. AMFA refused to accept the concessions without holding a vote from the membership on Northwest’s “last best offer”. Then AMFA’s leadership took members out on strike, without holding a strike authorization vote, in what became known as the “suicide strike”.

Thousand of workers walked out in the strike. AMFA worked out a deal with Northwest for a “No Retribution, Retaliation or Harassment Due to Participation or Non-Participation in the Strike or Permanent Replacement Status.” In laymen’s terms, this let the scabs that crossed the strike line, keep their jobs and the rest of the unionized workers were laid off.

What union would ever agree to let scab workers keep their jobs while union members are being tossed aside? Any real, pro-worker union, not a company front group, would never have accepted these terms to allow scab workers to keep union member jobs.

Thanks to AMFA’s leadership the 10,000 mechanics at Northwest, were replaced by 500 scab workers.

After Northwest and Delta merged, “AMFA extinguished their certification with no fight at all.” This appears that they were never really in it for the workers.

Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen Strike Again With Another “New Union”

SSM&P are the legal team behind the United Flight Attendants Association, a new union trying to win representation rights from the Association of Flight Attendants (CWA-AFA), who currently represent United Airlines Flight Attendants.

AFA is currently deep in negotiations with United as their current contract is expiring and possible strikes are on the horizon. This situation is nearly identical to all of the other “new unions” formed by SSM&P to fracture the membership.

The newly formed UFAA is trying to get current AFA members to give up their membership and join with UFAA. If they gain enough support AFA would be ousted leaving SSM&P to negotiate on behalf of the workers. What could go wrong with that?

Sito Pantoja, General Vice President of the International Association of Machinists addressed this attempt to raid AFA’s membership without calling out UFAA by name. In an email to AFA members Pantoja clearly stated that IAM stands with CWA-AFA against this fake union.

International_Association_Of_Machinists_and_Aerospace_Workers_logo1“That is why I was extremely dismayed to hear that a few misguided individuals are trying to fracture your union. If they succeed, it will dismantle our successful partnership and all Flight Attendants will lose.”

“Your solidarity and bargaining strength is being undermined by an attempt to lure you away from AFA with promises from a union that does not even exist. This upstart has no finances, no structure, no resources and no experience. A website and a constitution written by a union-busting lawyer does not make a union.”

“The IAM has faced similar challenges from the same people directing this group, and each time airline workers lost…”

“…These divisive efforts surface only during contract negotiations, which cripples the Union bargaining committee and only benefits the company. When unionized workers sign an election authorization card to change unions they play right into the company’s divide and conquer strategy, making it much harder for your negotiators to attain the contract you have earned.”

“The Machinists Union strongly supports the AFA and looks forward to continuing and strengthening our partnership. I urge you to do the same and soundly reject any request to sign a card for this splinter group. Each card that is signed weakens your solidarity and position at the bargaining table.”

Do not be fooled by these union busting lawyers who are looking to steal your voice. They want you to sign a union authorization card, a legally binding document, to de-certify the AFA.

I do not have any proof that SSM&P are working for, or in collusion with, United Airlines but the parallels of their previous union busting actions are uncanny.

United flight attendants should beware that these union busting lawyers are behind this coup and their goal is to destroy the strength you have gained through years of negotiations, contracts and solidarity.

Machinists Union Endorses Hillary Clinton for President

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2015 IAM National Staff Conference in New York, NY. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One Photography)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2015 IAM National Staff Conference in New York,
NY. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One Photography)

Washington, D.C.– The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has endorsed former U.S. Secretary of State and honorary IAM member Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States. The move comes after a unanimous vote by union leaders and an internal survey of IAM members, who voiced strong support for an early endorsement and named Clinton as the overwhelming favorite.

“The IAM will not sit on the sidelines while this fight is so clearly underway,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Hillary Clinton has been a strong supporter of this union for years and she is now the target of unprecedented attacks, financed on a scale never seen before. The time to help is when help is needed most, and we intend to do just that.”

With nearly 1,000 local lodges across the U.S. and seasoned activists in key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the IAM endorsement brings valuable energy to the contest. Coupled with support from fellow labor unions and community allies, the impact of union “boots on the ground” is a worthy match for the unchecked millions in corporate contributions aimed squarely at Clinton.

“Our members understand what’s at stake in this election; the right to vote, the right to join a union and the right to retire with dignity,” said Buffenbarger. “But it’s more than just civil rights and labor rights at risk. The evaporation of economic opportunity is a rank obscenity compared to the alarming and growing concentration of wealth in America. It’s time for an economy and a president who works for more than just the wealthiest among us.”

In the IAM’s internal poll of nearly 2,000 members, Clinton outpaced the entire field of 20 candidates by more than 2-1. Among Democratic members polled, the results were more dramatic, with Clinton leading her closest rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by more than 6-1. IAM members also favored early involvement in the election campaign by more than 2-1. The poll’s results were also affirmed in a separate independent poll.

“Hillary Clinton’s long record of supporting workers’ rights stands in stark contrast to her Republican rivals, who seek to ban unions, silence workers, eliminate sensible regulations and give corporations total control over working conditions,” said Buffenbarger. “The question should not be why are we endorsing Hillary Clinton now, but rather, what took us so long?”

The IAM is among the nation’s largest and most diverse industrial trade unions, with nearly 600,000 members in aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, shipbuilding, woodworking, electronics and the federal sector. Visit www.goiam.org for more information about the IAM.

The Courts could destroy even MORE of our rights while we wait for Congress to fix Taft-Hartly

1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden

1947 Rally at Madison Square Garden

As I promised in yesterday’s post, here are a few examples of how things are getting worse, the longer we wait for Congress to fix (or repeal) the Taft-Hartley Act.

More states have passed so-called “Right to Work” laws. Nevermind what they’re called, RTW laws restrict employers’ rights: they prohibit employers from voluntarily agreeing to “agency fee” clauses in their union contracts. Last year, Indiana and Michigan joined the list of states that restrict employers’ rights; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is clearly still trying to spread their “model legislation” nationwide.

The Supreme Court will soon decide two cases that could further limit employers’ rights in their dealings with employee unions. Read the New York Times article here.

  • The first case will decide whether employers have the right to agree to remain neutral during a union organizing drive. (Shouldn’t employers be able to allow their employees to make their own decisions about union representation? In many worksites, unions and employers work cooperatively because they share the same goals. Why should federal law require the employer-union relationship to be adversarial, rather than cooperative?)
  • The second case attempts to impose “Right to Work” on the whole country through a court decision — rather than leaving it up to each state to decide for itself whether to limit employers’ rights.  (What happened to that old Tenth Amendment/states’ rights principle?)
  • The second case also challenges whether a state government has the right to allow union representation of home-care workers who are paid by Medicaid.  (Again: are we about to see the federal court system restrict a state government’s exercise of reserved powers?)

Taft-HartleyAnd then there’s Boeing. Just my personal opinion, but… it sure seems to me like Boeing is setting up another chance to litigate all those legal theories it came up with in 2011, back before the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop its complaint about Dreamliner production. The basic question at issue: whether a company has the right to relocate jobs in retaliation for (legally protected) union activity. That 2011 complaint was part of “a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest.” Just think what the impact on unions could be, if Boeing persuades the courts to agree with its legal theories. (Read more NHLN coverage of Boeing here.)

Why am I so concerned about these Court cases (and potential court cases) ?  Well… because the Supreme Court is now headed up by Bush appointee John Roberts.  Back in 2005, he was described as one of the “three possible nominees that big business would cheer” — in part because they thought Roberts might “influence the court to decide more cases deemed critical to business.”  Quoting one observer of that nomination process: “Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.”  Quoting another: “if Roberts feels free to overturn precedent… Of particular concern is a return to the Lochner era, a time when free-market capitalists read their ideology into the Constitution by striking down statutes aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.”

I guess we’re about to find out whether those observers were as accurate in their predictions as President Harry Truman was, in his.

(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, to read Truman’s prognostications from 1947, click here.)

————

Sen. Edward M.KennedyAnd, in a sad epitaph for Sen. Ted Kennedy… as far as I can tell, no-one has re-filed the Employee Free Choice Act since he died.

(Read yesterday’s post to learn more about the economic and social problems caused by Taft-Hartley, and one possible reason why Sen. Kennedy filed EFCA to fix them.)

UPDATED 1-16: Boeing Learns The Hard Way That Outsourcing Hurts In The Long Run

The Boeing company has been in and out of the media for many years now with the creation of the ‘Dreamliner’.  The Dreamliner is Boeing’s newest airplane that could eventually replace all other international airplanes.  The importance of the Dreamliner not withstanding, Boeing was in every newspaper for another reason.  Their epic battle with the International Association of Machinist (IAM).

Before construction of the new Dreamliner could begin, Boeing wanted to move their manufacturing facility to South Carolina.  Boeing said that space in South Carolina is easier and cheaper to obtain than Washington state where they previously build airplanes.  The IAM said the reason for the abrupt move was a way for Boeing to break their labor contracts and move to a Right To Work state.

This sparked a national conversation about Right To Work.  Couple this with labor’s fight to keep New Hampshire, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin from falling into the Right To Work trap it dominated the news.  Even Presidential candidates began talking about the RTW/Boeing fight.

After all the dust settled and the NLRB ruled that Boeing had the right to move, but not the right to break their contracts the Dreamliner was moving forward.

Now the Dreamliner is in the news once again and not for a good reason.  “Boeing Dreamliner fuel leak traced to valve-related problem.” This is just another example of the problems that Boeing has endured since they decided to use non-union and outsourced products in the construction of these planes.

Boeing has been trying to save money in the construction of the Dreamliner by outsourcing much of the component construction to chinese companies.

“Boeing today announced agreements with Chinese suppliers worth an estimated US$600 million for production of commercial airplane parts and components, including the first firm contract with such suppliers to build parts for the all-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.” (Boeing Press Release)

This outsourcing may have saved them money at first, then again it outsourcing seems to save money at first.  The LA Times reports on Boeing’s headaches over the delays in Dreamliner construction.

“The next-generation airliner is billions of dollars over budget and about three years late; the first paying passengers won’t be boarding until this fall, if then. Some of the delay stems from the plane’s advances in design, engineering and material, which made it harder to build.”

“But much of the blame belongs to the company’s quantum leap in farming out the design and manufacture of crucial components to suppliers around the nation and in foreign countries such as Italy, Sweden, China, and South Korea. Boeing’s dream was to save money. The reality is that it would have been cheaper to keep a lot of this work in-house.” (emphasis added)

The USA Today reports on why the Dreamliner construction is so behind schedule and over budget

“Parts for the jet are made by 52 suppliers scattered around the globe. And, in a first for Boeing, large sections of the jet are built by these outside vendors and then cobbled together. That process, aimed at saving money, wasn’t as smooth as Boeing had hoped.”

After a second Dreamliner at Boston’s Logan airport had problems the FAA has order a full investigation into the problem. This has pushed Boeing stock prices down by $2.50 a share (3.3%).  Proving that outsourcing the manufacturing of these parts is going to cost Boeing even more than they thought.

For nearly fifty years Boeing made airplanes at their manufacturing facility in Everret Washington, by good IAM workers.  Now only a few months after they announce the completion of their 100th airplane Boeing is proving once again that American workers are better and more cost effective.

*     *    *    *

UPDATED 1-16-13

The Federal Aviation Administration has ground all ‘Dreamliners’ until the conduct a full review.

 

NBC News reports

The Canadian Television Network interview an aviation expect to talk about the new features and the FAA grounding all ‘Dreamliners’.  Video Here

 

Machinist Union is Helping Their Community and Yours

I wanted to take three minutes to talk about some of the great work that labor unions are doing in their community.  The International Association of Machinist have been helping to support the Guide Dogs of America program since 1948.  Guide dog help thousands of people who have problems with their vision. The best part is that is all free, thanks to the generous support of the IAM.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the IAMAW, is a large union that is active in more than 200 basic industries as defined by the US Department of Labor. It maintains one or more agreements with almost every major employer in the USA and Canada.
Goals of the IAMAW include: raising wage rates to correspond with the rising costs of living, ensuring equal pay for equal work regardless of sex, race, or national origin, providing a safe and healthy workplace, and securing benefits such as paid sick leave, medical coverage, and retirement/pension funds.
The IAMAW is a strong supporter of Guide Dogs of America and is proud of their role in the founding of our school. We offer our special thanks to the IAMAW for their part in founding our organization and for their continued generosity and dedication since 1948.
If you would like more information about the IAMAW, visit their web site atwww.iamaw.org.

Mitt Romneys Statements about Boeing and the NLRB are completely False!

For months now we have talked about how Right To Work would be bad for New Hampshire. Every time we mention Right To Work someone brings up the National Labor Relations Board ruling against Boeing. The NLRB found that Boeing’s attempt to move their manufacturing facilities to Non-Union states was a blatant attempt to force the Machinist Union (IAM) out.

Now during the GOP Primary Debate held last tuesday Governor Mitt Romney tried to drum up support by using this NLRB ruling as an example that the president is interfering with business. It was no coincidence that he mentioned Right To Work and Boeing on the eve of the possible Right To Work vote in the New Hampshire House. Gov. Romney has come out recently saying how he supports RTW:

“If I were a voter, I’d encourage state representatives, state senators and the governor to do whatever is necessary to make New Hampshire a right-to-work state to create more jobs for the people of New Hampshire.”

The truth is that Boeing and the NLRB is not about Right To Work at all. It is about trying to remove the collective bargaining right of the boeing machinist. Read all about it from PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact | Mitt Romney attack Barack Obama over Boeing plant question: “When Republican candidates want to fire up a crowd in New Hampshire, a reference to Right to Work generally delivers satisfying results. A Right to Work law makes it harder for unions to collect money from non-union workers. Unions hate these laws about as much as most Republican voters love them.
At the Oct. 11, 2011, GOP presidential debate in Hanover, N.H., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney played to those values. Asked about his economic plan, Romney said one principle would be respect for the rule of law, and then he took a jab at the President Barack Obama and his administration.
“We also have to have the rule of law. By that I mean, you can’t have the federal government through its friends at the National Labor Relations Board saying, to a company like Boeing, that you can’t build a factory in a non-union state. That’s simply wrong and it violates the principle of the rule of law.”
We decided to examine this question: Did the NLRB tell Boeing that it “can’t build a factory in a non-union state.”

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